As the sun glistened in the afternoon sky, Sale walked into his wife’s eating place with a young maiden carrying a few bundles of clothing. Omolara, the eldest of nine children rushed out to greet her father and his guest at the same time looking curiously at this ‘Aunty’ she had never seen before.
Her father briefly introduced her as the new maid whom he brought to help out at the eating place. His wife Bola humbly argued that she already had enough help from her six daughters and three sons. Besides, there wasn’t enough room to accommodate an extra person in their two-bedroom apartment.
Her plea fell on deaf ears. It wasn’t until few months after, when Bola called her children for a meeting that Omolara learnt the truth… the maid was her father’s mistress. He had gotten her pregnant and brought her into their household under the pretext of helping out at the eating place. She was already two months pregnant before she came to live with them, so her mother was forced to accept this woman as a co-wife.
Omolara’s world turned dark. She was used to seeing her parents chatting lovingly together. She was used to that close-knit family unit where she trusted her parents and siblings. For some uncanny reason, she could never bring herself to accept or trust her stepmother and she was slowly beginning to resent her father for his treachery. From the loving, happy child that she was, Omolara became a withdrawn, easily agitated child. At any slight provocation, she and her siblings would beat up their stepmother. To say the least, peace became a luxury in that home.
Four months after the unpleasant announcement of a stepmother, her mother, Bola became ill. The illness defied medical intervention. Just when it seemed like she was on the road to recovery, she would relapse into a state that was worse off. Eleven-year-old Omolara could not help but feel that her stepmother had a hand in it.
She remembered her mother had told her about how her grandmother died. She was poisoned by her co-wife. She vowed that the same would never happen to her mother. Each time Omolara warned her mother to be wary of eating her co-wife’s food, she would shoo the poor girl off; telling her the young woman wasn’t capable of poisoning anyone.
One day, Omolara visited her mother in the hospital after school. She had suffered yet another relapse and was on admission at a hospital in Ikeja. She met her stepmother there, who had also come to visit. Bola was very weak and hungry, she could hardly talk. The other woman had brought cooked food in a container and was urging Bola to eat the food. Omolara insisted that the woman should have a taste of the food first before giving her mother to eat, but the woman refused.
Her step-mother flared up calling Omolara an ungrateful little brat who did not appreciate her efforts at caring for her ailing mother. At this point, Bola pleaded with her daughter not to make any trouble that she trusted her mate and was willing to eat the food. Omolara would not listen. She seized her stepmother by the neck and demanded she tasted the food first. As she was causing a scene, the nurses reprimanded her, but she yelled even harder, calling her stepmother a murderer.
The doctor on duty was called in to calm the situation. Dr. Segun was not happy that a little girl such as Omolara would make such assumptions. The little girl vehemently stood her ground, insisting that her mother contracted this strange illness soon after her stepmother had moved in to live with them. Dr Segun then told the woman to taste the food, if she actually was the one who had prepared it.
The woman started to cry and lament, asking if it was a crime to prepare food for a sick co-wife. Exasperated, the doctor sent for the laboratory technician to take the food to the lab for poison testing. He then ordered Omolara and her stepmother into his office to wait for the result.
The stepmother tailed behind the small party and snuck out of the hospital. Omolara caught up with her just in time as she was about to board a motorbike to escape. She grabbed her by the neck and shouted “Ole! Ole!” In Lagos, you can imagine what that means! A small crowd gather and Omolara narrated her suspicion to them and why she felt her stepmother was escaping. The crowd seized the woman and took her right back into the hospital.
The lab result was out. The food was definitely poisoned! The woman broke down confessing that she did it to get the older wife “out of the way”. The poison she administered was to work very slowly so that it could never be traced back to her while killing her co-wife eventually. She also confessed that the poison of that day was much stronger because she was getting impatient at the slow rate at which her senior wife was dying.
Dr Segun sent for the police and told Omolara to fetch her father. Sale could not believe his eyes and ears when he found out what his younger wife had done. He pleaded with the police who had kept her in custody, claiming it was a domestic issue and would be settled accordingly. He paid her bail and brought her home.
A family meeting was called between Sale’s, Bola’s and the woman’s family. It was an uproar. Bola’s family threatened that if anything happened to their daughter, heads would roll. Sale, ridden with the guilt of having brought this calamity on his wife Bola, did everything to make her well again. He emptied his savings, and then sold off his property one after the other. Alas, it was too late. The poison had eaten deep into Omolara’s mother.
Impoverished and watching his wife’s life ebb slowly, he became stricken with grief, developed high blood pressure and died before his wife. On his death bed, he admitted to Omolara that he had brought this calamity upon his family. He begged her as his eldest child for forgiveness, but she could not find a place in her heart to forgive her own father.
It was the custom of her people to have the eldest child sit alone beside the corpse of her father while it lay in state so as to have some time alone before others came in. She refused to do it and also refused to perform the final dust to dust rites despite pleas from family members. The stepmother seeing that Sale had died ran away with her three children even before her husband was buried. Two months later, Bola died. Omolara was devastated. At the age of seventeen, she had become an orphan, with no job, no money and no inheritance to care for her eight younger siblings. She had to drop out of school and did menial jobs to care for her younger ones.
Today, 36 year old Omolara, recalls those years of hardship with pain. She says she can never forget how easy it was for a solid relationship to crumble at the simple introduction of a strange woman. She counts her gain in her husband whom she met at eighteen. He became her pillar and educated her and her siblings single-handed. His loving and kind nature assures her that she has seen the last of a husband’s selfishness.
When asked if she had the opportunity to go back in time, would she forgive her father? She replied that if she had the opportunity, she would bring her father out from his grave and kill him again. As for her stepmother, she has remained a phantom; because nobody has seen her ever since. Omolara says if she ever runs into her again, she would kill her.
Her broken memories are further aggravated by the burden of un-forgiveness.
Written By: Peace Ben Williams
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Broken Bridge Of Memories 2: Omolara’s Story ©2013
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