After the fight, my mother was determined to leave the house. She headed towards the gate, fighting off neighbours who tried to stop her. Meanwhile, without thinking twice about it, my brother and I followed her into the dark night; unaware of where exactly we were going to. We walked a really long distance in the darkness, across desolate areas and along the road that led to my grandpa’s village. We walked fast, the harmattan breeze around me making me cold. The soles of my feet hurt because I never had time to put on a footwear. And worst of all, the hunger which had seemed to disappear permanently during the fight had returned; it was unbearable. But I dared not complain. My mother wasn’t even aware of my presence much less care about my hunger at that instance. She walked so fast, never looking back as my brother and I ran to keep up with her pace. I never saw her more aloof than she was that night, caught up in her own sadness as she cried and steadied the towel around her chest… By the time we arrived at my grandpa’s village, I was so tired and my feet so swollen that I simply slipped into a deep sleep.
I woke up the next morning to the wetness and smell of my own urine. For a moment I was lost, unaware of where I was or what had brought me there. But as I sat up in the bed and saw my brother sleeping beside me, the memory flooded my head like a flash light. Somewhere in the house, I could hear the voices of people saying many things at the same time for a while until my grandpa’s voice became distinct. He was clearly enraged, his fury targeted at my father of course. After screaming out his displeasure for some split seconds, he quieted down as my mother continued to recount what had taken place the night before, her tale occasioned by her cries. From the room also, I could hear my grandma sighing loudly. I continued to listen for a while, but then I lost interest. My main concern once again became food. I had never before had to crave food for that long without having access to it. What kinda hell ha just broken loose on me, I thought to myself as I climbed down from the bed all drippy and thinking of going out to the parlour to make my distress known. But then I was ashamed of the urine that dripped down my legs and the smell of it that churned my tummy even the more.
When eventually I summoned enough courage to walk into the sitting room, I didn’t receive a very warm welcome. Everyone stared at me almost reproachfully, as though scolding me with their eyes on behalf of my father. Thinking about it now, they were probably not to blame for that as I was a miniature image of my father.
“I am hungry” I said, addressing my mother who was leaning her face on her laps. She was apparently devastated, torn between emotions. She looked up, wiped her teary face an then stared at me with reddened eyes. For some seconds I could almost not recognize her as she appeared totally different, dressed in my grandma’s bogus gown and, her demeanor totally forlorn.
“You need to tell that to your father” she replied with a broken, distant and cold voice.
“Ijeoma Calm down…“ my grandma told her with a stern voice. But she simply cupped her face in her hands and began to cry again.
“As I was saying, this marriage is over. I cannot let him continue to abuse my daughter” my grandpa said. “I’m taking back my daughter, he needs to come for his children.”
“This is probably not the best solution to this matter. I don’t come from a family of divorce” my grandma was said. I was completely ignored.
“That idiot beats my daughter. Would you rather prefer she stays with him until he kills her?”
“So what is going to happen to the children? Let’s put them into consideration in this matter.”
“Mother, I am tired of this so called marriage. I want out of it before I end up in the morgue. The children will be fine with him. As I would have to start a new life after this episode, I will not be in the best position to take care of three children.”
“You are clearly allowing your emotional state right now to dictate for you what you want, Ijeoma. You don’t want to abandon three children you bore to the same man you are running away from. Have you thought of what would become of them when left alone with him?” my grandma asked. To that, my disheveled mother looked her in the face an replied
“They remind me of him. Every time I see my own children, I am angry with myself for the decision I made to marry that man…”
As she kept on talking, I quietly left the room with the reality of what ha become the story of my life dawning on me. I tell you, even at that very tender age of mine, it was a hard reality to digest.
Forlorn Gaze is excerpted from a manuscript of the same name written by Emmanuel Benson. Story is imagined, and like every other content on this site a property of the authour.