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Work and Life: She dashed through traffic, driving as fast as she could. She nearly rammed i...

Work and Life: She dashed through traffic, driving as fast as she could. She nearly rammed into another car as she took a quick peek at her iPhone. She had a text message but she was afraid of looking at it. The traffic was manic. In frenzy, she zipped through Ring Road and took a left turn on Independence Avenue toward Accra Railway. Soon she was in front of her daughter’s school on Hansen Road. She slammed on the break and the car screeched to an abrupt halt. She dived onto the passenger’s seat and picked up her phone. The text was serious. It read;

Where are you Sarah? You have not finished the report I asked for. I want that report in the next half an hour!!!

It was her boss, and he was not in happy mood – he rarely was. Her heart was pounding as she placed the phone back in her purse and ran into the school. She had received a call that her daughter was very sick and needed to be rushed to hospital. In a few minutes, she was racing down Ring Road towards the hospital. “I will be alright mom,” the little girl said bravely, tucked in the back seat. She had sensed the stress on her mother’s face. Meanwhile, her mother had forgotten to answer her boss’s text in the mad rush to get her daughter to hospital. As she sped towards DEL International Hospital, her phone beeped again. “Mom, your phone is ringing!” Her daughter informed her. “I know sweetheart. I will get it shortly,” she answered. Despite her daughter’s brave face, she was boiling as her temperature was hitting the roof. Soon, she had her in the doctor’s care. She sat in the lobby and finally took a look at her phone.

Did you get my text Sara?

He boss was still raging. She sent a quick text to him, explaining her situation. She promised to return to work to get the report ready. As she was sending the text, she felt a sharp pain in her stomach. A grimace darted across her face as she tried to quieten her period pains. Her heart was pounding. I hope Emmanuela is fine, she thought. A few hours later, she had to call her babysitter to make a quick and expensive appointment. She needed to return to work to tidy things up for the boss, so someone had to keep an eye on Emmanuela. Through sharp stomach pains, she did the report before heading out of the office. As she drove to the elementary school to pick up her older children, Kobna and Nana she wished her husband had not left. She had opposed her husband’s quest to take a second wife and he threw her out of the house. She managed to extract monthly allowance from him for the children while she worked herself silly to augment whatever she got from him. Often, he would send the money very late. He was preoccupied with his young new wife who was carrying their first child. As she reached home, she labored in the kitchen to make food for the children. Her pains continued to bite harder, yet she kept going. Her children had to eat.

“Go and take your sister,” she announced after they had eaten and showered. She collapsed into a couch. For once, she could put her feet up for the day. She turned on the television and scanned through her mails. Then she found the one she had been waiting for - a letter from her doctor. Her hands shook as she read it. She became visibly terrified. Tears streamed down her face. She lay there, unable to get up. The letter dropped to the ground. She could not be bothered to pick it up. She stared blankly at the television and wondered what might become of her children. Her doctor had indicated that she might have breast cancer. The lines in the letter kept coming back to her. She did not know when hours swept by as she cried herself silly. “What is it mom? Asked Kobna who had woken up. She gestured that he come over, and he did. She wrapped her arms around him and said, “It is okay my boy. It is okay.” She wished her husband had been around. She wished that he still loved him…that he was around to support her through this.

Braving the elements: She watched her kids cross the road safely. She stood there and kept watching as they matched to school on foot. The sun was already beating down from above with acrimony. “Be careful when crossing the road as you return home!!!” She shouted as they walked further away. “We will mother,” they echoed. She had no shoes or slippers on. She walked briskly back to her hut, picked up her basket in which she had a machete and a hoe. She headed to the farm which was 8 miles outside the village. By the time she got there, the sun had intensified. The ground was hotter, but she cut through the bush like hot knife through butter. For three hours she labored on Mr. Oleka’s farm. He had promised to pay her by nightfall if she finished the clearing today. She labored non-stop until the work was done. Then, she left for Mrs. Izueke’s farm. Mrs. Izueke had pledged to pay her two hundred Naira to weed her cassava farm.
Ignoring the sun, she bent over for hours on end, weeding energetically. Her husband had been dead three years now leaving her with four children to cater for. With no education, she relied solely on her energy to execute physical work as a means of catering for her children.

By sundown, she had finished weeding Mrs. Izueke’s farm. Her children were already home when she returned. She had stopped at Mr. Oleka’s and Mrs. Izueke’s to collect her hard earned money. She took a quick shower and ran to the market to fetch some ingredients. She made soup with which she and her children devoured garri. As she lay down on her mat that night, she wondered what the next few weeks had in store for them. Her first son Ikechukwu had reminded her that he needed money to register for common entrance examination, which she did not have. As she lay on the mat, she wondered where she could borrow money from. Last time she had gone asking for money, her neighbor, Mr. Adigu had asked her to leave the door to her hut open for him in the afternoon when her children had gone to school. “If you take care of me…you know on the bed, I will give you the money you need,” he had said with a malicious smile on his face. He was known to sleep with widows despite being married. I am never going to give in to that unsaddled horse, she thought. I have to find someone else to talk to for this money for my son’s exam, she thought lying down. She stayed up most of the night thinking. By early morning, she instructed Ikechukwu to walk his younger siblings across the road in the morning as she walked to her parents for advice on where she could borrow money from…

The Wannabe: “If you want that role, then sleep with me,” Martins said matter-of-factly. He was a no-nonsense director and a womanizer who was very popular in Nollywood and Ghallywood circles. “I am someone’s wife sir,” Lovelyn protested. “Then stay home with your husband,” Martins answered ruthlessly. “If you want the role, then service me and I will service you.” She stared at him angrily. Her husband had been the most adorable and kind man she could have ever asked for. She wanted this role badly. For once she was on the path to her dream. After shaking off so much weight following the birth of her first child, she had been working towards actualizing her lifelong dream of being an actress. After several small roles, she had decided to make a pitch for a bigger role. “I can’t do that sir,” she said. “I wish you a happy life in the kitchen cooking for your husband and son, then.” “Is it just me or do you do this to all the ladies you hire…I mean younger up and coming actresses?” “This is the way it goes Lovelyn. Life gives you nothing for free. If you want anything, you play ball to get it.” “But you are not life Mr. Martins.” “I am in this case,” he replied arrogantly. “Thanks for your time. I tried anyway,” Lovelyn said with a tone of finality. “Try hard enough next time. If you change your mind, let me know,” Martins added contemptuously.

Two days later, Lovelyn was on the phone with Martins. “I have something here that will interest you,” she said. “And what might that be? Have you changed your mind? I knew you’d come around.” “Well, listen.” She played a recording back to him. She had recorded her earlier discussion with him on her phone.  After playing the recording to him, she said, “If you don’t offer me the job, the whole world will hear this. I have made multiple copies of the recording. My sister, my husband, my best friend and my father all have a copy each. They will say nothing unless you give me the job. And, should anything happen to me, the whole world will listen to the recording.” She heard him take a deep breath. A streak of sweat zigzagged across his face. He was breathing heavily. “You did not have to go through all this. I will offer you the job.” “You will or you are offering me the job?” She asked. “You have the job.” “Good.” As she worked on the set during the making of the movie, she could not help but smile each time she crossed paths with Martins. He smiled at everyone, but Lovelyn knew that a demon lay underneath that smiling face. Her husband and one of his friends were always on hand…just in case.

I am only a child: She pushed her baby on a stroller through the streets of Brixton in London, England. She was only sixteen years of age. Eyes fixated on her as she walked by, and tongues wagged silently. Her baby was kicking slowly as she neared home. She had a council tax from the government. This was her life’s ambition. She had seduced her boyfriend into making a bay with her. He ran out of town soon after the baby was born. He was not prepared for fatherhood. Gladly, she had embraced her new role. Her parents would have none of it. “You should be in school!” They yelled, heartbroken by her choice. She moved into her council life happily…it was her own domain – her kingdom. As she neared the flat, her baby began to cry more, drawing more attention to her. The weeks after childbirth had not been as pleasant as she had imagined. Her baby kept her up at night. She was groggy as she pushed the stroller. “Not again!” She said frustratingly as her son began to cry loudly. It was as if he did not want to be home. He wanted to enjoy more time being pushed around by his mother. She stopped in front of her building and tried to feed her baby, but he would have none of it. He rejected baby food. Crying was all he wanted to do.

“Shut up!!! Shut up your dirty mouth!!!” She shouted. Her son cried even louder. She carried him rather aggressively, but he kept crying. She stowed the stroller in a storage area downstairs and began to cry upstairs. Her son was howling by now. The entire building knew she was home. She wished she could have the flat without the son. When she got into her flat, she locked the door and tossed his son on the bed. His crying became even louder. She took a baby bottle and shoved it into his mouth. “Eat and shut up!!!” She yelled in a frantic bid to end the crying that was driving her insane. Nothing worked. She sat on the couch slightly away from him and cried. What have I got myself into? She wondered. Then there was a gentle knock on her door. She was surprised. She rarely had visitors. She dragged herself to the door. An older lady stood by the door. She had seen her a few times in the past week. She had just moved in. “Can I help you with the baby?’ The older lady asked.

She needed the help like a patient waiting for an organ donation. “Yes please,” she answered eagerly. The older lady took her son in her arms and rocked him back and forth gently. Soon, he was smiling and laughing, playing with the lady. A while later, he dozed off. The older lady placed her on the bed and closed the door quietly. The young mother was amazed…delightfully. “How did you do that?” She asked the older lady. “You don’t know how to rock a baby to sleep?” She replied with a question. The young mother stared at the ground. There was a lot she did not know. “I am only a child myself,” she answered with a look of surrender and submission on her face. “Yes you are my child. Come here, I will teach you,” the older lady said demonstrating with a pillow.

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Written by:
Victor Chinoo

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