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BN Prose: Lesser Humans by Martha Edwards

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As I stood on a stool peeping out the window, I saw Aunty Katherine flanked by papa and mama on the bench at the back of the house. Mama was looking into Aunty Katherine’s face, while Papa was looking straight ahead. It was in this position that the decision concerning my life was taken. I heard mama ask: Sister Kate, you have three daughters, why do you need my daughter to come with you? Aunty Katherine replied: Mama Blessing, it is true I have three daughters, but all of them are in school. The last one is leaving for school too in the next two weeks. I need somebody to stay with me in the house – someone I can talk to and would help me do some house chores.

Mama asked aunty some more back and forth questions which she answered. Papa cleared his throat and spoke up: Katherine, you know I can take care of my family to the best of my ability. Even if I do not have in excess, I do not go around begging. I’m a comfortable man and I’m very content that way. The child you’re asking me to give you is my last child and a very precious one to me, she’ll forever remain my baby no matter how old she grows. I’m releasing her to you because of the relationship our families share. Please take good care of her.

Aunty responded: You have nothing to worry about. Thank you sir.
I packed my bag excitedly that night. In my heart I thought, no matter how much of everything I wanted was given to me by papa, Aunty would do better because she has more money. In fact, I couldn’t sleep.

We left for Auntie’s place early the next morning. The moment the car drove through the gate and I saw the beautiful house, I began to imagine how beautiful my life would be in it. My life would even be more beautiful than the house.

Auntie’s voice changed immediately we got into the house, and I thought it was the stress of the journey. I was told I’d be staying in a small, dark room – packed with stuff. I didn’t think too much of it; I only wondered why I wasn’t allowed to stay in the same room with Maria, Auntie’s daughter.

My first major surprise came that evening when Aunty asked me to go and prepare a pot of egusi soup. Everything you’ll need is either in the drawers, cupboards or refrigerator in the kitchen.

I was lost. Though I helped my Mama out in the kitchen, I had never had the responsibility of preparing a whole pot of soup. I concluded Aunty had forgotten I was only 10 years and a few months old. Maybe she forgot that it was her daughter Maria who was 17 years old.
I made the mistake of asking her if she was talking to me or to Maria. The question earned me a ‘clarifying dirty slap’ with the statement, you think I’ll send my precious daughter into that kitchen to have that heat spoil her skin? I had the bad luck of having a quick tongue, “am I not precious to you

This earned me a snarl; Who are you to be precious to me? Do I look like your mother? Go into that kitchen and prepare me dinner before I cut that tongue of yours and feed it to you.

Wondering how she was going to do that, I walked with resignation into the kitchen. Maria wasn’t going to join me, and I was getting no form of physical or moral support. That day, I successfully prepared independently my first pot of soup, and it didn’t taste so bad I must say.

After some days, I adjusted to the fact that my one decade and a few months old life had taken a new turn. I had to wake up at 5:30 to clean, scrub, wash and cook. I always wondered where the dirt came from considering we were just three in the house. I learnt to reduce the pace of my rather fast tongue so as to reduce the number of hits I’d get in a day. I was expected to know all and do all at my little age because I was from a managing family, while Maria was excused because she was from a wealthy family.

I got injured almost on a daily basis. Unfortunately, most of those injuries were at the same spot, reopening the ones already healing. I even got burnt “mistakenly” with a hot iron by Aunty because I “mistakenly” burnt her expensive lace material which I had already said I couldn’t iron. I began to grow lean.

Whenever my parents called, I was always unable to tell my predicament because Aunty was always there with that, ‘don’t try any rubbish’ look. I prayed earnestly for

Aunty bought me long clothes to cover up the scars, but the ones on my face could not be covered. People on the street always had a look of pity on their faces for me, like they knew what was going on in my house, but they never spoke up or reported to the authorities. One person asked me if I didn’t have other relatives I could live with. In my usual fast response mode, I told him I have parents. He didn’t believe me. He even said Aunty brought someone younger this time so she wouldn’t be able to run away. I was going to try to convince him that I had my Papa and Mama in my hometown, but then I remembered the drying saliva on the floor and that I was running out of time.
Visitors came all the time, but I never got to have any conversation with them; not like many of them were interested in a conversation with me. I was always expected to be covered from head to toe. I’m sure, if there was a way Aunty could have made me wear mask, she would have. There was a particular woman who always came visiting with another woman, I noticed she and Aunty were not best of friends, but she always made it a point to say hi or respond to my greeting.

One day when Aunty and the other women were engrossed in a conversation, she slipped into the kitchen and began to talk to me. At first I was too scared to reply because of auntie’s threat and how was I so sure she wouldn’t go back and report the whole conversation to her?
She told me she was a lawyer and an activist (though I didn’t know what an activist meant then), that I could talk to her. I realized she might be my only escape route from hell. I decided to take the risk and began to pour out everything. She told me she was going to help me. Some way somehow, Aunty found out and I got the beating of my life. I landed in a hospital.

The house I excitedly went to expecting a bright future became my darkest sunset. I hungered for the peace and quiet derived in all the paying and noise making in my house.

I heard Aunty was taken away by the police, but not before Aunty Lawyer made her provide for all my expenses. I saw my Mama and Papa’s face and tears began to flow down my cheeks. My Mama joined me, but my Papa was being a man.
Aunty Lawyer was saying what Auntie’s punishment would be, but I wasn’t listening; I was too happy just seeing my Mama and Papa.

Everyone could see the outer scars on my body, and wondered how someone could be so wicked to do such a thing to a child like me. But nobody, no one could see the scars in my heart, my mind, my soul and spirit at such a young age.

Shout out to all the people who still believe in George Orwell’s animal farm theory that “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than the others” thereby treating other people like trash; your day of reckoning is coming.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Belinda Pretorius

Martha Edward loves to read, write, disturb her friends and family members, watch movies and tackle challenges and she also loves music. She has a passion for motivating people. Facebook: Martha Edward, instagram: miz_edward, twitter: Ms_Eddie.

25 Comments

  1. Naija girl

    September 22, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    This is what happen in our society every single day. . . .
    I pray God dliver dose suffering 4rm dz kind of situation.
    Good job martha.

  2. Mocha

    September 22, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    This is certainly a nice message but I doubt it would qualify as a prose/story, more like a diary account of the writer’s personal experience (especially going by the moralistic closing paragraph). Also dear writer, good effort but a lot of it was poorly written. E.g “At first I was too scared to reply because of auntie’s threat and how was I so sure she wouldn’t go back and report the whole conversation to her?” The phrase “and how was I so sure” leaves a sour taste in the mouth and reeks of lazy writing.
    In all, well done and keep practicing.

    • aisha

      September 22, 2015 at 3:52 pm

      at least she still made us feel the pain the girl was going through,..please don’t come in here bringing other people writing skills down…some times its not about the grammatical writing, most times is how the writer captures the readers imagination

    • Nne Umu Boys

      September 22, 2015 at 5:23 pm

      Do you know what it means for something to leave a sour taste in the mouth?? no you don’t! you just wanted to use the phrase, well congratulations you have used it, here’s your medal well done!

  3. ify

    September 22, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Nice piece, keep it up.

  4. Priscy

    September 22, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Nice one….I wish we would all learn to treat others as humans
    The only girl my dad brought from the village to help decided after a year that she was going back to the village simply because i made sure she started from primary 3 even as she was insisting she wanted to go to JSS1. She was in primary 5 in the village but could not make a complete sentence. To her, she was too old to be in that class while her mates were in like 2 classes above her.

  5. Pink

    September 22, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    Nice one Martha. @Mocha, i’m sure you know there is something called constructive criticism. While i admit that the writer’s style was perhaps not the best, your criticism is way off. You do not get to tell someone that their writing ‘leaves a sour taste in the mouth and reeks of lazy writing’. That’s insultive to say the very least.; even if you are a professor or chimamanda Adichie herself. perhaps you need to go read up on how to give constructive criticism. I do not normally criticize people or trade words on social media but just thought to point that out to you as politely as i could.

  6. chizzy

    September 22, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    Lovely Write Up..

  7. Amy

    September 22, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    i love this . the last phrase from George Orwell’s animal farm really slayed it. i love it a lot.

  8. Anonymous

    September 22, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    This happened to me. I was 5 . . .

    • CRE

      September 22, 2015 at 6:20 pm

      @anonymous? I pray God blesses u with a forgiving Heart so u could forgive the people that caused u so much horror at such a young age…forgiving them not because of them but because of uu because that’s the only way u can be free to. Damn I can’t even imagine what u went through at just five….but I hope the horror is over. ?

  9. Ready

    September 22, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    Nice effort, particularly because there can never be too many articles about child abuse and wicked human beings.
    But this was obviously hurried writing. I believe that if you paid more attention to the descriptions, and let the story unfold at a less speedy pace, your piece would have a greater effect.

  10. Puzzles

    September 22, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    A former neighbor would make her house help eat any food that got rotten. Sometimes, she wouldn’t give the young girl food, so my family and other neighbors would sneak to give her food. Can’t imagine how/why a mother would treat another person’s daughter that way. I thanked God when I heard she had gone back to her family, and last I heard from her, she’s doing very well.

    All of you that treat little girls like animals, your day of reckoning is coming.

  11. Jescy

    September 22, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    A beautiful write-up. You have done so well!!
    “Whenever my parents called, I was always unable to tell my predicament because Aunty was always there with that, ‘don’t try any rubbish’ look. I prayed earnestly for….” I think there is supposed to be a continuation or???

  12. Software Dev

    September 22, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    How perfect a writer you must be.You coached Greek writers or you’re writing for Nigerian dramas?. I sincerely think you need a “read to understand” coaching first. That’ll help you big time.

  13. Software Dev

    September 22, 2015 at 8:09 pm

    I’m referring to you wise goddess Mocha

  14. Karima Adegoke

    September 22, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    I don’t mind her writing. Its the message. Same thing happened to me last year. The woman actually threw my things out on a monday night and locked herself inside. No where to go. Though I work but my father didn’t want me in Lagos so I had to be with someone he trusts. Don’t know if it was foolishness or sense that made me not to let my parents be in the know. I do everything for the younger son. Same boy who lived with us through out his secondary school. I was stranded, no where to go. Like africamagic movie starring mercy Johnson. Didn’t have friends around who I could stay with. Most were staying far to my workplace. Not a good experience. Imagine if it was a younger me. A ten year old me……..

  15. Helen'sweet

    September 22, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    babe good write up. am so loving diz piece. more Greece gal. n d critics hnmmmm am watching u oooo?????????

    • Darling

      September 23, 2015 at 4:39 am

      More “GREECE”?
      ???

  16. bea

    September 22, 2015 at 11:54 pm

    This poem by Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye echoes the same sentiment

    Atieno washes dishes,
    Atieno plucks the chicken,
    Atieno gets up early,
    Beds her sacks down in the kitchen,
    Atieno eight years old,
    Atieno yo.

    Since she is my sister’s child
    Atieno needs no pay.
    While she works my wife can sit
    Sewing every sunny day:
    With he earnings I support
    Atieno yo.

    Atieno’ sly and jealous,
    Bad example to the kids
    Since she minds them, like a schoolgirl
    Wants their dresses, shoes and beads,
    Atieno ten years old,
    Atieno yo.

    Now my wife has gone to study
    Atieno is less free.
    Don’t I keep her, school my own ones,
    Pay the party, union fee,
    All for progress! Arenâ•?t you grateful
    Atieno yo?

    Visitors need much attention,
    All the more when I work night.
    That girl spends too long at market.
    Who will teach her what is right?
    Atieno rising fourteen,
    Atieno yo.

    Atieno’s had a baby
    So we know that she is bad.
    Fifty fifty it may live
    And repeat the life she had
    Ending in post-partum bleeding,
    Atieno yo.

    Atieno’s soon replaced;
    Meat and sugar more than all
    She ate in such a narrow life
    Were lavished at her funeral.
    Atieno’s gone to glory,
    Atineo yo.

  17. Gloria

    September 23, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Nice…keep doing better.

  18. Bangybanty

    September 23, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    It’s a good write up. I hope this will positively impact pple in our society. Well done “Maputo”.

  19. bangybanty

    September 23, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    @mocha, dats too bad of u, not cool at all. Pls can I c ya own write up?

  20. Olamide

    September 27, 2015 at 6:08 am

    Wow,this is beautiful….Martha,so you have all this in you…Great piece…I know you would be better!

  21. Toye

    September 29, 2015 at 8:04 am

    Clarion call to all those involved in child abuse, especially the enlightened…the ‘housegirl’, ‘houseboy’ syndrome all over the place… We need a system and government that drives professionalism in home services… If we have professional and affordable drycleaning services, we should also have professional helps or maids without their self-esteem being trampled… The affluent intimidating and transferring aggression on these will have a re-think before misbehaving… Nice write-up Martha, thanks for giving the voiceless a voice. keep it up!

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