Excerpt from The Call of Ciri - a Novel
Uncertainty and misery smelt in the air around her. Omah Shuwa, still in her work clothes at 9.30pm, sat rigid on a wooden chair next to the window. At seeing Funmi on TV, Omah had been petrified. Not her daughter. Not the daughter she’s living for. The daughter she’s been taking all the risks for, now seem to be the one who would bring the strangers to her doorpost. Strangers, as well as reconciliation with a past she would rather not have.
Omah had left Bayo and his mother. She did not see their faces, nor did she hear what they said to her. She had walked out and was going round to the front door of the main building when again she was gripped by the force that had made her walk out of the school compound earlier in the day, only to learn that some woman had been around making enquiries about her.
And just when she started to enter the house, Bayo had come running to her with a letter he said he found at the gate with her name printed in blue ink...
“Get out of town with your daughter, you are threats.”
…That was all the letter had said.
Omah had torn the piece of paper. All she wanted was her daughter. She had sat by the window and had remained there.
At the sound of the car, Omah knew she could relax a bit. At least Funmi was back. She wondered what would have happened today in other places. Did anybody see Funmi on air? Did anybody notice anything? The girl from the hospital waiting room and her family, from thirteen years ago, did they see Funmi?
The front door opened and Funmi walked in. She was heading for the stairs, not realising her mother’s presence.
“How was your day?”
Funmi stopped and turned. “Good evening Ma,” she greeted in high spirits and started to approach her mother. “Are you just returning?” she asked noticing her mother was still in work clothes.
Omah shook her head.
Funmi sat down and smiled. “I would have said unlike you.” Her mother didn’t smile back, but she was staring. Without knowing why, Funmi hated the look. “How was your day?”
“I don’t know. How was yours?”
Funmi smiled, holding onto her surprise. “Anything to eat?” she got up suddenly realising Ma must have seen her on TV. Maybe Ma was stunned. At work, she was congratulated.
Omah sighed heavily. “I’ve not been in there since I returned?”
That sounded strange. This time Funmi looked closer. Ma was fully dressed. Her handbag, shoes and keys were on the floor beside her. Funmi met her mother’s eyes. “Are you alright? What’s wrong?” she asked gently, her heart already racing. Sade in London. Or was it Dafe? He didn’t call her today. Or was it her father or her half- brothers? Funmi got scared something bad might have happened. She waited for Ma to say something. Just then, her cell phone rang and she quickly fetched it. The caller ID showed it was Biodun, her half-brother. She ended the call, deciding she would talk to him later.
“I saw you on TV,” Omah said gently.
Funmi waited for the congratulations.
Omah’s countenance fell to surprise. “Won’t you say anything?” her voice rose.
Funmi knew she was in for a lecture, whatever the reason, she couldn’t tell why.
Omah looked away. “I want you to do one thing for me.”
Omah looked at her daughter. “Will you?”
“I have to know what,” Funmi supplied.
Omah smiled. “You don’t think I’ll ask something that’s beyond you, do you? I want to ask you a favour Funmi, will you help me out? I’m lost.” She was pleading.
Funmi nodded. Something here’s strange.
“Don’t ever, go on air again. Will you do that for me?”
“I don’t want to see you on TV again,” Omah said.
“Then don’t watch! Mummy…” Funmi began, always mummy when an argument is set, but Omah’s hand in the air stopped her.
“I will do anything for you Funmi,” Omah said. “That we have come this far, to throw everything away seems stupid.”
“Forget it,” Funmi got up to go upstairs.
“I thought you loved me,” Omah said.
Funmi looked at her in wonderment. “Of course I do. Listen to yourself. This is my career that I am trying to build. You should be happy.”
Omah hesitated. “A career that will destroy me? Will that make you happy? If you keep showing that face on TV, someone will come knocking on my door Funmi,” her voice broke. “Someone will come looking for me and the second chance I was given to life, will finally be taken away from me. Do you understand?” Omah wiped at her tears. “I found a new life Funmi. You are all I live for. You being all I live for should not be the reason I stop to exist.”
Funmi was torn at her mother’s tears. The only time she could remember Ma this way, was when she was eleven. The day everything about their relationship transformed. Funmi sat down. “What are you talking about, Ma? You are scaring me?”
Omah was quickly by Funmi’s side. She took Funmi’s hand. “Please, don’t be. I would tell you the whole truth about my life, but I cannot. Not because I don’t want to, but because you are an outsider and not from my place. Knowing my story will be the end of you, my child.”
Funmi was quiet, confused and uneasy. This was the most her mother has spoken concerning her life before Funmi. “You are scaring me more.”
Omah sighed and sat down beside her daughter. “Can you remember that time you were sick and ended up in a hospital thirteen years ago?”
“I can never forget it, Ma.”
“Remember the morning we left the hospital? I asked you to wait outside while I returned inside to get something.”
Funmi nodded. “We were in a lot of hurry to get home.”
Omah smiled. “I was in a lot of hurry to get away from that hospital, so I went back inside and stole your file so nobody would be able to locate us, because I knew in a matter a minutes, they would come to talk to us.”
Funmi looked at her mother in shock.
Omah nodded sadly. “You see my dear, something happened in that hospital that scared me. The female doctor fainted on seeing your face, because you look like me.”
“That doesn’t make any sense, Ma.”
Omah wasn’t going to say the rest and pique Funmi’s curiousity. “The best I can explain to you is that from where I come from, my face – the way I look, means something and Funmi, I don’t need to remind you who you look like. I did something considered terrible back home that still hurts till this day.”
“So I am in danger?”
Omah shook her head. “No. But through you, if you insist on being on air, the job of finding me becomes so much easier.”
Funmi was quiet for a while. “So you have family back home?”
“Is there a way of resolving whatever issue there is from your past once and for all?”
“Yes. It means me deciding that I want to return home to right the mistake I committed, so I can be forgiven.”
“Is it possible to pursue that route, Ma?”
Omah smiled and nodded. “Yes. But then, you will never see me again. I cannot have both worlds.”
Then something occurred to Funmi. “Ma, did you… at BBN?”
Omah sighed and nodded. “I’m sorry. It was the only way I could keep you from going on air.”