Daddy picked me up from school in his grey Camry. I was relieved to discover he was right on time and I didn’t have to wait for him. He smiled when my eyes met his and I did a bit of a run to the car. I got into the front seat and greeted him with my usual ‘good afternoon, sir’ and he replied with a smile and a ‘how are you?’. He pulled out of the parking lot and into the street. Daddy smiled all the time even when he didn’t mean to. He had the deepest dimples I’d ever seen on anyone, talk less of a man. Mummy said he smiled so much so his dimples would show and that it served him right now that he could hardly keep a straight face. I remember fitting my index fingers into them when I was much younger and wondering why I didn’t have dimples too. I envied the remarkable ‘holes’ in his cheeks that seemed to flash whether he was laughing or deep in thought. The dimples contrasted with the heavy set of his jaw and the thin, jagged scar that ran down his chin. He told us he had gotten it when he fell off a tree when he was just a boy. The scar did little to mar his good looks though, it made him look older, more experienced. He had brown eyes that twinkled when he laughed and flashed when he was upset. You could tell what he was thinking when you looked into them even if his mouth held a smile.
‘So how did the legendary first day at school go?’, he asked with a grin. I answered with a shrug and a ‘you know’ and he chuckled. I laughed too for the first time all day. ‘Yes, I do know’, he muttered with a wink. For the rest of the drive I filled him in on almost everything that had happened at school. I didn’t mention Sarah or the fact that I hadn’t said a word to anyone. I did mention that I hadn’t seen any of my old classmates and he agreed that they probably hadn’t resumed yet. He pulled up in front of a fast food joint and I remembered I hadn’t had anything since my sandwich. I ordered a plate of rice when he insisted I eat real food and watched as the waitress packed it up in a plastic bowl. Daddy had to go back to work, it was only 2:30 and he had about 2 hours before he would close. This was a temporary arrangement. As from tomorrow, school would close at 4:00pm and mummy would pick me up on her way home.
Daddy was a pharmacist with one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the country. I wasn’t a big fan of his workplace-the smell of drugs and chemicals that greeted you when you walked in, the several men and women in white coats and gloves and the intimidating glass windows and high walls. One of the receptionists, a woman in her mid-thirties called out my name as we walked in. I politely greeted her and she commented on how fast I was growing and if I was wearing an actual Secondary school uniform. I smiled my answer and she exchanged a few words with daddy before promising to see me later. I held daddy’s hand as he took me to a room with sofas where I could sit and eat my food. I knew the drill, I would sit and wait for him, I could turn on the TV if I wanted and he would come and get me soon. I must have nodded off when I finished eating because I didn’t know how much time had passed till daddy nudged me and told me it was time to go.
Mummy was already home by the time daddy and I drove into our 4 bedroom apartment that day. My brothers had come back from school too. It was Monday so they would have gone off to the small football pitch across the street where the neighborhood boys held a weekly match. When I was younger, I would fuss until Daddy made them take me along but I had soon discovered it was not a place for the faint hearted. Plus, I couldn’t understand for the life of me what was so exciting about chasing a rubber ball. Mummy was busy with dinner when we got inside. She was wearing the yellow dress she usually wore when she worked in the kitchen. Mummy was very light skinned. She had the kind of fairness that was rare in a Yoruba woman. She was about 5ft6, plum and wore her hair in a short crop. She broke into a smile when she saw me and made me go change out of my school clothes and take a bath. She would make daddy do the same thing but i knew she could never get my brothers to do that no matter how hard she tried. My mum worked as a nurse in the state hospital. She was the type of nurse that didn’t seem like a nurse. Whenever my brothers or I got sick, she would immediately drive us to the hospital to see a doctor without bothering to lend any of her own expertise. The one time I’d ever seen her in ‘action’ was when my dad had gotten stung by a scorpion at our old apartment. It had been late at night and the power had been out. My brothers had found him outside. She had almost single handedly hauled him into the car and strapped me into the back seat breaking every speed limit there was to be broken until she got to the hospital. She had given the doctor on duty orders on what to do not once fretting or shedding a single tear. And because she had been so strong, it hadn’t occurred to me to be worried either. Yes, my mother really is that awesome.
My brothers were fraternal twins (I picked up the fancy term from a lady at church). It simply means they’re non-identical. Alex- the older twin by 10 minutes- had my mum’s fair skin and a cleft chin. Danny was several shades darker and had a round face. My parents insisted they looked more dissimilar as they grew up. At 13, you couldn’t tell they were twins at all but although side by side they look nothing alike, my brothers had to be the closest brothers I know. My dad always joked that they had spent more time with each other than with any of us. Alex was named by my grandfather-my mum’s dad. There really was no story behind the name. He had just held him in his arms soon after he had been born and gone, ‘hey, this is Alex’. Grandpa was one of those old, educated Yoruba men with a head full of white hair. He only had a secondary school certificate but he had been trained by a catholic priest and that counted for more. Danny had been named after Daddy. My paternal grandfather had been given the honor first but he had gone for ‘Akanbi’. To put it lightly, mummy had not been pleased with the name. She reasoned that the twins didn’t need anything else to make them even more dissimilar than they already were. ‘Alex and Akanbi’ didn’t sound quite right. She had tried to make sure that the name wouldn’t even appear in his birth certificate but when they had found out Grandpa didn’t have much longer to live; she decided it was only fair that they let it be his second name. Grandpa died two months later.
My maternal grandfather died the year I was born and so there wasn’t a chance I’d get a name as exotic as ‘Alex’. I was named by grandma- dad’s mom. Adetomiwa isn’t such a bad name; I just get mistaken for a boy a lot. I was named Esther by my mum’s only sister. I have several other names from many other relatives and even though my parents don’t remember those names, the relatives who gave them did and would usually use them whenever they came around.
At dinner that night, mummy asked all about my day and I was grateful that my brothers were too tired to tease. I told her it was alright and gave her the same load down I had given daddy, once again leaving out Sarah. When I eventually went to bed, I prayed that tomorrow would be better, that I’d meet an old friend and that the school counselor wouldn’t come back for another lecture.