As the first born Jedida was expected to be the role model to her siblings, but she did not do a good job at it, or so her parents thought.
“Go! Leave if that’s what you want. At least we know how much we matter to you, choosing a man over us! Leave!” Her mother was standing at her door, screaming at the top of her voice as Jedida packed her clothes, tears rapidly falling on the suitcase.
It was true, she had chosen a man over her family. You couldn’t blame her, she was in love. She felt more at peace around him than with them. She tried reasoning with her parents, that she would still finish college despite being married.
“Do you hear what she has to say? Listen, if you step foot out of that door, we will not pay any more fees for you, that man better be rich enough to continue paying, it’ll be even good to be reileved of the struggle!” Her father yelled.
Jedidah left anyway, to the arms of Abel, a fourth year in college, she, in second year. There was a celebratory mood, of two lovers who had won love against all odds. But it did not last long.
“Well, you will have to wait until I finish my education, get a job so that I will be in a position to pay your fees!” Abel said when she told him what her parents had said about her education.
Then they had a heated quarrel, the same day she came as a wife. Abel left and did not come back to his small bedsitter and his day old marriage. The idea of taking all Jedida’s responsibilities was overwhelming. He needed to think about it, so he slept over at his friend’s.
Jedida knew she had made a big mistake. She hadn’t thought through all these. She had grabbed at the first opportunity to get out of home, fast, unaware that she was hanging by only a thread. When Abel had heard of her emotionally abusive parents, he had asked her to move in with him, to escape the torture. She had flown into his arms, her messiah.
Abel came back early morning.
“It will not work, just go back to your home. That will not change my love for you. ” He announced.
She packed again, soaking her suitcase with tears like the previous day.
“Mmmhhmm, see who comes back, I knew it!” Her mother said when she saw her standing by the door.
“Jazmine, Fidel, look at your prodigal sister.” Her father scoffed and turned his attention to the television, pressing the volume button up, on the remote then shaking his head in disapproval. She heard her mother make a snorting sound.
Jedidah dragged her suitcase to her bedroom and closed the door behind her and burst into torrents of tears.
She wondered whether she was really her parents’ child. Might I have been exchanged at the hospital when my mother gave birth to me? She wondered but she remembered the birthmark behind her ear that she had inherited from her father, and the small fat hands that her mother has, a replica of hers.
Then why did they hate her so much? She cried. Jedida never did anything good before their eyes. She was always the one at fault. She tried to make her parents happy, God knows she did but they did not see that. They saw faults, and mistakes. Like the one she had just made. She knew she would pay dearly for trying to move out.
She did. There was no fees in her college’s account in the next semester.
“Dad, mum, the college sent me a text that I haven’t cleared my fees yet and I will not be allowed to sit for my exams without clearing the fees.” She addressed them as they watched a family show. She waited for a response but they were silent. She waited some more. No response. She turned to her bedroom to fill her pillow with tears.
The twins , Jazmine and Fidel came to her bedroom minutes later.
“Dad and mum say that you did not apologize to them for what you did. They will only pay your fees when you say sorry.” Jazmine said, with a soft sympathetic tone.
“Waah siz, you could have just stayed with your boyfriend,coming back proved to them that you need them more.” Fidel opined. She was about to explain to him what had ensued at Abel’s house but their mother called out.
They sat round the table and each of them munched into their share silently. As they took their last spoonfuls, their mum cleared her voice.
“Jedida, Jazmine tells us that you have something to say to us.” She said, with an inquisitive look on her face.
Jazmine was confused at first then she got the hint and looked at her big sister, and nodded at her. Jedida swallowed and saw their waiting faces.
“Yes. Dad, mum, I am deeply sorry for leaving the house that day I did. Please find it in your heart to forgive me.” She pleaded.
Her mother wasn’t looking at her but her father was, nonchalant but studying her.
“Apology accepted. But we cannot accept any of that behaviour again. Next time you decide to leave the house, please don’t come back.” He spoke and then stood up and went to the master bedroom.
“Mum, does that mean my school fees will be paid?” Jedida anxiously asked her mother. She almost saw a twinkle of mercy in her mother’s eyes.
“Jedida, we shall see. Take heed of what your father just said.” She said and left to join her husband.
Two days later, Jazmine was the bearer of bad news.
“Dad says that he will pay your fees at the end of the month. He has no money right now.”
“But the exams begin two weeks to come!” She protested then ran to the living room to try and explain the urgency of the issue to her father.
“I am struggling Jedida. Money does not grow on trees like you think. You can still continue with the semester next year.” He suggested.
She tried protesting some more, pleading that he at least pay just a little, to prove commitment to the school, but that fell on deaf ears.
“Little from where? I have no money until end of month!” He yelled. She sank into one of the sofas, disappointed that she would have to repeat another semester. Then she saw some papers folded neatly on the table.
“Don’t touch those!” Fidel shouted. The anxiety in his voice awakened the curiosity in her. She sensed she wasn’t supposed to see the contents of the papers. She opened them quickly and scanned through them before Fidel snatched them from her. She felt a sinking feeling in her heart down to the pit of her stomach.
They were bank slips to be given to the twins’ school. Their fees was cleared and even the geographical trip that was to happen at the end of the term, two months to come, had been paid for. She looked at her father’s face who turned quickly and pretended to concentrate on the television. Her mother was conveniently hooked on her mobile phone.
“Dad?” I said sorry?” She said, her voice shaking.
“Jedida, can’t you see that these two are in their last year in secondary school? I don’t want them to have any excuse for failing in exams.” He responded.
“The school trip could have waited!” She said then clenched the end of her lip with her teeth to stop herself from crying. She always became incoherent while sobbing and she wanted to argue her case to her father soberly, devoid of emotions.
“Jedida, you have seen how these two perform well. They are university material, not like you who only managed a C- such that only a catering college was good for you. It’s only fair that I provide an environnent that will help them pass. Besides, it’s my money and I shouldn’t be accounting for how I use it.” He said with finality, placing one leg on top of the other.
“It’s ok.” Jedida whispered, defeated and resigned to fate. She would wait until the next semester.
It was indeed a long wait. The two apples of their parents’ eyes were not allowed to do any chores. The househelp was granted a compulsory leave because Jedida was around.
So she did all the chores. At first, she thought she would die of excessive labour but realized later, it wasn’t as much as she speculated. Everyday she cleaned the house, washed the dishes and clothes, watered the flowers and prepared the meals, but still had time to watch movies. But there wasn’t any compliment or clap, or nod for a job well done.
“I see you broke my glass, break them all, we will be drinking water from your hands! Be like Jazmine and Fidel, they are very careful with fragile stuff!” Her mother scolded one day.
“Jedida, are you sure you attend your catering classes while in college? This food hasn’t even a pinch of salt in it!” Her father said, disgusted, on another day.
“If I wait a minute longer, I will die of hunger.” He said yet another day and left only to come two hours later burping loudly biting a toothpick at its edge and then announcing that his plate shouldn’t be served because he was full.
“You see what you did Jedida with your delay? You made your dad eat outside!” She rebuked her daughter in low tones. “You will not make a good wife if this is how slow you will be!”
Jedida tried to shut the negativity around her every time it was directed at her. She tried to ignore sniding remarks from her parents.
“All you do is sleep and sit on the sofa like a couch potato, all day!” They said when they met her taking a rest after she had tirelessly mopped the bedrooms rid of coackroaches.
“You will die of sleep and laziness, wake up, it’s already 10!” She wasn’t feeling so well that day.
“How can a human being eat so much?Keep some for the rest. It’s not always about your stomach!” While eating three slices of bread.
Jedida sometimes cried herself silly while other times she laughed it off, sometimes she listened to her best music. She talked to her friends through texts when her parents bought her some airtime , a rare gesture. She prayed for strength to endure the emotional pain.
Nonetheless, the emotional pain shot up when the twins finally did their exams and the results were announced. They both had A ‘s. Their dreams to be neurosurgeons were now closer to being real. Being their parents’ favorites, the two folks were in cloud nine.
Jedida was happy for them. She was in fact proud of them. It amazed her how easy high school academics was to them while she herself, studies were not really her cup of tree. And despite sinking her feet in cold water at night to keep her awake , she only managed a C-, a grade she was surprised about too, for the final exam had been very difficult. Her expected grade had been a D.
“Jaz, Fidel, I am so proud of you two! Congrats! I wish I had a present for the two of you!” Jedida said then met her father’s eyes who had been staring at his three children.
“The womb is a very intriguing organ, I tell you.” He said as he tore out some huge chunk of meat from the chicken bone.
“Why?” His wife asked curiously.
“It can bring to the world two different kinds of offsprings. The first kind of offspring has nothing between their ears, the other set is just brilliant…haha..I am amazed by creation!” He chuckled and continued gobbling down the chicken meat.
Jedida’s mum made a sound resembling a chuckle. Jazmine and Fidel stared at their sister who gazed at her plate, unable to look anywhere else from the pain she felt at her father’s insults. She stayed at that position until she felt her tears had reversed back and her pain controllable. Then she bit her meat and smiled as if nothing had happened.
Yet with all the emotional torture going on, time never stopped for Jedida. She finally resumed her studies as her siblings joined university months later. She completed her studies.
Abel wanted her back. He was now financially stable. She too loved him still. They would do it the right way this time. So she announced to her parents again, this time more confident.
“Dad,mum, I want to get married. His parents want to meet you one of these days.” She said, unafraid.
“What?” Her father bellowed. “No! I refuse!”
“Jedida,who will help me with house chores when you leave? I thought you would help me around as you search for a job.” Her mother asked weakly as if a death wish had been placed on her.
“I shouldn’t have taken you through college if I knew this is what you would do!” He stated, still furious.
Jedida was in disbelief. Here she was thinking that her departure would cause a festivity for both of them but they were acting as if they would have wanted her to grow old with them.
They went ahead to give her ultimatums, warning her for making such a move and even suggesting that she wait for Jazmine and Fidel to complete med school, then she could get married.
“Dad, mum, with all due respect, I love this man, he loves me too and we are going to get married.”
They left her and went to their bedroom. She would leave the following morning.
She woke up early and started to pack. She was leaving when her father stopped her.
“Jedida, yet again, you have decided to defy our orders?” He asked.
“You have again chosen a man over your family?” Her mother pleaded.
“Dad, mum, I don’t get it. You treat me as if you don’t want me around. I thought you would be happy!” She was crying now. “Why don’t you want me to be happy? What did I do to deserve so much hate from my own parents?”
“No one hates you, away with the self pity. You like doing things to annoy us. Why are Jazmine and Fidel not complaining?”
“But dad, I am not Jazmine or Fidel…”
“Jedida, don’t talk to your father like that!”
“Mum, will you ever take my side?Am I not your daughter?”
“Shut up!” Her mother shouted as she send a hot slap on Jedida’s face. There was silence, then a firm grip on a suitcase.
“Jedida,if you leave that door, never step back here. And I swear to you on my twins lives, that your marriage will never see happiness.” Her father swore but she wasn’t perturbed, she only looked at them and said the words she knew would not be replied, “Dad,mum, I love you so much. Goodbye.” She then left, and like Lot, did not look back until she arrived at Abel’s house.
-TO BE CONTINUED-