Before I was pulled into the room, eagerness was pressing in from all sides. I was hit with a burst of happiness too much that I felt my head swirl, and not in a good way. I imagined that if I could, I would be throwing up contents in my stomach from the sickly sweet feeling. An old woman was standing in the middle of the room, looking towards the door with longing. Her hands were clasped together and she kept dancing on the soles of her feet.
“Honey.” She rushed towards me as soon as I entered the room. The aroma of fresh egusi soup brought a familiar feeling to my chest. A familiar feeling like soft sand falling through my hand. It was there yet I couldn’t bring myself to remember it. I returned her hug, wondering how she was able to take her arms round me. Her form was solid in my arms. I breathed the smell deeply. I suddenly saw her cooking, her waist moving to a song that flowed out of her mouth. She turned to talk to someone and the scene disappeared just as quickly as it came.
“Nwam,” the old woman said. She took my face into her hands and peered into my eyes. They were dark brown and the whites had tiny red lines. I was forced to look into them and soon I was falling into their depths.
“Austa, Austa. Where is that girl?” Someone was calling my name. The voice sounded so close yet so far. I felt myself waking up with effort. I rubbed my sleepy eyes.
“Yes mum,” the words were grumbled. Without much control of my body, I slipped tiny feet into small sized slippers and left the room or rather followed the body out of the room. While I could feel everything, draw in the smell of moi-moi that was wafting through the house, I couldn’t bring myself to do much by myself. My body seemed to have a mind of its own.
I walked into a kitchen still rubbing my eyes. “Good morning mummy.” I greeted the tall woman that was bringing out moi-moi wrapped in fresh green leaves from a pot.
She grunted in reply, then hissed as she put her hand in the bowl of cold water beside her. “Don’t you have school today? Why are you still sleeping?”
“Sorry ma. I will go and take my bath now.”
“Go and call your grandma first. I hope she is not sleeping.”
I felt my small legs run though the tiled house shouting, “Mama, mama.” I came to a room and rushed in without knocking. A figure was seated on the bed singing a similar song to the one I had heard in the blue room. I joined her in singing, twirling around.
“Nwam, how are you? Don’t you have school today?” She pulled up to the bed and put her arms round me. I rested against her.
“Yes, mama. I’m going to get ready now. Mummy said I should call you.”
The woman sighed tiredly. “Okay.” With a bright voice she continued, “Go and get ready for school. I’m sure your father is almost ready to leave. You don’t want to make your mother angry again, do you?”
I shivered at the thought of the long stick that rested under the table in the parlour. “No, mama. I will go and get ready now.”
She kissed me on the cheeks. “Go on. I will prepare abacha for you if you get over eighty percent in your test today.”
“Yay! Abacha!” I skipped out of the room.
Slowly, I returned to the blue room. The scene had cut off suddenly. I wanted to go back but I was pulled back to the room.
“My grandma? Mama?” I asked. I didn’t know what happened. I only had the short memory that she had shown me.
“Yes, nwam. It’s me. How are you? Why did you leave so early? You’re still so young?” Tears rolled down her eyes. The blue in the room deepened.
I held her and muttered. “How is it possible? I was still a child then, how does it count?” I suspected that I was still innocent at that age. I had expected an act of kindness when I was much older.
“Don’t you understand, eh? Your mother hated me. She turned me into her maid. And your other siblings, they were no different. My son forgot he had a mother. I complained to him when it first started and I became the evil one, the one that wanted to ruin their marriage. When I wanted to go back to the village, he blackmailed me into remaining in the house. ‘As my mother, you are supposed to help me take care of my family unless you don’t take me as a son again.’ How can I leave when he basically accused me of trying to disown him. I had to stay back. I also wanted to thank care of my grandchildren. I loved all of you. And you were the only person in that house that cared enough to call me mama, to comfort me when you found me crying in the kitchen. When you grew up, you took me from that house. You gave me the treatment I had expected from my son. When I died, you were the one by my side and the one that made sure that I left the world comfortably. My coffin was wonderful. It is vain of me to think that, but lying there about to step into another world, I felt loved, felt missed. Even though my funeral was simple, I left the world in good heart.” She paused, taking a deep breath. “It is your kindness to me that made leave the world without regrets. I may have lost my son to another woman, but I gained something else, something even more priceless. You had no obligation to help me, to treat me good. I was just the woman you knew as grandma. Nothing else. But you did, and for that, I am very grateful.”
She placed her lips on my forehead. They were surprising cold. A tingling feeling started from where she kissed and reached my toes.
“I hope this would be enough to save you from the fourth person…” As she was speaking, she began to recede into the walls.
“Mama!” I called out. Once again, I was back in the yellow room. The cloaked figure awakened again with his silver eyes that I was becoming more familiar with.
He opened his book and read mechanically, “You have earned two points from gratitude of one whom you were kind to.” When the yellow room dissolved and the chair started moving, I wondered who would be the third person. The thought took my mind from the sickening speed of the chair.