Mark had now started high school. His presence at school in the last term of his primary was intermittent like the NEPA’s light. No one believed that his sickness wasn’t from unseen forces except Titi. She’s as pragmatic as Tom.
Titi looked at Mark on the sick bed. She lowered herself and whispered into his left ear. “Mark, I’m here. I’m right here.”
“Sister, you didn’t want to come, you didn’t care if I die?”
“Of course I do care. Look, little brother I’m busy. I do care about you. You know I really do. And I was told there’s nothing wrong with you according to diagnosis.”
“Of course, but mother said it’s the witches and it’s because of you.”
Titi looked up to her mother’s face to confirm if Mark’s right. She closed her eyes and inhaled enough air. “Mama, please, I can’t continue to think of the witches while I’ve got a lot to accomplish.”
“Stop kidding! You’ve grown too much? You think wickedness and magic are mere myths?
“Mama, stop it.”
“I will not stop until you call your senses to a solemn assembly and think of who your rival or enemy is.”
“I work day and night for your sake and you won’t let me rest? I will stop coming to…”
“Stop! Stop coming to see me. Stop giving us money. Stop being my child if you like”
Mark at this time was sitting up on the sickbed. “Enough!” He shouted. They kept quiet. They were not surprised that she spoke easily and forcefully but that he shouted at them. He’s never done that.
“You this little boy,” Mama said, pointing her finger at Mark, “you think I’m …”
“Sister mi,” Mark faced Titi. “Have you forgotten how your little sister died about fourteen months ago? It’s mysterious. It’s the witch you never want to identify. Did you forget what pastor told you?”
Titi didn’t understand what Mark meant. She never wanted to know. Never again will she let religion cripple her heart as it did crippled Tom’s life. She smiled. “I remember, Mark…”
She told herself that it’s enough chasing witches instead of her goals and that she’d not give in to news of distractions of enemies’ deeds. She actually hated religion this time. “Little brother, I will do whatever I can do. But you also must do what I told you to do. I wrote you a table of different kinds of fruits and foods you must eat daily. Never live like a cursed child okay? Eat good food and drink good water.’’
She was looking at her mother who had been looking at her questioningly. “Mark, did you not say you trust your sister? Did you not say she’s never lied to you? But she just did because she didn’t even meet Pastor Cain at that time. She believed death is not in any man’s control, to cause or to stop. She wasn’t ready to listen to stories of fasting and prayers or witches.”
“It’s alright Mama,” Mark said as he rested his back on the sickbed again. He wouldn’t talk again when Titi was there. What he planned to do, how he’d suffer his untrustworthy mother and sister, how he’ll teach them to cherish his trust and innocence, he kept all to himself.
“Mark I have to go back to Lagos now. I’ll come again next week. Just get better okay?” She expected an answer. “Mark? I said I’m going. Won’t you say bye?” Mark turned his face away from her and wept. “How could they treat me like a fool? Is it because I’m … not like other boys?” Am I really a child because I am in JSS 1?” Mark was full of thoughts.
Titi decided not to disturb her little brother. He had always understand Titi better than others do. And he knew she loved him. “It’s all Mama’s fault… No, not really, no need to know who’s at fault but what’s at fault or what’s the fault. Am I wrong to ignore fears and face my fortune?” Titi wondered whether her mother and pastor hated her because of her choices.
Then she counted about fifty thousand naira to give to her mother. But Mama would only fold her arms. Mama pretended not to need Titi’s money. But in her mind, she only wanted her to know she’s angry. After Titi had left Mama moved closer to Mark. “Wise girl,” Mama thought in her mind. “Good child, God will continue to bless you. I know she won’t take the money away.” Then she took the money from the sickbed, beside Mark’s head.
“Please, stop!” a girl shouted. “It’s the okada that hit the dog and ran away,” she explained. To the big boys who gathered to beat Titi. They’d broken the windscreen of her car and would have hurt her if they’d got any chance. “Abeg come down first,” one of the big boys said and Titi obeyed. They then asked her to kneel. They wanted her to pay damages of 100 thousand naira. “Madam we no wan hear how e take happen. Whether na you or na okada kill our dog we no wan know. Na una go pay for the dog wey don die.” The leader of the boys said and his big boys were either nodding or saying na so; na so e go be or she must pay.”
“Please, I don’t have any money here…”
“Wetin? You think say na play we dey play?”
The leader whistled with his lips and one of them pressed a sharp knife into the front tyres. “You see that, una no dey go if una no pay us today.”
“Please!” Titi cried. She’s surprised there’s no one going or coming to help her. Even the girl that girl had gone. She cried more.
“Collect her bag.,” the leader commanded and the big boys obeyed. “If we com see say money dey there una don die be that. Search her bag and search her body. Search her everywhere, as I talk am say everywhere for her body na im make una search am make I dey see am. While the boys tried to pull her up they heard wailing of the police car fast approaching then they ran away. The police told Titi that her mother called them that her small girl is being attacked by some boys. Titi didn’t tell them her mother didn’t know what number to dial to reach the police or any emergency agency. Her mother couldn’t have known that she’s being attacked. She agreed the big boys just migrated into the area but she didn’t agree the police were unaware of their actions. She called her mother on phone that night to speak to Mark but he wouldn’t talk to her.