A Story Written by Oyekunle Lizzy Oyebola…
THE BENSON’S RESIDENCE
The coffee machine beeped to a halt and I moved over to the cabinet top to switch it off.
Zoe loved hot coffee whenever she came back from school no matter the hot weather and I always gave it to her- the apple of my eye!
Humming Joshua Bamiloye’s ‘there are forces against my soul’ song, I went into the store, picked up 5 pieces of big yellow plantain and came back into the kitchen.
‘I am gonna make my baby fresh sweet chips. My little baby’ I said aloud, smiling happily.
If you asked me what gave me joy to still remain in my unfortunate marriage to Zack, then, I would say it was my only child, Zoe! I loved and adored her!
As I started turning the almost brown chips in the frying pan, I heard the honks of Zoe’s school bus.
“My baby is here” I said aloud, moved to the window, drew the curtain and then I saw her as she stepped into the compound, looking as cute as always.
I quickly drained the first round of the chips and then introduced the other set into the hot, boiling oil.
“Hello mum, I am home” I heard her voice as she scampered into her room.
“Welcome my baby girl. How was school today?” I asked with a raised voice
“Cool” came her short response. She must be very tired!
“Make sure you pray o” I shouted again
“Ok mum” she replied softly.
Few minutes later, she came into the kitchen in a beautiful white camisole and a short blue corduroy skirt and my eyes widened as I saw her.
“Zoe! Why would you wear something clean when you have not even had your bath, huh!” I exclaimed.
She looked at me briefly, sauntered to the coffee machine, poured out some and sipped it without looking at me.
My ten year old Zoe would always behave like an adult!
But something is not right as whenever she looked at me briefly, she had something bothering her but I had told her severally that this could be very disrespectful.
“Zoe, isn’t it you I am talking to?” I asked her loudly and she looked up at me and smiled briefly.
“Your respect thing again shae? Ok mum, good afternoon. Howdy?” she said and looked into my face with a ‘Isn’t that enough’ look on her face. I saw the dark circles under her eyes and I gasped.
“Are you okay?” I asked and she looked away quickly.
“Is there something you are keeping away from me?” I asked but she did not reply and instead downed another cup of coffee. I looked on, amazed.
“Mum, it seems the plantain chips are burning”
she said and I turned quickly to the gas cooker, turned the knob and quickly used the colander to bring out the chips.
I served the chips inside a small salad bowl and Zoe came around to get it from me.
“Thank you mummy. You know I really do love you” she said as she walked out of the kitchen. I followed her intently
“And I love you so well too baby but you know my heart aches when you keep a secret no matter how little from me.”
“Mummy, you too like gist!” she said, giving me a half smile. I smiled too but it was short-lived.
“Is Mandy fighting you again?” I asked and she shook her head in the negative
“Ok, but she called you a proud girl again?”
“No mum, you know I already told you that I don’t give a damn what anybody calls me. I already told Mandy that if she calls herself my best friend and still tells me I am proud, it would all be over. I don’t condone that indiscipline and she has actually complied” she talked on, her gist mode activated.
I smiled appreciating the fact that she talked like an adult.
“But don’t do things that would make her…” I was saying when she cut me short
“Say I am proud shae? What have I been doing? Mum, see o, ‘Give me your assignment to dub’ and I said ‘I can’t give you’. ‘Follow me to watch the drama’ and I say ‘I am not going’. ‘Ok, come to my house on Saturday’ she said again ‘No I can’t come, that’s the day I read’. The conclusion was then ‘Zoe, you are proud!’ Judge those instances well mum, do they signify pride?” she asked, really gesticulating
“No dear. I appreciate the fact that at your age, you are able to say your mind without anyone affecting your decision. That is good. Clap for yourself” I said and she gave me a funny look and then chuckled
“Mum, who does that? Clap for myself at my age and marital status? No mum. I have outgrown that” she said as she chewed her chips. I tickled her and she started laughing vehemently
“That’s what your age mates still do so. You are still a kid my dear. Don’t say because you are in Jss2 at ten, you are a grown girl o.” I said and she laughed.
“Mum, don’t say that jhur. I am a big girl o” she said again, winking at me.
God, can you just help me to train my own daughter well? I prayed silently. I dreaded the thought that I had failed as a mother.
“Zoe, can I ask you a question?” I asked and she nodded in the affirmative.
She dropped the salad dish on the glassy center table, sat close to me and placed her head on my laps. I rubbed her chin.
“Ask mum” she said
“Are you proud to be my daughter? If you are asked to choose another mother tomorrow…” I was saying when she cut me short, sitting up with such alacrity that almost scared me.
“Mum, I will choose you!” she said, nodding continuously. I looked on at her with my mouth suspended
“Mum, there are lots of things many of my friends can’t tell their own mother because it is either they beat them blue black or they take them to church for deliverance but for you, I can tell you anything. I can run towards you with poop smeared all over my body but you would still hug me and tell me with love ‘Daughter, you smell’. That kind of mother is rare. Mum, it would be you and you again a million years to come” she said and I was so pleased. I pulled her close to me and pecked her cheeks.
“I love you my daughter. Thank you for the encouragement” I said and she smiled
“Mum, never for once should you doubt your quality of good motherhood. You are good inside out” she said again as if to say she was the mother and I was the child! Zoe won’t kill me with laughter!
“Ok ma” I responded and she smiled and placed her head on my laps again. I picked up the remote control and started flipping through the different channels
“Mum, there is something I want to ask you” she said and sat up again. I reduced the volume of the television to the barest minimum and she held my hands.