Start from Chapter 1: December
ll-day I locked myself indoors looking through every picture we ever took in the few places we visited because Francis never encouraged our going out together. I was always the one going to his house.
Painstakingly, I deleted every single one of them from my laptop. The memory card on my other phone which was already shattered contained quite a few which I planned to delete once I got a replacement.
When Mum brought my Christmas buffet, I took a few spoons of salad. Mum was mildly sad, but she held tight.
Later she sent Ariva to call me downstairs where she gave me a large boxed gift.
Everyone had something for me and for a moment, I remembered I had planned to surprise everyone with a beautiful portrait I had made.
I unwrapped Dad’s box and inside it was a new phone. A tiny smile curled up my lips, this must have been a last-minute arrangement and I loved him dearly for it.
Ariva gave me a box of chocolate candies with a handwritten note in rich ink that read “Happy Silver Joy, Moonlight.” I hugged her and played with her thick curly braids.
Jideofor was next and this year, he gave me a box of kitchen utensils! A wicked smile was on his face, I jeered and chased him all over the large sitting room till he begged Mum to protect him. I stopped chasing him knowing exactly what he meant.
Mum gave me hers last and it took a sweat to get through to a beautiful flowing mermaid dress in blue with precious pearls on the neck and waistline.
“Wow! Mummy, you’re the best.” She embraced me while everyone watched. Slowly the smile on my face faded.
“But my birthday is ruined, I’ll keep this dress till I change my mind about Christmas,” I declared.
Mum was about to protest but Dad touched her, silencing every objection.
“It’s okay, Princess. If that is the case, we’ll ask the Lord to make that happen quick seeing your mum has put in a lot to make this dress for you.”
“Yes, Daddy, that’s why you’re both the best. Mum does the nicest things and you understand everyone so perfectly.”
Mum was a housewife and a bespoke seamstress in gowns and royal regalia. Her office was upstairs in a large room built for her private work.
All season, she made dresses for the women of the monarchy and other popular figures in the society. She had two middle-aged women who worked with her—she never took apprentices but always joined in the women development forum to train young women every year.
Mum was everything class and dignity, she kept the house running but never let anyone feel unattended to. Dad on the other hand was rustic, rural and cowboyish. Jideofor had his wild heart but Mum’s calm spirit.
Dad loved the wild and staying close to nature. His livestock farm was a reference to that. He even had a moniker as the Shepherd boy. Dad kept flocks of sheep along with the rest of our livestock which Jideofor started managing soon after university.
I told everyone to wait and pulled Jideofor with me upstairs. Soon, we walked down and slowly unveiled the portrait.
It was the size of us in height but wider. Everyone was speechless once the covers were off. I had always wanted to do this for us for so long and this was a perfect time. Mum moved near and traced her hands on the painting.
“They’re so alive,” she said. Dad followed and agreed. “I miss Samson,” Ariva said, bending to look at the artist’s name. She was only seven when he left but was already too fond of him.
We all missed Samson, but I could see that Dad felt the void his absence created more. He was after all his first child though he chose his curious adventure to discover the world over all of us. I always hoped that one day, he finally remembers home and comes back to his family—the one that misses him every second since he left.
“Well, now, you can always see him as much as you want with this in our living room.”
Everyone laughed. “And maybe I can finally tell him to his face how I feel every time I look at him,” Ariva said sarcastically and added, “Chinny, you dream too much.”
“Dreams do happen, Birdie.”
I doubted my own words immediately they left my lips. What if Samson never comes back? What if Sheba’s soulmate never asks her out? What if I never find a reason to celebrate Christmas?
Was I getting her hopes up for nothing or was it possible that dreams do come true?
Mum’s phone rang, she picked and immediately, I knew who she was speaking with. It turned out that I was right. Aunt Nnenyelugo phoned in from Iceland where she had lived for almost all her life with her only child, my cousin, Ulu.
Mum handed over the phone to Dad, who later handed it over to me. After exchanging pleasantries, my aunt told me Ulu wanted to speak with me. I wasn’t sure I wanted that but before I could find an excuse, I heard her voice from the other end of the line.
She was excited to hear from me and was asking if I thought living in America was better than the UK. How could I know when all my life I’ve only been in Owele?
I wanted to tell her it was better to be in none, my mind drifting to Samson who has been away forever and Aunt Nnenyelugo who might as well have forgotten her roots but instead, I told her America because that’s where dreamers go.
She was starting to bore me when the front door slid open, it was Sheba in a beautiful ballerina gown with matching shoes.
I quickly bid Ulu goodbye with a promise to chat her up later if her mum drops her number this time as she promised. She was always promising.
When we ended the call, I turned to Sheba wondering where she was going in such glamour. At the same time, Ariva and Jideofor both walked down the stairs in similar costumes.
Ariva wore a short white bubble dress while Jideofor was casual in denim and cardigan overall. They were up to something which didn’t include me. I would have sworn so if they had not lingered. My curiosity forced me to ask.
Jideofor told me it was the Youth’s Night of Festivals. My bad, I forgot how much Christmas held for the whole town.
“Okay, but why are you lingering?” I asked disturbed. Ariva rolled her eyes and pushed me towards the stairs.
“Can’t you see this circle isn’t complete yet? Of course, we’re waiting for you to join us to attend the show,” she said pulling me along. I protested but with everyone ganging against me, I had no choice. Few minutes later, I was dragged outside without a muffle.
Enjoyed Chapter 6? Continue the story in Chapter 7: Festivals