Hello friends, this is the final part of our series. Read part one here. Part two is from last week, and this is week three! I’ve enjoyed your feedback on the story, and I hope you’re as surprised by the ending as I was by myself when I wrote it!
Without further ado, here goes.
Mourning His Life (Dusk)
The rain is falling very softly when Mummy and Daddy arrive. Mummy is holding a little baby in her arms, and Daddy is pulling a big suitcase behind him. Suleiman was washing the dirty plates by the well in the backyard, while I sat on the concrete floor beside him. We had thought the horn was at another gate because we hardly have any guest at this house.
I scream when I see my Mummy. I run to her and hug her legs. The sun is beginning to shine through the clouds, so when I turn my head upwards, I cannot see her face. She cannot carry me with that baby in her arms so I go to Daddy instead. He drops the suitcase in his hands and tosses me in the air. I am so excited I continue to scream and laugh even when he nearly drops me. He says I have grown taller, but that’s not true. It’s his tummy that has grown so big, I wonder if he has a baby inside it. Mama asks us to move to the sitting room, but Daddy tells her that there’s no need because they have to leave soon to make it back to Lagos before evening. This scares me, so I say to him;
“Daddy, some of my clothes are in the bucket by the well. Suleiman is washing them for me, so we have to wait until those clothes are dry before I pack and come with you.”
I am about to cry, but Daddy assures me, “No, don’t worry about it son, we have all the clothes you will need.”
I am confused. He has all the clothes? Where? I look closer at the suitcase beside him. It’s my big suitcase from Lagos. Surely, I think, he, Mummy, and the Baby in her arms have come to stay for a while if they brought such a big suitcase with them.
“Okay, Daddy, then come inside and eat. Mama made us rice today. I think she knew you were coming, or she would have made her usual strong yam because …”
Mama cuts me off, she is speaking to Mummy, but she shouts very loudly.
“Laraba, your baby is very beautiful. You mentioned that it was a girl. What is her name?”
How does Mama know all this? Did she speak with Mummy over the phone? And the Baby is Mummy’s? So the Baby is out of her tummy? But why is her tummy still big? Also, why did Mummy not get flat like my old football? Anyway, I would find out later.
Mummy and Daddy sit on the wooden bench by the door to Mama’s sitting room. Mama sits on her reclining chair, and I sit on my small plastic chair. Mama gestures at Suleiman to take the suitcase inside, and he drags it into the room we share. I’m sure he’s gone to get my other clothes. I guess we’ll have to leave the wet ones behind because Daddy says we need to leave soon to make it back to Lagos in time.
I turn to mummy to tell her about all that has happened since I’ve been here with Mama and Suleiman.
“Mummy, I want to tell you about my friend Suleiman. In the story about Ralia the Sugar Girl, Suleiman says that Ralia goes to the market because she has a wicked stepmother who gives her a long list of things and asks her to go buy them all. Mummy is this true?”
My Mummy isn’t saying anything to me, so I pull at her cheeks and laugh. She does not laugh. She does not even smile. Her back is straight, and she looks straight ahead. She does not have red lipstick on her lips like she usually does. She does not wear earrings, and the straps of her vest are showing under her blouse, which also seems too big for her. She looks smaller than I remember. There are dark circles around her eyes, and there are tears in them that refuse to fall.
The Baby begins to cry, but she does not seem to hear it. Daddy takes it from her and rubs its back the way he rubs mine whenever I cry. The baby stops crying and he hands it back to my Mummy. She does not move to collect it, so he places it on her legs. Mummy is still staring straight ahead and the baby almost falls on the ground but Mama leaps forward and carries it.
Mummy still does not move. Her scarf is tied very loosely around her head. She does not wear a wig like she usually does. But why does she not comb her hair? She could just call Aunty Laraba to braid her hair, as she always does.
The baby begins to cry again and Mama hands it back to Mummy and asks her to feed it. She holds it to her chest, very slowly unzips her blouse and pulls her vest up. She does not cover herself with a scarf like Iya Iyabo does whenever she feeds her baby.
The wrapper around her waist is loose and her white petticoat is showing. I move close to pull up the wrapper but the Baby is in the way. I hope this Baby would go back into my Mummy’s tummy so that it’s not in the way whenever I try to do things with my Mummy.
“Mummy please tell Suleiman that Ralia is not sent to the market in the story. She is a disobedient girl who follows her mother to the market when she asks her to stay at home.”
My Mummy does not say anything to me. She does not move. She does not speak. She does not smile. The baby is no longer feeding but Mummy does not cover herself. Her breast is drips onto the baby’s face until Daddy takes it away. Mummy slowly pulls her vest down and pulls her blouse up. She continues to stare straight ahead.
She is not here. This is her body, but my Mummy is not here. I whisper in her ear, to call her back, but she does not move. I shout “mummy” into her ear. But she remains still.
Daddy stands up quickly. I do not notice when the sky goes dark, but it’s about to rain again. Daddy says that he and Mummy have to leave now, so he holds her hand and leads her to the car. Suleiman is walking behind me and we follow them to the car. Daddy holds the baby in his left hand, while he holds Mummy’s hand with his right hand. I am confused. Where were they going? My clothes still are not dry. Why is my suitcase inside the bedroom?
Mummy and Daddy stand beside the white mercedes. I try to open the back door but it is locked. I go to to the door on other side of the car, but it is locked as well.
Daddy opens the car and Mummy slowly lowers her head to get in. When she sit down, Daddy places the baby on her legs. Daddy walks to the other side and gets into the car.
Mummy turns to grandma, who has been watching everything quietly.
“Bankohya. Her name is Bankohya.” The tears in Mummy’s eyes still refuse to fall.
“We will start over. My husband and I will start over. Keep Kareem with you until everything is settled back in Lagos. I’ll come for him when I’m ready.”
The rain begins to fall as I start to cry. Daddy starts the car engine and zooms off, splattering mud on my trousers. I cry my loudest so that Mummy and Daddy can hear me and come back for me. But the rain drowns my voice and I worry that I will catch a cold.
Image from giphy.com