A time to heal (5)

Mide’s Abor with Olamide Longe

Email:  araokian@gmail.com Twitter: @araokian

Continued from last week.

Two days after the incident, she’d opened her backpack and found the photograph among her things with a letter from Enoch apologising and begging her to meet him. She wanted to, but then she’d remembered Elizabeth’s accusations. And a primal rage had surged up within her. She had benefitted immensely from her friendship with Elizabeth, but she’d never used her. Besides, what she’d given back was unquantifiable. She’d been a loyal companion to both mother and daughter. A shoulder to cry on whenever they needed one. And her shoulder had soaked up a lot of tears.

It may have seemed like she needed them, but they had needed her more. Not that anyone outside looking in would have known. They would have taken one look at her social class and jump to their own warped conclusion.

Crazy Elizabeth considered her brother too good for her, did she?

Well, she was wrong. She, Maria was too good for him.

And she had condescended to let them in her world. She’d blessed them with her presence. Yes indeed, she had. And they couldn’t repay her in a hundred lifetimes.

With a heavy sigh, she returned her attention to the photograph; she looked at Enoch’s eyes and her heart flipped. Just as her younger heart used to do. He was her first love and had remained her ideal. No one had been able to quench the fire that burned for him. None had come close.

She traced his face with her thumb.

Emmanuel says you have changed. How have you changed?

She sighed and turned it face down on the bed.

She feared she wouldn’t be prepared for what awaited her.

She arrived late afternoon, tired and hungry. A taxi dropped her off in front of her parents’ house. It was a far cry from the one in which she had grown up. It wasn’t anything grand, but her parents were pleased with it and it belonged to them, a gift from her and her brother.

Her father had retired. But her mum had a kiosk in front of the house where she still carried on her trade. And it was there Maria found her.

She let out a cry of delight and stretched her hands heavenwards in gratitude.

Maria forgot that she was tired and hurried to her and was enveloped in a warm embrace.

She hadn’t seen her mother in over a year.

Oh, that smell, how she’d missed it. It said home. If only one could reproduce and bottle it.

When she stepped back, she saw that her mother’s eyes were wet. She hugged her one more time.

“You look really good, ma. I’m so happy,” she said. Her mother was wearing a lovely, colourful kaftan, with her hair wrapped up. And she was glowing.

“Thank you, my dear. You are looking well, too.”

Maria hoped so.

She waited while her mother closed up the shop and together they went into the house. She learned that her father was at a men’s fellowship, but he was aware that she was coming and had been excited all day. If the meeting hadn’t been important, he would have skipped it.

She took her bag to her room and immediately dug inside it for her spongebag and towel. It was a bare room, except for the bed and the cupboard. Everything from her childhood had either been disposed off or packed away somewhere. It held no memories, no echoes of her childhood. Her stays here were always short.

During the time she’d taken a bath and changed, her mother had prepared a feast for her. She shook her head when she saw it.

“Mum, this is too much.” She eyed the chunky slices of meat with trepidation.

“This small thing? No wonder you are so thin.”

Same old thing. “I thought you said I looked good.” Maria grinned.

“Well, a little flesh around the face will add to it.”

“Thank you. I’ll try to do justice to it.

“Well done.”

After a couple of swallows, she addressed the matter that brought her.

“Have you seen Elizabeth?”

“Finish your food first.”

Maria indulged her mother. After a while, she pushed the dish away. “I can’t take anymore.” She drank some water. “Now, you can tell me.”

“Of course, I have. It would have been heartless of me if I hadn’t.”

Maria nodded.

“In any case, I have no problem with her or her family. I made peace with them a long time ago.”

Maria shrugged.

“I didn’t have to wait for someone to die.”

Maria took a deep breath.

Her mother shook her head. “I have never understood you and I accepted a long time ago that I never will. For years, I prayed that you would forgive the Oches, like a true Christian. Now think about it, which is more unforgivable, your action or Elizabeth’s? Not that anything is unforgivable in my opinion. My humble opinion, that is.”

“Well, mum, you only know in part. She turned what was beautiful into something ugly. She killed innocence, mum. I discovered that day I’d been friends with the enemy. All these years, someone I’d looked at as my twin was nothing but a wolf in sheep’s clothing. She accused me of envying her and desiring everything she had. That she never trusted me and only kept me close to watch me. She said I was diabolical, that I’d bewitched every member of her family; that I wanted to make my position permanent by sinking my fangs into Enoch. Fangs, she said, mum. I will never forget. Then she swore to make my life miserable if the thing between us went beyond a fling. I was only good for a fling.”

Her mum looked suitably aghast.

“As I said, you only know in part. She went crazy. I told you virtually nothing that day. I did not refuse to forgive Elizabeth. I’d only done what any sensible person would have done, stayed away. If I was unforgiving as you’d implied I wouldn’t be here. And now that I am, I fear the only reason she’d been asking for me is to accuse me of being responsible for her husband’s death.”

Continues next week.