Juldeh loved going to her Aunt’s house. It always felt like a holiday as her Aunt spoiled her with gifts and cooked anything she wanted. She really fancied living with her, but her father refused. Instead, she had to live with him and his mean wife and younger half-brother.
“It is okay, though; it will not be forever. I will move in with Aunty and Uncle when I go to university. Then Baba cannot stop me. I would be old enough, and I know Aunty would love that.” Juldeh told herself.
Juldeh’s thoughts were interrupted by her Aunt’s voice. It was her 15th birthday, and like all her previous ones, she was celebrating with her Aunt because her father did not appreciate birthday celebrations. He would make comments about Juldeh being spoiled and that it was unnecessary to give one child countless presents, so Juldeh would leave most of her gifts at her Aunt’s to avoid angering her father.
This birthday was different. Mariama could not stop crying. She knew it was time to bring out the jewellery box she had kept the past fifteen years and promised Kajata she would not do it a day earlier. She promised Kajata she would take care of her daughter, and so Mariama refused to have any child of her own because she is now Juldeh’s mum.
Mariama tried to pull herself together. She wiped her tears and forced a smile. She never got over her baby sister’s passing. A death that could have been prevented if her husband were not a stubborn, he-goat. She would have survived Juldeh’s birth had he taken her to a hospital when she went into labour but instead took her to that Mami Yahyo. When Mariama and her parents got to her sister, she had already given birth but was bleeding more than normal. Mami Yahyo had thought everything was ok so did not act but Kajata continued bleeding. It was not long before she realised there must have been complications but did not know what was wrong but Mariama could tell Kajata had bled too much already. They hastily tried to get her feverish bleeding sister to the hospital but got delayed in traffic, Mariama remembered screaming out the car window onto the noisy street hoping God would hear her pleas and move the traffic, but he did not.
They arrived at the hospital an hour later. Her sister did not make it. It was too late to save her.
Mariama resented Mamadu and blamed him for her sister’s untimely death. She hated her parents for their part too.
Mariama had begged her parents not to give Kajata’s hand in marriage. She even suggested exchanging places with Kajata, but her words fell on deaf ears. Mariama felt like a part of her died along with her sister
Juldeh rushed to Mariama, confused as to why she was crying. Mariama took out the letter and showed Juldeh the picture of her heavily pregnant mother. “Who’s this?” asked Mariama teary-eyed.
“That’s my mother,” smiled Juldeh.
“Yes. But who is in her belly? Huh?” Mariam asked, pointing at the picture.
“Me?” replied Juldeh. “I look like my mum. Right, Aunty?” she asked, taking the picture, bringing it up to her face for closer inspection.
“Yep. Juldeh listen. your mother wanted me to give you this box today. It has notes and poems she wrote for you. You are the only one to read them. Read it whenever you are ready. I just want you to know that your mother loved you a lot even though she never had the chance to know you.”
Mariama handed the old jewellery box to her niece and walked away sobbing. She could not believe that Kajata’s request on her last visit before she was due to give birth had actually come to pass. She had shrugged it off as Kajata being dramatic although understandably worried so Mariama had promised that she would take the jewellery box and keep it if anything were to happen to her during the delivery.
She remembered how she used to knock her head while giving her a shower when they were kids. The times she pretended she did not want to be her friend. And how she never truly listened to her when she would read the poems, she had written for her. Mariama believed loving her sister silently was enough.
Mariama wished she could trade places with her or go back in time and fix it, do things differently. Now all she had was Juldeh and memories.
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Immoh - Get up
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