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I will treat you as if you were never my child. That’s what you want right?” Arni’s mum was yelling at her. She remained quiet.
“Get out of my sight now”, she ordered Arni. She bowed her head, turned slowly and left like she was not the one being talked to.
Back in the room she shared with her sisters, Arni was wondering why it had to be this way. A jar got broken-it was Arni, oil was spilled on the floor, it was Arni, whatever incident that happened and nobody took responsibility, it was concluded that Arni was the culprit. She had gotten so used to it that she wasn’t surprised at her Mum’s frequent display of anger. Maybe that’s just the way it was meant to be.
Aharona Smith, fondly called Arni by friends and loved ones was the first child of the Smith family. She was a beautiful, dark complexioned damsel, hard working but secretive. She had few friends but was very free with people. She had two younger sisters-Henrietta and Sandra Smith. She was really having a tough time at home; she tried to balance everything that was going on in her life. This made her behave more mature than her mates.
“I don’t know why nobody can trust me for a moment. Right from time immemorial, I’ve always been a liar, it’s not like I’ve never lied before but most times, I say the truth and they just won’t believe me.
Arni didn’t cry. No, she wasn’t going to cry anymore. She had made up her mind to take whatever came, she won’t back down. She picked up her art pad and began making sketches. At least, that would pacify her for now.
But there was something that struck her a bit about what Mum had said earlier. Mum actually opened her mouth to tell her that she would treat her as if she were never her child. She had obviously been doing that but Arni never expected her to say it outrightly. When Arni was in junior secondary school, she had begun denying her Mum but not publicly. She hated to think that her mum was really her mum but she never said it to anyone.
I never even thought she was my mother so even if she treats me as her daughter or not, it won’t make any difference.
Later that day, supper was served and the family-mum, dad, Arni, Ettie, Sandie sat at the table for supper. Arni said the prayers—she said the prayers most times and she didn’t like it at all but she couldn’t object—and they began to eat.
“It’s been four months now and our institution has not paid salaries yet. We have to manage what we have till things get better. But if you have any need, just let me know and I’ll do my possible best to provide it for you by God’s grace”, said dad at the end of supper.
“We’ve got quite a lot in stock so that should last us for about two months or so and remember, no food should be wasted”, mum added. Mum worked at a small firm not too far from the house. Arni didn’t know how much she earned but she knew it wasn’t much. It wasn’t like Mum needed the money anyway because she wasn’t a fan of jeweleries and those female stuff that some women could give their all for. Maybe that was the only similarity Arni could accept that she had with her mum. Some people or maybe a little more than that, usually said that Arni looked like her Mum but there was no way on earth she would ever accept it. So many people were proud to hear that they looked like their mums but Arni would never be happy to hear it let alone be proud of it. Her mum wasn’t ugly, in the actual sense, she really looked like the older version of beautiful Arni but Arni wished she would never have to be addressed in relation to Mum. Mum was her name, not her position in Arni’s life.
“Yes ma”, chorused the girls as they packed up the plates and cleaned up the place.
That same evening, Mum was chatting with Arni about her school days, boys, parties and stuff like that. Arni didn’t want to listen but she got interested in Mum’s stories and gave in. Since Arni was the first child of the Smith’s, they wanted her to be a role model for her younger ones.
To Arni, she couldn’t even model for a normal Vaseline company with all her beauty let alone be a ROLE MODEL to two young girls. They were expecting too much from her.
It was time to go to bed and they said their bedtime prayers and went to bed. Arni sat on her bed and wondered why mum was interacting with her that way after what had transpired between them that morning.
“Sometimes I wonder if she’s alright. It’s not like I hate her but she treats me in a way I can’t take. If it continues that way, then I might have to find a way out. I can’t continue…” she stopped abruptly as her sister rolled over on her bad. She quickly raised her duvet to her face and pretended to be asleep. She just hoped her sister didn’t hear her.
“Arni, Ettie, Sandie, wake up”, Mum called out as she stood next to their room door. She saw them make gradual moves and she left to the living room where they were to have their morning devotion. Arni said a quick prayer because she had promised God that he would be the first person she would speak to everyday of her life when she woke up.
She stood up from her bed and walked to Ettie’s bed, then to Sandie’s to wake them up. They all went to the living room and had their family devotion. It was still holidays but they would be resuming the following week so they woke up pretty late. 6:00 a.m was pretty late for the Smith family. After devotion, they went about their daily chores. Arni was a very hardworking girl and she did her best to please her family. Sandie was quite opposite. She loved having fun than doing her chores. Sandie was to wash all the tiles every week and it had been a month now and no washing on the tiles. They looked really dirty. After Arni had prepared breakfast, she decided to wash all the tiles before having her bath which she did.
And just when she had finished,
“What have you been doing all day long?” Mum asked with fury in her voice.
“I…I was washing the tiles but I’ve prepared breakfast already”, Arni managed to reply. She thought she had done the family a huge favour by preparing breakfast that early.
“Is that what you were meant to do? Weren’t you supposed to have taken your bath and gotten dressed? Don’t you know we are expecting some visitors this morning?”
Arni didn’t reply. She just stood staring blankly. “Now go and have your bath. Nonsense!” mum yelled.
Arni just smiled and left. She had learnt to smile in all situations, not because it made her happy, but because she wanted to feel like it didn’t matter to her. She promised herself not to cry even if she was beaten. She believed she was the guy in the house since she had no brother. She had trained herself not to behave like every other normal girl would. She loved hanging out with guys. She even began to gradually think like them. Showing weakness in the face of fear was one thing she detested. No matter what happened, she had to remain strong.
“I just can’t wait to get back to school. At least, I would be away from them for a while. Dear God, please help us to get over this. I’ve really don’t want to leave home for anything. Please, I don’t wanna be pushed to the wall”, she muttered under her breath.
In the evening, the family sat together in the living room watching a drama on TV. During the ads, dad sent Arni to get his brief case and he pulled out a bank teller from it. “This is for your school fees, Arni”.
“Thanks dad. I am grateful” she said as she took the teller to her school bag.
It was two days to resumption and Arni had gotten her box, uniforms and every other thing she needed ready for school. She promised herself to make her family proud especially her dad since they did everything possible to provide all her basic needs despite what was happening in the economy. Arni was starting a new class and so mum gave her all the things she thought she would need. She was starting her final year in high school and would soon be out of secondary school. Mum was already preparing for her graduation. Since Arni was their first child, they wanted her to make a landmark in the family.
Arni attended a private boarding school-Hilltop Academy in the centre of the country’s capital, Abuja. Arni’s parents sent all their children to private schools because of the poor standard of education in public schools. Arni was a brilliant student and had won several awards due to her outstanding performance. Arni knew that this stage was crucial and she decided not to take part in any competitions or irrelevant extra-curricular activities or responsibilities. She wanted to make the best result.
It was Thursday night. Everyone was asleep except dad who didn’t usually sleep early. Arni’s phone began to ring. She let it in the living room because she didn’t do midnight calls and wasn’t expecting anyone to call her at night. He answered the call.
“Hello, hellooo” and the caller hung up. Dad did not say or do anything. He just continued what he was doing.
The next day, they had their family devotion as usual and they set to work. As dad was preparing to leave, he called Arni.
“Who was the boy that called your phone last night?” he asked pryingly.
“My phone? Nobody”, Arni replied confidently.
“What do you mean by nobody? An unknown number called and when I picked the call, he caller terminated it and you stand there telling me it was nobody that called. Do you want to tell me it was a ghost that called your phone last night?” dad yelled.
“Maybe it was one” Arni said to herself.
She didn’t know what to say. She knew that different people had her number-both male and female so how would she know if it was even a boy that called before even thinking of his name. She had to answer quickly to avoid suspicion. “I don’t know, Sir”.
“Oh, you don’t know right? Not to worry, I have taken note o the number and I am going to find out who that caller is”, dad threatened as he stomped out of the house.
Arni knew her parents didn’t make empty threats but she wasn’t bothered because whoever the person was, she knew she didn’t have a dirty relationship with the person.
Not long after, mum called Arni and asked her who the caller was. Arni said she didn’t know. She never told anyone to call her at night so how was she expected to know.
“How do you expect me to believe you? You know very well that your father and I don’t trust you, not even a bit”, mum queried.
Arni had heard that a thousand and one times so there was nothing new in all that she was going to say.
“Sometimes, I wonder if these people are actually my real parents. I don’t even know what I did in the first place that made them not to trust me. All through the years, their slogan for me is “I don’t trust you”, “I don’t trust you”, “I don’t trust you”. When the hell are they going to trust me? Well, it doesn’t freak me anymore”, Arni said to herself as she sat alone in the room. She couldn’t just say anything when her sisters were around especially Sandie because she was a real talkative.