The road to home seemed longer, the red sand and mud heavy on her feet and the sun pierced her skin as she walked.
She tried to keep to the shade of the trees as she made her way up the hill, being careful not to scruff her shoes against the stones and the pebbles. The houses were simple, most made from mud with corrugated iron sheets. Yet every time she came there were changes – a son or daughter that had done well in the city would come home and build a house – a duplex two storey building and it would stand out amongst the other decaying houses like a new wife in the Eze’s compound.
One day she and her brother would build a nice house with a proper toilet and bathroom for their father.
She sighed. She was the Ada – the first and only daughter and her husband would be expected to play a big part in renovating her father’s estate but something in her rejected the idea of any man spending money on her family – it would be like them paying for her as if she was some kind of object. It was her culture and it was expected but she knew of many women who stayed in marriages because of the bride price and the other gifts that their husband’s family had paid during the marriage ceremonies.
She thought of her father. A man his age should not be squatting over that monstrosity called a pit latrine. It was not sanitary and it was an absolute eyesore. It was the one thing she hated about visiting home.
Now Ndeh was a small village with a primary school and Secondary school children had to catch a bus to the next bigger village – to go to school. It had a church for weddings and funerals and a small community hall to host the events around those weddings and funerals.
Her mother had told her that a hundred years ago before the white man had come and turned everything upside down that it used to be busy market town. She spoke of how her mother; the grandmother she never knew had a stall there where she sold vegetables – bright green okra and bitter leaf spinach, bananas and oranges, plantain and yams.
Her grandmother said that Ndeh was so big that its population could not consist of just living people and was firmly convinced that departed souls from other hamlets and towns came to do business in Nde on market days.
The family home was at a intersection between the school and the church and she remembered growing up and how it used to irritate her that the proximity of her home to the church meant that she could not avoid attending morning and evening services, like her other classmates.
She turned the corner into the street and saw the familiar faces smiling at her.
It was one of her father’s neighbours sitting on a little stool, head bent forward as she tackled the washing.
“Welcome my daughter. Ote kwana. Long time no see. How is Lagos?”
“Good evening Nne.”
“Kedu. How are you? “
“Odinma. I am fine. Nne.”
She walked into her house, opened the door and was hit by the weight of heat. Little beads of water ran down the walls of the front room and the mildew forming dark spots on the carpet. She felt the clothes sticking to her skin, and her mouth just wanted water, despite the rickety ceiling fan whirling above her head.
The door opened and her father walked in slowly. He was much thinner, his hair totally white but his eyes lit up when they saw her.
“Welcome. Adanna you have arrived.”
“You look so much like your mother nowadays you know.” He sighed as he lowered himself into a chair.
Ada went into the kitchen and observed the blackened walls. There was a pot of freshly cooked stew on the kerosene stove. Her aunt must have been here recently. She helped Papa with the cooking.
“Papa can I get you some water?”
“Don’t worry. Just sort yourself out. There is a fresh soup that your big mother prepared. You can make some garri and eat.”
She walked back into the sitting room.
“How is Lagos? How is work? How has life been treating you lately?”
She talked about work, her eyes wandering over the broken worn chairs and the threadbare carpet. When she was a little girl, the carpet had been bright royal blue with brown flowers to match the chocolate brown sofa. Now the sofa looked more black than brown and carpet had had turned to a neat coffee shade. The corner held a cabinet with some forlorn pieces of her mother’s plate set and family pictures.
“Papa …I have some news …….”
Her father leant forward and clasped his hands.