The day aunty Muliyat arrived at our house, no one knew what to expect. We were all eating lunch at the dining table, Papa, my little brother Wole, my twin sister Tola and me. Mama went to the salon, not the one down the road because that hairdresser lost her mum and hasn’t opened for the past three months; it’s the hairdresser two streets away from us.
Aunty Muliyat was different from the rest of the housemaids we have had in the past,not like so so different like the way she looked. No, it’s a different type of different. Her different was just weird and I do not know what to call it. Although like the others, she came with one of her relatives, they all did, the one that will be paid the wages. This relative would introduce them to papa and start giving silly compliments at everything and anything,
‘This your house is so nice oh’
Papa will respond with a reluctant ‘thank you’
When they see either me or Tola, ‘ sir you have very beautiful daughters sir’
Papa will respond with a reluctant ‘thank you’
Unlike Papa, Mama would have said ‘oh my daughters are twins you know.’ Then she’ll call us out to prove that we are really twins.
I’ve seen some relative shout at the housemaid to kneel down and greet Papa, almost saying something in-between the smile to mean, ‘greet properly before he changes his mind about you.’
Other relative pull the ear of our housemaid-to-be, telling her off for sitting down on the sofa too quickly without being asked to. Papa usually takes no notice; he would call mama instead. It is mama who now comes in to inspect them and make the decision whether they will stay or not. Mama who knew the housemaid was coming would run to her bedroom to change to her going-out clothes and wear perfume, and jewelleries. She would keep them waiting, and then walk in like a madam later, as though she was really busy before they arrived. Wole and Tola laugh and whisper to each other about mama’s catwalk. One day, Mama slapped Wole for laughing and ever since he has learnt to hold it in.
Papa asked me to bring soft drinks for Aunty Muliyat and her relative. They sat on the sofa together. I watched her as she took in the living room- the thick crimson carpet, the dusty net curtain, the settee that sighed and squeaked, and the gold -framed pictures- a gallery of the family members: me, my sister, my brother Papa and Mama.
I placed the drinks and the cups on the nest of tables beside the sofa and was walking away; she called me back to pour the drink in the cup. I heard Tola laughing so loudly, but I didn’t look behind me. I poured the drink, and then my shaky hands spilled some on the table. She told me to get a wet rag, that’s what she called it.
‘Come back and clean the table.’
I walked slowly to the kitchen hoping that papa will notice that it’s my third time parading the living room. Still, Papa took no notice; he just had his face glued to the Television.
That day was the day I disliked that Aunty Muliyat.
The day aunty Muliyat made her first soup in the house was a grave day. It was Mama’s birthday. Although, we didn’t have a big party with canopies and hundreds of people eating and dancing, like the Ayilara family next door when their mum turned Forty-five like mama. That family, I once heard mama saying to Papa:
‘All they know is party, party, all the time like illiterates’
Mama gave Aunty Muliyat money for shopping and to cook a meal for supper. She then asked Mama if I can come with her to the market. Mama refused. She said to mama,
‘You know she’s growing up now at 9 years, at her age I used to cook for my mother, shouldn’t she should be learning?’
To mama, it was like the scales fell off her eyes. She muttered in agreement and shouted my name. I hid in the toilet with Tola, locked the door and did not respond. First of all, I’m the same age as Tola and if she wants to give advice, it should be Tola and me, not just me by myself. Mama shouted my name the second time and this time my hands were clasped covering Tola’s mouth because she was about to shout and pretend I was answering. So mama stopped calling me and walked away saying something I couldn’t hear.
We soon heard a knock on the door and it was aunty Muliyat, shouting and asking me to come out at the count of three. I did of course, how I can remain in the toilet when she kept on banging it?
So I had my first market trip that day.
You know, it was the look on Wole’s face that gave it away. If you know Wole very well, he eats whatever he’s given, it doesn’t matter who does. He’s the one mama gets worried about that one day he will eat poison and still lick the plate. Today, Wole spat the food out and poured water all over himself from the jug because the food was too spicy.
Aunty Muliyat’s okra but was so salty. You would think she cooked it in salt juice, because you only tasted salt. Then, the okra was so chewy and gooey and clumped together leaving you no space to see the white plate. The jollof rice was so spicy and the rice so mushy, mashed potato was better, the oil separated from the rice like oil on water. I was laughing with my hands covering my mouth. Mama and Papa came to join us at the table and asked what was going on.
‘The food Muli cooked is so rubbish papa, you need to taste it. No one can eat it.’
She ran into the dining room hearing her name and slapped me on the head.
‘Don’t call me Muli, my name is aunty Muliyat, and I’m not your mate, stupid girl.’ She snarled at me.
I froze, was stumped, and then retreated. I waited for someone to intervene but Papa and Mama only apologised to her that next time they would smack me themselves. Mama said she’ll make it up to us and we can go to Mister Biggs another day.
That day became my first diary entry:
This New aunty mole, mule, muli whatever her name is, I hate her and I hate her name. I knew there was something not quite right with her the very first time I ever laid eyes on her, the problem was, I just couldn’t tell what it was.
She is a stupid housemaid who gets me in trouble.
I can’t believe she slapped my head in front of my parent, my loving parent who will go to any length to get me what I want.
She has torn my family apart, because my twin sister no longer takes my side on anything.
My brother will no longer do anything I say.
We had successfully sent away many housemaids together, all of them: Tola, Wole and I.
All other housemaids, we have had in the past, never insist on calling them aunty, she kept on correcting us.
Oh Lord help me, I am an unloved child of my own parents. No one loves me anymore. This is the worst day of my life and the worst birthday for Mama although she doesn’t see it.
I see it all.
Someday I pray that my family will be one again. One day I will go through her things and throw all her make-up away, no, I will bury them and she will look so ugly without them.
Even if Tola won’t help me. I will get her back.
I have to make a plan…
Before aunty Muli moved into our house, many people never used to come to our house. The people who came were male students from Papa’s University. I didn’t understand it when Mama said Papa lectures at a university.
‘How can you teach grown ups? Are they not already grown up and can do what they like?’
‘No darling, Grown up school is called university where you can learn to be a doctor like your Uncle Korede or like your Aunty Salewa a business woman.’
‘No mama, I don’t want to go to grown up school, I just want to be a Nurse and look after you, or Grandma because she’s sick.’
These grown ups, especially the women, from Papa’s university, would carry books in their hands and still wear high heels, with tiny pin holding their weight and they would look taller, I wonder how they never fell down. The grown up women come more often to our house now and they don’t even ask if come Aunty Muli is at home, they just knock and walk in. Aunty Muli doesn’t even go to University but she’s friends with these women.
Sometimes when they come and Mama is not at home, which is the only time they come, Aunty Muli would cook for them. They will stay so long, and look at magazine pictures, eat, laugh and talk. One of the regular ones that come, she’s always wearing short skirt but I like them on her, when I grow up I will wear one of them too; but I’m too young now. Her name is Sade and she has long hair like in the music video on telly. I asked her how come her hair is so long and she said when I grow up, I will understand. She should have told me the truth because after she left, I saw a big ball of hair on aunty Muli’s suitcase.
It was shiny black curly hair. Aunty Muli took it off before she went to have her shower. So I tiptoed from my room, and went into Aunty Muli’s room. Tola was fast asleep. I took the ball of hair and put it on my head, it was too big and it covered my face. I didn’t like it. It smelled like sweat and it was sticky. I took the hair and tiptoed to the kitchen, put the hair in the sink and soaked it in water until I was satisfied it was wet and heavy. Then I put it inside a bowl to make sure water was not dripping from it, carried it into Aunty Muli’s room and put the hair back on her suitcase. I returned the bowl to the kitchen, tiptoed back to my room.
I chuckled under my cover and started a fake snore; Tola almost woke up.
Mama came in later to get us ready for school; thank God it was her that came inside the room.
I quickly jumped to Mama telling her I had a bad dream and I was scared. Mama hugged me and prayed for Holy Ghost fire to burn any evil tormenting her daughter. She shouted
‘Burn in the Name of Jesus! I bind you, I cast you out and let my daughter be free.’
She shouted for aunty Muli to bring anointing oil from her room and that’s when Aunty Muli came back screaming on the top of her voice.
‘Whoever soaked my wig in water, may they never see any good thing in their life. May their mother weep over them.’ She was shouting from her room.
‘Muli, why are you cursing in my house? I only asked for the bottle of anointing oil from you’
‘Es ma, some idiot have put my wig in water, what I’m I suppose to wear?’
‘I’m talking to you and you are still shouting Muli, can you be quiet?’
‘Es ma, I can’t o! When the god-forsaken person who did this to me will rot in hell fire, that person will be crushed by the next truck they see.’
‘Enough!! Enough and get out of my way. What rubbish is this?’
‘Please don’t tell me it’s enough o, because I know it’s your silly child that did it. That foolish, useless child of yours, I’m sure it’s her!’
Mama put my head back on the bed and walked out in silence.
I don’t know where Mama went but I waited for her and I didn’t move.
…To be continued
oh that’s my picture at the bottom, hehe