‘Oh God! oh God! oh God! Please. Please. Please. Please. I’m begging.’
‘Mummy. What are you saying?’
‘Hush Lola. Don’t worry. Everything is going to be fine.’
The door was shut with such an enormous force it rattled the little house they lived in.
The stench of alcohol sifted through the house and hit like an electric force.
‘Fuck! Yemi! Yemi! Where’s my dinner?!’
Lola watched her mother’s eyes go shut, her face squeezed. She giggled a bit. It reminded her of the time she pooed a big one.
I am already used to this game mom and dad play. Everyday, just before dad got back from work, mom and I would find different spots to hide in. Mom was so proud of my hiding skills. That’s why she always trusted me to find the best hiding spots. Whenever dad gets back, he does this thing where he screams moms’ name and mom does this thing where she closes her eyes tight. It always makes me laugh. She looks funny doing it.
I’ve always loved playing hide and seek with mom and dad but, whenever dad finds mum, he doesn’t bother looking for me. I wish he would. I want to be a part of their game too.
‘Yemi! Yemi! Damn it why do you insist on doing this every time?! You know I’ll always find you.’
I watched mom cover her mouth with her hand. Tears began rolling down her eyes. I’m worried. This is the first time. She never cries. Mom never cries.
‘Mom? Mummy? Why are you crying?’ I whisper because I know the game is still on and we have to hide for as long as we can before dad finds us. That’s the rule of the game. That’s what mom told me.
I’m more scared now because the tears seem to be falling faster. Did I make it worse? Her head is bent and she’s clutching her chest. I’m afraid to speak. I don’t want to make her cry more. So I remain quiet.
I hear footsteps. It’s part of the game too. This is the part where dad tries to find us. He’s supposed to count to 10 at least but I’ve never heard him count. Mom said that’s why we have to hide before he comes home. At this point, I try to be as quiet as possible. Even though I don’t get to play with them, I don’t want mom to lose either.
‘You know it’ll be worse if I find you myself. I thought you would have learned your place by now.’
Those are new words to me. Usually dad would keep shouting moms name and swearing until he finds her. Today, he has been talking a lot. Does that mean I’ll participate in the game today. I’m hopeful and excited. I look up at mom and she smiles a little. I’m sure she’s excited for me too.
His footsteps fade. I don’t hear them anymore. Mom hugs me to herself. I’m already used to the feel of her spine on my palm. I enjoy counting them while we wait.
There have been times when we won the game. On those days, mom would cook my favourite meal! Noodles with little pieces of fish inside. Those were my best moments. In as much as I enjoy the game, I enjoyed the meals a lot more. I always try to pick the best spots to hide in but recently, I’m running out of hiding spots. Mom said she understands with a smile on her face but it is such a sad one. Hopefully, I did good today and we’ll win.
I’m still counting when the door suddenly opens and I see dad looming over us. His face looks scary. Scarier than the day he found us and had a fork in his hand. Today, dad is holding a little pocket knife.
‘I told you I’ll find you.’
‘No! God please no!’ I hear mom whisper beneath her breath. Dad laughed long and hard. I’ve never heard him laugh like this. It seemed odd.
‘God abandoned us the day we said “I do.”’
He pulls mom out of our hiding spot by her hair. I don’t understand. Usually mom walks out on her own, dad doesn’t have to drag her out. Today’s game seems completely off.
‘Dad! Dad! Me too! Me too!’
I’ve never seen mom look at me with such fear in her eyes. Didn’t I do good? Did I make a mistake? Should I not participate in the game too?
‘Dozie no! She’s just a child! She doesn’t understand!’
‘It’s time she does. Isn’t that right Lola?’
I see the smile on dad’s face and it scares me even more. Without thinking, I take a step back but dad is quick, he drops his pocket knife and grabs my arm with his free hand. My arm feels like it’ll be pulled out. I scream and kick and shout. Mom is screaming and begging too but dad doesn’t listen. I scratch his arm with my fingernails but he doesn’t let go or does he because I feel myself briefly fly through the air before colliding with a solid object. The back of my head connects first before I fall to the ground limp. I see mom try to reach me but dad’s grip on her hair is strong. A thick liquid blurs my vision, it has a weird taste. I try to speak, to raise my arm, to do something but my head hurts and then nothing.