“Stop crying nau. Don’t let Mama T start wondering what the problem is.” Ayorinde said for the umpteenth time. He tapped the bell at the gate as Ayotunde used the back of her palm to wipe her eyes.
Mrs. Taiwo opened the door smiling. She walked towards them and stopped abruptly. “What is wrong with Ayotunde?”
“Nothing ma. Something flew into her eyes as we were walking down here.”
Mrs. Taiwo opened the gate with a questioning look. “Hmm….Ayotunde, something flew into your eyes?”
Ayotunde nodded without looking up.
“Let’s go inside so I can have a look.”
As Mrs. Taiwo closed the gate, Ayorinde looked at his sister and gave her a pleading look.
“So, let’s see that eyes before you do anything.” Mrs. Taiwo said as she sat down and tapped the seat beside her.
“I think her eyes are fine now, ma. I have looked at it.”
“Sit down.” Mrs. Taiwo ordered. “Come here Ayotunde.”
Ayorinde obeyed and sat with his hands in his laps while Ayotunde walked towards Mrs. Taiwo.
Mrs. Taiwo tapped the seat beside her and Ayotunde sat. “I don’t condone lies.” She said looking at both of them. “I want the truth.”
Ayotunde burst into fresh tears. “Ma….ma…..some….someone stole my money.”
“The…the…I was….I was saving it….for my….school fees.” Ayotunde said in between gasps.
Mrs. Taiwo looked at Ayorinde. “Can you please explain?”
“We have been saving the money you pay us inside her kolo. She has written the exam for Government College and she passed. So she wanted to break the kolo today. We have searched the whole house, we can’t find it.”
“Oh dear!” Mrs. Taiwo said as she pulled Ayotunde close and hugged her tight. When Ayotunde stilled from her sobs, Mrs. Taiwo held her face in her hands and looked at her. “You want to go to school?”
“You will go to school. I assure you of that. I didn’t realize both of you had started planning towards this.” She said as she looked at Ayorinde. “I had already made arrangements for her to attend my school in the new session. I just needed to speak with you so I could get permission from your parents if they wouldn’t mind Ayotunde living with me.”
Ayorinde’s jaw dropped as he looked at Mrs. Taiwo. He had no idea that she had a school. And now, his sister was getting a scholarship they didn’t work for plus a beautiful home to live in. She would leave the shanties where they lived and get a proper education. He was overjoyed. He prostrated flat on the floor before Mrs. Taiwo.
“Ayorinde.” Mrs. Taiwo laughed as she tried to raise him from the floor. “C’mon.”
Ayorinde was in tears. He couldn’t believe their fortunes could change so quickly.
“C’mon Ayorinde. Get up and stop crying.” He obeyed and knelt before her. He placed his head on her laps as he continued sobbing. Ayotunde was also in tears as she hugged Mrs. Taiwo’s waist.
Mrs. Taiwo took a deep breath as she patted both of them. They could pass for her kids.
Kevwe stamped her feet round the room. “She no dey go anywhere.” She kept repeating. Ayotunde sat at her father’s feet crying while Ayorinde stood by the door.
“You haven’t exactly said what the problem is. You keep repeating that she is not going anywhere. Don’t you want your daughter to be educated?” Ayo asked his wife.
“Edu-wetin? Wetin all your education do for you?” Kevwe sneered. “Since I don know you, which real work you get?”
“Mama?” Ayorinde shouted.
“Wetin? Why you dey call me? Na lie I talk?” She raised her hands to hush her son as she eyed him.
Ayo put his head in his hands and took a deep breath. Times like this, he wish he were dead.
“You no want make she go school, Mama? I sure say na you take the kolo wey she keep for behind curtain.” Ayorinde spat.
“Me? Ayorinde? You dey call me your mama; thief?
“How many of us dey dis house? I no say Papa no fit take am.”
As Kevwe stepped forward to slap her son, he held her hand and gave her a stern look.
Kevwe snatched her hand and took a step backward. She beat her chest. “Ayorinde, na me you dey take play. The thing wey your papa no fit do.”
“Enough!” Ayo shouted. “I have had enough of you Kevwe.” He looked at his son. “Which kolo are you talking about?
“Mama T usually paid us money every time we cleaned her house. Ayotunde was keeping most of the money in her kolo so that we could use it when she wanted to enter secondary school. We have searched the whole house and can’t find it anywhere. Mama T noticed Ayotunde must have been crying the day we went to clean her house and she asked us to tell her the truth. That was when she offered Ayotunde the scholarship in her school and also asked that we seek your permission that she lives with her.”
Ayo took a deep breath. “Hmm….she seems to be a very nice woman.”
“Yes, she is sir. Please let Ayotunde go and live with her so she can go to school.”
Ayo looked at his daughter. He wiped the tears on her cheeks and hugged her. He was going to miss her but he had to let her go. “You can go Ayotunde. I will miss you.”
“I will miss you too Papa but I will come home sometimes to visit you.”
“No, I want you to stay there and read your books. I will be fine here.”
“Thank you Papa.” Ayotunde said as she started sobbing again.
“Thank you sir.” Ayorinde said.
“Ayo, Ayo, no try me oh. I dey tell you. No try me oh.” Kevwe shouted as she pointed towards her husband.
Ayotunde looked at her father’s face.
“Don’t worry yourself. Let your brother help you pack your things.” Ayo concluded.
The next morning, Ayotunde, Ayorinde and their father set out early to Mrs. Taiwo’s house. As Mrs. Taiwo opened the gate for them, she scolded the children. “You shouldn’t have brought your father, I would have come to your house.” She looked at Ayo. “I’m sorry the kids made you go through the stress to get here.”
Ayo did a half-prostrate. “It is not stress ma. Thank you very much ma. I am very grateful.”
“Oh, it is fine. I take them as my kids.” She said as she led him into the house; Ayotunde and Ayorinde already ahead of them.
“Please sit down.” She said as she pointed to a couch. “What can I offer you?”
“Nothing ma. I am fine. I just wanted to escort them here, that’s all.”
“Are you sure you don’t want me to make a quick breakfast?”
“No ma.” Ayo said standing up. “I should take my leave now. I also need to get to work.”
“Okay then. If you say so, let me get the children. They must be in the kitchen.”
Ayo opened his mouth to say something but Mrs. Taiwo had already turned her back and disappeared into a corner of the house.
He wondered how his children met such a kind woman and was surprised she mentioned that they were already in the kitchen. Cooking, cleaning or eating? He looked round the living room. There was a picture of Mrs. Taiwo and a man with a teenage girl. They all had smiles on their faces and were well dressed. He assumed the man was probably her husband.
He looked towards the credenza and saw another picture of the girl; this time in a University matriculation gown. Mrs. Taiwo was all smiles as she stood beside her but the man was absent.
Ayorinde and Ayotunde walked into the living room. “You are ready to leave Papa?” Ayotunde asked.
“Yes, I need to go to work.”
“Okay Papa.” Ayorinde said as he opened the door to let them out. When they got out, Ayorinde took out a brown envelope from his pocket and handed it to his father. “Mama T said I should give this to you.”
Ayo opened his mouth in shock. “Ah! God bless this woman. Her children and children’s children will never know lack. The eyes of the enemy will never find them.”
“Amen!” The children chorused.
Ayorinde opened the gate for his father and let him out.
Ayo looked back at his children. “You children are the only source of joy I have. Both of you give me a reason to continue to live. Ayotunde, don’t let your guardian down. Please make her proud.”
“I will Papa.” Ayotunde said as she waved to her father.
She wiped a tear from her eyes as she walked back towards the house. Ayorinde stopped her and looked at her. “I know you will make Mama T and Papa proud. I trust you.” He said as he pulled her into an embrace.
Mrs. Taiwo stood at her bedside window looking at the two children and wiped a tear from her eyes.
The story continues…