The Outcast – Four

The Outcast - Four

I woke up to the raised voices of my parents. They were fighting again. It was the second time that week. I knew Mama and Daddy fought like every other married couple, but they never raised their voices at each other. I tiptoed to my door to listen “She’s your child too Ife! She’s your child for God’s sake!” Daddy yelled. Even in the heat of argument Daddy still called Mama Ife. I wondered whether he had forgotten her real name. “Did I say she’s not? Ehn, Did I?” Mama yelled back.Our house was a four- bedroom bungalow, and their bedroom was directly opposite mine.Every word they said rang out loudly although I knew the sound of the generator would drown their voices before it reached the neigbhours. I looked back to check the time on my Spongebob wall clock; a present from Aunty Lara on My ninth birthday. It was almost midnight. I pressed my ear to my door to listen more. I heard nothing. It was as though a roaring storm had simply been stilled. I heard their door open and I knew Daddy was going to sleep in the spare bedroom for guests,the way he did the day before yesterday. I tiptoed back to my bed. I didn’t know when I slept.
I didn’t have to wait long to find out the reason for the storm. After devotion, Mama announced that Nanette would be going to visit Uncle Debo and his family again in Dubai for the holidays.I was stunned. “But Mama you promised” I cried in a broken voice. I couldn’t help the dam behind my eyes. Hot tears spilled voluntarily.Mama looked at me,and for the first time I saw pity and regret in her eyes,pity for me I was sure, but regret? ” I’m sorry Annie. Your uncle’s wife and the twins specifically asked for her. You know how much they love her.” Mama said calmly. I knew she wasn’t sorry at all. Daddy shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Mama eyed him. They all couldn’t look me in the eye. I was hurt. They had promised it would be my turn this time. I wiped my tears with the back of my palm and went to prepare for school. Uncle Debo was Daddy’s younger brother who had lived with us for five years after he finished from the university because he couldn’t get a job. He finally got a job offer in Dubai to manage a jewelry shop and later got married and had twins;a boy and a girl. His family liked to have us over for the holidays but because of how expensive it was to travel outside the country, Daddy and Mama had decided that Nanette and I would alternate between third term holidays. I had only gone once and she had gone twice in a row already. This year was going to be my last in secondary school and I had been fantasizing about the trip from the beginning of the session.
Tears were still dribbling down my face when Daddy knocked on my door. I knew what he was going to say. He would give me a tight hug and say “You know she’s still your mother honey and I can promise you she wants the best for you” I was tired of hearing him apologise on Mama’s behalf. I was struggling to pin the straps of my pinafore to my skirt when he opened the door and came in head first “May I come in honey?”. I didn’t answer. The rest of his body followed. He didn’t say a word while he helped me properly pin the straps of my pinafore the crisscross way I liked it. ” Immaculate as usual eh?” He said smiling. His smile always got me. I knew I couldn’t ignore him for long. ” I know that wasn’t what we promised you honey and I’m truly very sorry” He began quietly, holding my hands ” And I don’t have any excuse but I promise I’ll make it up to you. Please wipe your tears for me. You know I can’t bear to see my baby cry”. My eyes became flooded again and before I could open my mouth to form a word,they poured. Daddy hugged me,cooing and whispering “It’s going to be OK honey” as he did. I wept. I hugged him tightly and never wanted to let go. Daddy was my hero, my lifesaver and I knew he really was sorry.
Damien and Nanette soon became inseparable. They were seen everywhere together in school. We never spoke about it, even at home, and I tried every possible means to squash my crush on him but nothing seemed to work. ” It’s obvious you like your sister’s boyfriend” Ire said one day while we were snacking at the cafeteria ” Wait, What? Me? Like who?” I replied staring at my food “Girl,we’ve been friends for five years and I know you like him. You can’t even hide it” Just then they walked past us hand in hand “shhh. Keep your voice down Ire. Don’t put us both in trouble” She laughed and shook her head ” Chai! babe. It’s sad that you saw him first, liked him first but he chose her”. I bit hard into my meatpie “Can we change the topic? Besides,I didn’t see him first. The whole class did”. I couldn’t stop thinking about what Ire said “he chose her”. Why? I wondered as I stayed up all night that night staring at my ceiling. But I knew the answer. We all knew why.
We walked home in silence as usual results for the end of term exam in hand. I had aced all my exams again. Damien amazed everyone by beating Ire and coming second. ” I’ll get him in Mock and WASSCE he’ll see. With that his oyibo head” She said jocularly but I knew she meant it. How Ire took everything in stride amazed me. Dad was always proud of my result. ” You will go places Annie. You will go places. Whatever it is you want to be,you can be” He often said looking into my eyes ” Never let anyone talk you out of your dreams. You and your sister are my shinning stars OK?” I would nod and smile. He would smile back and say “so go shine for me”. Mama took one long glance at my result with her reading glasses which were always firmly balanced on her nose while she read. She nodded with a ‘humph’ as she carefully studied each grade for each exam as if to ascertain that the result was truly mine. I was no longer surprised by this scrutiny, she did it at the end of every term. After she was satisfied she gave me a simple ” Well done Annie”. Nanette had come third again. Her result didn’t go through nearly as careful a perusal as mine did. ” You will get better honey. I promise you, you will” Mama said reassuringly when she saw Nanette’s sombre look “At least you tried. Third isn’t such a bad position you know? It just means there’s room for improvement” She said again trying to cheer her up. That seemed to work a little. She then motioned for Nanette to come sit by her side on the couch. “Tell you what honey? How about we go for ice cream and then we pick out presents for Uncle Debo’s family. Sounds good?” That seemed to cheer her up completely and Nanette nodded and said “OK Mama”. “Please Mama I would like to stay at home” I said. I did not think I could bear buying presents for Uncle Debo’s knowing they chose Nanette over me. “OK. Suit yourself” Mama replied in a way that said ‘ you weren’t invited before.’ “We didn’t know which flavour you would want so we didn’t bother buying any. Sorry” Mama said when they returned with nothing for me. “You should have come with us Annie. We had so much fun” Nanette added gayly. I looked at them surprised. How they could have forgotten I liked chocolate flavour was beyond me. Daddy bought everyone ice cream every week and he always got the chocolate flavoured one for me.I left them going through what they had bought. I turned at the door to look at them grinning gleefully at their purchase ” The twins are def gonna like these ones Mama” She said ” You have such a good eye Netty. Just look at how pretty this dress is” Mama said,bursting with pride. I thought the dress was very ugly, but who was I? I walked to my room and plugged my earphones in.

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