"I need to talk to you, my dear."
Seyi sat slowly beside Màmá Àríkẹ́ on a kerb of a nearby shop. Seyi furrowed her brows slightly, hoping that it wasn't anything bad. For Màmá to have brought her out, that meant that she wanted a private discussion. As if seeing her worry, the lady assured her;
"Calm down. Don't worry. It's not something too bad. I just need to confirm something from you, that's all."
Although Seyi was not fully settled, she felt less uncomfortable and relaxed her shoulders.
"Yes, ma," She said. "I'm listening."
"Good." Her boss said. Then, she sighed.
"Olúwáṣèyítân," She called.
Seyi looked at her, with her eyes more narrowed in concentration.
"Hmn." The lady began. Then, she paused before saying;
"You know--- I am your mother's friend," She said, while shaking her head left and right in emphasis.
Seyi looked at her. "Yes, ma."
"Good." She said. "So, to me, you're like my daughter." She paused a bit into Seyi's eyes, which were clear and focused. She nodded in approval before taking the girl's hands. Seyi did not flinch with surprise, but let Màmá Àríkẹ́ hold her- the way Màámi does.
"Did you sign up for the bursary but haven't heard anything?"
For a second, Seyi's eyes flamed up but was soon normal, as if nothing had just changed.
Quietly, she said; "Yes, ma."
Màmá Àríkẹ́'s face lit immediately with knowing before she added. "What will be will be, my dear. This isn't worth all your trouble."
Seyi looked down, her eyes fixed to the ground. Màmá Àríkẹ́ still held on to her hands.
"Everything can't always work out, my dear." She said.
Seyi looked up at her, with quivering lips. "That's why we plant two corn seeds in the soil. Just in case one doesn't grow. Not every seed one plants germinates. And that doesn't necessarily make it your fault."
"Maybe." She said faintly.
"Braveness, my dear, is always the first right road."
"It's true." Seyi said quietly. "But I'll be fine, ma." She said in a more courageous tone.
The old woman smiled.
"Then, go and do what you have to do. We can't be scared of the complexion of the child and so, refuse to birth it." Màmá Àríkẹ́ said. "No matter what the news is, take it well. You can't be scared of the truth, so, you refuse to listen to it."
Lucky are those with someone to guide them.
Màámi was seated in the verandah, in her usual seat. The market must have ended early today. From her posture on the old wooden chair, Seyi could guess that she was asleep. She opened the gate so slowly so that it wouldn't creak. Màámi could be a really light sleeper. Regardless, the gate still creaked a little.
But, luckily, she didn't wake up.
She must be very tired. Seyi thought.
Gingerly, she crept past her mother. She had a few things to talk to her about but that could rest now.
She pulled the netted wooden spring door open. But just then, Màámi woke up.
She turned back, still holding on to the door. She looked at her mother. Her eyes were still small and sleepy. Seyi released the door, letting the spring snap back and it swung shut. Then, she knelt down
before her mother in greeting.
"How are you? How was work?" She asked, pulling her daughter up.
"It was fine, ma." She hadn't wanted to disturb her so, she had walked past quietly. Màámi appreciated her for that but..."I'm awake now."
"So... I'm ready to check it now." Seyi finished. She had just told her mother all that Màmá Àríkẹ́ had told her. And how finally, she was ready to recheck if she had been accepted. Her mother listened patiently.
All through the report, saying nothing except giving occasional sighs, constant hmns. Just as she sighed now.
Seyi looked at her mother. "What do you say, Màámi?"
Màámi shrugged. "What do I say?" She echoed. "I had been thinking too... Aren't you checking for it again? To be honest, I feared you would finally quit school, really! But... I thought I should give you some space to... I don't know, maybe decide..."
"I would never quit school, màámi." Seyi said, grabbing her mother's hands. "I promised you that and I'm keeping my promise. I only thought that if this doesn't work, something else will."
The smile of relief on her mother's face was so deep, it was almost painful. Had Màámi really feared that?
She loosened her grip on her mother's hand.
"I'll check it tomorrow." Màámi nodded. "I have to go to work soon."
It was raining again. Was that a good sign? Like the time before, she didn't have any umbrellas nor rain covers. Only, then, she had forgotten hers on a bus but now, she didn't bring any at all because the one she forgot previously was the only one she had. And, buying a new one wasn't a priority for now. But, she had a nylon bag to cover her hair, and luckily, there was a shed with a roof where they were told to wait so, her clothes were quite dry.
She felt a little apprehensive. Her legs shook on their own. All through the ride there, she had clutched her plastic bag so tight for fear of losing it again. Afterall, that is what she did everytime she was nervous.
Like before, it seemed a long time before her turn came but, unlike then, she was received warmly.
Probably because she didn't mess up the floor too much with rain, or that it was already messed up by wet feet.
Her voice came out so clear that even she, was surprised. She was on the edge of her nerves inside. But her countenance was cool and steady.
"I came to check my bursary application status."
You know the kind of spotlight you feel shines on you when you scale through something?
It's invisible, yes, but you can see it.
It wasn't mere relief nor joy that coursed through her. Maybe it was something more than just elation or outflowing excitement. But new chapters had been opened and all she could think was;
What will Màámi say when she hears this?