“Mrs. Kala, I hope you understand that what I am telling you is if your doesn’t become serious with her school assignments we will have no choice but to make her repeat the year”.
My mother looked at me, she wasn’t happy and I could sense it. I was already beginning to visualize and dread the tongue-lashing I knew was coming.
“Thank you Mrs. Stevens,” she said “Danni and I have a lot to talk about”
“I’m sure you do, my office is always open if you ever feel the need to discuss your daughter’s progress” Mrs. Steven said smiling at my mum. I’d always loved that smile but right now as I looked at her I was sure I could see two pointed ears and a large tail behind her, boy was I in for it now.
“Come along Danni,” my Mum said to me as she got up from her seat and left the classroom, I followed docilely all the time thinking up a plausible excuse to explain away my behaviour.
We left the building and got to the parking lot. As we reached the car she turned to face me.
“I want a child I can be proud of, I’m tired of all the complaints I keep getting about you. If you don’t quarrel with one of your class mates today you end up beating a boy tomorrow, do you realize you are female and my last daughter”
I bent my head, not in shame but because I felt it was expected of me.
“I’m sorry mummy” I said in the repentant voice I always saved for her.
“I won’t tell your father this time” she said getting into the car. My head jerked up in surprise, what was the catch I wondered.
“But I want you to promise me that things are going to change” she continued.
I heaved a sigh of relief as I got into the passenger seat, hey… that was easy.
“I promise mummy, I’m sorry” my voice had that practiced meek quality proven to melt any adults’ heart; I knew I was home free.
We drove home in silence, each lost in her thoughts.
“Danni, Danni” my younger brothers squealed as we entered the drive, they were nine and seven respectively and at thirteen I was already their hero. I tried to get out of the car but my mum’s hand restrained me.
“Remember your promise Danni” she said, her eyes had a pleading quality in them “I don’t want to repeat this conversation” I nodded. She appeared to be reassured because just then, she let go of my hand, I in turn bounded out of the car before she had a chance to change her mind.
“What have you rascals been up to all day?” I asked them fondly, I had taught them how to fight and today I had promised to teach them how to scale fences.
“What took you so long?” Tonye, my nine year old brother asked me “I thought you’d never come” he said pouting
“Hey big man, don’t you know only sissy’s pout” I was laughing by this time. I took both my brothers by the hand and led them into the house. It was a Friday; the weekend fun only just begun.
“Danni, have you done your home work yet?” my mum called from the kitchen
“Uhh, y…yes” I replied, in truth I hadn’t. It wasn’t that I had decided to get in trouble so soon after being let off the hook it just was a case of habit. I had forgotten to copy the assignment from the board and as usual I felt I would get it off someone else on the way to school the next morning in the school bus. But I wasn’t going to tell her that.
It was five in the evening, my father was in the den, reading the newspapers and I suspected waiting for the five o’clock news. He was predictable, or should I say he was predictable to me because I love him.
“Kate,” he shouted.
My mum hurried out of the kitchen to answer. “Yes dear,” she replied in the voice I recognized belonged to my father alone.
“Come hear what I’m hearing, there is a strike tomorrow, all public transport…”
“I heard” she answered “they announced it attwo o’clock”
“So why didn’t you tell me?” he didn’t sound pleased
“What difference does it make, we don’t use public transport”
“That’s where you’re wrong, school buses are part of the public transport and they are joining in”
My ears perked up at that bit of information, if there was going to be no school bus then I was stuck; how in heavens name was I going to do my homework tomorrow, talk less of submitting it and if I didn’t get to submit it Mrs. Stevens would call my mum again and this time I was sure I wouldn’t get lucky.
“I didn’t think of that”, she said sitting down beside him “I have an important meeting tomorrow morning, couldn’t you take the kids to school in the morning before going to work?”
“You know I can’t, its Monday tomorrow and I can’t afford to be late”.
My school was on the outskirts of town, reason being it was the closest British school to where we lived; my father had a serious mistrust of all American schools.
My father worked at the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bon, Germany.
“We’ll just have to look for another alternative” he said in his wonderful tenor I loved to hear so much. My problem wasn’t my mum getting upset, which happened on almost a daily basis. My problem was the look of disappointment my father would give me once he realized I wasn’t the angel he thought me to be. I really wanted to be different but I kept finding myself fall into the same old pattern no matter how hard I tried.
“Why not call the ambassador?” I heard her suggest “they have an extra driver taking their kids to school, let ours joined them just this once”
“I don’t like it, you know I don’t”, he said
“I do, but what other option do we have left?”
I watched him get up from the easy chair and walk to the phone, my head in turmoil. How was I going to get out of the mess I just put myself into, why didn’t I just tell the truth when I had the chance.
“Kids” he said, “go get your things together, you’ll be spending the night at the ambassadors”
“Who’ll be driving us?” I asked
“Your mum” was the prompt reply. I did as I was told; all the time in the car I kept hoping that by some miracle something would happen, anything at all… just something that would prevent the fracas I knew was brewing. As we got to the gates of the ambassadors house, I got a bright idea. In fact, the more I thought of it the more I was sure it was going to work.
I waited till we were in the premises; I waited for her to exchange all pleasantries, I even waited for her to check out our hostess’ new gourmet cook. It wasn’t until she told us to be good that I put on a very pained expression.
“What is it?” she asked, trust mothers to always s notice their child’s discomfort.
“I forgot my homework at home” I answered, my face squeezed and I’m sure gave the impression that it was about to cry.
“Why didn’t you say something earlier on?” she wasn’t happy and I knew it.
“I thought it was in my bag. But it isn’t… I’ve searched and searched”
“Alright, when I get home I’ll go look for it” she hugged me and I smiled behind her, I was smart and I knew it.
At seven in the evening I heard Martha, the ambassador’s servant call for me
“You have a phone call” she said before going back to the kitchen
“Hello” I said cautiously into the receiver, none of my friends knew where I was so this call was indeed surprising.
“It is mummy”, I heard her say “are you sure you left it at home?”
“I’m positive, it’s in my room… it must be on my reading table somewhere”
“Ok, I’ll check again” she said, and then she dropped the phone. Thirty minutes later she called again, this time she didn’t sound as calm as the previous call
“Danni, are you sure you did the assignment, I can’t find it”
“Oh mummy, which means I won’t be able to submit any thing tomorrow and Mrs. Stevens will be so angry… you’ll have to call her to explain… I’ll have to submit it the following day”.
By this time I had begun to feel sorry for her but I was too far into the game to give up now.
“I’ve heard you” she said before dropping the phone. I had a field day; I spent the entire evening watching cable. Being who they were, the ambassadorial household spoilt us with ice cream; not that couldn’t get it at home but our mum was always careful not to give us too much… her excuse, our health.
I had just returned from the kitchen with my third cone when I noticed the ambassador on the phone.
“Danni, hold on a minute” he said.
I waited, running a mental check on all the things I had done or not done during my stay.
“That was your father” he said, “the strike has just been called off and he wants all of you home tonight, go get your things ready and the driver, will take you home.”
My whole world collapsed round about me even the ice cream I was holding lost its flavour.
The car ride back home was pretty uneventful
“It’s alright” I consoled myself, “I just to have to figure a way out of this”.
As the car turned into the drive way I noticed a solitary figure waiting in front of the door.
“Mummy, mummy” squealed my brothers, they noticed that I hadn’t joined in the chant they tried to emulate me by keeping a straight face. Even that didn’t last very long; they just couldn’t pretend to be what they weren’t.
“Good evening” I greeted her, not sure of what I was to expect. Her face was stony, I swallowed involuntarily.
“Welcome” she said.
I started to follow my brother into sitting room when I heard her say.
“Daniela, go up to your room and wait for me”
I froze for half an instant; she never called me by my full name unless I was in trouble. Quietly I changed direction to the staircase.
I heard her shut my bedroom door behind her, I looked at her apprehensively.
“Where is the assignment you left in here?” she asked in her quiet voice, the same voice I had learnt to associate with dangerous.
I got up, no concrete destination in mind. I searched the table, I searched my wardrobe. I was just beginning to lift up the Persian rug in my room when I felt a sharp pain on my back, I screamed. I knew what was happening but it had been such long time since I had been flogged for anything.
“Mummy, please…aghhhhh” I screamed all the time trying to escape the torrent of lashes.
I heard my father’s voice as he struggled to open the door, it was then I realized that it was locked and I had no way of escape.
“Shut up” she screamed at me, “instead of you to kill me, I’ll kill you myself”
“I’m sorry” I cried “please mummy…agh…yeah…mummy”
Just then, as if by some miracle, the door opened and my father came in. he was able to stop my mother before coming to console me.
I learnt two very valuable lesson that night; the first, never lie to your mother the second… Nigerian mothers never change their tactics no matter what part of the globe they reside in, and this includes places where prolonged loud yelling would attract the police in its wake.
“It’s alright, officer”, I heard my father say as he went downstairs. “A child was just throwing tantrums”.