Square Peg

Brushing her teeth, she stared at her reflection in the mirror. She liked her face. She had a good face. Her eyebrows were sparse but she didn’t care, she could always fill them in. Thank goodness for adulthood because her adolescent acne vanished the moment she turned 20. She had a few acne scars but they didn’t bother her. That’s why you use foundation, if you must cover them up, she thought to herself. Spit and rinse. Three times, because that’s what her mother taught her. She placed her toothbrush in its holder on the sink and proceeded to wash her face. The cleanser she used was gentle. The scent was too strong and reminded her of neem but it was the one brand she tried that didn’t strip her skin and leave it feeling taut or dry. Something she read online stated she should lather on the soap for 60 seconds before rinsing, the only way to ensure her face was squeaky clean. 60 seconds! Too much wasted time she thought. Then again she was not in a hurry so why the heck not?

A full minute later she closed the tap and stepped into the shower. The water hit her back first, cold for all of two seconds before it got hot. Life’s little pleasures, hot water on demand! Where was this when she was growing up? Her folks made them boil water in a kettle to save  costs on the electricity bill. And as a boarder in high school hot water was a privilege for the students who managed to get their doctors to write letters to the school. Or you made friends with the kitchen staff and they always got you hot water at a small fee. If ever there was something she vowed would be a must in her own house was hot water in the shower. Even when she goes traveling it is the one thing she requires in her accommodation. 

The act of showering was more than just getting clean. It was in the shower that her mind took her places, at times to things she hadn’t thought about, at times to process difficult situations. Most times all she got were appropriate clapbacks to conversations she had already had. Of what use were they to her after the fact? Puh! On most days, by the time she was turning off the water and toweling herself dry, she had planned her entire day to a T. Not today though. She was exhausted and riddled with anxiety over the day ahead.

Sunday. A day she much preferred to spend on her couch in pyjamas eating comfort food. The week had been rough and she was tired of people and the outside world. Her mother on the other hand had other plans. Lunch with her children. I have a nail appointment. I need to wash my cat. I am babysitting my neighbors plants. All these and more were some of the excuses that went through her head when her mother had called to invite her to lunch. Excuses to not have to go. But she didn’t have the heart to let her mother down.Besides, she had no children or pets to take care of. And she lived alone, so she must be lonely, these were all the things her mother did not forget to mention when she had called. So now she was getting dressed to go spend time with her flesh and blood.

Grabbing her car keys, she locked the door to her house, wishing she didn’t have to leave.

Her elder sister, as usual, thought she was an octopus, trying to do everything herself while her husband stood awkwardly on the side. He wanted to help but was equally scared of being yelled at. So he stood there, by her side, looking uncomfortable in his lack of doing anything. Her sister, on the other hand, was carrying their youngest on her hip, while removing things from the boot. Diaper bag, stroller, kikapu, probably full of foodstuff. Their car was still running. Their eldest child had already dashed into their mother’s house. She wasn’t sure what her sister said to her husband as she walked into the house but it was enough to get him to switch off the engine, close the boot and carry the stroller and kikapu she had left on the ground. She watched her brother-in-law walk into the house too, his shoulders slightly hunched but with a smile plastered on his face. She never understood how those two stayed married. Her sister was a perfectionist! Always telling people what to do and believing her way was the right way. She didn’t know her sister’s husband very well, except for the fact that he loved her sister and wanted to make her happy. Did anything else matter? How would she know? She wasn’t the one married to him.

Her younger brother was the next to arrive, exactly half an hour after her sister, his motorbike announcing his presence. It was loud enough to get her mother to come to the front door, something she had only ever done for their late father, and now seemingly for their brother. She watched her brother park the bike effortlessly. She watched as he got off the bike and even before he could remove his helmet, her mother was already fussing over him. She couldn’t hear her but she was probably saying something like, “You look thin my son. Have you been eating? Where is your girlfriend? Why do you ride this thing, it’s a death trap.” All this, and never giving her brother an opportunity to respond. She saw them walk into the house. His one arm around their mother’s shoulder, the other cradling his helmet under his armpit. The one thing that startled her is that he got into their mother’s house with his riding boots still on. Shoes!! Inside her mother’s house!! Only her brother could get away with that level of sacrilege!

She had been the first to arrive and had been sitting in her car for over an hour now. All that alone time with her mother was something she was not ready to deal with. She loved her mother. She also knew she was not ready for her mother’s passive aggression. See, she was in her mid-twenties. She had landed a great job right after graduation. She was planning to buy her first home and had fully paid for her car. She could travel at least twice a year if she chose to. All those things were nice, but what did it matter if she had no one to share it with? No children to bear her name? At least that’s what her mother thought. And she took every opportunity she had to compare her to her older sister, who was only three years older than her and already had a family.

She liked children. She was not sure she wanted them just yet. She had been in a few relationships but nothing serious or powerful enough for her to think about a life long partnership. She was content with her current lifestyle, why would she mess it up with children and a partner? Her mother prayed for her status to change and tried to match her up with potential suitors. She told all her friends about her successful daughter who was still single, all in the hopes that a suitor would be found out of sharing this information, at times with random strangers in the supermarket aisles, or the church parking lot. She even spoke about it to her doctor! That was so embarrassing.

She really wanted to have a cigarette. Or a shot of tequila. She didn’t. There was no way she was walking into her mother’s house smelling of cigarette smoke. She could already picture the disapproving side eye from her sister and the scowl on her mother’s face. Okay, it was about time she went in, before the neighbors thought they had an intruder. As she locked her car and activated the alarm, she wondered if her siblings and mother had recognized her car.

She walked to the front door and took a deep breath before ringing the bell.

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