“Mama, what is going on?” Simi stared in horror at the five-year-old girl watching cartoons in the sitting room.
After the fiasco that morning with Lucas, she had kept to her room for the rest of the morning. Actually she’d been working on a design that had been sent to her from the office. Even though she had resigned, she’d agreed to accept some freelance work particularly since she had been with the team for so long and knew all the installations they managed.
“Lara’s dad had to go away on business so she’ll be with us for a few days.”
Simi heard the words, but they did not process. She had to spend days in the same house as Lucas’ daughter? This was cruel and unusual punishment. Why was he still in their lives anyway?
“Mama can I see you in the kitchen?” She asked, speaking through gritted teeth.
She waited for her grandmother to lead the way and then followed her.
“What’s wrong Simi? I was enjoying Doc Mcstuffins.” She asked with a frown on her face.
Simi raised her hands up in exasperation, “Haba mama…Doc McStuffins! Really?”
“I like cartoons. What is wrong with that?”
Simi suddenly realized that the older woman was trying to divert her attention from the matter. “Mama, why are you the one babysitting for Lucas?” She finally asked.
“Oh the poor boy travels a lot and after his mother moved to Canada to be with his sister, I stepped in.” Mama Rose walked to the cooker and turned on the pot of tea that was always sitting there, ready to be brewed.
“Lucas is alone here?” Simi felt a pang as she watched her grandmother pick a tea cup. She couldn’t help wondering how he was coping with a small child. It must be tough.
“Mary married a Canadian and moved there. The poor girl was overwhelmed when the babies started coming. You know you young girls of nowadays get depressed at the drop of a hat. In my days, nobody had time for depression. My mother had eight of us and ran a farm that employed fifteen farmers. She did not have that luxury.”
Mama Rose had been making her tea all the while she was speaking. Simi glanced around the gleaming kitchen and thought about how much it had remained unchanged.
“So what you’re telling me is that each time he travels she comes here?”
Mama Rose nodded and then took a sip from her cup before leaning against the counter. “When are you going to get married, Simi?”
Simi took a deep breath and counted to ten before exhaling. “Mama, do you really have cancer?”
The other woman paused with her cup mid-way to her mouth. She kept her gaze on the floor and was silent for a few moments. After a while, she sighed. Dropping her teacup on the counter, she moved over to the breakfast nook and sat. she gestured to the chair across the table. Simi walked over and sat down, facing her grandmother.
“About six months ago I discovered a lump in my breast. It was very painful so I went to the hospital.”
As Simi waited for her to continue, she tried to hide the way her heart was beating with anxiety.
“The doctors suspected breast cancer. Oh, they didn’t say that but I saw it in their faces. You don’t get to be as old as I am without learning to read people,” she said with a shrug. She was sitting in the same seat Simi sat earlier that day so she was facing the back garden. She stared out the window, lost in thought. “I’m going to be seventy next year…did you know?”
Simi shook her head. Her grandmother did not look much older than fifty.
Mama Rose smiled, “Ehn, well, so I’m not afraid of dying. Many of my friends are gone, so I know it will soon be my time.”
“Haba mama, don’t talk like that,” Simi protested.
“Ah ah…no. It is only the truth. But what bothered me was the thought that if I died, you would be left with no one. I only had three children and two are gone,” her eyes suddenly looked sad and old. “It’s not easy to bury your children. There’s Kaneng, but that one does not have time for anyone. She married that Igbo boy and they’re off in Lagos living like they are the only ones in the world.”
Seeing the frown on her grandmother’s face, Simi tried to steer her to another direction. “But mama, what did they say about the lump?”
“Oh that…it was just an infection from my bra. I took antibiotics and it went like that.” She snapped her fingers to show how quickly it disappeared.
“Wait…” Simi raised a hand, “Are you saying you don’t have cancer?”
Mama Rose met her granddaughter’s outraged stare and answered calmly, “No, I don’t have cancer.”
“You lied to me?”
“Are you saying you want me to have cancer?”
Simi felt like her head was about to implode. She placed her elbows on the table and sank her head into her hands. She closed her eyes and tried to breathe past the tightness lodged in her chest. Past the painful ball of tears that was trying to squeeze past her throat.
She lifted her head in annoyance, “Mama, I don’t understand. What did I ever do to you? You made me quit my job, my life…” She could not go on.
“I’m sorry habibi,” The endearment was one Mama Rose had used for Simi when she was little. “I didn’t know what else to do. Your mother Mafeng would not have forgiven me if I’d let you continue the way you were going on and you know she really could keep a grudge. The last time I saw you in Lagos, you did not look happy. You need a man – “
“I wish you would not say that mama! Not every woman needs a man to live a fulfilled life, this is almost the twenty-second century, please!”
“Not every woman does, true. But you do!” Mama Rose shot back at her. “Look, I know you are unhappy with me now but you were losing yourself. If you are honest you would admit that this person,” she pointed at her granddaughter, “This person is not truly who you are. You need to fix that.”
Simi had no reply. She sat staring at her grandmother through blurred eyes. She had never felt so betrayed in her life. Okay so that was not strictly true, but this was definitely a nine on the betrayal Richter scale.
“I’m going to go check on Lara now, you think of what I’ve said ko?” And with that she was gone.
Feeling fragile and confused, Simi decided to go for a walk. She need to clear her head and she also needed some distance from her grandmother.
Stop by next week for chapter 6. Can’t wait? Get Simi’s Return on your kindle.
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