You wake up to a bright morning. A warm ray of light filters through your netted windows, bounces off your white walls, and bathes your prostrate form with its shimmering glow. You yawn, then stretch like an overfed cat. That is just before Mother calls out to you from the sitting room. You do not feel like stepping out of the room just yet, but you get up all the same and find your way through the short passage that connects the living room while rubbing sleep off your eyes.
“Mummy good morning.” You yawn again, raising your right hand to your mouth to keep in the foul breath.
“Good morning my dear,” Mother beams at you and bids you sit down. But just before you claim the empty space beside her, Nkoli races into the room and flops on the chair, hugging Mother and showering upon her, her usual kisses. You quickly turn away to hide the anger in your eyes and then you find yourself another seat. The sitting room is spacious, big enough to sit fifteen in comfort and style. The room is cool. You hug your chest as cold air snakes under your fair skin.
“Mummy, good morning. How was your night? Hope you slept well . . .” Nkoli goes on and on, grating your ears with her watery affectations.
Mother responds, telling her, her night was fine and yes, she slept well.
Nkoli is dressed in a fitting jean that seats on her like a second skin, moulding the hourglass shape of her curves. She is wearing a white flowered Polo shirt, and her face is made up in extravagant hues.
“Going somewhere?” Mother asks.
“Not really.” She replies, fanning her neck despite the cold air.
Mother’s eyes dance in their sockets as she regards her two jewels. You notice the steady rising and falling movement of her breast against the dark fabric of her dress and you know it’s nothing else but pride swelling her chest. You grimace as she winces from the pain in her broken left knee. Her clutches sit beside her, resting ominously on the armrest of her chair.
“I have great news.”
“What news?” You try very hard to hide your excitement.
“Your father will be returning next week from the U.S.” she announces.
You are so filled with joy, you almost want to jump up and scream in glee. But you don’t. Instead you bow you head to hide the smile in your lips. You don’t want to give your sister the satisfaction of knowing just how lonely you’ve been without Father, your knight in shining armour.
“Mummy is that why you called us?” Nkoli knows father’s presence would be the end of her supercilious attitude. She screws up her nose, sealing her lips in a tight line.
Mother ignores her.
“Ekaette!” she calls.
Only then do you notice the bosomy figure of the village girl mother recruited barely two weeks ago to help with the house chores. She bounds into the room, her breasts doing a spasmodic dance within the thin fabric of her blouse.
“Yes, Madam.” She bows low before each of you. You both raise your heads in a facade of disinterest. Ekaette is dressed in one of Mother’s dowdy hand-me-down blouses. Her skirt is long, drab and shapeless. Her hair is done up in cornrows, framing her beautiful oval face—even you have to admit she is pretty.
“Go to my room and bring me the brown bag on the bed.”
She scratches her pointed nose. “Yes Madam.” And runs off. But not before you catch the rum-thrum movement of her round and shapey buttocks. Even the dowdy gown cannot hide their superfluous shape. Nkoli sees what you see, for you can see the fascination in her eyes as they trail the disappearing maid.
You yawn again and cast your eyes on the wall clock. There is still plenty of time for your appointment with Uche.
Ekaette appears, gripping a colourful polythene bag. She hands it to Mother and disappears into the kitchen. You call on her again for a drink. She comes running to you with a shimmering glass of cold water placed on a white saucer. You watch the tiny rivulets of water snake down the glass as her hands shake while kneeling to hand you the drink. Your eyes lick at her cleavage, trailing her behind as she turns to leave. Common sense tugs at the same feeling you’ve ignored since the maids arrival. Mother is saying something.
“ . . . are the clothes Aunty Chima sent for you.”
You are up and racing to grab the bag, but like always, Nkoli beats you to it. She grabs a cream-coloured gown and a turquoise shirt before you can snatch the bag from her manicured fingers.
“Take it easy,” Mother chides.
But you both are too carried away to listen. You ransack the contents of the polythene and scream in glee as the tailored blue shirt you’ve always wanted slips into your fingers. There are two jean trousers too. You notice a frown spread on Nkoli’s face.
“What is making this one frown?” You ask with irritation. You tuck your gifts away in a corner of your chair.
“Mummy I want the blue shirt,” Nkoli protests, pushing her red lips forward.
“But you chose first.” Mother says. Smiling, she rests her back on the fluffy armchair and regards you both, her breath laboured from the pain in her knee.
Nkoli stamps her feet angrily on the floor and gives you a mean look.
You ignore her and admire your new clothes.
Nkoli flings the cream-coloured gown and the greenish blue shirt on the floor, pushes her long black hair behind her shoulders and marches to the polished brown mahogany shelf. She grabs her car keys and stumps off amid Mothers calls for her return.
“Nkem, you should take better care of your little sister,” Mother tells you.
“Little sister?” You sit up with indignation. “Mummy can you not see you are spoiling her?” You explode. “Nkoli now wants everything that I own, from my clothes to my books. She even wants to share my friends.” You wrinkle your nose as you say ‘share your friends’ like it’s a rotten apple in your mouth. “It’s gotten so bad, I’ve caught her twice stealing my underwear. She wants everything. Within the last two weeks she has changed so much. Doesn’t that strike you as odd? Don’t you think we should take her to see Pastor Bath?”
“She is just a child, besides this is probably just a phase in her life.”
“A child?” You are miffed by Mother’s admission of Nkoli’s immaturity. Your twin sister escaped being the elder one with barely ten minutes. You cannot imagine what Mother means by calling her a child.
Outside, you hear the familiar whine of Nkoli’s brand new Mercedes jeep as it fires up and heads up the driveway towards the gate. The clang of metal against concrete reverberates as Audu, the elderly Hausa gateman with the pronounced tribal marks, throws open the mighty gate.
“Mummy you are spoiling her o, you are spoiling her.”
You gather your new clothes in your arms and stump off into your room.
You pick up Diana Gordon’s, ‘A few days in Endel’, and you curl up in bed to continue from where you stopped the previous night. Outside, it darkens and threatens to rain. Maybe it’s the sensual plot, maybe it’s the cold seeping in through your windows, but you suddenly want to cuddle so bad. Reaching for your phone, you dial Uche’s number. Ten tries and still she doesn’t pick up.
You curl up your toes in frustration, but that doesn’t help much. You feel an intense warmth stir in your groin. This longing to be taken grows with every passing second until it becomes everything you are thinking of.
Maybe a cold bath would help, you tell yourself.
You gingerly get up and hurry into the bathroom, scared you might give in to the tiny voice inside your head. That’s dirty, you tell yourself, shrugging off the idea.
You come out of the bathroom with your white towel tied around your chest. Your eyes mist with the realization that not even a cold bath can check the rage between your thighs. It’s weird, you wonder. Never in all of your twenty-four years have you felt this way, not even with Uche.
The small voice in your head screams, but at some point, it mellows and polishes the plan growing in your head till you curse yourself for not seeing it that way in the first place.
You tiptoe to Mothers room. You place your ears on her bedroom door. Her soft breathing assuages your worries. You are certain Mother must have taken her drugs and was fast asleep. You move away and head for the kitchen.
You startle Ekaette who is bent over peeling yam in preparation for breakfast. She turns as she senses your presence.
“Good morning Madam.”
You look her over; her skin shines like burnished gold. You notice for the first time that her hair is wiry and jet black. Her waist tapers not unlike a funnel into her hips, ending with beautiful black feet. Her eyes are bright, alive. You look into their depths and the burning rage within you nods the affirmative.
She bows low, staring at her feet, quite uncomfortable with your stare.
“I need you to go take your bath now.”
“Do not worry about breakfast. No one is hungry anyway. You are going out with me in five minutes.” You order her. Despite yourself, you wouldn’t mind if she were a little cleaner and her skin, a little scented.
“Ok Madam.” She nods and hurries off to her quarters, a bedsitter behind the sprawling complex where you reside.
Three minutes later, you walk up to her room and turn the door knob.
You step into a sparsely furnished room. The bed is laid with a clean blue bed sheet. The floor is carpeted. A table and a chair rest on the opposite wall, facing the wardrobe. Light trickles in through the transparent silk curtains, transforming the small room into a tidy haven.
You hear the sound of running water coming from the glass door beside the wardrobe but still you call out to her.
“I am almost through Ma.” She replies. Her voice floats to you from behind the closed door. She speaks well for a housemaid, you wonder, but that thought doesn’t linger long. You move to the bed and let your towel fall to the ground. With your fingers, you caress your thighs, moving your hands in and out of the wet crack between your legs. You moan aloud, cupping your jutting breasts with your other hand.
What is wrong with me? You wonder. But you are just too gone to care. You want a fix and you were going to get it from this richly endowed Calabar girl with or without her consent.
You lie on the bed, carelessly throwing your legs wide apart. The sound of running water ceases. Any minute now and you’ll have to quickly execute your plan. You smile, hungrily licking your lips. But something presses hard against your back on the soft foam.
You get up to investigate. You kneel beside the bed, your back facing the bathroom door and you raise the mattress.
The first thing you see is a piece of red clothing. Curious, you push aside the mattress and take a closer peek. Wrapped in the cloth are several black dolls. You pick one up and frightfully throw it back into the pile. It’s a lookalike of you mother. Its left leg has been broken at the knee. It dangles ungracefully in the air before landing back in the pile.
Your heart thuds. Rivulets of sweat snake across your neck and down your naked back.
Eyes bulging in terror you snatch another doll. This one is masculine—your father. A red noose is tied firmly around its neck. You thrust your hand into the pile only to discover puppet versions of yourself and Nkoli, tied to strings of some sort, like a puppet to a puppeteer. A soft moan of fear escapes your lips.
This is not happening, you tell yourself as your vision darkens.
Why would anyone want to hurt you or any member of your family? Why would anyone want to hurt dad?
Quickly, you reach for the towel to cover your shame.
But the glint in her eyes makes your blood run cold. You are so carried away with your findings, you didn’t hear Ekaette slip into the room.
You raise your hands protectively to your head but Ekaette’s speed and strength surpasses anything you could ever have imagined. You recognise the glint in her eyes as hatred, dirty black hatred. The only other thing you recognise is the gleaming tip of Audu’s ice pick as it sinks into your shoulder blades.
“Lord no! No! No!” You sit bolt upright. Your eyes are twice their size and you are covered in sweat, which sticks your red lingerie to your skin. Your breath is heavy, wheezing out of your lungs in large bouts.
You are about to pray when you hear Mother’s call. That is when you notice it is morning. Pale light dances around your windows. You stand up and throw open the curtains. Wiping your face with a towel, you meet Mother in the sitting room where she is standing beside a bosomy dark skinned girl with bright eyes and jet black hair tumbling down her shoulders. The stranger is gripping a dirty brown bag like her life depends on it. Her eyes travel the length of the room in wonder and awe.
Nkoli walks groggily into the room.
You both greet Mother. She replies with a smile.
“She is a distant relation of you Fathers’.” Mother says holding the poorly dressed girl by the wrist. “Her name is Alice, and she is our new housemaid.”