It was still dark outside and Sophie could hear the cocks crowing noisily as if they were in competition. As usual, there was a long queue at the borehole when Sophie arrived there with her buckets. The path leading to her house was very muddy due to the previous day’s rain. She trod her way carefully as she firmly held the buckets filled with water, with both hands.
“Hurry up! You’re almost late for school.” Maa Baaba shouted as she spotted her daughter at the entrance of their house. Sophie doubled up, reaching her mother’s side within a wink. Maa Baaba took the bucket from her and emptied the content into a big rusty barrel.
Sophie dashed into the room and got ready for school. She packed her books into a black polythene and cleaned her sandals with a rug. Her three other siblings were already dressed in their school uniforms. Maa Baaba poured porridge for the children to drink. Sophie decided to take hers to school since she was already late.
She run all the way from her house and got to school very exhausted.
“You’re late for school again.” Sophie’s class teacher, Madam Aku turned to face her directly. “I won’t let you go scot free today .You and Esinam should clear the weeds in the school farm.”
The pupils rushed out of their classrooms as soon as the closing bell echoed in their ears. Sophie packed her books and trotted towards the school farm. She found a cutlass lying idle in the farm, which she picked up. The weeds were tall and stubborn but Sophie had no difficulty cutting them. Esinam arrived later on.
“Ouch!” Esinam suddenly yelled in pain and Sophie rushed to help. Esinam had cut off her toe nail, as she was weeding. She plucked some leaves and applied it on Esinam’s toe. She carried Esinam to a safe place and left her there.
“Wait,” Esinam said as Sophie turned to leave. “I think the leaves you applied to my toe has helped a lot. The bleeding has stopped and I feel no pain.”
“Yes, that’s how it works but don’t worry I will weed the portion assigned to you. You need to rest.”
Sophie got back to the farm, cleared the weeds swiftly and hurried home. Her younger siblings were already back from school and playing on the compound. Sophie entered the room and hung her polythene bag on a rusted nail at the back of the charred door. The room was partitioned with an old translucent curtain. It also had a big sack, filled with tattered clothes, sitting idly in a corner. Sophie changed her school uniform and put on her parched dress to sell oranges. She had to execute that task before her mother returned from the market. After chewing a hand full of roasted maize and groundnut, she set out.
Hawking in the busy streets of Accra was a dangerous thing for eleven year-old Sophie. That was the best she could do to help her mother, a head porter at the Mamobi Market. Sophie’s father, Afrane, was mentally retarded, burdening Maa Baaba with the responsibilities of four children. Her daily wage was not enough to feed her family three square meals but she did her best. Mary, Sophie’s nine year-old sister also hawked toffees on the streets to support.
Sophie sold a reasonable number of oranges that afternoon. When she got home that evening, she was feeling tired and content with her sales.
“What did you have for lunch?” Maa Baaba asked Sophie. “Roasted maize and groundnut.” She replied in a bored tone. Maa Baaba rose up and entered the other side of the room. She came minutes later holding a black polythene bag.
“Here, have this.” She threw a small loaf of bread at Sophie. “Share with your siblings.”
Sophie murmured a “thank you” and shared the bread equally among her siblings.
“Mum have you eaten?” Sophie asked. Maa Baaba shook her head slowly.
“Don’t worry about me”.
“Sophie,” Maa Baaba sat beside her daughter on the bare floor. “I need to settle your debt at school. I also have to save money to enable me buy drugs for your father …….”
Maa Baaba stubbornly ignored Sophie’s interruption and continued what she was saying unperturbed.
“Any way I have an idea. I’ve decided to venture into a new business. I would travel to some nearby villages to buy ripe plantain in bulk and then fry kelewele by the roadside. I am sure it will attract customers.”
Maa Baaba looked excited but her daughter was too tired to think of anything. Sophie sprawled her aching body on a mat and slept, regardless of the intense heat in the room. Maa Baaba woke her children up at the crack of dawn, as she prepared to leave for the nearby village. “Sophie, take good care of your siblings. I would be back in the evening.” Maa Baaba said, pressing a coin into Sophie’s hand. Sophie made sure her siblings left home to school on time.
“Hello…..” Esinam greeted gaily as she took her seat. Sophie smiled at her. Unlike Sophie, Esinam came from a wealthy home. Her father, known popularly as Chief Haveh was one of the richest, generous and admired people in the community. Esinam was an only child.
“Thanks a lot for helping me yesterday, I really appreciate.”
“Ah! Don’t mention.” Sophie’s smile widened.
“Would you like to join our club? It’s my special initiative with the aim of solving mysteries and I think you’ll be a good member.” Esinam offered.
Sophie was silent for a while.
“I’d love to join your club but I have lots of chores to do at home.”
“Don’t worry, we will spend only thirty minutes at the club meeting. Please…..”
“Alright, I can spare thirty minutes of my time at your club.”
“Great!’ Esinam exclaimed. “We’ll meet after school today.”
The other pupils were busily talking and the classroom was filled with different voices, sounding like bees humming. Sophie’s hand and feet hurt from the previous day’s work. She decided to nap while the other pupils played on the playground.
At the meeting, Sophie sat quietly as the other members of the ‘mystery club’ talked lively among themselves.
“Hey! What are you doing here? A tall slender looking girl asked, walking towards Sophie.
“She a member of the club.” Esinam chose to answer the question.
“You mean she’s a member of this club?” The slender looking girl. “But how? Sophie’s a nobody.” She blurted out. “Come on Esinam, we need intelligent people from wealthy backgrounds. If you keep admitting the likes of Sophie, I’m afraid your special initiative would only be a dream. I doubt if she can ever solve a mystery.”
Sophie was really hurt and felt like fighting back. But she kept her cool for Esinam’s sake. The meeting ended abruptly and Sophie got ready to go home.
“Sophie, I’m sorry.” Esinam apologized.
Sophie looked at Esinam bluntly and indifferently. She wore neither a frown, nor a smile. “That’s okay.” She answered sharply.
“Where do you stay? My father’s driver can drop you off “
“No, thanks. I stay at Pig Farm.”
Esinam hesitated for a while before turning to go. “Would you mind visiting me this weekend?” “Not at all, I will be there Sunday afternoon.” Sophie quickly agreed. Chief Haveh lived at Roman Ridge and Sophie needed no direction to his house. She was still wondering why Esinam had formed close friendship with her, when her younger brother rushed to her.
“What is it?” She asked, alarmed.
Her brother paused to catch his breath. “We have a visitor.” He announced.
End of Part 1…..
Read Part 2 Here