I was very glad that Auntie Rose came to stay with us because most of the time, she would ask me and Oyigwe to take a stroll with her inside the neighbourhood. At such occasions, she pointed out the different types of flowers and told us their names. We saw Sunflowers, Rhododendron, Roses and Dahlia. She even showed us a particular one in somebody’s frontage and said it was called the “Bleeding heart.”
“Why was the flower given such a sad name?” Oyigwe asked Auntie Rose as we walked passed.
“It was because once upon a time the flower was actually a very beautiful lady who lives happily with her parents. She soon fell in love with a handsome man. When the time came for them to get married, the man disappointed her and ran to a faraway land. This lady was so heartbroken. She cried and cried and cried. Nobody could console her. Eventually, she transformed into a flower. Since after that day, everybody started calling the flower the Bleeding heart,” Auntie Rose told us. This story made me and my sister to feel pity for the flower girl.
“That man she fell in love with must be a wicked man,” Oyigwe said afterwards, shaking her hand in annoyance, “I don’t like wicked people.”
I turned one more time to cast a pitiful glance at the flower as I tried to imaging how much her Mummy and Daddy would be missing her now. Maybe one day she would stop feeling heartbroken and then change into a beautiful lady again and go back to her house.
But it wasn’t only flowers Auntie Rose showed to us in the neighbourhood; there were other times that we would follow her to buy fruits and vegetable from that Hausa man who had a shop close to the big NEPA transformer. I’ve heard customers called him Alhaji Ibrahim Mai-Kayan-Miya. He sold every kind of fruits and vegetable inside his shop built with corrugated iron sheet; onions, salad, tomatoes, fresh atarugu pepper, vegetable leaves and even kubewa or okro. He was blind in one eye. People said he sustained the injury when some bad men wanted to steal baskets of fruits from his farm and he fought with them.
After we left Alhaji Ibrahim’s shop, one big uncle caught up with us by the corner of our street and spoke to Auntie Rose. This uncle wore a brown jacket over a blue velvet jean. He said his name was uncle Mike; he talked in such a manner as if he was imitating the way Europeans use to talk, and he kept gesticulating with one hand while the other hand remained inside his jacket’s pocket. Auntie Rose behaved as if she was happy and shy in his presence; she was giggling and looking away.
“Are you new in this neighbourhood?” he asked her.
“Yes. I came to visit my Aunt and her family,” Auntie Rose said.
“And these cute angels are they your Aunt’s children?”
“Yes. They are both my Aunt’s children,” Auntie Rose said in reply.
The big uncle stooped and offered me his hand for a handshake. I shook hands with him.
“I’m Uncle Mike. What’s your name?” he asked me.
“My name is Otseme,” I told him.
“Interesting!” he said and smiled at me.
“But my Daddy likes calling me Penguin,” I added.
“I don’t know,” I replied, “Maybe it is because we saw some Penguins in the television.”
Uncle Mike laughed. He turned to my sister afterwards and asked: “May I meet the princess?”
“My name is Oyigwe,” my sister said.
“And what pet name does your Daddy calls you?”
“It’s my Mummy that usually calls me Dolphin,” Oyigwe told him, “But I’ve told her to stop calling me like that.” She pouted.
“Why don’t you want your Mummy to call you Dolphin again?”
“Because I’m a grown up girl now.”
“That’s interesting. How old are you?” Uncle Mike asked her.
“She is nine years,” I said.
“Don’t mind him, I’m not nine,” Oyigwe said in protest, “I will be ten years at the end of this month.”
“You’ve got very intelligent and amusing kids to keep you company,” Uncle Mike spoke to Auntie Rose.
He then asked her to tell him about herself.
“I just finished writing my GCE,” she said to him.
“That’s good. I’m also doing my Industrial attachment with Leadway Assurance,” I heard him say. He smiled as he said so (it seemed he always smiled every time he said something).
I soon started to feel tired because this uncle talked and talked to Auntie Rose, as if he didn’t want us to go back home.
I tugged at Auntie Rose’s elbow. “Let’s go home,” I said to her.
Finally, Uncle Mike finished talking and said bye-bye to us.