“You girls should please hurry up!. I don’t want us to be late for the thanksgiving oo” Mma’s voice reached past the stairs, and up the straight stairs to Ada’s room where she was rubbing her palms filled with Talcum powder over her smooth, ebony face.
“Ayin na bia” We are coming. Ada called back, in Igbo before clapping her palms together so as to remove the remnant of the powder that would had formed a light have on her palm, after this , she picked up her favourite big plastic comb to straighten her tangled dark mane. And the big comb eating deep into her stiff tresses, straightening them, was amongst the reasons why she cherished the comb.
“I’m not going” Ada looked back- startled.
Her younger sister Chikamso, was leaning on the door pane, still in her second-hand silk, night dress.
“Where aren’t you going to?” Ada asked feigning nonchalance as she resumed combing her hair.
“Church” Chikamso replied, in her naturally indifferent tone, as though she was yet to find what would catch her interest in her surrounding. “I don’t really feel up to all that singing and dancing, noise gbrrrr” Chikamso added faking a shudder.
“Mma wouldn’t allow that, You of all people should know that” Ada said, turning around fully to peer at Chikamso through her elegantly trimmed lashes.
It wasn’t new that Chikamso personified Obstinacy, and managed to get into trouble a whole lot for a girl, and always got severally punished by Mma, which had made her calmer, and a little soft headed for the past few weeks now.
“I know, no need to remind me” Chioma quipped, before continuing” that’s why I need you to tell her for me”
“And why would I want to do that?” Ada asked atheism written all over her face. But in her heart, she suspected what Chikamso was going to say” Because you’re the older and Onye isi ru rala” The most obidient as their mother would say.
And sure enough, she did, adding a ‘Biko nu’ please, with her palms clasped, her light skinned hands temporarily glued together as though in prayer.
Ada shook her head in denial”No”.
“Please” pause. “No”
“Please now” Chikamso begged persistently, trying to make as many cute face as she could manage in mere minutes, of pleading with her sister.
Which did pay off.
“Fine, but you do realize that today is to be kept holy, and what you want me to do for you is not exactly ‘Godly’. Nonetheless, mind telling me your ulterior motive.
I mean you really don’t think I believe your lame excuse” Ada probed.
“I already told you” Chikamso said, walking over to help Ada tie the sash at the end of her necklace, made from huge colourful round beads stuck together by a black sash.
“Chi Chi” Ada drawled teasing, her slightly ruffled sister.
Ada slipped multicoloured ear-rings made also from much smaller beads, coloured her lips burgundy red, stood up to her full height then turned to face her sister.
She towered a little over Chikamso, which came in handy on many occasions, but notwithstanding, they looked alike in a startling way.
Despite Ada’s dark prettiness, and Chikamso’s caramel skin complexion that came from her father.
“Just don’t do anything I wouldn’t do okay?” Chikamso nodded absentmindedly, as Ada turned away from her after a brief and tentative hug to study herself in the mirror again.
She then slipped into black sandals that matched the black slim fitted blouse, picked up her bag that matched the skirt she wore, made from a colour laden african print.
She closed the door softly behind her, a glory of many colours.
Chikamso had dreamt of their father knocking on their door , and hugging her tightly as he usually did each time he came back from work at the only private secondary school in the community, two miles from their home.
It was seven years now since he’d left, nobody gave any explanation why he’d left, Ada hadn’t known, and her mother was up until now a no-go-area when it boiled down to the matter.
That night, before the morning he just up and left, Chikamso had seen him, head inclined, and eyes fixed on a Literary classic in the room, that served as the book area, a semi-library, his study, and a sleeping room during mass visits.
She’d gone to him, stared into the book with him for a while, the Hurricane lamp burned brightly but Her eyes had been unfocused, so she later hugged him goodnight, and as though she’d known it would be last for a long time, the hug held on longer than usual.
He was gone the next morning.
After the whole family, especially their mother began to keep mute about it, and her unrelenting questions went unanswered, She resolved to pry the truth in any means possible.
But that backfired, through her mother’s unrelenting discipline. Now after seven years of waiting, wishing, praying, and imagining, she was learning to bear it, the void, and emptiness that were beginning to fill up these past few weeks.
Only to wake up that morning feeling hopeful, and slightly sure that her father who taught literature at the school and was every inch aesthetic would come back on the same day that he’d left.
The Catholic Women Organisation (C.W.O) of the saint Andrew parish were lined up outside the church’s double doors, waiting to be called in.
Their white blouse, and blue wrappers, with the organisation logo on it made an exciting sight. Their gusto, and gaiety was apparent from their noisy chatter, they way they carried large tubers of yams fresh from the market, or farms, also Fowls, Hens, huge tubs of Coolers, Fruits in woven baskets, and many other thanksgiving offerings.
Finally, after many other churchly ado, the announcer called them in hailing them before dropping the microphone. “Ndi ne mama” He said, and they replied thunderously “I so kwa!”
At the beat of the drum from the choir stand, the women started to dance in. In between the dance the vocalist dedicated so many praises to the women, who responded with loud clapping, singing, energetic dancing, and catcalls that reverberated in the hall.
Every one was also soon, joining in the spirit of jubilation, and thanksgiving,
Ada was waving her stained white Handkerchief in the air when her best friend Helen drew her close to speak into her ear.
Ada was seated at the last pew, her most enjoyable seating post,so as Helen spoke, her eyes were at the church entrance, as Helen was telling her to wait after the mass for the youth meeting everything died down.
Even Helen’s chirpy voice vanished alongside the cacophony, it all seized.
Coming towards her was Chikamso, holding hands with their Father! He still looked the same; light skinned, sturdy, and as handsome as he was all those years ago.
Ada walked away suddenly, from a bewildered Helen, Chikamso had on her face, a triumphant smile which mildly enraged her’ So she’d known he was coming , and she hadn’t told her no wonder she refused to come to church today. The twerp!’ she thought.
Ada walked faster now, her mind contemplating on what to say to a man that estranged himself from them for even years.
Why did you leave?, what are you doing here?, why didn’t you tell anyone about your departure?….
But when she got there, a look at his brilliant brown eyes had her flopping down on him in an embrace, instant relief bathed Ada with it’s warm liquid. Finally she would stop fabricating lies to tell concerned people who never stopped asking after him.
“Npa gi kwa nu?” How about your Father? They’d ask.
And She’d fake a heart expression as she told them he was abroad on a programme.
“My black beauty, I can’t be anymore…” Their father was saying in his melodious accent, when his expression turned sober, and concerned for he was no longer looking at Ada, but at their mother whose slender frame shook from something akin to anger.
“So you’ve been hearing them converse over the phone, and you didn’t find it necessary to tell me?” Ada asked after Chikamso explained her discoveries to her, including how her father had knocked about thirty something minutes after her and mother had left for church, when her mother began to receive a call in the middle of the night, and how she’d cried before saying yes to their father before he came back that sunday.
“Did you learn why he left?” Ada asked, after Chikamso gave her an affirmative to the question she’d asked earlier.
Before she answered, they both knew things would be alright, they might have spent important years of their lives without their father, but somehow. It all seemed bearable.
They knew they would watch the evening news together that night, and have breakfast together that morning, and spend many other times in the weeks filling him in on the past seven years.
But after Chikamso said “Oh he had an affair with one of the teachers” Ada had doubts that things would go on nicely , starting from that sunday morning.
To Eddy, Kelvin, and Godwin.