Ezinne was taking a stroll with Chizaram listening to the little girl’s chatters, the freedom with she expressed herself gave Ezinne peace, it was one thing she was glad she had given her. The peace to live in a home free of violence, she knew it wasn’t exactly wonderful growing up without a father, but what difference did it make, if the man who was supposed to be her father was always out of the house and when he was home, he was threatening or hitting her mother. What would she learn? That it was ok for her husband to hit her? No it wasn’t, her own father never hit her mother so why would she let her child learn that a man could hit her mother? Another fear descended on her when she thought of the possibility of Chukwuma coming down to the village and taking Chizaram away from her scared her, it scared her more than death. On instinct she looked behind her and her gaze fell on Mazi Iloka’s compound, his twin daughters sat in front of the compound, in front of one of the shops gossiping and laughing. She lowered her gaze sure that she was the subject of the gossip. Those two had never loved her, all through their secondary school days they had taken so much pleasure in bullying and tormenting her. Her father had had to visit Mazi Iloka on several occasions just to ask him to warn his daughters and even to warn the girls themselves to desist from making his daughter’s life miserable.
She could remember vividly how they had beaten her up at the back of the school one of those days she had laughed at Chika, one of the twin, in class, when the girl had failed a question asked by the teacher. As simple as the answer was, somehow the girl was so dumb that she couldn’t even answer. The government teacher had simple asked what the three tiers of government was, rather than answer correctly Chika had told the class, the President, the Legislature and the Senate. How she came about that answer was beyond the nerdy Ezinne who was already humming the answer in her head. She wasn’t exactly the only one who had laughed in class but because she raised her hand to answer and got the answer correctly was enough to arouse Chika’s wrath as well as her twin, Chizoba’s anger.
The duo caught her after school and gave her the beating of her life. She had been dragged into the wet sand and her hair properly molded with the clay. She had cried real good that day, by the time she got home news had spread that she ate mud at the hands of the evil twins. That was enough to send her father’s anger spiraling to the roof and leaving his shop to come home. He berated Hansalem, her immediate elder brother, who was then in SS 3, for not looking out for her. Her father would not have it, he made sure that the matter got to the village chief and Mazi Iloka had to publicly compensate his family for the public humiliation. That hadn’t been the end of it though every other form of bullying had been more subtle that dragging Ezinne in the mud and beating her blue black.
She smiled, what could they gossip about her now? That she married a man her father didn’t approve? There were a lot of women who married men their parents didn’t approve of. It wasn’t like she had married the man because she was pregnant for him so their gossip was of no use to her. Gladly no one knew that she had run away from her husband anyway, for all they knew she was here to see her father who was sick. She continued her in her strides, infusing more confidence into her gait, at least she had gotten a man to ask her to marry him, they were still in this village and still single. Maybe if they had moved out of the village maybe she would give consideration to their insults, but as long as they remained here and still in their father’s shop they weren’t better than she was in any way.
Her mind strayed along to her father, the man needed her now more than ever, she blamed her brothers for not telling her that her father was that sick. Well she blamed herself the most, what good daughter abandoned her father because she was married. Even if her father hadn’t been sick, she didn’t have any watertight excuse for abandoning her family. Her father was paralysed on his left side, it was a miracle it was the left at least he could still use his right side which was his usual active side.
She lifted Chizaram preventing her from putting her tiny legs into a muddy water just before them in one of the shallow potholes that decorated the road. Chizaram protested, wanting to soak her feet in the water, rather than struggle with her, Ezinne tickled her setting off a ripple of laughter. In one swoop she swung her unto her underarm, tickling her further as they went, causing more bouts of laughter.