HALF IS ALL IT TAKES V by Engee Mbah
I am not what you would describe as a vain person. I have never been one to fuss over what I wear or how I look; just give me a clean dress and I am fine. Today, how ever, I have changed clothes like a million times, from a bright yellow dress that made me look like a teenager, to a red blouse and navy blue skirt that made me look like I was a deeper life, then an ash Caribbean skirt that made me look my mother’s age. Now, I am wearing an ash gown, examining myself in the mirror and wondering if it makes me look too serious. The image on the mirror looks pretty tired. That’s not surprising, considering I hadn’t slept a wink last night. Nerves didn’t let me. I am meeting my father, no, ‘sperm donor’, today. That’s what I decided to call him, after some thought. He isn’t my father.
I apply make up, just a little, so that my mother doesn’t tell me to wipe it all off, or worse still, wash it off herself. She did that once, sometime last year.
I am putting my wristwatch around my left wrist when my door opens, with no warning. My mother pokes her head in.
‘Are you ready? Let us leave.’ She says.
‘I am done.’ I answer. My mother looks awesome, with her lilac blouse, tucked into a form fitting grey skirt. She looks like she took extra care with her appearance today, which is kind of rare.
‘Are you going somewhere special, today?’ I ask, as we step out.
‘No. Just work.’ She replies, with a puzzled frown, as she locks the door. My father has already left for work. These days, he leaves pretty early. I think my parents are having issues, but I am yet to confirm.
We enter my mother’s car and we drive off. I am sweating, despite the fact that it is a cold morning. My nerves just refuse to settle, no matter how hard I try. I bite my nails to blunt ugly looking nubs, as my mother steers the vehicle towards Emordi estate.
She stops in front of a huge black gate and toots her horn. A yellow, balding man comes out through the small gate and walks up to the driver side of the vehicle.
‘He is expecting me.’ My mother says, as though she is familiar with the gateman.
The man rushes back into the compound and opens the big gate, to let us in.
As I step out of the car, I stand frozen. I can feel my jaw unlock.
Lawd of mercy, the man must be loaded! He lives in a real life mansion, for goodness sake! And even has a well tended flower garden, the kind I have only seen in big hotels and television. Not that my parents are poor or anything; in fact, they are quite okay.
There are more cars in the garage than a single family needs, I notice.
My mother’s, ‘what are you standing there for?’, jerks me into mobility. I hurry after her as she heads towards the building. We get to the door. My mother raises her hand to press the doorbell, and I pull it down.
‘Let’s go home.’ I say. My mother looks at me like she can’t understand what I am talking about.
‘I don’t want to meet him.’ I say. I think I am afraid; but I can’t exactly tell what I am afraid of.
My mother just looks at me for some seconds, then strongly presses the doorbell, as though making a point.
‘Better mind yourself. You are the one that said you wanted to meet him.’ She tells me.
‘I didn’t categorically say…’ I don’t finish my statement, as the door opens. A middle aged woman, a tad on the robust side, throws us an award worthy smile.
‘Good morning. He is expecting you.’ She says, ushering us into the house.
‘He is waiting in the sitting room. Follow me.’ She says.
‘How does she know we are the ones he’s expecting?’ I whisper to my mother, as we follow the odd woman. My mother gives me a shrug. The woman ushers us into the sitting room, then vacates.
The first thing I think as my eyes sweep over the room is, ‘Some people get money for this country sha.’ Then I notice a dark skinned,middle aged man, with an afro covered head seated on one of the cushions. He is grinning, as he motions us to sit.
My mother sits. The furniture looks so expensive, I am afraid to put my middle class bum on it. I finally sit, though gingerly.
‘Good morning, sir.’ I remember to greet, but only after my mother throws me her trademark, ‘if I slap you, you will receive sense’, look. He replies the greeting. My mother takes the lead with small talk, and they converse for a while. From the small talk, I gleen that the man does have a family, a wife and three children who are currently outside the the country. Inwardly, I sigh. People are sending their children outside the country, while the only time, I have left the state is to go to the university. Life is not fair, sha.
I snap out of my thoughts when the man asks what the house keeper can get us and my mother says, ‘Nothing for me. I’ll head on to work, so the two of you can talk. I am already late.’
All I can think is, What! She is going to leave me alone with this stranger! What am I supposed to say to him?!
My mother stands and walks out of the room. Is it just me or is there a swing to her step? I have no time to ponder on that as the man moves to the cushion nearest to the one I am occupying. I seriously consider fleeing, running after my mother and begging her not to leave me. I steel myself against that very juvenile response. I stare at the man, waiting for him to speak. He is the older one and so should take the lead, I figure. For some seconds, though we stare at each other; after which he breaks the ice. Surprisingly, we have quite an animated discussion for two people who just met each other.
The housekeeper serves me juice that I drain in few minutes. We are laughing about something hilarious that he said when a young man walks into the sitting room.
‘Dad, Good morning.’ He greets. Didn’t the man tell my mum that his kids are out of the country with his wife?
‘Come here, there’s someone I’ld like you to meet.’ My ‘sperm donor’ waves to the young man to come closer. He does, and that’s when I get a good look at him.
‘What is Charles doing here?’ That’s the first thought that runs through my mind. But, wait, did he just call my ‘sperm donor’ dad?