THOUGHTS of a Thinker

IMAG1453 There are times when one wonders what the future will hold for us all.  Are we just here because the Creator has sent us on a mission?  Have we only been given a short time to do something good?

When we finally come to earth we end up with so many problems created by ourselves and somehow we manage to come out of them.  Are be being guided and are not aware of it?

All we are required to do is to trust and obey.  Even that is difficult for us to do.

We feel incomplete, we feel complete, we feel unaccomplished, we feel we have accomplished something.  Is it that we have been put in a world that is so chaotic (which is of our own doing) that the actual reason why we are here has been put on hold while we try to unravel the mess we have put ourselves in?

Let us revert to the beginning when we lived from the earth, took only what we needed, shared what was in excess and cared for each other. Let us love others the way we love ourselves and let us do unto others the way we want them to do unto us.    Maybe then the true meaning of why we are here will be revealed.

The Iced Water Seller – Chapter 7

All the way back to Accra, Araba smiled her heart bursting with joy. Sometimes life turned out in ways you didn’t expect. She had found her lost daughter whom she had ached for all these years. Sometimes losing hope of ever seeing her and other times having faith that she would. All this good fortune happened because of a pan full of iced water. She was going to take offertory to Mass on Sunday to give thanks for this blessing she had received.

Her heart was bursting with joy. Akwesi kept looking at her through the rear view mirror. He was also very happy. He felt like he had also got a sister.

At first he was a bit jealous that an iced water seller was now going to be his junior madam as he put it but then as Madam continued talking and laughing some of her joy rubbed off on him and he also became chatty and happy. “Madam, Madam”, he said, I can fix up the bedroom for her, and we can register her at the school nearby, and we can take her to your seamstress”.

“Akwesi, go slowly” Araba said to him. “There are so many things to discuss and I cannot just go and take her from Auntie Caro”. “But Madam” he said, “She is your daughter”. “Akwesi, we will cross that bridge when we come to it”. “By the way Akwesi, You know, pushing her was a bad thing but today I will say thank God you did” and they both laughed. “So Madam, will I get a bonus for finding your daughter?” “Don’t push your luck” she said with a smile.

They arrived late in the evening and there was not much to do but to go to bed. She had wanted to go straight to the house of Auntie Caro but sanity prevailed. It was just too late to go waking people up. Tomorrow they would leave the house very early in the morning. Araba tossed and turned in bed and could not sleep. By 4 a.m. she was up and Akwesi came into the house, “Madam, so you no fit sleep? Me too, I dey think paaaa so I no sleep well”. They both laughed and she said he should go and get ready, so they could leave the house at six.

By 7a.m. they were pulling up the path of the house of Auntie Caro. They used her other car because the Benz had gone for servicing. She had asked Auntie Mansah not to call Auntie Caro until the afternoon so they had not yet heard the news. Sisi Yaa was sweeping the compound and looked surprised to see the car turn the corner. She dropped her broom and run in to call her Auntie. “Auntie Caro, Auntie Caro, Madam Araba is here”, she said excitedly. She rushed to comb her hair and tidy herself up. Today she was off from school because the teachers had a meeting with the circuit manager.

“Madam good morning, you are welcome”, said Auntie Caro, tying a scarf over her head. She was wearing a bright kaba and slit with a cover cloth around her waist which she was trying to tie at the same time “Good morning Auntie Caro, I hope I didn’t disturb you by coming so early?” “Oh no, not at all”, she said “We were taking things a bit slowly today but we are all up, I was preparing to go to prayer meeting please have a seat”.

“Sisi Yaa, bring some water for Madam”. This time she sat on the bench placed under the tree and waited for the water. “How did the visit to my Sister go? Did you find out what you wanted? Did you get any good news? Will you be going back there again?” Auntie Caro was bursting to know what information she carried back. She took the water from Sisi Yaa and asked both of them to sit down. Akwesi also came closer holding his bag of water. He was also curious to hear the full story. Madam had not told him everything. He pretended he was not paying attention by picking a duster from the car and occasionally wiping away the imaginary dust only he could see but somehow he never went out of hearing range.

Araba started her story from the beginning and every so often Auntie Caro would make a comment like “wicked man”, “God will punish them”, “satan”, “witches”, “onipa nnye”, and so on whenever Araba came to a point where she was maltreated. There were traces of tears in Araba’s eyes but she bravely held them back especially at the part where her daughter was taken away from her.

“Sisi Yaa, please go and check the soup I was heating up on the stove and turn it off if it has boiled”, Auntie Caro said seeing the tears and trying to give her the chance to break from talking.

Sisi Yaa run into the house and Araba said “Auntie Caro, I think she should come back before I continue, because it involves her also.

“Who? She asked, you mean Sisi Yaa? What does she have to do with this?” she asked. “Have patience”, Araba said.

Sis Yaa returned, surprised that they had stopped talking and were waiting for her. Araba had got to the part where she had given birth to her daughter who had been taken away from her and Auntie Caro wanted to know if she had seen her again.

Auntie Caro said “How could they do that to you? Take away your own child and not tell you where she was, it must have been hard, and you were so young, like Sisi Yaa”. Araba sighed sadly as she remembered her past but her mood changed because she wanted to see Sisi Yaa’s face when she told her she was her mother.
“Madam please tell us more” Sisi Yaa said. “Well”, said Araba, “I found out today that my little girl was taken away by my Auntie to Apamso”.

“That’s where I come from” said Sisi Yaa. “Oh be quiet and let’s hear the rest” shouted Auntie Caro.

“Are you my mother?” Sisi Yaa asked suddenly. Araba was stunned that she had asked the question and could not say anything.

“Do you think you could be the daughter of such a fine woman?”, Auntie Caro said sharply, “Tweaaa”, she said kissing her teeth “Madam please continue with your story”.

Araba kept her eyes on Sisi Yaa and she on Araba. It was as though the two were in another world where no one else existed. Akwesi was watching them and could feel something happening between them, only Auntie Caro was oblivious to her surroundings.

“Yes, Sisi Yaa, you are my daughter. The daughter who was taken away from me when I was a teenager, the daughter I cried for night and day, the daughter I never thought I would ever see again”. Tears rolled down her face and Sisi Yaa sat there in silence while tears rolled down her face too.

“Aay”, shouted Auntie Caro removing her cover cloth which she had tied round her waist. “Wonders will never cease, Aye Sisi Yaa, this is your mother! O God, you are so good” she said, waving her cover cloth in the air and pulling off her headscarf, she ran around heading towards the entrance shouting for her friends and neighbours ”Jesu” “Sisi Yaa, Sisi Yaa, Aay, I have found her mother oooh” she said. In fact she yelled so much that people gathered round her while she narrated bits of information to them. Sisi Yaa and Araba sat holding hands not being able to speak but just crying. Akwesi pulled out a handkerchief and was wiping his eyes because he could not hold his tears back. He looked around in case anyone saw him crying, Barima nsu.

Suddenly Sisi Yaa and Araba started hugging and kissing, there were no withheld emotions and finally Araba felt complete and Sisi Yaa felt safe and loved.

Auntie Caro was still enjoying the audience listening to her and they joined her in singing praises and waving their scarves and whatever they had in their hands. They were singing “God you are so good, God you are kind God you are wonderful, my Lord you are excellent” while she danced around with her cover cloth twirling about her.

Araba called out “Auntie Caro, can you please come here”, “Oh my dear Sister”, Auntie Caro shouted loudly for all to hear and slowly dragged herself away from the cheering crowd, “You are now part of my family”. Sisi Yaa watched the two women from under the shade of the tree with a big grin on her face that stretched from cheek to cheek.

“I am taking Sisi Yaa with me for the next few days so we can get to know each other. Auntie Mansah said she will call you this morning and give more details to you. She will not need to take anything with her from here; we will come back in a few days for anything she may want to take with her. I will also come back to settle things with you if you are ok with that”. “Madam”, Auntie Caro said “who will sell my water for me?” Araba looked a bit shocked to hear this. Auntie Caro was not concerned with where Sisi Yaa was going or anything like that but more concerned with the loss of someone who was going to sell her water. “Don’t worry”, Araba said, “I am sure you will not have trouble getting someone else”.

Sisi Yaa’s eyes opened wide, her heart was beating so fast she felt dizzy. She was going to be with her real mother, the smile on her face told how she felt. “Don’t spoil her Madam”, Auntie Caro said “I love her very much and will miss her”. They both knew that it was a lie.

Sisi Yaa jumped up and went to Araba saying “please can I take my books and some clothes?” “Alright, just the books, we will be going shopping for new clothes for you” she said, looking at the faded top and skirt which was burnt on the corner. Change into your Sunday dress for now. Sisi Yaa’s eyes nearly popped out of her head “You are taking me shopping for new clothes? God is good oooo I have never gone shopping for new clothes”, tears came into her eyes and she turned and ran into the house.

In less than five minutes she was out of the house and standing in front of Araba, she said to Auntie Caro “Thank you Auntie, I will see you soon”. Akwesi opened the door for her and she stepped into the car and sunk into the soft cushions. Araba followed and as the car drove away she turned round and saw Auntie Caro and the neighbours waving and gradually getting further away. Araba held on to her hand and smiled “Indeed, God is good” she said and Akwesi, looking through the rear view mirror said a loud “Amen”.

The Iced Water Seller Chapter 6.2

“Is everything ok my daughter? You look shaken, let me give you some water”.

“No its ok, I am fine”, Araba replied “Please Auntie I have to tell you something. When I was a fourteen-year-old student I was raped by an elderly uncle and got pregnant. My mother sent me away to Auntie Mabel to get me away from my uncle. She knew that he would continue troubling me. My uncle had threatened me when he had finished saying that if I ever mentioned his name as the one who touched me he would make my mother suffer but my mother knew immediately I came home. She was afraid of what he would do because he was an Assembly man. My mother could not report him or do anything about it. She was afraid. She was the only one who knew what he had done to me.

When I got to Auntie Mabel’s house I thought I was free from my uncle until changes started in my body. I hid the changes from everyone at school and at home until I couldn’t use my sweater to hide it anymore.

By then I was six months pregnant and my Auntie tried to send me to different places to have an abortion. She tried going to three different clinics but no doctor would do it, even the herbs she gave me didn’t work. Because of the disgrace, Auntie Mabel sent me far away to stay with some strangers until I had the baby and when my child was two weeks old, she took her away and never told me where she was taking her to. I was then brought back to Kumasi and later on sent to stay with an Auntie and her family in Accra, while I was away my mother died. I never knew what happened to my child and no one would tell me anything. I was too young to remember so many details.

It was not a happy time for me and gradually I forced myself to try and forget. No one would talk about this disgrace. I was the one who was raped but I was treated like the one who had committed the crime. Nothing was done because my mother never revealed who had done it and they did not want to bring disgrace to the family. Family members accused me of being a bad girl even though I was innocent.

How I hated them all for this so when I got to Accra I tried to forget everything and never contacted them. But Mama, how can you forget a child you gave birth to, a child you held in your arms and fed from your breast?”

“My Auntie’s name was Mabel Quansah.” Auntie Mansah stood up suddenly and cried out “Mey wu ooo Awurade! You! You are that young girl? Kuukua never said where you had been taken to and when she died I brought Sisi Yaa up as my daughter. You see I could not have children then and some years after my husband died. I remarried and God blessed me with three children. I was happy until my husband passed away.

My sister saw how I was struggling with my children and some other young relatives I had in the house and when she came to say she wanted to help I knew that I could give Sisi Yaa, my best friend’s daughter, a chance to be in the big city and become somebody”, she said all this in one long breath “Oh God”, she started weeping; “God is wonderful! You are Sisi Yaa’s mother”. She hugged her and tears fell unashamedly down her face. “Thank You God, Thank You!” she kept saying to no one in particular. She raised her hands up to the sky saying “nyame tomi so” “Me da wo ase” Eeey Sisi Yaa, my daughter Sisi Yaa”.

Araba was also weeping unashamedly. They talked and talked until it was time to go. Auntie Mansah said she would come to Accra to meet the family members so they could hear the good news. She gave her some corn, plantain and cassava and wanted to keep adding things to what was already filling the boot of the car. They said their goodbyes and left for Accra.

The Iced Water Seller – Chapter 6:1

Araba got the details of the directions from Auntie Caro to the home of her sister and within a few days she was on her way there after seeing to other matters in the nearby village. She had a meeting with a lady who wanted to distribute some of her goods and she needed to confirm where she lived and look at her shop. Auntie Caro had sent a message to her sister Mansah so she was expecting her. Auntie Caro had still kept on saying it was not necessary to go there. She didn’t want others to know that she was receiving such good money from this lady. They would start asking for dues and other payments which she owed because she was always buying new things to wear and going off to every church programme and function.

When they arrived in the small town, the driver followed the directions and they came to a small compound house with a large mango tree in the middle. The yard was well swept and the building was painted with bright yellow paint. To the side of the small house was a chicken coop next to an uncompleted building structure. On the ground was a bucket and bowl ready for someone to start their washing.

They had arrived very early in the day and the sun was not hot yet. A young boy pushing the rim of a bicycle with a stick ran past her enjoying his game, he didn’t see her. Just then an elderly woman who looked like an older, plumper version of Auntie Caro with a smiling face came out of one of the rooms pushing back the torn faded floral curtain that blocked people from looking into the room. It served no other purpose.

“Welcome, my daughter, my sister Caro sent me a message that you would be coming and I told her it would be better today because tomorrow is market day and the day after that I go to the next village to collect monies from the traders who credit my corn. Please sit down. Kofi bring the Madam a chair and some water to drink”, she said to a young man who followed out from the same room carrying a pan of cassava. “I am Auntie Mansah please sit down and be comfortable”.

“Thank you”, said Araba and she sat down. She knew that out in the rural areas, tradition was taken seriously and to refuse the water offered would be taken as an offence so she accepted the sachet water offered (thank God it was not from a well or a stream she thought) and she sipped a little of it. After that Auntie Mansah said “Welcome my daughter; we are all fine here, what is your mission?”

“Well thank you once again. I am the person who had the small accident with Sisi Yaa”.

“Oh yes” said Auntie Mansah, “Caro told me about the accident but she said you have been so kind to my little girl so I should be the one thanking you”.

“What I want “said Araba, “if you will help me, is to know more of Sisi Yaa’s background”. “Why?” asked Auntie Mansah.

“Well I used to live in Apamso when I was little before moving to Kumasi and maybe I know the family”.

“Huum”, said the woman; “there is not much to tell. My best friend, Kuukua first arrived in the village with the little girl and said she was the daughter of her niece who was a junior high school student about the age of fourteen. They didn’t know the father of the child”.

“Was Kuukua the only name she had?”

“I always called her Kuukua but she was also known as Auntie Mabel”. Auntie Mabel? Araba’s heart missed a beat and she suddenly looked sick…

poverty home_PencilSketch

AUNTIE MANSAH’S HOUSE

The Iced Water Seller – Chapter Five

The days went by quickly and soon it was time to pick Sisi Yaa up and take her to the clinic. She was excited to be with her again and sent Akwesi out to get her while she finished off some work in her office that she had set up at home.

It was still quite early but she wanted to ask her so many questions. An hour later, the car drove up with Sisi Yaa sitting in front, “I’m sure Akwesi didn’t want her to sit behind like a madam” she thought to herself, laughing at the same time.

“Madam we have come”, Akwesi said. She answered from her office “Give her a seat and serve her some orange juice I will be right out”. Araba walked in and Sisi Yaa’s face lit up.

This was the first adult who treated her kindly and she liked her very much. How are you feeling today? “Araba asked her.

“I’m fine Madam, she said with a smile. “This morning Auntie Caro wanted me to do her washing so I had to get up early”.

“You mean you had to do the washing even though you are injured?”

“She said there was nothing wrong with my arms – anyway I had finished before your driver came”.

“I see you’ve finished your drink, then let’s go”. They left the house and Sisi Yaa again sunk into the soft leather seats and enjoyed the cool breeze from the air conditioner.

“Sisi Yaa, what is the name of the village that you come from?” Araba asked.“I am from Apamso”. Araba’s heart missed a beat. Apamso? But your name is not from that area”. (Usually you could tell the region a person was from by at least one of their names).

“Yes I know, I used to ask why my name was different and I was always told that it was the name given to me”.

“Apamso”, Araba said to herself. Sisi Yaa turned to look out of the window; it was nice to be seen in such a car. It made her feel powerful.

“What are your parents’ names?” Araba asked.

“I only know that they were called Maame and Big Joe, but I was told that they died when I was very young. Auntie Caro’s sister, Auntie Mansah brought me up; she gave me the name Sisi Yaa because I was born on a Thursday”. Araba wanted to ask more questions but just then they pulled up at the clinic and they got out. “Apamso” she kept saying in her head,” this must be a coincidence”. The visit to the doctor’s passed by like a dream and soon they were on their way back to Sisi Yaa’s home.

”I have to have a long chat with Auntie Caro when we get back”, she said to Sisi Yaa. She replied “She said she was going to the market but she might be back now”. They stopped in the yard and Sisi Yaa got out slowly as though she didn’t want Madam Araba to leave. Auntie Caro suddenly turned the corner into the yard carrying some heavy black plastic bags filled with foodstuff.

“Madam, so you are back, you didn’t have to come yourself, you could have sent the driver”.

“Well” said Araba, “I wanted to talk to you in private”.
“What has Sisi Yaa done again?” she quickly asked. “Oh no, she hasn’t done anything wrong”.
“Oh, ok, then please come in and take a seat. Sisi Yaa, bring some water for our visitor”.

“Don’t worry, I just had some this morning, I am fine, thank you for the offer”.

“Ok, then can we start with tradition” said Auntie Caro, “You are welcome, what is your mission?”

“Thank you”, said Araba. “Sisi Yaa tells me you come from Apamso”. “Yes that is my hometown,”

“But”, Araba said, “Her name is not common around there.”

“Huuum”, said Auntie Caro breathing deeply and looking around. “My Sister Mansah brought her into her family” she sighed.

“Mansah thought she couldn’t have children after many years of marriage and a friend, Kuukua, had this baby girl with her but Kuukua could not take care of the baby because she became sick with cancer. Kuukua said she was the child of one of her very young nieces, who was still in school, she was herself a young child so she took the baby from her after her niece gave birth so there would be no disgrace in the family, having an unmarried child in the family. It was her family secret.

Mansah had known Kuukua for many years; they were more like sisters than friends. So Sisi Yaa was brought up by Mansah most of the time. They lived a few houses away from each other. “Do you know her auntie’s friend’s family name?” Araba asked.

“No” she said, “I was only told that she was called Kuukua and that they lived in Kumasi until she got too sick they moved back to Apamso where they had relatives who could care for her. Not long after that she died and Mansah kept the child. No family member came to claim her. No one showed interest even though she had contacted the family and said she had the child with her. Mansah will be able to tell you more”.

“I would like to get in touch with her if that is alright with you”.

“Why are you so interested, Madam”? “Madam”, she repeated loudly because Araba seemed to have a distant look in her eyes.

“Could it be?” she said to herself.

“Madam, Mansah does not have a phone so I will send a message to a neighbour and let you know when she will be able to come down to Accra”.

“That will take too long; if you give me the directions after you speak to her I will go there this week. I have some business near there anyway. In the meantime here is some money for the loss of earnings from the water and some for you for the phone call and other small things and for Sisi Yaa’s studies, she said she wanted to go for extra classes but it was too expensive”.

“Madam this is too much”, Auntie Caro said holding her hand up to her mouth but smiling behind the hand. “The woman has money” she said to herself, “if she stays interested in Sisi Yaa then I will not suffer. Now I can go and pay my church dues and pay some of the ladies I credited things from. Of course, I will let the silly girl go for studies so the lady will continue to pay”.

“Sisi Yaa”, she shouted, come here and say thank you to Madam, she has paid for your extra classes”
“Madam, thank you”, she said half bending her good leg and smiling from cheek to cheek. “Thank you. I am so happy”. Araba asked Akwesi to bring something from the car and she gave this to Sisi Yaa. “These are things you will need for school and a new uniform. “Praise God”, said Auntie Caro, “Thank you”, said Sis Yaa with a smile that was wider than her face.

“Thank you Madam”.

The Iced Water Seller – Chapter Four

NightFruitSeller-II (2)Araba was in deep thought when they arrived at the office and she was troubled, thinking to herself she said “If I don’t do anything to help Sisi Yaa, another girl will not know her potential”, and she knew that this was her chance to help someone the same way that someone had helped her. She reflected on her life and gave thanks that she had made it this far. It had not been easy but through determination she had made it.

When she was living with Auntie Joyce and family she had been really mistreated and used as a maid but her only consolation was that she was still allowed to go back to school after the birth of her child. Her cousins became more hurtful and arrogant as they grew older but what saved her most of the time was that they had all passed their exams and went off to boarding school. She had the opportunity too but Auntie Joyce said she could not afford to pay for a boarding school for her so she stayed behind and went to the local government school. She made sure she studied hard so she wouldn’t hear complaints about wasting money on her education and this also helped reduce the bad treatment Auntie Joyce gave her.

To get some pocket money for herself she had asked her Aunt if she could sell oranges outside the house after she had finished all her chores. At first she didn’t agree but Araba reminded Auntie that since they were all out of the house in the evenings it would help her keep awake. Auntie Joyce had started on an evening course and came home quite late. She finally agreed and Araba used money she had saved to buy a small basket of oranges. She practiced how to remove the peel and leave the whole fruit intact, she used the knife to make smooth green and white grooves on the oranges making them attractive and this she displayed on a stand that she borrowed from a neighbour

who used to sell oranges. The stand was made of iron rods that looked like a candle stand with circles in branches on which she placed the peeled oranges to display them. She had a bobo on the table that burned brightly giving light and at the same time the smoke coming from it stopped flies and mosquitoes from hovering around.

Because the house was on the corner of the street near the bus stop, lots of people passed by and her orange stand became a popular place for people to gather and while away the time. She made sure that the house was clean, the food cooked and other chores done. After a while she made some profit and managed to pay for two hours extra classes a week. There was a small savings and loans company next to her school and she opened a savings account with them and put in her small profit every day. At first it was just to keep the money away from the house but later on she realised that it was a good idea to save with them after speaking to their agent. The young savings agent had told her about the “susu savings”. Their motto was “Every penny counts”. That was how she started to save up and improve her life.

One day she went to pay in the money she had made and saw the manager and a lady friend in the office chatting. They asked her a few questions and were obviously impressed that a person so young could be saving with them. After looking at her pass book he was even more impressed and commented to his friend – who happened to be a philanthropist, and remarked that this was the type of young person they could help.

“Victoria“, he said, “I think you should take a look at this” he said passing the pass book over to her. “The young lady has shown she is determined and a good candidate for your project to help young ladies”.

The lady asked her what her plans were and her dreams and what she did for a living. She told her the truth and that was what impressed the lady so much. “Here is my card, call me tomorrow and we can meet and talk about what my organisation does.”

This woman, Mrs. Victoria Roberts was the person who turned her life around. She became a mentor and advisor and helped her with her studies. Mrs Roberts was a cheerful lady who loved people. She was always encouraging young women and after travelling back from the United States set up an NGO to help the girl child. She had married a wealthy man and after his death wanted to give back to her community. Araba was more determined to do well in school. It became easier for her when the organisation took up the payments of her fees and studies and in the end she passed with very good grades.

The years passed by and Araba found out that she loved buying and selling and didn’t want to continue with higher education. Her cousins were now all in the university and one day Auntie Joyce said it was about time she left their house as she was old enough to look after herself. Jojo had found her pass book and had seen that she had some money saved in there. “If you can save money, then you can live on your own, I have done my duty, and it’s about time you look for your own place to stay. I will give you some money for your first year’s rent, as payment for all the years you have served us, after that you are on your own. All this time you were making money like this and we were still feeding and caring for you. I should even be asking you for rent”. There was no motherly feeling coming from her, it was as though she was getting rid of an employee, not a family member. Araba was hurt and just held back her tears. Araba’s mentor, Mrs. Roberts, helped her find a small room in town and on the day she moved she felt like there was going to be a big change in her life, she was free from being treated like a maid and had served her family well.

The first thing she did was to take out a loan with the savings company to buy some African print cloth. This she rolled in neat piles and carried them in a basket on her head and went from house to house selling the cloth. If you bought on credit she added a little extra to the price and made her profit plus interest. She later on added African beads and slippers to her load and because of her customer service she had many clients who recommended her to other people.

Very soon her business expanded and she rented a small shipping container that had been turned into a shop and filled it will all sorts of things for sale. She still went round to her clients on certain days of the week and soon had to employ a young girl to be in the shop while she went on her rounds. She quickly paid back her loans and was able to get a bigger loan to go to neighbouring ECOWAS countries to buy all sorts of beads, trinkets, shoes, perfume and wigs to put in her shop. This business just continued to grow and soon she had two more containers and a shop in the main market. She was now a big time trader and retailers came to her for goods to resell. She got a passport and started to travel out to other countries to buy goods. One of her customers, Margaret was an accounts student who started working with her and the two became good friends and made the business grow profitably.

Not one to be dependent on anyone, Araba bought a car and soon learnt how to drive. She had always use a taxi company called Miss Taxi which only had female drivers and they made her feel safe especially at night but now she wanted to have her own car. She hated the city traffic and hired a driver for the weekdays. Now he was with her seven days a week and it was on one of her rounds that she met Sisi Yaa………To be continued

 

The Iced Water Seller – Chapter Three

“Driver, please turn right here”, Araba heard the young girl say. She had been day dreaming, remembering her past. This little girl reminded her so much of herself. If she could help her she would. They turned a corner and in front of them was a small yellow house in a single plot which was walled on three sides. The front was not walled. All the other houses were walled and gated so you could see that the three walls had been completed by the neighbours.

There were drying lines stretching across the side and a rubbish heap by the left of the yard, which had probably been burnt in the night because there were blackened tins and ash among the leaves that had been swept there in the morning. Just in front of the building was a large Mango tree and some benches had been fixed under the large tree on the right. Green and yellow leaves and the yellow pollen from the tree had dropped around even though the ground had been swept early in the morning leaving broom groves in the soil.

The house looked like it was the boy’s quarters; with the main building in the front, but all that was visible of the main building was the foundation with iron rods sticking out, some bent and rusty.

A pile of wooden sticks were tied to one side. Three blue barrels and two yellow plastic gallons, used for water were placed together with weeds growing around the bottom and green fungus had started settling around the base which was damp with water.

Someone had started building it a long time ago but could not finish it because the blocks protruding out from the foundation had turned black and green with age. Under a tree sat a thin lady chatting with two other ladies who looked like they had all just come from a church prayer meeting. They were wearing blue and white cloth wrappers and white Lacoste ‘T-shirts and white scarves on their heads. The back of their shirts had the words “Saving Grace Women’s Fellowship” written in red.

They were chatting and laughing and when they saw the car they stopped and stared. The thin lady’s mouth opened when she saw Sisi Yaa coming out of the big black Mercedes Benz.

“What has this stupid girl gone and done now?” she said out loudly to the two women.

“Sister Caro please be patient, let’s wait and hear what she has come to say”.

“Good afternoon Auntie”, Sisi Yaa said, “I”…. Before she could finish Auntie Caro shouted at her, “What have you done now, I can’t even have a day without complaints”.

“Madam”, Araba said, “She hasn’t done anything wrong, my driver accidentally pushed her and she fell into the gutter, we took her to the clinic.

“Jesus! Glory to God!”, the two women exclaimed in unison, “Amen” they also replied to themselves.

Araba continued “I want to pay for the burst bags of pure water and to see where she lives so I can take her back to the clinic for her check-up”. Quickly Auntie Caro said “Forgive my bad manners, please take a seat. Sisi Yaa, bring water for the visitors”. Sisi Yaa limped into the house and came out with a tray of sachet water which she painfully served to them. Auntie Caro’s friend Pat who had also stepped out of the Benz went round and whispered to her friend quietly,

“Sister Caro, this woman is very rich; you should see the car we came in and the clinic, wow! It was so expensive; I didn’t know that there were places like this in this town. Don’t let her go so easily, you can make money out of her.”

“Don’t worry” said Auntie Caro quickly and under her breath, “We shall have a plan, let us hear what she has to say”. They all sat down, Araba on the left with Akwesi behind her and Auntie Caro, Auntie Pat, the two ladies and Sisi Yaa to the right, and after they had drank the sachet water, Auntie Caro, following tradition said “You are welcome; you came here to see us, what is your mission?” Araba got up and started to speak, Auntie Caro said, “Please sit down Madam”. Araba sat down and then narrated the whole incident up until they got to the house. She then turned to Auntie Pat and put something into her hand.

“For your help, here is something for you, for coming with us and supporting Sisi Yaa.” Auntie Pat said “Oh, oh, it’s too much”, even though she did not know what she had been given.

She wanted to see how much she was holding, but other people were watching. She might have to share so she ignored the temptation to look into her hand and pushed the money down her cover cloth.

“Also”, Araba continued “Sisi Yaa said she was carrying one bag of water and had only sold three sachets out of the bag so I am replacing that bag with two full bags to cover the cost of the electricity used for chilling them as well. Akwesi, bring the two bags from the boot”. Akwesi had been sent to buy them when they were at the clinic.
“I will send Akwesi to pick Sisi Yaa up the day after tomorrow to take her to the clinic. Auntie Caro, here is some money because she will not be able to walk properly for some days and you seem to need her help selling these bags of water”. Auntie Caro started to say it was not necessary Madam, but Araba quickly said “It’s no problem. We were responsible for what happened so it is no problem at all. I only plead with you not to punish Sisi Yaa because she didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Madam, I will not do that, Sisi Yaa is my favourite niece, she is hard working and respectful, so don’t worry she will be fine”. Sisi Yaa lowered her head and held her hand over her mouth. She was happy Auntie Caro was praising her in front of the lady but she knew she only said that because of the money she had just been given.

“Sisi Yaa”, Auntie Caro said loudly, “say thank you to the lady for me and for taking you to the clinic.” Sisi Yaa shyly got up and said “Thank you Madam, God richly bless you”. The other church ladies also got up, shook Araba‘s hand and also said in unison “God bless you Madam.” Auntie Pat sat holding her cover cloth as though she was afraid to even move in case the others remembered the money she had hidden away.

“Ok Caro, I have to rush off to the house, my husband will be in soon. I was just here to make sure that Sisi Yaa was taken care of”, Auntie Pat said

“Don’t go yet” said Auntie Caro but Auntie Pat quickly got up and said “I will come back when he has eaten” and she quickly left. Araba also got up and said “We also have to be leaving because I have a busy day ahead of me. Akwesi will come in two days’ time to pick up Sisi Yaa. Here is my phone number, please call me if there are any problems”. She handed her business card over to Auntie Caro who took it smiling.
“Thank you Madam, thank you. God bless you. We will be expecting you”. She got to the car, Akwesi opened the door for her and after she sat down she called out to Sisi Yaa who came limping towards the car.

“Take care, we will see you soon. Be careful of your leg and don’t get the bandage wet”.

“Yes Madam” she replied and with that Akwesi reversed out of the yard and they left.  TO BE CONTINUED………

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The Iced Water Seller – Chapter Two Part 2

Auntie Mabel took me to a local clinic and after having a blood test and some other tests the nurse confirmed that I was pregnant saying “she must be about five to six months already”. This made my Auntie angrier; “What”, she shouted, “you must have been pregnant when you came to me” I wondered why your mother asked me to come for you urgently. Wait till I speak to her” “Can this be removed?” she quietly asked the nurse, “I am sorry, but it is too late for that, she is very young and the baby is fully grown”.

She took me home and brought some herbs and made a concoction forcing me to drink it all, but they only made me sick and still nothing would budge the baby growing in me. She went to two other clinics and they said the same, “sorry, we can’t help you”. Even the local quack doctor said because I was very young and because of my small size he would not help in case I died. “I don’t want to go to prison” he said shrugging his shoulders.

As fate would have it, I had to be taken out of school and sent across the country to stay with some strangers in a village who treated me like an outcast.

They were extended family members who kept preaching and raining curses on me. “Look at you, a small girl like you already chasing boys and look at the result”. I continued to weep every night and got weaker from the lack of good food and care. There was no one to guide and help me when I was struggling to bend down or lift something up. Even a bucket of water to take my bath felt like I was carrying a barrel. I used to go out of the house and sit under the cashew nut tree that was by the side of the house. My only companions were the chickens and sleeping dog who had made this place their own, because of the leaves of the tree which spread out widely like an umbrella, there was good shade, and because of the hill, there was quite a refreshing breeze. This stopped small insects from disturbing the dog. He barely raised his head when I came to sit down. He had become used to me.
The house was halfway up a hill and from where I sat I could see the town’s folk going to and from the market. The narrow road meandered through the valley below. I made no friends and was told not to go far from the house. There were no children my age in the houses nearby. Groups of children coming from school always passed by on their way home and I longed to be with them but in this condition I had no option but to remain in this mini prison. When it got nearer to the time for me to deliver the child Auntie Mabel brought a woman to be with me, she called her a local birthing woman.

For two days I suffered the pain of labour when the baby could not come out because I was very small. This was because I will still a child and my body had not developed fully as a woman. The women of the house just kept praying and walking around while the birthing woman massaged my stomach with hot towels and gave me okro soup to drink to help with the delivery. I screamed and screamed and the other women just shouted “If you want to do what big women do then you will also have to suffer like they do, foolish girl.” Finally the baby came out and I fainted.

The birthing nurse, I never knew her name, was the only one who showed me any kindness and after bathing the baby gave her to me to feed. She was lovely with long curly hair and small fingers. She never cried much and had these big brown eyes with long dark lashes. Two weeks after the birth of my daughter Auntie Mabel came down and took my little girl away. I was sent back to Kumasi. I was taken to a hospital because I was bleeding heavily and it was there the doctor said I might not be able to have any more children because the large baby had caused problems to my womb and pelvis. Milk continued to trickle out of my breasts and I used pads to cover them.

After I got to Kumasi I was told my mother had died the month before. First I have my child taken away and then my mother dies without me seeing her. What more could happen to me?
My brothers and sisters were shared out among relatives and I never saw them until we were all grown up. Nothing was left of the home I knew. I was sent to stay with Auntie Joyce and her family in Accra. She had promised to take care of me since I was the eldest of my mother’s children. She and her husband did all that they promised they would do for me but there was no emotion or love. I was treated like an unwanted family member, and when her husband left with another woman, I was blamed for all the bad luck. My cousins treated me like the maid and I had no choice because Auntie Joyce continued to pay for my education.

The boys, Fifi and Joojo – my cousins, were so horrible to me, always putting the blame on me when they did anything wrong so I was constantly being punished. Pulled ears and knocks on the head were routine. Only Ekua, the daughter, who was my age, treated me like a sister but she was away in boarding school.

School was my escape, once I stepped into the classroom I forgot all the hardship and the daughter I would never see. I wanted to attend extra classes but my Auntie said she was paying enough for me and could not afford it. Everyone in the class had to attend these extra classes because the teachers used this time to teach what they could not finish during the day. It was also a way for them to make money. They sold snacks and other food and drink items to us, so for them it was beneficial to have all of us there for the classes. I helped the teachers every day after school so they would not pick on me because I was not attending the classes. I wiped the black board, sold their snacks for them, carried their books and washed the dusters.

I cried in the evenings and forced myself to study even harder. Sometimes when I was doing my homework or studying I would be called away to do some household chore. My cousins would be watching television and could easily get up and do what I was asked to do.

“Rabs” as they called me, shortening my name, “Bring me water”. The fridge was in the same room they were sitting in but they couldn’t get up and get their own water. I used to complain but now I realised that no matter what, I would never be fully part of the family. When I complained, Auntie Joyce always shouted at me and said “Do you think you can be here without helping? If you don’t like it I will send you back to the village”. I went to do the errand I was asked to do and brought the water.

“This is not cold” Joojo said” change it”. This was how it had always been; Auntie never taught them how to say please or thank you or even to speak respectfully to me. I was older than they were but from the way they behaved you would not know that. As they got older my cousins became more spiteful, sometimes even teasing me with the name “born one” a local slang for a young person with a child out of wedlock. TO BE CONTINUED…………………………..

The Iced Water Seller Chapter Two- Part 1

Araba sat quietly watching the girl and her mind went back to when she was about the same age. Araba remembered one particular day.

“Araba, come here, you stupid girl,” said her Auntie Joyce, “I thought I told you to scrub the bathroom”, she got a slap around her ears “Go and do it now”,

“Yes Auntie, I was going to do it but Joojo was in there when I was ready to do it” she sobbed.

“Don’t give me any excuses you lazy girl! When you finish you should hang out the washing and sweep the kitchen floor then you can go to school”. This was a daily routine of chores, slaps and tears.

My life became hell when my father died when I was still in primary school. My mother couldn’t afford to look after all four of us, things had become difficult and she always had to rely on uncles and aunts to give handouts. One particular uncle, whom we all called Uncle Vikay, came around the house chatting and joking with my mother. Sometimes he would send me to buy beer and cigarettes for him and I also had to wash his clothes and sweep his room. His room was one big room divided with a faded curtain across the room to create a separate sleeping area. This separated his sleeping area from the space where he received visitors. He had a small television and a radio in one corner and a fridge on the other side of the room. His clothes were in three suitcases covered with a piece of white lace. His only table was a wide one covered with a flowery blue plastic cover and he had cups, glasses and plates pushed to one corner and a Bible in the middle of it.

My mother was so grateful for his financial assistance and concern for her and her children that she used to send me to him whenever she went to the market. She fried fish for him and made shitor on market days and it became my duty to take these to him.

On one particular day he sent for me and when I got there he said he had some clothes to be washed and after I finished washing them he would give me some money to take to my mother. Of course this was not unusual so I got the pan of water ready and soaked the white shirts in it. When I went to get the money to buy the soap powder for the washing he said the money was on the table. I looked and said I could not find it. Uncle Vikay said “Oh, I must have left it on the bed, just come for it. When I pulled back the curtain he grabbed my arm and pulled me onto the bed.

“Let me go, Uncle Vikay” I said and he pulled my hair and gripped me so tight that I could not breathe and tears sprung in my eyes. He threatened to beat me up. “Please Uncle stop, let me go.” “No” he said, “just sit here, and if you make any noise I will disgrace you”. I started weeping and he pulled at my blouse. “If you tell anybody I will destroy your mother, and all of you will go hungry, just shut up” he said slapping me across the mouth. He pushed me down and with one hand over my mouth he used the other to pull my blouse causing some of the buttons to pop off. He pulled my pants and tore them off and proceeded to rape me. I could not cry out or scream because he was covering my mouth and kept threatening me. The pain that went through me was so bad I felt like I was dying. When he finished he just got up and threw the money for the soap at me “Go and buy the soap and finish washing my clothes, I will be watching you and if you tell anyone about this, I swear, you will all suffer, especially your mother.

All I could do was to wipe the bloodstains off my thighs and stagger out to go off and buy the soap powder. There was no one around and it seemed that at that moment everybody had disappeared. I walked slowly to the corner shop and felt like everyone in the street could see what I had been through. I got back and with tears in my eyes I started the washing. After washing and hanging up the clothes I left with the money he gave me to give my mother.

“Remember, he said, ”If you talk I will destroy your mother and you will never be able to show your face here again”. He grabbed at my breast and I run out of the room. I was only fourteen! How could I tell anyone about this shame and embarrassment?

My mother saw me coming towards the house with tears in my eyes. I couldn’t look at her in the face and she asked me what the matter was. I felt so dirty and guilty. “Nothing” I said. She continued to press me but I refused to answer and look at her. I felt sure that she knew what had happened because she continued to watch me silently.

I went about the house like a zombie and finally when evening came I was so glad to huddle up to my pillow.

“Araba” my mother said, “Are you sick? I can get you some medicine don’t worry, it shall be well”. I wanted to tell her but was so afraid.

“I don’t want to go to uncle’s house again” was all I could say. She held my face, looked in my eyes and I knew that she knew. Her brother, Vikay, the town Assembly man, the man who could do no wrong had defiled her daughter. She was so dependent and fearful of him so could not do anything. If she went to the police, the family would disown her and she would never be able to go to them again. Uncle Vikay was the generous family elder who helped when they had family problems and financial hardship. She had no one else to depend on. What a terrible thing he had done, but she was powerless to defend her daughter, who would believe her?

Two days later Auntie Mabel my mother’s eldest sister, came and took me away with her. I heard her say that she would look after me and send me to school on condition that I helped her in the house. For over five months I felt safe with Auntie Mabel then I began to notice changes in my body. My breasts were getting swollen and tender, they were not normally big but the buttons on my school blouse were getting difficult to close up. “I am getting fat with all this town food” I said to myself It wasn’t until my skirts could not zip up that I got afraid that something was wrong. I hid my growing stomach and tied a cloth around my breasts and wore baggy shirts and tops and would not bathe with the other girls. My menstrual periods had never been regular anyway so I did not think anything was wrong when it stopped flowing. I never had morning sickness so no one suspected I was pregnant either, that was also the reason why Auntie Mabel never thought anything was wrong until one day she called me and said she had noticed I was getting fatter and tired all the time.

“Come here” she said and she touched my waist.

“Oh my God” Asem ben ni?” She shouted “you are pregnant, who is the boy?” “You are only fourteen”. She slapped me and shook me to get the information out of me but I wouldn’t talk. “Who have you been sleeping with?” she shouted. “Your mother will say I did not look after you well, how could you bring such a disgrace on yourself and the family? You sinful girl, God will punish you”. She whipped me with a belt whilst calling on God to have mercy on my soul.  TO BE CONTINUED