Where the voice led | Olabode Oluwabukola Ruth

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People often move from the village to the city, not vice versa.

Thud! The door of the rickety Micra taking Abike back to the village slammed shut. She looked at Aunty Aina, who had tears welling up in her eyes and had exerted more energy than usual when closing the cab door. She once had high hopes for life in the city, away from the village where she thought she had nobody.

Aunty Aina looked through the glass window to Abike, who was on edge in the backseat of the cab of a man to whom she was once married. The only reason she was not married to him was the same for every man who tried to woo her, the fear that he could turn out like her drunk brother-in-law. But, he was the only one she could trust to take Abike back to the village.

Two years ago;

“Ko le duro ti baba e (She cannot live with her father),” Mummy Bola, the doctor, who was also Iya Aladura’s immediate sister said with a note of finality, while the others nodded in agreement.

Her maternal family members, from the big cities, were clad in shades of black and had earned swollen faces from crying the whole day. Iya Aladura was dead; they knew that Abike, the only daughter of the dead, needed a new home.

Abike was a product of two opposites–the village drunk and the miracle-working Iya Aladura.

Abike, from where she sat on the cold hard floor, sighed with relief. The mournful air in the sitting room that was thicker than the mud bricks of the house seemed to be thinning out.

The man she called baba did not protest. He only stood up, his tall frame sagging in his buba, and hugged his akeregbe of palm wine to his bosom. Then he left the house.

And that was how the lot of Abike’s new home fell on Aunty Aina, an unmarried forty-year-old who lived in the city. After a brief mourning period, the reality of living in the ancient City of Ibadan hit.

Agbowo, compared to the village, was like the usual starry nights that became a shadow of itself. It was merely a backdrop of navy-blue colour with dots which Aunty Aina, her Aunty mi said were satellites-something.

Agbowo, like its name A-gba-owo, seemed to swallow everything. From the money from inflated prices of goods that you could buy at cheaper prices elsewhere to the dirt usually strewn across the pothole-infested roads, especially after heavy downpours.

Where these things got sucked into was not hidden from anyone. A poor river opened its ever-widening mouth to all things plastic, nylons, green decomposing matter and everything else the stinking gutters had to offer.

It amazed Abike how people who still somehow lived in the storey buildings at the river bank could still pour their dirt inside the river. No one in the village had too many plastics and nylons that they would not know how to dispose of.

On Abike’s last night at Agbowo, Aunty Aina set the perfect sacrifice before her. Three giant land snails in efo riro accompanied by some white rice with carrots peeping from all sides. You could say she was trying to wade off the repercussions that rejecting a motherless child could bring in the future.

Well, it was from the last money she had on her. She had loved the sweet-natured girl who had recently clocked twelve. And her heart hurt because of the decision she had to make.

Abike heartily ate the unusual delicacy until the questions started flowing out of her Aunty mi.

“Did anybody tell you anything about me from school?” She had asked. A moment of pause followed while Abike tried to process the questions.

“I’m not owing school fees oh,” The gentle out-of-course answer came.

“Ta lo so fun e nipa oko mi aaro (Who told you about my first marriage)!?” She shouted, and everything went still in the one-room-apartment the two shared. Abike flinched. Her Aunty mi never raised her voice at her. But then, it was exclusive news that Aunty Aina was once married.

“Is it The Voice again?” She asked, and the wide-eyed girl nodded.

Aunty Aina knew already. The girl knew nothing about the man who once wanted her to get pregnant before he could tie the knot with her. She only told what she heard from the voice; someone would ask for her hand in marriage in a few months.

“You’re going back to the village,” She said, dropping the bomb and leaving Abike’s mind racing.

“Aunty mi, why?” She whispered amidst the sobs that threatened to flood her face. She had nowhere to go. At least that was what everybody told her, and The Voice had not mentioned anything contrary.

“I will do everything you ask me, I won’t even listen to The Voice anymore,” Abike pleaded.

“Don’t beg me,” She said. The decision was final. The issue was not about The Voice. It was an excuse to return the girl to the village.

The previous day, The Voice had visited her in the most dramatic manner. She had woken up with a start when she heard the rumbling thunder. She put on her torch and shone it on the clock. It was midnight. Her gaze soon moved to the only table in the room. A foolscap sheet that was not there before she slept was on it. Her blood tingled, and she got down from the bed and tiptoed towards the paper.

Let Abike go! It read. Then, lightning cut across the sky outside the room, followed by a resounding thunder.

At that moment, she had woken up. Sending the girl off was not a punishment but a call to let go of her attachment to the girl. And it was hard to let the girl realise that now.

Abike was yet to understand that The Voice was an offshoot of Iya Aladura’s exploits on earth. Except on rare occasions, everyone Iya Aladura prayed for usually received answers to their requests. Now that Iya Aladura was no more, the spirits had to work with someone else. And her daughter was the most suitable for the job.

Aunty Aina was going to get married soon. And that was a miracle. She had told nobody about her renewed relationship with her former husband. Abike would have to learn that The Voice was a blessing to her, despite anything anyone said. She had experienced the miracle of Iya Aladura from Abike, who had not realised the full extent of what she had inherited.

Still seated in the cab, Abike thought about how The Voice led her to Aunty Aina, and now back to the village. It had been speaking to her since her seventh birthday. It was strange that it had not withheld the pre-knowing of Iya Aladura’s death from her. Her roaming thoughts soon brought her back to Agbowo where Aunty Aina’s soon-to-be husband was igniting the car.

The driver, oblivious of the energies from the emotions around him, drove away. Two pairs of red eyes stared back at each other instead of the usual wave of the hand. Brown dust rose as the car disappeared, the last reminder of Abike’s miracle in Aunty Aina’s heart.

Olabode Oluwabukola Ruth

Olabode Oluwabukola Ruth is a budding multi-genre Nigerian writer. She loves nature and is thus studying Botany at the University of Ibadan. She hails from Fiditi, Oyo State, Nigeria. Oluwabukola loves reading extraordinary stories. It was only natural that she started writing them. She loves to see people own and tell their own stories and tackle real issues. So, she inspires people to write their stories via her blog, heartychristianstories.com. Some of her stories have appeared on Writers Space Africa. She also writes periodically on Medium, where she gets very real. Meanwhile she has some other stories on social media, especially on Twitter @Oluwabruthy

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