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Once Upon A Night By Xena Okolo

POSTED 07/13/2018 14:19
2641 Reads Once Upon A Night By Xena Okolo, African short story on Tushstories
She hated people. Yes. People in general and she hated this time of the year. She detested the feigned goodwill and abhorred the pretended brotherliness and warmth. She had to live with it because that was how life was fashioned. She tried her best to love her parents but it all seemed like the more she tried, the more annoying the whole situation got.
She knew she was the star child, with an exceptional and flawless academic record, but it seemed like her parents used her as a measure for themselves. She knew her father felt insecure, having not had a full formal education and used her to fill that void that was created in him when educated people spoke around him and when she was there, she practically followed him around, bent for dozens of back pats and had to sit through stupid and boring stories told over and over again on how she was on the minister’s scholarship list with a ridiculous smile plastered to her face to those fat beer bellied men who spoke in loud baritones.
No doubt Elder C.C Okoye; her father was wealthy from his business in electronics but always felt inferior having terminated his education in Primary Four. Chika Okoye; her mother was the leader of everything. She was a nurse and the head of every single organization she belonged to. Then her sisters-Chiemerie: her nineteen year old model-bodied elder sister that didn’t care about anything and anybody else besides herself and watching weight, being cute and sexy, watching weight and finally, I almost forgot…watching weight which worked for everybody including her twenty one year old too light skinned boyfriend whom everybody immensely disliked except when she looked upon everyone else with such immeasurable disgust as though they were these fat convoluted masses of blobs when they put on a little weight.
Munachi was the younger nine year old twitch but exactly what a younger sister should be; annoying and exasperating. Munachi always felt like a queen in a palace having everyone lick her feet and jumped right into Daddy’s laps after provoking the hell out of someone. Daddy’s little princess. Bloody hell. She thought.
Her family annoyed her but what could she do….As they all say, Blood is thicker than water… “Chidubem!! Dubem!!!!!!” were the words that pierced through her thought bubble.
She slowly stood and walked over in this calculated gait that she could swear, she herself did not understand.
“Have you packed?” her mother asked, tapping a foot with arms on her hips.
“No” was the reply.
“You this girl eeh…”her mother was saying.
She thought her mother looked a little more beautiful and bigger this morning with her fair skin in her pink nightie with the words; SLEEP TIGHT crawling across it. Her feet shun in aubergine nail polish. The same shade of the T-shirt Auntie Nkem had given her last Christmas had the description of a half-eaten doughnut and the words: “I am in shape, round is a shape”.
The phrase had made her laugh so hard because she felt it was unique and different. She felt it made a statement. A sarcastic and satirical statement but then, typical Chiemerie had taken the shirt and Chidubem still wondered, very intently, day and night, why her model-body, bone-thin, almost anorexic elder sister would be doing and feeling in a shirt with those words.
“Are you even listening to me?” Her mother cut right through her thoughts with a spank on her behind.
She was sent up to pack, and as she shoved some clothes into a small duffel bag, she began to think that her parents were actually afraid of her bad temper and that explained why they never hit her and when it did happen, July that year, two weeks to her primary school graduation, it had been utterly ugly.
She couldn’t remember what Munachi had said to her but she did remember lunging series of glass objects at her sister. Her mother had come in and slapped her right across her face and that was when she ran upstairs and put the large scissors through her full natural halo of hair she had never cut since birth. She scared everyone. She hated the private school she went to because the girls were a bunch of babies and didn’t know more than a gaggle of geese and the boys always had stupid immature and lustful looks in their eyes like they were Prince Charmings that needed ample worship and reverence, well that was for the seniors. Her male classmates were babies as well and the Senior girls, bra-wearing, extorting, menstruating demons. She just hated it all. She came down for breakfast with her bag slung over her shoulder. Chiemerie was already seated texting in her pink well-manicured nails and a grimace pasted on her professionally made -up face as she stared engrossed into her phone while trying to find out the exact amount of carbs in her breakfast bar. Chidubem wished the girl would just suck it up and eat some real food at least. Chiemerie wore a yellow sundress with an expensive pair of brown high heeled sandals and Munachi was checking the insides of her sandwich on a pink tee, white cut offs and matching sandals. She didn’t feel like eating so she went into the car, looking different as always on a pair of baggy ankle chinos and a cobalt polo. In a few minutes, the Okoyes were off to their home town for the Christmas holidays in their brand new Venza.

**********


Nnamdi was the reason girls sighed and also the cause of many broken hearts. He was one of the most popular boys at Rock base Academy. His friends teased him constantly of not having a solid girlfriend but cheered him on his numerous conquests. Nnamdi’s twin was Nnedi. She was the class queen bee and she looked upon the petty and desperate girls who came to her because of Nnamdi with immense disgust and pity at their ignorance. Some people called her a snob because she had no time for boys and trust me she had her own better share, way better share of male attraction which vexed the other girls to no measure because the boys were drawn to her like a swarm of angry bees to honey and she did to them what should be done to bees. She swatted, swatted and swatted.
Christmas was Nnamdi’s best time of year. Away from all the chaos of school and cheerful gyrations of being in S.S.3, he would finally see his best cousin. Someone he could tell anything, his little sister that didn’t speak her age. He couldn’t wait to see Chukwudubem Danielle Okoye

**********


The dusty little path led the Okoyes into their hometown and just then, children with clothes at half-mast and some completely nude chased the dusty Venza down the path, passing old houses and loud chattering women and men, some content children playing with sand and old tins, the scene looked so vivid and fresh like well-polished pastel porcelain.
They finally arrived and the compound looked exactly the same. A small bungalow at the centre of the land, chickens with old pieces of cloth tied to their legs scurrying about and pecking and not to forget the aromatic stimulation coming from Mama’s Egusi Soup wafting through the air. The family alighted the car, Elder C.C Okoye handed each child a ten naira note from a slim wad he held for “Igba Ekeresimes” Their stained teeth and glistering eyes shun as they screamed their “Tank Sahs” and made a home run.
“Look at my children ooo!” Mama screamed in thick Igbo on seeing the family, she hugged them all and as Chidubem hugged her close, Mama felt thinner in her embrace and had the mixed scent of firewood, Vaseline and Camphor.
A mixture that oddly smelt good at the time.
“Your cousins are here.” She said to Chidubem hugging again.
Chidubem knew she was her favorite grandchild because they had this rapport that she had with no other one of her cousins or siblings and asked after her in particular all the time. Auntie Uche dove out like a panther in big warm embraces to all family members one by one. Chidubem liked hugging Auntie Uche, she was huggable like a soft cushion you wouldn’t want to let go and then Auntie Uche pulled her left breast.
“In-laws very soon ooo!” She snickered but Chidubem had to confess that it hurt.
It hurt seriously. Her little udalas, as her mother referred to them. It was a good sign that Auntie Uche was here because that meant that her children were here: Nnamdi and Nnedi -The ejimas. Nnamdi was the only person that understood her. The only person she could talk to about things she wouldn’t even talk to anybody else about. He was the only person who she felt treated her like an adult. The only person who didn’t annoy her but fed her with juicy tales on secondary school life and now she had spent one term, she had her own tales. It was only with Nnamdi she could be herself.

**********


By evening, the whole house was full of the whole extended family as they arrived for the holidays. It had been an eventful and emotional reunion for them. After a belly filling meal of Akpu and Egusi Soup, the adults went to discuss in the balcony over plates of spicy bush meat and palm wine. The children were in the sitting room recounting tales from the past year, playing games and watching television, Chiemerie as usual was talking fashion with Nnedi and giving her weight loss strategies. Chidubem and Nnamdi huddled downstairs talking and laughing. Chidubem could swear she had not laughed that hard in a while.
They talked and talked with the aid of a lantern and did not even seem to notice the blood thirsty mosquitoes that seemed to be having the time of their lives on their skin although they swatted at them from time to time. Chidubem stared at his seventeen year-old face as he talked, crisscrossed with lines of this new and quite different masculinity. The stubs f hair on his clean shaven face beneath his nose and on his chin area made him look very mature now unlike the sparse dotting of hair the previous year, almost unnoticeable, she could garner.
He told her tales of how boys and girls hid in classrooms during night prep hours to have fun. He warned her not to fall for playboys like him when the time eventually came. Everybody finally got tired and decided to retire for some sleep. The men couldn’t go back to their own houses so late and even if they did, the houses needed a thorough cleaning up from a year’s coat of dust. The women, husbands, babies and girls huddled in the rooms and the boys bagged the sitting room and everybody slept off almost immediately.

**********


Nnamdi couldn’t sleep. He tossed and turned, and finally stood up. Images of Chidubem talking to him that evening with twelve year old eyes glistering in the lantern flooded his mind. He tiptoed over the boys slowly, there was utmost silence, besides the ticking of the clock and from the moon’s illumination, he could see that it was about 2am. He walked soundlessly to his grandmother’s room where just Mama and Chidubem lay asleep.
She looked so peaceful and beautiful as the moon shun over her through the window blinds that he breeze played with like a game of peek-a-boo. He sat by the bed and stroked her face slowly. He knew she could sleep through a thunderstorm. Gently he ran his hand up her thigh and skillfully but carefully slipped a finger inside her. He liked the way his finger danced inside her. She felt so warm and he was so lost but when he did get in himself, it had happened.
The deed had already been done, his fate was sealed. It snapped. He swore he even heard the sound reverberate in his very ears even years after. He had never meant for it to happen but it did. Fear gripped him at once and he felt his heart thump even louder than a konga drum as goose bumps filled his flesh. He withdrew his hand immediately and fled for he couldn’t risk her knowing it was him of all people that had done this and almost immediately a sleeping Chidubem jerked awake as the sharp, then searing pain pierced through her entire being. She looked down and gasped as she beheld the red stain spreading across her sky blue nightie into the bedding. Her grandmother yawned and continued sleeping.
She knew it wasn’t a period. That had come last week. She understood what had happened at once and trust me, she was no fool. She had heard footsteps run away bare feet not slipper cladded to be more clandestine. Smooth move. She thought but she never saw the culprit’s face. She sobbed because she knew that nobody had to know including Nnamdi. She sobbed because she didn’t know who did this to her. She sobbed because she knew that no one would ever understand. She sobbed for herself and that this whole mess was turning into one helluva gruesome tale. Her very own Once Upon A Night.

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