Janice was a hard-working woman. She did her best to ensure that her children would have a good future. She felt trapped in a marriage where violence, emotional and psychological abuse was the norm. It was a far cry from what she wanted for herself. A woman’s place was to be seen and not heard and husbands beating their wives was very common where she came from. Society accepted, defended the man’s right to his castle and turned a blind eye. Neighbours looked away, loyal to an unwritten code of silence. Kids kept their mouths shut. They would be tired and sleepy as they put on their clean pressed uniform to go to school. They had been awake and trembling with fear last night. Their father came home drunk and their mother was screaming for help.

Janice was a civil servant. To supplement her income, she would sell bread and sweets in her small make-shift shop. Her salary could barely make ends meet. Books, school uniforms, school trips all cost money. The sadness in her children’s faces broke her heart when they wanted a toy or a takeaway. She couldn’t afford it. Her angels deserved better. She had to find a way out. That was 10 years ago.

Nneka was Janice’s middle child. It had been over 10 years since they had lived under the same roof. Divorce, custody battles and Janice’s move overseas tore the family apart. Janice dipped her begged, borrowed and saved every penny she had, and finally, she had saved up enough to pay for Nneka to attend a prestigious university. Nneka being a foreigner had to pay thrice the amount her classmates paid even when they all learned in the same classes and sat the same exams.

At last, the dream was finally a reality. Nneka was starting her first year of university. Janice’s dream of a family reunion, of motherly and daughterly bliss was a pipe dream. Nneka was livid because a laptop, MacBook Air to be specific, was just not affordable for Janice. All the cool kids in class had iPhones and Macs. Nneka swiftly packed her bags and said goodbye three months into her first year of University. She was moving in with her boyfriend who she had only dated for a month.

Janice was now a single parent, the sole carer to her youngest child who was born with a disability. He required constant care 24 hours a day. She had hoped that once her daughter came to live with her, she would have some support, company and perhaps even time to rest. Janice had no money to hire a carer for her son and was heavily in debt after paying the eye-wateringly expensive university fees. Janice had other dependants. Loneliness, sadness and heartbreak. But that was a year ago.

COVID 19. A lockdown. Everyone is to stay home to escape this new illness that was especially to her son, who had underlying conditions. Nneka had returned home after her boyfriend threatened to break her legs. She has now met someone else online. She wants to go to meet up with him. Cabin fever.

Janice wants to scream.

“Do you not realise that your brother has underlying conditions! Do you care about us?” Betrayal. Heartbreak. That was last week.

Nneka has just sent a text. ‘I’m coming home tomorrow.’

Panic. Fear. Anger. Tonight will be another sleepless night.