My mother had me for their security guard when she was nineteen. Grandpa would have chopped my dad into small pieces and dumped him in the lagoon but the neighbours called the police in time.
Grandma, she was stunned, speechless, so she just sat on the stairs and wailed till her tears turned to salt flakes.
Mom was already six months gone when they found out so an abortion was out of the options. Grandpa threw us out, so mom had to take me to the village to stay with Grandma’s mom.
Dad spent a couple of nights in police custody before Uncle Ahmed came to bail him. Mom thought he would come after us once he was free, but we didn’t see him again, for a very long time.
We found put later that he had many children from women he never married. The lady that told Grandma knew three. When Grandma heard this, she began to cry all over again.
Mother had me on a cold December night. It was the peak of Harmattan and I am told the thin roof of the health post shivered beneath the furious wind like a paper kite.
Since Grandpa had thrown us out, and Dad had run away, Mom had to find a way to support us. She would have loved to do that by modelling or hosting TV shows, but without a degree or any real contacts, that was fantasy.
She woke up by 4 am every morning to bake cakes in a large sand-filled pot. By 7am she swept and mopped floors in a nearby guest house. From 10 she did typing jobs for people that needed them. In between all this, she helped Daniel find tenants for the buildings his agency had been asked to manage. Anything to keep us from starving, anything to keep us from going back to beg Grandpa.
Sometimes Grandma would come to see us. She would bring plenty of food and clothes but she wouldn’t sit or smile or taste anything mom offered her. It felt like a video clip sometimes, one moment she was dragging bags of stuff in the house. The next, she was making small talk with mom and laughing a small stifled laugh, then she was gone. All that was left was my memory of her, with her eyes darting to either side of me while she spoke, like I was a flame, or a fire, something you couldn’t look at straight on.
Daniel started coming home to see Mom. I liked him because he always brought strawberry biscuits with him and he let me play with his phone.
One day he knelt down and offered mom something whispering some words to her. Mom shut her eyes tight and screamed at him. “Leave me alone!”
Daniel knelt there for sometime and my heart stopped in the silence. Then he walked out and banged our door shut.
Mom has been crying a lot of late. She keeps counting the days on the calender and shaking her head. The other night she bought something from the chemist and put pee on it. I know because I peeped.
One night I overheard her talking to someone on the phone. She said she was late and she didn’t know what to do and she wasn’t going to marry ‘him’. A river of ice surged through me then and felt myself break out in goose bumps.
The next morning Daniel came back and offered her something again. He didn’t kneel this time and mom didn’t scream. She collected it and put it on.
The ring sparkled in our little flat.
Its’ matter of fact brilliance brightened my mood. The sense of doom I had felt lifted and I could almost feel happy again. I wanted to freeze the moment, to be at that spot watching mom and Dan hug and seeing the light bounce off the ring in a rainbow of colours forever.
So I closed my eyes and soaked it in, for then and for afterwards.