A little me-time for me
I closed my eyes and went back to the days of my youth. I would go to kids’ church with my big brother and sister. I would happily sing the song, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the bible tells me so…” It felt calming to sing this song now. I could hear the excited chatter of the children coming from the kitchen and NanaG’s response matching their own.
The words of the song would not go away, Jesus loves me this I know for the bible tells me so. I began to repeat them over and over with the sweet sense of peace that washed over me.
But as for me? Did Jesus love me? After everything? I remember what my dad said the day he left home. “She’s not mine”. What did he mean? That he was not my dad? Who was my dad then? And why did my stepdad show his love by touching me in my private areas? This was so confusing. What is love anyway? Why did it cause so much pain? I went back to my replacement dad and the events that caused me to leave home at a younger age. I was so out of control my mum could not cope.
My stepdad had come to pick me up at school again. After the usual perfunctory, “how was your day today?” He announced that he was treating me for my birthday. I don’t know how he managed to remember as my mum has not. Maybe he had thought of a reasonable excuse for what he did to me that night. He asked me what kind of foods I liked and announced that we were going for a birthday treat. I asked where my mum was since it was a strange request without my mum being present.
He made some excuses using some big grammar and important words, way beyond my level of comprehension perhaps. He seemed quite excited and also smelled nice. So he had bothered to get dressed up for me so this to me looked like love. I did wonder for a second about the fact that there was no physical gift. That being said, the prospect of a treat was better than studying. So I was up for this adventure. Firmly sat in the front passenger seat of his Peugeot car with the seat belt inserted, we were off. It had been a hard day at school as the exam days were looming so the tension was getting to me as well. The prospect of a treat for the lamest of excuses was worth the risk. Risk? Yes.
This is because I did not know what to expect with this man. He blew what I liked to call hot and cold. When he was up to something he seemed nice but at other times, he was rather cold and aloof.
We turned into what looked like a big building with a restaurant. It was nothing like the usual burger, chicken and fries joint but a more imposing building.
He parked the car, came over to open my door this time. This was very different. The building was in a cul-de-sac sort of location, off the road. It was a tall white building too and had a fancy name. I don’t quite remember it now. The parking slots were all labelled and there were many green bushes interspersed with trees too. When he picked me up before, he had just opened the door while in the driver’s seat. I felt a little special as I got out of the car. He walked with me towards the front of this big restaurant.
The shop sign was large and high. There were chairs and tables outside the building and people were seated in pairs, in fours, chatting away in groups and enjoying the nice warm weather. You could see immaculately uniformed men with black waistcoat like tips on white shirts and black trousers busy taking orders and chatting with their clientele. One came to meet us and direct us to the inside after confirming whether we had a reservation. We were greeted at the inside door and asked how many people were in our company. I was expecting him to say three and was relieved that he did. He said something about us being joined by a third person whom I presumed would be, mum. Phew. Relief. Mum would be coming too I thought. Finally, she would have time for me as it was my birthday. We were seated in the left-back corner, at a table for four, near the open window.
The chairs were high and light brown, the table square and already set with fork, knife, spoon, glasses and a little more finesse than at home. I liked the colour scheme, some sort of a light mix of beige and white colour paint on the wall and wine carpet.
I sat opposite stepdad and put my school bag on the chair beside me. Near where we sat was a beautiful square framed painting, maybe about 2ft wide as a guess. The atmosphere was nice. There was background music and shuffling as people we’re talking, eating and in the far end, kind of opposite to where we sat, was a man and woman who seem to have eyes for only each other.
That was heartwarming and brought a smile to me. The accompanying waiter then offered us the menu to browse through before returning to take our order. I wanted some Jollof rice and fried plantain anyway, easy enough. He signalled to the waiter that we were ready to order. The same gentleman came back to take details of our preferences. So it was Jollof rice with goat meat and the efo riro (spinach stew) for the dodo, fried plantain) and some orange drink. Next, we were having a light conversation about school and what kind of present I would like for my birthday. It was nice that someone was taking an interest in me. He seemed to care right now. I could see an elderly couple a few tables from us and they would glance over to our table ever so often in a way that made me nervous. Where was mum? When was she coming? I was not sure whether or not to ask this obvious question since I had to trust we were to be three in the company soon. I kept looking all around me anxiously, waiting for my mum to turn up any time. In a moment of self-awareness or self-conscious,
I asked to go to the bathroom and stepdad pointed out where to head towards. He seemed to know his way around the place.
He said something about being like my mum and asked jokingly if I wanted to powder my nose.
My mum always took pride in her appearance and smelled nice too. I nodded in agreement to his comments about mum and walked quite quickly to the rescue of the bathroom. Once in there, I let out a deep breath. There was a beautiful smell as you opened another inner door which gave access to a carpeted section with sofa type chairs and large mirrors. I sat in one of those for testing. It was soft and comfortable, not bad at all. It was time to slide open the cupboard like doors which revealed the toilet bowls. I did my bit, pushed on the round button to flush and that was all.
Little did I realise I was taking so long to come back until there was a knock on the door as I walked over to the sink to wash my hands.
Mum had always taught me to do the same after using the toilet. Strange to have a knock on the toilet door but a uniformed lady came in to ask if I was Cici. She said a certain gentleman wanted to check if I was OK and to inform me that food had been served. I thanked her and offered that I would join stepdad shortly. She smiled and left. I must have been gone long I thought. Well, that being a signal to get on with it and come out to eat, I dried my hands using the air wall device, looked at myself in the mirror and headed out towards the table.
He was smiling as I approached and there was a gentleman beside him. I had not met this man before.
Dad introduced him as Uncle Peter. I genuflected as we would usually do to greet our elders and then sat down. I was hungry. The food was laid out nicely and smelled so good.
I picked up the well-shaped tablecloth piece and copied dad by laying it on my lap. Picking up my fork and knife, I started to plough through my meal and eat quite rapidly. It was so delicious. I stopped to drink my orange juice but felt a little uncomfortable too; as if I was being watched by these men who sat opposite me. I looked around the room and the older couple was nowhere to be seen. There were more empty tables with waitresses busy clearing them. Then it began. I was asking about mum, what time she would arrive when I began to feel a little dizzy. I could hear dad talk and laugh with this uncle as if their voice was coming from a distance. I don’t remember much else. I think at some point I must have been carried into a bed in some room. I could recall smells and the weight of someone heavier, on top of me and pain. Pain. It was so hazy, I heard laughter…
This was an excerpt from the book: Love at First Byte