Daddy’s call woke me up the next day,
“Omalicha, I am sincerely sorry that I was not able to pick your call yesterday, I had a really long meeting and when I got back home, I was too tired to return the call.”
“You don’t have to explain; I know you must have been busy. How are things with you?” I replied.
“You act too mature for your age my dear. You are only 16 years but you are very understanding and caring for that matter. You remind me of your mother, when we were good. My dear, I am your father and I should be the one asking how things are with you but now that you have asked - I am doing just fine.
“How is your mother? We have not spoken in days.”
“She is fine daddy. Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure, please out with it.” He replied, eagerly.
“Is it possible that I go back to school before we resume, or spend the rest of the break at Ada’s house?” I asked, praying he does not figure out that I had issues with mum. I loved my dad a lot and did not want him thinking the worst of me.
“That does not make any sense my dear. Tell me, how are things with you and your mum? I specifically told her to make you feel at home as Chinwe was not around to keep you company.”
A large part of me wanted to tell him what happened yesterday but divorce had now become a rampant topic amongst my pairs, as a lot of my friends had separated parents. I did not want that to happen to me. So I let out a weird giggle and said,
“We are fine daddy; it is just that I miss my new friends.”
“Oh, my child, this just proves what I told you about people in the East right? They are great people there! However, you cannot go back to school until it resumes; it is not safe for you.”
“How is Aunty Chika? I have not been able to bring myself to call her after I left her house.” I said.
“Mba biko (No please). You should call her and check up on her. She is a good woman and will not hold anything against you. Even though, I still do not understand how you would leave a house that had all that would make your stay there comfortable. Well, I know you are a young girl; I ga acho idna eso umu ibe gi enwe anwuri (You will want to join your mates to have fun).” Daddy said.
Uncontrollable tears ran down my cheeks. Why is daddy so understanding and mummy the total opposite?
“Hello, my dear, are you still there? Did I say anything that upset you?”
“No daddy, you did not. It is just that I have to go to mummy’s room for our morning devotion.” I replied, wanting to be off the phone as quickly as possible, so he would not tell I was crying.
“Okay my dear, you do just that, while I finish up this proposal in front of me. I would check up on your mum to make sure we are still on the same page.” He replied and ended the call.
I did not understand what he meant by If they were still on the same page but it was fine, because there were a lot of things between my dad and mum I did not understand, like when he says sweet things about her and adds the phrase ‘when we were good’. I guessed as long as they were not divorced, I was fine with however their relationship status was.
The next months went by swiftly and smoothly. I avoided having any conversations with my mum – at least she made it very easy for me to do so. At the dining table, while we had breakfast, we had little or no conversations. Afterwards, she would go out all day and return late at night.
I missed my mum. I wanted us to discuss, I wanted her to answer the questions about boys and sex that kept burning in my mind but she wasn’t just available, both physically and mentally.
Minutes ran into hours; hours into days, days into months and my break was finally over. It was time to go back to school.
The morning of the day I was scheduled to leave for school; mummy came into my room, sat on my bed for about five minutes, just staring into thin air.
Minutes after, I was sure I heard her sniffle. Was mummy crying? I wanted to reach out to her and ask her why she was crying, to promise her that I would return to aunty Chika’s if it would make her happy. My mind raced up and down, thinking of the most appropriate action but my body stayed put. Over the years I have come to realize that I do the dumbest things in the presence of my mum, so remaining silent and having her in the same room with me was far much better than acting a fool.
“I love you, Nkechi. I know this might be impossible for you to believe but I really do. A lot of times, I just wish I can get over myself and love you but you remind me a lot of him and even though I love him too, I just do not know why your reminding me of him holds me back from showing you love.”
I was sure she was not talking to me. It felt more like a conversation with self but with my mother, again, I was never sure, so I asked,
“I remind you of whom, mummy?”
“What? Never mind my dear. Have you packed your things?” She asked, as though she just caught herself doing the unimaginable.
“Yes, I have. Thank you for the provision and food stuff you bought me, they will last me two semesters.” I replied.
“Take this,” she reached the back of her neck and unhooked the gold chain she had on, “Please put this on. Anytime I act up, I want you to reach for this chain and tell yourself: My mother loves me; the battle is not with me. You hear?” She then placed the chain in my palm.
I instantly folded my palm and nodded, as tears rolled down my eyes. I was not sure why I was crying, neither did I understand what my mum meant but it just felt like she was in a lot more pain than I was.
She drew closer to me and hugged me tight.
“Do not cry my child, when you are older, you will understand this better.”
I wanted to tell her that the tears were not for me but for her. However, that could wait because I had forgotten the last time my mum hugged me, so I wanted to cherish this moment with all of me. I just kept my mouth shut and took in all of her.