SHE had lost another job.
This should not keep happening to her, not with a name like Prudence. Prue sighed, tucked out the limp pillow from underneath her bum and stared about the only room of her one bedroom apartment before she tossed the pillow to the other end of the bed.
She called it her bare-necessities room. It had a necessary mattress on the floor, by a window that had a necessary chiffon drape over it. There was a necessary vinyl flooring sheet over the cement floor that had more holes than a battered highway. Then two necessary plastic chairs—for when she had visitors and didn’t want them sitting on the bed. Necessary clothes, necessary shoes and a necessary kitchen unit further narrowing the corridor that led to an even narrower veranda.
The rent on that one room was due too.
How was she going to manage another six months rent on her severance pay? She picked her cell-phone and tried her aunt’s line again. It was still unavailable.
The pinch of tears stung but Prue batted her lashes to hold it back. She should have been back from Dakar. Maybe she had gone on another trip and it had skipped her memory to update her. It sometimes happened. But it wasn’t a consoling thought, not when she was her only real hope now. She could help her out with a soft loan until she sorted herself out. She had done so before.
Maybe she hadn’t taken a trip. Maybe her line was just unavailable.
Maybe she should pack a small bag and go to her.
Prue allowed the new suppositions soothe her. She was in a quandary here and joining her aunt in Lagos might be her only option. She could get a job there. Bunk at her aunt’s until she got a place of her own. Aunt Lillian wouldn’t mind. She’d in fact been encouraging her to move to Lagos, to come stay with her—to stay closer to family.
Of course, family for her only meant Aunt Lillian. Prue thought of her grandfather and snorted out a breath through her nose. She would keep far away from him until she had her affairs settled again and no longer in dire straits. The last thing she needed was a condescending priggish sermon from the old man.
That was the solution. She would pack a few things and go to Lagos.
Or maybe she should pack up whatever she needed and leave altogether?
Prue considered the pros and cons of that option with a string of wrinkles furrowing her forehead. There wasn’t any need her continuing staying in Calabar, was there? She was done with school, her mother was gone, she barely had any close friends here—and now she’d lost her job and her rent was due in two weeks.
She hauled herself to her feet and strode to the standing closet to pull out her sturdy-wheels suitcase. She would begin sorting out her stuff now, stuff to take along and stuff to give out to whoever might need them. She would try Aunt Lillian again, but whether or not she reached her, she was going to Lagos. If she met her absence, she would stay with Ini, her housemaid, until her return.
PRUE was shell-shocked. Her aunt was dead?
It was all surreal. Unbelievable. She’d been shot by a stray bullet whilst the Police had been on a wild chase after a gang of robbers. Going back home from the suya-spot—walking back to her home like any unsuspecting innocent citizen would and she’d gotten shot.
Right to her heart and dead before she made it to the hospital.
“Why did you not call me?” She stared, hollow-eyed, at her grandfather.
“Because there was nothing for you to do.” He retorted.
“Nothing for me to do.” Prue repeated. Her eyes burned. Her heart ached.
He had never cared for her. He had never regarded her as anything, her mother’s father. He had never much cared for her mother either as far as she had seen. His greatest disappointment had been his first daughter winding up pregnant for a man he had disapproved of. A man who had proved his worthlessness by running off and denying responsibility of the child she carried. He had been disappointed, his name disgraced—and he had never forgiven her mother for that transgression. Or forgiven her for being her mother’s daughter.
“She was my aunt. I should have been told.” Prue struggled with the tears. “You should have called me, not let me go to her house and just… and just find out like that, from her neighbours, that she had been shot and was dead. God, it happened two weeks ago!”
“And I have been busy dealing with the Police end of the matter in those two weeks.” Aaron Rawlings spared her a cold glance before returning his eyes to the pottery vase he was polishing. “Besides, you would have known if you kept in touch more with your family instead of running wild in Calabar.”
“I am not running wild in Calabar.” His coldness did not shock her. She was used to it and expected nothing but it from him. But pain made her lash out at him. “I have a job. I was not running after men as you like to think. I was doing something legal and respectful and I was taking care of myself. And Aunt Lillian and I were always in touch. We talked often—”
“Yet it took you two weeks to know of her demise.”
The callous mockery slapped at her. Prue stiffened her back and glared at his hunched over large frame. “She told me she was travelling to Dakar and I’d been so busy—”
“Save the excuses. They are only the whimpers of the irresponsible.” He cut her off with the same wintry derision in the eyes he aimed briefly in her direction. “You’re nonetheless here and Lillian would be buried the day after tomorrow. She should have known better, of course. If she hadn’t been walking the streets that late at night—” He made a grunting dissatisfied noise and went back to his polishing.
He blamed Aunt Lillian for getting shot. He considered her responsible for her own untimely end. “You do enjoy apportioning blame, don’t you?” Bitterness coated her voice and Prue tasted it on her tongue. “Everyone has to be blamed for something—even for the things they cannot control.”
He slowly raised his eyes to her. They were frosty like iceberg. “We are all responsible for our actions, for the decisions we make. Someone should have taught you that.”
Her mother had taught her that. But of course he wouldn’t believe her capable of such moral teachings. “So you think that Aunt Lillian made the decision to be shot by a stray bullet on a night she simply wanted to have some hot suya?”
Something flickered in his eyes and then they froze back to their frosty form. “If she had learned to curb that gluttony for suya, if she had realised that it was late at night and had stayed put inside her house,” the lines of his mouth tightened. “If she had thought clearly and made a more rational decision, she wouldn’t have been out on that highway and within the range of a stray bullet.”
“How so black and white for you, grandpa.” One tear slipped and Prue raised her hand to wipe her cheek. “How consoling it must be to be you and to be above human errors and uncontrollable circumstances.”
“I will forgive your impertinence for your mind must be worn down by your grief. But save the piteous snivelling for the day after tomorrow. There shall be plenty time to cry then.” He rose from his chaise and towered over her. “I suppose you will have to stay here. That being so, you will have to manage the room as it is. I cannot have Emem stressing herself this night to clean up the place for you. Goodnight.”
Prue watched as he strode out of the living room. He had always been hypercritical, cold and impassive towards everyone, especially towards his children, in whom he had always expressed great disappointment. And towards her too, who was an extension of that disappointment. But for tonight, for this time, when he had lost another daughter, shouldn’t he be a little more feeling?
She felt the scald of hot tears against her cheeks and bent to pick up the handle of her suitcase.
In her bedroom—her mother’s old bedroom—she flicked on the light, ignored the stale smell and walked to the bed. She lowered into it, stared about the room that looked the same as when she had last been in it—during her mother’s funeral services. Prue raised her hands, buried her face in them and started to sob soundlessly.
She had lost what was left of her family. The only other person who loved and cared for her was dead. Her mother had died when she was twenty-one and had just come out of the university, now four years on, her aunt had followed suit. She was completely alone with only a grandfather who saw her as a constant reminder of the shame that was brought to his name and an uncle who’d long abandoned his family and made a new one in Europe.
What was she going to do now?
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