Photo: by [Bluemagicbird]
It was now past few years ago, after Elena the mother of Elmea had taken a mournful leave out of life; that Elmea was deeply depressed, facing fears and rejection by some of those who had once seemed to care about her. Now, Elena was gone who would take care of her like as a mother. The world had left her with nothing but fate; and at this point of her life there had always seemed to be no hope of improvement in her circumstances. “How much, if at all will hope spring eternally for me? she had once questioned herself, being in one of those agonizing moments of her life.” Who would she mourn? Her mother, or Emelo her missing father?
Her dad, Emelo since the death of his wife Elena was reported missing. He could not bear the absence of his beloved wife in his home which had been created by the uncaring presence of death, even in their blooming hour of joy. Nothing could be as painful as such loss of a loved one. He would forever miss everything about Elena, for she was the eyes of his home and the joy of his days; and this was also the same with Elmea to whom Elena’s arms were like a fortified shelter from the unfriendly world of human selfishness. And She would rather have herself buried with Elena than to lead a life without a mother.
Elmea, although, she loved her both parents, however, her love for Elena was much in measure to that she had for her father, Emelo. Therefore, the long absence of Elena kept pushing her into losing her sense of awareness; as she was beginning to forget things, stumbling upon memories but the memory of the halcyon days they both shared together.
One day at the dusk, as it was heavily raining with some thunderstorms cracking the gloomy cloud and throwing into panic the poisoned hearts of the unmerciful. There came a sharp sound of a repeated knock: Rat-a-at! Rat-a-at! Rat-a-at! Three times on the door, it was the knock of auntie Echefuna. “Good evening auntie! Elmea greeted as she opened the door to let her in. “Is your uncle in? “Yes, she replied. Then, they both walked into the sitting room where she met uncle Uche and his wife. “Eh, you’re welcome, Echefuna! the couple exclaimed cheerfully.” And she was offered some welcome drink.
Now, when she was set to leave for her way, she stood up and told uncle Uche and his wife that the reason she visited was to seek their approval to take Elmea with her to the city. But ,at first they seemed to be confused and undecided about the idea for some time, yet later thought it through and agreed. However, it would be a relief for them; for uncle Uche had been a busy man who was always too busy to care about Elmea, and his wife intolerant and unsympathetic to her.
And, then Elmea having considered her condition in her uncle’s house, readily agreed even before they (her guardians) could settle with their decision on whether or not to let her go with auntie Echefuna. “At least I can now have someone who will look at me and ask me if I have eaten anything yet,” she thought to herself.”
The next morning they both left for the city by the earlier bus to ikorodu, Lagos. Perhaps, the city was going to relieve her of one thing , which she had thought would be hunger. But she also would have to work tirelessly, because her auntie, Echefuna owned an eatery and it was quite a busy one in the city.
Some hours later, after a long journey they had arrived the city. Then, soon after they had arrived. Elmea was given the responsibility for being the first to rise in the morning to open the eatery entrance to customers and serve them food; and this was also after she had prepared the food at night, not blinking an eye in an attempt to sleep else she would be chided. This had got her tired every day. As her whole duty was not only limited to the eatery business, but also included doing her auntie’s laundry and that of her children. The situation was really troubling and gruelling for Elmea for a very long time. She could hope for a savior, if not rather salvation: something more liberating than a mere sympathy, this time.
Now, after five years of stress. Elmea turned fifteen. She had grown into a charming beauty, in spite of her searing suffering. However, with many men licking up their tongues at her tender curves and pendulously hung beautiful breasts. One day at the closing hour of business. Auntie Echefuna called her and said, ” Elmea, there is a lovely, rich man in our neighborhood who I would like you to marry you.” “No, I’m not yet ready for marriage, she protested.” ” Shut up! Echefuna angrily replied, most girls of your age are already married. By the way, do you know when I got married to my husband, Samuel? Idiot.”
Auntie Echefuna’s intention was perhaps to compel her into marrying the rich guy. And she was maybe too young to be left under the care of a husband. And had told herself that she must be able to stand her ground over choosing when and, to whom she would get married, no matter the pressure that was going to be coming from auntie Echefuna. Moreover, in marked contrast to all of her finest, fantastic wishes and decision to resist any one’s bindings at the time, auntie Echefuna disagreed completely with her. First she began by sending her with packaged foods to the house of her implied husband- to- be, named Bayo. Secondly she urged her to always wait by for gifts from Bayo, and never fail to ask him to drop her home. Often times he would drop her off with some huge amount of money, a part for herself and a part for her auntie but she would be reluctant to take hers.
Unfortunately for her Bayo’s appetite was beginning to grow more voracious than it would need only cooked food to be satisfied; his appetite like a randy dog had discovered something more satisfying within its reach. And perhaps, Elmea would be a target _ a victor or victim at his hand
On her next visit to Bayo’s house he asked her to sit closer, giving her some come-on look. But she refused, and quickly imagined what he was about doing with her. Yet Bayo persisted in making his advances, playfully groping around her slender waist and trying to pull her in. Elmea resisted, being a strong and intuitive girl managed her way to break free from his grip and fled home. But on getting home that night, auntie Echefuna was greatly enraged at the sight of her empty-handed return . And maybe, knowing that Elmea had come home because something went sour on her visit: even as it was evident from the unhappy expression on her face, yet auntie Echefuna demanded that Elmea should hand her over the money that had been received from Bayo. “Listen up! fool, she said, “next time if you return to this house without my money I will bake your head.” She dragged and tousled her hair. Elmea could do nothing at that moment to pacify auntie Echefuna, since all she wanted was her money; and whether Elmea got killed or lived would be of no consequence to her.
And with Elmea still facing this harsh reality of her life, again at the hand of a woman that she once thought would truly take care of her, she began to sorrow and weep again every day. Auntie Echefuna’s whip of enslavement and uncaring gesture towards her, was beginning to reawaken the dying, bad feeling over the loss of her family. But what would she do, since she did not have anyone else in the city with whom she could go live?
In order not to be thrown away from her place of shelter ( auntie Echefuna’s home), Elmea decided to do whatever that she would bid her. Then, the next time she went to give food to Bayo as she usually would. He threw her a hook line again, she did nothing but gave in to his sexual overture, and was rapped. Therefore, she got, this time, a bigger parcel of money for auntie Echefuna. But she cried and cried alone all night over her experience, thinking of what to do with the remaining piece of her life: With some parts of her life broken away by orphanhood, some by suffering and the last by (rape) unconsenting sex. “Should I run away? Yes! but not penniless and empty- handed, she reasoned.”
A year afterwards, Elmea carried out her plan. Having managed to save some money, she take a few of her things and ran away, though with no special plan on where she would lay her head at night. And besides, it was usually cold on the street. So, every night she would wear almost all her clothes to keep the biting cold away. Nonetheless, it was a week after she had run away that she luckily found a church building where she begged the priest for shelter. He agreed to let her spend some nights in the church until she was able to secure a permanent residence in the city. But how pitiful, that she was almost rapped again by the Church janitor who claimed that, he was just trying to protect her from a rat that was going to bite her leg, as she laid on the floor scarcely covered.
Elmea, because of this attempt of rape in the church, in the following morning she resolved to execute the very last but the most crucial part of her plan. Now, she moved into the heart of the city. And with the bigger part out of the little money she had, she got herself registered in one of the best hairdressing salons in the city to acquire hair braiding, styling and waving skills.
Now, still about her training and rounding off within a committed space of few months, she successfully acquired the basics of hairdressing profession. But throughout this period she had looked so shabby and more malnourished; and because she had invested all of her money in the training skill. Most times, she would beg for food, and some other times she would steal from her roommate to feed her stomach only to stay alive. Besides, she was not one given to fashionable clothes because she knew that she could not have been able to afford them considering her station of life at the time. Nevertheless, she remained strong and positive about her dream.
And understanding her deeply and mirroring out some worthwhile qualities in her, which could have in the course of our moral judgement over misdemeanour go unnoticed; she was beyond flaws and enclosing circumstances, quick on the uptake in her training, focused, and ambidextrous. She had planned her way out of suffering, poverty and shame, though at that time it was not yet clear.
Gradually, after some years she had begun to survive; braiding and styling beautifully the hair of some people around the street in her leisure from training. Meanwhile, she was making some little savings on her income. Two years later she was able to own a hairdressing salon called the beauty parlour. And after more three years, young girls of her kind were coming to enroll into her braiding and styling academy to be trained like her, because they had preferred her work to that of her competitors around.
Funny! How fast success could create unknown bedfellows, her new friend chinasa introduced her to a popular feminist club in the city where she met Kelvin Sin, who was the the Chairman of the club. Soon enough, she and Kelvin were making progress in getting to know each other better: which was traveling the nation to advocate for the rights of women and, speaking up for them on the radio and television programs sponsored by the government and overseen by the commissioner for the national eradication of gender inequality.
Poetically, now with Kelvin and Elmea on the same job, love like the pleasant smell of a rose flower came wafting liberally in the air of their first meeting with each other: as they both fell in love without a question of how it happened; Kelvin had fallen head over heels in love with Elmea and Elmea head over heels in love with Kelvin. And there immediately came the idea of marriage ringing in their heads like the sound of the ancient Roman Catholic bell of the lauds hour. “Elmea do you take Kelvin Sin as your lawfully wedded husband? Asked the priest. “Yes, she replied.” “To have and to hold, to love and to cherish, till death do you apart? ” ” Yes, priest,” she replied again.” And same question was asked Kelvin and he did answer alike. Then, they were both joined together in marital union before the church. This day was fulfilling to both of them, but not as much as it was to Elmea; for she had stood quietly in front of the priest during this whole time of their exchange of vows, all smiling and staring into her man’s eyes for a very long time, and imagining where she came. The trials and tribulations, hiccups and kick downs on her way. Here she was finally marrying the man of her dream and, in addition to that having found herself a place in the benevolent palms of the universe; and believing again that hope would always spring eternally.
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