Her voice

This is a short story I wrote a while back.

She sat on a wooden chair. She placed her left hand on her protruding stomach. With her back rested carefully on the chair, she cried silently. I was four months old already. In her mind, were regrets, songs of sorrow, guilt and ultimate sadness. She did not gain weight like other women. She was slimmer as the days went by.

*
“Lade, you can run away with me. He won’t hurt you anymore.” Kunle wiped her tears with a handkerchief. He drew her into a hug and patted her back. “They can’t hurt you anymore”
She was scared to death. But she knew he loved her. That he cared for her. That he would do anything for her. That he would show her the world. His words-not hers. She had no choice but to believe the words.
“I love you, Lade. I will marry you, I promise”
She couldn’t say no. oh she couldn’t. That was her only way out-so she thought. No one could love her more than that-so she thought.
“Yes, I will marry you” she said between tears.

*
Was it worse or better for her?
Who knows? She didn’t know.
“Lade!” she jerked back to present by the shout of her name.
Her boss came out. “Hope you know this is a place for food, not tears?”
She stood up. “Yes. Yes. I’m sorry, ma”
“See you” she looked at her in pity “you are carrying a child inside of you. Eat and stop crying!”
“Yes ma” she looked down.
“You always say that” Mrs. Adele said. She shook her head and walked into the shop.
Lade went to the back of the shop, washed the plates and put them where food was to be served. She took a wrap of Eba and put Egusi into a bowl. She sat on the floor at an inner corner behind the cafeteria and ate. Tears kept flowing. After she was done with her food, she dropped the bowl in the washing basin and walked into the cafeteria where she saw her boss in the office which was situated at the left side just behind the counter where customers order their food.
The cafeteria, EAT IT OUT, was more of a local one. It dealt more with local foods. It was famous for its diversities. People of different tribes went there to eat.
She was about walking to the counter when Mrs. Adele called her in.
She walked into the office and sat down as told. Mrs. Adele smiled. Her eyes were directed to Lade’s stomach. “Your stomach is getting bigger”
“Yes ma” she put her hand on her stomach.
Mrs. Adele looked at her with deep concern. “what is wrong, Lade?” the mid-fifteen single mother of two children had little progress to make Lade talk to her since the three months she had found her in an uncompleted building few miles from her cafeteria. Her two daughters were already married. She took Lade with the reason The Holy Spirit prompted me to. When her two daughters frowned at her decision.
“She is a stranger. And even pregnant” Yewande, the first daughter said.
“She could be dangerous. As small as she is? Pregnant!” Shalewa, the second daughter said.
She knew her daughters were only concerned. The death of her husband ten years before had left her devastated for many years. He dies of lung cancer.
“Lade, you know I only bring you here so you won’t be alone at home”
Lade nodded. “Thank you, ma”
Mrs. Adele sighed. “Whenever you want to talk, I’ll be here to listen”
Lade nodded. She stood up and walked to the door. Then she turned back and said to the concerned woman who still had her eyes fixed on her. “I don’t want this baby to live”
Mrs. Adele’s eyes widened.
But I knew. I knew why. It wasn’t because she didn’t want to have a child. She was scared that I would have the life that she had. She didn’t want to hope.
I was her hope.

*
Lade was on the bed, brooding when Mrs. Adele walked in. they exchanged morning greetings. Mrs. Adele informed her that she would be going to the cafeteria and food was in the kitchen. Lade wondered why she was going to the shop without her. Like she knew what was on her mind, Mrs. Adele said, “If you want to come to the shop, it’s at your discretion now. You don’t have to go with me”. She left the room. After some minutes, lade went to lock the door. As she walked back to the room, she heard a bang on the door. She was startled. She remembered my father.

Lade quickly opened the door. Kunle rushed in and sat down on the bed, trying to catch his breath.
“What happened?” she asked as she sat beside him.
“Business went bad” he whispered. “Get me water!” he demanded before she could say anything.
She quickly went to the corner of the room where she fetched a small keg of water. She put the water into a cup and handed him the water. “What business? You haven’t told me the work you do.”
Kunle looked around the room they live in. the walls were cracked. The ceiling was almost falling off. “You don’t need to know” he said and laid on the bed.
“Why have you been off lately?” then she noticed he had slept off.
She hoped it to be a ‘work’ thing. But it wasn’t. It was more.

*
Another bang on the door jerked her to the present. She quickly opened the door. It was a pregnant woman. Lade was taken aback when the woman sent death glares at her.
“Good morning ma. Mrs. Adele is not around. She is at the cafeteria”
“Oh you are lade?”
“Yes ma”
“My mother allows you to stay alone in her house? That woman is unbelievable sometimes!” The woman walked past her into the house. She looked around the living room.
“Are you aunty Yewande?” lade asked, more of a whisper.
“I am Shalewa. Your voice is so low, which is ironic for a girl like you. How old are you?”
“Nineteen”
“Pathetic! How did you get pregnant? Your mates are in school”
Lade looked down and said nothing.
Shalewa stared at her a while longer, then walked out of the house.
Lade exhaled loudly. She put her hands on her face and cried silently.

*
Lade heard a bang on the door again. She was used to it already. But what she saw after she opened the door was unexpected. Kunle was bleeding. He held a cloth to his bleeding arm. Lade hurried him to the bed.
“Kunle, what happened?” He was groaning in pain. “Let’s go to the hospital” she said as she tried to raise him up.
“No! No!” he freed himself from her and laid on the bed. “Stop panicking and listen to me!”
But lade was shaking. She finally sat next to him when he pulled her to his side. “Get a hold of yourself and help me here. Do you understand?” he turned her face towards him with his other hand. “Lade, do you understand?”
She nodded her head. After some minutes, she successfully cleaned up the mess and dressed the wound. She looked at him as he drifted to sleep. Later that night he woke up. Lade slowly sat him up and offered him the rice she bought from the nearby restaurant. He chewed slowly.
“What happened?” she asked after some minutes of silence.
“You don’t need to know”
“What do you mean I don’t need to know?” she snapped.
“Shut up. You will scream down the house”
“What house? This God-forsaken room?”
“It’s better than what your parents could give you” he shouted as he flung the plate at her.
She was taken aback by his reaction. “Kunle?”
“I said shut up! Do you want to go back to your sick and pathetic parents? The ones that sold you to that woman in Germany, eh? You should be grateful you came back in one piece and someone was there to take you…”
She shook her head and moved away from him.
He laughed and then groaned in pain. He held his arm as he sat up more right. “You should have moved away from him as he gave you to his friends in exchange for money. What a father he was” he laughed. “And where was your mother? Where was she? Eh, answer me!”
She fell against the wall.
“I was stabbed during one of my operations along with my gangs.”
“What?”
Then there was a knock on the door. Kunle slowly got up from the bed and went for the door. Apparently it was one of his ‘gang members’. They mumbled some words to each other and both went out. Lade was still in shock from all that had unfolded before her.

*
Mrs. Adele sat Lade down immediately she got back from the cafeteria that evening. She apologized for her daughter’s rude approach.
“I wish to help you, Lade. But I can’t if I don’t know what is going on. You are losing more weight. What is going on?” the elderly woman pressured her the more. She began to talk.

She began from her home. How her mother was treated by her father. He beat her. All she could do was cry. Not leave, not run with her and her brother. She stayed. If I leave, who will take care of you, she always said to Lade. But it was just about that. She didn’t have a life besides her husband. No formal education. No skill to cater for needs. And days went by, she covered her scars with smiles. It came a time when the smiles couldn’t hide the sorrow anymore. Her father was a drunk. He lost the job at the mechanic shop. Lade’s mother lost the voice to pray. It was hard for them in the one-room apartment. Lade’s father lost the little integrity he had left when the rich woman came for Lade. She said she had potentials. Going abroad would be a nice turn for her. The rich woman, Mrs. Benson said she would fund her education. She said it would be easy since she was still young. Leaving the country was the way out. A week before she left with Mrs. Benson, her mother was very ill. Lade sat beside her mother and held her hands. She knew she was not fighting anymore. All night, her mother held her face to her chest and cried. She had nothing to say. There were no last words. The following morning, her mother was dead. That same morning, her brother left home and never came back. Lade went abroad with Mrs. Benson. Like the other young girls, she was involved in selling of drugs and prostitution.
“How did you get back to Nigeria?” Mrs. Adele asked.
“I was deported”
“Then what happened?”
“I met kunle.”
“Who is he?”
“The one responsible for this baby” She placed her hand on her stomach. She excused herself for the night and went to bed.

The next morning, lade told Mrs. Adele about the day Kunle died. After the big fight with him, she had decided to say very little. She became her mother. It was 7:30pm that particular evening when Kunle returned from ‘work’. He had his nokia torchlight phone pressed against his ear. He smiled like he’d just a million-worth contract. Lade could tell by his rather-too cheerful demeanor and slight jump in his gait. With his phone still pressed against his ear, he smiled at Lade.
Lade finished up the cooking and went to meet him. She had so much to say and ask him. She felt like she was going to burst. But she decided to play it cool. She was not ready for another fight.
He sat on the bed already striped to his boxers and singlet. She swallowed, ignoring the curl of anger unfurling in her stomach. She sat and sat a few inches from the bed.
Lora knew that he had no idea that she was tense. He had always been oblivious of her feelings. According to him, she never revealed her feelings and so there was no way he could know.
“You said it was only one time?”
He looked at her, puzzled. Then he realized what she was talking about. He frowned. “It’s nothing, Lade” he shrugged his shoulder.
She stood up and edged forward, her body literally shaking with imprisoned rage. “She came here”
“For what?”
“She left immediately I said you weren’t home.” After a pause, she added. “She is pregnant”
“Lora, stop being paranoid” he said with his eyes rounded and fixed on her.
“You got her pregnant” she shouted, her body flushing with heat and pulse rising.
“Well I didn’t “his tone was strained like his patience was wearing thin. “I married you. That is what is important” he stood up ready to discard her feelings and walk out on the conversation.
“you made promises to me” She grit her teeth staying to stay calm.
He took a deep sigh like he would when she was wasting his time. He turned and faced her. “I’m a man, Lade. I can do whatever I want. This has no effect on you. So drop this matter”
“You can’t cheat on me and tell me it has no effect. This is ruining our marriage”
“No that’s not true.” He lifted her index finger, his face turning a shade of dark red. “You are the one ruining our marriage. You are being paranoid for nothing. You care too much about building a perfect family. You want it to be perfect. Very perfect. I don’t share that idealistic dream with you” he shouted to her face.
She gasped in shock. “What?” Her eyes welling up with tears.
“Lade, you always knew deep down that I was cheating on you all this while.” Lora stepped back from him. She definitely wasn’t ready for what she was coming to her at that point. “Enough please”
“Enough of what? You don’t want to talk about it anymore? Like you never want to talk about it when it reminds you of your house?”
Inside of her, she pleaded for him to understand and acknowledge his mistake. For him to apologize and tell her that he wouldn’t do it again but instead he said “this is who I am and will always be. Leave it or take it” he shot a cold, callous glare at her. “Be real and see the way it is and will always be” he left the room and banged the door behind him.
She stood alone paralyzed in shock. She was trying to register all that had just happened. She fell to the floor. That was when the dam broke. Tears rained her cheeks.
Few hours after, one of the neighbours came to tell her that her husband was gunned down by a gang rival. It wasn’t a new thing in the ghetto they lived in but the neighbour gave her the news expressionlessly and walked away immediately.

*
The months went by fast. Lade would be due soon and her whole life was about to change forever. She’d gone to her mother’s burial ground with the hope to feel something, anything.
But there was no sense of her there; even after the gone years, all traces were gone and it was just another stretch of grasses. She had hoped for a moment of insight, a connection with her mother. That connection that haunted her before, that deranged her. Last words…
And there, she had found her mother. She knew she could hear her, whether that was from another plane of existence, heaven or within the part of her soul where they had always held a special place. Emotions flooded her and she searched for the right words to say. She had to quell the tears that threatened to spill out of her eyes.
She had been trying so hard not to cry when it occurred to her that tears could heal just as much as they hurt. Releasing the hot build-up from under her eyelids, she said, “I miss you so much”
A sad sigh echoed along the beach, a mournful wind ushering in the evening. She allowed herself a moment to grieve, giving herself over to the dull ache that had settled just beneath her ribs. “I am weak, mother” She closed her eyes for a moment. As she laid on the grave, there was a brilliant beam of scarlet light from and she could have sworn she heard faint giggles as if some people she couldn’t see wished her well. Then she cried. She had lost her voice just like her mother.

I was born. The doctor handed me over to my mother. I looked at her. I saw the hope. The inevitable one. Her hope that tomorrow would be better. Her eyes lit up. But everyone around me was running around. That was because I wasn’t crying. The world could see her cry or see what she wanted them to see. But I only felt her heart from the inside. She lived all her life in fear. She was scared her mother would leave. She was scared her father wouldn’t get better. She was scared for her family. She was scared she would lose her soul in Germany. The world was tough for her. She couldn’t cope on her own and she was afraid. She looked at me and in her eyes, I could see that she wanted to leave the world and be somewhere with me. Where she could keep me safe and protect me from the woes of the world but she knew she couldn’t. She couldn’t even protect herself. The world didn’t want her and she couldn’t set fire to that world. Tears rolled down her eyes. In her eyes were apologies. She apologized for the things she didn’t do. She was sorry for bringing me into the world.
So I closed my eyes….I didn’t want to see the world any longer than I have. My mother did not cry. She just held me close to her heart, her beating heart. And I could still hear her voice. I could still hear the unspoken words. She had the voice that could not be found. She lost the voice and she knew it. She did not want to try to find it.
“We lost him. The baby” The doctor announced.
But my mother did not give me to the nurse. Her heart told me that she loved me. And then my heart stopped beating…

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