The Christmas break started out like all others. The weekend after school broke up, my family headed down to my dad’s village. My brother, Kunle and I spent our days running up and down with cousins and other city kids who had also ‘come home’. We fetched water from the stream and showered some distance away from it, hidden in the shades of palm fronds to avoid contaminating the water. My dad said this experience kept us grounded; I have no idea what he meant, only that this was a part of my holidays that went untold when regaling my friends with tales of our adventures. In the evenings, all the children, family, friends, would gather and listen to folk tales told by my grandma.
On the last day of our visit, while searching for a quiet corner to read in, and to avoid getting given more chores, I overheard my dad speaking with one of his distant cousins. They had fallen upon hard times, causing him to withdraw his daughter, Anu from school due to owed fees. He pleaded with my dad to take her in; she would be more of a help than a burden as she was very hardworking. My dad, the soft touch that he is when it comes to family, agreed on the spot. Later that night, I heard raised voices in my parents’ bedroom. It seems the rather hasty decision did not go down well with everyone.
We left early the next morning after saying our goodbyes. Anu had never been outside the village or away from her family so her farewell was a tearful one, as she clung to her parents; eventually tearing away with a promise to make them proud. The scenery as we headed home was picturesque; mile upon mile of green, lush trees interspersed with majestic rocks as the road sped by. Gradually, there was a change of landscape and buildings started popping up. Her head went out the open window, swinging back and forth; eyes sparkling in awe, right up until mum noticed and screamed, “Put your head back in or a passing car will help you redesign it”.
The rest of the journey was relatively uneventful. When we arrived, she blanched as we parked in our assigned parking spot under the high-rise building we called home and remarked “plenty plenty people must have died when they build this big house” and then turned to my dad saying, “Uncle, no park for here, if e fall, your car will crush”, no doubt skeptical about the engineering marvel that kept the building up. He promised her no such thing would happen. The rest of us ignored her and piled out of the car, eager to catch up on all the TV and gossip we’d missed while we were away. She blatantly refused to get on the lift with us, backing away slowly as she cried out “I no go enter this monster that opened mouth wide to swallow us”. Exasperated, my mother replied “Well, if you like don’t enter, I wonder how you intend to fetch water up 16 floors when there’s shortage” and walked in. Feeling slightly sorry for her, I reassured her that it was ok and half cajoled half pulled her into the lift. Logic won over superstition on this occasion; I think she realized that we were neither suicidal nor sacrificial lambs. Minutes later, the doors finally closed and as the lift jerked upwards, she clasped my hands for support in a fierce death-grip.
As we got in, I was told that she’s my new roommate; all my protests and pleas fell on deaf ears. I almost wished I had kept quiet on the way up as mum must have gotten the impression that we somehow get along. My dad and Kunle brought in a bed for her from the garage; we then rearranged the room, unpacked and put our things away. Once mum was satisfied with our progress, we were finally allowed to turn on the TV. Mum interrupted our TV show by calling Kunle away, so he paused it and rewound it a little way when he got back before playing it again. She was completely fascinated by the Live Pause, Rewind and Play feature of the decoder. In a way, I understood this, but the shine for us wore off a couple of weeks after the decoder was installed a couple of years ago. . She turned to my brother and said “so you are the people that put the things we used to watch, you will teach me o, so that my friend Simbi can be seeing me in the village” It turns out she was under the misconception that we were responsible for creating and inputting the content of the TV programs.
My dad came into the sitting room a little later to watch the evening news. She then went into my room – not yet used to calling it ‘our’ room and my brother and I heaved a collective sigh of relief, only to hear her exclaim loudly when she saw the bathtub, “You people are practicing how to stay when they put you in the grave, I don’t want”, as she backed out of the room. Night couldn’t come soon enough. I went to sleep after she finally settled into the adjoining bed, wondering what Anu would discover tomorrow.
What better way to start the second half of the year than with the promised story. So, here’s to my first short story in print. Eyes wide shut, peering out through splayed fingers, hoping you’ll like it but even more so, that you’ll love me enough to tell me if you don’t, or to suggest areas of improvement.
PS: Today’s Day 1 of the 31-day Ultimate Blog Challenge – 31 posts in 31 days, more details here