THE PRESENCE OF THE PAST: THE EMOTIONAL MISERY OF UKU SHEILA (PART 2)
I ran to hug her, I really needed the hug but I got a physically agonizing slap instead. She yelled at me; “FOOL! You are so pathetic”. “But sista, what have I done?” I asked. Twisting my lips, she said; “Just shush! Be quiet, you have disgraced us enough. Get your things into the car.” As I walked past them in the sitting room, I heard my immediate elder sister talking to my father. “Papa, she is going to stay with you ooh, I can’t let her stay in my house, this time it’s Fred, next time, it might be my husband.” It was my longest day ever. “How can these people be my family? What could possibly be wrong with me? Am I really one of them?”These were questions bothering my little mind.
My sisters, the best team I have ever encountered. One could speak for the other. So, like the other said, it was certain that I was going to stay with papa.
Papa, a sweet soul but easily convinced by my sisters. They were the family’s major source of income, so, their words were final. I wouldn’t blame him. He looked pale, it was unlike him. The death of my beloved mother has created an emptiness, one that can never be filled.
Papa had really changed. He either came home drunk or with a woman. It is beyond the bounds of possibility to erase the images of my father and his different female friends (I doubt if he knew them), patronising sexual impurity. I was afraid of night, it came with nightmares. Most times, I preferred the nightmares to the silly sounds that comes from papa’s room. My sisters were the least I could talk to, they barely called but sent money whenever papa made a request. Of course, they wouldn’t believe me, so I kept it all to myself.
The third year of living alone with papa, things were rather deteriorating. My sisters had gotten to know papa’s escapades through his friend, Uncle Joe. I was surprised they never accused me of not telling them, maybe cause they knew I had grown to a young girl with dead emotions. One good day, just as I stepped into the house, my eyes came in contact with those of a fair lady in her mid forties. She sat beside uncle Joe in the sitting room and opposite them were papa and my sisters. I knelt to greet them all. As I made my way to the room quietly, my eldest sister stopped with a calm voice; “Sheila, meet aunty Obioma, she is papa’s new wife”. That was meant to be a shocking news to me but I disappointed all including myself, I have seen and heard worst. Turning to her I said; “welcome ma”.
Aunty Obioma was nice to me or that could have been her style to win everyone’s heart but it didn’t happen long enough. Papa got really sick. I came home one day, only to find him helpless on the floor, aunty Obioma wasn’t back from work yet. Papa’s health was really bad, he needed a professional help. I called my sisters, none answered or returned the call and aunty Obioma’s number was out of reach. Fortunately, uncle Joe came to our aid. Papa’s head was placed on my laps, I called him softly; “papa, please stay, we will be there soon”. He looked into my eyes and squeezed my hands, it was like he had something to say. At a point I realised that the way he gripped me was weakening, he was loosing my hand, so I held him tightly. “Wait papa, a doctor will soon be here”. I knew this man had hurt me by not speaking for me but I didn’t care, I wanted him alive. We made it to the general hospital but it was late, papa was gone…
To be continued