BEFORE YOU READ:
Note that most of the conversations between characters in this story are in the Nigerian Pidgin English language.
“Good afternoon mummy” Celine greeted her mum, Paula. They had just begun a video Whatsapp video call. It was still few minutes past 3 in the afternoon.
“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday to you” Paula sung in reply even though she knew she wasn’t a good vocalist. “May your life turn out beautiful just like you are beautiful, may you go places, your dreams shall come through, people all over the world will know you’re a child of exploit and you shall do wonders on earth. As you grow older, may your accomplishments and successes multiply, you’ll see your children’s children”.
“Amen” Celine reply amidst internal joy.
“Oh, my DIADEM, my middle child, my joy, I love you so much baby, have a beautiful year” She concluded throwing a kiss.
“Thank you mummy; I was expecting your call since morning”.
“I know dear; I’d never forget your day, you know na; I was helping your dad get some documents”
“Mummy, I don’t have a dad” Celine cut.
“Celine, please don’t start, you know what I meant” Then there was this awkward silence. “Candace, come here, wish your sister a happy birthday” Paula called.
“Mummy naaa” Celine dragged.
“C’mon shut up and allow your sister wish you a happy birthday!” Paula sternly cautioned.
Candace took the phone from Paula
“Happy birthday, Sister Celine” She said in her American accent.
“Thank you dear, how are you doing?”
“I’m well, thank you” She replied before Paula took the phone from Candace.
“How’s Quincy doing?” Paula asked.
“He’s okay, he’s watching TV in the parlour”.
“Tell him to remind Aunty Hannah about the parent-teacher meeting o”
“I’ll call you later, okay?”
“Bye, love you”
“Love you” Celine ended the call with a sad look on her face. Her mom doesn’t even know much about her, they don’t talk about anything aside school and family. She wished her mom could be with her.
Exactly 10pm, Jonah called Celine. She picked the call angrily. Expecting to hear a solemn mature greeting from him, she instead got what seemed to be a non-chalant “Hey, happy birthday”
She was taken aback. “Uhm, just like that?”
“Uh, How was it supposed to be like?”
“I waited all day, you’re just gonna act like everything is cool?” Celine voiced “You couldn’t even apologize for what you did”
“What I did? I replied your message five minutes after you sent it, How’s that a bad thing?”.
“Well, you were talking to some other boy so you couldn’t reply me quick”
“You really need to stop it with the assumptions and the insecurity, okay? I was busy with house chores”
“Oh I’m now insecure?”
“I didn’t mean it that way, but please let’s stop having issues over something that’s not worth it”
“Was that an apology?”
“Okay, I am sorry I replied late”
“That’s better! You did not die, did you?” Celine replied. “I expected your calls or maybe a text message. For Christ’s sake, it’s my birthday, you didn’t even post my picture”
“It’s your punishment for what you did”
“Oh okay,it’s fine”.
“I’m going to take you out tomorrow”.
He ended the call and this left her in a sad mood immediately. She felt tired.
“What do you do when you’re not treated right in a relationship?” Celine asked Maria who was lying just beside her. The both of them shared one room together while Quincy sleeps in Aunt Hannah’s room. Because of her kind of job, he sleeps alone most times.
Maria turned to Celine’s direction and adjusted the duvet to cover her body well. “My dear, if you ask me, you feeling that way because you’re still young” Maria answered.
“But I’m eighteen now”
“Listen to me, I’m not saying you’re too young to start dating, you just met someone who uses your age against you. He wouldn’t dare with someone my age, there’re levels to madness”.
“Age?” Celine asked confused “but I’ve heard about girls who are way older than their boyfriends but still go through domestic violence”
Maria sprang up from where she lay. “Wait a minute, has he hit you before?”
“No,” Celine quickly said. “uhm… He wouldn’t… he has anger issues, but that’s that”. Celine could deceive her sister but not herself.
Maria lay back down. “Well, you never know what people are going through” Maria chirped in “he probably doesn’t know how to deal with problems and transfers aggression whenever he feels stressed” Celine nodded in agreement to what she said but she knew that wasn’t the case. “He provides for you and spoils you with gifts, that’s care for me. No relationship is always peaceful, disagreements happen and that’s nature. Just try to give him some space if he sounds angry or stressed, wahala no dey ever finish”, Maria concluded as she covered her head with the duvet.
Celine thought about it over and over, but even her sister’s words couldn’t brighten up her mood that night. Maria wasn’t the best at giving advice but she tries to as a caring sister. The thing is Maria’s very secretive and nobody knows what goes on in her life. She hasn’t been seen with a friend and doesn’t talk or relate with anyone. Celine is quite the opposite, she’s always with friends, talks to anyone like she knew them for ages.
She tells Maria everything, well not everything though. She’s never told her how her boyfriend hits her at the slightest provocation. She believes he’ll change, someday. All these thoughts kept her awake. If her dad didn’t die, maybe everything would be better, she thought to herself.
It was time to time to take a rainbow ride to dream land as sleep took her unaware.
*. *. *. *
The just-risen sun shone softly on the city streets, bringing with it a flurry of early morning activities. Sounds of buses and dramatic bus conductors were the alarm clocks in Lagos.
Quincy was all dressed and prepared for school. Maria normally wakes up as early as 5am to help her younger brother prepare. Aunt Hannah wasn’t back from work, leaving Maria as acting- mother.
The school bus driver continuously beeped his horn impatiently to alert Quincy that he’s late.
“Oya, drink that tea fast, they’re waiting for you” Maria yelled at Quincy who gobbled up as much as he could.
After finishing up his breakfast, he hurried to catch up with the bus. “Bye-bye sister Maria” he called as he waved to her while jogging towards the bus.
“Bye dear” She responded as she waved back till she lost sight of the bus.
Celine woke up some minutes later, excited about her outing. She arranged the room they slept in and folded the duvet so she’ll return it to Aunt Hannah’s room. She opened the room door and met Maria shocked. Maria was searching her aunt’s bag. “Wetin you dey do?” Celine asked.
“What do you mean? Na your good morning be that?”
“Sorry, Good Morning. What are you doing”
“Did you see my neck chain?”
“What neck chain?”
“You won’t know it..” Mariasaid and left the room, Celine in confusion. When she got to the sitting room and was sure Celine was out of sight, she opened her palms and put two white tablets in her mouth.
Jonah came to pick up Celine later that day as they went to malls, restaurant, boutique and the beach. He bought her a lot of dresses in celebration of her birthday.
He took her to his house soon after. His house had a dark red roof and beige walls, as well as brown wooden windows that could be wide opened on sunny days. The windows in the living room faced the street where large old oak trees grew. The house had two bedrooms, one living room, one kitchen, and one bathroom. However, all rooms except for one bedroom are spacious and filled with natural light. She often wonders why he stayed in such a spacious house all by himself.
They both lay on the long red sofa facing his 55 inches’ flat screen TV. She seemed to be interested in the movie or maybe that was her way of expressing shyness as Jonah couldn’t get his eyes off her.
“Look at me na” He jokingly pleaded.
She turned to his direction smiling sheepishly. “What?” she asked as she covered her face.
“You know I love you right?” he questioned rhetorically.
She nodded in agreement. “But baby, let’s try to limit the way we quarrel” she pleaded.
“Okay love”. He said as he proceeded to where she was, held her tightly by the waist and drew closer.
Maybe time stopped when his lips met hers, but the flutter only intensified. Celine’s heart pounded in her chest as her knees got weaker. She could only focus on how soft he felt against her mouth, how addictively he invaded all her senses.
It still wasn’t clear if she dreamed this moment to life, but there was raw emotion in the way his fingers curled around hers. Jonah kept his eyes half open, sneaking a guilty peek at her every time he came back for air, just to make sure this wasn’t a product of his imagination.
He wasn’t sure if nature rooted for this moment or if his mind tricked him into a perfect present, but every breathe he took smelled like jasmine. If anything, the warm feeling of her breathe, although destabilizing, was inviting. He touched her breasts and she started breathing heavily. “If you don’t want to, I can stop” He whispered.
“No, continue” He grabbed her by her thighs and carried her up to sit on the dining table as she unbuttoned his shirt. She kept running his hairy chest but what was going on in her mind was how he could lift her up and she’s taller than he is. All this were new to her as she’s only used to kissing him. Her body was vibrating uncontrollably…
*. *. *. *
Meanwhile, Quincy was finding it hard to mingle in his new school. Brendon high school wasn’t like his former school. The students here were mostly from very wealthy homes, some of them spoke pure British and this was new to him.
“So that’s all about reproduction”, the Biology teacher, Mr. Jones, concluded. “If you’re new here, please stand up and introduce yourself to the class”.
Quincy knew he was referring to him. All eyes knew it was him the teacher reffered to. He stood up very nervous, putting his shaky hands in his pocket. The faces he beheld didn’t look bright at all, tough crowd. “Good morning sir, my name is Quincy”
“Quincy Johnson, sir”
“Welcome to Brendon”
“Thank you, sir,”
“Student’s, be nice and friendly to Quincy” He said as he addressed everyone “and Quincy?”
” Yes sir?”
“See me during lunch break”
* * * * *
Bang! Bang! Bang!!
The noise came from the front door. Maria knew it was her aunt coming late again from work. Who else could bang on a door, that you’d even feel sorry for the door as though it had feelings other than Aunt Hannah?
“You dey craze? Abi na madness hug you? How many times I go knock before you open door?” Aunt Hannah yelled furiously as she entered the house.
“No vex, I be dey wash cloth for bathroom”
“Abeg comot road” Aunt Hannah shunned as she walked into the sitting room. “As you dey wash cloth so, make you wash that bathroom when you finish. Una go wash cloth finish, ground go dey white”.
Maria ignored, walking down to the bathroom.
“Wey you, where your sister?” Aunt Hannah asked.
“That one go dey waka like say she chop dog leg, she no dey rest? God abeg o”
“She say she go soon come sha”
“She better come fast, I buy beans make she select, na night food be this” She said as she brought out some foodstuffs from her bag. “Omo, come see Davido for club na, everywhere burst!” Aunt Hannah said excitedly. Typical Hannah and her gist.
Maria ran out of the bathroom using her mini skirt to wipe her soapy hands. “you no mean am?” She said running towards her Aunt.
“Look am na, na me wan dey lie give you?” Aunt Hannah pointed him out in a video on her phone.
“Omooo see gang na”.
“See spraying na, shuuu, I pack money, nai I use take buy these things so”
“Chai, Aunty dash me small thing na”
“See your mouth, no go find work, dey here dey beg. You think say na abroad you dey abi?”
“I’ll start my online business soon.”
“You say wetin…” Aunty Hannah said amidst laughter “My dear, face reality. Your mates dey stay on their own o. Get sense, get am for early stage”.
Maria walked back to the bathroom, she didn’t like people telling her to get a job.
“You no get boyfriend sef? Nawa o, if say you dey smile now, you for don get better boyfriend”, Aunt Hannah said mockingly.
“Wetin? Be like you dey mad”
“No worry I’ll soon rent my house”
“Baby girl, na my prayer o, carry your wahala dey go. Just squeeze face like who get debtors”.
“Aunty e never reach?”
“Come carry this things abeg” She said as she lay on the sofa.
“Aunty shebi you know today is Quincy’s parent-teacher meeting”
“Wrong person o, abeg I no get strength”
“Wetin? You go help me go, tell them say I no well. Your mama don call me sef about the thing. That one dey call me for midnight, she no realize say na different time we dey”
“When I finish washing sha, I’ll go”
“Na posh teachers dem get o, try find boyfriend, make you smile”
“Aunty, e don do na”
“Na you sabi, you know say advise dey hard you to take”.
* * * * *
“Stop!” Celine yelled.
“Why? Did I do something wrong?” Jonah asked as she moved to the chair
” No, it’s just that…” She went silent
” Just what?”
Her mind went back to when she was sexually molested by her pastor a couple of years ago. She hated revisiting that day. She went to her pastor for prayers when she was seriously sick. He touched her in private places and threatened to kill her if she shouts. He would have raped her that day if he didn’t hear his wife coming, and warned her not to talk about what happened or she dies. That affected her spiritual and sexual life. She hated going to the church and she gets nervous whenever she’s touched by her boyfriend.
“Nothing, I’m just not ready” she replied Jonah.
Jonah looked lost “But you…Not few moments ago…Okay, if you say so”. He said confusingly. They both adjusted their clothes and she hugged him tightly.
“Are you okay, dear?” He asked concerned about her.
“I am.” She replied and after sometime, she whispered; ”I love you”
“I love you too”.
* * * * *
The bell rang for break period. It wasn’t the usual break Quincy knew. Nobody went out to play football, or buy something from Iya Jibo. Here was different. They had a Big hall where food was served and eaten. It looked like a big canteen. The food was part of their school fees. Well, it was quite reasonable to him for the kind of money required as fees. His mom paid almost a million naira for school fees because she wanted him to attend one of the prestigious schools in Lagos.
He was served rice, beans and fried fish with what he not to recently learnt was called a smoothie. He spotted few children eating from their own lunch boxes, these were the ones allergic to certain types of food or, maybe their parents didn’t want them eating school food.
He sat down on the chair at the end of the hall, placed his tray of food on the table and dug in shyly. While eating, he saw two girls approach him.
“Hi Quincy”, one of them started.
“Uhm. Hi. how do you know my name?”
“Umm, we are in the same class dummy” she said as she turned to the other girl laughing. He laughed along trying to believe she was being sarcastic.
“Anyways, my name is Sinclair, and my friend here is Chioma” She said tapping on her friend’s shoulder. They sat down close to him with their food on the table.
“Oh, I have to see the Biology teacher”, Quincy remembered “I’m so sorry I have to leave”. He was thankful for leaving that weird scene, this was classic high-school-girl-meets-high-school-boy scene from a romance movie. And besides, he was usually shy around girls.
It was difficult searching for Mr. Jones’ office but he finally found it. Other teachers take the big staff room as their office but he is the head of department of science so he had his personal office. Quincy knocked repeatedly, as he was about leaving someone answered.
“It’s Quincy, Sir”
The aroma was heavenly as Quincy entered the air-conditioned room. Is this Mr. Jones perfume? He thought to himself as he stood still in front of him, must be a very expensive one.
“How are you?” Mr. Jones asked as he looked up from his desk where he was working on some files.
“I’m good sir”
“Take a sit” Mr. Jones said smiling. Quincy pulled the chair in front of Mr. Jones back and sat down. Quincy tried so hard not to burst into laughter when he saw the reflection of the ceiling through Mr. Jones bald head. What a clean shave.
“So how old are you, handsome boy” Mr. Jones asked smiling.
This seemed weird to Quincy, he didn’t know if to prefer the girls in the Canteen or this current situation. He just thought he’s being nice because he’s a new student. “I’m fifteen”.
“Wow, you look so fine for a fifteen-year-old, you’re really handsome”.
This time, Quincy got nervous. The compliments were too intense but he kept his cool. “Thank you, sir”.
Mr. Jones stood up from his sit and walked to where Quincy sat, sat on the table and smiled at him. It was as if the air conditioner turned off as Quincy started feeling drops of sweat down his cheeks. Mr. Jones tapped his shoulder.
“If you need help with anything, I’m always here.” Mr. Jones said. Sudden cold gripped Quincy but he was sweating at the same time. “Okay sir”, he responded.
“You’re feeling hot, are you okay?” Mr. Jones asked.
“Ye-ye-yes sir, I have to use the toilet” he stammered.