The shop was lonely. The whole building, in fact, was lonely. It was 6:45 pm and the entire complex was closed. Except for the last shop by the left.
She sat by the sewing machine, humming slightly offbeat tunes of Simi's Joromi along with her phone. She also had her flashlight on since it was dark inside. Her low humming clashed with background noises, the ti ta ti ta of the needle hitting the cloth. She'd stayed behind to finish up her work which she'd left behind when she traveled to her hometown to visit her sick Aunt. But since she was still an apprentice and she didn't have a machine yet, she'd stayed behind to use the one in the shop. Two months left until her freedom. She really must get a machine soon. But 65k was still too much at the moment. She flicked a rudder and shifted the cloth but jolted reflexively at a sound by the door.
"Sister Seyi..." A small low voice called through the dark.
"Who is it?" She asked without looking back, lengths of material, sliding between her workman's fingers.
"Peju." The girl paused.
She seamed a few more stitches and looked back. She could faintly make out her sister's silhouette by the door.
"What is it?"
The girl didn't talk.
Seyi made an inward note of disgust. "What? Hurry, I'm busy!"
Still, she didn't talk. The girl fiddled with her hands, looking down.
She hissed and the machine's clattering resumed.
"What is it, now?!" She shouted this time.
The girl didn't reply.
She tapped her feet and hands agitatedly on the machine board as she seethed.
"Get out!" She growled.
"Something happened," Peju muttered.
"And what is it?!" She shouted with anxiety and frustration.
The girl's eyes burned up with tears. She sniffled.
Seyi sighed and pressed her forehead against her palm.
"They are calling you at home." Peju finally said.
Heat rose in her chest. Lord! What is the matter now?
She stood up immediately and sighed, packed up her equipment, and locked up the shop. Peju followed her, closely behind as she walked in quick steps to her home. Lord, let everything be okay.
The sight before her was as confusing as her mind. Jumbled-up pictures and wild images conjured up in her head. The last time she'd seen something like this was when her father passed away. Three years ago. Her life had seemed shattered just then and she'd felt like she'll never heal from the hurt, but here she was; mended and fine. Almost forgotten the loss, in fact. Her mother had wept a lot. As did the other wives too.
But this evening's was different. A handful of people had gathered in their compound. Compared to when her father had passed, this was small. On plain terms though, her father had been a respected man in the town. A titled chief, so, a lot of people had gathered. But this evening's, small as it was, had a worse tension to it. She searched through the gathering and found her mother.
The crowd had been consoling her. Consoling.
She sat on the ground, her face wet with tears and sand. Her hair and wrapper were also sandy as if she'd been rolling on the bare floor. Her feet were bare and her usual headtie covered head was open.
She wasn't wailing, unlike she had been, three years ago. Instead, silent tears ran down her face as she grabbed her knees and rocked herself slowly. Her eyes looked worn from crying and seemed distant.
Seyi dropped her bag instantly and rushed to her mother. She crouched beside her and gripped her shoulders.
"Màámi," she whispered. Màámi didn't even share a glance with her. Instead, she had the same distant, rigid look on her face. Seyi looked up to her younger siblings, standing beside them. They were all crying.
Her heart galloped, fright and worry clouded her mind.
She raised her eyes imploringly to the gathered 'consolers'.
"What happened?" She mouthed in their dialect.
Some realities seem like dreams. It's too bad to be true. Nobody told her this.
Maybe she hadn't worried when her father died, maybe she hadn't worried when things had seemed to topple in their lives, but Brother Dayo!
Her brother, Dayo!!!
Dayo married five years ago. The first child of the family, he'd made his way quite well in life. He had a good job, a house, a car, a responsible wife and three children. And when their father died, he became the head of their small part of the huge family. It was from him, that the other children's school fees got settled. He had been responsible.
He was gone now. It still seemed so impossible to her. They'd spoken on the phone a few days ago. Just a few days ago! But no one knew that a fuel tanker would explode near Ilumogun, nor that her brother, Dayo would be caught in the accident on his way from work. To speak of her sorrows though, seemed an injustice to her mother. First, her husband, then, her son. People said that the wheels of fate ran against her. Maybe it was true. But Seyi's worries were different.
Five children, with Brother Dayo being first, and herself coming eleven years after, three younger siblings were left behind. Her immediate sibling, Bolu was ten years younger than herself. Ten years! In real terms, she was now the breadwinner of the family. She, a twenty two year old girl, still in the
University, trying to find her way in the world. Now, she had three dependants. Three dependants with fees to pay and mouths to feed. Dispair, confusion and anger raged through her. She was now the responsible one. The eldest, the one the others had to look up to.
How had the world turned suddenly bleak and blurry?