Lola’s hand was shaking. She stopped applying her mascara and looked at herself in the mirror.
Lola Layinka stared back. Eighteen years old, a very beautiful face.
The eye-shadow was a minus though. Garish. Mummy’s choice. She said it matched the aso-oke. It also matched the flag. Lola hated it.
Her eyes called to her from the mirror. Large expressive eyes drowned in green. They looked haunted, dead. Somewhere in their depths the memory of last night in Daddy’s room lingered.
She couldn’t do it. She had to tell Mummy. There would be hysterics of course. But Lola felt dead. Like a plane on auto-pilot; the real pilot slumped in his chair, lifeless, a bullet in his brain.
“Lolls! LOLA! Hellooooo!”
It was Layo, her identical twin. She was ransacking their jewelry drawer.
“Lolls, I can’t find my cocktail ring. That gold one with the green… whatever…”
“Layo, I’m not going,” Lola said.
Layo stopped. “Why?”
Lola forced the words out, “Daddy is… Daddy is bad.”
Layo frowned. “Bad?”
“I know. But Daddy… He shouldn’t be in charge of a state.”
“If you don’t go, Mummy’ll kill you. They’ve called all the journalists in the world.”
It was true. The grand photo-op. Chief Theophilus Layinka at the polling station with his wife and pretty twin daughters, everyone dressed in the national colours. Their mother’s idea.
“I have to tell Mummy. I can’t go.”
“Suit yourself.” said Layo.
Lola was at the door of the bedroom when their mother swept in. Five feet eight, matronly, her face bright with foundation and her gele wider than the National Theatre, Mrs. Deronke Layinka looked regal. First Lady material.
“Oh good, Lola, you’re ready.” She turned to Layo. “Omolayo! What is wrong with you? It’s almost time.”
Layo mumbled something.
“Mummy, I’m not going.”
Mrs. Layinka snapped, “Lola, don’t be silly. This isn’t the time to joke.”
“I’m not joking. I’m not going.”
This time she turned to face Lola. “And why is that, if I may ask?”
“I can’t vote for Daddy. He’s… bad.”
“Lola! Are you well? What do you mean ‘He’s bad’? Stop talking nonsense!”
“It’s not nonsense!” Lola was on the verge of tears. The words started spilling out, involuntarily, like vomit. “Daddy is evil! In the night, he…… I…
Thud… thud… thud…
It was the thudding that woke her up. At first she thought she was dreaming, and then she heard it again. Thud… thud… thud…
The thuds came from their father’s room. Lola went there. And saw.
Her father was naked. Kneeling on the floor in front of a mortar. Pounding, pounding. Blood spattered everywhere. Obscene redness. A wizened old man in a bloodstained white tunic spun around him chanting unintelligible words. Chief Theophilus Layinka kept pounding. The old man motioned to him to stop. He produced a gourd, scooped up some of the bloody mess in the mortar and offered it to the Chief. Lola put her fist in her mouth to stifle her gasp, and her nausea. She watched in horror as her father ingested.
The old man grasped a knife.
She opened her eyes now. Layo’s face was pale, her eyes round like saucers. Their mother’s eyes had narrowed to slits.
“Girls, listen,” she said. “You are very young…”
Layo cut in. “Mummy, you… you knew about this?”
Mrs. Layinka’s eyes were cold. “It doesn’t matter. Girls, forget this. Your father will be Governor.”
Layo stood up, walked to the door, opened it.
“Mummy, get out. We’re not doing this.”
Lola’s hands were shaking.