The Baby’s Room
As I glided into the sitting room upstairs – hey, a baby-grand piano – I heard the baby cry. The sound was pleasant to my ear and filled me with such warmth that I felt myself glow. I followed that sweet sound to the nursery, which was down a short passage to the right of the sitting room.
I glided through the door. The room was painted pale blue except for the wall just opposite the door. It held a mural of Okey and Kene gazing adoringly at the baby snuggled in Kene’s arms. I noticed that the crib was placed strategically against the painting of the baby so that his parents adoring gaze seemed extended towards him. The baby was not in the crib though; he was cradled in his nanny’s arms. She stood with her back to the window, on the right side of the room, swinging him from side to side and cooing nonsense words to him.
I walked towards them. When the baby saw me, he stopped crying and stared, eyes wide open. I smiled. He smiled back and gurgled in delight.
‘Ha, you are happy now,’ the nanny said, swinging him even harder. ‘You like this, don’t you?’
I wished I could punch her. She stopped after five hard swings and cradled the baby against her shoulder. He immediately spat up.
‘Oh, sorry,’ she said, rushing to the crib to get a burp cloth. She wiped his mouth.
‘You want to sleep, don’t you?’ She held his head to her shoulder and started to hum. I knew the tune. It wasn’t a lullaby but a song by Flavour.
‘My destiny, I want to rule my destiny,’ the nanny sang and swayed to the music.
‘Don’t we all?’ I said to her. She stopped singing and stood stock still. She walked over to the door, struck out her head and listened. Then she came back into the room and shut the door. She looked towards the air conditioner which was above the window.
‘This room is too cold,’ she said to the baby. ‘Every time, AC. Your mother does not know that AC is not good for baby.’
She turned down the AC with a remote control and went to sit on the rocking chair beside the crib. She settled the baby on her lap and started to sing again.
I stood over her, gazing at the baby. He stared back at me, hypnotised. He had Okey’s features: doe-like eyes with the kind of lashes women pay money for, round chicks and a “kissing mouth” as my friends in Port Harcourt called it. I knelt beside the nanny’s chair maintaining eye contact with little David.
You shouldn’t be here, I said silently to him. I did not want to startle the nanny again. I heard a door slam. I got up and went out of the nursery door. Kene and her mother passed hurriedly by, headed for the master bedroom at the end of the hall. Behind me, the baby started to cry, loud wailing sounds.
Kene stopped and turned towards the nursery. I quickly moved out of the way. I didn’t want her passing through me again.
‘What’s wrong with him?’ she asked the nanny.
‘Cold. The room is too cold.’
‘What do you mean the room is too cold?’ Kene snapped. She grabbed the baby, sat on the rocking chair and started to breastfeed.
I stood in front of her, stretched out my hand and caressed the baby’s clammy head. Immediately, he spat out his mother’s breast and turned his face towards me. Kene tried forcing her nipple back into his mouth but he rejected it again.
‘Take him,’ she said to the nanny. ‘If he starts crying again, bring him to me.’ I watched her as she walked out. She had a stiff jerky gait.
I turned and looked at the mural. It had been so easy for her to steal my boyfriend. I was in Port Harcourt while he was in Lagos where he worked under her at her father’s bank. I was the sixth child of two struggling civil servants with eight children while her father owned an island. But most importantly, I had fallen for a selfish, ambitious little twerp who had lied and lied…
I stormed out of the nursery, flew down the corridor and into the master bedroom.