Adaolisa’s Fate|Amifeoluwa Sabatina |Fiction

ADAOLISA

“What are you thinking?” Miss Gini says, so loudly she jerks me away from my daydream.

“Huh?” I whisper.

Miss Gini gets up, and assertively plants herself in front of me. I already know she’s about to give me a major pep talk. “Do what you know your heart wants,” she states. “It won’t be easy but you should do what your heart wants.”

I keep staring at her expecting her to say something else, raise her voice at me or force me to go downstairs. But she doesn’t do any of that. Instead, she pats me on the shoulder and exits the room. I look out into the beautiful garden across the street; my favourite thing about my room. Every time I get sad, I just have to look out the window and imagine lying on Sir Kwabena’s perfectly tendered garden lawn, reading a book and smelling the flowers. Father has warned me never to go to his home so I have settled for the view of it. Sometimes, I call out to him as he waters the flowers to remind him of how much peace his garden brings me. In his conc. Ghanaian accent, he’d respond: “It ain’t me. It’s the earth, she laughs in flowers.” And then we would both laugh spontaneously as if this same conversation will not be repeated in a couple of days.

“It’s a shame I’m going to lose this beautiful view,” I say to myself as I drag out my stashed runaway bag from the bottom of my bed. The room is bare, save for the princess water sculpture on my dressing shelf. Father bought it for me on his last trip to Italy and called it a city souvenir. My younger sister, Akuada, admires it longingly every time she is in my room. She used to enjoy shaking it while watching the shiny stars float in the glass orbit, that is, until the day she almost broke it and I warded her off from it forever. I’ve decided to leave it for her so that perhaps, it will always remind her of me. I sneak out through the kitchen back door, careful to prevent any creaking that will alert my family of four lounging in front of the television in the sitting room.

As I step out into the 1982 November harmattan, I’m relieved that Sir Kwabena is not out in his garden, watering his flowers; that our neighbour’s son who feeds the chickens every afternoon  is asleep under the guava tree. I am glad the birds that usually nest in the tree hovering over my window sill have flown away to find some food, and that our family TV is at its loudest because of the Saturday football show. I am glad no one is around to hear Father’s Volvo car revv as I drive off and escape into a future I do not know. By the time anybody would figure out I am gone, I would be nearing the town border. I have managed to convince myself that I am not a bad child who stole from her parents and ran away to be a prodigal. I plan to return once I have made for myself a life that can’t be stolen away. In the meantime, Father has one more car and not too many places to drive to so he should be fine.

The dreary Tuesday I arrived from school and hastily ran to my parents’ room to show them my end of year results was the day chaos began. I overheard them talking about my future and how pursuing a course in the university wasn’t necessary because too much studying was not good for girls. It was time to find a suitable person that would marry me; a rich man that would bring more blessings to the family and contribute to my parents’ growing wealth. I had gone to cry to Miss Gini, our help first, but she was nowhere to be found. Hence, my best friend, Emeka, was the first to hear. A walk to his house used to take me 6 minutes but on that day, I seemed to be walking faster than my legs could carry me. I was there in half the time.

“Calm down, you’re scaring me… what’s going on?” Emeka urged as I started to cry.

In a tear-laden voice, I reported everything I had overheard, word for word. I expressed how my life was now over.

“I’ve been brilliant for nothing Emeka. All my hard work and I’m not good enough for them to send to the university just because I am a girl,” I wailed.

He consoled me and tried to help me see the positive side of things but we both knew there was no positive side, just makeshifts. I didn’t leave his house without a plan. We had agreed: on Saturday evenings, he would teach me how to drive with his father’s Peugeot when I escort him to Pa Nnamdi’s farm to transport yams for Nkwo Ukwu, the town market. A month before the first meeting with the groom’s family, I would steal Father’s key and escape with my life savings and some money I’d borrow from Mother’s wooden box. I would leave Imo state completely and hide out in a new town with a new identity.

As I continue to drive out of Ihiagwa town, I realize now that Emeka and I never thought past this last stage of the plan. I create a new identity and then what? Surely, I can’t find a job without a university degree. What if I run out of money soon? Or never find a place to settle? Numerous questions plague me until I arrive at Ughelli, Delta state; 103 miles away from my nemesis. It is night time now and I am exhausted from driving for hours and making endless stops to ask for directions. I am able to find one last motorcycle rider to direct me to a decent motel in town.

As I bring the car to a halt outside the motel, I lean back in my seat and sigh heavily. All throughout the drive, it only seemed right to hold my breath. I could never be safe until I was far enough. When I gather more money, I will go even farther; perhaps a south-western state. I have always wanted to visit the big fish, Lagos, to see if it is filled with as many opportunities as people say it is. I snap out of my thoughts long enough to offload my suitcases from the car boot and drag them into the motel reception.

It seems there is no electricity as the small reception room is lit up by lanterns. A black chalkboard has ‘Welcome!’ written on it, in English, Urhobo and Igbo. Only the receptionist is in the room but sounds are emanating from an office nearby. The receptionist is plump and even in the darkness, as fair as day. Her red lipstick is still as sharp as I assume they must have been in the morning.

She looks up as I walk in. “Hello ma’am, how can I help you?”

“I’d like to rent a room please,” I respond.

“You are lucky. We have just one room left.” She brings out a book and writes something down then brings out another book to confirm the last available room. “That would be 30 naira for the night.”

After payment, she leads me to my room and advises that I should not bother trying to take a shower. Apparently, water stops running well in the motel once it is past 9pm. I smile politely and wish her a good night then I enter the room, taking in my new surroundings. There is only the bed, a small table set in one corner, and a drawer for storing clothes in another. I lay down and fall asleep before I can process anything else.

My dreams are dancing before me, glitching as they try to overcome the loud singing threatening to wake me up. They finally give in when my eyes open to the sun rays stretched across the room. It takes a while for me to remember where I am and why but once I do, a little anxiety washes over me and tugs me back into stress mode. I finally stand up and head towards the singing, ready to unleash a sleep deprived anger on its source. It’s a man, seated with a large bucket of ice water in front of him. He’s singing with reckless abandon, as if there is absolutely no possibility that anyone could be asleep. He soon senses that I am behind him.

“Good morning, I did not notice you were standing there. You must be one of our guests,” he says.

“One of your guests?”

“I am Machie Ovia. My father owns this motel, but I sometimes come around to help out.”

“Your singing woke me up, Mr. Ovia.”

“Please call me Machie,” he stands up, towering over me. “I apologise, I didn’t realize your room was occupied. I usually come here for the sole reason that it is far from other rooms.”

I shrug as I am still upset that I was woken up prematurely. I turn to leave.

“May I know your name?”

“No, you may not,” I tease as I continue walking away from him. I intend to have a proper shower and try to continue my sleep.

 

 

 

 

EMEKA

               Adaolisa has written me a total of four letters. In the last one, she told me she has found a man she loves and whom she hopes to marry. His name is Machie. She tells me that he is taller than I am and I am very tall. According to her, he is a footballer and was a midfielder for the Nigerian team in the 1980 Nations Cup, where the Eagles won a silver trophy. He sounds like someone who has a promising future ahead of him. I do not know how she got lucky enough to meet him.

It has been 6 months since Ada left home and I am quite surprised that she is still thriving. Not that I hoped she wouldn’t, but the plan we made for her to escape always did seem out of reach. I should have known that it wasn’t. Ada is a girl that sets her mind to something and never backs down until she has achieved it. But perhaps, she has not had a choice all her life. I have come to learn that we are in a world that does not treat women fairly and I cannot for the life of me, understand why.

Ada’s parents, Mr. & Mrs. Dunga have been watching me like a hawk, certain that I know of their daughter’s whereabouts. The day after Ada ran away was hell for me. I was grilled and poked at and yelled upon because apparently, I was the only one that could have helped her devise this master plot. I stayed quiet through it all, speaking only to repeat that I knew nothing of Ada’s plan. But no one believed me. They didn’t have to because I wasn’t going to speak regardless. If Ada is to be dragged back into this painful reality she has tried so hard to flee from, it isn’t going to be because of my utterances.

Luckily for Ada, Machie is taking very good care of her. When her money ran out, he took up all her responsibilities immediately and eventually helped her find a small job in a nearby hostel. She told me he has been very understanding of her reasons for running away. He himself has been set up for a planned marriage that he couldn’t care less for. When I heard of this, I had to write back to Ada immediately.

“Machie has a future wife that is not you and you have a future husband that is not him; you have run from your family to escape your lot but is he willing to do the same for you?” I asked. She beautifully dodged the question in her next letter. They both seem to be living in a fairytale bubble they have crafted for themselves, oblivious of the fact that one day, reality will come knocking and it would be heartbreaking to face.

My most recent letter to Ada might be the last one I ever write to her in Ughelli, for I fear that even before she receives the letter or can write back, her family would have found her. One of their acquaintances spotted Ada at a food store about a week ago. The Dungas have since headed to Delta state and are prepared to remain there, searching every nook and cranny of Ughelli until Ada is found. They came to our compound a week and a half ago to inform my parents, as well as mock me for a clearly failed plan.

“Emeka! This is the last time I ever want to see your shadow. When we bring our daughter back home, you must never speak to her again. This is the only warning I will give you,” Chief Dunga bellowed, waving his staff in my face.

“A word is enough for the wise,” Mrs. Dunga added as she followed her husband out of our compound.

After this incident, my food ration was once again shortened by one meal. I have gone from three square meals to one within the space that Ada ran away and now. It was my Father’s ingenious idea, this punishment of rationed meals. “Reduce his daily meals,” he had said to Mama after The Dungas’ first visit. “Only a well-fed man can go around causing this kind of trouble in the first place.”

Today, whilst in school, I heard whispers from some of my classmates that Ada has been found and brought back to Ihiagwa. I do not know if the loud thumping in my chest is because Ada’s life goes downhill from here or because I would never get to speak to her again.

 

ADAOLISA

I was about to settle down for my lunch of boli and groundnuts on the hostel’s living room veranda when I saw my parents at the gate. I could not believe my eyes for a minute. How did they find me? I hurried inside, fearfully looking for where I could run or hide. ‘Why does this godforsaken place have only one exit?’ I muttered, now too afraid to think clearly. I reached for the telephone and dialled the motel. Once the receptionist said hello, I asked to speak with Machie immediately. I could hear her send someone to call for him. I tapped my feet impatiently, my sweaty palms struggling to keep the receiver in place. After what felt like forever, the line disconnected.

‘What? Why!’ I screamed, redialling the number as quickly as I could.

I don’t know if I heard my mother first or smelled her first. I looked up slowly to see her tired and exasperated figure standing quietly at the entrance. She seemed to have been waiting for me to acknowledge her presence all along. She stared me down before stretching out her hands to give me a slap. My head reeled in shock.

“You! Adaolisa Mary Dunga! You have no shame… you hear me? You have no shame!” She snatched the phone from my shaky hands and slammed it back into its base before dragging me ruthlessly out of the room.

When my father saw me, he did not say a word but his face said more to me than he probably could have spoken. I was crying quietly but my mind was boiling over; I was angry at no one in particular. We were soon driving out of Ughelli. I wondered if Machie would figure out what happened or not. Perhaps someone at the hostel would tell him everything and he would come down to save me. Or was there no saving to be done? Would we both end up in our arranged marriages and be separated for good? I cried some more when I thought of the possibility of never seeing him again; my future will simply roll into one long and bleak journey.

 

~

I am barely allowed to leave my room and never allowed to leave the compound. Miss Gina brings me my meals, and sometimes, she allows Akuada to bring them. I don’t say much when either of them come; not even a perfunctory thank you. I mostly sit by the window pointlessly staring at the sky and occasionally, a book is some good company. Even Sir Kwabena’s garden does not excite me anymore. I have not seen Emeka since we got to Ihiagwa, nor have I heard from him. I can imagine he is not allowed to visit the house anymore. Somehow, I am convinced that he wasn’t responsible for informing my parents about my whereabouts but I still wish I could speak to him about everything.

It has now been a full month since we arrived back home. I am surprised that they have waited this long but alas, my wedding preparations have begun. Just a week ago, my future husband visited the house. I saw a car arrive through the window but I couldn’t see much else. I wonder what explanation he was given as to why he couldn’t see me or why I would be unable to do mbiaru di, a visit to his family. Father had threatened me, that the next time I would leave my room, his house, I would be a wife. So I imagine I will not be allowed out of this prison until my wedding day. From one prison, to another.

Today, the bridegroom has come again; this time, with his family. My groom… I suppose has brought mmanya ajuju, asking wine. I am still not allowed to go downstairs. In the evening, when Miss Gina comes to serve me dinner, she tells me that my parents have given the groom’s family a positive answer and my wedding date has been picked. Everything is happening so fast. I remember when my elder sister, Erinma was getting married, it took at least 8 months for all rites to be finalized and her husband’s family visited at least three times. Perhaps I am not worth so much.

It has been a month and a week now since we arrived back home. My mind has started to plot how I would run away from my soon to be husband. It would take at least a year to plan the escape just as it took a year to plan this one. The only hiccup now is how to avoid getting pregnant before I can run away. If I get pregnant, I am stuck forever.

It has been a month and two weeks now since we arrived back home. Yesterday, I was fitted for my wedding attire, a dress I didn’t even get to choose. When the dressmakers left, a tear slid down my face. I feel helpless. I do not even know the day that my hands would be given away in marriage. I am counting down to nothing.

It has been two months now since we arrived back home. Today is my Igba Nkwu, my wedding ceremony. After being dressed up and made up, my face is covered with a veil and I am ushered downstairs. I can’t help the trembling of my hands and feet… even my teeth are chattering of their own accord. The first person I spot in our large living room is my mother. Her ichafu, head tie, matches her glamorous dress perfectly. She’s smiling widely but i assume it’s for her in-laws and not for me. My father is right beside her, in a regal white shirt and silk george wrapper. To my left are the in-laws. There are five of them in all– two people who seem to be the parents and three other people, whose roles I cannot guess. Where is the groom? I wonder.

I am introduced to the in-laws and the introduction ceremony takes about 2 hours. I am barely listening to anything being said. We are then driven to the Catholic church. As my father walks me down the aisle, I notice there aren’t that many people seated inside. My eyes are dashing everywhere except the podium where the Pastor and the groom are standing. My father pats me and walks away somewhat coldly, or maybe it is just in my head. The room does seem to be revolving around me. I look down and shut my eyes, praying for everything around me to disappear but it doesn’t. So I open my eyes and look at my groom as he opens the veil. My mouth opens ajar but I quickly close it and gulp. My breath becomes heavy throughout the service; my palms, almost dripping with sweat. I keep looking around the church hall, hoping no one is staring at me so much,  they sense how nervous I am.

“There will be no reception,” my mother whispers to me when the church service is over. “You are to go home with your husband immediately.”

We exit the hall slowly to the choir’s rendition of a slow hymn. Our families wave us goodbye and I quickly hug Akuada before getting into my husband’s Peugeot car. The drive is quiet. The day has abandoned its sunny scorch and is flirting with a windy storm. I love how the wind blows my veil back. I love how the streets are abandoned and everyone has run inside to avoid being caught by the threatening rain. I ease myself of the tight pump shoes on my feet, lean back in my chair and close my eyes. We had to leave Ihiagwa before I could break a smile.

“Machie,” I whisper, idly holding my husband’s right hand.

“Ada,” he replies and smiles coyly, stroking my fingers.

 

Photo by Paul Green on Unsplash

Bio:

Amifeoluwa Sabatina

ABOUT ME
I’m a Lagos-based creative writer with a flair for crafting fictional stories. When I’m not
writing, I’m sewing a dress or making tiktok videos. I grew up an avid reader, eager to finish
every Enid Slyton book before outgrowing them. I hope to one day publish a book of my own but
for now, I live in between the pages of the short stories I create.

CORE SKILLS
Articulate writing
Good reading comprehension

 

PUBLICATION HISTORY
In 2018, I wrote articles for Big Cabal Media under the name, Amite. I have since then not had
any further digital or paperback publications outside of writing competitions.

 

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