Daughters Who Walk This Path
Spirited, intelligent Morayo grows up surrounded by school friends and a busy family in modern-day Ibadan, Nigeria. An adoring little sister, her traditional parents, and a host of aunties and cousins make Morayo’s home their own. So there’s nothing unusual about Morayo’s charming but troubled cousin, Bros T, moving in with the family. At first Morayo and her sister are delighted, but in her innocence, nothing prepares Morayo for the shameful secret Bros T forces upon her.
Thrust into a web of oppressive silence woven by the adults around her, Morayo must learn to fiercely protect herself and her sister; a legacy of silence many women in Morayo’s family share. Only Aunty Morenike—once protected by her own mother—provides Morayo with a safe home, and a sense of female community which sustains Morayo as she grows into a young woman in bustling, politically charged, often violent Nigeria.
Yejide Kilanko was born in Ibadan, a sprawling university city in south-western Nigeria. She read just about anything she could lay her hands on and that love for reading led her to poetry writing when she was twelve. After a big, loud, African wedding, she joined her husband in Maryland, USA. For a decade she stayed home to raise their three children, moved to Canada and went back to school to become a social worker.
Yejide started writing her debut novel, Daughters Who Walk This Path, in 2009. It was published by Penguin Canada April 2012 with subsequent publication in the United States, Germany and Thailand in 2013.Her second novel will be published by Penguin Canada, May 2014. Visit the author online at http://www.yejidekilanko.com.
When I did finally kiss Kachi, it was New Year’s Day, 1985.
Every New Year’s Eve, the children in the neighbourhood walked to the nearby church for the watch-night service. It was usually dark as we had only three working streetlights along our street, but we were used to this. The cold harmattan air usually had us girls huddled together as we tried to get away from the boys who were always looking for every opportunity to throw a banger in our midst. The small powerful fireworks exploded with deafening noises that sounded like gunshots. When we saw the brightly lit ends of the bangers, we scattered, running in different directions while those naughty boys chased us. The smell of gunpowder from the exploding bangers clung to our clothes and followed us to church.
That year, the watch-night service started at ten pm and ended at two in the morning. As soon as the clock chimed twelve, shouts of “Happy New Year,” echoed through the whole city. The service closed with a giving of thanks. All the people danced to the front of the church, with their offering money tightly crunched up in their hand and a song of thanks on their lips.
Under the cover of the loud New Year thanksgiving, Kachi and I slipped away from our families. We met outside the church building and walked back home. Holding hands, we stayed in the shadows in case somebody was watching. Kachi stopped in front of his house. Pulling my hand, Kachi and I sat on the little wooden bench by his mother’s kiosk.
After staring at my face for a short while, Kachi cleared his throat, “Morayo, can I kiss you?” he asked holding on tightly to my hand. When I nodded, he smiled brightly and dug a shaking hand into his trouser pocket.
I was puzzled when Kachi brought out a Tom-Tom sweet. He un-wrapped it and popped it in his mouth. He sucked furiously on it for a moment and then spat it back inside its’ stripped orange and black wrapper. I smiled.
I kept my eyes open. I wanted to see what would happen. In the dim light of the house security lights, I could only see Kachi’s gleaming eyes.
When Kachi brought his face closer to mine, I smelled the menthol flavour from the sweet on his quickened breath. His pointed nose poked right into my broad flat one. I could not breathe. Kachi had to tilt his head to one side. I decided to keep my lips together since Kachi also had his lips pressed together. When our lips touched, we pressed them hard together for about a minute and then sprang apart. We looked at each other and began to laugh. I decided that the next time Kachi kissed me, I would keep my eyes closed.
When I got home, Bros T was there alone. I must have walked in with a funny look because he kept glancing at me as I sat at the dining table cutting up carrots and green peppers for our New Year’s Day fried rice. The rest of the family soon arrived from church. In the excitement of entering the New Year, Mummy did not ask me where I disappeared to after the service. Eniayo did.
“Morayo, where did you go?” Eniayo asked as she sat next to me. “Tomi and I were looking for you outside the church.”
Looking around, I put a finger across my lips and glared at her. Eniayo cocked her head to the side with a questioning look.
I smiled to myself. It was going to be a good year.