“If only I had known, I would have become a reverend sister,” Mrs. Omanukwue cried, millets of tears crumbling down her cheeks, unrestrained to the ends of her lips. She zipped her lips tighter to refrain them from slipping into her mouth. Those were not what she had bargained for. None of these had been part of her bargain. The Vendor of life was giving her goods other than hers. Products she would never had priced, purchased and expected. There was inarguably an issue somewhere. The vendor must have had mis-packaged her goods. Or the mailmen misplaced them with those of another. But these were certainly not hers. Kasom wasn’t hers. Not in the complexion, in the physical, in the brains, his stubbornness, her calmness, everything.

“Obikasom is certainly not mine.” But deep down somewhere strange but real, in the inner recesses, she knew this was not true. Kasom was hers. The contrary convictions, only figments the imagination had helped her build to cushion the glaringly scaring reality of failure – borne out of a very successful environment.

Her environment was a successful one. Or one that certainly fulfilled her. Thirty-three. Tall. Elegant. Statuesque. Fair. Almond-faced. Brilliant. Curvy. Buxom. Medical doctor. Properties to her name. Churchy. Three kids. And her signature dress of decent blouse with ankle-length skirt and a long slit. Married to the loveliest husband. Sochima, her other half.

Mrs. Omanukwue’s head was pounding. Triggering and dragging her towards severe lengths of pain. She felt heavy. Full of weight. Yet, not the strength. Strength, she could understand, since her other half was absent. Sochima, three million miles on a business trip. She had not told him of it. It had been all under her control. She was always in control of things. A strong woman. The feminine flair. Ado. But things changed.

Three days past, she was in the social media, threatening, raging, and fuming. For the failed education system. For the crisis of trust. For the devouring of faith with the most reckless of abandon and embrace of impunity. The maltreatment of students. Abuse of children, even in the so called mission schools – the supposed Sierra Leone of slavery, a place of refuge against the impinging doom.

So yes, the reporter was right. Mission schools have failed. Boarding schools are breeding homes of crime and dysfunctional behaviours. Lesbianism. Homosexualism, the one which they had just taught her son, then turned around to throw him out like a pest.

Such grave scandal. We have to close them down!

She held her phone at hand. She always does, minding the nature of her work. Now, her hands were fidgety. Her phone in sight but dreadful. She would not be logging into Facebook today or soonest. She was ashamed. Her posts and comments would taunt her. They already did, but milder.

Tears poured out her eyes more freely now. She would not mind that the priest-principal was right in front of her. Gazing. With emotions that carried concern, yet insistent on the recognition of standard formulation. The priest did not look like he would say anything else. He had said enough. Explaining the situation, calming her down, raising his voice and bringing it down when he remembers he must meet every trouble with love.

She had been on the attacking side, willing to pull down the office and give the school management the ugly pill they deserve. She was determined, after reading the rubbish letter in the nice envelope they had given her, telling her about the expulsion of her son.

“Custodians of children must learn to get things right. Children are so malleable, and our actions must acknowledge that we constantly bear in mind that they are impressionable.” All these and more she railed about, until Kasom had to speak the truth, in the presence of the principal.

“Mummy, it was on a fateful day. No one else was home. Junior asked me to meet him beside the garage. I came. He told me to drop my shorts and then started touching me down there. I asked him to stop, he refused. Then after a while, I started enjoying it.”

“Obikasom, why did you lie to me? You told me a classmate lured you into it. Didn’t you?”

Kasom went blank, as well as her.

What would she tell her husband? That their sixteen year old son was expelled from school on the grounds of homosexuality. And he was groomed into the act by his elder brother, their own 22 year old Junior. In their own home!

Sochima would blame her for her over-leniency towards the children. Her letting them have excessive pleasure and never cautioning them with severity. And then turn to investigate where Junior, their diokpara had learnt the act from.

“He would blame that I gave them phones at very early stages, uncensored.”

He would blame her for all of it all. Or most of it. Especially as he had talked to her repeatedly, about it.

“I thought I was giving them the best.”

“O my God, my world is crashing,” she  spurted, instinctively. It was these words that drew the attention of the priest who was already distant in thoughts, back to Mrs. Omanukwue. He calmed her down. And encouraged her, affectionately. Giving her pallets of hope to lie on, despite her previously unbecoming attitude, obviously borne out of anger and pain.

And shock.

Fr. Godfrey, aged forty-two, was a fully schedued man. Mrs. Omanukwue would need to find her leave. As much as sympathetic and solution-craving her case was, other things needed to be attended to, also. Other significant aspects of the school still had to be run. Mrs. Omanukwue realized she had over-stayed her welcome. Coming as fierce as a provoked tigress and leaving as defeated as a frightened cub.

Along the stairs, and with Kasom behind, she cross-reviewed her life. It was something she had always done. Right from adolescence, when she had formed her own identity and proceeded a more personal determination of her life. That was how she followed her dream of becoming a medical doctor, despite her father’s insistence that such courses were not for women. And even married the lovelier Sochima, a sweetheart she had met during her university days other than the stinkingly wealthy senator Okafor who saw her only as a property. It was for her evolving introspection that she was able to keep up with all these and the many frustrations of life, which she had confronted.

She had also thought about her children. How beautiful they would be. That they would never experience the frustrations and sufferings she did. She would set the track for them. Well placed under her direction but in cognisance of their individualistic talents and choices. Such career goals held in mind for yet birthed babies. And all these were actually phenomenal.

Except that it never occurred to her to think about the behavioural and moral development of her children. How she would train and exercise discipline towards them.

She kept staggering down the endless stairs. Or so she thought. “Why would they have so much steps? A thousand and three of them, or so.” But they were only fourteen of them. Who would blame a young mother watching her family wrinkle before her very own eyes? Her children throbbing and throttling the world she had built to death.

As she continued the stairs, it became suddenly clear to her that while schools, especially mission boarding schools must heed the advice and reprimands she had earlier spewed out on social media and in the principal’s office, they were more germane for the family.

Family was not an enterprise induced by Instagram or Facebook challenge, or a bid to meet up with the standards of certain other people. If families based on supposedly solid foundations could fail, how much more those, grounded on trifling purposes and stance?

“What is it with this stairway? Why wouldn’t it just get finished?” She screamed.

Kasom saw the damage he has caused his mother as he and the principal immediately turned and stared at Mrs. Omanukwue, still seated in the principal’s office, in grave alarm.


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