IKOT EKPENE,1991. I crossed a major passage in life when I dared to be real. A real girl got to do what she got to do.
I sat down idling in the sitting room with the last girl in the house, my only kid sister- Bridget. What you readily notice is the manner she pouts when she is irritated or reproached for some misdeed.
Wherever she finds a picture or painting or a coloured sheet with humans, she looks for a razor blade to trace it out and stick it to her Drawing book which is almost as tall as she is.
While she was colouring, I gaze at the high walls where the framed pictures of My father hung with some conspicuous old-school elegance. He had a stint as a Clerical officer in the department of Lands and Agriculture. His pictures and Mama’s picture- her face with its characteristic spark and faultless dentition were a testimony of a happy family.
I wasn’t really expecting any guest but I heard a knock at the door. I adjusted my posture and turned to the door adjusting my slightly tangled hair.
“Come in please” I said in an uncertain tone.
The door glided open and a male foot stepped in.
“Ah, you are the one. Welcome, please have a sit”, we pumped hands as I ushered Tim in. He motioned close to Bridget and peered through her painting. “Nice work, little girl. I like it”, I heard him say to my sister.
I served him sweet winey beverage made with Zobo leaves. I see him gulp cup after cup and I knew he liked it.
Tim was my colleague at the extra mural classes at Titimbre UME Coaching centre. He was the first male guest that I ever received.
I had a crush on Tim. Tim always had a cheerful, lively and self-confident air that easily knocked all of school-girlish defences.
As if that wasn’t enough, he had a voice for singing, he knits wool perfectly and he is an Artist per excellence. His flower vase gift, a year ago still sits on my reading desk in the bedroom.
Everywhere was a little calm, except for the eerie noise of the dogs in the house opposite us. Either those hounds were ‘high’ on hemp or they were on heat. I will be the least surprised because you feed your pet with what you eat; the lady who owns those dogs takes hemp.
Obinna, my brother was at the Nigerian Maritime School Oron, while Kene, Usochi and Tobe where all in boarding houses. Only I and Bridget were usually home.
I decided to usher Tim into my room, at least he will have an intimate feel of where I rest at night. Let him see my set of shoes, slips, casual wears and entire wardrobe.
He came in and sat on my bed still holding a cup of Zobo. Though we had power outages, the drink was still fresh and cold. My little Bridget followed, her painting book in her underarm. That dog sound is now dampened.
“Nice room. So lemon green is truly your favourite. Even the Citrus fragrance complements the colour”. He said.
“Thank you”, I said letting out a smile.
Now he is mustering a naughty brow, “But I suspect it is because you know I was coming, that is why you scrubbed the room spic-and-span and looking like Disney-heaven”
I looked at him like I was going to punch his chest. I had wanted to fluff him with my own counter but I just pulled a face. I was really glad Tim had come to my place unannounced and everything seemed right.
He was guiding Bridget with her work, I put on my SANYO Radio Cassette player- Mariah Carey’s dream lover lyrics played on . I excused them and went into the Kitchen to fix a quick dish- something I know Tim will relish. Coconut rice was on my mind.
“The food is almost done Tim”, I whispered with an affected gesticulation and then he nodded. He lifted me close and then carried me up a little, before my eye could bat a lid, he started swirling me round and round; I circumvolve him. Ah! I lost my equilibrium, the world became an ocean of wild spirals. I had to beg him as my legs drummed in air for balance. I liked it all the same.
He then returned to the edge of the bed, took off his white with black stripped shirt to allow the breeze from the window to cool him some more.
Just then, I heard a knock, my Father’s distinctive knocks- three quick ones followed by a third soft one. Sure, that was my Father at the door.
Fear zinged through my body and I knew I had to wee-wee. What could it be that father had come home for? I whispered into Tim’s ear, to hide behind the curtain. To be sure, I had to come out with my Bridget, locking my room door and then I went to open the entrance for him.
I welcomed my father and before I could ask what brought him home at that hour of the day, he already had an explanation; this heat is something else. I just came in to catch this cold Zobo, I have a task to accomplish at omandi.
I was relieved, it wasn’t like anyone had gone to whisper things to him. This hamlet of ours is one of active rumourists . He gulped some more and took in the aroma from the kitchen.
“Like mother…like daughter.” He toned in humour. He usually doesn’t go into my room. He stood up and took a file on the TV shelve, dust and flipped it then he made his way out of the door.
I sighed in relief as I bade him farewell. As he stepped a foot outside, Bridget went after him crushing against his well pressed black trouser.
“Daddy! Daddy, have you seen sistermi’s friend? He is in her room.”
What the hell, this hyper-girl is such a spoiler, I reflected.
“Really?” my father quipped as if he expected anyone to answer him. He stepped back light-heartedly without looking at my face as he made for my room and unbolted the knob.
This time, some pee actually fell or so I thought.
“Hello” my Dad said in a drawn voice I knew he was expecting a female friend. But here was an Adam in full glory, sweating like he was from hell. Tim went on the floor like the omo-yoruba that he was, with both hands prostrating,
“Welcome Sir!”, “Good Afternoon Sir”, “Yes Sir”.
He said that repeatedly in what sounded like seven times in few seconds. Repeating “Yes Sirs” to no questions. My father didn’t say a word. He just left the door open and made for the exit without a word.
I wasn’t sure if he was going to get a whip or he was going to implement a capital punishment against me. I was just sure this is a ridiculous anti-climax for me.
I was flustered and Tim was really taken aback. He left his Zobo he didn’t even remember I was making any meal for him. How could he have?
I looked at Bridget with the eyes of death, blazing like it was going to eat her up. She pouted and I smacked her hard. She let out a cry and ran out of the sitting room to somewhere I don’t care. I know she will be watching alongside Old man when Mum returns at night with her horsewhip judgement.