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All Rights Reserved to the Author BOLAJI ABDULLAHI

This work is a work of fiction. Names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are work of the authors imagination any resemblance to actual persona living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

The Letter

My name is Aliya. I am the only child of my parents. I turned 16 last month, two days before my end of term examinations. I had waited so eagerly for that day to come. When I was 14,1 read a book titled ‘Sweet Sixteen’, which made me realise that at 16, one is no longer a child but a young adult. For as long as I can remember, I had always hated to be called a child.

To me, child means the same as stupid. So, children’s stuff never interested me. Instead, I found myself drawn to grown up things. I felt more comfortable relating with people who are many years older than me. My father thought this was because of my size. I am what you might describe as plus size. If you like, you could say I was plump or chubby; but never say fat.

I started wearing bras at 10 and at 14, I was already a size 16. My father would say, “Aliya, don’t be deceived by your size, you are still a child and you should enjoy being a child.”To this, I would counter that I was not a child, but an adult trapped in the body of a child. He would shake his head and give my mother a long stare, which I never understood. ‘Young adult’ therefore, sounded like a fair compromise between being a child, as my father would insist, and being an adult, as I would insist. My mother was a nurse. My father was, well, many things. At the time I was born, he was a journalist. When I was in primary school, he was working in a Public Relations agency.

He then went on to work for an international organisation that helps poor people in Africa. When I asked him what exactly his job in the organisation was, he said it was still some kind of public relations. The very day I turned 16, I was still in school. Even if I was home, I knew better than to expect any parties. My father believed that the only thing worth celebrating was a major achievement. In his eyes, a birthday was not an achievement at all. My mother said she agreed with him. I suspected she was just going along with her husband. For this, I have very strong evidence in the form of several photographs I had seen of her, standing all decked up behind birthday cakes. But to be fair, that was before she met and married Mr. Bello.

Whatever the case, birthdays were not a regular event in my home. My father even hardly remembered birthdays, including his own. Mummy however, would never, ever forget. She even remembered the birthdays of children in the extended family. But there would be no parties. The closest to any form of celebration were the slightly more elaborate dinner and the much more elaborate prayers. “This is not to suggest that my parents were some sort of boring people. Not at all. My father was actually very funny. Mummy would often joke that he should consider another career in standup comedy. We also hosted parties and attended some, mostly weddings. Birthday parties were just not our thing. But something changed since I left home for the boarding school.

My father, who never remembered birthdays, would not fail to send me greeting cards on my birthdays. I turned 12 when I was in JSS 1. The birthday card was handed over to me by the principal himself after the morning assembly. “Happy Birthday, my First Lady. Remember that only God is greater than you,” my father had scrawled boldly across the blank space inside the card. Even though I didn’t understand what he meant by “only God is greater than you”, it made me feel very important, as if I was some kind of God’s deputy. Sometimes, I wondered why he called me First Lady since I was an only child. I didn’t think you could have a first unless there was a second. Maybe he was hoping for a second. How much I wished I had a sister though. And maybe a brother too. But my friends told me that brothers could be very annoying.

Well, that was not so difficult to believe. I imagined having a brother like Akin in my class, who called himself the king of boys. Even though he was very smart, Akin was the most unserious human being in the whole world. He specialized in making fun of everything and playing pranks on everyone. I remembered what happened last term in the Geometry class.The mathematics teacher wrote the topic, Mensuration on the board, but Akin read it aloud as Menstruation! Who does that? The whole class erupted in laughter. It was only the teacher, Miss Salako, who didn’t find it funny. “Quiet, all of you!” she screamed. “I wonder what was so funny. And you…,” she said, pointing at Akin, the culprit, “…must you always be a jerk?” She asked menacingly. But Akin stood up and answered calmly, “No ma,” and the class exploded in another round of laughter.

This got Miss Salako even angrier and she sent Akin to the wall. Still, Akin got an A in Mathematics at the end of the term. It was a Tuesday, the day I turned 16. I woke up expecting to feel different, to feel 16. But I didn’t feel anything. In fact, I had slept off the previous night not thinking of my long awaited birthday, but about the examinations that would start later in the week.


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