Popcorn and milk

Popcorn and milk
© Folakemi Emem-Akpan

Hot popcorn and warm milk on stormy nights. Kumbi’s mouth salivates at the memory, and if she concentrates hard, she can almost smell the buttery aroma of freshly popped corn. And the flowery fragrance of Mom’s perfume.

“How many times will I tell you not to hide behind chairs?” The question is directed at her, not at all in a friendly manner, and the voice that asks it is high-pitched and grating. The lovely scene she’s been reenacting underneath her shut eyelids disintegrates into a billion pieces. Kumbi opens her eyes and staggers to her feet.

Aunty Felicia towers above her, dressed as usual in a see-through spaghetti top and cut off jeans that show off her perfectly shaped thighs. As usual, her face is well made-up, the only thing marring it the huge smirk she wears.

“I’m sorry.” Kumbi mumbles and heads for her room, the room that was once hers and her sister’s.

“I’m not interested in your sorries. I just don’t want you crouching all over the place. You know your dad doesn’t like it, and that means I don’t like it. We don’t want him thinking I’m mistreating you, do we?”

At the doorway, Kumbi shakes her head quickly and blinks back the tears rapidly forming under her eyelashes. Aunty Felicia is actually her daddy’s fiancée, not her aunty. But she couldn’t call her Mom, couldn’t call her Felicia, didn’t know what to call her until Daddy told her it was okay to call her aunty.

There are still two beds, each on opposite sides of the room. But only her own bed is made up, the other almost creaking under the weight of half a dozen boxes. Aunty Felicia’s boxes, filled with clothes and shoes and towels and bags and everything under the sun.

Curling herself into the fetal position, she struggles to recapture the memory of popcorn nights, of Mom’s silvery laughter, of Yemisi’s rambunctiousness, of Daddy’s small sigh of satisfaction.

She struggles mightily but the images would not form. Instead she is besieged with memories of that day, that last day.

A hot afternoon. A doctor’s appointment that she had to miss because of an important recital in school. Waving off Mom and four-year-old Yemisi. Turning to go into her class. And. Then. That. Horrible. Screech. The visual horror of two tires flying through air, and the red ball of fire that exploded from the Honda’s engine.

She’d been six at that time. And now she is eight and about to get a new mommy. A new mommy she can’t conjure any iota of affection for, a mommy she cannot even call Mom.

And her daddy is no longer the warm open man he’d once been. He’d only begun to laugh again after Aunty Felicia became a permanent fixture in their home.

She’s started to change the décor of the house.

Mom’s pictures have been replaced with hers. The kitchen is now cluttered with every cooking equipment known to man, although Felicia can hardly cook. And Felicia now lives in the room that had been Mom’s and Dad’s.

Kumbi swallows back the tears clogged in her throat, sits up and reaches for her pillow. Inside the pillowcase is a well-worn picture of them all. Mom’s face is radiant. Yemisi’s smile is sticky with candy and so is Kumbi’s. Daddy’s eyes twinkle with merriment.

She kisses them all, folds the picture and slips it back into the pillowcase.

12 thoughts on “Popcorn and milk” by Folakemi Emem-Akpan (@Folakemi)

  1. It is touching, yet lovely. I’m sure it’ll be hard to accept that type of change so early in life.

    You write beautifully.

    1. @namdi, thanks for your comment. It is hard to accept death at any age. It is doubly hard for a small child to lose a parent.

  2. so sad. stories like this make tears form in my eyes, brings back memories but thank God dad left before mum so I got no like of aunty Felicia. Always love to read from the stable of @folakemiemem-akpan. Hope to see you someday *winks

    1. @shovey, thanks for your comments. Thank God you did not get the likes of Aunty Felicia. Yes, hope to see you too someday

  3. Hmm, life has such stories to tell too often than we can recount, but you capture and represent them INTERESTINGLY. I dof my hat for your ability to use your creativity, with such ‘concoction’ of skills, to repeatedly produce works that move our emotions. Don’t you dare stop writing.

    1. @musemussang, thanks for your comment. It warmed my heart. And I will not stop “concocting” stories. Cheers

  4. Touching story. Well done.

  5. poor kumbi…#sobs
    No woman can take the place of your mum.Anyway thats life not just fair at all,just wish it was black instead.

    Nice story keep it up writer.

  6. Everyone has agreed that the body of the story is good, and so I’ll choose instead to comment, oddly enough, on the title.

    ‘Popcorn and Milk’ is a catching title. And especially so for food lovers. This was why I chose to read the story out of many others. But wait, this says nothing about my liking for popcorn and milk, whether taken individually or together. In fact I think it’s a strange combination. Hot popcorn normally goes with cold soda, warm milk with bread. At least, so I have seen.

    But away from whether popcorn is usually taken with milk, or soda, or even soaked garri, though it’s a catching title, like I said, after reading the entire length of the write up I discovered that it was not a befitting title.

    I see the relationship it has with the first paragraph (and I must say it was so graphically presented that I could almost smell and taste the popcorn and milk. So good job!), but I expected they would pop up again somewhere in the middle or at the end of the story, thus truly binding it (the story) together to the title. But I was met instead with a bitter narrative which was nowhere near the delightful title, or the almost delightful opening paragraph, or the delightful expectation one naturally had of the story after seeing the delightful title. It was analogous to naming and packaging, for example, Yoyo Bitters as Malta Guinness. Now that’s a very deceptive publicity.

    Perhaps a more befitting title would have been ‘The New Step-Mother’.

    1. @ezeagwu, thanks for your comment. I have found that what most people remember about their childhood are little little things that might not really make any sense to other people. For example, one of my own vivid recollections are Herbert Ogunde films at the national theatre with my dad. I used popcorn and milk to show what made sense to the character that might not make sense to others.
      And I don’t find popcorn and warm milk a strange combo at all. That’s what my kids and I snack on on our movie nights. Guess I allowed my own preference seep through.
      Thanks for your comment though and hoping to read some of your works here. Cheers

      1. Interesting comment from @Ezeagwu. I found myself agreeing with him until I read @Folakemi‘s rebuttal, then I agreed with her too.

        1. Haha! OK, I agree with you both.

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