People outside must have heard our Mummy crying. They came into our house to ask what was going on. Mr. Salami, our neighbour, came too. I listened to him explained that he was about to drive out when he saw the two policemen at our door, so he had come to check on us to be sure everything was alright. Mummy tried to control her tears as she told him what the policemen had said to her. Mr. Salami shouted something I didn’t understand in Yoruba. He said “God forbid” several times and hunched his shoulders because he was shocked; he was a big man with tribal marks on his face, and he always wore caps which he would bend at the side – the way Jegede Shokoya used to do in “New Masquerade”. Afterwards, he told Mummy not to cry. He said that he believed our Daddy would be fine. His wife soon joined him. Before, I was not very comfortable in her presence because every time I went to their house to play, her children used to tell me she always flogged them when they made her angry. She was a teacher in one nursery school near our house, and she also had a noisy sewing machine in her bedroom.
The man in police uniform looked at his wrist watch and said Mummy should come with them to the hospital where they took our Daddy. Mr. Salami suggested he would follow Mummy and the policemen. He said they should all go in his car, a Peugeot 504 with a beautiful blue colour, which was usually parked in front of their house. I have been driven around town twice inside his car. The first time was when he took me and Tayo, his last child, to the barber’s shop. The other time that I rode in his car was when Mummy permitted me to follow them to the Leventis stores, on Ahmadu Bello way, to buy school sandals for Tayo and his sisters. Mummy told me that Tayo was older than me by about four months. I was slightly taller than him, though. Often, he liked for us to play rough by tumbling in the grasses and running after escaping grasshoppers. These plays left us with dirtied cloths, and then my Mummy would be crossed with me when I got home. She said I was making her to waste Omo detergent unnecessarily to wash my dirty clothes.
“If you continue to dirty your cloths this way, I may soon start making sure you go out to play without any clothes on!” she would scold at me.
Oyigwe was asked to hurry and bring a headscarf from the bedroom for Mummy to tie; her hair was already looking scattered because she had been pulling at it while she cried.
Everybody was trying to talk at the same time. They all looked very worried for our Daddy. They were talking about the accident; they were talking about how Daddy was a good man, and how such a thing should not have happened to somebody like him. My mind told me whatever had happened to our Daddy was not good for our family. It made me sad and afraid at the same time. I loved Daddy very much and I wanted him to be at home with us, not in the hospital.
I wished to follow them to the hospital so I could see him and we would all come back home together so that everybody would be happy again.
“I will come with you, Mummy,” I cried and tried to hold onto her arm.
But Mummy wouldn’t allow me.
“No, you can’t come with us, Otseme. You have to stay in the house with your sister and pray for God to make your Daddy to be okay,” she said to me.
Mrs. Salami suggested that she would take me and my sister to her house to stay until Mummy returned from the hospital.
“Let them come and stay with my children,” she told our Mummy.