“From your mouth? You’re such a hypocrite! You who have been watching all these vampire and werewolf movies would dare accuse me of watching Yoruba movies because of minor babalawo or woli scenes?! Wonders shall never end.”
“Okay, that’s enough!” Dele’s eyes were red and nobody needed to tell Seni that she had crossed the line. He was her big brother after all.
“I will not have you insult me over a girl you hardly know–”
“Shut up! You don’t talk when I am talking. I am 5 years older than you. Do they sell ‘5 years’ in the market?” he asked angrily. Seni knew not to answer, but her thoughts did not stop flowing.
Na today you just know say you be my senior brother? Yeye!
But she did not dare open her mouth to say those words. She knew her brother well enough to know that when he got angry like that, he could easily baptize her with heavy slaps or worse yet, finish her with his belt, and her parents would not defend her.
Dele continued with his torrent of angry words.
“You keep going on and on about Veronica, as if she is a bad person. Isn’t she a woman like you? Shouldn’t you be defending her? Later now, you’ll say guys are the ones always insulting girls. Isn’t that what you’re doing now? You women are the ones destroying each other!”
“But Brother Dele, it’s not like that. Just because I’m a woman–”
“Point of correction, you are a girl, not a woman,” Dele spat.
“Okay, fine. Girl. Just because I am a girl doesn’t mean I agree completely with what every girl does or says.”
She paused. Her eyes never left Dele. She was watching him closely to see if he was going to lash out at her and mentally prepared herself to flee from him if she had to. For the moment, Dele had resumed his former stance with his hands across his chest. But his face was no longer calm. Seni decided to take her chances.
“You see …” she began, moving closer to Dele, and deliberately softening her voice to pacify him. But Dele refused to be wooed.
“I don’t see anything here but some inexplicable beef you have for Veronica. Don’t come near me,” he said, putting up his hands to prevent her from advancing closer. Seni felt hurt, but did not say anything. She got his message loud and clear.
“Brother Dele, I know I’m your younger sister, but it doesn’t mean I have the IQ of a cockroach. What am I saying sef? IQ has nothing to do with this. Call it a woman’s intuition. Whatever. But, please be careful with Veronica. Shine your eye well well! She’s not who you think she is.”
“Enough! Enough! We’re not having this conversation again. And since you have grown wings and think you can advise your elders–”
How does he being 5 years older than me, make him an elder? Where’s the walking stick? The grey hair? The endless string of completely irrelevant and meaningless proverbs that have absolutely no application to our discussion? Seni wondered. Dele was still speaking.
“Go to my room, pick up the pile of dirty clothes on the floor and wash all of them! If I see one sweat stain on the armpit of any shirt ehn … You go hear am! Nonsense!”
As he walked away, he talked angrily in loud tones:
“Na person wey no get work, na she go dey walk up and down, dey do busy body, dey give her senior broda advice, dey chook mouth for inside matter wey no concern am. Rubbish!”
Seni let out a long, pained sigh. As she made her way to the kitchen, she caught a glimpse of Dele, serving spoon in one hand, still mumbling angrily to himself, heaping large spoonfuls of the asaro she had prepared earlier, onto a plate.
“If to say I wan poison you now … Na so you go just chop and quench. Dis man, shine ya eye,” she mumbled under her breath.
It turned out that Brother Dele was right. Partly. By the time she finished washing those clothes, it was almost 7:30 p.m. and the mosquitoes had started feasting on her uncovered legs. She was thoroughly exhausted and went to bed early. Pretty unusual for a 17-year old.
* * * * *
Seni did not hear anything else about Veronica from Dele’s lips. It was as if he deliberately avoided mentioning her name in Seni’s presence. She began to second-guess herself.
Maybe she shouldn’t have told Dele anything.
But how do you stand by and watch a person you love get hurt?
As yet, Veronica had not done anything to hurt Dele, but Seni knew it was coming. She was still wondering about this one evening, a few weeks after the “Vero-inspired” conversation she had had with Dele. She was completing the last leg of her journey home from JAMB lessons by foot. When she was within two minutes of the house, she decided, on an impulse, to go and visit her friend, Nancy.
It was Friday, and even though she knew that she had to study over the weekend, she also knew that her parents were less strict with their “you-must-study-everyday” rule on Fridays compared to other days. Her spur-of-the-moment plan was to go and borrow a few movies from Nancy and watch them over the weekend.
Nancy, who was three years older than Seni, had an enviable collection of books and movies. As an only child, she regularly got monetary gifts from her parents and relatives, and the money usually went towards a seemingly bottomless list of items she adored. At the top of that list were books and movies. She even had a DVD player in her room, something Seni plotted and planned to get as soon as she could save up enough money to buy one.
Even as she headed to Nancy’s house, she thought of that DVD player. Almost immediately, the picture of someone’s face appeared in her mind. The image was so repulsive that she hissed in disgust. That person was none other than Boye, her brother’s friend.
A year ago, after she had graduated from secondary school, and had returned home, Seni noticed Boye’s sudden interest in her. Sudden, yes. It was sudden because prior to this unwanted attention, and while she was still in secondary school, coming home only for holidays, Boye either ignored her or sent her on errands.
Perhaps, it was the change from seeing her for short periods of time, a few times a year, to seeing her for uninterrupted and extended periods that had caused Boye’s change of heart. Or maybe it was that she was now perpetually in mufti. But the more she thought about it, she ruled that out as a possible explanation.
“It has to be my body,” Seni finally concluded one day. That was the only thing about her that had really changed.
Being a late bloomer, she was still flat-chested and had the body of a pre-pubescent girl, as she got to her mid-teens. It was around that time that she had moved back home from school. But now, the one year she had spent at home, seemed to have set off a chain reaction in her body. It was like her body finally understood that it was time to catch up with her mind, that it was time to actually look more mature and not just sound that way.
Whatever it was, she had seen her body magically transform from boyish, boring, “ignored-by-boys” to curvy, hot and sexy. It was like she just woke up one day and BAM! She had a butt. Not just a regular, forgettable butt, but a well-rounded, “look-at-me-turn-around-and-look-at-me-again” butt, the kind that compliments a sepe sepe figure 8. Her chest also got the memo, and she finally discarded those awful bra-tops, replacing them with real bras.
“Sepe Sepe Figure Eight!” Boye had exclaimed one day, when he dropped by unannounced as usual. His eyes had danced all over her body and Seni was reminded of a fox staring at a chicken coop.
All those drumsticks …
She could swear she saw drool falling carelessly from his mouth too, but that was not easily verifiable from where she stood. It was that day that Seni finally understood that she was a woman. It was also the day she started to get very uncomfortable around Boye. But that was just the beginning.
Boye was just a year older than Dele, making him 23, and yet he was not enrolled at any university or polytechnic. Like Dele, and like Seni herself was experiencing first hand, he had failed JAMB year after year for 5 years.
Boye had watched as younger and luckier students gained admission to universities all over the country, while he was stuck at home, getting older but not necessarily wiser. He lived just a few doors away from them in a neighborhood that was unapologetically middle class. The ongoing JAMB nightmare notwithstanding, Boye was a notorious womanizer, and most people in that neighborhood knew it.
Seni often wondered what women saw in Boye. After watching him closely for a while, she narrowed it down to one thing: charm. Boye was charming, well-mannered for the most part, average height, with passable looks. He was certainly not ugly, but he was also not strikingly handsome by any means. If Seni could have assessed him objectively, which she could not, she would have admitted that his lips received the most compliments. Not his face, not his eyes. Just those two red, sexy, and possibly very kissable lips.
When Seni happened to see him toasting girls, or as happened just as frequently, girls toasting him, that singular feature received the most compliments.
“Boye, Boye, fine boy, no pimples. So how many girls have you kissed?” she heard one girl say to him one afternoon when she went to buy soap from a nearby mallam.
“You mean today or since the day I was born?” Boye replied.
What a flirt! He was probably going to say something else, until he saw Seni. As soon as he saw her, he quickly changed the topic.
There had been countless times when she had overheard those types of conversations involving Boye and some girl, so she had made a mental note to avoid him. As yet, he had not made any move.
But that changed when she turned 17 and Boye really took notice. He started to look for excuses to visit their home more often, and he timed his visits to coincide with the hours of the day when he knew Dele, her brother, would be in school. Ironically, he would come and say he wanted to “hang out” with Dele, a 300 level student at the University of Lagos.
On those occasions, after telling him that Dele was not at home, a fact he had verified from the obvious absence of Dele’s car in her parents’ compound, he would attempt to toast Seni. His attempts were laughable at best, but she knew that they worked on some girls or else he would have dropped those lines and picked up much better ones.
The lame pickup lines Boye kept rolling out convinced Seni that men assumed women had no sense at all. Maybe certain men …
Boye’s strategy might have worked on other girls, but Seni was far too shrewd to fall for him. She was tempted to report Boye’s wiles to her parents or even to Dele, but after Dele had told her to back off Veronica’s matter, she had consciously avoided him. Telling him about Boye would not go down well. Her parents nko? They would simply adopt a stricter approach and might even forbid her from visiting any friends.
In short, if Seni spoke out, she would get blamed for Boye’s behavior, and the blame game would be played against her using comments like “your clothes are too tight” or worse yet “stop wearing trousers,” as if skirts and dresses offered women some kind of immunity against unwanted toasting. Men chase women, shikena!
Besides, as Seni reasoned, if she could not handle Boye here at home, how would she deal with the deluge of desperate guys who would target her once she started living on a university campus? Would she report all of them, one by one, to her parents and Dele?
“I must learnt to fight my own battles. The world will never be rid of unwanted male attention, men who don’t take “No” for an answer. I just have to learn to deal with it once and for all.”
And with that, Seni started plotting how she would stamp out this pest called Boye.
– to be continued –