The prophet was arriving soon. The living room was already full of family members. And friends.
A few church members were standing outside. And Djhaké had gone to get some extra chairs. Dabali was in the corridor, peering through a cut in the window at the guests in the living room. He had no gift to offer and felt odd among the attendees.
She was inside. In the bedroom. Trying not to lose her temper on such an important occasion. He never told her. And she’s been asking. Only to be told at this last hour.
Odessa. What does it mean? She read poorly in English. But the name on the paper was a bit easy to make out. She looked at the baby. As if to check if she looked like an Odessa. A piece of her that had been growing for 9 months. Nine months of pain. Yet it was someone else that decided its name. At least he could have consulted her.
This thing she’s got herself into called marriage. Sometimes it was her greatest joy she couldn’t live without. Sometimes her greatest source of pain and headache.
She’s left her dead father and living mom to come to this marriage, with her son from another man. She knew she had no family to turn to, so she came with her God. And when the going got tough, she visited Him on her knees. At first, a baby wasn’t forthcoming and she was becoming the talk of town until her first son from her new man came.
It’s been a rough road. This union. She’s watched each child she’s had feed in her palm like a lamb and grow. She taught them all the little English and maths she knew. And today, they speak English so well, she seems to be the only one in the family asking for the meaning of certain English words and expressions when the family meet.
She had desired to learn to read and write but her husband did not have her time.
As she stares at the little baby, she feels sad. She too will outgrow her and come to see her mother’s inferiority to the rest of the family. She too will one day leave. Like her brothers leave for school and come. And she. Their mother. Always in the kitchen. Her usual place. Like she’s done from the beginning. Cooking and cleaning. And washing. No maid.
The prophet arrives. In the person of his delegate. He’s nervous with guilt. The father of the child. Perhaps the prophet knows. That he stole the child. That their baby died and the mother was not aware. Save he and the nurse. That the miscarriages were too many and he couldn’t afford another loss. That it was his only chance to get a baby girl. Enough of the boys.
Everyone was speaking about how it wasn’t courteous of the prophet to be absent. Considering their relationship. But he knew why. Perhaps the prophet knew. Perhaps he didn’t.
The delegate performs the christening like a brother who’s got the back of an abandoned brother in trouble. His words were hard to forget. And it was a ceremony many would hardly forget.
Odessa, he told them, was the name the father and mother had chosen for the child…
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