Early the next morning, my dad came to check if I was still outside.
I was just sleeping outside, covering myself with the rag I used to carry the bowl of water.
I didn’t bathe the previous day because he wouldn’t let me.
When he opened the gate and saw me, he said, “Come inside, Catherine. I’m sorry, I don’t even know what’s going on with me”.
I was shocked as I got up to confirm it was my father talking, and truly, he was the one.
He seemed a bit remorseful.
I looked inside the gate, and my stepmom wasn’t standing near him.
I had always noticed there was something wrong with him because he would mistrėat me whenever my stepmom was around.
I knew he still had some feelings and a conscience.
I walked at his back step by step, so that if he shouted, I could retrace my steps, but he didn’t.
When we got inside, my stepmom had just gotten up from bed, and when she saw me, she asked, ‘Where did you sleep last night?
And why are you smelling so bad?”
I totally ignored her as I left for my room to shower.
I knew I had developed an odōur from running to sell water.
I had sweated and thought if I got home, I would just bathe.
I was late again to go hawking.
I quickly took my shower, spending minutes scrubbing myself.
I couldn’t believe I hadn’t bathed or eaten the previous day.
After bathing, I had to dress up and then go about my business of hawking.
I didn’t care about their breakfast, and I was ready to endure anything they both brought my way without complaining or crying.
I felt stronger by the day. I stepped out and walked out of the gate, only saying, “Sir, I’m going to hawk.”
I carried another bag and bottles of water. The old one looked rough.”
After what my dad did to me, I didn’t even have it in mind to wait for him to take me to the junction.
I stepped out of the gate with my water on my head, making small steps as I sold water.
I was really happy because people kept stopping to buy water, even when it wasn’t that cold.
I had to put it in the fridge for a bit while I was bathing because I didn’t have time to wait for it to get cold.
By the time I got to the junction, I had already sold half of the bowl.
It was a really good day, and I had never been so happy before.
When I arrived, everyone was already in their positions.
When they noticed me coming, they whispered among themselves.
Finally, one of them said, “Princess, you’re late again today.
Don’t tell me you were having a beauty sleep and forgot about the business for the day.”
I just looked at her and smiled. If only she knew I slept outside my house, but I didn’t want anyone’s pity.
I noticed that the boy who helped me the other day didn’t come to hawk with the rest.
I didn’t even know how to ask why he didn’t come, or the best way to describe him, but I had to ask one of the other hawkers.
I said, “Hello, have you seen the boy who was talking to me the other day?”
Thank goodness she remembered, because I didn’t know if he was tall or average.
I just knew he was taller than I was.
She said, “Do you mean David?”
I didn’t know his name ’cause I didn’t ask, so I said, “I don’t know if he’s David, but I haven’t seen him today.
Is he okay?” She shook her head. David is not feeling well, and we don’t know what’s wrong with him.
We all did a little contribution this morning and we visited him but you didn’t come early enough to join us.
It broke my heart, reminding me of all the people I’ve lost who were always sick, and even the doctor couldn’t figure out what was wrong.
So many thoughts raced through my mind.
Was I going to lose David too?
It felt like I was cursēd, and I hated seeing anyone close to me fall sick ’cause it never ended well.
David helped me when my own family couldn’t.
I said to myself, “Is he going to dīe too?
I wouldn’t have let him get close if I knew.”
I wondered if there was some problem, why he suddenly got sick after helping me out.
It didn’t seem like a coincidence that anyone who got close to me suffēred.
I asked her to take me to David’s place, under the bridge.
It’s not a good place to stay, the bridge is always cold, and anyone could get sick.
At first, she refused, but I gave her a tip of 200 naira, and she agreed.
When we got there, he was lying down shivering.
When he saw me, he managed to sit up. Deep inside, I silently prayed, “Please, Lord, don’t take David too.
If I lose him, I might lose myself.”
I don’t know what brought on that mindset.