I’ll be on Classic FM today between 9 and 10am and Naija FM by 8:45am tomorrow. I’ll be talking writing and yup, I go dey blow pidgin tomorrow so tune in and call in. Enjoy today’s Episode of Burnt.
As they sat on couch, digging through the goodies Aunty Laraba had brought from Abuja, life couldn’t be more perfect. Hajara watched the happiness that filled the room now and a pang of jealousy raised its head in her heart. She never ever had this kind of effect on her daughters by her mere presence. But then she was their mother, she reasoned and they saw her every day. She had simply become so normal it was routine, she guessed.
“So, I guess somebody has been told that she is going to be the dainty little bride at a wedding very soon? Does she want to see her fine white dress?” Laraba said with feigned seriousness.
“Yes, yes,” Inya shrieked, twirling and jumping all over the place in her excitement. Hajara watched as Inya practically climbed over her sister to get to Laraba and how the cloud that descended over Oyiza’s countenance engulfed her, plus the way she tried to visibly fight it off and look through the clothes as if it didn’t affect her. She wondered how she had missed it all this while.
As she contemplated moving to say or do something to help Oyiza feel better, Laraba said “and somebody else is wondering what she will be doing at the wedding abi?” as she helped Inya try her lacy little bride’s gown on.
Oyiza tried her best to act like she wasn’t really interested but an eight year old is not so good at pretending well enough to fool anyone. Laraba just laughed heartily and roughened her hair up. “Well, I have been told she is the best eight year old pianist in this part of the country and I’m curious to see how good she is,” she continued.
Oyiza’s head shot up now, dropping every pretense of disinterest. Laraba kept laughing as she knew she now had the little girl’s full attention, even as her young mind struggled to pull the pieces of what her aunty was saying together. Even Inya had paused parading in her dress and was paying attention. The jealousy kicked inside Hajara again and she fought it down with an effort.
“Well,” Laraba began with a dramatic pause. Then she slowly brought another dainty dress out of her box and held it up “that pianist will be playing a song during my wedding ceremony.” This one was gold and it shimmered with every move.
Oyiza couldn’t contain herself and shrieking, she jumped all over Aunty Laraba, kissing and kissing her profusely. It was obvious she was grateful she had not been forgotten. Inya was very happy with her dress and little bride things and at the same time Oyiza was super happy with her own stuff too. It was a balance that Hajara rarely if ever achieved and the envy she had been repressing let itself lose now. The only words she could blurt out were “Oyiza behave yourself around your aunty, she must be very tired from her trip. And Inya, take the dress off, you don’t want it spoiling before the wedding day.”
“Haba aunty, let the girls have fun now. Don’t worry I think I can handle all the tumbling around just fine,” Laraba said with a chuckle. The girls who had already started obeying their mum were visibly relieved. Oyiza started talking excitedly about the song she was choosing for the wedding and how hard she knew she would have to practice with Mr. Owusu. “But I’ll practice really hard and make your wedding very grand!” she said with all seriousness.
“You haven’t tried your recital dress on yet,” Laraba said, pulling her up on her feet. The girls were so different. The dress was the least thing that interested Oyiza about her part on that day while Inya had been unable to stop posing around with it since she laid her eyes on it, making Laraba take picture after picture until her blackberry battery ran out. Hajara eventually left them to take a nap.
The day sped past and it was when she finally escaped the girls and collapsed onto the bed in the guest room that the exhaustion finally took its toll. She managed to get undressed and then dragged herself into the bathroom. She turned the AC on so that the room would be cool by the time she came out. If she had not been on her period, she might have skipped the bath but there was no way she would go to bed without a thorough warm bath at this time of the month. She spent about fifteen minutes in the bathroom and then opened the door. The coolness from the AC caressed her skin and she shut her eyes to relish the moment briefly. When she opened it, she realized something was wrong.
“This is strange,” she said as she stepped into the darkness. She didn’t remember turning the lights out before stepping into the bathroom. She shook her head. Maybe she had turned it off. The tiredness must be making her all fuzzy in the head. She tried to picture where the bed should be and headed in that direction. She ditched the towel she had wrapped around her after the first step, letting it fall to the floor. She couldn’t be bothered right now.
Sure enough, after a few steps, her leg hit the bed and she simply allowed herself to fall into it. The moment she fell into the bed, she sensed something was wrong. It wasn’t laid undisturbed as she had left it and this time she was certain she wasn’t imagining it. She began to scramble to get out of the bed and find the light switch when a strong warm hand touched her arm and pulled her back down into the bed. “So you are scared of the dark now en? Do not even attempt to scream,” a familiar voice said coldly from the other side of the bed. An icy chill ran down her spine as she realized who it was and what this was about. She pretended to relax and surrender herself to the intruder. Then suddenly without warning, she bolted out of the bed and found the switch. She turned the light on and their eyes met. She quickly picked the towel that was lying on the floor up and scrambled to cover herself from the pair of prying eyes. When she had gathered herself together, she said with as much dignity as she could muster “Idris what the hell are you doing in my bed!”
Brian touched the slight cut on his face one more time. A searing pain tore through his little body and the hatred towards the person who had done this to him welled up in his heart, made worse because of his feeling of helplessness. Even if he wanted to, he could not do anything about the situation, he thought to himself.
He had been serving the punishment of carrying the stool and had been glad when the movie Aunty Clara was watching showed the “To God Be The Glory” which indicated that it was over. He was in the process of dropping the stool when the Part 2 of the movie started almost immediately and she screamed “the film never finish, part 2 na part of the film so carry am!”
When he tried to protest, the knife had come flying towards him and if he hadn’t dodged, it would have hit him nearly square in the face. His quick movement saved him but it still managed to nick his face. He imagined the ugly scar such a cut might leave on his face. Inya and all the other girls would not like to be his friend again and they might even nickname him Scarface. It was then that the idea formed in his heart. He wasn’t as helpless as he thought. He rolled off his big bed and made his way to his parents’ room. They didn’t lock it, because Aunty Clara had to clean it daily. It took him only five minutes to find what he was looking for. He left the room to go and look for Aunty Clara where he knew she would be – watching a wretched movie on the couch.
“When I asked the same questions twelve years ago, did I get any reply?” Idris asked cynically as he got off the bed. He remembered those nights clearly. Even though she looked small now that he was all grown up, in those days she had looked like a giant to his eleven year old mind. It was because of her and what she did to him that he had been afraid of the dark for so long. The house had been a regular three bedroom flat and their parents slept in one, while Hajara and the other siblings stayed in one. He had just become eleven and was the only male child left in the house and so had the last room to himself except there was a guest when it doubled as the guest room. It was here that Laraba stayed whenever she was in town. It had been fine until that fateful night of his eleventh birthday. When the house became quiet and it was clear everyone was asleep, he heard a movement. He hadn’t been able to sleep because of all the excitement of the day and he lay awake in his bed. He had suddenly felt someone join him in his bed and begin touching him. He just froze and could not say a word. From that day, he became afraid of the dark. And so it continued whenever she came into town and stayed in his room.
“Idris, that was long ago, at a time when I was much younger and very foolish and I regret my actions deeply. We are both much older now and know better. You are like my brother and should not be in my bed or see me like this. What do you think would happen to my wedding if this ever got out?”
“Oh, so now that I’m older and can actually enjoy what we did those nights in the dark, I should not want to do it? And it’s just now that you realize I’m your brother, all those years ago, I was what? You are thinking about your wedding now, how selfish of you! Do you know what you did to me, did you think about how it would affect me the same way you are so interested in what will happen to your wedding now? All that is just stories and you know it!” Idris said with eyes blazing.
“But this is not the first time you are seeing me. Why now? Why at this time, Idris? This is the worst possible time for you to pull a stunt like this,” Laraba said, opening her palms in exasperation.
“That is the exact reason I’m doing it now. It is because it is the worst possible time, and I will keep looking for worst possible times to pop up, the same way you chose the worst possible time in my life to molest me.”
Suddenly there was a light knock on the door and before they could say anything the door creaked open. A nightie clad Hajara entered the room saying “madam Laraba, since you didn’t have my time during the day, now it’s time to gist the adult gist. So get out of…” that was the point she actually saw what was going on in the room. She swallowed the words she was saying and looked from Idris to Laraba and back. “Can one of you tell me what the hell is going on here?”
Brian walked into the living room with his hands behind his back. To Clara, he looked like an obedient boy who was trying his best to look as subservient as possible. She liked this demeanor. It was always good to be a little vicious sometimes so she could put a healthy fear in him. She had learnt that from his elder brothers anyway and it had put the fear in her so why should it not work for him.
She steeled her voice and asked harshly “and who called you? What are you doing out of your bed at this time of the night young man? You want me to continue where I stopped before? The suffering that Judas did not finish suffering is what you will get now if you don’t get out of my sight now!” she roared.
She expected him to scamper back the way he had come and was already half laughing at the picture when she realized that this wasn’t what was happening. Instead, Brian kept coming towards her. “You this stupid boy, you don’t hear word abi?” She stood up and towered above him. “I will teach you a lesson you will never forget in your life today”
She raised her hand to hit him. He looked at her with burning hatred and said “I end this now” and then brought his hands forward. In them, he was holding something. Clara froze in shock, her raised hand staying there when saw what he was holding. All these Americana parents. This was her last thought as Brian trained his father’s loaded gun on her and fired two shot straight at her.
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