I like our village, Mama’s village. The people dress and talk funny unlike the Lagosians I lived with up until last year when Mama packed to the village. Hmmm… and can you imagine that my sister, Azima, is the Queen of the village? Azima the goddess of Mama, queen of Umuofia-agu, the Iroko in the middle of the forest, the pride of women….
I enjoy lazing around the village everyday being served as a princess and would have loved it to go on forever, but one day Azima tells me I will go to Abuja to stay with Uncle Christian and school there. I ask if she will come with us. Azima says her people need her. I tell her that Uncle Christian, her husband, needs her more. She smiles and says he is a big boy and can take care of himself. And in fact that is why she is sending me to take care of him. I do not agree but of course Azima is wiser than me.
Mama and Michael cry as if they will not see me again. But I do not cry. I am a big girl and I am going to take care of Uncle Christian… the thought of the latter made me feel good. Uncle Christian hugs Azima and kisses her goodbye – that was when things were not yet rotten between them. I hate Azima for not listening to me. When I get into the car, I wave them good bye and my dress is stained. I tell myself not to cry. I am a big girl now….
Life in Abuja is not as sweet as life in Lagos or Mama’s village, but I tell myself that it is the best. I go to the hostel and make new friends. My teachers like me and I start to enjoy school. They say I am brilliant, I tell them to wait until they meet my sister, Azima. They say I am funny, I tell them to wait till they meet Tessy, my sister’s friend. They say I am gentle, I tell them that there is no woman as gentle as Jane. They laugh and say I am humble and I tell them that that is my mother’s second name. They laugh a lot more and conclude I am impossible. In my school they start to call me Lyric; some call me Lyrics. They like my poems and my songs. I start to enjoy school even more.
I am the best student in my class and I start to represent my school in different quiz, debate and drama contests even though I am a junior student. No matter how much I enjoy school, I still miss Mama, Michael and Azima. I miss them all and sometimes at night I hide my face in the pillow to cry. But in the morning there is joy again. During my first holiday, I stay with Uncle Christian and I pity him because Azima is not with him. I ask him if he is happy.
He smiles and says: What can I do? Hey, maybe you can talk to your sister.
I say I have done that before but will try again. We come up with a plan to bundle her in the car and bring her to Abuja to cook her husband’s meal and share his room. We sigh knowing it will be difficult, but we decide to try anyway.
When we get to the village of Umafiaga (Azima always say I should learn to pronounce it well and I tell her I will try), I plead with Azima to come to live with Uncle Christian in Abuja. She says she will come but not today, not until her father is strong enough to rule. I find it hard to fight with Azima because I love her very much. She is my sister and my friend. However, anytime I look at Uncle Christian, I hate Azima. Why is she treating him with such disrespect? Does she not love him anymore? How can one get married to someone and not live with them? I tell Mama to rule for Azima so that she can go to Abuja. And she tells me that I will not understand. I tell Mama that I am the most brilliant girl in my school … my class, but she says it is not about being brilliant; that it is a complicated situation. What is so complicated about going to live with your husband and having children? I ask Mama, but she laughs at me and it hurts. I start to shed tears and Mama holds me and tells me that everything will be alright… I know that everything will not be alright. In Abuja, I see the way Aunty Kemi, Uncle Christian’s Secretary, behaves around him and how it makes my heart skips; but I cannot tell Mama or even Azima. I am afraid that Uncle Christian is there for the taking. Is that not what my friend Sophia always says? When a man doesn’t have a woman, he is there for the taking. But Uncle Christian has Azima. Or doesn’t he? I tell Mama that Uncle is there for the taking. She is shocked and asks me what I mean. I tell her like Sophia tells me. I demonstrate like Sophia, and Mama says god forbid: Don’t ever say a thing like that again.
I hold my lips, frowning. As I get up to go away from Mama, I mumble: He is there for the taking.
Mama frowns: What did you say?
I look sober: Nothing.
About three years later, thanks to God, Uncle Christian is still not taken. Or is he? One day during my school Visiting Day when I was in Senior Secondary 1, Uncle Christian comes visiting with Jane, Azima’s best friend. And they look so happy together that my heart skips!


Cover Girl: Ifeoma Umeh