Mama Toke’s supposed body was returned the next day after her daughter raised alarm that her mother who had gone out the previous day did not return home.
Toke cried her eyes out when they brought in the headless body. A look at the headless corpse and she knew that her life could never be the same anymore.
The corpse was buried the same day it was returned to the village by the group of young men that the king had ordered to go and search for the missing woman.
Her uncle and his wife took her in after her mother’s burial because there was no way she could stay alone in the house she had once shared with her loving mother.
In her uncle’s house, husband and wife were very kind to her as they felt pity for the young girl who had to lose her mother in such a pathetic way.
Two weeks after her mother’s burial, Toke woke up early that morning, did all the house chores and began to prepare for school.
That was the first time she was going to school after she had been chased home for failing to pay her examination fees while her mother was alive. She thought of going to school because she felt they would have pity on her and allow her to sit in class and learn even though she would not be sitting for the exams. She needed to leave the house as sitting idle at home reminded her so much of her mother.
Mama Gift was preparing her husband’s breakfast when she saw Toke putting on her school uniform which was one of the things that she had brought from her mother’s house.
Mama Gift: “where are you going in that uniform?” she asked the sad girl.
Toke: “I am going to school” she replied, twitching her hand to button the uniform.
Mama Gift: “which school?” she asked, bringing down the bread from the place she had kept it after she had bought it.
Toke: “my school, ma” she said wondering why the woman was asking.
Mama Gift: “I don’t understand your school. Didn’t you say you were sent home for failure to pay your examination fee long before your mother died?”
Toke: “I said so, ma. But I want to go there and try my luck. Maybe they will have pity on me because of what happened to my mother and allow me attend classes even though I will not be writing the exams this year”
Mama Gift: “can you listen to yourself at all? Maybe they will have pity on you?”
Toke: “my mother was killed because she took the risk to go and hawk because she wanted me to continue with my education. I cannot allow her dream die just like that. I have to make effort. If they chase me back, I will come back”
Mama Gift: “ejor o. Toke, don’t come to this house and start giving me reasons to talk too much o. when your mother was alive and they sent you out of school, you didn’t go back to the school. Now that she is dead, you want to go to school. Don’t put words in my mouth, you better remove that uniform now before I come there and meet you” she threatened.
Toke: “but ma, what is wrong with what I have said?”
Mama Gift: “everything is wrong with it. You dropped out of school while your mother was alive. That is how it will remain even now that she is no more”
“No, I didn’t drop out. Situations forced me to pause for a while. It has always been my mother’s wish that I get the best of education. Please don’t kill this dream” she pleaded.
Mama Gift: “kill what? Was I the one who killed your stubborn mother? She was warned against going to that village but her stubbornness will not let her heed common advice. Remove that uniform and put on your work dress, from today henceforth, you will be going to my shop to work for as long as you will be living with us. When you finish the work I have for you in the shop, you will go and hawk for me after all you used to hawk for your mother while she was alive”
Toke: “please ma, just allow me go to school and then I will come back and do all the work you want me to do”
Toke didn’t see the next thing that was coming. A sharp slap hit her hard across the face and when she raised her head, she saw that it was her uncle.
Baba Gift: “are you crazy? How dare you talk back at an elder? Which stupid school do you want to go? Is it school that you will be eating in this house or did your useless mother leave any investment behind for you to live on? Even the money she made from the sales she made at the village where she was killed, did we see it? Let me hear you say another thing about not wanting to follow my wife to the shop and hawking for her and you will see what I will do to you” her uncle said to her.
Toke did not say a word anymore. With hot tears of pain and emotional trauma in her eyes, she removed her uniform.
“Mama, why did you have to die and leave me behind all alone in this wicked world? You were my pillar, my shield, how can I survive without you? Why didn’t you take me along with you to the neighboring village so that we would be killed together? Death, why my mother of all people in the world” she thought.
Toke’s foster parents turned her into their house help at home and sales girl in the shop.
She would wake up very early while other people were still asleep to clean and make breakfast for the household after going on several trips to the borehole at the village square to fetch enough water for all the members of the household to use.
As soon as it was 8am, she will trek the long distance from the house to mama’s Gift shop and clean up before mama Gift comes. During the day, she will go hawking for mama Gift and return home to fetch firewood and prepare dinner for the family. Her presence in the house relieved the wayward Gift of all her duties in the house as Toke did everything for her including washing her under garments.
On this fateful day, Toke was in the kitchen washing dishes when she heard the principal of her school walk into the sitting room where her uncle and his wife were sitting.
Baba Gift: “you are welcome to our humble home, sir” he said after offering him a seat.
Principal: “thank you very much”
Mama Gift: “you are welcome, sir. I am sure you are here in respect of our daughter Gift who is one of your brightest students” she said excitedly.
Baba Gift: “principal, what should we offer you?”
Principal: “actually I just had lunch not too long ago. I am here because I learnt that our brightest student now lives with you after the demise of her mother, I have some good news for her” he said to the consternation of Gift’s mother who couldn’t help but sigh.
Baba Gift: “good news? What could it be? Tell us” he answered anxiously.
Principal: “I have to see her first before breaking the news. Madam, can you please call her for us”
Mama Gift: “she is not at home. In fact, she does not live with us anymore. She ran out of the house, the same thing her mother did that she ended up getting killed” she lied and her husband looked at her in shock.
Toke who was eavesdropping on their conversation couldn’t believe her ears. A voice told her to go to the sitting room but her legs refused to carry her to the sitting room because she knew the beating and punishment she would receive afterwards.
To be continued.