If you missed the preceding two parts, you can read them here:
And now for the final part. Feel free to leave a comment too.
She walked into a compound in the middle of which stood another two-storey house. The architecture was similar to the house where the pregnant woman lived. This time, however, the person who had called her was not on the balcony. He was on the ground floor and stood with his arms akimbo, in front of the house. One would think, from the way he stood boldly, that he was the landlord. Alas! He was just a tenant. And he wanted to buy mangoes.
As he stood there pricing the mangoes, a little girl of about five years old wearing a long floral print dress, and with her natural hair braided in a suku hairstyle, emerged from the side entrance that led to the back of the building. Her tear-stained face gave Risikat reason to pause. But it was not just that she had been crying. She kept pulling her dress closer and closer around her tiny little body as if she wanted it to melt and become part of her frame. The man was clearly irritated by what she was doing, and he kept slapping her hands off to keep her from doing so. When he got fed up, he lightly caressed her head, and in a voice dripping with irony, asked her which mangoes she wanted him to buy for her. Without saying a word, the little girl picked up all five of the remaining mangoes, one after the other, and handed them to an amused Risikat. The man did not even argue. He told Risikat to wait while he went to get his purse. As soon as he disappeared into the boys’ quarters behind the house, the little girl began to speak:
“I don’t like Uncle Adisa.”
A very surprised Risikat responded with a “Why? Isn’t he your uncle?”
“No. He is our neighbor and Mummy and Daddy told me to stay with him until they come back from work.”
“So, why don’t you like him?”
No answer. Risikat was not surprised that the little girl was opening up to her like this. It was a natural effect she had on children. In fact, her father described it as a gift. They just always warmed up to her and wanted to tell her all kinds of things. And apparently, this little girl was not different.
“Okay, what’s your name? Tell me your name.”
She smiled shyly and said, “Tawa.”
“Awww! My youngest sister’s name is Tawa too. How old are you?”
She held out all five fingers on her right hand, and began to suck her left thumb. Just then, the little girl told her suddenly: “Uncle Adisa always tells me to remove my dress when I enter his room. I don’t want to remove my dress.” Risikat was shocked. But Tawa did not stop there. Without missing a beat, she described to her new friend, Risikat, the things Uncle Adisa, the same man who was about to buy the last yellow mango, did to her whenever her parents left her with him.
“Uncle Adisa locks the door with his key. Then he will close the windows, and then he will ‘off’ the light” Tawa continued, playing with her dress. By now she was sitting down on the bare floor beside Risikat. “And then we watch films. In the films, the man and woman ‘off’ their clothes and that’s when Uncle Adisa tells me to remove my dress too ….”
Risikat did not know what to do. It wasn’t just that this little girl was sharing such sensitive details with a complete stranger. Her tale forcefully brought to mind a similar ordeal Risikat had faced at the same age. Her own ‘Uncle Adisa’ was the landlord in the rented flat they lived in at that time. She knew that Tawa was telling the truth. But what was she to do? What could she do?
Just then, Uncle Adisa returned. Not knowing what had transpired between Risikat and Tawa, he paid for the mangoes and began to pull the little girl away. She began to scream and cry and tried unsuccessfully to punch Uncle Adisa on his legs. That’s when an idea occurred to Risikat.
“Uncle, abeg leave her. I go play with her until her Mama and Papa come back.”
She knew she was taking a fat chance, but she felt this little girl was worth it. Uncle Adisa did not seem to care. In fact, he heartily agreed to her suggestion, noting loudly that he knew she could not carry the little girl away since some of the neighbors had arrived by that time, and many people were milling around the compound. He also knew that her parents were bound to arrive very soon.
He promptly went back to his room, changed his clothes and went out. Risikat changed her sitting position, and set up camp with her empty tray in front of the girl’s parents’ apartment on the ground floor, waiting for their return. Meanwhile, the little girl had gone to rinse off the mangoes and was eating them one by one. She had just bitten into mango number three, the only yellow mango, when an old gray Peugeot 504 pulled into the compound startling both of them. As soon as the girl saw the car, she shouted “Daddy! Mummy!” and waited for the car to stop before running up to the driver’s door. A man in his early thirties wearing a white shirt and black trousers and a green tie stepped out. The front passenger door opened at about the same time, and a woman wearing a blue dress stepped out. She looked like an older version of Tawa. Risikat boldly stepped up to both of them, greeted them, and then took a deep breath.
“Oga, Madam, there is something I feel you should know about your daughter. And your neighbor, Uncle Adisa.” And with that, the mango seller told them exactly what Tawa had told her.
– THE END –