Your Brief Bio:
Uche Osita is a graduate of law from the University of Nigeria. He was the president of the Nwokike Literary Club UNN and has published his work on several platforms, including Kalahari Review and African Writer.
Tweet-Style Story Summary:
A 12-year-old girl loses her mother and subsequently goes into depression, occasioned by the imperious treatment she receives from her stepmother. She finds succor in a priest and her diary, but she may never find out why her father chose to remarry barely a year after her mother’s death.
Golden rays of Sunlight passed through the stained glass of St Gregory Parish, Enugu on a cold September morning. On a kneeler, beside a wooden cubicle was a 12 year old girl. There was absolute quiet, except for the chucking sound of Yusuf working his shears on the overgrown hedges in the church premises and the indistinct whisper of the little girl to the man in the cubicle.
"Father bless me for I have sinned against you, my last good confession was yesterday. I have sinned before heaven and earth, and my sins grow heavy on me and burden my heart. I come forward this day to ask for God's forgiveness and these are my sins.”
Father Patrick frowned, he recognized the voice and he knew what was coming next. He however made no attempt to stop her.
"I tried to forget Mama." A pause.
"I have been writing in my diary, and I wrote that Mama is a horrible person for leaving, for making me suffer so much.”
"I still hate Mama Dubem." Another pause.
"These are my sins.”
The priest sighed. He could feel, rather than hear her crying.
It was the 10th time that she had come forward to make the exact same confession. And he had tried to talk her out of her grief. He had told her that the true pathway to peace was through forgiveness, that Mama probably hurt her by dying, but that she should forgive her.
After the confession, the priest came out hurriedly to meet Ann before she skipped off to God knows where.
“Ann!” He called as she crossed the wooden door at the end of the Central Isle.
"How are you today?"
"I am fine father."
"How is your father?"
"He is very well, father."
"And your Stepmother?"
"She is fine." She said finally.
He laid a hand on her head, she looked up.
"I hope to see you tomorrow after morning mass, I have a story I will like to share with you." Her face brightened.
Alright then, send my regards to your father.
"I will father."
11th September, 2010
The world was pretty and colorful, full of love and peace. There was laughter, and there was joy. Then, all I felt like doing was laugh and smile. To take in as much as I could of the bliss all around me. Mama was in the centre, dishing out dishes of love like a goddess of festivity and stirring and stirring the deep broth of happiness. Papa was a jolly partaker, just as I, in the times before there was darkness.
I want Mama back. Even though right now I don't know how I feel about her, but if she were here it will all be alright. I wish sometimes I was there, on that day Papa and Mama went to visit Aunt Amaka. Maybe she would still be here.
I wish I was there when the accident happened, when Papa somehow came out alive and left Mama behind, to die.
I see her everywhere, in my dreams, in the faces of people I see in the street, on the face of my teachers and in the mirror when I go to the bathroom. Am I wrong to want her back? Am I wrong to wish that the last thing I told her was not that I hate her, for not letting me come? Does God really care? Father Patrick promised he loved me. Did he love me enough and yet let Mama die? Did I do something so wrong, this had to be my punishment?
I wish I have been dreaming since last year. That Mama Dubem, Dubem and Kenneth are not real and that Papa has not changed.
Ann flipped a page of her text book idly. Her mind was wandering, from school to the loads of chores Mama Dubem had given her and the fact that the boys got to sit around and watch TV while she did their laundry, cleaned the house and did the dishes. She flipped the second page, something about calligraphy and many artistic letters that she was supposed to imitate in the next class.
She sighed and closed the book. She then pulled out her diary from underneath her pillow. She went to the door and peeped to be sure no one was coming, then she settled down to write.
September 15th ,2010
Today is the day Mama died a year ago.
I remember the beeping sound of the machines I pleaded with to keep Mama alive. They kept their words for 2 months, though she never actually woke up. I remember that Papa was not his cheery old self. That his clothes were ruffled and because he was always in the hospital, praying and holding Mama's hand, he exuded a stale sweaty odor that made the nurse that was assigned to Mama cringe her nose whenever she saw him, disgust written all over her face. I recall how dispirited Papa was, when the Machine betrayed us, and stopped beeping. How lifeless Papa looked kneeling at Mama’s bedside, too astounded, too surprised to cry.
Father Patrick sat across the room from Ann. She was holding her knees and watching him expectantly.
“How was your night, hope you slept well?”
“No bad dreams?”
“No father.” He raised an eye brow. “No bad dreams.” she insisted. She had complained of bad dreams in the past, dreams in which she was been pursued by a faceless person.
“Ok. So, today I want to tell you a personal story.”
“Of course you know I was a boy once, as young as you?” She nodded twice.
“When I was young, nine years to be precise, I lost my father.”
There was silence.
“I am sorry for your loss father.”
“No need for that, you see it was all part of God's plan.”
She looked down, she didn’t seem to agree.
“Yes, it was.” He insisted. “If my father had not died then, my mother would never have sent me to live with Father Christian. I would never have become a priest.”
“So, God killed your father to make you his lifelong servant?”
“That is not what I said.”
“I meant that his dying was because it was his time, but God works in mysterious ways. It was that string of event that eventually led me here to this place, this day, here - with you.”
“Father, who decides when it is a person’s time to die?”
He thought about it for a while and then said;
“God ultimately does my dear.”
“Father did God decide that Mama had to die?”
“Good Lord, No! Why would you think such a thing? God is not a killer.”
“What I mean is that every time a person comes across a life threatening situation, if their purpose is not yet fulfilled, God often saves them. If not, he allows events to run their course.”
Then she spoke up;
“Father is that the story you wanted to tell me?”
“No, not at all.”
“Are you ready for the story?”
“Ok, here it goes.” He cleared his throat dramatically and she laughed, this made him smile.
“A long time ago when I was just in seminary, in my third year if I can recall correctly, there was a boy that every one hated because he was strong. He could bully and beat up anyone who got in his way and he was often in a lot of trouble because of his behavior. We used to call him bulldozer. He had earned the nick name after he had been accosted by a senior seminarian during assembly for flying out his shirt. He had continued to walk forward even though he was been called, to go to the back and await punishment. When the seminarian accosted him and attempted to force him to the back as instructed. He then thrust his leg behind the seminarian and tackled him to the ground. He was Bull dozer ever since. He had bull dozed the formidable seminarian to the ground. As was customary, when the session ended we were instructed to write the names of people we felt were no longer fit for the program, and as was expected, we all wrote his name. But in the night of the last day of the term before vacation, the rector’s house was set ablaze by unidentified persons. No one was brave enough to try and save him. Seminarians were busy rallying students about to fetch water to quench the thirsty fire, Bull dozer however, ran straight into the burning house and came out some minutes later with the unconscious body of the rector. Today, Bull dozer is a priest, just like me”
Her eyes widened in amazement.
“Now, what lesson did you learn from this story.”
“That bad people can be good”
“Well, yes and?”
“That sometimes, some things need to happen for the good in people to come out.”
“No! That is not it.”
“Do you want to try again?”
“Are you sure?” He said looking in the direction of the bowel of sweets he always kept for the occasion.
The lesson is forgiveness. Bulldozer was already on his way out of the school. He was not going to return for the next session. He was done with the seminary and it was the rector that sanctioned it. But when the rector was in danger, Bull dozer came to the rescue. If he had not forgiven earlier, he would never have been moved to help at all.
But there is also something else I must tell you
“Do you want to know what it is?”
“Do you remember the part in the bible that says; love your neighbor as yourself.”
“Good, very good.”
“Forgiveness also works the same way.”
“If you carry anger or hatred in you, your heart never truly knows peace. But when you forgive those who have offended you, your heart is freed and the burden of hatred and anger is gone. But sometimes, we start to feel bad for having not forgiven all those times. It brings sadness. For instance, a father who is angry with his son and later forgives and reconciles with him is often sad that he held unto that anger for so long. Even if he has eventually forgiven his son, he did not forgive himself. It is therefore important that as we forgive others, we should also learn to forgive ourselves and accept the things we cannot change.”
Ann came home one evening to see her diary on the floor of the living room. Dubem and Kenneth were still both watching Tv. They didn’t even hear her come in.
“Ann!” Mama Dubem shouted.
“Ann!” She shouted again, before Ann replied.
“You are back, good. Here” She said, giving her some money. “Run downstairs and buy maggi cubes from Mama Kosy.”
By the time Ann came back, she could not find her diary.
“Dubem!” She shouted to draw his attention. “Where is my diary?”
"How am I supposed to know he retorted, slightly irritated."
"I saw it on the floor when I came in."
"Then get it from there then."
"Did you hear me, I said I saw it on the floor. How did it get there?"
“How am I supposed to know?!” He said, this time loud enough to attract the attention of his mother
“Aunty” She started when the woman demanded an explanation. She never called her Mother or anything of the sorts.
“I can’t find my diary.”
“Please, I can’t find my diary”
“So because you can’t find your wretched book we can’t have peace in this house again.”
“It was in my room when I left, but when I came back it was in the living room, on the floor.”
“And so what.”
“After I came back from the running the errand you sent me on, I came back and now I can’t find it.”
“I really couldn’t care less about your suspicious diary. All I know is that you will not disturb my peace in this house over some nonsense diary.”
Silence, even the TV seemed to have taken the cue.
“Do you hear me?”
“Now go and get a broom and sweep this house. Your father is about to come home and God knows he hates an untidy house.”
1st November, 2010
Maybe Father Patrick does not understand. How do you forgive a person that does not want to be forgiven?
Ann was sitting at her table writing. She had found the diary after three uneventful weeks in a pile of laundry in Dubem’s room. At the time she had felt many things; anger, pain and relief but now, she was simply grateful. Papa had been in the room earlier, he had complained of being called by Mrs. Pet, Ann’s form teacher and told that she was performing poorly, in comparison to last year. He had taken one look at her diary and started; that spent all her time writing on it than studying and how much of a bad daughter she was becoming.
She had not been able to concentrate since he left. Each time she opened her books; the pages swam into one another, and often turned a bright creamy colour – the colour of her mother’s coffin. She only ever read after she had written on the diary to her satisfaction and there was no emotion left to tell. She ever so wished the diary would not ever go missing again. And Seeing Papa yell at her like that reminded her of the things she could not have, an understanding mother that took time to find out what the problem was before laying blames.
In the evening, she went for choir practice at St Gregory. Father Patrick had finally convinced her that she could serve God better that way, and that he who sings well, prayed twice. At first it was a drag having to learn solfa notes that sounded like a bunch of organized noise. With time , she came to enjoy the labour of learning the notes, in other to get the songs right, with a conscious musical precision. She found that each time she sang, a part of her was lifted and united with God. Her smile grew wider and her demeanor brightened.
Mama Dubem forbade her ever sing in the house, as though to ensure that the gloom she escaped every Monday and Thursday evening still remained. She would later tell Father Patrick about it and he would tell her that happiness was not something people could give and take, that only a person could decide whether or not to he wanted be happy.
16th May 2010
Papa is getting married. I have no say in this but I know this is a betrayal to Mama. I cannot understand how Papa intends to replace her. I have refused to go along with it, even though he has come to tell me and introduce me to the new wife. The wife has two children. Kenneth, a six year old boy and his brother Dubem, aged seven. They look like we will never get along. I wish Papa had other siblings, I would have told him I want to stay with one of them. I am stuck; I have nowhere to go, no choice, no hope. I have not even been given enough time to mourn Mama. Papa has said he is only doing it for me, but I don’t understand him. I don’t believe him. This is going to create a rift between us, I do not know whether I will ever forgive him for this.
Father Patrick drove silently to Parklane hospital. He had earlier received a call from Ann; she had said her father was in the hospital and that he had been involved in an accident. He was not used to running to the aid of every single person that called in the middle of the night, but this was Ann and her father’s life was in possible danger. They last saw each other just this evening, right before choir rehearsal. And as he drove, he tried to recollect exactly what she had said. He recalled her saying, that she was finally ready to forgive Papa. It came as a surprise to him; he had always known how strongly she resented her father for marrying Mama Dubem. But then she had explained that Papa had come very early this morning and sat at her bedside as she slept. When she had woken, she was shocked to see him but he had said he had something he had to tell her. He recalled how she couldn’t continue because she kept crying in between words. He had told her to take her time; that she didn’t have to tell him then. She had however motioned to her diary, a little red book she seemed to carry everywhere. He had been hesitant, a diary was thoroughly personal. He even suspected an entry describing him as a glorified servant, with inferiority complex incapable of logical reasoning unconnected with faith. She had however turned some pages in the book and stopped at one and given him to read. It read;
1st December 2010,
Papa came today and sat on my bed as I slept. I know this because when I woke up he was there staring down at me. I was confused. And when I greeted him, he barely nodded in reply. Annabel, he had called me. No one called me that since Mama’s death. In the times before her death, I remember being called Annabel for a treat, or a reminder that tomorrow was someone’s birthday, or to try on a new cloth, or any other good thing possible. Always something good and it was always Mama. He told me that he loved me. He said that he was sorry for everything that happened and that he wished he had told me then, but he was too consumed in his grief that he never really came around to doing that. He said that he loved Mama very much and would have done anything in his power to save her. I was mad at him for saying that. How could he say that, how could he, when all he had done was stay silent and tell me that he was going to marry Mama Dubem. But he told me that when Mama was in comatose, that he was in dire need of money. That after he sold his car and his properties, we still didn’t have enough money to pay for Mama’s hospital bills. He was desperate, the doctor threatened to pull the plug and we were up to our neck in debts. That was when Mama Dubem had come into the picture; she had come bearing Greek gifts. She was Papa’s one time love in the past and was eager to help. She paid every bill that came afterwards, down to the day Mama died.
As he drove, he hoped that Ann’s father lived, after what had happened, he was certain if he didn’t she may in the end never forgive herself.
1st December, 2010
I do not know at this point exactly how am feeling. I have been sitting silently in this room beside Papa and holding his hands, urging him to live – for me.
Father Patrick, Mama Dubem and her children are all here. And their presence gives his silence a certain finality.
I wish I had more time before it was time for school this morning to tell Papa how I felt, how trapped I was in my grief, and how sad I had felt when streaks of happiness seeped into my being – betraying Mama’s memory. I wish I had told him this morning how much I loved him; of the deep seated emotions I have harbored these past few months, of how difficult it was for me, to want to cry but know that it was futile, of running into a void that seemed to harness and amplify all the emotions I detested, of hope and of despair. I wish I had known all these while, that he did what he could and understood his sacrifice.
And even though I am not certain of many things, I am certain of just one thing; I will wait.