When Mrs. Kate sent her daughter to live with her brother, it was neither for her to be maltreated by another woman nor for her to feel like a third wheel in another family. It was with good intention, she wanted a better life for her, a life free of suffering and troubles. She thought suffering was all she had to offer ignoring the fact that love makes every sweat drop worth the work. She was confident her daughter was in good hands, with her brother. He had money plus he was blood.
Now, after sixteen years, Tochi is back home narrating her ordeals, at her uncle’s hand, to her junior ones. She tells them the story about the day her uncle’s wife beat her with electric wire until she passed out because she had not flushed the toilet after her son used it. She tells them about the time her uncle asked her to pull down her skirt or he would hit her hard with the pestle in his hands. On one occasion she did not return home from an errand early enough, she was locked out and forced to sleep under the rain.
She will not talk to her mother, she will not let her hear her stories. Mrs. Kate has to eavesdrop to get the stories. And the stories are countless and bitter. Underlining every word Tochi says is a layer of bitterness. It breaks Mrs. Kate’s heart to see her daughter so hurt. She can see why Tochi is resentful, she was subjected to too much at such a young age and she blames her mother for everything.
If she was asked to choose, she would have chosen love over money, over the so-called security her mother claimed to be securing for her. She would have chosen to grow up side by side with her siblings, to defend them against older kids and gladly take the fall for their wrong doings. She would have chosen to be there for her mother, during hard times when she feels the weight of the world on her shoulders and all else failed. She would have knelt on her little knees and prayed to The One who doesn’t turn down children.
Mrs. Kate will not forgive herself for letting Tochi out of her sight neither will she forgive the one whom she entrusted her to. He was supposed to protect and provide for her. Rather he endangered her and stole her innocence. While they were growing up she had always looked out for him. When he failed Jamb severally, she had risked everything to write the exam for him. Had she been a different sex, she would have been the one who got to boast of a university degree. But she was female and so their father quickly married her off after secondary school, in spite of the fact that she bagged the best WAEC result in the school. What became of her husband is story for another day.
She wanted her children to be educated, she didn’t want her daughters to have their potentials restricted based on their sex. Disappointment and anger is what she felt for him and especially for herself. It wasn’t the first time Tochi was telling such stories. She got the opportunity to see her daughter once a year and each time she’d tell her ordeals at their hands. Mrs. Kate usually dismissed her stories, assuming it’s the normal adolescence rebellion. This time however, when Tochi refused to go back and stood by her word, she began to see things for what they really were. She was able to see past the camouflage of the new dresses, rice and yam to observe the scars on Tochi’s body.
Later when she confronts her brother about them his reaction is to laugh. He accuses her of being an ingrate, he puts food on their table and clothes them yet they have the audacity to complain. Mrs. Kate is eager to remind him that he also strips them of the clothes but his children are around and their eyes fixated on the adults engaged in a heated argument. She does not give up though, she wants to get to the bottom of the matter. Not that she doesn’t believe her daughter, she just wants to convince herself her brother isn’t the animal Tochi described.
She confronts his wife and she accuses Tochi of spreading false tales. She rants a lot about how badly behaved Tochi has been. She claims she treated her like her own daughter, look now how she repays her by spreading lies about her.
Tochi would later return back to Lagos with her defilers because Mrs. Kate likes the yam and the rice and the new dresses. She also lacks the money to care for her children. Sacrifices need to be made and she wished Tochi would understand.
The money would flow in but not for so long, Tochi would escape the claws of her defilers and run far away from home as possible. But not before her uncle plants his seed in her and her aunt sends her packing from their house. Mrs. Kate would die of regrets, the rice and the beans and dresses would be there for her burial but not her daughter.
For now, before her destiny unravels, before she gets sold out once more by her mother, before her uncle brands her with his child, she will enjoy the company of her siblings, enjoy the feeling of being with the ones who love her the most because she is certain it is the last time she will see them.