Where Lands Meet by Nia Eze by Nia Eze - Read Online

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Where Lands Meet - Nia Eze

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Maami watched the little child sucking at her breast, nestled in the parody of a loving cuddle in her arms with a mixture of grief, resentment and relief warring within her. She wondered at the terrible mix of emotions that the baby was probably sucking down his gut along with her breast milk. Breast milk that had the Lord been so kind should have nourished her own baby. But her baby had died. A little girl, they told her, so perfectly formed that it seemed a tragic waste that she had not lived to fulfill the promise of great beauty already stamped on her features from birth. She had died only a few hours after being born and now, this boy child, this white boy child was taking her place at her mother’s breast.

How Maami grieved the injustice of it all. They had taken everything! Everything that gave her humanity and dignity and yet the Lord, the one who they said was just and righteous did nothing. She wondered whether Nyame, the high god, would have done nothing had it been in his jurisdiction that this had happened. She seriously doubted it. But then, where had Nyame been when the slave traders had carried her away from her loving family on a journey of no return? Why had He not saved her from her uncle’s maliciousness when he had planned with the white men to kidnap her so that she and Kwame would be unable to marry and his own daughter, her cousin Amma would be the unrivaled maiden in their village? The gods were not fair, she concluded. It was true what they said, the old ones in her village, that the gods were too busy with more important things to be concerned about the foibles of man. But how she wished that they would! How she wished it with all her being!

The boy child stopped sucking and she looked down at him to see why. He had fallen asleep. She held him in her arms studying his features closely while looking for a sign of... she was not sure what she wanted to see. That he would remember when he was older that it was her who nursed him? That he would be a better person than his society and culture would want to mould him into? What was she hoping for this baby?

Presently, he stirred and opened his eyes to look directly at her. In that moment, it seemed to Maami that he knew exactly who she was, that to this baby, she was not invisible, interchangeable or dispensable. He gurgled out a toothless smile at her and seemed to be trying to get her to enjoy his delight at being born and alive with him. Maami could not help the smile that touched her lips. Babies, she decided, were the same. Whether their skin was white or dark brown like hers, babies were babies. It was life that taught them to draw the lines as they grew. To decide that one human being was more valuable than another.

You need to stop loitering Maami. If the baby has been nursed then you should lay him down and get to other things as needs doing! Mrs. Martha scolded as she bustled into the room. She picked the baby up, Scott, Scott Thorne Richardson II and carried him out of the room, calling out instructions as she left and mumbling about silly black cows.

Maami remained seated for a few moments longer as she allowed the burn of the insults wash out of her spirit. She should be used to it by now but how does one ever get used to the denigration of one’s spirit? She reckoned that she could speak English as well as Mrs. Martha. She could have and indeed usually did Mrs. Martha’s work as well as her own in half the time it took Mrs. Martha to do hers alone. But she dared not show that she was as smart as she was. If Mrs. Martha took a dislike to her, it would go rough for her. And so she smiled her foolish grin and stood to her feet. She walked out in an unsteady gait as she tried to get blood flowing back down her legs after sitting so long in one position. She pretended that it did not wound her to numbness when Mrs. Martha spoke like she did. She pretended that she was content with her foolishness.

She made her way down to the kitchen gently for she was still feeling tender after childbirth. Again, her sorrow for her lost baby rose to the fore. Nine whole months and nothing to show for it! They did not even let her hold her baby, not once. Rather, they had immediately put her to work in the kitchen. The old cook was becoming blind and her bones gave her such trouble in the mornings. It had become a struggle for her to get up in the mornings so Maami had been sent to the kitchen to learn how to cook for the master and his family. She liked the kitchens. It was easier than the wash room where she had been since she had joined this household and the aroma of cooking food had always been one of the simple joys of life for her. It reminded her of her home and cooking with her mother, aunties and cousins.

She had worked in the fields for another family for many years until they had discovered that she was pregnant. It had been the master’s man that had gotten her pregnant. They had sold her off quickly enough. The family had prided themselves as devout Christians and had not wanted the scandal of a mixed breed baby on their lands. She scoffed at the memory of her ill use at their hands. She had not wanted the attention she had gotten from the Mr. Hoover but had that stopped him? Had she been with her family he would have been severely punished for what he had done to her. But her family was not here and she had not made friends easily. Even if she had, what could they have done? They were all helpless.

She straightened her back as she gained her balance. It would not break her, their unfeelingness, their neglect of her humanity. One day, Nyame would have to show up. Hadn’t the elders always said so? Although what he would do when he did was beyond her.


Twenty five years later.

Scott woke gently as if drifting on a cloud. He had the disorienting feeling of angels singing for him. That thought snapped him out of it as he jolted up from the bed, wide awake. He breathed a sigh of relief when he realized that he was in his room and lying on his bed and very much alive.

Since his mother had died peacefully in her sleep almost a year ago, he had been wary of passing on in his own sleep as well.

Mrs. Richardson had never been seriously ill a day in her life. At least, that’s what everyone said. So it had come as a shock to everyone on the plantation when they had woken up one morning to her personal maid’s scream and the crash of the tea service to the ground as she had discovered her mistress’s cold body on her bed.

Scott figured that since he had not felt any overwhelming grief, just a curious sense of loss and sadness at her passing, nature had contrived to wring out some sort of emotion from him hence the phobia. He had not woken up well since his mother had died.

The singing began again and drifted in melodiously from his window. He got off his bed languidly and made his way over to that window. The singing had woken him every morning for two weeks but he had yet to catch the person who was doing it. He knew the singing was from the vegetable garden at the back of the kitchen but whenever he went downstairs to catch sight of the singer, she had disappeared from sight. She, the voice was definitely female.

He looked out the window to gaze at the flower gardens that his mother had lovingly tended with the kind of passion that she had rarely shown her offspring. His mother had been sad. Not the weepy, morose sort of sadness that made life unbearable for those around the afflicted, but the kind that permeated everything with its presence but yet did not overwhelm. It was just there, like a family member who did not quite fit in with the rest of the family but couldn’t be done away with. It had taken him being an adult to understand that that was what ailed his mother but he had never discovered what had caused her sadness. No one seemed to know the cause. Not even his father, her doting husband of many years. Maami had told him of a woman she had known back in her African village that had had a similar ailment. She had, according to Maami, lost her mind after childbirth and had never quite been the same again. She hadn’t been ill, but she had become a ghost of her former self, not quite engaging with life thereafter.

The singing had stopped and Scott looked down towards the vegetable garden, inexplicably torn between rushing down to see if he could catch the singer and remaining where he was so that he could hear out the rest of her song. It wasn’t even a proper song, just a melodious tune with words that didn’t make any particular sense. The flash of white caught his eye as the wearer of the dress darted around the corner of the house to pick something from the ground and darted back. It was only a few seconds but it was enough to get his attention. The dress was the uniform of a kitchen maid in the house. His singer was a kitchen maid, he marveled. Perhaps Maami would know who she was. He should have questioned his obsession with finding out who the early morning singer was, but he did not.

He moved away from the window and rang for his valet. He did not need to rush. He now knew exactly where to go find his singer.

Nchefu picked up her basket of vegetables and continued on her merry way to the kitchen not realizing the havoc she had caused in a young man’s mind upstairs.

She began to drop the basket with a characteristic thump when she saw Mrs. Martha standing at the other door that led into the other parts of the house where she was not allowed to go to, the family quarters. Only the parlor maids and the upstairs maids where allowed to go there. She