I couldn’t believe it when she accepted to go out with me. When I got back home that evening, I looked at myself again in the mirror–did anything change about the way I looked? These mischievous pimples on my face–are they all gone?
She looked at me funny–maybe she expected me to jump in excitement. I was all over her just a few minutes ago with flowery words which I had learned from my favourite LL Cool J songs. But now that she said yes, smiling, I suddenly lost my feet and was running short of breath. I didn’t have a word prepared for when a girl said yes.
I rubbed my face, feeling the skin around my temple, cheeks and chin. These pimples were still there, having a party on my face and giving my hand a bumpy ride.
How could I hold on to this trophy I had just won? I suggested we go to my house–for lack of what to say. And I needed to keep my finger on the pulse, in case she thought I was just a clown. I guess I would have to look for songs that talk about things–nice things to a girl who said yes, especially so suddenly. But again she agreed to follow me home. I wondered if she realised how beautiful she was and how ugly I looked. Or did she think those buttery words I spilled on her were mine? Didn’t she know they were mostly lyrics from other people’s songs? Well, let’s get to our house first. Since she agreed to go with me, maybe there, we would understand each other better.
I gestured for her to move first, and she did, a dimple in her cheeks. I thought my courteous airs would fall off like a ripped banana peel. I calculated my steps and watched the way my arms swung as we walked–had to look like the perfect guy. I tried to keep a safe distance between us as we walked, so she would not hear my heart pounding against the walls of my rib cage. But crazy girl kept coming closer like she needed to be within earshot, the cusp of her hips whisking my side.
I didn’t have a room of my own because I was living in a room-and-parlour with my mother and two sisters. Luckily, one of my friends and a neighbour, Samuel, whose parents were hardly ever around before bedtime, gave me the key to their single room. But I didn’t know why I was bringing her into the room: I was probably thrilled that she just followed me like a pet. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was something or somebody: See this girl o, with her dreamy eyes and long lashes…
When Samuel looked at her before giving me the key, he whispered into my ear that he liked her sexy eyes, big breasts and rotund nyash. Whatever that meant. I smiled, feeling like my legs were floating.
I locked up the door from inside when we settled in. She went straight to the bed and flopped on it. Her chest swirled inside her dress and the iron bed squeaked. I feared the bed would collapse under her weight. She raised a leg and crossed it over the other, revealing the light, fresh skin of her thighs through the slit of her short skirt. Now my heart was not only pounding, it was sucked into a vortex of anxiety. Even though I didn’t bring her here with any motive, I would have jumped on her. But this girl was too forward. She appeared too much at home, as though I had brought her there several times before.
She stared at me like: What’s next? My jaw drooped alongside my heart, as if I should close it back with my hands and then play 2Pac’s song, ‘How Do You Want It’? I groped for the next thing to say. Eventually I moved towards her, but then stood motionless.
Now we both stared at each other.
Now my heart was racing, and I couldn’t hold back anymore. I jumped on her, but she suddenly pushed me to the other side of the bed. I forced a smile. This girl now wants to play hard-to-get? I reached to her face for a kiss, but she stopped me with a slap across the face, and then there was a knock on the door. It was Samuel. His voice was calm, so I thought there was nothing to worry about. Maybe he had forgotten something he needed to pick from the room. But when I opened the door halfway, my mother stood right behind him. She pushed him aside and entered, arms akimbo, mouth agape, glaring at us in disbelief. I could not believe that Sam could betray me like that. I was sure that nobody had seen us enter the compound. We sneaked in the way a mouse would from the edges of a building until it found a crevice or any opening into the room.
“Young lady, how are you?” my mother finally asked, her eyelashes fluttered.
“Fine,” she muttered.
I felt like running away, but I could not run away and leave her there alone with my mother. 2Pac’s song spun into rhythm in my head –
I got nothing to lose
It’s me and you against the world, baby…
I was surprised that mother hadn’t even slapped any one of us yet. I guessed this was too much for her. She took a deep breath, swallowed hard and asked, “What have you come here to do?”
The girl glanced at me like: Answer her! then back at my mother, without a word.
“Are your parents aware that you’re here with a boy in his neighbour’s room?”
I was stunned, looked at my mother like, What kind of question is that?
“Please, can you people go out?” Sam interrupted. “My parents will soon be ba…” The room reverberated as my mother’s palm landed across his face. He staggered backward and clutched his cheeks, stunned.
Well, that was the slap I had stored up for him for the betrayal. Why did he allow us in to their room only to call my mother? But did he really call my mother?
The girl sprang to her feet and took a step away from my mother, poised like a frightened bird.
My mother took a step closer to her and asked, “Do you think this boy is ready to be a father?”
Truly, I didn’t come there prepared for anything like that, but only wanted to prove to myself that I wasn’t just dreaming–that a girl like that had actually agreed to be mine. I coughed and cleared my throat, almost choking on the mucous swallowed. I wanted to tell my mother to stop making me look like a baby.
Mother glanced at me. Much as I felt like saying, Can you please stop asking her these miserable questions? I kept quiet so I would not attract the slap that Sam was still trying to recover from. It was better to have my evil day delayed. She might later forget it–if my mother didn’t beat you up immediately you did something wrong, she would almost always forget it. I prayed she would forget this. But I hated how slowly she was going about this now. Was she doing so deliberately so that Sam’s father would come and meet us there? His useless father would kill all of us–he could beat up children like he was beating up a thief. The last time I saw him beat Sam, he held him by the collar of his shirt and dragged him to the ground. Sam pulled one of his arms from the shirt, tearing off a part–I guess it was so he could escape and leave the shirt in his father’s hand like Joseph in the Bible story. But his father grabbed Sam’s mouth and rammed a fist into his stomach. Sam’s big mouth parted wide in a scream which was stifled by pain and loss of energy. Stupid boy–if I was the one my father held my mouth like that, I would have sunk my teeth deep down the flesh and bones of his hands.
“Can’t you talk?” My mother advanced closer to the girl again, who then shook her head with no sign of fear on her face. Her bright eyes shone back at my stunned mother. “Did your parents see you dressed up like this while you were leaving home?”
Sam stamped his feet on the ground, pouting. His face turned into an ugly wrinkle of impatience, then of fear and anger. I was like, Stupid boy–after landing me in trouble, you’re now acting as though I had forced myself and the girl into your smelly room. I wondered whether he was the only one urinating in the bed sef or that included his father and mother. How come I didn’t even perceive this pungent odour of urine when we initially came in?
“How old are you?” My mother asked the girl. “How old are you? You’re following a boy who still eats from his mother’s pot?”
This my mother sef – is it just because she is my mother that makes her talk to my girl like that, and making me look like a toddler? She should just do whatever she wants to do with us abeg–so we can leave this room whose walls, ceiling and floor are all oozing with the smell of urine and before Sam’s father would come–which kind wahala be dis, sef!
“Do you think he can take care of you and the baby if he gets you pregnant?”
Now I didn’t even understand the look on my mother’s face again–was it pity? Was it helplessness? Or was it spent anger?
The girl twitched her nose and scratched the back of her neck. I was sure she would have run away if she knew the thug Sam’s father was. He must have been a part of a gang before.
I looked away as my eyes met with the girl’s–how my new found swagger crashed just before I could lay a hold on it.
My mother said ,“Oya, I’ll like you to take me to your parent’s house now.”
“She doesn’t have parents-o,” the words flew out from my mouth before I could think of anything more sensible.
Mother pounced on me. Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap, and a knock on my forehead that stretched down to the base of my nose. It felt like my brains jumped and hit against the inside of my skull. Things wobbled like I was watching a shaky television.
She yanked the slippers she was wearing–the type made of condemned car tyre and rained it all over my body, not minding where it landed. By the time I extricated myself and dashed outside, Sam was crying and jumping about as if a colony of scorpions attacked his feet.
“Samuel! What’s going on here?” I heard Sam’s father ask so I stopped right in my tracks, gawping at him because I knew if I allow him to run after me and catch me, he would beat me like he was beating a hopeless thief… it was better I didn’t even try.
Mother dashed out, breathing hard and struggling to hold back her loosened wrapper. “Where’s that useless girl?”
“I saw her run out of the room just before him,” one of our neighbours answered.
Mother glanced at Sam, his father, and then back at me like, oya, explain yourself to him! I scampered through the space between Sam and his father.
by Alex Abesadu Byanyiko
Alex Abesadu Byanyiko has worked with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) in Abuja as a TV producer, presenter, newscaster, transmission director, and editor before resigning in 2016 to focus on independent writing and film production. His short stories appeared in The Kalahari Review, This is Abuja, The Shallow Tales Review and The Niche. Alex has just finished editing his book titled “The Beautiful Thief ” which is to be presented to the public in the second quarter of 2022. He is a long-standing member of the Abuja Writers Forum (AWF) and has just taken up a contract appointment with Trust TV Abuja as a producer.
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