A Stranger in My Father’s House

Home is a place where you find happiness and comfort especially with the right people present. If your home is void of happiness then it is probably because some thing is missing. When you have interesting and caring people around you, then you have no reason not to be happy. How you determine happiness is based on what it means to you.

I had just finished my Senior Secondary School Two (SSS2) third term examination and like every other student I was happy that I have two months holiday and a year left to be done with secondary school education. My excitement was interrupted by the thought of going home for our third term holiday. I thought to myself “Why the excitement? Unlike the rest of my class mates who have loving parents to make their holiday count. I on the other hand, staying home for holiday was like a whole year of torment.  This thought continuously defiled my excitement.

My Dad had taken a second wife after divorcing our Mum and taken custody of my younger sister and I. We were barely 6 and 8 respectively when we realized that our Mum has left us and was never coming back. We didn’t asking our Dad where our Mum went and when she would return, and our Dad’s response was always ‘’Soon”. Three years on, while I was just promoted to JSS3, my sister got admitted into the same boarding school and we still couldn’t see our Mum to tell her we have gained admission secondary school.

THE STORY

Just as we were about resuming our first year in secondary school, my Dad called my sister and I to inform us of his plan to remarry, according to him, he was not getting any younger and needed a wife to carter for him, my younger sister and I. We asked “where is our Mum”? Then he disclosed to us that our Mum is never going to step her foot into his house again, that they were divorced and never going to get back together. Tears ran down our eyes continuously as we asked him why he hated our Mum so much that forgiveness is not considered as an option. As usual, our Dad ignored our questions and asked us to get ready for school that we were running late. We went to school and never stopped thinking and talking about what our Dad had told us back home. We both wished he wasn’t serious about it and would some day bring our Mum back home to us.

Our first term in school was like the worst term for us but we managed to finish well that term despite the emotional blow we had to contend with especially as teenagers. At the end of our first term in school, as usual, Dad sent his driver to come pick us up. While we were driving home, in our usual practice we asked him if our Mum was home but the reply we got immediately changed our countenances after the long grins on our faces from saying our goodbyes to other students hoping to see them when school resumes next term. My bold younger sister who was just 13years old at that time asked the driver “Are you sure my Mum isn’t back yet? Did you check every section of the house before leaving?” the driver trying to be mature said to us “Don’t worry everything you need, will be made available to you at home”. At this point we thought he wanted our Mum’s presence to be a surprise to us so we stopped the question and answer section as we looked forward to getting home.

On arrival, we noticed the back door was opened. My younger sister said to me “I told you daddy’s driver was lying, the back door is opened and only mum opens the kitchen back down when ever she is going to stay in the kitchen cooking for long”. So I asked her to come with me and we rushed through the back door with the intention of gripping our mum. We haven’t held her in a while; the smell of her breath was beginning to fade away from our memories after so many years of not setting our eyes on her. Just as we rushed into the kitchen, we got the shock of our lives. It was a strange woman who was apparently dressed like she own the kitchen. Our mum use to wear fitted blouses and trousers while cooking in the kitchen and this lady was dressed in same manner which got us confused. As smart as my little sister, she immediately asked; “Who are you and what are you doing in our Mum’s kitchen?” The lady answered and said “Wow! I presume you guys are Femi Ade’s children, such beautiful kids, come and hug your new mummy” we immediately looked at each other wondering what she meant by “new mummy”. When she saw the looks on our faces, she said “the earlier you manner less kids accept me as your new mummy, the better for you”. “Our mum would never speak to us in such manner i said to my sister “as we hurriedly left the kitchen and ran upstairs to our room. We remained there until our Dad returned home from work that day. “Who was that lady in the kitchen?” my sister thought aloud, “Where could mummy be? Why has she abandoned us? Doesn’t she love us any more? All these thoughts clouded my head while we remained in our room. Our dad was surprised not to see us downstairs in the living room watching our usual evening program when he returned, so immediately rushed to our room to find out how we were doing and we told him all that had happened earlier. To our greatest surprise, he promised us it wouldn’t happen again if only we would take Aunty Tonyi as our new mum. “Dad! You stock to your plan of getting another wife? I asked “how do you expect us to live with another woman not to talk of calling her “Mummy’’? It cannot happen, we can not dad, you have to bring back our mum” we exclaimed as we both left the room.

The few weeks we spent at home were weeks of torments. Our dad would leave the house very early and would return late at night. He never cared to know what happened to us while he was away. As soon as he leaves for work, Aunty Tonyi would treat us as equal to slaves, she would give us food once in a day and tell us not to report to our dad or face her wrath the next day. We would wash her cloths and the toilets, grind pepper on stone and walk miles to the market to buy what we already had at home. We admired other kids when we see them being treated with love and care by their parents, all we did was only to wish we were in their shoes. She became Aunty Tonyi the Devil to us. We made calendar our friend as we stood in front of it every day calculating how many days we had left before resumption. We became a shadow of ourselves due to the ill-treatment from Aunty Tonyi, it was written all over us so much so that our neighbors and whoever came close to us could see. But our father was too far to notice that his second wife had turned us (his children) into house maids and strangers in our father’s house. We were malnourished and out rightly suffering, the regular beating we received and bruises from it were horrible, we did not need to have bad dreams, our night mares were experienced in the day. We cried every other day and resuming school was our prayer point every morning.

We finally resumed and wished we never had to return home since there was nothing to return home to except suffering and bitterness.  I am preparing for my senior secondary school examination and all my years in school have been hell and nothing but hell. We are much older now and can talk to our dad even though she never let him believe us “How nonchalant some fathers can be when it comes to the affairs of their children”. All I pray is to become a Medical Doctor which has always been my dream and take full responsibility of my kid sister while we hope to see our mum someday. Again I thought to myself “Why on earth would a woman forget her children? No matter how difficult a man appears to be in the case of divorce, taking full custody of your children should be what a woman who is faced with such situation must fight for because you never can tell who the next woman who is coming to take your place is. A woman’s love for her children should be strong enough to withstand any storm notwithstanding.

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