All that Glitters…
The story opens with Nelly, a trusting university having learnt the truth about her mother. She is rushing to her home to pack her things, as she wants to leave her mother. She still does not know where she wants to go, especially after learning the truth of her mother’s “part time job.”
Nelly is especially angry with her mother, who brought her up following strict Christian principles. As the chair of the local church’s Women Union, Martha had set a good example for Nelly, and although a single parent, provided everything for the girl. This however did not include the circumstances surrounding her separation from her husband.
As she packs, Nelly finds a letter addressed to her mother by her father. In the letter, she discovers that her father had discovered her mother’s other job; which eventually caused the separation. The letter augments her resolve to leave her mother to an unknown place.
However, just as she is about to leave, Martha opens the door. Although they do not talk, Martha knows that Nelly has discovered her secret and knows the reason for their separation, seeing that she had the letter written by her father. This is too much for her and she faints at the door.
Nelly takes care of her mother, but is still disturbed. She, however, is positive that when she comes to, her mother would be able to tell her what she wanted to know; the cause of their separation; the whereabouts of her father; and even how Martha had been able to live a double life all along.
All that Glitters…
She rushed to the wardrobe and scrambled for her suitcase. It did not matter to her now what would happen after all the years they had spent together. Sandwiching the clothes hanging from the railing in her arms, she unhooked the hangers and flung the clothes on the bed. Her face was tense, expressionless as her mind went in circles over her next course of action. She was going away, yes, that was certain, to where, she still had not thought, as each garment was crumbled and found its way into the huge Christian Dior leather suitcase.
Her thoughts raced back and forth and she could still not bring herself to believing what she had seen. She thought she knew things too well but was appalled by the betrayal she judged was first degree. “How could the world be so cruel to the point that whom you thought you knew too well, you in fact knew nothing about?” she kept asking herself.
Brought up in a Christian family, Nelly had grown in the church and knew nothing but the gospel. In her days in the Sunday school, her mother was the Women Christian Union secretary and was on her way up to the chairposition, which she now held, and had been for the past ten years. Her mother had brought her up, after she had separated with her father. Nelly’s mother had termed the grounds of their separation as “mutual misunderstanding.” From which part the misunderstanding occurred, her mother was not willing to divulge any more than the statement, “a few months after you were conceived.” Her mother had not remarried since then.
Nelly had grown in considerable splendour, even as her mother worked as a secretary in a government office. After work, Martha, her mother indulged in the fellowships and church meetings, which could go well into the dead of the night, as strategies to open new stations and shake the devil’s kingdom were laid.
Nelly grew up knowing no other close friend apart from her mother. Martha was more than just the caring mother, but also doubled up as her best friend. She taught her everything she needed to know from academics to relationships with both same and opposite sex.
However, what she saw today sent her to the precipice of madness. As her lectures had taken a bit long, and the practices for the university choir recording had gone way past the time, she was late and attempts to call her mother to explain were fruitless as her mother’s mobile phone was off.
As the bus was passing through the dreaded Sodom Street, her eye caught a familiar face, and was about to shove the idea off her mind when the bus stopped as the jam built up. She had wanted to close her eyes to ward off the filth that characterized the street. Looking outside the window lingered thick smoke that seemed to shine with the florescent lights lighting the city. Far beyond stretched heights and heights of skyscrapers that towered above the congested streets. With nostalgia, she thought of how years before, when she was still young, trees had occupied the lands beyond, which the towering buildings now stood. It had been dark and green, full of life and hope, full of future zeal and happiness, and not the bright buildings with lights on every inch of them, reflected by the porcelain and glass that formed their body. The air was clean during those days, and contained nothing but the freshness of nature, not the thick smoke from chimneys and exhausts. Yet something had forced her to take a closer look at the familiar face and she almost had a heart attack.
Hair in a bob-cat wig big earrings dangling from the ears, mascara, eye-shadow and liner. Black lipstick on the thick lips holding a sizeable smoke bellowing cigar, fingernails one inch long, low cut halter-top stopping right above the navel, revealing not only the cleavage but half the uncapped mummeries, a belly ring, the transparent micro-mini skirt and six-inch heels. She took it all in and tears lined her eyes. It was too much and hard to believe. No form of disguise could hide the face and body she knew too well. She had lowered her head and looked up only as the bus came to a halt at her stop. She had been in turmoil, nothing making sense to her. Her brain was numb as if paralysed by nothing she knew of.
Each of her tiny garments found its way into the suitcase. She was leaving nothing behind. The pictures on the wall, the books in her drawers, everything she owned went into the suitcase. She reached for the upper compartment of her wardrobe to sweep clean her collection of CDs. She clasped them to her chest as if for solace, but then an envelope slipped and fell to the floor. She laid the CDs down in her suitcase, picked the letter and sat down on the floor to read it. The envelope was addressed to her mother, Martha. Though from teachings, she had been taught not to read people’s letters, she felt compelled to do it this time. The letter could be a good distraction from the swirling she now felt in her head. Well-mannered or not, curiosity had gotten the better of her, why would her mother’s letter be in her wardrobe? Was it purposefully put or had it been overlooked or forgotten? By the age of the envelope, it must have been written a while ago since the paper’s colour was fading. She decided it must have been forgotten and therefore saw no harm in reading it. After all, her mother must have forgotten it long ago and probably new nothing of its existence. She settled down on her bed to read the letter.
Locking her suitcase, she thought of what to do with the letter she still was holding in her hand. It had revealed so much about her past, the nature and cause of her parents’ separation and the scene she had witnessed a few hours ago. The time was way past midnight, but her resolve could not allow her to stay until dawn. As a custom, she rarely saw her mother in the evenings, except when she had an off or over the weekends, as the meetings, which she now knew were peddling flesh, went far beyond midnight, and only saw her in the morning, this day was no exception. She felt filthy as it now dawn on her that her mother peddling her body had funded her upbringing. She looked around and her hair stood on their ends with the thought that all the property was because of sin. Adultery and fornication since she knew anyone who could afford the price could… This thought almost made her throw up as she viewed her age mates sprawling her mother on the wall for a ‘quickie’, as she’d heard them call it, or at the back of a car, and God forbid on someone’s matrimonial bed!
She dragged the suitcase to the living room tears still flowing from her eyes, holding the letter in her hand. She made for the door, and just as she was about to clutch the handle, the door fell open, and there stood her mother in her trade gear.Her eyes moved from Nelly’s eyes down to her right hand. She definitely was leaving, to where and why, she was yet to find out and that much disturbed her more than her state. She moved from the right hand and her eyes scaled to her left hand. She saw the familiar handwriting on it and blood drained from her knees. She knew Nelly had read the content of the letter and finally knew the truth about her father.
The thought of the letter in her daughters hand, and the contents recorded in her mind, as Martha was sure Nelly had read it several times, seen her dirty linen in retrospect, drained more blood from her body and head. Everything went in circles, like a whirlwind, then her whole body went numb, and everything went black.
She did not know how it happened, but Martha’s head was lying on her lap. Nelly looked back and saw the suitcase sprawled on the floor, and the letter lying peacefully on the ground. With labour urgency, she was fanning her mother, the wig Martha had been wearing ripped off her head. Nelly had pulled Martha into the house and locked the door.
“Mother! Mother! Mother!” Nelly had kept calling as she frantically shook her mother’s body.
Tears rolled down her eyes, even as she doused the towel in a bowl of cold water and gently pressed it on her mother’s temple. Her mother’s breathing was steady even as millions of questions went through her head. She was however glad that finally, when her mother came to, she would be able to learn the truth about her father.