OKPARA EMEKA: ICING ON A DUNGHILL, a short story.
My name is Flora. I am a five and a dozen years old today. I just found out I’ve been living a lie for all those years. The lady I called ‘aunty’, just like everyone else in this calm village would respectfully address their elder sister, was really my biological mother. And I’d thought for three years short of two decades that she was my elder sister. The mother I knew was really my grandmother. Well, I have no father figure, but my mother, sorry grandmother, is everything in one for me. She loves me more than two parents put together_ well, until now. That explains in part why I never would have known my true story had aunty Evelyn, my biological mother, not ran out on her husband few days ago for reasons I don’t quite comprehend.
She had been seemingly happily married for a decade to a young man in Lagos whom I hardly saw more than once. For one who lives in far away Lagos, aunty Evelyn comes to the village a little too often; for burial, traditional marriage, umuada meetings, ikeji, et cetera. Each time, she comes with a ‘bootful’ of supplies for us.
However, when she came back with some bruises on her face in the night a few days ago, it was not for any of those occasions. Neither was there a boot in the first place. I got to learn she had been having some frictions in her marriage which may not be unconnected to the fact that she didn’t have an issue in it. She upped her church attendance for same reason, but that didn’t oil the wheels of her marriage either. Her husband was not a fan of religion, much less Pentecostalism. Her parents-in-law were pestering for grandchildren. So she was in a vicious circle.
One thing must have led to another, and he beat her up; bruised her face, lacerated her heart. And so aunty Evelyn was at the village on the night of the following day, but for some reason, mama’s sympathies were not with her. Against the quietness of the village night, mama raised her voice to drown the whistling of the insects, the occasional but throaty cries of the owls and bats, in rebuke of aunty Evelyn. That was when she spilled the beans and for the first time, lying on age-worn Dunlop foam beside the kerosene lantern that burned quietly and steadily at the centre of room, I learned who I really was.
Evelyn had me out of wedlock at seventeen while in senior secondary. She was the village belle, and it got to her head. Everybody warned her, but she wouldn’t listen_ or so it’s often said. She kept jumping from one man to another until she missed her period without knowing on whose bed or otherwise. Stubborn her, she refused to point at any particular man as being responsible for her pregnancy. Fortunately, when I came out, I didn’t look like any of the men they’d seen around her_ I looked just like her; fair, tall and beautiful. It just dawned on me that I’m like her in more ways than meet the eye.
Well, a lot of these things were said in anger, and so I can’t vouch for their authenticity. Aunty Evelyn didn’t attempt to put the records straight for me anyway. As a matter of fact, from that night of revelation to the following morning when she ran away to God-knows-where, she never looked me in the eyes; neither could she say a word to me. I figured that could be shame, disdain or anything in between. If only she knew…
After she left, I had this feeling that grandma would sit me down like she did seven years ago when I bled for the first time as a woman, and explain things to me. But she didn’t; instead, she continued as though nothing happened. Probably, she has nothing to say to me, but I have a lot to say to her for she’s still the mother I know. I’ve been feeling different for the past one month. I’ve vomited a number of times recently. I’m still looking forward to seeing my period. I’m pregnant and I would loose all my teeth before I mention who’s responsible for it. This icing on a dunghill may not have been there if I knew the story of my life… and if I knew that all the girls in my class that talk so animatedly about sex were really virgins.
Check out my novel 'HIDDEN HALOES', and collection of poems, 'ONCE BELLE' @ amazon.com