“How many daddies do I have”? The little girl asked her mother as they walked. The sun was just coming up and it peeked from behind a hill far in the horizon. They were the only ones walking the deserted road, a young woman who was once beautiful and her daughter. What they had for company was their shadows and the annoying caw of a crow that seemed to follow them as they walked.
The road they walked was in a state of disrepair, an abandoned project that has become a nightmare to the people living in the area. The road was bad quite alright, its fate turned to worse when a politician vying for a post as a federal legislator promised to repair it. As a campaign strategy, tractors were brought, the road levelled and all it needed to become motor able was to be tarred. The politician was unfortunately elected and with his mandate he saw no reason in doing what he promised. The tractors disappeared and the road was left as it was, worse than it used to be.
The now levelled road is covered in clay which sticks to tires and soles in the rainy season and hardens in the dry season. It sends out clouds of dust during harmattan, repainting the entire house in the area in a shade of red. The woman didn’t know which one was worse, the slippery mud in the rainy season or the dirtying dusts of the dry season.
They had been walking for fifteen minutes and they seemed to have been at it for days. They looked dusty. The girl’s movement was being hampered by her sandal which was torn and had lost both buckles. She dragged her feet as she walked and the sandal in turn stirred dust from the earth. Her legs were soon covered in dust.
The woman had heard her daughter’s embarrassing question. The question was preposterous yet she knew what the girl meant. How could she explain it to her? The woman quickened her steps and the little girl increased her own speed, she caught up with her mother as they were about to cross a gutter.
The little girl was undeterred by her mother’s silence. The question she asked was one that had been piquing her for a while.
“Auntie” she called out to her mother. The woman forbade the little girl from calling her ‘mother’ outside of their house, she didn’t want people knowing that the girl was hers.
“How many daddies do I have”?
The mother pondered for a while before speaking. “You have only one daddy, everybody has one”. Every one has only one daddy but she had had to introduce all the men she brought home as daddy to her daughter.
She’d never had trouble with bringing men home when the girl was younger, but as she grew up she had been incessantly demanding to know who the men were and who her daddy was. The girl looked at her mother with a questioning look, the answer her mother gave didn’t go down with the her. She decided it was best she refreshed her mother’s memory.
“Do you remember that man that used to come to our house, the one with the big stomach”? “What about him”? Asked the mother. “You said he’s my daddy”.
“Yes he his” she said aloud, “but he isn’t anymore” she muttered to herself.
The man had been one of her numerous ‘clients’ with whom she had a long relationship. They were together for two years before he suddenly became religious and left her only to go back to his fat ugly wife. He knew what she did for a living and never complained about it as long as she gave it to him when he needed it. When he left she immediately replaced him with another man.
When one tool is lost, another as to replace it, she’d told herself.
They continued walking on, the expressway was now in their line of sight. There was already a small crowd at the bus stop. The woman looked around for a tap or a well where they could wash themselves off the dust from the road.
“The man that comes with a bike that smokes all the time, you also said he’s my daddy”. The girl continued.
“He is also your daddy”. The woman answered defiantly.
She found a tap just before they got to the bus stop and pulled her daughter towards it. The girl still had a long list of daddies to ask her mother about. The mother washed her legs and they moved on to the bus stop afterwards.
“That man that always buys me sweets, is he my daddy too”?
“Yes he his and he’s your real daddy”. The girl was unconvinced, she continued talking “what about that tall man that has a mousta…”. The mother cut her off, moustache she wanted to say.
“That is enough; I don’t want you asking me questions about your daddies again. Ever”. The woman said with a note of finality in her voice.
“But why? Why do I have many daddies when all my friends have one”?
“Count yourself lucky” the woman told her with a smile. “You have many and they have one, you are one lucky girl”.
They soon got to the bus stop and boarded a bus. They were on their way to the little girl’s school, the woman had been summoned by the head teacher. Left to her, she wouldn’t have gone to the school with her daughter. She had to be at her shop early but the little girl refused to leave the house without her in tow.
The woman was rest assured that whatever it is she was summoned for was not a bad incident, her daughter never made trouble. She was very intelligent and is as gentle as a dove. Gentility and intelligence are qualities her mother lacked in great deal, the woman wondered where the little girl got her brain from. She knew certainly that it wasn’t from her or any of her ancestors. She had to have gotten it from her father, whoever he was.
The girl had been a mistake on her part and she tried every thing she could to abort her pregnancy. She had enough reasons to terminate it. She didn’t know the father for one and a pregnancy at that time would ruin business for her. She worked as a prostitute then and she often didn’t use a condom if the price was right.
She did not discover the pregnancy until the third month. There was no known abortion drug that she didn’t use, the pregnancy developed as days went by. She went to see a doctor and was advised against aborting it. She’d had too many abortions in her life and that one if aborted could result to not only the loss of one but two lives. Hers and the unborn child’s.
She continued working till customers started avoiding her due to the bulge in her tummy. She then moved out of the brothel and got herself an apartment in town. She managed to take care of the pregnancy and herself till she gave birth.
The baby when it arrived was a beautiful little girl with a mass of black curled hair. The hospital staff took turns in cradling the baby because it was the most beautiful they had ever seen. The new mother didn’t share in their joy, she’d been praying for a still birth.
She looked at the baby like it was a piece of rag, a waste product that should have been long disposed off. She eyed it with a bland look as it was handed to her for the first time. She spoke to no one neither did anyone visit her the entire time she spent at the hospital. She was young and eager to enjoy life. The baby was a burden to her personality and to her work. She was however relieved that it had finally arrived.
She heaved a sigh of relief as she handed back the baby to the nurse on duty. She was relieved because she could finally go back to work, the past months had been one filled with hardship and near poverty. She only had one source of livelihood and pregnancy was a great hazard to it.
Her assuagement was soon replaced with a sense of worry. What was she to do with the baby? How would she cope while working with a baby to worry about? She knew there was nothing she could do, she had to take care of the baby till it was old enough to fend for itself. Or maybe not. When she got home, she refused to feed the baby as she should. She only fed it to make it stop crying.
She made a decision about the baby and one gloomy morning she implemented her plan. She had decided that abandoning the baby was the best thing to do. She wrapped it in a blanket and went to drop it at a refuse dump far away from where she lived. She hurriedly moved away from the place not wanting to know the baby’s fate. The baby had only two options, man or beast. She hoped it was the former that came first, it was either the baby falls into the hands of an human or the pigs that scavenged the dump.
She had only moved a few meters away when she heard the baby’s cry.The baby burst out into a wail that pierced into the serenity of the early morning. The cries touched the woman, touched her in a way it never had and for the first, she felt compassion towards the baby. She went back and picked it up, maybe taking care of it wouldn’t be a bad idea after all.
The woman had been alone since she was seventeen, the baby would be the only family she’d have. She returned to business one month after delivering her baby. She did home service and often the baby cried when she had a man on top of her. She always ignored its cries and concentrated on the pleasure induced cries from the man riding her. The baby would cry itself to sleep and she would breast feed it whenever it woke up.
The baby grew up into a beautiful little girl that everyone loves. The woman would look at the girl and thank her stars for having not abandoned her as a baby. The girl was the only good thing in her life, the one important thing to her. She always went out of her way to satisfy the little girl. No matter how down she was, no matter how bad she felt, one good look at her daughter would comfort her. A look at her daughter was enough to put a smile on her face. The girl makes her laugh and brings her joy, such that she has never felt.
The little girl is now nine years old and taller than most of her mates. She’s the best student in her class and a very fine athlete. The mother looked at her as she sat next to her in the bus, she was very proud of her daughter. She held her close to her side and stroked her hair gently, they were almost at the girl’s school. The girl sat close to her mother and looked into her eyes, she still had a thousand and one questions to ask her. She would wait till they got to the school.