The day was gradually breaking as Martins stood beside Deji who sat down on the pavement looking tired after one of the longest two hours of their lives. If the circumstances were different, he probably would have laughed at the soot that covered some parts of his face but there was nothing funny about the situation. Some of the women wailed while the men held their head in despair. Thankfully, no life had been lost but he couldn’t say the same for their properties. They had managed to salvage what they could but ‘the fire had spread quickly considering the house was old and hadn’t gone through any major maintenance for years. A grotesque shape of the house was what was left and they either sat or stood around it in despair, tired from putting out the fire.
The gathering was a solemn one and nobody said a word, except a few people from neighboring compounds who came around to commiserate with them. They were each lost in their thoughts, probably thinking of what to do next. It seemed speaking would usher them into the reality they now faced: they were homeless, so they kept quiet, not willing to deal with the truth just yet even though it stared them in the face. Martins however was somewhat insulated from the shock of being rendered homeless suddenly since he was already threatened by the possibility. Now he didn’t have a choice than to look for a place to stay. He heaved a deep sigh wondering how he was going to raise the money especially in so short a time. His thoughts were interrupted by the cute innocent voice of Fatimoh, Mama Ruka’s last child who sat beside her mother, her arms on her laps.
“Mami, ebi n pa mi!”
Everyone turned to look in their direction, waiting for Mama Ruka’s response. Although Martins wasn’t very proficient at speaking Yoruba, he had an ear for the language. The girl had simply told her mother she was hungry. He watched as the cute little child with chubby cheeks stared up at her mother, waiting for her to respond. Unfortunately, Mama Ruka was too consumed with grief to attend to her daughter’s needs. They had lost virtually everything and were left with only the clothes on their back, a travelling box containing only God knows what and the generator on which her husband sat on.
“Mami, ebi n pa mi!” Fatimoh prodded again, her brows furrowed with what he would call a frown if she were an adult. Since she was a little child, it looked like she wanted to cry.
Mama Ruka burst into tears, activating her daughter’s tear gland as well. Fatimoh wailed suddenly, frightened by her mother’s reaction. A neighbor quickly picked up the girl and pacified her but it was to no avail. The girl kept weeping and the more she wept, the more Mama Ruka wept. The neighbor decided to take her home and feed her, suggesting that the familiar faces of her siblings and other children who had been moved away from the compound during the fire outbreak would also have a calming effect on her.
Although Mama Ruka’s response was alarming, it was understandable. How did she begin to explain to her little baby that they had no food, that things would most likely be difficult for a while, that life as they knew it would change until they were able to get back on their feet? Children were supposed to be shielded from such things, having no worries or responsibilities but in an economy like Nigeria’s and in a world were nothing was fair, there was no avoiding it.
Matins sighed again, feeling sober from his thoughts and was about to sit down beside Deji when, Mama Nkiru stood up from where she sat and marched straight to Temisan who was being comforted by Comfort. As if watching an action movie, she pushed Comfort aside unceremoniously and landed Temisan a slap. It was Temisan’s cry of pain that loosened their immobility but before they could get to them, Mama Nkiru had landed the girl another slap and Temisan had reacted by grabbing her buba and biting her. Temisan’s teeth were still stuck in Mama Nkiru’s arm when they tried to separate the two women.
“Ye! Ye! Ye!” Mama Nkiru cried out in pain as they managed to pry Temisan off her.
“Do you want to bite her arm off?” Chris demanded in exasperation, glaring at Temisan
“Don’t look at me like that o! Don’t look at me like that!” Temisan stated in a defensive tone. You did not ask her why she slapped me?! Why would she slap me?! What did I do?” she cried out, venting at Mama Nkiru who was examining the mark she left on her arm. “I’m not Comfort that you think you can just beat o!” she addressed Mama Nkiru as she folded her arms across her chest in a defensive stance
“Are you not the one that started the fire?!” Mama Nkiru accused, her voice filled with anger and bitterness
“Who started the fire?!” They all turned at the sound of the Landlord’s voice as he stormed into the compound. “Ori iya mi o!” he stated as he stared at what was left of his house. “Who burnt down my house?” he demanded in anger as he stared at his tenants.
The BROUHAHA continues next week…
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