Disguise (Episode 1): A Short Story by Debby Igbonanwa

Upon gaining admission into the university, Abena who was from a very humble background, swore never to give heed to any poor guy who made love advances to her on campus.

Her mum, Mrs. Ogbonna had always emphasised it to her that poverty was like a sadistic guy who is bent on leaving the people he visits with lasting sadness. Therefore, she warned her daughter never to agree to date any guy from a poor family.

She went ahead to encourage Abena to date as many guys as possible. This was her own magic formula to prevent heartbreak. According to her, she could have as many as five boyfriends, and if any of them decided to call it quits, she would have others as she believed one or two of them could be rich.

Really, poverty had become the lot of Abena and her mum. Not long after the woman’s husband who was in the military, died, the family had been plunged into deep poverty. The military authorities which had assured the families of deceased soldiers of robust welfare packages, soon reneged on their promises.

At first, they had everything they wanted, so Abena was able to concentrate on her studies as she could pay her outstanding bills in the boarding school she attended. But three years later, the military authorities stopped taking care of them. They were consequently ejected from the barracks.

Life took a downward plunge for Abena and her mother. To eke out a living became a tough nut to crack for them. They could barely afford to have two meals a day.

But Mrs. Ogbonna being a very resourceful and creative woman, made different types of delicacies from garri. To her, it would reduce the thought of having to eat the same meal everyday. She would make jollof garri with palm oil, salt and pepper.

Whenever they had more cash she would add crayfish to their meals. Other times, they would just take garri and water. Most times, she cut ugu from the backyard garden, and she would make a “humble” vegetable soup, without even a crayfish to make a little difference.

Although, there was not much variety in the food Mrs.Ogbonna and her daughter ate, both pretended that they ate very nutritious food.

As if the problem of their inability to feed themselves was not serious enough, they were owing their landlord a six-month rent. The man barged into their apartment one day and demanded the rent which he said he needed to fund his trip (hajj) to Mecca.

“Woman, I have kept my cool for the past six months because you are a widow. But it seems you deliberately refuse to pay me. I am certain government is taking care of you and your daughter. Just pay me now,” the landlord said harshly.

All entreaties from mother and daughter fell on deaf ears as the landlady got thugs to force them out of the house.

Debby Igbonanwa

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