I am cutting vegetables with the bread knife but you haven’t called me out yet. And then you say, or ask: Your sister is not back yet? as if she is my daughter and you are my sister. No, I reply. My response is clipped and in time with my knife against the chopping board attempting to kill the conversation.
She went to see a man? You are insistent, but not like you usually are. Today is quiet, and maybe worried as opposed to the regular accusatory tone. Yes. This is my protection, these monotonous, flat answers. I am protecting you from her and her from you. But you do not understand this, you believe I am partisan in this democracy.
I hope they aren’t there alone; I have told her not to be alone with a man in a house. And I chop a little faster so I do not laugh. Because you and father had me before you wedded, was there a chaperone?
I do not respond this time.
Or what do you think? Your voice has morphed into the one you use when gossipping with your friends; as if we are sisters now and she is our daughter. Or do you go to visit men alone?
I drop my knife, stroll to wash the needy strips of ugwu off my hands. I think of the boyfriend I lived with for two months when I was in England.
Yes, mummy. This is 2015, I say.
I have hurt you. You can not hide your flinch and even though I brush it away in the present, your grimace stays with me long after we finish making the soup in silence.
It comes to me later. After my sister comments on her surprise that you didn’t scold her for coming in that late.
It is a story you told us many years ago. Of an empty house and a male best friend. Of grasping fingers and a scuffle. Of a heart smarting with betrayal and a bruised knee in a groin.
And I am ashamed.