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I am startled. I laugh at myself immediately, I shouldn’t be startled; not anymore. I should be used to this scene; it has been this way since I was able to walk. Every morning, I walk to the large kitchen and fetch myself a glass of water but on my birthdays, my family would be there holding a birthday cake and wearing a beautiful smile, each of them.
As I stand in the dinning room, seeing the happy faces of my entire family; my dad, mum, and two elder identical twin-sisters, I smile.
I walk up to my tall, dark Father; Olusegun Oke, a brilliant Engineer and a successful entrepreneur. He is still in his pajamas and his present state doesn’t reveal his successful career and wealth but a demeanor of a loving father.
He had his hands on my Mother’s shoulder and as I moved towards him, he wraps his hands around me, his son… his only son.
‘’Daniel Olumide, my only son. Happy birthday! Many happy returns’’ he says in his husky voice. I smile as I pat his back. Afterwards, I walk over to my always radiant Mum. She is smiling and has tears on her eyes.
‘’Mum . . . come on, we said no tears today’’ I whine, stroking my Mother’s wet cheeks. Truth is she always cries on my birthdays and pretty much every happy moments we all share together as a family. She can be very emotional, but I love her, so much. She sniffles and gives me a motherly hug.
‘’I know… I am just so happy my little baby is now 20 years.’’ She croaks. l roll my eyes playfully while my face was flushed with shyness – the kind of shyness that occurs whenever there is a display of affection from my mother.
My sisters giggle. I scowl at them. Taye, who is my favorite because of her super-tough attitude, is in an over-sized sweater and pajama shorts, while Kenny is dressed in an alluring white 1980s night gown. She is the girly type. She takes after my Mother in all things. It’s sometimes frustrating to have two of my Mum at home; they have a lot in common. But I will always love her dearly. The twins were both two beautiful women who had few things in common but together, they were my Father’s favourites.
Parents rarely blurt out the child they chose as their favourite to avoid hate and envy among the rest of the children but actions speaks louder than words.
Everyone knew the twins have a special place in my Father’s heart. He often trieshard not to display his affection but the twins were different. He often said they were the siblings he never had.
Growing up as the only child of a wealthy family, my dad had everything he wanted. He was raised in Nigeria and also in America and when his father discovered he wouldn’t be having another child; he made sure Dad had the best education that money could buy. So Dad majored in Engineering in college and moved on to a postgraduate school in America. As soon as he turned thirty, the family summoned him to come back home, maintain the family business and marry the lady they had arranged for him.
The idea sounded absurd to him initially – managing the family business. He wanted to have something he could call his own and since the family business was entirely on textile production, he began his own telecommunications company and managed the textile company under his wing. He didn’t like the idea of an arranged marriage; the lady was the daughter of his father’s friend. He wished he could select the woman he would spend the rest of his life with but when he laid eyes on my Mum, my Dad said that was the greatest moment of his life.
‘’She was a ray of sunshine, looking trimmed and her personality was to die for. She was the perfect woman for me,’’ Dad would say, whenever he narrated the story to my sisters and I with Mum by his side, grinning and squeezing his hand. ‘’She was unbothered with my wealth or my family. She just wanted to please her family and meet with me but — ’’
‘’But it was love at first sight for the both of us.’’ My mom would complete the sentence for him. It became so original that their love story couldn’t be narrated in any other style and so my sisters and I would speak along with them.
‘’Happy birthday little bro’’ my sisters chorus, sharing a group hug with me.
‘’Hey! You guys are just four years older than me. Don’t get all ‘’elderly’’ ‘’ I grumble as I release myself.
‘’Four years is a big deal, young man’’ Mom warns lightly. We all giggle. This is always a frequent issue with my Mom and I.
‘’Thanks Mum, Dad, Taye and Kehinde… I really appreciate this’’ I say shyly. You would think being a writer and a speaker in various school and extra-curriculum activities would have trained me not to mutter my words. But I always choke up whenever I talk to my family. They are the best part of my existence.
‘’Awwn, look at him get all cute. We love you too’’ Kehinde says leaning forward for a hug. I shake my head in frustration.
‘’Yeah, as much as I would love to stare at y’all; today is Friday. We need to keep it moving.’’ Taye says dryly in her signature almost-baritone voice.
‘’TAYE!’’ Everyone glares at her. I chuckle. Always count on Taye to remind you of the inevitable. One thing I always hate and love about her.
‘’Don’t you have an 8 am class?’’ Mum asks me as everyone dispersed to get ready for the day.
‘’Yes Mum, I better get ready. Are you guys okay in the kitchen?’’ I call out from the family living room upstairs. The kitchen is downstairs adjacent the spacious dining room.
‘’Yeah, go get ready’’ she replies and gives me a warm motherly hug and kiss on my forehead.
‘’Happy birthday Danny!’’ The familiar voice of the House-keeper, Nana Sam calls out from the kitchen. She is the only one who calls me Danny and she has been calling me that for as long as I can remember. Her husband, Papa Sam and her have been living with us since I was eight years old. She is a wonderful woman. I walk down the stairs towards her as she walks out of the kitchen. She is in her ever-white apron tied around her waist. She squeezes me for a hug and she smells of nutmeg and butter and frostings. She made the birthday cake.
She also makes the best grilled sandwiches in the whole world (even better than Mom’s. Larry practically begs her to fix him a grilled sandwich whenever he visits).
‘’Thanks Nana Sam.’’ I say as soon as she releases me.
‘’My Danny is growing up before my eyes. Soon you will bring your lady home and poof! . . . You are a full grown man.’’
‘’You don’t have to worry, it is not yet the time.’’ I chuckle as I catch my breath.
‘’You cannot plan love my dear or who you fall in love with. It just happens.’’ She says adjusting my glasses.
To avoid any of her usual deep speeches about love and women, I quickly hug her and run up the stairs. I could hear her croaked laughter as I walk through the hallway.
The hallway is filled different family photographs. I enter my bedroom and close the door behind me. Sighing, I stroll to my reading desk filled with various magazines, newspapers, laptop, notebooks and phone. I was working late on a story last night, hoping to turn it to the no 1 issue on this month’s students Magazine. But the thing is I don’t really know what story to write yet. It is my final year in the school. My editor says it has to be a page turner and fresh. Basically it would be like a last hurrah for me.
Writing is my life; it was my beginning and it is my future. I enjoy doing it so much. I got really lucky and blessed to be discovered at a young age. I won a lot of prizes for essay competitions during my secondary school days. I was so sure I wanted to be a Journalist. I wanted to study abroad like my sisters did but Mum wouldn’t allow me live far away from home. She sulked on the fateful day I told her I was going to apply for colleges in America. I thought it was a phase that would pass away. But as I bought books and I studied for the SAT, Mum stayed quiet and detached for weeks like a parent who wanted the best for her child but still wanted her desire considered.
On the morning of my SAT, I heard a shrill cry downstairs and I rushed down to see what happened. It was Nana Sam, blowing air to my mother’s unconscious body on the floor.
Thankfully, we were able to revive her and Dad insisted the family doctor show up. Dr. Yemi told Dad her blood pressure increased and it resulted into her fainting. I could remember feeling guilty and sad. She must have been worried about me leaving the country. She wasn’t that worried when the twins left, they were practically away from home often. They were enrolled in a private boarding school in Lagos throughout their secondary school days.
I couldn’t sit for the SAT that day. I stayed home sitting beside my mum in my Parents’ bedroom. Watching her chest rise and fall and imagining what could have been if she was alone in the kitchen when she fainted.
That evening, I told Dad I would study in Nigeria for my first degree. He starred at me for a moment and sighed heavily. Understanding why I had to make the decision, I could see in my Father’s eyes a sign of relief as though I read his mind. He wanted me to study abroad like my sisters but he couldn’t bear losing my Mum. None of us could.
‘’I understand, it would make your mum happy. Thank you.’’ He had said to me and I nodded in approval.
So I applied for admission into University of Ibadan, it was few miles from home and I settled for studying communications and language arts. Mum got better eventually and all was back to normal.
I got a spot at the student newspaper and now I am one of their student writers. I also got the opportunity to be a freelance Writer but working on the school team has been wonderful and I have enjoyed it since my first year. Since I will be going to be graduating soon, I will need it as an impressive working experience. My dream is to be a seasoned Journalist in the future. For me, nothing gets better than that. Growing up in a wealthy yet hardworking family has taught me to always keep my head in the game and stay focused. There must be discipline in everything that I do. I should also see every opportunity as a privilege and not a right.
Glancing at my wall clock, I scurry into my bathroom and take a quick shower. Mondays are always very hectic for me. I have lectures, then I have the evening to hang out with my closest friends; Lanre ‘’Larry’’, my best friend, also on the student Magazine team, Chima, a lifestyle blogger and Larry’s longtime girlfriend, and my on-and-off girlfriend, Amaka. Amaka is my oldest friend; she was the first person I met when I resumed to the University. I got attracted to her sweet quirky personality. We have tried taking our relationship serious, but it always turned to a real mess. Together, we were just wrong but she is one of those friends you cannot just let go of. They always stick around.
Getting out the bathroom, I stare at my mirror in my closet. I choose a simple outfit and I grin at my reflection, pack my laptop, books and newspaper into my black cross-bag
My phone beeps and I glance at it. It’s from Amaka.
Happy birthday to a special person always close to my heart. Hope to see you soon.
I decide not to reply, since I would be seeing her in school soon. Besides, I don’t want to be late. Quickly, I run downstairs and join the rest of the Family on the dining table having breakfast and chatting happily. They are all dressed formally.
‘’Hmmm, you look dashing’’ Taye says as I take my seat next to her giving her a quick peck. She looks immaculate in a black designer shirt and brown skirt and a black jacket. Her pixie cut complimented her look. She is a Lawyer for a hot-shot Firm at Lagos and she takes her job very seriously. Kehinde is dressed in a white plain shirt, and red cropped pants. Her hair-do is long and wavy. She is a consultant for a top Modeling and Fashion Agency, also at Lagos. Lagos was their second home, and they both lived together in Dad’s duplex at Lekki. It is my birthday weekend so everyone is obliged to be around.
‘’So are you taking your friend’s out after school?’’ Dad asks sipping his tea carefully. He is dressed in his grey suit and black tie, looking formal and very business-like.
‘’Yes Sir. It’s already an annual thing’’ I smirk. Mum chuckles. She is looking elegant as usual in a flowing chiffon gown. Mum is a business woman. She has several chains of super markets in the country. In this family, everyone is a hard worker.
‘’Well, have fun and don’t drive in late. If you are going to stay with Larry in his apartment, inform me. Okay Son?’’ he says, looking down at his meal.
‘’I will Sir’’ I reply politely. Every morning Dad would say this, even when most of the times I would eventually come home. The only times I had stayed out were during examination periods when I had to study hard with the group. So I would either crash at Larry’s dorm or Amaka’s; depending on whether Chima was staying over at Larry’s or Amaka and I are no longer a ‘’thing’’ just because 1. Amaka and I had our usual stupid fights or 2. We weren’t just feeling up to being in the same room at that particular moment. But most of the times, I had stayed at Larry’s.
I watch as my family eats their breakfast and Dad asks Taye about this new grueling case she and her firm are handling. I am not really paying attention to whatever they are saying but I just love watching my family chatting animatedly.
This breakfast-at-the-dining-table scene has been forever. Well, except for the times the Twins were at the boarding school and college. I, on the other hand, wasn’t allowed to go to a boarding school. Mom didn’t have the heart to release me. Most of my days are spent with my friends, school, few parties, Editorial meetings and home.
It sounds stale and planned but I don’t care. I love it that way. At least for now, before life has others plans for me.
Every story has to have a beginning, a point that propels the reader to the middle part. Daniel Oke is every reason why you should check back for the next chapter. Why? Because fate works in a mysterious way.
Thanks for reading,
Pssst! click here for the next chapter – MUSE AND MEMORIES 3