“Santa clause is coming to town…. “
The song lifted in chorus all the way from the living room. That was from my cousins, whose attention were absorbed by the TV.
There I was, in the kitchen, peeling the yam. I wish I could feel the joy of Christmas likewise. It remained a dream never come true. Soon I was startled by uncle’s thunderous voice. “LYDIA!” He called from the dining table.
“sir!” I answered with a shaky voice and at once walked to him in brisk steps.
“where’s my food?”he asked in a very harsh tone. I trembled on my feet.
“I just finished peeling…” I didn’t finish before a blow landed on my cheek.
“I’ve been sitting here for God-knows-how-long, and you tell me you just finished peeling it?”
“I’m—i’m sorry sir!” i said quietly holding my injured jaw.
I ran back to the kitchen and spat the liquid that filled my mouth, it was blood. My eyes crowded with rivers of tears. I wouldn’t cry out, else I would receive an even worse blow.
As a girl of nine, I literally stopped living since I was five-when my parents died in a ghastly accident. Uncle had ever since then taken custody of me. i’d been living with him and his wife like a living corpse. He had sent me to a low-priced ramshackle school. For I was labelled a blockhead.
“i dont know why i waste my money on you. You should just stay at home,idiot!” Was my uncle’s song for me every morning. Owing to my skinny look, I became the laughing stock in school among my mates and even teachers. My cousins Vicky and Danny—12 and 14 years respectively—were devil’s in disguise. They would always find a way to stir troubles for me, my misfortune was their greatest joy.
Uncle had promised to take them to meet santa clause on Christmas day and they wouldn’t stop rubbing it in my face. While my classmates rattle about the christmas preparations in their homes and the gifts they expect to receive,i just bury my head in my desk. After i finished preparing the meal,i served uncle and my cousins, and kept some in a food warmer for my aunt,i took the last two slices for myself, but my cousins complained that the meal I served them wasn’t going to be enough. I was forced to give them my share. This has happened countless times and I either end up eating left overs or nothing. My stomach kept growling ,I had had nothing all day. I watched from the kitchen has they ate, hoping they wouldn’t finish up their meal, my mouth watered,they kept filling their big mouth with yam and egg. How come I couldn’t eat a part of the meal I made? I was trash to them, I was useless, how come?
I do the laundry which piled up daily, I do the dishes, clean the house, and run errands. As my tiny body stood shaking, I wished my parents were alive, wished I could be freed from this hell, wished I could celebrate Christmas like everyone, sit on Santa’s laps while receiving a present from him like my cousins say they did last Christmas.
Now they are done eating, I walked slowly to the table, using the wall as a support, unfortunately for me nothing remained, they wiped the plates clean with their fingers. I wanted to burst into tears, I cleared the table and walked to the backyard, my body was shaking violently, I wanted to crumble on the floor, worms still threatening deathblow within, like soldiers at war.I sat on the little stair for what seemed like a decade, I kept golping water into my empty stomach, it was already nightfall, I stared at the moonless sky, I could hear the hoot of an owl from the distance and crickets chirping , the cold wind blew on my skin and I shivered, rubbing the goosebumps. I could hear faint voices from inside, then it grew louder. my aunt came home a while ago, surprisingly she didn’t called for my attention,screaming my name like a banshee. She probably bought my cousins new clothes and some decorations for the house.
Christmas was in two days, they’ll all go out and leave me all alone, I thought of a little way I could take advantage of their absence and have my own Christmas, I wouldn’t sit around all day like I’ve done every year. Ideas started springing up-i’d watch tv? No! I’ve been forbidden to do that, and somehow they do find out when I turn the tv on in their absence,and besides I’m not quite down for tv on a special day, yes! I got it, I’d go visit our neighbor—mummy Joy ,her daughter was the only friend I had, and just like her mother Joy was caring and loving, with a bright charming smile that fills me with hope.
Her words were soothing, she was 12, just like Vicky, but unlike Vicky she was an angel sent from heaven to me, she sneaks into our flat sometimes and drives me to hers. I eat enough food than I’ve ever eaten over there,they were the silver lining in my dark world. I waited till they were all asleep before I made a little pap to drink, after that I went to my little spot on the tiled kitchen floor to sleep, our three bedroom flat had no room for me, and I was forbidden to sleep on any of the brand new leather sofas. With my chin on my knees and my arms wrapping my legs, I thought about my hopes, dreams, desires, and Christmas.
The next day—on Christmas Eve, my so called family prepared to go out on a party one of uncle’s friends was throwing.”make sure you roast that whole chicken I left in the freezer before we get back” my aunt ordered, “yes ma’am” I replied.
“let’s get going we can’t be late” Uncle wore his hat and picked up his car keys hurriedly, “have fun being alone” Danny mocked. “No the rats and cockroaches in the house would keep her company” Vicky teased. For the first time, I let them see the anger I felt “leave me alone!” I almost shouted.
They were all surprised. “I see you now have guts ehn?, when we get back you’ll receive what you deserve! ” Uncle threatened and they left. I didn’t care what awaited me, I only cared about tomorrow—Christmas, I placed the chicken into the oven and went to joy’s house to ask how she and her family prepared for Christmas. She told me their plans and she thought it was a good idea for me to come along—her parents had no problem with that. She offered me some meal and I stayed awhile with her, “I’ve never heard you laugh Lydia, why?” joy asked, I didn’t like her bringing that up, I just couldn’t remember the last time I laughed, or maybe I stopped knowing how to.
She waited for me to reply but I just stared at the floor. “do you want some chocolate?” she asked, changing the subject. “yes” I replied, excited within me. I loved chocolate, I just barely got to eat them. I was with Joy for over two hours and suddenly I remembered— “the chicken !” I stood up and ran to our flat. The living room was already filled with smoke,i ran to the kitchen, the smoke was thicker, I unplugged the oven and brought out the black chicken, what I’m I going to do?, I’m in big trouble, that serpent called my aunt is going to kill me!. I heard someone walking towards me, I turned back and saw Joy. “what are you doing here? ” I asked, I was actually more worried of what was going to happen to me than her presence, I was promised punishment because I defended myself for the first time, and now this?
I saw tears in Joy’s eyes, “those devils are going to kill you?”she almost screamed, I saw pity and fear in her eyes for me, I watched her run back home before I could say anything more.
That evening I was beaten almost to my death, “why did you burn the chicken? Evil girl! ” my Aunt kept kicking my head with her legs, her stilettos felt like sharp nails on my skull and Uncle’s belt stung like bees. I could hear my cousins tormenting laughter, they sounded like demons cackling, I laid weak on the floor, I had been yelling for help for almost an hour, I suddenly lost my voice, and I blacked out.
I later woke up in a slightly dark room, I felt excruciating pains all over my body, an hammer was being banged in my head, my body was boiling hot,i groaned and cried, hot tears poured freely, then some shadows walked in, my vision was blury but I heard Joy’s voice and that of her parents, and someone else they referred to as ‘doctor’. Then i closed back my eyes.
I woke up the next day with Joy by my side, “you were here all night” I managed to say. She gave me that her charming smile, it was like a medicine to my soul. “what happened? “I asked. And the words that spilled out of Joy’s lips changed my life completely, she had told her parents I burned the chicken, they had called the police when they heard me yelling for help, the policemen had found me lying unconscious, my uncle and his wife were arrested, Joy’s father was a lawyer so he had sued them for child abuse, I was now under the protection of the law and her parents, I was to stay with them till her father could fight and gain my custody. It all seemed like a dream.
But I was much happier when she promised we would go meet Santa Claus at a funfair coming soon, she urged me to get better, but she was already healing me unknowingly.
Goodluck Lawrence Ayomide !
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