A Sad Place

Father never came home on time. Mama always waited up for him after putting us to sleep, but I always stayed up too, if only to have a glimpse of his face. He was never around on weekends as well; mama said it was because he was a doctor, and there were very few doctors in the country, so he was always on call. I missed him greatly, Jide did too. I didn’t understand why there weren’t enough doctors in the country, nor did I know what ‘on-call’ meant.

One day, daddy didn’t come home at all. I waited up till I needed pegs to keep my eyes open like Tom in “Tom and Jerry.” By morning there was no sign of him either, he hadn’t dropped notes by our beds like he used to, and when I asked mum, she looked away and told me to eat my breakfast so I wouldn’t miss the bus. I didn’t understand why she did that; she could have just told me he didn’t come home.

Two weeks after, daddy still hadn’t returned. I was worried. When Ada –my classmate- suddenly stopped seeing her dad, it was because he had “gone to a better place,” and he still hasn’t come back. I didn’t want my dad to go to a better place, at least not without me.

One afternoon, we had just come back from school when uncle Bisi came in with an entourage that comprised of aunts and uncles, all from father’s side of the family. Mama sent us to our rooms, and we obeyed at first, but my curiosity got the better of me, and I went back to the sitting room. From the door, I heard them say that Father had taken another wife and mother could choose to leave or remain his wife. They said she would get our house and father would still be responsible for our upkeep because she had given them two beautiful children; Jideofor and Adaihuoma -they always said our names in full, and always put Jide before me. Mama said it was because he was a boy- but he would live with his new family. He went on to say that this was because they wanted more children, and mama couldn’t have any more kids; he said one son was not enough because if something happened to him, then father’s lineage would be lost.

Mother, having listened to him patiently, went into a furious tirade “Ndubuisi, she said, what have I not done for this family? For your brother? I forsook my family because I loved Ikenna, your brother, and this is how he pays me back? Not just taking a wife behind me, he had to add salt to my wounds by sending you to me instead of telling me himself okwaya? Since you have decided to play messenger Ndubuisi, kindly go and tell him he can keep his house and money, my children who are not enough for him and I will leave, and we will survive without him. Also, tell him that from now henceforth, he has no right to those children. Now please leave.”

Uncle Bisi and his entourage left after some more talks, and then mama went into her room and cried for hours. I sat at her door, wanting to go in and comfort her, but at the same time, not wanting her to know I hadn’t stayed in my room like she told me to.

By the end of the month, we had moved to a new house, a house with no trace of father or happiness, and I found myself wishing father had gone to a better place because Ada’s family was nothing like mine.

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