This week had been an interesting one and she couldn’t wait to write. Inya had woken up feeling much better and she felt much lighter after that. She was over Brian already anyway, she didn’t like him so much anymore. As it is with kids at that age, they fall in and out of love commensurate with the length of their lives. The whole insecticide episode and Inya’s attack was behind her and no one else would know. But even as she said this to herself, a thought kept tugging at her mind.
By the time she was done writing, there was a sound at her door and her heart skipped a beat. She was alone in the room. She sighed when it was only her mum. “It’s time to have your bath little woman, a lady always…”
Inya completed the statement with her mum “…always bathes first thing in the morning. Clean ladies are pretty ladies.”
“Good,” Hajara said, as she led Oyiza away. That morning, Donald had spoken with her about his conversation with Oyiza the night before and she had seen clearly that she needed to make an extra effort to reach out to her quieter daughter. “Quiet people are a lot more sensitive and they internalize a lot of hurt. And I am speaking from experience dear. Oyiza needs closer attention.” Donald had said. Starting this morning, she was going to do just that. Inya was already waiting at the bathroom in her dainty bathrobe when they got there.
In the Okwurah house, Brian was at the bottom of the food chain. He was younger by his immediate older brother by ten years. He had overheard his parents mention that having him was a mistake they had no plans for, and he hadn’t doubted it for one minute. He was always treated like an afterthought, left to his own most of the time.
His parents had been away from Nigeria again for two weeks and his two older siblings were in school in Covenant University. He was alone in the house with Aunty Clara. She had been his nanny since they returned to Nigeria about three months before. And in those three months, she had done things to him. But yesterday, he had experienced something new with Inya in school – pleasure. He would assert himself today.
Since they were alone in the house, he knew she would soon call him and he would have to respond. Sure enough, he heard her shrill voice moments later. He rolled off the bed onto his feet and sauntered to the living room. She was seated on the couch, watching Africa Magic, with a wrapper tied across her chest. He had seen ugly black people back in the States, but none came close to her. She was what his elder brother called FUGLY. Her face was meant to be yellow but it had some red patches on the cheeks which he didn’t understand. Her teeth were like a rabbit’s own and she always reminded him of Wreck It Rabbit. But below her face, she was hot, or so he had heard his elder brother, Charles saying regularly. He remembered one day he had heard Charles tell his friend that he would not mind “slamming” Aunty Clara as long as he had a pillow over her face otherwise seeing it would make him go limp. His friend had laughed so hard and Brian had wondered what was so funny about slamming someone or going limp.
But now, he wasn’t thinking of all that. His ordeal was about to begin.
“So you want me to come and wake you up abi?” she barked.
“I was waiting for you to call Aunty Clara,” he responded.
“Foolish child, you don’t know how to say ma abi, see the way you are calling my name as if you were there when they gave me the name,” she said, eyes blazing.
Brian wished he was bigger so he could punch her face and make it uglier. Whenever his parents or brothers were around, she was always the sweetest, most doting nanny one could imagine but the moment they left and she as alone with him, she would become evil like Ursula from little mermaid. There was a day she made him kneel down and carry a stool over his head until his hands ached and the floor was drenched in sweat, while she sat watching some blasted movie on Africa Magic. She always threatened to deal with him if he ever breathed one word, and from the way she already dealt with him, he decided that not talking would be best, lest she increase the dealings with him. She had started something new like a month ago though.
She would strip him naked and then ask him to lie down. She would then sit on top of him and move up and down, closing her eyes and groaning like an evil spirit. He would get so hot and her weight would press him down so much he would want to yell, but after she dealt with him the first time he yelled, he never yelled again. He simply lay there and let her move until she began to shake profusely and then fell on him, rolling of him and lying down. She would then whisper in a sinister manner
“I am only repaying you for the way your brothers use me every time they come home, simple payback. And as I don’t tell anybody, if you tell anybody, I will deal ruthlessly with you”.
He had never tested the strength of that threat. Today, she was requesting a variety of that scenario.
“Sit on the chair’s edge!” she ordered as she increased the volume of the TV.
He obeyed and she undid her wrapper. As she was about to straddle him, he summoned up courage and said “I don’t want to do it like this.”
Clara was taken aback. Brian had always obeyed without saying anything and she preferred it that way. It helped her rationalize that if his brothers could be raping her repeatedly under this roof, then she would strike back at the family anyway she could and Brian was fair game.
“What are you saying, you rat!” she said, scowling.
“I said that I don’t enjoy it like this. I wanna do it different.” Brian said impetuously.
“Who gave you the mouth to talk? What do you even know about doing anything that is making you talk about different? Is it not only what I have taught you that you know?”
“I have a girlfriend now, and she does it differently and I enjoy it the way she does it,” Brian said in a voice he imagined was grownup.
Clara threw her head back and laughed. “See this one? Who dashed you girlfriend,” she said in the midst of teary-eyed laughter.
“She made me shake the way you shake. And I know what the shaking feels like too now. So you have to make me shake too as I make you shake, otherwise…” he said.
“Sharrap there! Who gave you mouth to talk? You think this is about your enjoyment? Do your brothers think of my enjoyment when they use me? I do anything and everything they want without asking questions and you will do the same now!” she shouted. As she shouted, she recalled images of being tied up by the two vermin that the older Okwurah boys were, while the boys tried things they had watched in movies on her body until they were exhausted. So this little rat too thought he could do like his older brothers and enjoy her without giving her pleasure abi? He was already beginning to show their evil signs of selfishness at this early age. Anger welled up within her. She would teach him a lesson.
Brian cowered under her verbal assault. He didn’t know what to do and he fidgeted. “I will deal with you! You asked for it,” she continued. She then dragged him to the corner and forced him on his knees and placed the stool on his hand. He began to shake even before it touched his hands. “Please Aunty Clara,” he begged but his begging only made her angrier.
She went into the kitchen and got a knife. She waved it before his eyes viciously and said “if your hand drops before this movie finishes, I will throw this knife at you!”
The fear crept into his eyes as he watched her go and sit down, and then she fixed her eyes unwaveringly on him. Once, when he got tired, his hands dropped and the knife flew past his face faster than he could react. Thankfully, it missed. She walked past him to go and retrieve it. “This time I missed, but I won’t miss again,” she said. No matter how his hands ached after that, he didn’t drop them.
“Your Aunty Laraba is getting married next month and she wants you Inya to be her little bride,” Hajara announced at the breakfast table. Inya yelped in excitement.
Everyone was seated at the table, even the fully dressed Donald. He decided to have breakfast quickly with the family before heading out for the weekend’s round of meetings. The NCC Chairman was in town to see him.
“Hold on, hold on, hold on, I’m not finished,” Hajara said as she struck her plate with the fork. When Inya became quiet, she continued “and she is coming from Abuja,” she paused dramatically until the girls couldn’t take it and Oyiza shrieked “wheeeeeeen!”
Laughing, Hajara told them their aunt had taken the first flight and had called her that she was on her way from the airport already. The girls began to chatter excitedly. Aunty Laraba was their favorite aunt. She always got them beautiful dresses when she came, plus storybooks for Oyiza and the reigning dolls for Inya. She just always seemed to know what to come with for the girls. And she could tell the most amazing stories and always listened to whatever they wanted to say when she was in Lagos.
“Idris, confirm that the housekeeper has fixed up the guestroom for her after breakfast. She’ll be here anytime soon, since there shouldn’t be traffic from the mainland today.”
Idris got up to go and do as he was asked. He had been super quiet all through the meal but no one took any notice. Not long after he left, Donald kissed his girls on the forehead and took his leave.
The children’s piano teacher came not long after and they went into the music room with him.
“I hope you have practiced your scales,” he said without a smile. He was the dourest possible piano teacher in the whole wide world but he was really good with the piano. Oyiza sat down and ran her scales perfectly in one go. She stood up and bowed dramatically to an imaginary audience and Inya scoffed. Silly showoff, Inya thought. When did she even practice the scales?
Inya went to the piano and touched the keys gingerly. The truth was that she really didn’t like music, but her dad always went on and on about how he knew they would soon be doing piano twin recitals and all that she didn’t want to disappoint him. She would rather sit and dress the dolls she had than touch the piano. Now, she looked at the keys and wasn’t even sure which scales she was supposed to run.
“Inya, we are waiting,” the teacher’s stern voice reminded her. She began to strike the keys in hope that she would at least play something that would pass for the scales. She wasn’t halfway through when the teacher shouted “stop it, stop it!”
She turned to look at him and his yellow face had gone red as if he was going to have a heart attack.
“I am going to have to tell your dad about how unserious you are with your music lessons. Didn’t your sister just run the scales with pristine perfection?”
Inya did not know what pristine meant but she could make out that it meant very very great. Oyiza tried to explain to the teacher “she had an attack this week so couldn’t…”
The teacher hushed her. It stung Inya that she needed to get Oyiza’s sympathy.
“I am going to have to tell your father about this,” he said.
Inya thought about it. A thought occurred to her and she stood up from the piano. Picking her steps with as much grace as she could muster, she walked towards the teacher and hugged him from behind. Because he was sitting down, she was about his height and so she whispered into his ears “please don’t tell daddy, it’ll make him so sad. I’ll do better next week.”
As she said this, she ran her small hands down his sides.
The teacher was shocked. If he didn’t know better, he would think that Inya was trying to seduce him. He waved the thought away. She was just sorry and was trying to pacify him. Maybe that was how they did in all these ajebuta houses.
“Okay, I won’t tell your daddy this time. But you have to try much harder with your piano lessons.” His voice was much calmer.
Wow, Inya thought. Uncle Idris had been right. It had worked! She had found the key to escaping bad situations. She said meekly “I promise I will.”
Oyiza watched the whole drama that had just unfolded before her wide-eyed. It was as if Inya had worked some magic as she touched the teacher. Was this how Inya had convinced Brian to become her friend so quickly yesterday? Was it Uncle Idris that taught her? Was this what he had been trying to teach her the night before? But she knew what he had been trying to teach her was bad, otherwise, why did he hide under the bed when daddy came in?
Inya’s shriek brought her out of her thoughts. “Aunty is here!” she screamed with excitement. She turned around and saw a smiling Aunty Laraba coming towards them. She joined Inya shrieking and the events she had just witnessed took the backseat in her mind instantly. They both rushed towards her and almost toppled her when they jumped on her together.
The piano teacher packed his books. He was sure piano lessons for the day were over.