I listened with a heavy heart as Mama and Papa quarrelled. They rained abusive words on each other as I washed the plates I had just used to eat. I love my family, but coming home from school everyday was often a nightmare. My parents reminded me of how wretched we were, whenever they shouted on each other.
"Stupid man! When you dey give me the belle, you been no know? Now you no fit allow me hear word because I give Erinma food. I do bad thing? Children no go eat to grow again?"
Mama's words sent shivers down my spines. Papa was busy opening the pots in a corner of the room in the batcher that served as our home. I could hear the sounds of the pots and other cooking utensils. Papa was furious.
"Look, woman, give me food make I eat. You dey blame me say when I give you the belle.. eh? Na two of us do am together. Now you dey blame me. Junior dey, Bomboy dey, Favour dey, Obioma dey, Emma dey and you still dey blame me. No be you carry all of them inside this your bele?" Papa said, pointing at Mama's tummy.
I could here our neighbours chuckling. I wished Junior was in the house, he had a way of shouting down my parents whenever they started their tantrums. But he had gone to the car wash. Bomboy's style was to keep hitting the corrugated iron sheets that formed the wall of our home, the noise often surpassed the noise Papa and Mama made and it forces them to shut up. But he had gone to hawk sachet water.
Obioma and Favour were obviously playing at the borehole. Their cry could have helped to quieten the warlords if they were at home. Here was I, alone in this madness. It makes me want to cry. How I wish I could wail aloud like Obioma and Favour did.
"What kind of father are you? You are angry because your daughter that just came back from school ate the last food remaining in the house. Papa Junior, you see your life!"
"You dey blow grammar for me eh! You be my wife. You suppose feed me. Look if I die, who go take care of these children?"
Mama laughed in mockery and booed Papa. Everyone knew she contributed more to the family's upkeep. I hated Papa that moment because he cared less about us and yet he was trying to say that he was indispensable. I could feel tears running down from my eyes.
"Look this woman, you have provoked me o! I go, I go, I go..!" Papa stuttered, raising his right arm as if he was going to hit Mama.
"Do your worst!" Mama shouted, "If anything happen to me, you go rush me to hospital." Mama's words obviously froze Papa as he brought down his arm.
Papa felt defenceless and stormed out of the room while Mama stood at the door cursing him. She was in a rage. Her wrapper was loosely tied around her protruding tummy. Her hair was unkempt and her complexion had changed. And I shook in horror as it dawned on me again that in a few weeks we would have another member of the family. Papa had never hid his desire to name the baby Goodluck, whether it was going to be a boy or a girl, when it eventually came.
Papa forgot to mention Ada in his roll call when he scolded Mama. Ada, fourteen, was my immediate elder sister and the oldest in the family. She was taken to Enugu to live with a family that used to attend our church here, before they were transferred. The last time she visited us, she was looking healthy and spoke good English. Almost all my clothes were handed down to me from her.
Her mistress showers her with gifts. I wish I could be like her even though she complained that she worked when the other children in the family were sleeping, I do not mind. I want to leave this hell of a family. But Mama said she needed a girl around, because Obioma and Favour were still too young to help with the house chores.
If not for their, stubbornness, Junior and Bomboy would have been in the city now. Junior could not cope in the last two homes he was taken to. As much as I wish a better life for Junior, I am still thankful to have him around because he gives me money for some of my schooling needs from the money he makes at the car wash. He is no longer interested in schooling. Bomboy is yet to start schooling as he helps Mama in sachet water trade.
I keep hoping for things to get better but I wonder if it would ever be. Now Mama is pregnant again. I can only pray that baby Goodluck will bring us good things when he comes.