She rang the doorbell and waited until the door was opened.

“Hi, Trisha. Hey, girls. So nice to see you all.” Laura closed the door and led them into the living room. “What brings you here?”

“By your tone, and from that question, I know you have forgotten. Today is our final day out before we resume school and as you can see I brought company.” Trisha said as she gave signs to Margaret and Alice to sit down.

“Oh, I actually did forget.” Laura admitted with a laugh. “I will just quickly change and we will be on our way. Margaret and Alice, it’s so nice of you two to come along.”

“We don’t really have anything doing at home, so the pleasure is ours.” Margaret said with a smile.

“Cool. You all make yourselves comfortable while I go change then.” Laura said, running upstairs.

“Laura’s home is very beautiful.” Remarked Alice, looking around in wonder.

“She will be glad to hear it when you tell her face to face.” Smiled Trisha.

“I don’t think that would be possible. Alice gets shy and tongue-tied with strangers after her bad experience with kidnappers.”

“I remember you said that before, Margaret. But Laura is not a stranger. She’s my friend and would like to be your friend too.”

“I also want to be her friend.” Alice said shyly.

“Then we are friends.” Laura said, coming down the stairs and towards them. “You don’t have to feel shy with me, Alice. And I’m sorry about your bad experience with kidnappers.”

“You heard that?” Margaret asked, surprised.

“I did.” Laura nodded. “When did it happen?”

“Last year.” Alice answered. “They didn’t succeed though. But it was really frightening for me.”

“I’m sure it must have been.” Laura said in sympathy. “How old are you?”

“Fourteen.”

“So, you were thirteen when it happened. Sorry again. But you don’t need to be afraid around here or tongue-tied with me. We are all friends now, okay?”

“Okay.” Alice smiled.

“Okay, if we keep talking like this, we won’t get anything done. So, let’s go.” Trisha urged.

“You are right, Trisha. Let’s be on our way.” Laura agreed. “Where do you have in mind?”

“I think we should all decide together.” Trisha replied as they walked out of the house.

“I would like us to try out the new fast food place in town. I heard that their food is very good.” Margaret suggested.

“Me, I would like to visit the Amusement Park.” Alice put in.

“And me, I just want to walk through the flower garden close to the cathedral. I love it there.” Trisha gushed.

“So many places to visit. I like it. But it won’t be a perfect outing without a little shopping added to our list, so let’s keep that in mind.” Laura laughed.

And chatting happily, they all got into the car.

***

As the evening breeze blew into the car, Trisha inhaled and smiled to herself as the cool air lifted her hair. Today’s outing had been one of the best. They had all had fun and she was happy that the resumption of school wouldn’t separate them from Margaret and Alice. The sisters were starting the new term in their school and that was just exciting.

At the driver’s honk in front of their massive gate, she cut short her thoughts and sighed. They were home. Except that home wasn’t the right word. This was more of a house than a home, because in reality they were not the happy family they portrayed.

The driver parked the car and Trisha came down, thanked him and went inside the house.

“How was your day?” Her mother asked, coming down the stairs.

“It was fun. We all enjoyed ourselves.”

“We all?” Felicia stopped and frowned at her daughter. “How many were you?”

Trisha looked at her and then made up her mind. “I want to be honest with you, Mum. There’s no need to pretend or lie. Laura and I made new friends. Actually, I met them first and introduced them to Laura and today, we all went out together. Their names are Margaret and Alice. They are really nice girls, Mum.” Trisha added in a pleading tone.

“I will only decide on that when you tell me everything about them. So, come along let’s chat in the living room.” Felicia suspected they must have been the girls she had noticed at the party. “So, who are their parents? Are they people I know?”

Trisha sat beside her mother. She was already regretting telling her the truth. “Their parents are not politicians like you and Dad, Mum, so you won’t know them. Their father is a medical doctor and their mother used to own a restaurant before they moved here.”

“They recently moved here?”

“Yes, Mum. They had to because of what happened to Alice.”

“And what happened to her?”

“She was almost kidnapped but managed to escape. After the experience, she became very scared of the town they lived in and wouldn’t relate with people, so they moved here.”

“I see.” A medical doctor and restaurant owner? No way. “Well, I’m glad you and Laura had fun and even shared your fun with these two girls. But I don’t think they are the kind of friends you should be associating with. Like befriend like, Trisha, and this people don’t sound like they are anything like us at all. My dear, it is clear we are not even in the same class.”

“I like them, Mum. They are my friends.”

“No, they are not. They have nothing to offer you and you are way out of their league.”

Trisha glared at her as she picked the remote control and turned on the television. She wanted to cry. She wanted to scream and cry. “You know what, Mum? Margaret and Alice’s parents might not be in your class but they are better parents than you.” She stood up and stomped out of the living room.

“Trisha! Trisha, get back here at once!” Felicia ordered and marched after her. “I won’t tolerate this disrespectful behaviour in my house, little girl.”

Trisha slammed into her room and locked the door, tears were streaming down her face.

“Trisha, open this door!” Felicia banged at the door. “You are in big trouble, young lady. I say open the door!”

When she didn’t open the door, Felicia hissed aloud. “You are grounded. No more outings for you. You will remain in this house for the next one month, no going out!”

“Does that include school? Because school is resuming next Monday.”

“Stupid girl! I should have given you more spanking when you were little.” Felicia muttered furiously at her insolent response.

“What’s going on, Mum?”

Felicia turned to find Brenda standing behind her. “You had better talk some sense into that insolent sister of yours or I won’t be held responsible for my actions.” She hissed, stormed past her daughter and slammed her bedroom door.

Brenda sighed and walked to Trisha’s door. She gave a gentle knock. “Trisha, please open the door.”

“Go away. I don’t want to talk to anybody. Just leave me alone.”

“Trisha, open the door.” Brenda knocked again. “Open it, or I will call the security men to come and knock it down. You know I can do it.” She threatened.

“Fine then.” Trisha marched to the door and opened it. Then marched back to her bed and sat on it.

“What happened this time?” Brenda asked gently. “I thought you went out with Laura today. Did you and her have a fight?”

“No, Laura and I didn’t have a fight. And yes, I went out with her.” Trisha wiped off another set of tears. “She’s shouting because I told her that Margaret’s parents are better than her.”

“You told her something like that?” The audacity of her little sister never ceased to amaze Brenda. “How could you? And who is Margaret?”

“Margaret is a new friend. Look, I know I shouldn’t have said that to her, but I did because I was angry and hurt by the things she was saying.” Trisha defended.

Brenda silently watched her sister for a minute, then she said. “Something is going on, Trisha. This is not the first time you and Mum are having this kind of argument, but you have never said something so rude to her. What is it? Why are you so angry with her? Did she say or do anything to you?”

“No. I just spoke out of anger.”

“Trisha, please tell me the truth.”

“I am telling you the truth. By the way, why are you interrogating me about this instead of about what just happened?”

“Because I know this is more than whatever your argument is about this time.” Brenda said quietly. “Besides, I can tell you are lying to me because you are biting your lip. Which you do only when you are lying or nervous. So, I’m wondering why you are lying and not confiding in me as we always do.”

“I don’t want to talk about this, Brenda. I’m sorry.”

“Fine. I will let you be.” Brenda stood up and left the room.

Trisha lay down on her side. Tears were gathering in her eyes again.

How can she tell Brenda that she knew their mother didn’t love her because of who she is? She wondered. If she said what she knew, their family will probably break up. And she didn’t want that.

***

© Marie-Antoinette Otobo

***