Rays from the 10.00 AM sun stream in from the open window of our living room, bringing in the scent of ripening mangoes and making my sister’s brown hair look even more golden. She is seated on the the tiled floor, hunched over the book she’s reading. My twelve-year-old cousin, Fay, is also in the living room, lying on her stomach and dangling her feet in the air and attempting some past questions. She looks up at me to check if I’m really busy. Seeing me staring at them, she smiles and brings me her book to help her answer some questions in literature. I answer the questions and turn to my books; I want to finish analysing Tennyson’s In Memoriam today.
I cast a last glance at my sister absorbed in her studies. She really does look like a cherub sitting there; with her hair looking like an angel’s and the gentle tremble of her left cheek when she sucks in her lower lip. She’s only thirteen, but she’s the most understanding of my need for quietness and solitude. She reminds me of Richard’s Susan? Susannah? in Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun in the ways she constantly and quietly feels my mug with warm water on those days when I spend long hours on the dining table, struggling with my studies.
The silence in the living room reigns for about half an hour, with all of us absorbed in our studies. The silence doesn’t last long, it never does in my home. The fragrance of mum’s cologne soon assault my senses and I hear her enter the living room.
“Mimi, what are you reading today?” she asks my sister. I turn to look at her, she’s wearing a polo that looks suspiciously like dad’s. Since the lockdown, she’s been wearing his clothes.
“English,” Mimi replies absently.
“But, isn’t that what you studied yesterday?” Mummy asks again, this time her voice rising slightly.
“No, it was the day before yesterday. I studied Math and Basic Science yesterday,” Mimi says, a little grumpy at being disturbed.
“You shouldn’t study English all the time, English is basic. You need to study your science subjects more. You need to face your science subjects more so that you’ll have higher chances of studying Medicine in the university and becoming a doctor.”
“But doctors need to know how to speak English too!”
“Dumebi, you will do as I say! All of you are pocket lawyers in this house. All your elder sisters are inclined to the arts, you will not follow suit. Take your science subjects seriously, ịnụgo?” Mum says to my sister but she’s looking at me, as if daring me to contest her.
I don’t. I just want to tune them out and study. I laugh a little at my mum, though. She needn’t worry, Mimi doesn’t have a single art bone in her body.