“Bubu. Bubu!” Miz Mo called.
Music was playing, but it was not so loud that I could not hear my niece calling her friend and playmate.
I looked up from the turkey I was grilling and saw Abdullah dancing and pointedly ignoring her.
The last time I wrote about the kids in my life, they were aged 4, 3, 2, 1 and new born. Time has passed and the kids have grown.
In that time Efo, Osa and their baby brother moved with their parents to their own house somewhere close to Lagos;
Ayo and Arafa’s mother had another baby, a boy this time;
M.O.N.C has a baby brother, and Miz Mo, my older niece, spends most weekends at mine to be close to Abidemi.
As only children can, soon enough Miz Mo made friends with my neighbours’ children, and on one of those weekends, she returned from a visit downstairs at Abdullah’s with a plastic ring.
Abdullah is at an age where superheroes are as real to him as a trip to Shoprite. His favourite superhero has always been Ben 10, but every once in a while he found a superhero he liked almost as much as Ben Tennyson. This time it was The Green Lantern.
When my niece came upstairs with a Green Lantern ring, I knew instantly where she got it from and, thinking she had come home with it by mistake, I asked her to return it.
“My friend gave it to me.” She whined.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Yes. He said he wanted me to have it.”
I called Abdullah’s mother to ask her and she confirmed it was true.
Miz Mo wore the ring to bed that night and to church the next day. When she came visiting the next weekend, the ring did not return with her; I noticed because I was looking out for it.
Over the weeks and months their friendship grew and I appreciated it because, being quite intelligent for his age, Abdullah challenged her academically, and this is good for her; for both of them.
For two months preceding his fifth birthday, almost every conversation with Abdullah or his mother was incomplete without a mention of his birthday, and for the two days leading up to it, everything his mother did was about the birthday.
She bought a quarter of a cow and some turkey, rented chairs and canopies, made arrangements for women to come and cook, there was a DJ, decorations, souvenirs. The only thing missing was a bride.
“Neibor,” I would tease her. “Are you sure it is only birthday that you are preparing for?”
“Wo uncle Frankkie, you don’t know the fifth birthday is important for a child?”
“Ehen nah. The important birthdays are the first birthday, the fifth, the tenth, the eighteenth and the twenty-first. After that it is the fortieth.” She lectured me.
“Hian! I didn’t know o.” I said with a straight face.
“Do you remember your fifth birthday?” I asked once. “Or your twenty-first? No? Neither do I.”
She hissed at me.
“Uncle Frankkie leave me o.”
“Shuo! I have left you since.”
Through all of these her husband was silent; that was his nature.
The birthday finally came and I woke up to the sounds and smell of cooking.
The children were all excited, running all over the place.
I soon set up the grill for the barbecue.
Miz Mo was sent upstairs to watch Abidemi who was sleeping, so she followed events from the balcony.
That was where she was when Esther arrived with her mom.
Esther was about four years old, was dressed in a navy blue gown with flower patterns, and her hair was dressed up with colourful ribbons.
“Where is the birthday boy?” Her mom asked no one in particular before making her way into Bubu’s house. Abdullah came out shortly after with Esther in tow. Everywhere he went, Esther was not too far behind; she was like the moon to his Earth.
I did not pay them much mind; the smoke and heat from the charcoal grill was giving me more than enough to worry about.
I had even forgotten about them until I heard Miz Mo calling for him from the balcony from where she looked down.
Still Abdullah ignored her.
“Chidera,” she called out to another neighbour’s kid, “help me to call Abdullahi.”
Chidera took three steps to cover the distance between them before poking Abdullah.
“Momo is calling you.”
“Leave me alone!”
Abdullah’s scream had the immediate effect of making me want to laugh, but I could not laugh because, kids they may be, a delicate situation was still a delicate situation.
Chidera returned to where she was and Miz Mo didn’t call for Abdullah again.
Later that day, after Abidemi had woken up, Miz Mo finally came downstairs.
It happened that at the time she walked past Bubu’s door, Esther was behind the screen, locked in.
“Open the net for me,” Esther called as she walked past.
I cannot say if Miz Mo heard her or not. What I can say though is, she carried on and walked right past the screen to go and join Chidera without breaking her stride.
They say heaven hath no rage like love to hate turned, and hell no fury like a woman scorned; I say children learn fast, and forget even faster. Because the next weekend Miz Mo and Bubu were back to being best friends.
PS: This morning I lay in bed and listened for the pitter patter of tiny feet. I lay still, ready to press my eyes closed when the bedroom door slammed open. It’s a game Abidemi and I have played since she learnt to open my door.
She would scramble down her mother’s bed, pad through to my bedroom door and wait there a moment.
Sometimes she would call out in her unintelligible tongue, other times she would not. Then she would reach up till her fingers touch the door handle. Standing on her toes she would turn the handle before heaving the door open with a crash.
Some days I would return home to find my shoes strewn everywhere, and belts too. On those days I resented the intrusion.
So today, I lay in bed and waited for the whirlwind that is Abidemi.
I lay here in silence and waited, but this silence was too loud.
After a few minutes I got out of bed and walked through the house.
There were still signs that Abidemi once lived here, just enough to drive it home that she was gone.
Last night Abidemi with her mother got on a plane that took them far far away from me.
PPS: I miss my sister, but more than her, I miss my niece; uncle Frankkie’s little girl.