TRIALS, TEARS AND TRIUMPH [Triple T]
It was a long tearful, and painful night. Haneefah cried and groaned in excruciating pains. Her thigh hurts badly and within minutes, there was a reddish sore with blisters. Her step mum didn’t blink an eye after burning her thigh, she went straight to bed leaving her to her fate.
She was confused as to what to do in order to help herself. There was no first aid equipment in the house so she cried helplessly while moaning in pains till day break. By the time it was day break, her thigh had swollen and the blister had increased. Her eyes were swollen too and her head was pounding badly.
She curled up in a corner of the laundry and wept profusely in pains. The night was really long and tear filled. She wanted to get up and walk to her room but her legs were heavy and stiff. She had developed a high fever before morning and her temperature was very high. After the iron burn, she was unable to press the clothes she was burnt for. Her whole body was affected with sleeplessness and fever.
Her normal everyday routine was to get up ahead of everyone, prepare the meal and clean the house while the rest of the family wakes, had their bath, eat and go to school or work. But this morning, she was unable to lift her body up not to talk of doing chores. She cried all night with pains and the similitude of her pains was that of a burnt survivor who wasn’t rescued on time. The perfect description was having a close meeting with death but not dying.
The Adhan was called from a nearby mosque and at the call of it, she made an attempt to get up again but she couldn’t. She was still at the laundry by the time her siblings woke up. Their normal routine was to wake up and eat the food prepared by Enitan. But this morning, the aroma of her food that always tantalized their noses was absent.
It was really quite unusual, Hameedah, the eldest daughter got to the kitchen and met it unkempt with no meal at sight. She shouted Enitan at the top of her voice but there was no response. She hissed loudly and walked out of the kitchen angrily to go check her in her room but her absence was what she met. She was going out of the kitchen when she met Habeebah, the second daughter. They almost collided with each other and it seemed they were both looking for Enitan.
“Is she there?” Habeebah asked Hameedah.
“No, she is not.” Habeebah replied.
“Ohhhhhhhh!!!!!!! Where could this useless girl be? I am getting late for school.” Hameedah, the eldest daughter replied impatiently while Halimah, Enitan’s only friend in the house replied her to set the record.
“On the contrary, she is the most useful girl in this house. So she’s not useless.” Halimah, the only one that got Haneefah’s back in the house replied.
“Oh shut up there! You know you are her friend, if you don’t want me to kill her this morning, better provide her quickly without wasting more time because I’m already late for school.” Hameedah roared at Halimah and the latter shrugged and left her presence to go look for Enitan.
Hameedah, the first daughter and Habeebah, the second were 21 and 19 respectively and an undergraduate of UNILAG. They both go to school from home and also return everyday. Haleemah, the third daughter was seventeen and just been admitted to the university of Ilorin and awaiting school resumption. Heebah, the fourth daughter was Fifteen and in SS3 while Hikmah the fifth and the last of her mum was 11 and age mate with Haneefah with only three months difference.
The five of them were treated like executive queens at the expense of Haneefah and this morning as usual, they were expecting a ready made meal but was disappointed when the pot was empty.
Haleemah looked around for Haneefah but she was nowhere to be found. Her mind didn’t suggest the laundry since washing and ironing are not done on the morning of work days. She decided to check the laundry regardless after Haneefah wasn’t found in every other place. She was just two steps to reaching the laundry when she started hearing heavy distress panting.
She rushed towards the noise and alas! She found Haneefah almost dead. Her eyes were shut and her body was laying weakly on the floor. She was panting hard like someone about to give up the ghost. Haneefah was really scared and she couldn’t curtail her fear. She screamed and the whole house was alerted.
Their mum and the rest of the daughters rushed to the laundry with the thought that Haleemah was in danger. They met her shaking Enitan vigorously and shouting her name to get up. The other girls were scared too except their mum who told them to move back that Haneefah was only pretending simply because she wanted to escape chores.
The girls obeyed and moved back. Mrs Badmus moved nearer to Enitan and tapped her roughly but she wasn’t coming around.
“Mum, she’s not pretending. She’s very ill. Her temperature is high. Please let’s take her to the hospital fast before something bad happens…………………..” Haleemah was saying when her eyes caught Haneefah’s burnt and swollen thigh. She screamed loudly for the second time and pointed the burnt thigh to her mum and sisters.
The other girls were scared and touched too, after all, they have blood running in their veins. Their mum seemed unperturbed as she hissed before replying her daughter.
“Don’t mind the lazy girl, maybe the accident occurred when she was sleeping while ironing.” Mrs Badmus said with levity but Haleemah burst into tears. She believed her mum and so was her sisters.
“Sleeping while ironing was inevitable because she worked all day and was tired. Mum, I told you to allow everyone of us be responsible for washing and ironing her clothes. If eleven year old Enitan could wash and iron, what debars the rest of us from doing the chores. Please mum…………………………..” Haleemah was saying but her mum interrupted her harshly.
“Shut up you fool! I have told you times without number that this idiot here is the slave your dad birthed to serve us and she would do that till the end of time…………….”
“Mummyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, she’s not breathing again!!!!!” Haleemah screamed loudly and this time Mrs Badmus hissed loudly before calling upon the driver.
She gave the driver some money and instructed him to take Enitan to the hospital nearby. She smelt danger and if not that the girl was unconscious, she wouldn’t have perturbed but apply some ointment on the burn instead. She told the driver the same thing she told her daughters. ‘The accident occurred when she was sleeping while ironing’ so that the driver could respond accurately when asked about the cause of the burn.
Haleemah announced her willingness to follow the driver but her mum pulled her ear so hard and pushed her away. The rest of the girls were not happy not because Enitan was sick but because there wasn’t food available for them to eat. The plausible option was to make some cornflakes and that was what they all ate to school.
Haleemah was home since her school had not resumed, she entered the kitchen and got the dishes done. She made some rice and preserved it in the warmer. She was the only one who cooks in the house aside Enitan. Her mum would discourage her but she wouldn’t listen.
After she was done cooking, she sat with a heavy heart on a stool in the kitchen. She doesn’t have an appetite. How would she, when her beloved sister was sick. She was worried sick for Enitan. She would have visited the family hospital but she was sure that wasn’t the hospital the driver took Enitan to. She knows her mum wouldn’t pay hugely on Enitan and the family hospital was quite expensive. She buys the cheapest drug for her whenever she was sick and that’s until she’s almost dead. To her, whenever Enitan comes up with any sickness, its laziness to escape chores. Haleemah waited patiently for the driver’s return but he didn’t until afternoon when Mrs Badmus was back from work.
At the hospital, the lifeless Enitan was revived. She was placed on admission as her fever was really high and the blisters on the burn had increased as well as the swell. The driver paid but the money madam gave him wasn’t enough to cater for the hospital bills.
He rushed home after Enitan’s treatment commenced to ask madam for more money but she’d already left for work. He didn’t meet Haleemah as well because she went out to get something down the street. He went back to the hospital and straight into Enitan’s ward but she was sleeping. He returned home after giving the hospital his words to be back with the remaining money in the afternoon.
The driver waited for Madam to come back and he was on standby to welcome her. She returned some minutes after 3’0clock and the driver quickly hastened to welcome her. He allowed her to rest for the next thirty minute before presenting the issue to her. But her response shocked and saddened him all at once.
“I have given you what I have. I don’t have more money.” Mrs Badmus replied without looking at the driver.
“But………………” The driver was trying to say.
“No but, tell the hospital to hold her hostage and make her work for the remaining money. I don’t have money to waste on a bastard!” Mrs Badmus replied with disdain.
“Madam please………………….” The driver tried to beg but Mrs Badmus quickly grabbed the flower vase at the center of the table and made an attempt to smash the driver’s head but the latter quickly ran for his dear life.
The driver ran out panting heavily without looking back. He got to the gate before halting. He shook his head as tears trickled down his face. He was engulfed with pity for Enitan. He was sad that a little child had to go through so much at a tender age.
He returned to the hospital and pleaded with the management not to discontinue the treatment with a promise to pay all default. He went to check on Enitan who was now recuperating. She had opened her eyes but she looked paled and thin. The driver moved closer and sat beside her on the bed.
“Sorry Enitan.” The driver comforted and Enitan muffled a reply.
“You must really be hungry, what would you like to eat?”
“Rice.” She replied faintly.
“Alright, let me quickly run along.” The driver said and dashed out to get her some rice.
He watched her eat the rice slowly like a snail. Her thigh had been treated and she’d been given drugs and injection to prevent infection and reduce the severity of scarring.
“The doctors said you’ll stay here for two more nights before going home.” The driver said with smiles but Enitan burst into tears.
“I don’t want to return to that house.” She cried.
“Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.” The driver heaved heavily. “I understand what you’re going through my dear but you still have to endure. I would have taken you to my house but I live in a room with my wife and six children. Besides that, my work is finished if I take you home because Madam will sack me and I don’t have any other job. Please continue enduring, she’s only training you how to be strong. You shall come out very strong to face life challenges. The sufferness that doesn’t kill will one day be conquered. Please hang on. You shall rejoice in the end.” The driver comforted her with some encouragement but she wouldn’t stop crying. He wiped her tears with his finger and told her to weep no more for light comes at the end of the tunnel.
Enitan’s weeping increased in the evening when the driver announced his intention to leave. She wept profusely while the man placated her and promised her to be back very early on the next day. He told her he had paid for her food and would pay the remaining of her hospital bill the next day. She didn’t stop crying but the man had to leave.
The next day, the driver reported to work before going to the hospital and Madam gave him a shocker.
“Yesterday you didn’t work for me so I’ll remove a day’s payment from your salary.” Mrs Badmus told the driver.
“But I took Enitan to the hospital………………”
“Enitan is not me, neither is she one of my daughters.” Madam affirmed.
“But you sent me ma!” The driver spoke out.
“Are you arguing with me?”
“Good. So what’s your schedule like today?” Mrs Badmus asked the driver.
“I want to go see Enitan in the hospital.” The driver replied and Madam gave a wry smile before responding.
“My service will suffer today too because of the bastard Enitan. Anyways, go see her. I hope you know today’s payment is gone as well.”
“Ha!” The driver exclaimed but Madam didn’t wait to hear anything from him.
She hopped into the car where her daughters where already waiting for her. She started the engine and zoomed out of the already opened gate. The driver stood still with mouth agape while tears dropped effortlessly from his face. The salary that wasn’t enough to feed his family would still be deducted irrationally again. How wicked can a woman be! He doesn’t know how he would raise money to pay the remaining hospital bill and now this? He thought as tears dropped torrentially.
The driver was still lost in sadness and thoughts when someone tapped him from behind. It was Haleemah, she’d been observing the scenario from inside and when her mum left she came out to console the old driver.
“Daddy please don’t cry.” Haleemah consoled.
“Thank you my daughter.” The man replied and made to leave but Haleemah called him back.
“Daddy!” Haleemah called out and the man paused.
“I heard your conversation with mum yesterday. I have some money I saved to buy stuffs when going to school. You can use it to pay for Haneefah’s bill sir.” Haleemah offered handing him the money but the man refused. He feared her mother’s trouble.
“No no my dear, I’ll look for it elsewhere. I don’t want……………”
“You don’t want my mum’s trouble right? Don’t worry, she doesn’t even know I am saving money so she won’t know if you or I didn’t tell her. So I insist.” Haleemah said with pleading eyes while the man thought for a while before collecting the money.
“Thank you sir for not declining my offer of help. Enitan is my sister and I can do anything for her.”
“That’s very thoughtful of you. You see my dear! You are just like my late boss, your father. He was so compassionate and generous. He contributed a lot to my life and I’ll always be grateful to him. I could have closed my eyes to Enitan’s predicament but I just couldn’t because of your dad. Please do not change from being the angel that you are. Because of a good child like you who carried on your father’s glory, Allah might be merciful to him in his grave.” The old man addressed Haleemah passionately, reminiscing about her late father.
“I’m humbled sir, thank you for reminding me that I have to be good for my late dad to be looked upon with mercy by Allah. Now can you take me to go see Enitan? My mum is not at home, please don’t say no.” Haleemah said with pleading eyes and the old driver thought for a while before consenting to her request.
On their way to the hospital, Haleemah got some food from a nice restaurant. She also got some ‘get well soon’ cards which she delightedly gave to Enitan upon entering into her ward. The latter smiled and was also delighted to see her sister. The only friend and comforter she had in the family.
Haleemah fed Enitan and made sure she ate the whole meal. She assured her of a quick recovery and spent some time with her before leaving. She would have loved to spend the whole day but the fear of her mum is the beginning of carefulness.
The hospital bill was paid and a day after, Enitan was discharged after she was given appointment to continue injections which she never did because Madam didn’t give permission.
The driver took her home and one would think she would be granted some rest because of ill health, but no, she wasn’t spared. She resumed the chores immediately she got home. She couldn’t walk well, she limped because of the pains on her thigh and despite the limping she was bombarded with a lot of chores. The family had piled up the chores and awaited her return. Her case was similitude to that of a beggar who had no choice.
She knew she had to care for herself, if not, her leg would deteriorate, rot and that would be dangerous. She started to clean the wound by herself and the burn healed slowly. It took a long time because she wasn’t given a chance to rest, neither was she given adequate medication. She experienced an unbearable pain while the leg was healing. Having to deal with heavy chores plus a burn sore on her body was better not imagined. She cried, she prayed and she almost cursed the day she was born. The only one who helped out occasionally was Halimah. And she does when everyone was asleep because her mum must not see her.
Eventually her thigh healed completely after 6 months but it left a horrible scar. The type of scar that cannot be exposed at will. It was a disgusting and frightful sight to behold. The scar on her thigh could pass for an instructional material for a learner who hadn’t seen an iron before.
Life continued with the life of a servant in her father’s house. She had to go through ill-treatment because she was an illegitimate child. Her parents’ sins were taken out badly on her and her education was inclusive.
The rest of the daughters’ attended private school for both primary and secondary education but Madam said she couldn’t waste money on a bastard. She was enrolled in a public primary school down the street. She joined the secondary school of the same school which had just a fence demarcation.
While the other daughters’ wore expensive shoes to school, she was bought a rubber shoe and had a polythene bag to carry her books. She always looked like a maid amongst them and that delighted her step mum so much.
Her performance in school was poor. She was always sleeping in class during lessons and severally, the school had written letters to her guardian of which none was acknowledged. During her primary school days, out of the 22 pupils in class, she carried the 20th, 19th and 18th position and her step mum wasn’t bothered, exactly what she wanted for her, backwardness.
Her teachers observed that she wasn’t dull because whenever she wasn’t sleeping in class, she answers questions correctly. She was taken to the headmaster’s office and it took the teachers a while before they could persuade her to open up. She told them that she goes to bed by past 11:00pm everyday and wakes up by 3:30am to start house chores and ensure everything is ready before the other member of the house is awake.
This prompted the school to write Madam several letters which she didn’t acknowledge. Enitan’s poor performance extended till secondary school and when she wrote WAEC, she had just two c’s. The rest were D, P and F. There was no time to study. Even when she should be given a break to study for a terminal exam, the workload on her head only skyrocketed.
When her WAEC result came out woefully, her step mum gave up totally on her. It was just an excuse to carry out her decision anyways. She said she wouldn’t waste her money on a WAEC re-sit. She therefore ruled for her to go learn hair-making.
[How bitter is your life? SUICIDE IS NEVER AN OPTION. Why not trust Allah absolutely. The pains won’t continue forever. He promises relief after hardship. ‘AFTER HARDSHIP COMES RELIEF’ AL-INSHIRAH VERSE 6