Trust you are doing fine, I am writing this letter to inform you of the recent developments around here. Father has asked me to get married to Mr. Chife and has refused to pay my school fees because he does not believe in the education of a female child. This makes me very sad but I am determined to push forward as much as I can. I cannot bring myself to marry him or any other man right now.
You have always supported my dreams and told me to believe in myself. I need your help now. I will be grateful if you can help me with some money to pay for the school entrance exam which comes up in four weeks’ time.
As for now, I will be in grandmother’s house in Owerri, while I try to find some more money. Please send your reply letter to Owerri.
I await your reply.
Rosie read through the letter one more time to make sure it conveyed her intended message. With a smile on her face, she sealed the letter within an envelope.
“Father has no idea the shocker I have in store for him.”
A mischievous smile spread across her face as the thought went through her mind. She put some shoes on and dashed off to the post office. After posting her letter, she made her way to her uncle’s house on foot. Her uncle received her warmly.
“Uncle Ken, I will like to visit my grandmother in Owerri, but I have no money to get there. Can you please help me with the transport fare?” Rosie asked, after exchanging pleasantries.
The middle aged man looked at her for a few seconds before smiling and putting his hand into his pocket. He brought out 20 shillings and handed it to her.
A very excited Rosie knelt down to thank him. It would cost her 10 shillings to get to Owerri. It was a beautiful start, and she was very happy to see her plan was going better than she had envisaged. She gave her regards to her uncle’s family and made her way back home.
Angela was picking some leaves at the back of the house in preparation for that evening’s dinner when Rosie came in. It was about 1:30 pm.
“Where have you been?” she asked.
An excited Rosie narrated the events of her day to her mother who could not ignore the bright smile on her daughter’s face.
“You look truly happy.” She said. “When do you intend to leave for Owerri?”
“This afternoon.” Rosie responded. “I already packed my bag through the night.”
Angela smiled. “Owerri is quite a distance from here, my child. I will suggest you leave in the morning so you don’t arrive at night in case of any eventuality.”
“Okay, mama.” Rosie replied.
“Are you going to help me with dinner?” Angela asked.
“No!” Rosie snapped, running back into the house. The last place on Earth she wanted to be was the kitchen.
“That one thinks she is a man. Sooner or later, she will accept her fate.” She thought to herself.
“Nnenne!” Rosie called out to her grandmother as she dashed towards the little white house. She had always loved it here. Her grandmother usually gathered the children around a fire in the evenings and told them stories about ancient times. Rosie loved those stories and was always delighted to be in her grandmother’s house.
“My child!” Nnenne responded from her room which was in the left corner of the house. Rosie rushed into her grandmother’s arms which were spread widely to welcome her in a warm embrace.
“Look how big you’ve gotten!” Her grandmother said with a smile. “You are looking more and more like your father every day.”
“Did you come alone?” Nnenne asked.
“Yes, Nnenne.” Rosie replied.
“Hmmm… Why do I have a feeling something is out of place?” Nnenne asked with a slight frown on her face.
“Never mind that now.” Nnenne cut her off. “You should get settled and eat something. After that, come and tell me about it.”
Rosie sat on a sofa directly opposite her grandmother in the living room of the little white house, as she narrated the recent events to her. By the time she ended her tale, her grandmother no longer had the loving smile Rosie had gotten accustomed to.
“Is something wrong, Nnenne?” Rosie asked.
Nnenne finally spoke but this time, her voice was cold.
“I have heard everything you said. I am not surprised to hear that your mother is unable to do anything about your situation.”
As she continued, disappointment could be seen in her aging eyes. Rosie had never seen her this way. The next set of words she spoke stuck in Rosie’s memory for the rest of her life.
“The only regret I have in life is the money I wasted raising your mother!”
Rosie’s heart sank. She had not envisaged this. Not only was her plan going awry, she was hurt to hear her grandmother speak about her mother in that manner. Everything began to make sense. Nnenne always showed her love but she noticed that she and her siblings were always treated differently from her cousins. She never questioned that behavior or even paid much attention to it until now.
“I asked her to continue her education but she insisted on marrying your father.” Nnenne continued. “Look at it now. It hurts me to see that she cannot afford a spoon of her own.”
Rosie looked on in shock.
“Anyway…” Nnenne continued. “I will give you your transport fare back to your father. You are his responsibility. Let him train you the way he pleases.”
Nnenne got up and walked into her room. A few minutes later, she returned with 25 shillings.
“Thank you, Nnenne.” Rosie genuflected, accepting the money from her grandmother.
She was shocked and hurt at the same time but she knew this was no time for tears. Even in that state, she could see a ray of hope. It would cost her 10 shillings to get back to her home. She had an extra 15 shillings which she could add to the 10 shillings from her uncle to make a total of 25 shillings. That could pay for the entrance examination fees. However she still needed extra money for fees, a uniform and books when she finally got admitted into school. She hoped her brother Hilton would send her some of the money required.
Rosie remembered her mother’s sister, Aunty Violet. She lived not very far away from Nnenne’s house, and it would cost her just 3 shillings to get there.
“That’s a small amount of money to risk while trying to find the money I need.” Rosie thought to herself.
Violet returned from work to meet Rosie in her living room. She worked as a nurse in the community hospital.
“It is her daughter Oluchi, who always receives special treatment at family functions and in Nnenne’s house. Maybe… Just maybe she will be willing to help.” Rosie thought to herself.
“Rosie!” Violet exclaimed. “It’s nice to see you. What brings you here?”
“I came to visit Nnenne and decided to pay you a visit.” Rosie said.
“That is very nice of you.” Violet replied. “Welcome.”
“Aunty Vee, I was wondering if you could help me with some money for school fees as my father has refused to send me to school.” Rosie said after spending some time in her Aunt’s house.
“I’m so sorry, Rosie.” Violet said with a look of concern on her face. “You see?” she continued. “I have a family of my own now and do not have the extra resources to spend on my sister’s family.”
The words hurt, but not so much. It seemed Rosie was beginning to develop a tougher skin.
Violet, who had walked into her room moments earlier, returned to the living room and handed Rosie 10 shillings. Rosie thanked her and left.
“At least I made 4 extra shillings after deducting my transport fare.” Rosie thought with a smile.
The situation wasn’t dire… or at least she refused to believe so. She went back to her grandmother’s house and met her brother’s reply letter which had been delivered there.
Rosie read the letter over and over again.
Her brother had told her how excited he was to hear that she had decided to pursue her dreams. He explained that he had just graduated from the university and was yet to get a paid job. However, he had made some money doing menial jobs and attached 30 shillings to the letter. He ended by telling her he knew the money wasn’t much, but he hoped she could use it for a start.
Joy enveloped Rosie’s heart as she had not expected that much money from him.
“Finally!!!” She thought.
She was one step closer to her dreams, and couldn’t wait to get back home.
Efetobore threw a stool at Rosie who barely managed to dodge the speeding object as she walked into the living room. The stool hit the wall on the opposite end of the room and fell to the ground.
“No child of mine will embarrass me like that!” He barked.
“You think you can just walk back here after the shame you brought me?” He continued, referencing the fact that she stood Mr. Chife up.
“Forgive me, father.” Rosie begged. “I had no choice!”
Now the tears were flowing freely down her face. Her father rarely scolded her and whenever he did, it cut like a knife.
“I tried to make you see…” she continued.
Efetobore looked at her again. He was upset at the embarrassment she had caused him by disappearing, but at the same time, he was impressed she had such a strong will.
“You are a lot like me, you know.? He said to her.
This time, his tone was a lot calmer.
“I wish you were male… Baibee… but you see? You aren’t.”