“Hello, my name is Courage.”
I extended my right hand and he stared at it like it was a venomous snake poised to attack.
“I don’t shake house helps,” he said.
“I am not a house help, I am your cousin.”
“That’s not what mummy said.”
I stared at him, forehead creasing. “Alright, if you don’t believe me, let’s go and ask her.”
Taking him by his right hand, I dragged him down to the living room to settle the matter.
“Aunty, Efosa doesn’t believe I’m his cousin. He thinks I’m the new house help.”
I was pleased to see the shocked look on her face. Vaulting off the sofa she closed the distance between us. My head rotated, propelled by the force of the slap.
“Don’t you dare lay your filthy hands on my son!”
I caught a blurry glimpse of Efosa’s hand still encased in mine and let go.
“The next time you touch him, I will beat you black and blue. Is that clear?”
“Yes aunty, it is clear.”
“Good, now get out of my sight.”
Efosa’s giggles escorted me out of the room, mocking me till it was silenced by the dense wood of the bedroom door. I wanted to cry so badly but anger stalled the tears.
Picking up my unpacked duffel bag, I made my way back down the stairs. There was no way I was staying with these people. I only came because mummy said she wanted me to spend the weekend getting to know my cousin Efosa. We just moved from Lagos to Port-Harcourt and I was desperate for someone my age to play with. In Port-Harcourt none of the kids liked me; no one ever invited me to their birthday parties. Mummy said it was because they were jealous that I was always top of the class. When I asked her why the kids in our estate didn’t like playing with me either, she said they were jealous because she was richer than their parents. I thought Efosa would like me because we are cousins but he is just as bad as the rest of them.
Dropping my bag at the door of leaving room, I announced my presence.
“I want to go home to my mummy.”
Aunty Rita laughed so hard her fair skinned turned a deep shade of red. As she walked towards me, I slowly inched backwards. My cheek still stung from the slap I’d received earlier.
“You want to go back to your mother?”
I nodded my head vigorously.
“Go on then, go and meet her in Lebanon.”
“Where is that?”
She laughed even harder.
“At thirteen you don’t know what Lebanon is? I thought your mother said you were intelligent? Efosa, tell this fool what Lebanon is.”
“Lebanon is a country,” he piped up.
“Yes, your mother has followed one of her men to Lebanon and she is not coming back for you.”
“Which men? What do you mean?”
“How do you think you mother has managed to feed and clothe you all these years? Oh, she didn’t tell you? Your mother is a prostitute, an ashewo!”
Efosa giggled and I screamed at him, “Shut up!”
Grabbing my ear she flung me across the room.
“If you ever speak to my son like that again, I will kill you. Do you hear me? Ungrateful idiot. You are a liability, you should be grateful I agreed to put a roof over your head.”
Tears streaming down my face I screamed defiantly, “I want my mummy, take me to my mummy!”
“Your mother is gone. Get that into your thick skull.”
“You’re lying, take me to my mummy!”
This time the slap sent me to my knees.
“Let this be the last time I warn you about the way you address me. You can forget about going to school, I am not wasting my money educating you. You will earn your keep. You will cook, clean and look after your cousin. If you are not happy with that, you can go and find somewhere else to live. I’m sure you’ll manage just fine, after all, you are your mother’s daughter.”
Swinging her wide hips from side to side, she sauntered out of the living room dragging Efosa behind her. Mummy couldn’t have left me with this witch, she couldn’t have! I remembered the suitcase sitting in a corner of the bedroom. It looked familiar, just like one mummy had. I raced up to the room and even before the lid slid open I knew my clothes would be in it.