One- The Announcement
I stared at Chioma as if she had suddenly grown another set of ears or maybe that mouth of hers that had been running non-stop for the past ten minutes was tumour ravaged. But she seemed perfectly all right as she waited for our reaction to her announcement.
‘No fucking way!’ I screamed and was momentarily satisfied when she blanched at my foul language.
‘Don’t speak to her in that manner’, Vince the vermin warned.
‘Or what? You are gonna beat me up?’
‘There is nothing I can do about it. The arrangements have already been made’, Chioma said.
‘You have got to be fucking kidding me’.
‘Sharon, please’, Sheila the simpleton pleaded.
‘Shut the fuck up, stupid’, I snapped at her.
‘Sharon, I really would like it if you would do away with the rude language. While I understand that this will be upsetting to you, I also need you to be sensitive to the situation. It was what your father wanted’.
‘Don’t bring him into this, don’t even call his name’.
I hated the fact that my voice cracked and I rushed out of the living room. I heard Sheila call me and I heard Chioma tell her to leave me alone. I hated her more when she acted all considerate and understanding. It would have been easier to deal with her if she dropped the pretence and acted like the bitch she truly was.
I slammed the door of the room I shared with Sheila very hard, hoping it affected them downstairs. It wasn’t till I was sprawled on my bed before I let myself think about Chioma’s drastic announcement; we were moving to Nigeria. This was worse than any nightmare I had ever had and I normally had crazy ones since I was a fan of horror and gore. I shuddered as I tried to imagine it and came up blank. Sure, Dad always regaled us with cool stories about his homeland and had promised that we would visit one day but this wasn’t a visit. I could endure a visit, especially one that featured Dad but living in a strange land was abominable. America was the only home I had known and I was more than content with that. I never wanted it to change. Screw the lousy fact that I was a Nigerian, which was just an unfortunate occurrence.
I turned on the bed, trying to get a more comfortable position and my eye caught the framed picture of Dad on the bedside drawer and I picked it up. If only Dad were around, he had been the only person I could relate to. We shared a unique bond and he understood me more than anyone else. It was so tough now that he was gone forever, I doubt if I will ever be able to get rid of the shroud of grief and despair that had enveloped me for the past two months. It wasn’t enough that Dad had died and left me with these people, now he wanted us to move to Nigeria for whatever crazy reason. Chioma said he felt we would cope better there because he had made adequate arrangements for us. I didn’t believe her one bit. Why couldn’t he have made same arrangements here? Dad wasn’t callous; he wouldn’t uproot us from the only way of life we had known just like that. I’m sure there is something she is refusing to tell us, she could hoard her dirty secrets for all I care. I am staying put.
I picked up the phone and dialled mum’s number; there was no answer so I left her a message asking her to call me ASAP. The door opened and Sheila came in just as I dropped the receiver. She walked to the study area of the room, sat on a chair and started twirling her hair round her middle finger; a gesture she was fond of, a gesture that irritated me. I still can’t believe that we are twins; we couldn’t be more different both physically and psychologically. We both had the same dark hair, toffee-coloured eyes and oval face but there ended the similarities. Sheila was short and buxom, I was tall and shapely. She was timid and shy, I was outspoken and vivacious. She was the good twin, I have been labelled the bad twin. Not that I cared. Frankly, Sheila was a disappointment to me; she never shared my views or supported my decisions. She was too busy being miss-goody two-shoes, she was the saint, and I was the sinner.
‘You didn’t have to do that, Sharon’, she began.
‘Shut up, Sheila’, I replied. And she did shut up.
I picked up my phone to check my twitter account, I was pleased to find a DM and I quickly opened it. It was from Lincoln and my pleasure deepened even though the message only said “hey babe”. That was equivalent to admission of feelings in a way. My budding relationship with Lincoln had begun with the demise of Dad and his tentative condolences. I was very sure that our first kiss was around the corner. He had tried to kiss me the last time we saw but then changed his mind at the last minute. It was probably something I did that had put him off, maybe I had been too eager or nervous. Next time, I would definitely be prepared. No way was I giving all these up and starting over in a cursed continent.
‘I’m not going’, I announced.
‘You don’t have a choice’, Sheila said.
‘We have a mother in case it skipped your mind. I’m going to get in touch with her.’
‘But you can’t leave me alone. Twins stay together.’
‘You could have died at childbirth’, which would have made life easier for me.
‘But I didn’t’.
‘So now we have to stick together and please don’t cause trouble with Chioma.’
‘I’m not causing trouble with anybody; I’m fighting for us Sheila. Chioma is going to stick with her folks once she gets back to her country and we will be outsiders. Do you know how uncomfortable that will be?’
‘Chioma wouldn’t do that. Besides it is our country too’.
‘But we have never been there and you watch all these scary stories on television about Nigeria, don’t you? You can go if you want to but you will be alone. Chioma is Vince’s mother, not yours and you won’t have anybody to look after you. I just hope you don’t encounter a great calamity’.
Sheila’s mouth rounded in a surprised ‘oh’ and I pressed home my point.
‘You didn’t think of that, did you? You may be smarter when it comes to grades but I’m definitely more knowledgeable in other things, worldly things’.
Sheila was silent, contemplative and I used my famous Sheila punch-line.
‘I know we don’t always get along so well but you are my twin sister and I wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to you, it would kill me. I promised dad I would take care of you and I don’t think I can bear to break my promise to….’, I dropped my voice to a solemn whisper, ‘….the dead’.
‘What do you think mum will do?’
I almost wept with joy and relief. Sometimes, Sheila was just too easy.
‘She will fight for our custody of course.’
‘Does she stand a chance?’
‘Definitely, if we band together and tell the court we want to be with mum. Chioma is not related to us’.
‘She is our stepmother and I really don’t want to hurt her.’
‘Don’t worry. She will thank us later, I’m sure she can do without the burden.’
That word cinched the deal; Sheila hated being a burden to anyone. As if on cue, the phone rang, our mother was calling back. I smiled as I picked the receiver, my life would soon be back on track. The fact that the process would cause Chioma pain and trouble was an added bonus.