Thursday, the 13th.
I have come across a lot of children in my course of teaching, but none strikes me like Byenchit Suleiman. To the ordinary eyes, and maybe to his mum even, he is just a lanky fifteen year old Tarok boy; but to me, he is the definition of light. I took interest in him from the day Binwai, my younger brother, had brought him home from football practice because he feared his mother might beat him if he went home in his bruised state. The sound of that gnawed at my heart. How would a mother beat her child because he sustained injuries, rather than see to easing his pain? I decided at once that I will go home with him, and the sight that met mine was disturbing. There was Suleiman’s mother seated at the front yard with a horsewhip in her hand. The instant she set eyes on him, she launched attack. What had he done wrong? Quickly, I pulled him out of her reach, and once our eyes met, her anger softened to misery. One could tell she was trying so hard to keep it together.
‘What happen?’ she had questioned, willing me to explain my unwarranted interference. ‘He come home late, I beat him. I have tell him not to be going and playing with his friend like that. Have I not tell you?’ she turned to Suleiman now, aiming the horsewhip at him again, but failing terribly on my account.
‘I am sorry madam. My name is Ms Maryam. I was the one that made him late. Ya akuri mana.’
She eyed me viciously before addressing me again. ‘why you keep him? It is good? If you have child and I keep him, you will like it?’
My heart seemed to shred into pieces at that statement. That was my point exactly. I have no child, and I fail to understand why someone who has been blessed with one will not take good care of him.
I choked back a sob as I shook my head. ‘Please just don’t beat him, I beg you. He is a very good child.’ She nodded half- heartedly, and dismissed me by leaving me standing at the front yard after which she beckoned on Suleiman to get into the house.
After that day, I made sure to visit Saratu every weekend before going home to take care of my mother who lived in the same Magama village as Suleiman and his mother; it was more of a need to see Suleiman, than to make acquaintance with Saratu. But with time, her heart softened towards me, and I was able to achieve both. I told her of my childlessness and how my husband divorced me so she would reckon she isn’t the only one with problems in life. I had often wondered about her and why she always seemed too hesitant to share her problems despite the fact that they were obviously tearing her apart at the seams. I wondered why Suleiman bore no more semblance to her than the strikingly similar facial features; his gait, laughter, smile, eagerness to learn and love for life did wonders to conceal the abuse he faced in the hands of his mother whose love seemed to border on the lines of hate and regret. And I began to wonder maybe his positivity had a little to do with his father’s personality?
I started to give Suleiman lessons at his home every weekend and after a while, with his mother’s consent, I enrolled him at the school where I teach and promised Saratu I will take very good care of him. She was very much hesitant, I could tell; but hearing her say ‘thank you’ to me for the very first time in about three years made all the difference in the world, and at once, I knew I had gained the complete trust of a broken woman. It gladdened my heart.
Today, I make my way to Magama, hoping that news of the fresh attack by the fulani men spared my people from its gore. I know Saratu and mama are not expecting me until weekend, but the midterm break at the Government Secondary School has afforded me the opportunity to travel home earlier. I am hoping I meet everyone well, and I am sure Saratu will be glad to see me because she knows I must have a letter from her son. But more than that, the letter worries me. I am afraid of how she will react to it…
Ya akuri mana- please don’t be angry.
© The Short Black Girl, 2015.