There were days when Femi felt like the world was out to get her. Today was one of those days. First, her aunt had been angry with her for not helping her pack in the clothes she dried outside the night before but Femi had been in a hurry to get to school and decided to pack it in when she got back. Unfortunately, the rain had fallen heavily and her aunt’s beautiful Asooke had gotten wet.
She had barely gotten off the phone from her Aunty’s tirade when the mother of one of her students, Eri had come to shout at her for feeding her son something that made him purge all day the previous day. All attempts to make the woman understand that she wasn’t the one who made the school lunches fell on deaf ears and by the time Mrs Ingalam intervened, Femi was in tears.
After school ended, she had made her way to Dr Arowolo’s house, only for the rain to start falling and she had to stand in a stall with some other people. On getting to his house, she had received serious tongue lashing from him for coming late and ended up unable to teach Amanda properly, sniffling through the poor girl’s lessons.
When she finished there at 6, she decided to stop at David’s house and be cheered up so she could be better prepared to face her aunt but David has insisted she cook even though she told him she was really tired. He ended up giving her a rundown on all her failings as a woman and eventually she had left in a worse mood than when she arrived.
She had barely left his house when the rain started again and by the time she got home, she was wet, tired and hungry. Her aunt was waiting for her when she got home but one look at Femi, her tears, wet clothes and wet hair had the older woman rushing to hug her.
Aunt: “Oko mi what happened, why didn’t you stay out of the rain?”
Femi: “I….i…..went…….i…….to…..” she stammered as her teeth started chattering.
Aunt: “Ha! Eyaa. Oya, go to the bathroom, take off your clothes, let me boil hot water for your bath. Pele, oko mi.” She said as she pushed Femi towards her bedroom and quickly went to boil water for her to have her bath.
Adelaide was upset at the rain, why wouldn’t it stop, now it had ruined her good aso oke and wet her poor child. Of course, she knew it probably wasn’t the rain that brought Femi home in tears, she was worried something else had happened but she wanted the poor child to stop crying, if not she wouldn’t get anything out of her.
Femi was very soft and very emotional, the smallest thing could have a bawling her eyes out and she had tried as much as possible to shield Femi from too much pain. She remembered when Femi had first come to them, seemingly broken, she had looked out her window at the thin girl who was too small for her age and with eyes that seemed like they had seen too much and she had rushed out to grab her
Since that day, she had never regretted opening her arms to Femi. In more ways than one, Femi was more like her than the daughter she had borne. Femi was quiet, demure, loving and loyal. Where she loved, she loved and she had a very large heart.
Unlike Tiwa, who walked tall and dared anyone to try to demean her. Tiwa, her brilliant daughter, the one who never gave second chances, the one who could look anyone in the eye and made a very strong enemy.
She sighed as she remembered that her fondest wish and prayers about her daughters had gone unanswered. She had wanted desperately for both girls to be best friends and encouraged it by taking them out together and buying similar clothes for them. It hadn’t worked. More often than not, Tiwa would refuse to go and when she bought similar clothes for them, depending on how Tiwa felt about the cloth, one would disappear.
If Tiwa liked the cloth, Femi’s would get lost and if Tiwa didn’t like them, hers would go missing. At first, she wondered at the losses until she finally realized the pattern and stopped buying similar clothes for them.
For Femi, she knew living with them hadn’t always been easy or welcome. The evening she got to their house, then a small 3 bedroom flat around Adeniyi Jones, Ikeja, she had been scared, lonely and hopeful. In her kind and authoritative way, Adelaide had led her inside and introduced her to their children. Their first son Damola who was 15 at the time, their 12 year old daughter, Tiwalola and the baby, 9 year old Kunle.
When Tiwa was told she would be sharing a room with her newly acquired cousin, she had grumbled. As the only daughter, she had gotten used to having a room to herself which she only had to share with the occasional visitors, now she was to share her room with a cousin she declared was ugly.
Adelaide had been angry and warned her to never address her cousin that way again. Only then had Tiwa led Femi to her bedroom and even that hadn’t been without drama for she had heard Tiwa telling Femi not to touch her things. In a bid to avoid any trouble, she had gotten a matrass for Femi with every intention of making a bed for her later.
At first, it had been really hard for Femi to cope with Tiwa’s disdain and displeasure and her mother had thought it was temporary phase since Tiwa had always being the only girl amongst the boys. But things didn’t get better as even Kunle joined in taunting Femi. Punishing them for Femi only made things worse as they would choose to punish her back. Damola on the other hand hadn’t even been interested in Femi.
For a short while, Adelaide had felt like a failure for raising children who because of the comfort they had showed no empathy or sympathy for someone who had lost everything she ever had. She then promised herself that she was going to make sure Femi lacked nothing to help her grow healthy, strong and confident.
Later, while inviting Femi to join her in the kitchen, she realized the child was incredibly adept in the kitchen for someone her age and soon she and Femi turned the kitchen into their corner. She loved to cook and although she had tried to teach Tiwa the same, the child was always grumbling and ended up taking pleasure away from the activity. It wasn’t so with Femi, who was always eager to know what went in, how and why. Soon they were both coming up with new ideas and recipes.
In retrospect, Adelaide realized this had only infuriated Tiwa, who felt that Femi was trying to steal her mother’s affections from her. She had hated it that out of the blue, her mother had opened her arms to another girl. Then though, she had seen Tiwa’s attitude as incredibly selfish and self-centered.
Her inability to understand her daughter’s feelings had led to a distance in their relationship that she had never envisioned. In truth, before Femi came, she and Tiwa had never been really close. Tiwa had always been her father’s daughter and when Femi came, Adelaide had just seen an opportunity to mould someone who could be like her and she had.
Her feelings and sympathy for Femi emerged when she remembered how terrible her own life had been after the death of her mother. Her father had remarried and produced four children rapidly with his new wife to the detriment of herself and her younger brother. When her brother fell ill from all the punishments and maltreatment their stepmother metted out to them, there had been no one to take care of them and it wasn’t long after her brother had died, at the tender age of six.
She didn’t know what would have become of her if her mother’s sister hadn’t come to take her. She had only been 8 at the time but she remembered the disinterest her father had shown when her aunt swore to take her after accusing him of killing her nephew. She remembered leaving without her father saying goodbye. And she promised herself she would go back and ask him why he hadn’t cared for her or her brother.
She never had a chance too as her father died four years later after a massive heart attack. Her stepmother had refused to give her anything of her father’s belongings and her father, not expecting to die at the age of 46 had never written a will.
She had moved on, she hadn’t had a choice anyway. Her aunt was not always kind to her, she often had to do without the things she needed and she had learnt what it meant to be truly alone while she stayed with her aunt. The woman had refused to let her go to school and sent her to learn fashion designing at her tailor’s shop.
She had barely finished her training when she had met Dele, a Youth Corper in her town of Ile Oluji in Ondo state. He had wooed her all throughout his service year and although she liked him, she had refused to give inti what she felt was his sweet tongue. At that time, girls in her town were constantly being warned away from smooth talking Youth Corpers.
He left after his service year and that was when she felt genuine regret for letting him go. She realized he had never dated anyone in their town and if his friends were to be believed, he had no girlfriend at home in Lagos. A month later when he returned for her, she had jumped into his arms and made him a very happy man.
Her aunt had been very upset when she told her she wanted to get married. As far as her aunt was concerned, at 22, Adelaide was too young to be married even though her own daughter, Ade’s cousin, Aduke had gotten married at 20.
When her aunt had remained adamant, Ade had run off with Dele to Lagos and only returned 2 years later with Demola in tow. Having no choice and despite her obvious displeasure, her aunt had agreed for Dele to come and do the traditional wedding which he did very quickly. They followed it up with a court wedding in Lagos and had their two other children.
Things hadn’t been perfect, in fact, they had been far from perfect at the beginning. What with Dele struggling to earn a living and she getting pregnant so quickly. But somehow, their love saw them through. Things had improved after Dele got a job with the state government, paid her bride price and opened up a tailoring shop for her.
At first they had to make a lot of sacrifices and they depended heavily on Dele’s parents. His parents had been kind and supportive and his siblings had pitched in to help as often as possible. Their actions always made her feel nostalgic for her own family that wasn’t anymore. She remembered the inevitable fights between her and Dele and how he always had someone to tell his side of the story when she had no one but her children.
That feeling of loneliness and not having anybody else in the world were what had prompted her to open her heart and arms so freely to Femi. She promised herself that while she was alive, Femi would never need to doubt that she had a home and a person who was willing to put her first.
Tiwa was having a very good day. There were times when she felt like she had a personal guardian angel always watching over her. It was enough to have her whistling as she entered into the male ward to begin her daily rounds.
Tiwa: “Hello, Mr Salman” she greeted the man lying prone on the bed with oxygen tubes attached to his nose, “How are we today?” She asked cheerfully.
Patient: “Good morning Doctor, I’m fine, thank you, my daughter came to visit me yesterday and……..” Tiwa barely listened, she just kept nodding and smiling as the older man continued talking. Carefully she checked his blood pressure and was glad to see it had reduced, she also checked the gash on his head and noted it was coming along fine.
She noted that she would remind the nurses on her way out to change his oxygen tank in an hour. The man had suffered a heart attack a few days back and fallen down the stairs, cutting his head in the process. His daughter, a long time patient of the hospital and a commissioner in the state had immediately rushed him to the hospital where she believed he would get the best possible care.
Saint Havers was well known all over the nation for employing specialist, for putting patients care ahead of anything else and for their superb international standard Laboratory recommended all over the nation for tests in any ailment. Their recently opened Cancer Research Institute had nailed them a class of their own above any other hospital in Nigeria.
Tiwa knew how lucky she was to have landed a job in a hospital like Saint Havers and to also meet the man of her dreams in the same place. She did not doubt that she was the subject of envy of the other female doctors and nurses in the hospital. She knew they talked about her behind her back but she didn’t care. She had worked hard to get where she was and she wasn’t going to allow anyone demean her success professionally or personally.
As a child, she had always known she was going to do great things, her brains and extra ordinary IQ had assured her of this. Of course, the presence of that yamayama Femi had also seen to it. When she realized the snake had twined herself around her mother’s heart, she promised she was going to do everything twice as well as Femi ever could.
She had worked hard at her books to her father’s delight and hadn’t been able to suppress her happiness that Femi proved to be quite dull academically. According to her mother, it was because of Femi’s poor educational background but she didn’t care. She always relished the joy of calling her Olodo which often left the younger girl in tears.
She had made all her papers by the time she was 15 and had graduated not only the best student in her school but in the state of Lagos. As her father was a State government staff, the state had immediately offered her a scholarship abroad throughout her University education.
By the time she was through with her Pre-med degree at UCLA, Femi was yet to get admission to the University. This would have given her pleasure as even her younger brother had cleared his papers and was studying computer science in the University Of Ibadan but it didn’t.
Her holiday home that year had seemed like she was the usurper. Everyone had been chummy with each other and even her little brother who had hated Femi with her was now Femi’s best friend. Demola couldn’t seem to do anything without Femi’s input and her parents treated Femi even closer than they had before. The entire holiday had left her feeling lost and she once again promised to leave Femi in her dust.
And she had, she definitely had. She was a well-recognised and appreciated Doctor in the best hospital in the country and Femi was busy wiping little children’s poop. She had her own apartment and car and Femi still lived at home with her parents and jumped buses and keke napeps everywhere. She was in a budding relationship leading to marriage with a man who was everything above all men and Femi was dating a local Government Official.
She couldn’t help but laugh at the disparities in their lives. When all was said and done, she was 2 times the woman Femi would ever be. When she was home during the weekend, she could see Femi was looking depressed and sad and she couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for the poor fool. Of course, she felt sorry for her, who wouldn’t? At the rate Femi was going, she would end up being 3 times the woman Femi was.
Oh, thank you karma, she laughed as she continued her ward rounds.
Stay tuned to Episode 6 – You don’t wanna miss it!
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