As Uka enters the house she manages to avoid her family. It was dinner time but she had no appetite. She knew she would be asked questions and didn’t want to answer any. Her eyes would give her away, so she hastily made her way to the sanctuary of room and immediately locked the door behind her.
Yes she felt pain on account that she would be leaving Michael, but it grieved her even more that she would be one more person whom he cared about that turned around to hurt him and make him cry. The very thought made her feel a stabbing pain in her chest and hot stinging tears drowned her eyes…
Michael and his family had moved to the estate shortly after her own family had moved from Apapa. The estate was a relatively new development at the time, but from the eyes of a child, everything seemed quite big. There weren’t too many houses initially, and everyone seemed to know each other. All the children went to the same primary school. It was here that they met.
He used to be shy and would keep pretty much to himself. Though he was much taller than most of the kids in the school, he was a softie. All the other kids took advantage of this and poked fun at him. It was during one of these incidents that she stood up for him and from then became good friends. She still remembers that day…
“Stop! You are hurting me” the boy screamed.
“Igunuko! Odoyo! Big fool! Mummy’s boy!” the group of kids continued to yell at him and poke at his ribs. They sang some horrible rhymes, all intended to make him miserable and hopefully cry.
“Hey! Hey! Leave him alone” Uka yelled, as she walked into the mob taunting and jeering at the tall boy.
“Why don’t you fight back?” She yelled at him. He continued looking down at the ground and clutching his schoolbag like his dear life depended on it.
“The next person that dares to touch him will face me” Uka warned the mob of 5 kids. Uka had a reputation for being a tomboy and someone you didn’t want to get into a fight with. On that note the mob started dispersing.
“Woman wrapa! Woman wrapa! You no fit fight for yasef, na woman dey fight for you”, “You escape today, we go catch you again tomorrow” One of the girls said.
“Where do you live?” Uka asked him. “Do you live close by?”
”We just moved into the other side of the estate.” He responded, still looking down.
“What’s your name?” Uka asked.
“Michael” He whispered.
“Mine is Uka”
“How are you getting home? Is someone coming to get you?” Uka further asked.
“I’m taking the school bus” Michael replied.
From that moment onwards they rode the school bus together, and she would always sit beside him. No one ever got the opportunity to get him alone. Their friendship bothered a lot of the other kids, especially the girls, who would tease her about her best friend being a boy.
“Uka, untogi! Ha ha! None of us will be your friend! Your best friend is a boy!” Some would gather and jeer at her. They hoped to wear her down and give up being friends with Michael.
“But you got it all wrong! He’s not my best friend, he’s my boyfriend!” She would say and snuggle up to Michael, if they were sitting down or hug him if they were standing up. Her response not only shocked, but infuriated them more.
Michael would smile bashfully at moments like this. His eyes would widen with surprise, but with each passing moment, he developed more respect and a deeper closeness to Uka. Uka’s resilience led these kids to think up more hurtful ways to inflict some sort of pain on both of them.
They made up all sorts of ugly, hurtful rhymes and became masters at reciting them. Although his friendship with Uka was making him stronger, their taunting would occasionally make him hide and cry. Uka was quite proud to be his girl and was ready to tell anyone so.
“How many times do I have to tell you not to cry for those children? You make them feel special when you cry and they feel like they can do anything to you” she would often tell him. Yes,she was proud to be his girl. He was tall and very handsome too.
The mocking, taunting and jeering stopped one fine day. Uka being the one to always stand up for him was doing so once again, when someone threw a raw egg on her. Her uniformed was smeared in egg.
“Why did you do that! Why did you!” Michael yelled.
“What can…” before the boy could complete his sentence Michael had punched him several times in the face. The boy fell backwards onto the ground and Michael punched him some more. He got up and when straight for the next person. Michael yanked this one by the collar and pushed him hard that he fell down bruising himself. No one had ever seen him this way; He was enraged and ready to fight anyone.
Uka like others stood there shocked at what they were witnessing. The mouse had indeed become a giant. Till they left primary school no one ever troubled either one of them again. This gave him the much needed confidence in himself, until the day they received the report of their exams for their final year in primary five.
“Daddy! I did it! I did it! So can I have what you promised?” Uka shouted excitedly. He had promised her a chopper bicycle if she got anything between 1st to 3rd position in her promotion exam to primary six
“Yes you can my dear”
“So when can we go get it? She asked excitedly.
He smiled, “Come with me.”
They went to the back of the house, and parked there was a brand new chopper bicycle.
“Daddyyyyyyyyyy! Oh my God! When did you buy it? How did you know I would pass?”
He just kept smiling and had a proud look on his face.
“You can take it out for a ride you know.”
The look on Uka’s face spoke a thousand words. Her dad knew she was as happy and proud of him as he was of her. She needed no further invitation before she jumped on the bike. She knew exactly where to go with it. She rode down the street to show it to Michael.
As she got closer the gate was wide open and she could hear people shouting very loudly. She soon realized it was Michael’s mum and dad and another man whom she did not recognize, but he was also involved in the shouting.
“Oloshi! Ko ni da fun e! Mo ni mio she mo abi aran ni? I said I don’t want this any longer! I want out! Can’t you understand?” Michael’s mum screamed.
“But what about our kids? Our family, our lives together?…doesn’t any of this mean something to you?” Michael’s dad pleaded, almost close to tears.
“Hey! My friend! She said she no longer wants you! She would rather be with me, don’t you understand?” The strange man said loudly and gloatingly. Giving Michael’s dad scowling looks.
Uka could not believe what she was witnessing. Michael’s usually calm and soft spoken mother seemed to have morphed into some loud mouthed scary person. She was almost foaming at the mouth and really did sound like one of those foul mouthed market women cussing a customer that had underpriced her wears.
“Wo! je ka ma lo jare, let us go.” The man urged Michael’s mum. He had two suitcases with him which Uka could only assume belonged to Michael’s mum.
“Mummy! Mummy! Mummy, carry me! Carry me! Sammy wailed and begged whilst clinging to their mother’s leg.
She was now also crying and pulling away from Sammy whilst Michael just sat in a corner, knees drawn up to his chin staring straight ahead. It was as if he wasn’t even there. Uka looked on horrified as the man led her best friend’s mother to the waiting car.
“Joke jor ma lo! Wo bi omo se sun kun. Look at how your child is crying. O mo pe mo ni fe e. I still love you” Michael’s dad pleaded desperately, tears streaming down his face, now holding Sammy.
“ol’ boy na wah o! Which one you dey now! This woman sey na me im want! Na by force?” The strange man said looking back with a satisfying gloat and smirk on his face.
It was like nothing she had ever seen before. She knew this was seriously bad. She had never seen a grown man cry before, especially a man like Michael’s dad. He was so nice and kind to all the kids around and at school. Even his wife, Mrs. Adeyemi, was also very nice. She was the only mum in the PTA who would bake cake and bring it to all the kids; the other grown-ups were too greedy to share. They only gave out the refreshments amongst themselves after making sure the children had been dismissed.
Uka’s young mind could not conceive what could have made such a nice lady leave her baby, son and husband, despite all his pleading….it had to be that nasty man with her, Uka concluded. Yes! It had to be him; maybe she will find out he’s a bad man and then come back home. As she sat on her bicycle by the gate, Mr. Adeyemi wiped his face with a handkerchief and hastily cleared his throat. Seeing her for the first time he said brightly in his best pretend voice, “Hey Uka…how long have you been sitting there on your bike? Hey! That’s a shiny new bike! When did you get this? Come on inside, I’m sure Michael is around somewhere”.
“Good evening Mr. A, I have to go home now, my parents will worry if I’m not home by 6 o’clock” she replied in a tiny voice.
That was the first time ever she had dreaded a conversation with Michael. All while his dad spoke to her, he was still holding Sammy but Michael had not moved a muscle, let alone speak or acknowledge her presence.
“Well then little girl, go on home. It is getting dark, besides your friend here looks a little lost at the moment”
“Goodnight Uka” he muttered almost inaudibly. As she rode off, she took one last look at Michae; but he was still curled up in the same position.
To be continued…