Sophie spotted Maa Baaba sitting beside a plump woman at the entrance to their room. She greeted them politely when she got there and Maa Baaba excused herself to speak with Sophie.
“My daughter” she began. “We’ll start selling the ‘kewele’ tonight and I want you to prepare the plantain and the spices to be used. I’ll help you when the visitor leaves.
Maa Baaba was back to the bench before the young lady could pose a question. She found a sack full of ripe plantain and did what she was told to do. Sophie peeled a good number of ripe plantain while Mary helped with cutting the plantain into small sizes. She poured the sliced plantain into a large basin filled with pepper, ginger and some other spices.
All too soon, they were ready to go set up at the roadside. The sweet scented aroma of the delicacy attracted quite a number of passers-by to their table .They sold everything that evening and Sophie was really happy. Maa Baaba’s prediction was right.
“Sophie, we need to talk.” Maa Baaba held Sophie’s hand and pulled her to the other side of the room. “Francis would be leaving us soon,” she paused and Sophie creased her brow in a frown. “That’s why the visitor came here.” Maa Baaba continued .She’ll be taking Francis away.”
“Sophie,” Maa Baaba wrapped her hand around her daughter’s shoulders. “The woman would pay us good money every month. We need the money to survive.”
Sophie looked at her mother sadly. Her family was faced with financial difficulties and she knew her mother’s best efforts were not enough.
Sophie went about her usual chores when she closed from school the next day .It was Friday and she had a lots to do, as her mother was not back from the market. She had to prepare lunch for her siblings as well as her father, Afrane. The dad’s condition prevented him from doing anything to support the family. He was always seated at the entrance of their room either muttering something to himself or making strange noises. His condition only improved when he took his medicine; they were too expensive for the family to afford. Sophie therefore wanted to become a nurse in future. Her dad’s health issues gave her a glimpse of what the future might be like. Knowing how hard her mother works to pay for her tuition, Sophie was more determined to rise and conquer.
“Call out for buyers! Have you forgotten why we are here?” Maa Baaba intruded Sophie’s thoughts rudely.
Sophie’s eyes fluttered open. She was fantasizing about a wonderful future and had almost forgotten about what she was doing. She got up slowly from her seat to pour the sliced plantain into the hot oil. The kelewele business was quite good and Maa Baaba felt pleased with herself.
“Mum, can I go visit a friend this weekend?” Sophie asked as she stirred the plantain in the oil.
“Yes mum. She’s Esinam, Chief Haveh’s only child.” Maa Baaba stopped what she was doing. Her surprise was obvious.
“You mean Chief Haveh’s daughter invited you to their house?”
“Yes mum, and I promised to visit her on Sunday afternoon.”
Maa Baaba only nodded and turned to continue with her work. The evening was spent in silence as each one was exhausted from the hard day’s work.
Sophie was bubbling with excitement when she woke up early that Sunday .It was the day everyone in the house rested. Maa Baaba worshipped with a church in her locality while Sophie stayed at home every Sunday. Sophie believed in worshipping God in her heart and besides Sunday was the only day she had to rest. However that Sunday was special. She put on her best dress and went out to visit Esinam at Roman Ridge.
Sophie arrived at Esinam’s house just before the clock chimed twelve. Esinam was already expecting her.
“Welcome,” she smiled at her broadly. “Please come in.” Esinam led the way.
Sophie stepped into a fully air-conditioned room which had comfortable chairs and a queen sized bed. It was too luxurious for description.
“Wow,” Sophie gasped in amazement. “Your room looks like a palace.”
Esinam giggled, offered Sophie a seat and went out briefly. Sophie’s eyes were still scouting the room when Esinam returned with a tray in hand. She came bearing a plate of Jollof rice with vegetable salad, chicken and assorted drinks.
“Thank you.” Sophie said. She ate as much as she could.
“Sophie,” Esinam called, rising up. “My father is home. Come on, let me introduce you.”
Sophie obliged and followed Esinam out of the room. Chief Haveh was seated at his balcony when the two girls arrived. Chief was a middle-aged man, quite fair in complexion with nice protruding eyes and a pot belly. He had a glass of juice by his side as he read a newspaper.
“Daddy,” Esinam interrupted him. “Meet my friend Sophie.”
Chief Haveh looked up from his newspaper and smiled at the two girls.
“Hello Sophie, welcome to my house.”
“Thank you sir.”
Esinam turned to leave with Sophie. They virtually spent the rest of the time discussing academic issues and the welfare of ‘Mystery Club’.
“You’re always welcome to our home.” Chief Haveh smiled when Sophie requested to leave. “Anyway where do you stay?”
“I stay at Pig Farm with my parents.”
“And who are your parents?” Chief Haven probed further.
“My mum is a head porter at the Mamobi Market,” Sophie paused and fixed her gaze on the floor.
“And your father?”
Sophie stared at him quietly. “He’s mentally retarded.”
Chief Haveh fixed a stare on her.
“How many siblings do you have?”
“We are four in number, sar.”
“Daddy, would you like to help her family? Her seven year old brother, would be sent away to work for a woman because…….”
“No!” Chief Haveh exclaimed. “He shouldn’t be sent away.”
Sophie had tears welling up in her eyes.
“Alright, Sophie tell your mum to pay me a visit tomorrow.”
Sophie’s face brightened up.
“Thank you sir.” She bowed politely and left.
Maa Baaba was back from church already and she was busily preparing lunch for the family when Sophie arrived.
“Mum, I’m back!” she announced.
“Welcome,” Maa Baaba responded without looking at her. “Did you enjoy yourself?”
“Yes mum and you know what?” Sophie ask, knowing her mum’s interest had heightened. “I met Chief Haveh!”
“Really? Did you talk to him?” Maa Baaba stopped what she was dong and gave her undivided attention to Sophie.
“I did, and guess what happened?”
“He asked you to pay him a visit tomorrow.”
Maa Baaba couldn’t believe the news. She was excited about the invitation and hoped something good will come out of it. Sophie ironed her uniform, packed her books into a polythene bag, took her bath, and went out to help her mother.
Sophie was up very early to perform her chores. Mary accompanied her to the borehole; She arrived at school very early and was happy to be free from punishment that morning.
“My friend, this is for you.” Esinam handed a small package to her.
Sophie stared at the package for a while.
“Good morning class.” Madam Aku greeted the pupils with a smile.
Sophie quickly dropped the package in her polythene and stood up to respond to Madam Aku’s greeting. Meanwhile, she couldn’t wait to unwrap the package as she felt excited all day. She ran home immediately school closed.
“Mum?” she stopped in her tracks, seeing her mum at the entrance of the house. “Didn’t you go to the market today?”
Maa Baaba walked toward her and hugged her.
“Our problems are over.” She said, in what seemed like a whisper.
Maa Baaba held her hand and led her gently into the room. “I went to Chief Haveh’s house this morning.”
Sophie stood up suddenly. She remembered the package Esinam gave her and dug into her polythene bag for it. She unwrapped it gently. In it was a black coloured school bag.
“Wow!” Mother and daugter exclaimed at the same time.
“Who gave it to you?” Maa Baaba questioned.
“Esinam did. Oh mummy this is so nice.”
“That’s so sweet of her. And guess what Chief Haveh gave me.”
“What?” she looked at her mother expectantly.
Maa Baaba entered the other side of the room and brought out a big bag. It was a bag full of clothes, shoes, bags, and other items.
“He gave you all these?” Sophie asked, bewildered.
Maa Baaba nodded. “That’s not all,” she smiled at Sophie. “He promised to rent a stall for me at the market and gave me money to buy drugs for your father.”
Sophie’s eyes opened widely. “He did all that? God bless his soul.”
“Come Sophie, let’s try the clothes on.”
Maa Baaba’s daugter was very excited. It was her first time wearing such clothes and she was very happy. Her other siblings were as excited as well. Now, Francis no longer had to go away, thanks to Chief.
The sun was shining brightly when Esinam arrived at Sophie’s house. Esinam was wearing a brown tie and dye dress with stringed beads around her neck. She wore a locally made pair of black slippers and her hair was neatly combed.
“Welcome,” she rushed to hug Esinam as soon as she spotted her at the entrance of the house. Sophie led her into her room.
“Please have a seat,” Sophie offered. “Would you mind a glass of water?”
Esinam shook her head, to mean no thanks. Her gaze was fixed on the old curtains, partitioning the room.
“Where do you sleep?” Esinam asked.
“Here,” she answered pointing. “I sleep here with my other sibling and my parents sleep at the other side of the curtain.
“Esinam was quite surprised. Her room was even bigger than the one Sophie shared with her siblings. They talked about other things for a while and Sophie offered to see Esinam off when she requested to leave.
Esinam’s school was going to hold an end of year party and Madam Aku helped with classroom decorations. Sophie, on the other hand, had a reason to be sad. She had no nice dress to wear for the party and she knew her mother couldn’t afford one.
“My friend”, Esinam interrupted her thought. “My daddy bought this for you.”
She unwrapped the gift as soon as Esinam left. And to her greatest surprise, the gift was a long sleeveless purple dress with ribbons on both sides.
“Was Esinam reading my thought?” She asked herself over and over again.