E1: That evening
Sometimes, our long sought miracles do not come to us through some special ceremony, but in simple things... like our angels in human forms.
Excitement still rushed through her in giddy torrents. Her walk home was with such speed, one might think she was running. Walk running.
She was going to be a hair dresser, a wig maker...
The old rusting gate creaked loudly as she pushed it inwards. The noise it made was loud that it had become a sort of alert, that someone was coming inside. You could even hear it from the kitchen behind the house. The house wasn't very big. Just a two bedroom with kitchen and bathroom. It was old fashioned, with the bathroom being a building outside the main house itself. It was embarrassing sometimes, when you had to rush past from it into the house with a towel when they had a visitor.
Brother Dayo had been planning to renovate it, she remembered. The house had belonged to their father's cousin, then to her father who gave it to Brother Dayo when he became an adult. But herself, Màámi and the young ones had moved in at Dayo's request when the Chief passed away. And it became theirs.
Her entrance to the house was greeted with a dirty, deflated ball flying in her direction. Luckily, she dodged it just on time to save her face from being hit and most probably, her shirt, becoming more ruined with dirt. Her brother, Bolu ran up to her, looking a bit fearful, apologising. He had been playing football with his friends in the compound.
"Aunty Seyi, so..."
Seyi didn't let him finish. She patted his shoulder and rushed inside the house, leaving her perplexed brother standing with his equally confused friends. They had been obviously expecting a usual and we'll deserved tongue lashing.
"She must be in a good mood today."
As if hearing the whisper, Seyi called out as she disappeared by the corner of the house.
"Next time your dirty ball touches me, I'm throwing it out,"
"Along with your friends."
"Màámi!" She called searchingly.
"She's not here." Peju called out in response.
Seyi traced her to the backyard where she was washing plates.
"Where is she?" She asked.
Peju, with greasy soap foam on her hands, pointed at the small garden/farm in the house. Seyi looked, then skipped into the space, calling;
Her mother's faint voice answered a reply.
"Where are you, ma?"
Seyi saw her now. She had been harvesting okro. Probably for the night's meal. Their garden wasn't very big. It was small, in fact, but Màámi had made most utility of it. Okro, leafy greens, tomatoes and a small plant if yams grew there. She had recently planted pepper seeds in the last available patch of land. And to be very honest, the fruits from the garden had come in handy during very unspeakably tough times.
"Màámi, something happened."
"Hair dresser?" Her mother asked.
"Yes, ma." Seyi said excitedly. "I won't need a lot of money to start."
Her mother looked at her doubtfully.
"I can just learn from Mama Àríkẹ́." "It wouldn't be as stressful as others, ma. It's a good job, see."
"But are you still finding a paid job?" Màámi asked with quiet concern.
"Of course, ma. This is just a side hustle."
Màámi sighed and wiped her hands on her wrapper. "Okay, bring me my Pálasà (small mobile phone).
They talked for a lengthy period it seemed in fact, as if the reason why they(herself and Màámi) had come had been forgotten. They talked about Dayo and life, death, neighbours, market...Mama Àríkẹ́ had been Màámi's friend since they were "maidens" and got married. They came to the town at the same time when this Homeland of their husbands took them in. They were both from the coastal area and spoke their mother tongue dialect often. At last, the old lady looked at Seyi.
"Ọmọ mi,(my child) you can come over anytime. I'll give you a phone call when I have a job."
Seyi was elated. But the woman wasn't done yet.
"But... you'll need some money."
Seyi looked up suddenly at her mother who looked at her friend. Getting the point, Mama Àríkẹ́ disaffirmed.
"No o. How can I take money from my own daughter? No. But you see, you'll need a practice dummy, my dear. And I don't have a spare one."
Màámi sighed. "How much is that one again?"
Seyi's heart dropped. #4500. That wasn't an available amount. She didn't have that sort of money.
"But can-can I learn maybe without a practice....thing?"
"Ahh." Mama Àríkẹ́ sighed.
"No, my dear. I can't always be around, you know. You'll have to learn some things on your own."
Her heart fell totally. She had been happy, had been excited.
Luck was against her, really.
They got home, a moody Seyi and a consoling mother.
"I'm sure you'll find something." Màámi said soothingly.
Living was tough, surviving was a struggle. The family depended on her. Màámi, Bolu, Peju, Timi...
Although her mother seemed composed, Seyi knew that she was breaking inside, just like herself. Why did luck run out on her? Why did the stars shine far from her view?
The night was spent brooding. Silently, she prayed for some miracle. A help of some sort. From a relative, anybody. Someone who could send the money to her. She didn't have friends to call, she couldn't loan.
They had enough bills already. Why add to it. What if it doesn't work out, then what? She felt like she was at the breaking point. She turned on her matress and buried her face in the small cloth bag she used as a pillow. She couldn't sob. Peju was sleeping next to her and might wake up.
In frustration, she got up, kicking a stray bag out of the way in anger. But she stopped. It was the small bag Aunty Simi had packed her things in. Her pent up anger burst out now, in a silent lone tear. She pulled the bag close and sat down.
Sentiments rushed in as she unpacked the bag. Her favourite needles, her pack of thread, her scissors...
Her unfinished dress, her small length of material... buttons. Tears welled up in her eyes. Even her chalk.
Aunty Simi had been so kind. Seyi sighed a nostalgic sigh. Such things that had happened!
She searched deeper in the bag, pulling out it's contents one by one until she found a small piece of bunched up cloth cuttings. She didn't remember that. Maybe it was packed by mistake. She set it aside and set to empty the bag when a sheet of paper fell out.
For you. I hope it does something. Her boss had scrawled out on the sheet.
Gently, Seyi unwrapped the cloth bunch. Four pieces of rolled up one thousand naira notes fell out.
Tears sprung up painfully in her eyes as the uncontained joy of the unexpected miracle washed over her.
She didn't know if Peju was awake now, if she was staring at her.
Sometimes, our angels come in human forms.
Lord bless her madam.
Seyi watched as Mama Àríkẹ́ deftly weaved tiny braids in large ones. She was good, Seyi had to admit, and Seyi was learning a lot. Customers often came to her place. Some would stay for hours, sitted with tilted heads. They talked a lot to while away time. Seyi learnt, that this was the way those in the trade kept themselves sane. Imagine how uncomfortable hours of silence would be.
Gossip flowed like running taps in the salon. People carried all sorts of stories, true and untrue. Dried and seasoned with salt, grounded and baked. As much as gossip flowed, relevant news sometimes got entangled in discussions.
"Didn't you hear, she got a bursary. That's why."
"Uncultured girl! Does the university still offer bursaries ni?"
"Yes, Now. My cousin's coursemate just got one in fact. I heard it's thirty k or something."
Out from garbage, pick what's relevant to you.
Seyi spoke up.
"Can I apply for it?"
Ep6 - Rose strewn path
...to be continued