The day started with everyone in an excited mood and moving about in helter skelter fashion as they made preparations for the party.

Curtains were being changed, floors were getting mopped, furniture dusted and a variety of food with different recipes was being cooked. Everyone was busy, and Felicia was co-ordinating them all. Something she was really good at.

Meanwhile, in her bedroom, Trisha was still asleep and only woke up when her alarm clock rang.

“Shut up and stop ringing.” She grumbled and lifted the alarm clock to turn it off. Then she remembered and snapped awake. “Today’s mum and dad’s anniversary! Oh my God!”

She jumped out of bed, and still in her night wear, ran out of the room and downstairs to meet everyone in a frenzy.

“Oh dear!” She murmured and hurried straight to the kitchen.

Brenda was there and busy with the cake. That was her duty and she was supposed to help out.

“I’m sorry, Brenda. I think I set my alarm wrong because I was supposed to wake up earlier.” She instantly apologised.

“So, you are finally awake, sleeping beauty.” Brenda put the cake already in the pan inside the oven and turned to look at her. “I wonder why Mum didn’t wake you up as she did everybody else.”

“I wish she did. I’m sorry I overslept.” She apologised again seeing the annoyed look on Brenda’s face.

“Fine. You can pick that bowl and start beating the eggs for the chocolate cake.” Brenda instructed.

“You are baking two cakes? Why?”

“Because the first one I just put in the oven has a bit of lemon in it and you know Dad doesn’t like it.” Brenda answered and took the bowl containing flour. “Let’s hurry. I think I’m behind schedule here and we still have the cookies to work on.”

“Okay.” Trisha took an apron, tied it over her night wear and got busy.

***

Few hours later, the party kicked off.

Felicia Ogbonna welcomed the guests with an opening speech.

“Thank you, everyone, for accepting our invitation and making the time to be a part of this celebration. As you all know, this is our twentieth anniversary and it a joyous day not only for my husband and I, but for our entire family.” Decked in a gorgeous lace attire, she beamed with pride and joy. “The banquet tables are set and full of variety of dishes, so be sure to help yourself and enjoy the party.”

After the round of applause, the DJ started playing a song in soft tones and her parents started mingling with the guests.

“Hello, Trisha. Your sister said I would find you here.”

Trisha turned from the colourful flower arrangement she had been hiding behind and smiled at Laura. “Hello, Laura. I was just wondering if it’s possible to sneak out.”

“Sneak out? You are funny.” Laura laughed. “Come on, let’s get something to eat. I know I just arrived but I’m hungry.”

“This way then.” Trisha led the way to the table with an array of different foods. “Rice and stew, or fried rice, or Jollof rice?” She knew Laura wouldn’t want the pounded yam and egusi soup.

“I would take the rice and stew, you know that’s my favourite.” Laura said. “And maybe some of the dodo too.”

Trisha filled a plate and handed it to her. Laura was the kind of friend her mother approved of. It was lucky that she liked Laura herself. “So, how was your trip with your father?”

“Oh, London was beautiful. We visited so many places and did a lot of shopping. But the best part was daddy and I spent a lot of time together. He didn’t let business interfere at all and only took calls from Mum.” Laura beamed.

“I’m happy you had fun with your dad.” Trisha and decided to fill a plate for herself too.

“I really did. Anyway, how about you? How have you been spending the holidays?”

The holidays were almost over and Trisha was looking forward to resuming school. “Well, it’s been all right. I visit the library almost every day of the week and spend long hours there.”

“Why would you go to the library in town when you have one at home?” Laura asked with a puzzled frown.

“You know how I feel when I’m at home and I have been trying to avoid Mum and her many rules.” Trisha shrugged. “Anyway, I go there regularly, sometimes to read and other times, to focus on my painting. I even met two friends there, Margaret and Alice.”

“Well, I can see you had your own share of fun. So, when do I meet these new friends of yours?” Laura smiled, sipping a little from her glass of juice.

“Today if they make it. I invited them to the party.” Trisha hadn’t wanted to because of her mother. But she had mentioned the party and Margaret had been excited. “I wonder why they are not here yet.” She used her eyes to look around the hall.

“Maybe they can’t make it.”

“Maybe.” Trisha started to agree and then she saw them coming in through the entrance door. “Oh, there they are. I will be right back, Laura. Just give me a minute.” She stood up and walked towards the other end of the hall.

“Hi, Trisha. Oh my God, I was starting to wonder if we were lost.” Margaret said as soon as she saw her. “Wow, this is such a big house. And a big party too.”

“Yes, it is. Anyway, what took you girls so long? I was starting to think you wouldn’t come after all.” And maybe that would have been better, she thought to herself.

“Ah no, we wouldn’t miss this party for anything.” Margaret shook her head. “It was Alice looking for the perfect dress that delayed us.”

“Yes, it was totally my fault that we are late, Trisha, and I’m sorry.” Alice apologised but there was excitement written all over her face. “Wow, I’ve never been to a party as glamorous as this one. Look at the way everyone’s dressed. Where are your parents? We should say congratulations to them, right?”

“Em…”

“Trisha, I’m done and want some dessert.” Laura interrupted from behind her.

“Oh, sorry I kept you waiting, Laura.” With great relief, Trisha turned to her. “We will get you dessert soon. There are cookies, pies and even cake. Meanwhile, this is Margaret and Alice. Girls, this is another friend of mine, Laura. I hope we can all be friends.”

“It’s nice meeting you, Laura.” Margaret smiled and extended her hand.

“And you too.” Laura said, shaking her hand and also, Alice’s.

“All right, let’s go find you girls something to eat and dessert for Laura.” Said Trisha and led the way towards the banquet tables.

***

The party ended on a note of triumph and it was time for the children’s presentation of gifts to their parents.

“Let’s begin with you, Brenda, what did you get us?” Felicia asked.

“A music box.” Brenda handed over her gift with a smile. “I remembered you wanted one when we travelled to Paris, so I bought this one for you.”

“That is so nice of you, Brenda. Thank you.” Felicia smiled as she started opening the package.

“And for you, Dad, I got this tie.” Brenda continued. “It’s silk and in your favourite colour.”

“Thank you so much, Brenda.” Derrick Ogbonna beamed. “I will cherish this, I promise you.”

“You are welcome, dad.”

“Now, over to you, Bryan.” Said Felicia.

“Well, I framed one of your pictures together with a message: happy 20th anniversary, mum and dad. I love you with all my heart.” Bryan lifted the bulky gift and handed it over to their mother.

“That is so sweet, Bryan.” Felicia unwrapped the frame photograph and smiled. “Really lovely, thank you.”

“It’s a lovely gift, son.” Derrick said.

“I’m glad you like it.” Bryan said with a pleased smile.

“It’s your turn, Trisha. And oh, that reminds me, I saw you with two girls. Who were they? They didn’t look familiar to me.”

“Em, mum…”

“Let’s finish with the presentation of gifts and our family photograph before you start drilling the girl.” Derrick interrupted. “Come on, Trisha, out with your gift. I can’t wait.”

Smiling at her father, Trisha lifted the painting she had wrapped. “It’s a painting of you and Mum, Dad. I hope you two will love it.”

“A painting? I’m excited.” Derrick unwrapped the big frame. “Wow, Trisha, this is amazing. You did this?”

“Wow, it looks just like me.” Said Felicia in surprise.

“Because it’s you, Mum.” Trisha smiled.

“I know. But for the first time, I’m short of words. I didn’t know you can paint so well now.” Felicia looked at her youngest daughter and smiled. “Come over here and give Mum and Dad a hug. We love the gift.”

Happy that she approved and wasn’t reproving her for still drawing pictures, Trisha went to hug her and then, her father.

“Okay, let’s come together for our family portrait.” Derrick said. “Brenda, call Jonathan.”

And with smiles on all their faces, they chorused ‘say cheese’ and had their picture taken.

***

© Marie-Antoinette Otobo

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