What I Didn't Know (chapter One)

What I didn't know is a novella about a young girl's life that revolves around her autistic brother, her neglectful parents, and her complicated relationships. She struggles between speaking up against injustice or leaving it for peace to reign.

Fiiiiiireeeee!’’. I shuddered when I heard the pastor shouted. I stared at my mother, Hannah. She had Dara’s hand in hers and prayed violently. The woman, my mother, possessed a thick body structure, fair skin, had long flowing hair she had dyed to wine because she wanted to look young and wore thick-rimmed glasses sometimes to make her look more serious than she already was.

She was beautiful, and gladly, I got it from her. The little boy, Dara, was just looking at her. He smiled; her praying amused him. His smile was one of the best in the world to me; it seemed genuine almost every time. I glanced at my elder brother, Mayowa. He had this bored look on his face.

I sighed when the deliverance pastor finally finished his “fire for fire chorus” Mayowa yawned, could tell that he was tired. I didn’t blame him; it was getting tiring’’. Mummy, please, are they doing?’’. I heard him mutter; he wouldn’t dare say it loud. My mother is so obsessed with this new church, and apparently, the pastor didn’t care about people’s timing; all he wanted was the fire to burn the witches and wizards from the coven. Mummy’’. My brother called out again.‘’ C’mon, will you shut up and pray?’’. She hissed, looking back at the pastor. ‘’He’s not wrong sha’’. I muttered. I could feel my mother’s eyes on me. She knew exactly how I felt about this. Mother put church activities in all her plans.

Thank God, it was better, unlike last year. We went to church every day of the week. The vigil was a must. I had to lie sometimes to avoid it. She told us the reason, because of Dara, my younger brother. The special one. He had autism. My mother somewhat believed that there was a child hiding behind the autism and was willing to bring him out. But lately, she understood what was really going on with Dara and just needed more effort. Dara was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3 when we found out he couldn’t interact well. He couldn’t talk well. He was behaving weirdly, doing awkward things at that age like hitting his head on the wall, walking on his toes, and even as far as to hurt himself. My mother took the news hard. She had resulted to anywhere possible to get him back. Maybe it was a curse; who knew? My grandparents blamed different sides of the family. My father’s late mother had even brought a pastor to perform an exoticism” on him. It wasn’t a spiritual issue, she realized. Praying could only help to appeal to God to create a path for his healing.

Dara looked up at his mother’s face before using his hand to caress his cheek, something he did often, and my mother would either smile at him or tell him not to ruin her makeup. You could tell my brother loved my mom, and as for the rest of us, he did; my mother always assured us that, but the bond was stronger with my mother. With us, sometimes he stayed away. It was the situation that made us think he didn’t care. He wanted to be alone and didn’t want to play with us. Well, Mayowa didn’t have time, but I sometimes wanted to play with Dara, but he ignored me. So, I’m 20. I had waited so long for this age to finally be independent.

Dara is younger by nine years, and as for the fool, Mayowa, he always carried the three years that he was older than me on his coconut head. He thought it would earn him respect or fear, simply nonsense. The age gap between Dara and me was a bit much, but I still wanted that bond with him, for him to count on me anytime, any day. I’m working on our relationship. I started getting closer to my brother when I found out about his situation; it wasn’t easy. He made every effort useless, but I wasn’t known to give up now. Now Dara and I are somewhat inseparable, and I like it. As for Mayowa. Sometimes he and I argue and fight, but I know we love each other in our way. Apparently, protecting me from his bad-boy friends is one of them. If he only knew I was talking to Segun behind his back on my Instagram platform. It wasn’t my fault that I am such a babe, and everyone wants a little bit of Titi. Shockingly, Mayowa took care of Dara so well. He had patience with him and loved him so much. ‘’Thank you, Lord’’. The pastor said breathlessly.

Finally, we shared the grace, ending the service. ‘’You people don’t pray, that’s the thing’’. My mother, Hannah, was about to start her lecture, but one of the ushers in the church walked toward us. Kemi was her name, and Mayowa wasn’t a fan of her after she seized his iPhone 7 and mistakenly dropped it on the floor. He held a grudge since.‘’Ah, hello’’. She smiled. My mother, the woman, filled with niceness, smiled with her’’. Ah sis Kemi, how are you?’’. Fine, oh’’. She answered, then looked at my Dara’’. My boy is quiet today’’. Thank God’’. My mother replied with a proud smile towards Dara. He usually made a scene in church when he didn’t have his way; half of the members knew him here. I could tell my mother was happy that he was calm this time around. I was proud too.

The woman smiled at us before leaving.‘’Mummy, I’m not coming to this church again, oh’’. Mayowa said, moving forward. I can count that this was the 10th time he has said it this month, but my mother had her way. She would sit on the bed and talk, talk and talk. Somehow guilt-tripped him into doing what she wanted. I had to agree with Mayowa. My mother is church-hungry. If she doesn’t go to church in a day, it worries her, I guess. She loved going maybe because of Dara and other issues like her marriage. We knew it was rocky. By their screams, everyone knew it in the estate.

‘’What do you mean?’’. My mother asked my brother’’. You will do whatever I tell you to do. I am your mother. I gave birth to you. Leave me’’. He muttered under his breath’’. Every time church, church, church…’’. You better just shut your mouth’’. She warned him, eyeing him. My brother was like my father, Adewale in this case, even if they never got along. Mayowa wasn’t so religious; it happened to be just two years ago that he really understood that there was a God. My brother got into a serious accident at age 21. He was almost dead. My mother spent all her hours in the church, praying for God to bring him back. My father had given up, and then Mayowa was okay the next morning after two days in a coma. It was crazy, and I couldn’t believe that he was clinically dead the night before and healthy the next morning.

It baffled me.

Now, Mayowa knew that there was a spiritual side to all issues in life and appreciated God in his life. What he didn’t like was the fact that my mother forced us to go to church always. Unlike me, he had a very social life and had things to do; partying was one of them. He worked at an ICT technology firm. I was just so lucky he got a job after graduation; if not, big boy Mayowa would have resorted to illegal ways to get money. I had everything in my mind but never actually spoke up. I was reserved, unlike my brother. Mayowa was impulsive in his actions and spoke when he wasn’t comfortable. I stored everything up. It was toxic for me; my friends knew it. I knew it. ‘’Do you remember what happened to you?’’. My mother brought up the incident. I’m sure he squeezed his face now’’. We must thank God always. Without him, you’ll still be there, oh’’. She reminded him again.

Okay, ma’’. He finally said to put an end to the issue. The word“ Okay” stops any argument or disagreement in our home or could even prolong it. ‘’Dara, come ohjare’’. My mother held his hand as they walked forward. She swung their hands as they walked.‘’Titi, just more money and I’ll have my apartment’’. Mayowa said, probably bragging’’. Let me see whether someone will tell me what to do’’. Is it not your mother?’’. I laughed’’. She will come to your house Saturday morning and sleep over till Sunday evening’’. I swear’’. He sighed’’. Why don’t you ever tell her? That everything about this church issue?’’.

I had a pretty good relationship with God. I knew he lived, but churches nowadays in Nigeria had people falling out of their beliefs. Now people worship the pastors than God. They focus on what they say and not what God says. We couldn’t keep up with how many pastors my mother had. It was from Evangelist Mariam to Deacon Greg. I believed in some pastors and respected them, but I knew who I was in Christ, and some could lie. My mother didn’t believe any of that. I don’t know for her, though. She had to understand that we were lucky in Nigeria. People were worse wherever else. I passed the bridge a day, and the number of people living under it was alarming. We were lucky.

‘’My baby’’. I heard my mother say before kissing his cheek. I won’t lie; I was jealous. She moved mountains for him, hoping he would be better. Dara was obsessed with my mother. I will never forget the day she left me alone with him; the poor guy didn’t stop crying till she came back for my mother and me. My mother didn’t pay attention to me most of the time. For Mayowa, she paid good attention to him because of his bad habits_ the problems with drugs, girls, and temper. She was watching him closely, didn’t want him to turn out like my father, she says. Maybe she thought that I was too perfect to be watched, too docile for help or small talks or she didn’t just like me.

Frankly, I had given up on any revival of our relationship. Ever since Dara came, it was nothing, well after the diagnosis of autism. She just distanced herself and focused on the boys in the family. It was good sometimes because I could flex without her knowledge, but I wouldn’t deny that I needed her to caution me sometimes, be the dramatic Yoruba woman I knew and loved. With me, she was the mother who brought out all wrongs, didn’t focus on me, and just cared about anything but me. Heck, I craved for her to sit me down and talk to me till I stopped listening. That’s how bad I wanted it.

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