While I sat with her, I could read properly now and while she ate, she whispered a tune to herself. Occasionally, she would interrupt me by exclaiming, “See that fine bird! See that bicycle! One day, Chike, when I have plenty money, I’ll buy you big bicycle.” And I’ll simply smile and return to reading.
I continued sneaking off to see her, making sure no one saw us, since we had a lot of gossips in the village. I wrote my WAEC and when the results came out, she was the first person I rushed off to tell. I was so elated that I hugged and swept her off her feet then twirled her around like a bride.
One afternoon, while we strolled to the stream, I asked her how come she was mad and she said, “Me and best friend fight… She like head boy but head boy like me. My friend angry very well and one night, blow powder in my face and tell me to run far and never come back.”
I gave her a surprised look. “You mean your best friend made you mad over a boy?” She suddenly began to cry now as she added, “My mummy, I no see my mummy tey tey.” Then she smiled through her tears and added, “mummy tell me she’s not good friend, I no hear.” I began to wonder how someone in her teens could have access to fetish substances.
Zainab began to cry again and sing Lucky Dube’s song to herself and then she smiled. She kept switching between tears and smiles and I was at loss of what to do.
One certain day, why I was feeding her corn and pear under a tree, my uncle who was just returning from the states was driving by when he saw us. Surprised, he crawled to a stop and honked several times to get my attention.
I stood up and went to him. “Good afternoon, uncle.” I greeted happily.
“Ehn… Good afternoon, Chike.” He said with a confused frown on his face as he tried to look past me at Zainab who was busy scratching at her hair. “What are you doing here?” He asked, “And who’s that girl looking so shabby?” There was disgust in his voice. “Isn’t that girl insane? What are you doing with such a girl? Are your parents aware of this?” He kept asking questions that I didn’t know which to answer.
To be continued…
© Angela Okoduwa