Trisha was surprised when Laura visited her house very early the next day, and although she suspected there was trouble, she didn’t want to think the worst.

“So, what brings you here so early?” She asked after serving her a cup of hot cocoa.

“Sorry I came without a prior notice.” Laura apologised and took a sip from the mug.

“No, that’s not a problem at all.” Trisha assured her. “I’m glad to see you, and you look like you need someone to talk to.”

“I do, Trisha. It’s my dad; he and mum are fighting again. I just don’t understand him sometimes. It’s like he doesn’t care for any of us at all.”

Trisha instantly felt sorry for her. Laura had always had problems with her dad just like she did with Mum and it seems to be getting to her more and more these days.

“I’m sorry to hear that, Laura.” She said sympathetically.

“Thank you, Trisha. But I am really worried this time. Mum is threatening to divorce him and leave the house if he doesn’t change. Honestly, I don’t want that to happen. I believe dad can still change and be a better person.” Laura really believed that in her heart.

Trisha knew that sometimes people didn’t change and Laura’s dad might be one of those who didn’t. But she wouldn’t hurt her friend by telling her that. She had come here for support, not for anyone to make her feel worse.

So, she said with a smile. “I also believe your dad can change, Laura. I hope he does and that he pays more attention to you.”

“Thanks, Trisha.” Laura smiled gratefully at the encouragement. “I am praying that everything settles soon because I don’t want Ryan to come back home and find that mum and dad are no longer together.”

“Is Ryan finally coming home? It’s been long he visited, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but he’s coming home next week. Mum insisted on it, so he had to agree. There’s going to be a small celebration. I hope you can come.”

“Next week? What day precisely? Because Mum wants Brenda and I to follow her to the Mbatas’ thanksgiving celebration on Saturday.”

“Oh, it’s same Saturday. Such a pity you can’t come. Anyway, you can still come over and see Ryan another time.” Laura set down the mug and stood up. “Let me be on my way. I didn’t really tell mum I was going out and I don’t want her to scold me when she notices my absence.”

“Okay. Thanks for stopping by.” Trisha said, getting up too to escort her to the door.

* * * *

The homecoming of her brother made Laura very happy. She had really missed him and was looking forward to them spending a lot of time together.

“Madam, Mr Ryan has arrived.” The cook, Angela, announced.

“Yes!” Laura cried excitedly and rushed out to meet him.

Her mother followed her and they both embraced Ryan.

“Welcome home, Ryan. I missed you a whole lot.” Said Laura, still holding on to him.

“I miss you too, Laura.” Ryan smiled. “Wow, look at that. My little sister is all grown up now. You’re even almost as tall as I am.”

“It’s the family gene, added to all the good food I eat.” Laura laughed.

“You are the one who is all grown up.” Marilyn said as they all walked inside. “I can’t even believe how big you look. Have you become one of these body building types? Because look at your arms and chest.”

“I only do a little exercise, Mum.” Ryan laughed. “Besides, I’m a man now, no longer a teenage boy.”

“You are just twenty, my dear, so still a boy to me.” Marilyn replied, smiling. “Anyway, welcome home. It’s been two long years and we are so happy to see you. I made your favourite—banga soup and pounded yam. Or, is that no longer your favourite food?”

“It still is, Mum. Nothing will ever change that.”

“In that case, let’s head to the dining room.” Laura said, beaming with smiles.

“Hold on a minute, food lover.” Marilyn teased. “Your brother has to go freshen up first. Go along, Ryan. Your bedroom is all set for you, so take a bath to wash away the stress of the flight and then come down for dinner.”

“I will do that right away, Mum, because the thought of that bangs soup is already causing my stomach to make noise.” Ryan started moving towards the stairs and then stopped. “By the way, where is dad?”

“Your father had an urgent meeting he needed to attend to, but you will see him later tonight.” Marilyn assured him.

“I see dad still lives by his busy schedules.” Ryan said and then shrugged his shoulders. “Let me go freshen up. I won’t be long, so you guys can start setting up the table.”

“Table is already set. Just hurry up.” Laura told him.

“Five minutes.” Ryan said and ran up the stairs.

“Oh, Mum, I’m so happy he is home.” Laura said.

“Me too, my dear.” Marilyn agreed and hugged her daughter.

* * * *

Laura arrived late at the library.

“Hi, girls.” She said as she sat down and dropped her Chemistry textbook on the table. “I’m sorry I’m late.”

“No problem.” Margaret smiled and asked because she was curious. “Why do you always carry about this textbook when you are a Humanities student?”

“Because that’s the only way I can prevent my dad from knowing I am not in the Sciences.”

“I don’t know why they insist on forcing us into areas we are not interested in.” Trisha said. “Anyway, I have come out in the open with my mum. I’ve told her I want to be an artist and I think you should also tell your father you want to be a beautician and not a doctor.”

Laura shook her head. “Oh no, my dad would never accept that. He thinks professions like that suck.”

“That is an unfair way to think. Everyone’s profession is important. We all have our place in this world. A beautician is as important as a doctor, in my opinion.” Said Trisha.

“I agree. Everyone and every profession are important.” Margaret supported. “I guess Alice and I are lucky then, because our parents always give us their support and they are letting us choose what we want to become in future.”

“Oh, you two are really lucky to have parents like that unlike some of us who have parents who don’t care.” Laura rolled her eye as her father’s face popped into her mind.

“I guess that is life. Not everyone has the same thing.” Trisha shrugged. She wanted the subject changed because discussing things like this made her sad. “Anyway, I hope you girls are all set for WAEC. I am studying really hard because I can’t wait to get into university and leave home at last.”

“Me too.” Laura declared. “Leave home and be free to be who I want to be.”

“In that case, let’s study. Because the first step to getting into the university is studying hard and passing your exams.” Margaret said.

And they stopped talking and focussed on their books.