My sister squirmed, giggling uncontrollably as I grabbed her phone and fell onto the rug, headfirst; my large pink t-shirt folding over till it exposed the bottom of my bra and my bare feet propped on the floor so that I looked like a gymnast about to do a weird-looking somersault.
Muna continued giggling; I let my feet prop my rear end higher, almost into her face, as I tried to hold her cell phone away from her.
A thunderous slap echoed on the thick flesh of my large bum.
We both giggled dangerously, tackling ourselves; me trying to get the phone away from her and she tickling me all over so that I could release it.
“Ogini? What is going on here?!” My mom barged in through the room door and caught us in some kind of wrestling position, looking sort of like akidi; A specie of curled beans.
“You guys are making so much noise!” She said, irritated. “Munachi! Even at your age?”
I choked my giggles, clamping down the mouth of my twenty-six year old sister, who’s spleen I thought was about to break.
“Hian! You people better round up this your rough play and come downstairs to the kitchen”
She turned to close the door, adjusting her wrappa and mumbling something about overgrown babies living in her house; you people were old enough to find husbands….
Muna collapsed on the bed with her back and raised her legs up in demented laughter, I took that opportunity to smack her own buttocks.
She jumped up and pummeled me on the bed, laughing, and then finally pinned me down.
She feigned dead-seriousness.
“Hmmm?” I answered her with mock innocence.
She couldn’t help but laugh again. I giggled, much like a rat.
“Kamsi, Give. Me. My. Phone.”
I pouted my lips,
“Because it’s mine!” She screamed, pulling my ears.
I giggled again, loudly.
I had slid the phone under my back, which was now being pressed onto the mattress in threat-action.
“Muna you better stop it, you’ll break the screen oh!” I dared her.
She let go of me.
“Munachimso! Kamsiyochukwu! If I call the both of you again, it will be with my cane!”
We both giggled again, scrambling to get up and pushing each other back on the bed so that neither of us ran downstairs first.
I made use of my privilege as the last-born and smiled evilly at her, then screamed,
“Mummy! Muna won’t leave me alone!”
My sister let go; but not before pinching me.
“Munachi!” My mom screamed from downstairs again, her voice very warning.
I stuck my tongue out.
“Mummy forget Kamsi, she’s talking rubbish!”
She made to run out the door before me and I held onto her t-shirt, pulling her back and almost ripping it off her body, exposing her un-caged breasts.
We both fell on top of each other, hysterical with laughter.
- - -
I loved my sister, but she loved me more.
She loved me more than my mother did. She spoilt me. She cried when I cried, even though she was twelve years older.
Whenever it was time to make my hair, I’d sit between her legs; Muna insisted, and she would comb my forest; marveling at how big my afro was; and she would trace the cutting comb through my scalp and part it, and part it again, until she was satisfied with the tiny section; and crouch her hands onto my head, and begin to weave the tight, headache-inviting pleats, weaving different, intricate tribal braids each time.
All the while laughing and telling me stories while she turned my head this way and that, making sure I stayed in the right position for it to look neat, afterwards having the pleasure of adorning them with colorful, golden, wooden or little white cowry beads.
She loved to decorate me. I was her little flower.
She would warn me when I was being stubborn, and then brag about how she was the one carrying me, restless me, in the wrappa tied to her back, to the market, to school.
I wondered why my mother would let her. To school…
I loved my mother, but I loved my sister more.
She would never forget, anytime she’d come back from school, to buy me puff puffs, my favorite treats, sweet pastries made into small balls that bloated when deep fried in oil.
Even at fourteen, I’d ask her to feed me, expecting a slap or a hiss, but she would.
She’d laugh and she would.
She’d do anything for me.
Muna slept on the floor of my ward at the hospital when I was having typhoid malaria. She would pray fervently, shouting, “Jesus!” at intervals, and then she would cry.
I was too weak to pray with her, too weak to cry with her; was too weak to say anything. That was probably why she just rolled on the floor beside a dying me, speaking in tongues.
The day I was dismissed from the hospital, she was the first to shout, “Praise the Lord!” so that the whole hospital heard it. People smiled.
Old chiefs in wheelchairs raised their ichies and answered her with “halleluyah!”s and hearty laughs and she hopped around the hospital, sharing her testimony.
I was alive. She was happy.
We’d gotten home and she wouldn’t allow me do anything, even though my mother insisted that I at least make my bed.
Muna wouldn’t have it. She would carry me up, as heavy as I was (and still am), at that age, change my sheets, and lay me back. Even though I could do it myself.
She’d get angry whenever I told her I got punished or flogged at school, even if it was my fault, and charge to the principal’s office to report that teacher who was man-handling ‘her little sister’.
She didn’t let boys come near me, she told me I didn’t need them, that they were useless and wicked. I’d asked her why and she said two had done something terrible to her. But she didn’t go any further with that story.
I asked her occasionally but she’d just avert her eyes from mine and afterwards, when I sulked, she’d smile at me and trace the curve of my face, then ask what I wanted her to buy me when she came back from wherever she was going.
I never slept in my room. I was always curled up beside her at nights, and she’d run her eighteen year-old fingers lightly through the rows of my braids, on my scalp, soothing me; singing a native song that had to do with reward and blessings for the hurt and the bruised, till I fell asleep.
I cried when she went to the university; I was only six then, I cried and I cried and I cried, and my mother couldn’t buy me enough things to make me stop. And when she finally came back, when I was ten, I hugged her and I squeezed her and told her never to leave me again.
And she didn’t.
- - -
Muna was becoming too nervous.
I’d sneak up to her and place my palms over her eyes, like I usually did, and she’d jolt; as if a spider had touched her.
“Kamsi,” Anxiety boasted its handwriting on her face.
“Muna come let’s play oga” I beamed.
She’d sigh deeply, as if relieved, and say a shriveled “okay”.
She acted like she was afraid.
She was afraid of something, I knew.
Pardon me; what I knew was that she was afraid. I didn’t know why.
I sat her down one day and the moment she looked into my eyes, she shivered.
“Muna, what’s wrong with you?”
I took her hand and toyed with the carved, wooden beads on her wrist.
She gave me a small smile, “Nothing”.
My mother was beginning to be very delicate with me; more than usual. Since I was the last born, I was used to that, but the fragility with which I was taken now was turned to a higher scale.
She felt I would break if she so much as scolded me. She felt guilty.
Muna and dad and mum kept having conversations. Frequent conversations that I was never allowed to be a part of.
I asked her once, when she was in the kitchen, what they were talking about; she opened her mouth hesitantly, then her lips trembled and she closed them. She smiled at me and looked back into the pot she was turning.
"Nke m are you hungry?"
I'd stare at her in disbelief and then give up and mumble a "yes", even though I wasn't.
I kept on over hearing, "It's high time..."
The next week came and a family meeting was held; one that I wasn’t a part of.
I was old enough, I knew, I was fourteen.
So I didn’t understand when my dad shooed me outside and insisted that I go play with my ‘friends’.
Muna was in there. She was my friend. I wanted to play with her.
I came back home, the meeting was over, but Muna had locked her door, so I couldn’t go in her room and sleep with her.
I trudged to mine; eerie and clammy, and lay on the icy bed, neatly arranged and cold from long vacancy.
I almost cried. But I didn’t, I wasn’t a baby, I was too old for that. So I slept, wishing my sister would knock at my door, telling me to come to her room and stay instead.
- - -
The next day my hopes remained high. But Muna never looked me in the eye. I’d face her and she’d turn away. I felt her eyeing me guiltily when I wasn’t looking. Guilt.
I wanted to know what was going on; so I stormed in her room that evening and shouted at her, I shouted so loudly, I kicked our unfinished ayo game, I threw her phone on the rug and began to cry.
Muna got up; she got up from the bed, in her night overalls and messy fro, and she came up to me and she held me in her arms and sobbed. Tears ran from her eyes.
I cried too. I cried too much.
She threaded her nails into the braids she’d just made me last week and placed my crying head on her shoulder. She kissed me on my forehead and sniffed, closing her eyes tightly to press out the brimming water, letting more tears fall.
What came out of her mouth in that tight embrace was expected; I think I knew she would say it, finally.
“Kamsi, I… I gave birth to you. I’m your mom.”