When I asked her her name, her reply was simple – “Esther”. I didn’t remember to ask for her last name and she never told me. So I just knew her as Esther. From that moment when she walked into my living room for the very first time ever, I never stopped feeling that there was something rather awkward about her. She just did not add up for me at all; for reasons I just couldn’t place a finger on. It wasn’t because of her appearance – she was unimaginably decorous and well-mannered. It wasn’t about how she spoke too, for she was eloquently tailored. It wasn’t even about her poise, because she looked generally compact, and easily beamed in smiles if there was any reason to. So it wasn’t any of those at all, and I was very sure it wasn’t. But what it was, I still couldn’t tell. All I could tell was that Esther was different. Of all the house-girls I had ever kept in my home, she was totally distinctive. And apart from the seeming mystery that surrounded her person, she was also different in so many other ways.
I was expecting a girl quite alright. A house-girl. Of which, I had told my mum who was at the village, to help me find someone. The last two girls I had stayed with, were all from her, and they were really really good girls. They only had to leave and return back to their parents just because their people wanted them back and not because I wanted them to leave. So, I’d be right if I say that I have had a bit of luck with housegirls and was yet to experience all the bad things a lot of fellow mothers keep telling me about staying with house-helps. Moreover, my mom is a generally shrewd person, and has never been one to work by assumptions. She always says she’s never failed to visit the girl’s home as well as speak with people who know her before deciding on bringing her to stay with her daughter. And it has always paid off handsomely. I was on my first issue, after two pregnancies (lost my first child just after birth), and having these girls at the time made things much simpler for me. So, barely days after the last one left my house, I began pestering my mum – who was also staying with me as at that time – to help me get another girl. She agreed.
It was just a day after she had left for the village, that Esther knocked on my door. While it felt strange, given mum could have barely been able to find a girl in just 24 hours, I eventually relaxed when she explained that it was my mother that directed her to my place. Moreover, mum had no cell phone, as I hadn’t bought her one yet – bearing in mind how expensive it was back then in 1999 – so it was just difficult to confirm what the young lady before me was saying. But considering how desperate I was for a house-girl, I knew I needed to accept her in; even with the apparent oddities surrounding her person. She indeed looked very different from the other girls that had stayed with me; even in looks too. She was distinctly good-looking, sharply contrasting what I had ever had in my house; with very thick eye brows that beautifully curled in at every facial expression she made.
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Her skin was peculiar too; caramel brown in precise; as against that of the previous girls who were very fair. She appeared older as well, and did confirm she was 22, when I asked; and with an SSCE certificate (the previous girls were only 17 and 19 respectively, and hadn’t even seen the walls of a school before coming to stay with me). So for Esther, her desire was to be put through the higher institution and not to learn a trade like the other girls. And equally unlike these ones who were Ibo, she was Efik!
Anyways, Esther’s sojourn in my house would begin with a beautiful reward – her exceptional diligence at carrying out chores around the house! She was simply good! From doing dishes, up to more tasking chores like washing my husband’s car; she always carried them out without complain. This was what began endearing me to her. And by the time I did realize she was also very trustworthy, and truthful, I quite knew I had not just a house-girl, but a companion! I began to make her feel more comfortable around me, bringing her into my bedroom for long chitchats after dinner, just before bedtime. That still didn’t make her any less respectful, and she carried out every single instruction I left her with, without any complains or excuses. Our relationship grew so much, that even my own little kid, began preferring her over me! As little as he was, he would cry so much anytime Esther tried handing him over to me in order to carry out one task or the other. While it sometimes looked embarrassing, it also felt really good knowing that your house-girl was indeed one your kid felt very comfortable around.
This certainty, cemented my rapport with her. And it only got better the day I heard her singing in the bathroom, while taking her bath! It turned out to be beautiful coincidence given she was actually singing Shania Twain’s ‘Wild And Wicked’; a song I had loved from the first day I heard it! Moreover, it wasn’t just about hearing the song, but the striking similarity between her voice and that of the actual lady who did the song! Being someone who isn’t exactly blessed with a wonderful voice, I have grown to cherish a beautiful one whenever I find it! Esther’s voice was simply immaculate, and I didn’t hesitate to heap praises on her as she stepped into the living room after bathing and changing clothes!
“Thank you ma.” she said, smiling and revealing her ever radiant set of teeth.
I expected her to go on and explain from which of her parents she got the gift of singing from, but she didn’t. Esther never talked about her parents, and I was even scared to ask her, lest it all went south.