My stepmother was still busy lying; telling daddy that I’d finished a very big mold of “wheat’ she’d served me earlier. She said that she had even added James’s food to mine, when he couldn’t finish it.
My stepmother said that, even if I was going to eventually eat out of the food again, it couldn’t possibly be that night because she was sure that there was no way I still had space left in my stomach for more food.
Surprisingly, this time around, my daddy was not buying any of these.
I don’t know if it was the tears that had now started rolling freely down my cheeks or the fact that my stomach was not confirming the story my stepmother was selling but, he just wasn’t.
“Come and wash your hand, Paul; come and eat with your brother and me.” Daddy said.
What I was feeling at this point was a mix of “everything”. From happiness (of finally being able to eat for the first time, today), to fear (of what my stepmother would do to me as a result of these); to, even wondering whether the food in front of us would be enough for only me (not haven eaten all day long).
The fact that my daddy had insisted that I wash my hand; to join them on that dining table definitely didn’t go down well with my stepmother, and she wasn’t one to give up easily.
The moment I took a seat in front of daddy (just right beside James) and began to wash my hand, my stepmother sprung up from where she had been seated down the whole time, and began matching towards us; towards me.
I recognized that walking step very well.
The woman was coming to drag me by my ear again, off the table.
My stepmother halted, just steps away from where I was sitting down (where I was seriously trying to swallow as many muscles of the food as I could before the inevitable happened).
I didn’t know exactly what was to come but the anticipation alone was killing; my ear already hurt from I’d presumed would come.
It still didn’t stop me from swallowing as fast as my throat could, though.
If I knew this woman well, I was more than certain that she was going to create a small scene with this move she was about to make.
My stepmother stretched forth her hand to grab me by my ear.
She hadn’t made any real contact yet but in my mind, I was already feeling the pain from this grip.
My stepmother’s hand had barely touched me when James dropped to the floor and suddenly began to convulse.
James was rushed to the hospital and to the glory of God, he didn’t die.
James’s condition worsened though, as the weeks wound by. Ultimately leaving him paralyzed from his waist down.
Every test done to ascertain what must have happened to have subjected James to “these”, was medically unexplainable.
James was provided a wheelchair.
We were all inside the doctor’s office when certain instructions were given, particularly to my stepmother, on how to care for James in this tough time.
“Now more than ever, Madam, your son needs all the attention he can get. With this kind of paralysis comes having to wipe after him most of the time. Always ensure he is kept clean, most especially, back there. He needs all the attention he can get and must never be made to feel any less of himself in any way. That way, it doesn’t mess with his psychology. Though his condition is medically unexplainable, I believe in miracles. As such, be prayerful and trust God to change his situation in no time.” The doctor said.
My stepmother, whom no one could get to stop crying since this incident, kept nodding to everything the doctor was saying (like a good woman)
Weeks after we left the hospital, the task of taking care of James gradually transitioned to me.
I would wash and clean up after James.
One would have expected that as a mother, my stepmother would heed to the doctor’s advice; pay real attention to her child; her son, instead of leaving him in the hands of another “minor”.
My stepmother would often tell me that she was only training me; teaching me to be responsible; proactive in being able to take care of this “kind” of people, since I’ll be meeting them a lot in future.
I was still trying to wrap my head around those words; wondering what she’d meant by that when she continued…
“I am sure; very sure that all your children will be born in the state at which James is right now. Did I say the same? Sorry, it was a slip of tongue. I meant to say, worse. Paul! All your children will be imbeciles naaaaw. You better not suffer your wife by leaving all of them in her hands to care for o. It is best you start learning how to care for them now”. My stepmother said.
Oluchi had had to notice my depressing situation from my face; in school one day.
Oluchi had asked if I was hungry and as usual, my answer was a resounding “yes”. But she somehow noticed that that wasn’t the only thing bothering me.
After a lot of probing and my initial hesitation to spill, I finally did.
For reasons I couldn’t understand at the time, Oluchi was livid that I’d had to take up such adult responsibilities at home. She was mad at the fact that my stepmother had the efruntary to say all of that about my unborn children. “How dare Ireti?” Oluchi exclaimed, angrily before she went quiet on me for the remainder of that day.
That night, Oluchi came over to call me out as usual. We had all the fun we possibly could and when it was time for me to go back home, the thought of what I would be going back home to, hit me; the sadness on my face was evident.
But Oluchi smiled; held me close in a warm embrace, then whispered in my ears “cheer up, love. Don’t worry, I’ve taken care of your problems.”
Oluchi did exactly as she’d whispered, because we woke up to James’s very cold lifeless body the next morning.
To be continued…
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