I hated mornings and that was no secret to those who really knew me. Most mornings, I woke up to an internal alarm before everyone else had a chance to even crack an eyelid.
I take a lot of pride in small accomplishments and I hardly plan for weeks ahead. Except when my family was on vacation. We lived in a busy area of Lagos and I loved it. But because of my father’s job, if I could call it that, I hardly ever saw him.
My father is a senator and that makes him practically inaccessible to his family. I mean, he had time for everyone else but us and I’m sure he was the reason mum had whitish gold hair all of a sudden. She looked good rocking it even though she hated it at first till her friends started to tell her that the gold of her hair suited her and that she didn’t need to think of colouring her hair. Mum could be quite vain at times but I did not begrudge her that.
I like to lay on my bed in the darkness and just stare at the ceiling and the red light from the stabiliser that anchored the fridge. Nothing was stable including my health. I was almost always sick but that was no news.
I had a weakness for daydreaming too. You can’t blame me because it is a spin-off from not being able to plan ahead. Today was one of those good days and I fully intend to take every advantage of it. My subconscious momentarily wafted up the smell of freshly cooked goat meat pepper soup and I could see a clear picture of it served up to me. Okay, I also love food, good food.
I was not much of an eater but boy, did I love good food! The only thing is that we had very limited food options in Nigeria. But I didn’t let that bother me at all as I put my bare feet on the floor. I yelped and promptly bumped my head on the bed above mine.
Whenever I had to gist with my brother for extended periods, we would slip into the guest bedroom that had a bunk bed. We would talk till we fell asleep. I was seventeen but I still slept on a bunk bed. My parents had made one when I and my brother were born plus we didn’t have a lot of space in our old house.
I rubbed my forehead and felt for a bump. Thankfully, there was none. I heard someone moving downstairs and knew aunty Nneka was awake. I put my hand under my pillow and felt for my Smartphone. I unlocked it and checked for messages. I wasn’t a social media junkie but I used my phone often.
I switched on the light and bathed the room in warm orange light. I moved to the dresser and picked a pair of socks and quickly wore it. Then I went to brush my teeth so I could go downstairs to cook. I could still see the steaming bowl of pepper soup in my mind’s eye and I wanted to cook before it faded and my appetite disappeared.
I bumped into my father at the bottom of the stairs. I didn’t even know he was home. He must have come when we had all turned in for the night. I groaned under my breath. “Good morning dad”, I curtsied.
Dad looked as if he didn’t sleep through the night. He had a cup of coffee in his hand. “How are you today? Did you sleep well?”
I decided to be a bit cheeky. “Yes, kind of.”
Dad was already marching up the stairs but he paused at my response. “Why is that?”
“Because I dreamt of goat meat pepper soup.”
Dad just laughed but mum heard. I did not know she was awake till she shouted down the stairs. “Did you eat it? God, did you eat it?”
Always the voice of reason, that’s my mother. I had to chuckle at the way she took because to me it was just a dream. To my mother, her enemies were trying to use her children to get to her. Dad brushed past mum on the stairs and I slipped into the kitchen.
“Aunty Nneka, good morning.”
“Morning dear, were you able to get some rest?” She paused with her mopping to look me in the eye.
“I tried. You know how it is aunty.”
“I found a new-” She broke off abruptly as mum rushed into the kitchen.
I was in trouble. Mum heard me say that this early and brush it off lightly. That had to mean trouble. Aunty Nneka picked up the mop stick.
“Good morning madam,”
With her hair brush in hand, mum attacked me. “I asked you a question!”
“What question mum?”
“Don’t mum me! Did you eat the food in your dream?”
Mum had me cornered between the spice drawer and the sink. She looked angry and it seems I was crazy to play games with her. Not in this mood at least.
“Mum stop, I didn’t. can I go now?”
Mum heaved a sigh of relief and stepped back. She walked out of the kitchen shaking her head. She didn’t even respond to Aunty Nneka’s greeting in her bid to get a confession out of me.
Sometimes I didn’t even recognise my own mother. She acted so strange at times. Mum had become superstitious since we returned to Nigeria. I remembered her as being carefree. I guess a lot changed both for her and dad.
I moved around the kitchen and set about preparing my food. From the kitchen window I could see the sky was getting bright. My usual routine was to be in class for most of the day but since the strike that made me return home, boredom had become my BFF.
My twin, Nifemi, on the other hand, had girls to live for. He usually refers to me as a hermit because I was usually either reading on my ipad or squinting at a paperback. We were different in a good way.
He always had my back.
I wasn’t concentrating so much on what I was doing and I did not notice that the napkin I placed on the lid of the pot had caught fire till I smelt the smoke. I was musing about a side dish of smoked fish carefully balanced on white rice would also be yummy.
“Teni, the napkin!” Aunty Nneka did not wait for me to get it. we both lunged for it at the same time resulting in a head-on collision. And bumped our heads. With one hand on the forehead, she dumped the napkin in the sink and opened the tap. Szzzz, the fire died out. A part of the napkin was black, nothing to be done about that.
“I’m sorry.” I felt bad. If I had paid attention I would not have burnt mum’s favourite napkin. I made a mental note to replace it the next time I went to the Mall.
“It’s okay, it can be replaced but your life can’t so you need to pay attention to what you’re doing.”
I heard mum on the phone coming down the stairs. She entered the kitchen with a serious look on her face before I could dispose the napkin in the bin.
“Ma a pe yin pada.” I would call you back, she told the caller.
By the look on mum’s face, I knew I was in for a morning lecture. Too bad, mum didn’t want to pursue a career. I personally felt that she would be a damn good lecturer.
“Do you know what I was coming back down to tell you?” She probably meant warn me about. How would I know! I kept a straight face and shook my head; no. mum wouldn’t appreciate any of my jokes right now. She would think I was trying to play smart.
“The Prophet just called.”
Pause. She was going to make me sweat it out by guessing.
“And he said something about me. Obviously,” I finally replied.
“He said we should be careful with fire. That something might happen.”
“Like what, mum?”
The Prophet always left things hanging. Most times, it was nothing definite but there was always a story.
“Like a fire outbreak.”
“But this wasn’t a fire outbreak mum.” I had to clear things up. I did not even know how the napkin caught fire.
“Exactly why I had to come and warn you. He said they would try to get me with fire so that includes the fuel in the generator and electrical appliances. Anything that can cause a fire.”
There was no use arguing. It always fell on deaf ears. “Okay, mum.”
She was ready to go she usually mentioned where she was going except it involved her prophets or she had a quarrel with dad. She left and I watched her from the kitchen window.
She sat still for some minutes behind the steering before she wound down her window. “I’m going out briefly. I’d be back soon.” Obviously. Maybe she felt guilty. I had talked more to her this morning than the whole week combined.
“Okay mum.” That seemed to be my favourite response. I hated monosyllabic answers. I only gave them when I was super pissed. “Have a nice day!”
She short pressed her horn twice, acknowledging me and alerting aunty Nneka to open the gate. She had been waiting patiently for mum to reverse.
I had almost forgotten my pepper soup. The aroma had disappeared from my nostrils but I still decided to follow through. Nifemi woke up to the aroma of soup and hurried downstairs wearing just boxers and socks.
“Hey, you!” that was enough for me to plonk the spoon I was holding because he had startled me and get a generous amount into my eyes.
“Idiot, help me get to the sink.” I was furious with both of us. Aside from the burnt napkin, I was doing well. His loud guffaw made it worse. I woke up with food on my mind and I was not going to allow him to mess my state of mind.
A state of mind that I didn’t know what it was, mind you.
He kept snickering but heped me get to the sink and even opened the tap. I washed my hands carefully, the best I could with my eyes closed, before scooping water into my hands to wash my eyes.
“You’re so dead!”
“Catch me if you can,” he said. He ran out of the kitchen and bumped into aunty Nneka. I wasn’t planning to chase him but I was plotting a hundred ways to kill him. Aunty Nneka saved me the stress by dragging him back in with his ear.
“What did you do to your sister? Her eyes are red.”
“Nothing, ask her,” he lied.
“That’s not true. He startled me and the soup got into my eyes and I'm using Cameroon pepper.”
“All this your big big English. Oya, apologise to her,” aunty Nneka commanded.
“C’mon, I didn’t mean to. I'm sorry, I love you,” he said after snickering behind his hand. I saw it.
“you could have made me blind. Your meat for three days.”
“You don’t even like meat as such.”
“Let me be the judge of that!”
“Alright, it’s a small price to pay. Anything for you,” he said and winked at me in a comical way making me burst out in laughter.
“Get out of here!”
He had to get the last word in. “I'm coming back for some of that pepper soup. Please, boil rice.”
He dashed out before I could say anything. Wicked boy, I thought.