Here’s the 4th Episode of Burnt. You can read the 3rd Episode HERE
Donald returned to a quiet house. The last few days had been super stressful, with his company’s ongoing acquisition of the fourth largest CDMA network in the country. It was his thought that data was the key to making money from telecoms in the future, and he was about to put his money where his mouth was. In other saner places, the acquisition would have been a straightforward business transaction. But in Nigeria, as usual, it was a different ballgame entirely, with political, regional and all other nonsense undertones. He knew he would be getting home too late to see the girls now, so he decided to make a quick stop in their room and just look at them before heading across the gym to their own room. It would turn out to be one of the most fateful decisions he would ever make.
The moment he opened the door, he sensed that something was not right. He felt around for the switch and turned the lights on. He took two quick strides into the room and saw Inya shaking, with Oyiza sleeping peacefully by her side. Quickly, he picked her up and got her seating with her back against the wall. He started shouting “Hajara! Hajara!” she didn’t respond, she probably didn’t hear him. He was torn between leaving the girl shaking here and going to get the inhaler in his room or not.
Thankfully, he remembered the intercom they had installed in the girls’ room and taught them to use once it was past their bedtime and they needed to talk to mummy or daddy. It had been his idea. He picked it up and dialed his room. Hajara picked up on the second ring.
“Hajara, get the inhaler and meet me in the girls’ room now!” he ordered, skipping any pleasantries.
He had barely dropped the phone when the door opened. That was fast, he thought. Then he looked up and saw it was Idris, wearing just shorts and a singlet.
“Uncle, is anything the matter? I heard you shouting now,” he asked.
“Inya is having an attack!” Donald said, and Idris’ eyes went to the wall where Inya was backed up against. By now, Oyiza had woken up. Of course she had been awake when her father had come in but she pretended to be asleep. With all this commotion though, she couldn’t act asleep any longer without raising any suspicion. She got up, rubbing her eyes and asked “what is it, why is everyone here?”
“Your sister is having an attack,” Donald answered. “Ow!” Oyiza remarked, feigning as much surprise as she could manage.
“Where the hell is this woman?” Donald bellowed.
Idris got up to go and check on her but just as he got to the door, it swung open unexpectedly, hitting him in the face and sending him reeling backwards onto the floor. An onrushing Hajara practically climbed over him mumbling apologies. She rushed the Ventolin inhaler to the child, carrying her as she administered it. As Idris gathered himself off the floor, his eyes caught something gleaming under Oyiza’s covers.
Donald was already dialing the doctor’s number. If the inhaler didn’t work, they would have to get her to the hospital and get the drugs administered intravenously. He hoped it wouldn’t get to that.
Twenty minutes later, Inya had become stable and everyone in the room heaved a sigh of relief. Donald insisted that she come and join them in the master bedroom so they could watch over her for the night. One by one, everyone left the room, leaving Oyiza alone. The circus was leaving, she thought, as she settled into the bed to sleep. She didn’t bother to turn the lights out, she could sleep with them on. She felt so alone already. Turning the lights out would only make it even worse.
As she began to doze off, she heard the door open. She wondered who had come back for her. Maybe they would come to ask her too to come and sleep in mummy and daddy’s room. She really wanted to, but no one had asked her. It was only Uncle Idris. She flopped back into the bed as he took a seat beside her.
“Inya stole Brian from you shay?” Idris asked.
“She always steals everyone from me. Everyone!” Oyiza found herself saying with more vehemence than she meant to let off. The resentment she always tried to deny she felt was beginning to boil over now.
“Even your mummy and daddy?” Idris asked, leading her on.
“See the way they have taken her to be with them and left only me here. It’s always Inya Inya Inya Inya! Do they even want me Uncle?”
“But isn’t Uncle Idris always there for you? Am I not the one that has come to stay with you even now when all the others have left to follow Inya?” he asked.
She thought for a few moments and then nodded “yes uncle, you are always there. Always, always.” She smiled a little.
He lifted her up and put her on his laps. “Unlike everyone else, I’ll always be your friend. I’m never going to leave with Inya, I’ll always be there for you.”
Oyiza liked this. She snuggled up to uncle Idris, wishing daddy or mummy would rock her like this, the way they had rocked Inya minutes ago. Her eyes were closed and she was falling asleep when she felt something creep between her legs. Instantly, she was awake and it was then she saw Uncle Idris hands inside her pajamas. She immediately jumped up from his laps.
“Uncle, why are you touching me there? It is bad for you to touch me there.” Her eyes were now wide open.
“What is the problem?” Idris said, livid. “Don’t I touch you there when I’m bathing you?”
“That is different uncle, you are not bathing me now,” Oyiza said with as much firmness as she could muster.
“So you want to be finally alone? Everyone always leaves you. Do you want me to leave you too? You will be a lonely, lonely little girl when I’m no longer your friend.”
“But you were my friend before Uncle, and you never touched me like that. Why do you have to touch me to be my friend now?” Oyiza asked, puzzled.
Idris hadn’t thought she would have clear logic as strong as that. He groped around in his mind for a valid comeback but found none. She got up and went to the door, about to leave the room. He quickly stood up and raced to the door to block it. Oyiza remembered things much better than Inya and she was much smarter at saying what she remembered in detail than Inya. He had no doubt that she would go straight to her parents, wake them up and tell them everything. If Inya also spoke up, he was a goner.
“Where are you going to?” he asked.
“I am going to mummy and daddy’s room, I want to go and sleep there.” Oyiza answered.
“And why don’t you want to sleep in your own room. They didn’t call you, did they? Weren’t you planning to sleep here before?” Idris asked, angry that this little girl was trying play coy and outsmart him.
“I just want to go uncle,” she responded, raising her voice.
Idris saw the unspoken threat. If she shouted loud enough for her parents to come, kasala would burst. He held her shoulders and said quietly “stop shouting!”
Ignoring him, Oyiza said even louder “Uncle you’re hurting me. Let me go!”
In times of desperation, ideas flash through one’s mind at super speed. Idris was desperate and his mind groped for something to shut his niece up. His mind flashed through all those episodes of Crime and Investigation he had watched where people committed murders in situations like this just to shut people up and solve the immediate problem. They always ended up creating bigger problems for themselves and he was ashamed he even allowed the thought of killing his niece creep into his mind. He discarded the thought and many others raced through his mind, until he remembered something he had seen earlier. His frenetic mind made the connections quicker than it would have if he hadn’t been desperate and he knew he had struck gold.
“I know your little secret,” Idris said to her as he fell on one knee to be at eyelevel with her.
Her eyes shifted and his suspicion was confirmed. She indeed had that secret.
“What? Which secret?” she asked, her voice considerably lowered.
“How did Inya’s asthma attack start today?” Idris asked jeeringly.
“Everybody knows Inya’s asthma can come anytime,” Oyiza said, flustered. If she had been any older, she would have done a much better job at hiding what was going on inside her. But at eight, all those types of wiles were yet to be developed. Idris read her like an open book.
He simply stood up and walked to the bed and pulled out the can of insecticide from under her sheets. She ran up to him and tried to snatch it out of his hands but he held it out of her reach.
“I saw what you did. I saw everything. You used this to cause Inya’s attack while she was sleeping, because of Brian!” he said. From her reaction, he knew his guess was correct. She held her head down, as good as if she had said yes.
Idris smiled lasciviously and sat back on the bed.
“But Uncle Idris is your friend, and he won’t tell on you. He’s not like everybody else who wants to hurt you. He just needs you to be a good girl and nobody will hear your secret.”
Oyiza looked up, shy and defeated.
“You promise?” she asked.
“I promise, promise!” Idris said emphatically, crossing his heart.
She stood where she was, fidgeting until Idris tapped his laps and said “come and sit here.”
She obeyed and walked up to him gingerly. He lifted her up to his laps and began to reach into her pajamas again. She closed her eyes and tried to shut everything else out.
The house was extremely quiet; otherwise Idris would not have heard it on time. Before he could reach into her panties, he heard a sound of someone approaching. He surveyed the room. “Shit!” he exclaimed and Oyiza opened her eyes. “What?” she said, glad for whatever had given her respite. He dumped her on the bed and looked around the room like a hungry animal. The door began to creak open. He looked to the bathroom, but realized he couldn’t get there quickly enough before the door opened so he fell heavily to the ground and rolled under the bed, pulling the sheets down to cover the side he was.
He heard Donald speaking with Oyiza. His teeth were almost chattering. “I should have stayed out and let him see me. Then I would have been able to explain myself. But if he finds me under the bed, it will be so damning that it won’t be explainable,” he thought to himself. He hoped that Oyiza would shut her mouth.
“Zaza, you haven’t slept?” Donald said.
“I couldn’t sleep daddy, I was worried about Inya,” she said.
“Why didn’t you come over to stay with her then,” Donald quizzed.
“Because you and mummy didn’t ask me to come along. I thought I should stay back since I wasn’t called,” Oyiza responded.
“Zaza, you should have come if you wanted to. You didn’t have to wait to be called,” Donald said.
“Really daddy?” Oyiza said, sounding very happy. To Idris, it was because she could leave the room with her dad that she was happy. In reality, the little girl was happy because she had discovered that she didn’t have to ask or be called to be a part of her family. She was a part of it already and she should just live it.
Idris let out a sigh of relief when he heard the door close and the room became quiet. He waited for another five minutes before rolling out from under the bed and making his way quietly to his own room in the darkness. He hoped the leverage the insecticide gave him over Oyiza was enough to keep her mouth shut.