I wrote this one for this girl I used to know. We weren’t close but when I think of her, I miss what we didn’t have.
It was also one of the stories I entered for The Writer competition. It is an old one but I have cleaned it up a bit. The prompt was to start with ‘The Fortune teller was mistaken’ and end with ‘she was a wonderful liar’
The fortune teller was mistaken. This one had not come to stay. She had come to warm the icicles of my heart and teach me to love again. She had come to wipe away my tears and put an end to my shame for a little while. But she would not be staying. Like the others that had sucked the milk of my bosom and turned their backs on me to follow the path of death, this child would be no different. I should never have believed that old, blind fortuneteller who could no more see into the future than I could breathe life into the child that lies cold in front of me.
I had not wanted to go but Mama had insisted. The church would not look kindly on it, I argued. What the church did not know would not hurt them, my mother countered.
“Besides, they have done nothing to help us except help bury child after child and quote Job’s story again and again.” She added, her stubborn chin so very much like mine.
“Mama!” I protested as I cradled the two month old bump that only I, and now Mama knew existed. I had come home, to the house I grew up in to tell her the news. Other mothers and daughters would have celebrated but not us. We sat down, held hands and thought about the ones that had come before instead.
“It is better we know now what fate has in store for this child. If it is like the others, I suggest we abort and save ourselves the pain of childbirth or of burying another child.” Mama said.
“But what will Dike say?” I asked my mother.
“Dike, the church, which one of them will protect you when your in-laws decide it is time they bring in a new wife to ensure their brother’s lineage is not cut off?” Mama hissed in reply and continued cutting okro for dinner. I watched her for a while, until the sadness that had pooled in her heart gave way to tears. I had no more tears to shed. I had shed them all on my dead babies.
Mama called the man ‘Dibia’. The road to his house was less of a road and a more of a bush beaten path. We were welcomed by a young man that gave us stools to sit on while we waited for his father. We didn’t have to wait long before we were ushered in to see the Dibia.
The room he was seated in was not what I expected. There were no horribly drawn images of gods or demons, no carvings, no leaves or all the other things the movies told me to expect. The skin on Dibia’s face was so wrinkled that I could barely make out his unseeing eyes. He took my hand and his palm was soft. He stared at the cowries he had placed in my palms for the longest time. When he raised his head, there was something that resembled a smile on that terrible face and my heart fluttered with hope.
“My daughter,” he said, “All will be well. Leave us. I will have a word with your mother alone.”
I looked to Mama who nodded her head in agreement. Outside the Dibia’s house, children were playing. None of them could have been more than 7 years old. No child that I had birthed had stayed long enough to let me experience the wonder of a mother watching her offspring play. I cradled my womb unconsciously and watched them romp in the sand.
“Ireti, Ireti, come inside!” My mother voice startled me from within the Dibia’s house.
“Come, my child.” the Dibia beckoned to me as I entered the room that housed his unseen gods. He took my hand for the second time that day and said “This one will stay. Be kind to her as she is special.” The hope that had fluttered in my breast with his first smile soared.
There was no naming ceremony. Dike would not have anything to do with another ‘charade’ as he called it and I did not begrudge him. Three naming ceremonies and three funerals were more than most men could handle. We named her quietly one Sunday in church. He even let me pick her names. Adurodoluwakijofo, he that waits for God is never ashamed. I was kind to her as the Dibia instructed and my Dolu grew like weed. Dike waited with bated breath for her to leave and she disappointed him. The twins came along two years later and my husband learned to breathe again. Idowu, our beautiful boy had followed three years after. He was nine now and in boarding school along with his sisters.
The room is warm and yet I cannot stop the shivers that travel down my spine as I sit with my child’s body. It was Dike who found her. It was he who broke down and wept enough for both of us. I took control of the situation and called the driver. I sent them both off to go get an ambulance, and then I called my mother. She and my father live less than five minutes away. Dike moved them into the estate a few years ago so they would be closer to their grandchildren.
I hear her footsteps now as she enters the house. She calls out my name as she always does, twice, as if the once is not enough.
“Ireti! Ireti, where are you?”
I remember asking her why she always needed to say my name twice. She had answered “To remind myself that hope, ‘Ireti’ is a continuous effort.”
“I am up here Mama, in Dolu’s room.” I call out in answer. Her footsteps are muted by the lush carpet as she makes her way up the stairs but I hear them in my head. She is too old to be climbing stairs. She is too old to be burying another grandchild but she is prepared. I know that now. She has been prepared since that day at the Dibia’s.
“The Dibia said she would not stay.” She tells me as she holds my cold hands in hers. She hesitates a while before she continuing. “But he also said she would stay long enough to open the way for the others. He said the key to getting her to stay long enough was hope. I knew telling you she would not stay would steal that hope away. You would wake up every morning anticipating death. And death would show up sooner than it should have. Hope is a continuous effort, Ireti. I needed Dolu to remind you of that.”
I look at her hands and I am taken back to that evening at the Dibia’s. We had walked away from his house, hand in hand. My mother had taken my face in these same hands just before I dropped her off that night and said. “You are going to be alright. We are all going to be alright”. I think of the conviction in her voice and eyes that night. Those words were a mother’s truth. It turns out; she was a wonderful liar…
Photo Credits – Simi Vijay Photography
Song of the day: Ed Sheeran – All of the Stars