One thing I perceived about my aunty, Emily Okonkwo, was that she hated me so dearly. And I hated her as much. Some years younger than this year, she was our caretaker when my mum journeyed to the east— Imo state to be precisely— for the whole August. When mum was still around, I cuddled freedom like a child would do so to a white fluffy lavender-scented teddy bear. I recognized a few actions of mine which my mother had labeled as wrong: not finishing my food, not laying my bed and not doing my homework. These were the rules back then. And just like my siblings, I was happy circling around the core of my comfort zone until the “good-minded devil” came.

It just happened suddenly. Aunty Emily was in all splendor and grace. Her hair as long as the distance between the human wrist and elbow; it shone like dark grease under the moon light. Her skin colour glittered a pale yellow. Her cherry colored lips were as thick as my mum’s.

“Aunty Emily will stay with you while I travel,” My mum said, her travelling box growling as the plastic tires circled over the cold tiles. “Please treat her nicely.”

Her face suddenly steered away from the front door towards me again, “…and don’t be naughty.”

“Okay mum,” I could hear my voice force its way out from my popcorn choked mouth. I wasn’t uninterested that my mum was travelling. I just had, at the moment, a higher priority – I must win this car racing finale I was playing on my phone. I had spent a lot of coins on purchasing Nitro boosters and could not afford to lose both the game and the money. The door slammed behind my mum.

“Take care…” her voice trailed.

There was an uncomfortable silence in the sitting room – the kind of silence that pinches the skin.

“Ebube, how are you?” My Aunty interrupted the quiet.

“Fine.” I answered sharply. I tilted my phone to prevent my car from bumping into an obstacle during the race.

There was further periods of silence save for the clanking noise by the gatekeeper while he closed the gate behind the taxi in which my mum, a driver and her luggage were buried in.

“Could you at least show me where I would stay?” I sensed the rise in her voice. And I could sense that she tried so hard to conceal it. I didn’t mean to vex her; I was only being focused on what was important to me at the moment. Finally, I had won the race, but I had lost my aunt’s regard for me. My first impression was a lousy impression.

“The room adjacent the kitchen.” I pointed to show direction.

It was 1:17pm. Onyinye and Chinyere, my sisters, were back from summer school.

The day went. Another was born.

*

“What? It is just 6:30pm!” I mumbled.

“Back at home, by 6:00pm, we were already on our way to the market.”

I eared in her lecture on time management and all, but my heart didn’t process it. I have never been woken up by this time during the long holiday before. And I disliked it.

 

With Aunty Emily in the building, I was forced to quit using the washing machine and make my hands the boyfriends of clothes and soapy water. I had less to discuss with my friends because the amount of time I used in watching my favorite series – vampire’s diary – was only a little bit longer than the time it takes a man to urinate. My fun time was converted to work time. I did the dirty jobs which my mom or my former nanny frequently do. I lingered for hours scrubbing the toilet; plates and mobbing the floor – things I never knew I would do in this life.

And this went on for days.

Two stressful weeks later, on the 22nd August 2016, Onyinye, who was only two years younger than I am, was to celebrate her 10th birthday. And as approved by mum over the phone, Aunty Emily happily organized an in-house party. Being an events planner, it wasn’t so difficult for her to do so. The cake she baked was much bigger than mine during my own decade celebration. The party much more elegant than any I had ever seen. And for the first time, there was a real MC, a real train ride installed at our backyard and real food! I wondered how my aunty and my sisters were so in tune. For it was nothing but true love that made my Aunty reject mum’s money for the event only to use hers.

 

I don’t know what entered me – or should I say, what was released from me – when I suddenly shouted, “I hate you Emily and I will not eat anything you ever make with your evil hands.” I stood confident among my friends who came and swore that I would rather eat cow dung than her food.

No one paid me any mind. They couldn’t let anyone spoil the jolly air. But I was determined. Unknowingly, I was slowly burning my remaining energy with hatred and that only increased my hunger urge. I locked myself inside my room to resist the temptation caused by the hot aroma of the rich delicacies. The only part of me that really didn’t want to eat was my stubbornness. And sadly, that too wasn’t part of my body. The DJ blasted dance-inducing Nigerian songs. Yeah, those ones with heavy beats. But I tried to lock myself up in my room – in vain.

Out of self-induced boredom, I slept off. By 8:39pm my body engine kick-started but it was desperately in need of fuel. To fulfill this urge, I inspected the parlour and rooms to see that all other eyelids in the house were shut for the night – and of course, they were. As I tiptoed to the kitchen, my leg knocked off a Coke bottle from the floor. And it rolled with a high pitch clinking noise. Startled, I switched on the kitchen light. I paused to listen for any sign of awakedness. Convinced after a few seconds, I resumed my journey to the large yellow warmer to steal any food buried within. I tore with my teeth some fried drumsticks and using my hands, I gulped down the lukewarm jollof rice. And when I was a little satisfied, I turned to the smaller warmer beside it and with time fried rice followed suit. Some grain, from my filledup mouth, fell back into the yellow warmer. Some fell on the kitchen table. Apart from when I played videogames, I had never been more focused on something in my life as when I was stealing that which I professed publicly that I would never eat.

I was so engrossed that I didn’t see the two types of eyes that consumed me like a movie – one belonging to – and only used by – a human; the other belonging to an object and viewable by all.

When my stomach was getting more inflated than usual, it told me to stop eating. And like a person recovering from a hypnosis, I obeyed at its command. I slid the lid of both warmers closed tight, picked up the rice grains that found their way to the kitchen table rather than my mouth and tried to make sure the whole area was intact. I tiptoed again to the entrance of the kitchen and switched off the light. The switch seemed a bit noisy in the silence of the night. I then sauntered triumphantly to my room, rubbing off oil remains from the area around my lips with the back of my hands. I had done this smoothly and no one will ever know. I reached my room, crawled quietly onto my bed and smirked to sleep.

*

I woke up with a letter on my chest. It read: Hope you had a pleasant night? Check my Facebook post. Your amazingly smart Aunty.

 

I had embarrassed Aunty Emily in front of the somewhat countable number of guests who came. But she had disgraced me on a platform much wider than a few familiar people, it was a global disgrace – she posted a video she took of me in the kitchen caught in the act on Facebook.

The description went: Boy says he wouldn’t eat from his aunt yet does this.

I don’t know what happened and how she won me silently. I, at that moment, wished for only one thing— that I would dissolve like a smear of yellow butter on a hot frying pan.

 

About the writer

Ebube Ezeadum wrote in via ezeadumebube@gmail.com

 

 

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