“12:00 am” My alarm ticked and I stirred up with joy, ” Happy birthday Jachi” I said to myself before I picked up my phone to check my WhatsApp messages. The best part of birthdays are the part where your pictures are every where, even if it’s not genuine at least for a day you were popular and to me that’s all. I scrolled down with joy reading every single message and screenshotting the ones I wanted.
“6:00am” my bed alarm rang shaking violently like a dog under an attack, I lay still waiting, maybe this year they will remember to come in and sing for me , I waited while watching the clock tick down and by 6:30am it had dawn on me that no one was coming and I was late for morning devotion which meant a long talk on my head. I slowly sat down on the sofa and bent my head as mum was praying. I could feel my whole body shaking as the Grace was shared after the Apostles Creed.
” Aaah!, Madam you decided to join us after all” mum said smiling at me with disgust written all over her face.
” Sorry Ma” I said still with my head bent, I didn’t want to look up and meet her eyes or eyes of my elder brother Joel and younger brother Joseph neither did I want to see my father’s face, I was disappointed, they had all forgotten it was my birthday, not like it was the first time but today was different, I turned 20 ,it wasn’t worth forgetting.
” You are becoming something else this child” she shouted ” Hun I have told you before let me call my prayer warriors again so they can deliver her ” mum said to my father who has been quiet all the time maybe shaking his head like he always did .
” Sorry Mum” I said this time louder than the first just to cut her words.
” Sorry for yourself stupid girl” she said and walked out. My head was still bent when everyone left , I sighed softly out of relief then clashing my chest I left the room to look for the broom.
I hummed a popular hymn as I swept the whole compound, this used to be Joel’s work along with washing the cars but when he grew older, mum came up with the theory that boy’s shouldn’t work as long as there is a girl in the house, even Joe who is 18 has stopped working. All the responsibilities were on my head including washing the cars once in a while. I considered using my hands to pack up the few leaves I had swept together, if there was anything I hated it was the way “ube” tree was planted right in the middle of the compound so when it sheds, its leaves are carried to every corner by the wind.
I walked into the kitchen to find the packer and found the yam peeled and cut ,just to avoid any other insult, I washed them in the sink and put them on fire before I left to continue my work.
Breakfast was and is still the most important meal in my family, no one cared about lunch since everyone was always busy working or playing games, and dinner? who cared about that except the person cooking it and the person who did the dishes which in every case was me. Sometimes, I feel like a slave in my own father’s house ,been ordered around by everyone, I had no say in anything, it felt like I was in bondage and to add it all up mum always said harsh words to me and if I ever complain, dad will say “Nne,it’s just your mum training you, one day you will be married, you need to endure most of these things inugo? Have you heard?”
” Please who cooked this yam?” Joel said snapping me out of my world.
” Ogini?”,” What’s wrong with it?” mum asked and my heart skipped a bit
“There is no salt in the food oh” Joel said and I almost fell off my chair, in my rush to please mum I had forgotten to add salt, Christ!
” I’m sorry, I forgot” I said avoiding mum’s eyes. ” Ewu , foolish girl, I have told you times without end that you are useless, all you do in this house is eat, eat and eat, look at how fat you are becoming, look at your breast?” She shouted, I looked at dad trying to figure out if he was going to hush mum but he was busy eating the yam ignoring the whole talk.
” You are good for nothing, you should have just died in that car accident in…” Ijeoma stop ” dad cautioned mum but it was already too late because I already had tears dripping from my eyes, ” Thank you dad, mum ” I said standing up from the table with my plates, I stumbled into the kitchen and dropped my plates before heading to my room, I lay there in tears as I clinging to my teddy bear, the one that I always hid from everyone to avoid mum from burning it . She hadn’t forgotten about my birthday, No one had forgotten they all knew it was my birthday but they had chosen not to celebrate me, including dad. They were still mourning my twin who died 10 years ago. I rolled over and I could see that day playing again in my head, my 10 years old self was playing outside with Jessica my twin, when mum came out and asked us to go inside and dress up for our birthday outings, I didn’t want to leave but Jessica wanted to, she used to be the social one ,so I went on to dress but Jessica said she was done dressing ,she said I should come out with her, so we can stand outside the gate like our brothers used to do when they were around, since them too had gone out with dad, but I refused and she left ,the next minute we heard a crash and a cry, I saw mum rushing out and I followed suit just to see my sister in a pool of blood, even mum’s clothe was blood stained, her car that Joel had scrubbed that morning had blood stains as she maneuvered her way to the hospital, I kept trying to wake Jessica but she wasn’t moving, I could still remember crying and calling her to wake up and stop the drama but then she coughed and stopped breathing, she didn’t make it to the hospital. When the hospital confirmed her death mum asked to take her child home, I remembered seeing her carrying Jessica and crying as she left the hospital, with blood stain all over her body, she staggered and walked like dad whenever he came back drunk, at a point she would stop then bend her head and bury her head into her clothes ,I stood rooted on the ground until I felt a hand at my back, it was Joel and I turned and held his hands squeezing it tightly as I saw dad talking to the nurse, I had watched as his face fell before he walked to where mum was, she had stopped crying and burying herself in Jessica’s clothes.
” You know some days I wonder if you are normal this girl”, mum’s words snapped me out of my world of thoughts making me to jerk and sit up, ” Mum!” I said trying hard not to make it sound more like “what is it ?” are you seeing how you are lying on the bed with your legs wide open , don’t you know there are guys in the house? If you should get raped now ,they will blame me for not raising you well, mum said, now pointing her finger at me as I adjusted my self on my bed. ” Be acting stupid and useless, better go and wash the dishes that you all used” she said before turning to go, ” or am I to wash it for you?” she asked facing me, making me get up. I watched her walk out of my room humming a popular anthem of the Anglican Mother’s Union.
In everything in life my mum seems to be a success, in her office she is the branch manager, she had the good looks and shape after giving birth to 4 children who have grown, 2 graduates and 1 undergraduate, she had the best kind of friends and to top it all she was zealous with the word of God, she is the president of the women’s church group in her diocese and currently the chairperson of this year’s Mothering Sunday, during youth fellowship, I used to hear people wish that they were her daughter, my friend’s too who had met my mum fell for her and never believed anything I said about her. She seems to be a success at a lot of things except making me feel good or maybe it’s my fault.
“Sorry about this morning” Joel said, sitting on the fridge.
“It’s cool, you know I have gotten use to it” I said, smiling sadly at him as I dried the plates and arranged them.
” Happy birthday Sweetheart” he said, bringing out a cupcake making me laugh.
” Too much American movies Joel” I said, laughing and drying my hands to take the cake.
” Whatever, Are you going to eat it before mum comes in or are you going to stay here holding it till she comes in?” he said, causing me to cut the cake in 3 and eating my share.
” Thanks bro” I said, hugging him as I fought the tears that were in my eyes.
” This is yours and the other is Joseph’s”. I handed him the cake and watched him go out. I wondered why God gave me such brothers , caring, loving and understanding the only problem was just, like me, they couldn’t save me from our mothers wrath, I let my mind wonder of how much I was going to miss them if I go through with my plan. I turned and finished washing the dishes before I went ahead to sweep the kitchen and clean it. I was lost in my world when someone tickled me causing me to scream before clutching my mouth.
” You seem too off this days”, said Joe my younger brother ,best friend and strong pillar.
” Been thinking much I guess” I said, dropping the sweep as I faced him fully . “Is that what comes with 20? Let me just stick to 18″ he said, making himself comfortable with a glass of fruit juice, ” I got your cake, thanks” he said belching out, ” you know that’s disgusting Joe anyway thanks” I said, rolling my eyes on him”. I have a gift for you ,at night I will send it to you” he said then left the kitchen.
I looked at the time 5:00pm it was time ,it was also time for the women’s meeting which mom was hosting and Joe and Joel had gone out leaving me alone with mum since dad worked late. I survived mum’s wrath this day, mum had rained brimstone and hot ash on me all day, insulting me at every little mistake. During the meetings I wasn’t expected out until it was time to serve them food which was always around 7:00pm. I had time to do everything I wanted to do, I sat on my desk and brought out a pen and paper with tears I started my letter.
Then the tears fell spoiling the paper, I folded the paper and threw it down, as much as I was sure of what I was about to do ,I was afraid.
I wrote again holding the tears so I wouldn’t have to spoil this particular paper, I looked at the time ,it was 5:30pm, the women’s meeting had long started.
How much I wish I could even call you family, I was robbed of a lot of things in life ,first my sister and best friend ,then my purity and a family.
I pulled my cloth up to dab my eyes to avoid it spilling… 5:40pm.
There is no doubt that I love you all , including you mum, I love you Joel so much, you have been there for me ever since I needed a shoulder to cry on, I love you Joe you seem like my pillar and I appreciate.
I was so going to miss my brothers but… 5:50pm the clock chimed
As much as I want to stay and hope that things get better , I can’t because I want to go to a place better, don’t bother crying for me, I know where I am going to, I know how it’s going to hurt but I will take the risk”
I looked around the room admiring the room that held all my joy and happiness plus tears that I couldn’t hold back. 6:20pm
Mum, never for once did I ever regret having you as a mother, although everyone could see that you always wished that I was the one that died and not Jessica,
I moved my face immediately to avoid the tears falling and spoiling the papers… 6:25pm
Sometimes I wondered if I was the one that died would you still tell Jessica that you wish she was the one that died? Mum can you remember when I was 14, Uncle Arinze came to the house to stay and raped me.
I almost choked as the images flashed in my head …6:30pm
I told you mum, Mum I told you, Mummy I told you and what did you do? You beat me up and told me it was my fault since I had worn the shorts dad got me in the house, you even told me not to tell dad since he will be angry and mum just like that I lost my purity in silence.
Mum I forgive you, as painful as it is ,I forgive you.
Dad!! You didn’t act like you cared, you didn’t stand up for me when mum was shouting at me and when I complain you will always say ” words don’t kill, words don’t kill” but dad those words did kill me, it always hurt, it always made me cry, it made me insecure, it made me want to hide up somewhere. I forgive you too for not protecting me from mum.
I looked at the teared wet paper on the desk before my eyes caught the clock again 6:45pm it was almost time, anytime from now, mum will come upstairs to remind me of either how stupid I was not to hear her call me or how useless I was before asking me to go down and get the snacks.
Joel and Joseph, I’m sorry I have to do this, but you have to trust me , I love you both so much, thank you for always being there for me even in school. Joel you made sure I was happy, Joseph if only I could give you my certificate since where I am going to I wouldn’t be needing it but obviously I can’t.
I love you both and I will be watching you guys from high with Jessica
I could hear Mum’s “tatata” slippers steps as she made way up, with a shaking hand I grabbed the rat poison and drank it down ignoring the bitter taste of it, no wonder the rats died, the liquid did not just have an odour it was so bitter, I stared at the clock, it was 7:00pm, I continued staring at it until my room opened and mum came in, then I started feeling dizzy, my eyes started blurring but I could still hear my mum’s voice screaming although she was near and I was in her arms but it felt like the scream was coming from another side, I felt pain, I felt sharp ticklish pain then I turned and saw my brothers rushing to my side and my dad running out, maybe to find the car keys. Then I felt the air squeezing out of me ,I felt mum’s hands on all part of my body trying to press out the content “too late, I hope you guys see the letter” I wanted to say but I couldn’t speak, with one last look at the clock although it was blurry I knew it was time ” Happy birthday Nne, Happy birthday Jachi” I heard mum and that was the last thing I heard and with a painful smile I closed my eyes and felt everything go numb.