I heard a familiar sound as I took the first bold step out of my room. I looked in all possible and impossible directions to see if my mom was around and luckily there was no sign of her ahead, behind or sideways, the coast was ominously clear. I heaved a sigh of relief and gently closed the door to avoid giving her any clearer clues. I wondered where the witch had gone now. I moved a little to the left and was tripped by a pestle. I fell, crashing down on the hard floor and luckily I didn’t have a wound or bruise to threat this time around.
I got up and picked up the pestle, it was so heavy I had to use both hands. So this was the lethal weapon, I couldn’t even lift it without staggering. I carefully examined and admired the pestle before I decided it was time to escape further. I dropped it back on the floor quietly even though I knew by now I’d done enough to be discovered.
I continued moving leftwards along the passage way on the third and final floor where five out of the twelve rooms in our house were located. As I journeyed I glanced at the numerous pictures of our family, the one that fascinated me every time I saw it was the electronic photo frame that contained 989 pictures of my parent’s second weeding ten years ago. My mom looked very beautiful and glamorous at the age of 38 then and now as she approaches 48 she still looks like someone in her early 30’s, she was indeed blessed with an amaranthine beauty.
Till today I still find it difficult to believe I was going to be heir to the famous Glee Empire after my father. It was really an odd trend in the world especially in the Africa where the system of primogeniture was adhered to strictly, which made it impossible for the youngest to aspire to been the heir.
My elder siblings Matthew and Paris were no longer interested in the big role as Matthew was already a successful agricultural related entrepreneur in Senegal and my sister Paris was married to a wealthy man and she’s also no longer bearing the famous ‘Glee’ surname, leaving the massive and overwhelming opportunity for me and my adopted sister Hilda to vie for.
I had the upper hand, I was a true biological offspring of my parents and dad has told me numerous times of his will to hand over the empire to me when he passes on. I just couldn’t wait for that season to come when I could spend profligately and not fear the witch’s wrath and if she was still unluckily alive by then, I would send her to some fancy home for the elderlies in one tiny island that remains difficult to locate on a world map.
I skipped past the master bedroom, heard sounds of activities coming from the room so I skipped back. I got to the door and waited to hear sounds to confirm if she was in, I took the huge risk and opened the door and fell on my knees immediately eyes closed. If you can’t win a fight against an enemy that’s stronger than, you then you have to temporary retreat and lose in view of strengthening to win another duel.
I don’t know what got into me but everything I said I didn’t say it because I’d suddenly realized my mistakes and my apparent indolence but because of the excruciating pains my body has been grappling with for nearly a decade. I must have been shedding tears of pains for the years of incessant assaults as I spoke these nice words that would melt the heart of the most callous of Royal Queens.
I started with a hoarse voice spiced with pain and misery. “Mom I know I’ve been the worst child in the entire history of mankind, I know I’ve been an advocate of the devil ever since I was born and I’ve been constantly possessed by demons all my life. Mom I know I always make you sad, furious and temperamental and even appear silly. Mom I know you think I haven’t learnt my lessons but mom if I haven’t learnt my lessons I won’t be kneeling and asking you to forgive me for all my wrong doing.”
I continued undeterred after fifteen seconds. “I’m tired of hearing you yell at me, I now want to see you praise me and become proud of me once again. I’ve committed many crimes and I know that I don’t deserve your forgiveness but mom find it in your loving and tender heart to forgive me just like Jesus has already forgiven you. I’m ready to go for special deliverance to transform myself from a sinner to a saint if necessary; I’m ready to correct all my wrongs with rights.” I paused to catch my breath.
The silence was unusual; what was she still thinking about?
“I’ve committed many sins mom, I’ve stolen your money, I’ve disobeyed you and I’ve even sold some of your jewelleries of late. I’ve kept on increasing the telephone bill and I’ve been rude to your friends. I’m sorry I called your best friend Mrs Sylva a witch and even flattened her tyres which I denied then. I’m sorry I served Mrs Eze water from a fish pond and caused her to vomit on the spot. I’m sorry I placed pins on the couches when your friends came for their weekly women fellowship and smirked as they all ran round the room like kids after taking a little injection. I even broke Mr Lancelot’s wiper and stained your white sport car with goat blood. I’m the one that poured Champagne in your car radiator, I’m the one who threw away your favourite tiara and filled your favourite vessel with horse dung.”
I paused and expected her to say something but she didn’t even breathe. I felt tempted to open my eyes; I ignored the feeling and switched tactics.
“Mom I’ve performed so many tricks on you and I can’t name them all but mom I’m ready to change this time for good. Mom I realize my wicked and obscene deeds, the only one who has been practicing witchcraft is me. I’ve done so much evil that hurt people, things I can never allow anyone ever to do to me. I’ve been a fool and a big jerk, I’ve lived a negative life all my life and I’m a huge disappointment to you and the family name I’ve tarnished badly. Mom pass your lethal judgment on me, beat me till I move no more, paralyze me in your anger and break me in your fury, I deserve it all.” I sighed, waiting for her full wrath to fall upon me.
“Mom if that’s not enough then feed me to the zoo ‘dogs’ and let the vultures have their lion share of my miserable body. Mom if you’re willing to forgive and accept me once again, I promise to change this time for good and stick to good. Mom from now on I say goodbye to laziness, goodbye to sleep, goodbye to lousiness and goodbye to disobedience. From now on mom I will be the symbol of obedience, I will be just like David and Samuel and not like Ahab or Saul. I will listen to you and honour you for the rest of my life, no more dirty tricks from me ever again. Mom please put me back in that huge hole in your heart I’ve left desolate for so long.”
I blethered on and on, promising things I knew I would never do even if she placed a pistol on my forehead. I promised I would always clean up my room, do my chores and even more without been necessarily prompted to do so.
I promised I would get better grades in school, score 300 marks minimum in my Jamb and get all distinctions in my WAEC and NECO exams. I promised to be the child she has never had or imagined she could have.
I promised to emulate her and follow her to church every single day she wanted to go. I kept on promising and re-promising till a hand touched me, less calloused and smaller than my mom’s own.
“Get up Hardy, mom is not here.”
Those shocking, suicide-tugging words forced me open my eyes at once. I saw the face and blinked thrice just to be triple sure I wasn’t in one of my self-invented dream worlds. She’s smiling at me, no, she must be laughing at my stupidity. I got up and shoved the zaftig blond girl away.
“Where is mom?” I raised my voice loud enough I knew my mom would be coming around soon.
“Nice to see you have finally decided to change, I was really worried that you might end up in the hospital again or even the mortuary.”
That statement provoked me and I slapped her till I heard her cry. Young girl my age, Hilda was one of those numerous European girls you see on a dream trip to Europe that destroys any hitherto notion you previously nurtured about European girls been extremely more beautiful than their African counterparts. Perhaps maybe because I’d spent all my life with her, just like the strange way my buddy Timothy couldn’t agree with the general conception that his sis Teresa was pretty.
She kept on crying loudly and if I didn’t do something quickly my mom would slaughter me here and have me served for lunch. I wrapped my hands around her and kept saying ‘I’m sorry.’ That must have done the trick; she stopped crying and embraced me firmly. If I remained in that position for another ten seconds I would throw up. My belly began to lurch; my warning bells were alarmingly at an all-time best.
“I need to eat something.”
I tried to endure the offensive fragrance of her body but failed. She was sweaty from doing her chores and now I was the grand receiver of it. Her palms were surprisingly not that tough from all the hard work she does even though she worked twice as hard as a cattle. She smiled and let go.
I left the room trying not to look back but I did.
“Where is mom?”
“Mom is at the door talking to Mrs Eze.”
I smiled and nearly said thank you. I hurried down the stairs holding the handrail firmly for support as I headed straight to the second floor. I got to the second floor and had to go round the passageway, past three unoccupied rooms and Hilda’s room. I located the stairs that led to the ground floor and hurried down. My belly kept on lurching and I felt I was close to death by starvation. I walked a little and bypassed the living room through a small corridor that led to the door of our underground basement so large it could hide thousands of people in it conveniently.
I headed for the kitchen stealthily, I didn’t want mom to spot me and destroy my hopes of eating today. As I passed I could hear in snatches what my mom and her friend Mrs Eze were chattering and laughing about. Heard something about the latest designs in the market that goes for $300, how daddy Itshekiri got his maid pregnant and how his wife ended up in an asylum in Ibadan and how mummy Kanuri husband was arrested by the JTF to answer questions on allegations of his link with the Boko Haram sect.
I had itchy ears so I hid myself behind the floor lamp which was a bad idea since it was tantamount to hiding a car behind a pole. They even talked about me, evaluating my worthlessness and debating my slothfulness. I wanted to hear more but when women natters like this, time dies.
I entered the kitchen to search for what to eat, there was a pot of yam, a plate of fried egg and a pot of rice but they were all cold. I switched on the burner to warm them up but even that would take about five to ten minutes.
I searched the kitchen for any other thing I could eat; I directed my gaze at the kitchen door just to be extra sure no one was there. I opened the pot of stew and used a serving spoon to pick two large chunks of beef and dropped them on a plate. I settled down to eat it on the mini-table at the centre of the kitchen.
I picked up a meat with my right hand and watched the stew roll down my palm and just before it got to my wrist I licked up the traces sharply, repeating it twice before sucking off the stew from the meat. The stew was delicious; I sucked the stew out of the second and licked the plates with my wallowing tongue. Only my tongue could be a worthy witness to testify to the splendid taste of the stew, it’s a pure delight.
This was the handiwork of my mom, only she could cook such delicacies. If she ever decided to start a sure to flourish career as a restaurateur, I would be an addicted customer. I picked up the first meat and nibbled at it, I was so engrossed in what I was doing I didn’t notice when Hilda entered the kitchen.
“Just look at this hapless glutton eating like as if he has never seen food in his lifetime.” She touched my cold shoulders and brightened up with a smile.
I took one look at her and decided I wouldn’t look at her again until I’ve finished eating before she spoils my appetite with her ill-luck. I was lucky to still maintain a pleasant advantage as I was an inch taller than her. I kept on eating like the hungry wolf I was.
“I will help you warm the food before you burn it.” She volunteered.
I didn’t even say thank you before she moved over to help me. I looked at her briefly and smiled, where she lacks in stunning beauty she substitutes with stunning wits and overwhelming brightness. Since my mom adopted her fifteen years ago just days after my birth, she has been doing well academically, coming tops since Year One.
My mom was in the same ward with Hilda’s mother who died giving birth to her and from their brief conversation she found out Hilda father, a modern day wanderer had abandoned both mother and daughter, so when she died shortly after giving birth to Hilda, mom adopted her out of compassion.
She’s the child my mom was immensely proud of due to their similar interests. I considered her a favoured child of fate; she definitely knew how to court fate and play the beautiful amaranthine bride. I don’t consider her my sister although I called her my sis when mom was around but when she’s not, I called her a bitch secretly to my friends because if my mom perchance hears just the rumour, I would be dead in a coffin and buried thirty feet under the earth seconds after.
All the members of this family were beautiful samples of creation and she was the odd one out with foriegn blood and non-relating characteristics, mom said she’s a late developer just like her mother and very soon her true beauty would show. Maybe I was a little under-estimating her looks but she doesn’t look pretty, she’s just a plain normal Jane and I definitely don’t believe in that ugly duckling fairy-tale.
“Thank you.” I said warmly.
She turned and smiled. “It’s the least I can for a lazy likeable boy like you.”
I looked at her and felt bad for having ruthlessly tormented her three years ago that made her move from the room beside mine down to the second floor. I constantly placed rodents in her room and cockroaches to share a bed with her during the peak of the torment, if there were two things she hated most after snakes they were rodents and cockroaches.
The reason I didn’t use harmless snakes was because I was equally as scared of snakes as she was and even more. I remember five years ago just as I was about to write my common entrance examination to gain admission into the ‘jungle’, I saw an enormous snake in the field and I screamed till I lost my voice and attracted the whole Ikeja to the scene. Till date I haven’t been able to identify what kind of snake I saw, even the internet has failed to identify it.
After three weeks of sleepless nights and the failure of the rodents and cockroaches to disappear despite frequent fumigation and her screaming like a girl who had just been brutally raped, I kindly advised her to move away from the haunted room and choose a safer room on the second floor to end her misery.
She immediately read behind the scripts that I was behind her predicament but she still moved and played a trick on me that has made me despise her till date.
She placed a swarm of moths in my wardrobe, my beds and everywhere in my room. I entered my room that fateful day glowing with a smile after completing the day’s scheme on another girl when I saw the moths, I screamed and wept like a sissy.
I could pick cockroaches and rodents but moths I revered them greatly, those things gave me the creeps. I preferred a year in hell to been in the same room with those creepy creatures. It took me just three minutes and I went over the edge to beg her to remove them for me, she did but she still stayed on the second floor, a choice that is still perplexing till date.
“So are you ready to tell me who your boyfriend is? Does he look just like you?”
If she was hurt she didn’t show it, she just smiled and kept on frying fresh eggs.
I stared at her for a long time waiting to see that expression of depression but instead she kept smiling and humming a song of impression.
I might have irresistible good looks but I was no singer, my voice was better suited as a long-lasting solution for a grain farmer continuously battling against menacing birds than a scarecrow. Hilda was innately gifted with one of the most melodious voices in the world I’ve ever heard.
One of the reasons why the Redeemed Christian Church of God we attend was increasing in numbers was because of her voice and not the boring sermons of the Senior Pastor that had a soporific effect, preparing the congregation for a world of dizziness just as he mounts the pulpit and to show her importance, after the choir was done with their ministration, a staggering 40% of the youths flee from the church.
I remember when she was sick and missed two services in a row, the whole pastoral team complete in their large numbers and the whole transgenerational choir came to visit and find out what the matter was but when I skipped church for as long as three months, not even one soul noticed I wasn’t in church or cared to ask why. Her voice made her look beautiful in your immediate vision and it’s only later you realize you had just fallen in love with a plain Jane. If she ever chose to go through plastic surgery and transform her face then she would have more fans flocking around her but knowing Hilda, she would rather prefer to be burnt by an inferno than to go through plastic surgery.
“Will you sing for me?” I quickly added, “It’s better than listening to the radio.”
She turned to look at me with her only true beauty asset, her beguiling blue eyes. “Do you want me to sing or should I just tell you who my boyfriend is?”
I picked the boyfriend question; I really wanted to know the lucky guy. “Who is the lucky guy? I really want to meet him and congratulate him for a job well done”
She didn’t say anything for a while and just as I was about to tell her I was waiting, she said with a tone of irony in her voice, “You are the lucky guy. You are my boyfriend.”
She kept stirring the eggs and didn’t look at me. I got up after I had finished eating the stolen meat and gave her a long peck on her right cheek and whispered sweetly into her ear, “As long as you will keep singing for me and cooking delicacies for me then you might just be my favourite sis and take over from Paris.”
She didn’t reply and I got back to my seat. I just hoped the bright and lovely Hilda would find that lucky boy who would make her happy. I picked up an apple and took one huge bite. I don’t know how much time I had left before mom came looking for me but from my experience on the duration of woman chitchat, I still hadm at least three more hours if not the whole day.
She served me my food and I thanked her gratefully.
“I would have loved to be your girlfriend if I wasn’t your sister and more importantly if I didn’t know about your many defects. You are cool on the outside but on the inside it’s the opposite.”
I frowned and almost insulted her immediately if not for the fact she had prepared my meal for me. I’d barely eaten halfway through the meal when she started annoying me.
“Look at the way you’re eating like a dog, you eat like one of those roadside beggars.”
That did the trick; I could no longer take it anymore. “You this filthy rag, when last did you have your bath, your armpit stinks. Get yourself a warm bath; your body odour is polluting the delicious aroma of my food.”
I didn’t know which one pained her so much, whether it was the stinking armpits or her body odour mingling with the perfect aroma of my food but I got a well-deserved slap which I followed with both hands.
The slap was so hot that although she hit my left cheek, both cheeks were roasting as if she used a red-hot iron to sear both sides of my handsome face. I rubbed my face in agony, if not because of my resolve to never cry before a girl I would have shed tears on the spot.
She really felt hurt; she just cried and stomped out of the kitchen. Before she left I made sure to tell her how bad her breath was, she burst into louder tears and I knew now my mom would come sooner than I had anticipated. My funeral was about to begin.
I finished eating my meal hurriedly and washed the plates to avoid another conflict with the witch. I took out a bunch of cold grapes from the fridge and started chomping them. Hilda and my mom claimed I ate a lot and I would get fat soon but with the looks of things, I looked as thin as a model on diet.
I felt sorry for Hilda although she wasn’t my dream girl; she also wasn’t bad looking. She would find herself a boyfriend soon if she wanted one; her voice was one of a kind and a temptation higher than physical attraction.
I remember last year when I brought Vincent my long-lost primary school pal who I just got in contact with after nearly five years of unplanned separation. He passed through the witch’s cross-examination as every one of my friends that visit me does and surprisingly he passed after only twelve minutes, setting a new record.
He met Hilda singing and immediately fell in love with her but Hilda was cold to him when she heard he was my blossom friend and other reasons best known to her. I told her he liked her, she told me to get lost. Vincent wasn’t bad looking but he also wasn’t the guy that would leave you breathless at first glimpse and he had a daunting defect, he was a stammerer. I thought the two were a match made in heaven but I was wrong.
“Do you think I can date someone like that? He can’t even talk properly without stammering. I know his type and I don’t like them.” She fumed when I pleaded with her to at least talk to him.
“A little chat won’t kill you. I don’t know what the guy sees in you but the guy is clearly attracted to you. He keeps asking after you and telling me of dreams he has been having of you.” I fabricated that last part to sell him better (Hilda believed in the prophetic powers of a dream.)
“So you are now his mouthpiece? Good for nothing boys who don’t even know what to do with their lives than to waste it on fantasies.”
She yelled and walked out, threatening to tell the witch about my secret affair with Zaynab and my attempt to make her date a stammerer. The threat was convincing enough and I didn’t bother her again. I continuously lied to Vincent that I talked to her on everyday about him, giving the desperate guy some flicker of hope when necessary.
This holiday he hasn’t yet called but it’s just the third day into the holiday, very soon he would call me and I would start feeding his hope again. I marvelled at his strange obsession for Hilda when Ronke a better bet was clamouring for his attention.
I asked him once what he finds so fascinating about Hilda when he has Ronke clamouring for attention. His response baffled me. “Hilda is beautiful on the inside and Ronke is beautiful on the outside. Her beauty on the inside is what attracted me to her; it’s very rare to find people like that.”
I looked at him then amazed, what was this guy talking about, beauty on the inside? Do you see the inside? Will you date the inside?
I finished devouring the grapes and felt full; I had settled my belly now to settle my mother. I decided to go and meet her at the door, greet her friend and tell her how sorry I was, how hard could that be?
I left the kitchen, bypassed the door leading to the basement and headed for the front door through the small living room. I prayed for success in my mission, I desperately needed all the luck I could get right now.
The TV was on but no one was around to watch it. I looked round the small living room to be sure my mom and her friend hadn’t decided to move there to slouch and talk better but I didn’t see anyone. The small living room is where my mom and dad received not so important guest. Portraits of dad, mom, grandpa, grandma, great-grandpa and great-grandma hung proudly on the wall.
My dad has told me a lot about my grandparents enough to write a 70-page biography. They were the wealthiest black people in France at a time, they owned the FIRST group of companies that had influence all over Europe and Africa and now it was spreading its tentacles to Asia under my dad. FIRST group of companies consisting of FIRST Law firm and FIRST web of supermarkets.
Presently my dad is amongst the wealthiest in Africa; he never misses any opportunity to praise his parents and even my great-grandparents who started FIRST supermarket even in a segregated France then. He always assures me that I would one day take over the company and take it to the next level. My dad treats me like a prince but my mom treats me like a disease. I would never contemplate taking over such a company with so much money, so much fame and so much to conquer, this was one adventure I would never miss or die missing.
I got to the front door and didn’t see my mom, I moved outside and checked round our massive compound, the swimming pool, her garden, the outer bar, the fountain, the power generating house and her favourite refreshment spot just by her garden but I didn’t see her or her friend.
I checked the garage, courageously shouting her name but she wasn’t there. I noticed her red Ferrari 458 Italia was missing, had she driven it out or had the Swift Automobile Company come to service the car? I heard someone screaming my name and I quickly hid under her blue BMW Alpina Roadster V8 ignoring the grey Mercedes SUV. I heard it again more clearly, I knew I must have inspired something wrong again. I could see Mrs Eze the gossip overlord leaving from my laying position; immediately I knew it was the witch that called.