“Uzoamaka,” mama nudges me gently. I roll over, exposing my developing breasts.
“kulie, wake up, have you forgotten the tarry night?” I blink awake and yawn. I sit up, exposing my breasts even more. Mama adjusts my dress, my 14th birthday present from papa which shows off my contour, the newly acquired roundness of my hips.
“Change that dress, let us start going,” mama says calmly. Beneath her calmness is a raging storm. Her lips tighten involuntarily; her eyes hold too much care, maybe even defiance, I don’t know, I’m groggy from unfinished sleep.
“Where are we going?” I ask, slipping off the bed.
“To church,” mama responds with that air that says ‘ask no more’.
I wash my face, pick my Bible and tie my scarf to cover all of my head.
We pass the sitting room where papa is sleeping off one of his drunken sleeps. A cigarette glows from his mouth, I go to put it out.
“hapuya,” leave him. The look in mama’s eyes is the same she had those nights she saw papa leaving my room, grinning and buckling his belt. Melancholy wraps around her voice. I step outside with her. Mama forgets something and goes back to get it. When she comes out, I can’t read her face.
I sleep through the sermon at the church. I think I hear mama or the pastor proclaim that ‘whatever a man sows, he shall reap.’ I sleepily wonder about whatever a woman sows, was it only the man that sows?
In the morning, we return home to find burnt debris in place of our home. Some neighbours gather around and mama Ogechi is crying. “Your husband was there,” she keeps telling mama. I stare, mama stares with me. Mama knows, and she knows I know.