She moved skillfully inbetween tables of rotting tomatoes half-hidden beneath fresh ones. Fat healthy flies buzzed and danced without fear around them while the traders paid little or no attention to the flies, only calling out to passers-by to buy their tomatoes.
“Ranyinudo!” The voice seemed persistent, calling out.
She hastened her steps and moved briskly, brushing hard against the crowd as she tried to hide and mix with the different shades, colours and sizes of people. Whoever it was she didn’t want to meet, she wanted to be left alone.
Mannequins showcasing different cotten and wool sweaters lined almost every shop she walked past. Her old sweater was threadbare now and the harmattan was just becoming intense, she was calculating how much she had in her savings bottle back at home when someone grabbed her left hand, jolting her out of her thoughts. She looked down and Sunia smiled at her. She couldn’t have been more than eight years old.
“Aunty Rah,” Sunia beamed, “Ndewo, awa you?”
Grateful that the Voice hadn’t caught up with her yet, a warm summer-like feeling grew in the pits of her belly, serenading the cold irritating harmattan. She smiled back and relaxed, easing her tense arm and holding Sunia’s little hand in hers.
“Woul you buy me chomtin today aunty Rah?” Sunia still wore her smile.
“Ogazi mmanu’m,” she teased Sunia, “Who gave you that name eh, Sunia? Imana afa gi makwa mma? You have such a lovely name and in fact, for that I will give you something special today.” Ranyinudo said, fully knowing Sunia enjoyed the flattery.
“Aunty, okwa mpa’m, is my fada. Dey say I fair lai dis when I woh small ann ….”
Sunia chattered on about how her great-grandparents were British and so on. Sunia’s voice gave Rah’s heart an unexplainable tingle. The innocence and pure joy of it, the happiness Sunia derived from playing under the rain and walking barefooted in the mud just in front of her mother’s little provision store which Rah often patronized, reminded her of herself over a decade ago. They crossed over to the other side of the road where a popcorn man stood selling his popcorn. Sunia’s smile could have outshone the sky as they both made their way and Rah motioned to him to wrap 100 Naira worth of popcorn.
“Aunty, ajuju. Question.”
She beaconed at Sunia to go ahead.
“Do you think Jesus made the sun?” Sunia asked in Igbo.
Rah froze for a moment and wondered where the question could have come from. Armed with her wit she bent a little and looked Sunia in the eyes.
“Yes love, He sure did.” She replied back in Igbo.
“Then do you tink ee can on the sun small? The cold is beginning to cold my leg.” Sunia said in all sweetness as she stared at her unclad feet.
She couldn’t help but laugh and feel pity and neither could the man selling the popcorn hold his chuckles.
“Jesus loves you too much, I’m sure he will do it for his pretty Sunia.” She said lightheartedly as she handed the bulky nylon of popcorn to Sunia who leaped in excitement.
As they were about to cross to the other side of the road she felt a light tap on her shoulder.
She shivered in fright.
Written by Mirabelle Morah