He arrived first as always. The perfectionist in him allowed no room for otherwise - either on time or before it. He was stiff and so were his actions. He stiffly took off his shoe at the front door, stiffly tugged at his collar at the door to Mama’s room and stiffly rolled up his sleeves in the kitchen. But he calmed down as soon as he took an onion and slide a knife deftly into it. His mother said cooking was his therapy and she was right.
Next in line was his sister with her little daughter in tow, poised with the air of someone ready for a confrontation. Their brothers, the twins arrived a few minutes later and were always oblivious to the tension as always.
The little girl helped set the table while the siblings walked around the tiny apartment like strangers, refusing to meet each other's eyes. If you were not paying attention you would think they were conversing amongst themselves but in truth, each was having a loud personal conversation, trying to convince themselves that the others did not exist.
Mama's door opened and all her children trouped to the table and sat round it. One would think they should have waited for the door to close, a clear indicator that she was truly out but I guess they knew their mother's games.
The next sound of a door was that of the dining room’s. Mama walked in and stood before her chair, her eyes settling on everyone in this challenging way. They stayed on the little girl longest before going back to her mother.
She said nothing, only motioned for me to join them and that made all her children turn to do the looking. I am quite sure my every movement from the kitchen door to the seat beside Mama's was recorded in HD in their brains. Mama took her seat after me, said the Grace and opened the dish after the sorrowful ‘amen’ that followed.
The little girl rapped her spoon on the table and Mama's eyes caught her again
“Why is that stranger making noise in my house Chinwe?” She asked, her voice venomous. But her daughter could only shake in her seat and say nothing.
“That is your grandchild mommy, not a stranger”. That was one of the twins with an ugly smile on his face.
“That thing is not my blood”, Mama spat in reply, still vicious even in old age.
“Well she is and there's nothing you can do to change that!” was her daughter's hot comeback. I guess this was the confrontation she was expecting.
The other twin had his eyes on his plate, calmly chewing like there was no one else in the room, his face blank. The first son calmly rapped his spoon on his glass of wine “Happy Easter!”. At that everything went back to normal. Mama to her soulless eating with her eyes closed, Chinwe trying to fold her anger in to a napkin and that twin drinking too fast from his glass, eyes sparkling.
They managed to get through the first course - it was a Herculean task - but the bubble busted again when the little girl asked for the chicken leg.
“Only accepted members of this family are allowed to speak at this table “, Mama said the challenge in her words evident as she stared at her daughter.
At this Chinwe shot up from her chair, upsetting her glass staining the white table cloth red “I will not let you abuse my daughter like you abused me”. Her eyes were red hot.
“You ungrateful slut! I gave you everything, and how do you repay me? With this thing that does not know its father.” Mama was on her feet too and was breathing heavily.
“Would you like some wine?” That was the ugly twin and he was asking the little girl. But his twin came to life and took the bottle from his hand “I think some of us should remain sober.”
Mama's first son kept eating calmly which was odd until I noticed that he had earphones on, he could not hear a thing. Lucky him.
The little girl had tears in her eyes as she watched her mother and grandmother shout at each other. I just stood in a corner so confused. And so I took the fire extinguisher and blasted into the air.
I guess I sprayed for a long time because the entire room was white when I finally opened my eyes, and everyone was staring at me “I thought there was a fire,” was my lame excuse.
“Well then,” said the ugly twin, “I guess Easter lunch is over. Jide will you drive? I'm a little tipsy” the smile on his face was wide.“A little is an understatement” mumbled his twin, twirling his keys on how way to the door.
Chinwe grabbed her little girl's hand and they made their way out, and Mama retreated to her room.
So I was left alone again with the first son. He was too good, he could not leave with his mother's house in a mess. Besides, he wanted to help me clean up, he didn't want to pay more than already calculated.