TOMORROW HOLDS A PROMISE (SHORT STORY)
Although written in the first person case, this story is entirely fictional. That’s all I want to say. Let me get out of the way so that you can savour it. Do share your impressions when you’re through and stay blessed!
TOMORROW HOLDS A PROMISE
I’m shivering as if I have a cold but my insides are burning. I sit up gingerly and try to study. Exams are fast approaching and it’s the third term. I can’t afford to repeat SS* 1 again. I need a few moments to stop the dizziness. I pick up “A Man of the People” by Chinua Achebe, at least a novel from my Literature reading list can be understood in my present state. But the more I try to focus on the words on the first page, the blurrier they become. I notice my eyes are misting over and drop the book. I try to lie down again but every movement seems to increase the pounding in my head. So I prop myself against the wall.
Mosquitoes buzz around my ears. I have no strength to slap and hunt them as I would do on better days. Better days … they seem so distant now. I would recall them if I wasn’t feeling so weary and, perhaps, get some comfort from knowing things weren’t always like this. I look across at my younger brothers, Michael and Gabriel, tossing and turning on the other mat. I always told them they slept like they were kung fu fighting but the hunger wracking their stomachs and mine has added a new dimension of fitfulness to their sleep.
I listen to my father’s old-lorry-on-a-jerky-road snoring coming from the next room. At least, he can get some sound sleep, thanks to his medication. Not so for my mum. Awake or in her dreams, she is probably adding and subtracting to see how she can provide one meal for us tomorrow and pay for my dad’s hospital appointment. Dad lost his job in an insurance firm when he took ill and got 100,000 Naira which they called severance pay. It didn’t even pay for the next round of tests when he was referred to a teaching hospital and the inevitable selling of family property began. The burden of carrying about a terminally-ill husband and caring for the family on a primary school teacher’s salary has robbed Mum of her cheerfulness and vitality. At this rate, she may die before Dad if help does not come soon.
My head is still hurting but it’s suddenly clear what I need to do. I must stop school and find a job. There must be something a 15-year-old girl can do to earn a little money. I could wash dishes in a restaurant – good option considering the free food. I could be someone’s maid – but that will be only if I can go daily from my house. I can’t afford to leave my mum now. Besides, who will watch over Michael and Gabriel? Funny that they bear the names of archangels and still need watching over. I think I’m feeling better now, actually I think it’s the relief from knowing I can contribute to lessening the weight on my mum.
Maybe, someday, things will improve and I will go back to school. But right now, we need to stick together as a family. We need to survive. Isn’t it said that where there is life, there is hope? I know that God has not forsaken my family. I know He does not love us less than those whose circumstances are easier – like my cousins. Although my dad helped to train his younger siblings, they tell my mum tall stories when she comes for help. They forget that no condition is permanent. As my mum says, we should bear them no ill-will because our help does not come from people really, but from God, the Maker of heaven and earth.
So to God I turn. I may not be able to pray long and hard right now but I know that He hears me. I need healing for my dad. He has such a large heart and there are so many people he could help if he sticks around. I need Michael and Gabriel to be good. I want them to be regular in school. I don’t want them to join pickpockets or become lookouts for robbers. Hunger is not a good companion for spirited 10-year-olds like them. That brings me to my mission for tomorrow: I need favour to get a kind person to work for so I can bring a little food home everyday, someone like Boaz in the Bible. He gave Ruth more food than she needed, so she took some to Naomi, her mother-in-law, at the end of the day.
My eyelids are drooping. I’ll be dozing off in a bit. But I have a smile on my face now. Tomorrow holds a promise. It may not be the end of our problems but it will certainly be better than yesterday. I have a Father that cares, His name is Jehovah. “Watch over me as I sleep, dear Lord.”
Ⓒ Edith Ugochi Ohaja 2016
*SS stands for Senior Secondary
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