Hauwa Habeeb had a big fat problem and if she didn’t fix in 30 minutes, she would be in big fat trouble.
The problem lay at her feet, and she stared at it as if if she stared long enough, it would fix itself. There were five small pieces and one big pot-shaped piece of what used to be the beautiful vase that her daddy bought just yesterday. It was a huge flower vase, almost as tall as she was and she was tall for her age: 3 feet 6 inches at 8 years and 1 month. It was also very colourful, with lots of beautiful flowers painted on it: red roses, pink hibiscuses, orange lilies, yellow sunflowers, etc.
The vase was the only beautiful thing in the Habeeb parlour. Mr. Habeeb was a lecturer and Mrs. Habeeb was a stay-at-home mum so the Habeebs were not very rich. There were only three ugly furry armchairs, one wooden table, one old television that looked like a shoe box, one wooden grandfather clock with termite bites all over it, one old standing fan that sounded like a generator, and three ugly, heavy, towel-like curtains, in the Habeeb parlour and they were all either black or grey in colour. It was a rather dull parlour. The flowers on the vase made the parlour look nice and colourful yesterday.
Those beautiful flowers lay in broken pieces at Hauwa’s feet now and she could see her daddy’s angry face in them as clearly as if he were standing in front of her. She imagined all the things he would do to her. Maybe he would shout at her? No, not maybe, he would definitely shout. Ummm, maybe he would also flog her? No, not maybe, he would definitely flog her. Then mummy would flog her too because she had told her like 500 times to stop playing in the parlour. Maybe they would also take her story books, or make her eat beans or garri every day or make her do more house work or oh no!! Stop her from watching TV. No cartoons! Hauwa wilted. Her chin dropped and tears welled up in her eyes. Flogging and no cartoons! Horrible! The end of the world!
“Baaaaang!!!!! Baaaaang!!!!! Baaaaang!!!!! Baaaaang!!!!! Baaaaang!!!!!” screamed the grandfather clock and Hauwa’s head pooped up to look at it, her eyes as wide as the saucers mummy used to serve tea when they had special guests.
“O! Oo!! It’s 5 o’clock!! Daddy will be back in 30 minutes! O! Oooooo!!”
Mr. Habeeb liked to come home to relax in his favourite furry armchair in the parlour every evening. He drove into the compound at 5:30 on the dot every day and parked his black Volkswagen beetle under the mango tree outside. Then he walked into the house and straight to the parlour to read the newspaper, watch TV and drink beer. In 30 minutes, she would hear the tutututu tutututu sound of his beetle as it parked and then the tip tap of his shoes as he dusted them on the mat outside the door to keep the sand from getting into the house. She scratched her head and looked around the parlour for ideas.
“What to do? What to do?” she looked at the broken pieces again and smiled hard “Maybe I can stick them together with glue!!!!” She dashed to her room like Mr. Festu, the most wicked teacher in the world, was chasing her with his scary cane made of guava stick. Her art box was under her bed.
Grabbing the tube of glue from the box, she ran back to the parlour, locking the door quietly behind her. She didn’t want anyone to come in even though mummy had gone to the market with Grace, the help and Yewande, her 16-year-old sister was probably in her room, talking on the phone, as usual. She picked up two pieces of broken glass, one in each hand, poured a lot of glue over them and pressed them firmly together, and then she counted.
“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10”
On the count of 10, she pulled her hands away from each other and ….
… to be continued