My story is a lesson. It is a tragedy. It is comical. It is a voice of hope. My story is pain and love, beauty and ashes, tears and laughter. My story is me and I am Nnenna.
I sang as I cleaned the house. As soon as I was done, I took my bath, dressed up then shut the doors. I was yet to tell mum about my job, she would probably start crying and insist it wasn’t necessary since I was just nine years old.
Mrs. Mama, the woman I worked for owned a bar and hotel where men came to drink, eat pepper soup and sleep with prostitutes. Thankfully, my services were never required at the bar. She had a mansion where she lived with her nine years old daughter, Chinelo. My duties included cleaning the house. I was cleaning the shelves in the sitting room when Chinelo strutted in, “What’s your name again?” She asked with her nose in the air.
I smiled. I liked Chinelo. She was really beautiful and her long hair were nice to gaze upon. “My name is Nnenna.”
She smiled without warmth, “Your clothes really are ugly, you should get new ones and why’s your hair so short? You could pass for a boy.”
I opened my mouth to speak but no words came to mind so I closed it.
Chinelo looked at the floor, ” Have you mopped the floor?”
I smiled, proud of my cleaning skills, for the floor shone, “Yes”
Chinelo hissed, staring daggers. “You idiot! Is this how to mop?” Quickly, she went to the bathroom, came out with a bucket of water and poured it on the floor then smiled with a wicked relish. “Clean it again. When you’re done, inform me so I’ll inspect your work before you go.”
I trembled. “Yes ma”
By the time, I finished cleaning the house, I was utterly exhausted. I got home to meet a worried mum, standing with hands akimbo. “And where are you coming from, young lady?”
“I’m sorry mummy.”
Her eyes narrowed, “For?”
“I got a job.”
“You what! You’re only nine”
“I know but its really easy and with dad in jail, we need the extra money plus I’m on holiday.”
“Your father would not like this.”
Mum thought for a while then spoke again, “What kind of job is it?”
“I clean Mrs. Mama’s home for N2000 a month.”
“I don’t want you going to the bar, okay.”
Mum drew her close and hugged her.
Everyday, Nnenna put up with Chinelo’s insensitivity while she silently worked.
Chinelo didn’t know why she hated Nnenna so much. There was something about her. “If you continue with this lazy attitude, you’ll only receive 50% of your salary.”
Nnenna’s head came up as her eyes brimmed with tears. She and her mum had already calculated how the money would be spent: foodstuffs, roof repairs so that when it rained their home wouldn’t be soaked. Theirs was an old home built by grandpa. “Please, you can’t do this. My mother needs this money.”
“I can and I will except you do what I say.”
Nnenna quickly dried her eyes and got up. Tell me what you want and I’ll do it. I can mop the entire house again if you want.”
Chinelo simpered. “Not this time. You will go to my mother’s bar and tell her I’m sick.”
“But that would be a lie and I already promised my mum, I wouldn’t go to the bar.’
” Why? Because you feel you’re pure? Well, its either you go now or you kiss your entire salary goodbye.”
While contemplating what to do, Chinelo stated coughing. Afraid, Nnenna ran all the way to the bar. Mrs. Mama came along with her. They got home to meet Chinelo watching TV. Mrs. Mama’s face became contorted with anger. Uncertain, Nnenna shifted backwards, “Ma, I’ve done nothing wrong.”
“Shut up, you stupid girl”. Turning to Chinelo, she softened, ” My princess, what is it?”
‘Mum, the N5000 you gave me this morning is missing so I sent her to call you.
Mrs.Mama rounded up on Nnenna, “Where’s your bag, girl? If I find the money there, you’ll spend the rest of your life in prison like your father.”
The hair on Nnenna’s neck stood, ‘I am not a thief”
Mrs. Mama ignored her and grabbed her polythelene bag where she kept her house key, and the ugwu leaves she plucked by the roadside. She poured its content on the floor and behold, there lay the N5000. Nnenna’s mouth fell open in confusion.
Mrs.Mama smirked. “Well, you are your father’s daughter.”
As tears trickled down Nnenna’s face, Chinelo smiled behind her mother’s back.
Funny how one person’s pain can be another’s gain.
Check back for the continuation of Nnenna’s story Next Week (31/03/2018).