3: Hate and Anger

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let it hurt. Then let it go ~ r.h. Sin

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"How was your first day in your new school?" Isabelle's dad - Mr. Desmond Onyenorah - asked. 

Her parents had come home from work, earlier than usual, so they were having diner together. 

Isabelle's parents has owned an event planning firm for twenty years now. Isabelle's mom headed the catering section, since she was a skilled chef and her dad managed the accounts. They had employees, who saw to the other aspects of the business. 

The organization was created before Isabelle was born and has managed to make a name for themselves; subsequently, lessening their leisure hours. Although they were always busy, they managed to spend some time with their daughter. 

"It was okay," Isabelle said after a long pause. 

"After all the excitement you and Emily showed these past few weeks, you don't sound too impressed or anything," Her mom mentioned before taking a spoonful of her food.

And those were the only words Isabelle knew her mom would say. Her mom stuck to the food etiquette which disregarded talking while eating. Sometimes, she spared them a few words and allowed them keep conversations; but if it took too long, she gave them a look that shut them up at once.

"The school's worth the hype," Isabelle said. "But the people there... I don't know. They seem unfriendly."

"Unfriendly?" Her father repeated, finally taking his eyes off his food. "How come? Hope they are not bullying you?"

"Not at all. That's just the vibe I got from everyone there, although there are some people in my class that invited us to sit with them at their table during lunch," Isabelle paused. "They seemed nice. They're all prefects."

"That means they're smart students," her father said, pointing his fork to her. "That's the kind of people you should move with. People that will make good impacts in your life."

Isabelle simply nodded. She did agree that they must be smart students – given their position in school – but something about their group seemed a bit off. It wasn't just with that Jemina girl, and Isabelle wouldn't tell her parents because she suspected they might panic. She didn't want that. She wanted to get a closer look before taking any action. 

At Jessica's table, they did chat like old pals, but the conversation didn't include everyone. Opeoluwa had spent most of her time probing at her food than actually eating it. Joel kept his attention on his phone. Jessica and Bankole did make a few inputs in the conversation, which was mostly between Grace and Emily, but had spent most of their time either stealing glances at Isabelle or at each other. It was like there was a silent argument going on between the two.

"I saw the tuition fee," Isabelle later said. "It's outrageous."

"Isabelle," her mom reprimanded and she apologized.

Though her mom hated talking while eating, Isabelle sometimes disliked the silence they shared during meals.

Soon, they were done with dinner and off Mrs. Onyenorah's no-talking rule.

"Why didn't you tell me about the school fee?" Isabelle asked as she helped her mom clear the table.

"And why should we have done that?" Her father asked as he helped them out.

"Honey, I thought you liked this school and wanted to change to it," her mom reminded.

"I do like Badmus High, but should we be spending that much? Only on tuition fee?" 

Isabelle turned from the sink and her mom pulled her cheeks.

"Awn, my baby is worried about mommy and daddy's spending."

"Mom." Isabelle scowled and removed her mom's hands from her cheeks.

"Why work if we can't spend it on you?" Her dad called from the dining room as he cleaned the table. “Besides, we're not paying all of it.”

"I still think-"

"You shouldn't think anything," Mrs. Onyenorah stopped Isabelle mid-speech. "You're our only child and you deserve every penny we spend on you." 

Isabelle stifled a smile, though grateful.

The dining room had been cleaned up and Isabelle's mom was examining the fridge as her dad entered the sitting room.

"Mom." 

"Yes, honey," Mrs. Onyenorah closed the fridge.

"Our religion. We're Christians too, right?" Isabelle asked, leaning back on the sink with her hands behind her.

"Of course."

"But why are we so different from everyone? And why is it that people hardly know anything about us?"

Her mom let out a sigh, retying the strings of her robe and moving to stand beside her, arms folded over her chest. She began replying Isabelle's question by reminding her what it means to be a Christian – to be Christ-like. According to the scripure, Jesus entered the synagogue on the seventh day, which is Saturday. 

"We're are mostly known by our tribe – the Igbo people." Mrs. Onyenorah added and Isabelle nodded. "To prove we're Christians, read Acts 11:26 – if I'm correct. The disciples of Christ who kept the commandment of the sabbath and celebrated the designated feasts were called Christians there."

Isabelle hummed, making a mental note to check that verse out. "But the whole world doesn't seem to know this. Does that mean they're wrong?" 

"This path isn't for everyone. Like it is said, many are called but only few are chosen. I'm not saying these people won't make heaven – I'm not the judge of that – but the Bible has enough proof that this is the right path. In the end, God has the final say to every diverse ways of worship."

Isabelle was quiet, letting her mom's words sink in.

"All we just need to do is obey God and his words, and we'll be free from eternal suffering. But I want you to remember how much emphasis he made on keeping the sabbath."

"Yeah. It was the only commandment he said to remember."

Her mom agreed with a nod. "My pity only goes to those who knows of that commandment and decides to do away with it."

Silence clocked in for a while before Isabelle's mom turned to her. "Why did you ask though?" 

"I was just curious. Because when I mentioned it to my classmates, they had no clue of what I was talking about. And it's the same everywhere I go. I felt a little ashamed."

Her mom looked to her with pity. "You shouldn't feel ashamed. It's okay to look like an alien for Christ. I mean, even Jesus wasn't accepted in his own town. As long as you're bold enough to acknowledge God, no matter where you are, trust me, you won't regret it."

Isabelle agreed and was grateful she had a mom who could give her answers to such troubling questions.

"I love you mom."

"I love you too," 

Her mom entered the sitting room to watch TV for a while, before turning in for the night as Isabelle turned on the tap to get a start on the dishes. They'd have bought a dishwasher, if Isabelle hadn't been against it. The vacuum cleaner and the washing machine already did most of the chores in the house and her mom did most of the cooking, since she couldn't trust anyone in her kitchen. Isabelle only cooked when her mom wasn't home.

Washing plates was the only chore that belonged to Isabelle, and she wasn't planning on trading it with a dishwasher. Besides, she enjoyed doing it.

The sound of the TV decreased as Isabelle finished doing the dishes.

"There's something I should tell you," she heard her dad tell her mom. 

She entered the dining room, picking up her phone from the table as she sat on a chair.

"What is it?" Mrs. Onyenorah asked.

Isabelle tapped her forefinger on the fingerprint censor, so as to unlock her Soda Crush.

"I should've have told you yesterday, but we've been really busy that I forgot."

Isabelle tilted her chair back with her weight, letting it stand on its hind legs.

"Okay," her mom drawled.

Hearing her father clear his throat, Isabelle balanced her chair, the fore legs hanging in the air. Her dad only cleared his throat when nervous or angry. And this seemed like the nervous one, stating there was a problem.

"My mom's coming tomorrow."

Instantaneously, Isabelle lost control and fell back.

~~~

A ten-year-old was awoken one early morning by her mom, so she wouldn't miss her flight.

The little girl rubbed her groggy eyes, frowning. “Mom, where are we going?” she spoke in fluent British accent.

She hated waking up early, and despised it even more when someone made her do so.

“Somewhere lovely,” her mom said, with both hands on the girl's cheeks. A few years in England, but her accent was still Nigerian.

Slim, dark-skinned faces with deep brown, down-turned eyes stared at each other. In spite of the frown on the little girl's face, she was the exact replica of her mom.

The little girl saw her mom's eyes grow moist as the woman's smile seemed to widen in a saddening manner.

“Mom, are you crying?” She asked.

“No,” her mom answered with a teary voice and sniffed, dabbing the heels of her hands at the corner of her eyes. 

“But you look like you are,” the little girl said, eyes watering too.

Her mom chuckled lightly. “These are happy tears. I'm overjoyed, because of where we're going.”

“And where's that?”

“If you'd stop asking questions and get dressed, maybe I'll give you a hint.”

At that, the little girl jumped out of bed and dashed into her bathroom. Before long, the car was loaded with two travel bags, a suitcase, and the whole family set off.

“Dad. Dad,” the little girl called from the back-seat, bouncing on the chair. 

“What?” Her father's voice was cold and distant, making her lips pucker as tears filled her eyes.

“Honey,” her mom warned her dad and turned to look at her. “Don't mind your father. You know how grumpy he gets when he wakes up early.” 

The little girl giggled as her dad responded: “I'm not grumpy.” 

This earned him a snicker from both females.

“Where are we going?” The little girl repeated her question as she resumed bouncing on the seat.

“We'll soon be there. I don't want to ruin the surprise,” her mom replied with lips smiling, yet eyes looking sad.

Something felt off, but the little girl said nothing. They arrived at the airport and was met by an older woman the little girl recognized.

“Mrs. Bridget,” she waved ecstatically.

The older woman responded with a warm smile and the little girl ran into her arms.

“And how have you been, my little one?” The older woman asked, lowering her height, so she could look into the girl's eyes.

“Fine. I've missed you so much.” 

Mrs. Bridget used to be her nanny until her daughter gave birth, and she had to leave to attend to her grandchild.

“And I've missed you too,” Mrs. Bridget said, running her hand down the little girl's hair.

The little girl had thick, curly locks, that no matter what they tried, it refused to straighten. So she always carried it in an afro-like style.

“Are you also coming with us?” 

Mrs. Bridget's gaze flickered to her parents, and then returned to her. 

“I guess I am.”

“Yes!” The little girl celebrated with a loud whisper as she drew her elbows back, hand balled into fist. 

They waited for some minutes or so, and then an announcement was made for the passengers boarding the aeroplane going to Nigeria to make their way to the checkpoint. Throughout the wait, none of the adults had said a word; and although the little girl was curious as to why, she'd much rather watch the moving crowd with excitement.

“Baby, your dad and I won't be coming with you,” was the first thing her mom said to her after the announcement.

Her heart sank.

“Why?” Was the only question she could ask as she watched fat tears roll down her mom's eyes.

“I can't explain it to you now, but just know your dad and I love you. And this is for your own good.”

“Mom, are you leaving me?” The little girl asked, eyes wet as they darted to her father, who looked away, clenching and unclenching his jaw.

“No. No,” her mom replied and turned her face to hers. “We love you too too much to do that to you. But right now, we have to let you go away. Just for a while,” she quickly added the latter.

“Mom, I don't want to go.”

“Ebube, be fast. We don't want her to miss her flight,” her dad regarded her mom.

“Can't you see our daughter is crying?” 

“This wasn't my decision.”

“Mom, what's going on? Why are you sending me away?”

The final announcement was made, and by now, the little girl's face was as moist as her mother's.

“Honey, you have to understand me. I can't explain it to you now, but trust me; this is for your own good. This won't be forever, okay?”

“Mom, don't let me go. Please. Did I do anything wrong? Please, forgive me. I won't do it again.”

Emily was awakened by the annoying sound of her ringtone. She chose the noisy tune so she wouldn't feel drawn to humming to it, instead of waking up. Her phone continued to ring and she let out a loud groan.

“God, I hate school!” She sat up. 

The ringtone grew louder, aggravating her the more. Looking both ways, she found the phone on her right side, buzzing on the lamp stand. Picking it up, she swiped the shaking clock to the right and slumped back in her bed.

She had started to drift back to sleep with a subconscious smile when the alarm went off again, prompting a louder growl from her. Caught up in being angry, she had snoozed the alarm, rather than turning it off.

The door flung open and in came her aunt.

“What is wrong with you? Why are you shouting? Don't you know it's just six in the morning?”

“Is it not this stupid alarm,” Emily said as she swiped the shaking clock to the left side this time. “I told Issy not to set the alarm for six, but she didn't listen.” 

“Is that why you want to bring down the whole building?” 

Emily grumbled to herself how she was going to make sure she dealt with Isabelle.

“Sha do and get ready for school. You know I'm not the one driving you two,” her aunt said and left the room.

Emily slumped back in bed, resisting the urge to stand up with a defying moan. Her eyes had started to close, when her aunt called out to her from the other side of the door.

“I hope it's your shower I'm hearing o!” 

Emily kicked her legs in the air, shruging off her duvet. She then lay back on her bed, panting. Finally, she got out of bed and stood in front of her full-length mirror.

“Stupid wannabe-natural hair,” she muttered and pat the edge of her hair with a finger, then stared at her legs. “Stupid long legs.” 

Being a tall girl has always been seen as a disadvantage by Emily; one she disliked more than her stubborn hair. If it wasn't the questions of how the weather was up there, it was the unwanted sympathy from people who 'hoped' her height didn't ruin her chance of finding love. She blamed it on her dad. It's been years since she saw him, but pictures told of his jaw-dropping height; and the fact that she had to inherit such from him only increased her hate for him.

Sighing, she returned her gaze to her face. “Still pretty.” She smiled now and blew a kiss at herself before skipped away.

By the time she was out of her room, her aunt was in the dining room packing lunch for her children. Aunt Jane had two kids: David, who was thirteen years old and Mercy, who was ten. Emily has been living with her widowed Aunt since she was ten. Her aunt had just moved into their recent place when Emily showed up. 

The move was supposed to be a celebratory upgrade for her aunt and her late uncle; but due to his tragic death in a plane crash, it was, rather, a mournful one. Though, thanks to Isabelle and her family, who were their next door neighbours, Aunt Jane managed to survive the ordeal. Emily sometimes hoped her Aunt could love again, but that wasn't likely to happen soon, particularly because she could tell her aunt still reminisced of her late husband.

Mercy's loud giggle filled the air as she and David hurried out behind Emily, almost making her fall.

“Hey! Watch it!” Emily yelled at them.

“Hen-ehn! It's too early for that!” Aunt Jane called.

“Tell Mercy to give me back my book,” David said, glowering hard at his sister, who was on the other side of the center table.

“You cannot catch me.” Mercy stuck out her tongue at him.

David was about to chase after her, when Emily held him back. She reassured him with a look, hands on his shoulders. David might be thirteen, but his height surely was deceiving. Compared to Isabelle, he was a tad taller.

Emily turned to Mercy and tilted her head towards the hardcover book in her hands. “What do you have there?” 

“David's diary.” Mercy showed her, beaming with amusement and pride. 

“David's –” Emily stopped herself from laughing when she turned to see the deep frown on David's face. “Now, Mercy. You know it's not nice to take what's not yours.”

“I only wanted to see the first page, but he won't let me!” 

“Mercy. What does it mean to respect one's privacy?” Emily asked.

Mercy sighed audibly and let her hands fall to her side. “It means allowing a person be, without poke-nosing.” She repeated as Emily had always taught her.

“And what are you doing?”

“But–”

Emily hushed her with a finger in the air.

“I–”

“Beep.” 

Mercy lowered her head and let out another sigh. She drew nearer and Emily stepped aside, so David would collect his book from her. 

With Mercy's hand extended to him, David snatched the book from her hand and muttered a 'Stupid girl'.

“Hey!” Aunt Jane reprimanded, and he turned to meet his mom's narrowed eyes.

Mumbling an apology, he entered the dining room.

 They all sat, and after a short prayer from Aunt Jane, they began eating.

“How was school yesterday?” Aunt Jane asked Emily.

“Awesome,” Emily grinned. “The people there are friendly and the boys are...” She stopped herself by biting her lower lip.

Aunt Jane glanced up at her, a ghost of a smile on her face. “The boys are what?”

“Diligent,” Emily said instead and her aunt chuckled, shaking her head.

“Mom, can you pass me the jam?” Mercy requested from beside her mother.

“Sure honey.” Aunt Jane moved the jam to Mercy's front. “Ebere, your parents called.”

Emily's hand stopped mid-way to her mouth. Having a dream about them was already a bad sign that her aunt would bring up issues related to them. She knew she was being watched, so she recovered quickly and took a large bite of her bread.

“They said you haven't been picking their calls.”

Emily chewed her food slowly, so she wouldn't have to talk.

“They're worried about you.”

And that was the last straw. She dropped her bread on her plate, finished her chocolate in one go and got up.

“I should get going before Isabelle gets upset that I'm late.”

“Ebere,” 

Her Aunt was the only one who called her by her traditional name, and although Emily didn't fancy the name, she couldn't stop the woman. She proceeded to collecting her bag from the floor.

“Ebere, you're being difficult, you know?”

Emily's feet stopped moving for a split second, before they turned so she could look her aunt in the eye.

“I'm being difficult?” Emily repeated. “My parents sent me away and you say I'm being difficult?” 

Mercy ate quietly, head bowed, as David spared Emily a cursory glance and stopped eating.

“That was a long time ago and besides they had their reasons,” Aunt Jane said.

“Which I still don't care about!” Emily snapped. “I was only ten, yet they sent me here with no reason at all!”

“They do have a reason, but you're always refusing to hear them out.”

“And that's because they lost the right to be heard a long time ago. Since they decided at that time that I didn't deserve to know, let them keep their stupid reasons to themselves.” Emily made sure to have the final word before leaving the house.

Slamming the door, she came face to face with a smiling Isabelle.

Isabelle's face fell on seeing her. “What happened?”

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