“I had sex last night.”
BJ’s calm announcement, sent mother’s green tea hurtling back up her esophagus. She choked on it and coughed twice. Then she placed her mug on the table in a bid to gather her composure.
Father’s fork was halfway to his mouth. It trembled, as it made its way back down to his plate untouched. It’s contents, a delicately arranged combo of two pieces of fried potatoes, one piece of dodo, a tiny piece of sausage and a piece of chicken dipped in mother’s green pepper sauce, was often jokingly labeled ‘heart attack on a plate’ by my aunt, Janet.
Father opened, shut and then opened his mouth. I saw frustration congregate in furrows on his forehead as he struggled in vain for something clever to say.
And then he said it.
Err? I was thinking.
“What did you say?”Aunty Janet beat him to the question, or so I thought.
I had initially pegged her question to be for BJ. Now looking back, I realized it might have been for father.
“Sex.” BJ replied coolly. “I had it. Last night.” She finished, lending weight to her confession. “For the first time.” She added ceremoniously, as if the fact of that could cushion the effect of the blow she had just delivered.
Mother looked a little pale and Aunty Janet looked like she was watching the opening act from ‘A night of a thousand laughs’.
There was nothing wrong with sex. At least I didn’t think so, but there was a big deal in my family about discussing it. What was that cliché phrase now, ‘Thou shall not kiss and tell’. It was an unspoken rule in my family. One that my sister decided to break that night. Well, for reasons best known to her.
Aunty Janet chuckled and glanced over at BJ who was calmly dipping her chips into a circular splash of ketchup by the side of her plate. Father finally made up his mind to close his mouth. He turned and glared at her, at Aunty Janet. The curlers in her hair at dinner time were usually a favorite point of conversation, but tonight, it was the chuckle at BJ’s statement.
“I’m not sure that ‘that’, was appropriate.” He said.
“That what was appropriate? Your seventeen year old daughter just confessed to something….”
“And you find it funny!”
“No,” Aunty Janet replied. “I find it hilarious.”
I slapped the cover of my Ababio Chemistry textbook unto my exercise book and flipped the back cover of my exercise book on top of it. Mumbling a hasty excuse for an exit, I stood up from the dining table. Father’s anger was at BJ. But it was coming at Aunty Janet, and I knew it would possibly head in my direction next.
“You find it hilarious?” Father almost roared.
Aunty Janet scoffed lightly. In all honesty, I could tell she was just as surprised and as curious as the rest of us at BJ’s brazen admittance.
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what the appropriate response should be….”
“You should be telling her the truth!”
“What truth? Berating her for something she already did? How is that going to help?”
I do not know what gave Aunty Janet the liver. I was half way up the stairs at this point, thankfully hidden behind the wall of the stair case. I was taking the stairs one slow step at a time so I could over hear the conversation at the dining table.
“You should not be laughing! It is not funny.” Father continued.
“You should be talking to your daughter. If you have something to say to her, then say it.” Aunty Janet’s voice bothered on irritation.
“How was it?”
I stopped at that last statement. It was mother’s voice. I turned around and sat down on the last stair of the landing, placing my books on my thighs.
‘No.’ I was thinking. ‘She did not just ask that question.’
“How was it?” Father echoed, and I suppose turned to look at her. “How was it?” He re-echoed.
I could hear the astonishment in his voice as well as the calm ticking of the mini grandfather clock that hung in the dining room. It’s periodic tick-tock, created an ominous drone as we all waited for father’s next words. “Is that all you can say to her?”
“What would you have me say?” Mother replied in her calm quiet voice.
“You are asking her if she enjoyed it?” Father’s voice had not lost its astonishment.
“The first time around usually isn’t nice.” Aunty Janet replied. “It’s a proper question.”
There was a five second space of silence.
‘Are you crazy Aunty Janet?’ I was thinking.
My heart was pounding, expecting a slap, fists and the crashing of plates and cutlery. I was expecting Father’s shouts, Mother’s screams and Aunty Janet’s frantic pleas. I expected much more than the painful stillness that accompanied the muted air within the five silent seconds. I heard nothing but my heart’s consistent thump, beating in rhythm with the ticking clock as it worked meticulously to deliver blood round my body.
Then came the grating sound of Father’s chair being pushed back from the table.
“I am highly disappointed in you.” His voice dripped with resentment and hurt. “I don’t know….I guess I expected better.”
I heard the gentle sound of his slippers slapping away from the dining area and a few seconds later, the crash of the kitchen door as father left the house. Probably to regain his composure.
That was the first time that father did not raise his hand at mother, nor raise his fists at any of us. Honestly, I have no clue why he did not get angry like he should have. It was weird to me considering that BJ had done the unthinkable, and even dared to speak about it.
“Did you use protection?” Mother’s voice was anxious. “Because you know about veneral diseases and HIV, and AIDS…..”
“Was it Adeolu?”
“It was.” My older sister’s voice was quite unrepentant.
Mother sighed. “Are you going to see him again?” She continued.
“I’m not ….sure.” I could hear the frown in her voice.
“If you do, will you be sleeping with him again?”
“I don’t want to.” BJ replied. “I found out that sex is not all its hyped up to be.”
Then there was quiet calm. I sat still, confused at the turn of events. ‘Was mother endorsing sex before marriage? What was she saying to BJ? Were they aware that I was listening?’
“It would have been nice.” Mother began again in her usual quiet voice.”If you had waited till we gave you away.”
There was another moment of silence.
“Yeah. I guess it would.” BJ finally replied like she was just considering that option for the first time. “Are you disappointed?” She asked, the fear in her voice that Mother was not was clear.
I heard the soft clatter of Mother’s mug on the table. “I should be.”
“But you are not.”
Another awkward moment of silence began. I could feel Mother’s struggle to say the words she wanted to say.
“I guess I’m slightly disappointed in myself. There are many things I should have told you, that probably if we had talked about, maybe..….Look, I love you no matter what. But I would love it if you could save the second time around for someone who’s earned the right.”
‘Yeah?’ So that was all Bj had to say? And what about Aunty Janet, why was she suddenly so quiet?
“Thank you.” BJ continued. “For not freaking out.”
It was really hard to believe that they were all sitting there, and talking about the forbidden sin like it was a discussion about the choice of what to have for dinner.
Aunty Janet started laughing first. And for all the questions that remained in me, I couldn’t figure out why Mother joined, and then BJ. One would have thought that someone had cracked a joke. The droll was lost on me.
As I slowly rose from my position on the staircase, I wondered what the reaction would be to my own kept secret. I didn’t know If I had BJ’s confidence, or the guts to spill my guts. I didn’t know if Father would kill me, or just let it go. I didn’t even know if Aunty Janet would find it funny. But I was sure, that my mother would understand. I would tell them tomorrow at dinner time. I would tell them that I was pregnant, and that I had been having sex for a very long time.