THEY WERE ALL inside the sun-lit medium-sized living room. Caleb was sitting cross-legged on the chocolate-brown leather sofa pretending to watch the football match playing on the screen while in fact he was listening to the kids as they chattered. Of course, for the last ten minutes Rukky has been singing rhyme after rhyme while Stella simply had her head bent over her drawing book on top the dark-oak centre table, most likely recreating some furniture or the other in the picture-filled booklet.
“That’s a new one.” He observed as Rukky switched to another rhyme.
Rukky swung his head up from the imaginary words he’d been writing on the Persian rug. “Yes, it is. Miss Elizabeth taught us yesterday. Should I sing it for you?” He rolled up to his knees and focused his toothy-smiling face on him.
Caleb chuckled. “I thought you were already doing that?” At his childlike roll of the eye, he laughed. “Okay, please do.”
Rukky bobbed his head excitedly, getting set to demonstrate as he sang. “Okay, it’s like this –
All the world is a rainbow, what colour are you?
Are you red, black or white?
Are you yellow or brown?
Are you some other shade or hue?
All the world is a rainbow
And the sky needs all of me and all of you
All of me, all of you
All our brothers and sisters too
We can live, we can give
All of me and you.
The world is melody.
What note are you?
Are you high, are you low?
Are you fast, are you slow?
Are you sour or in sweet harmony?
“Wow! It sounds like an amazing song.” Caleb cut in with a clap, knowing he’d never stop unless someone stopped him.
“It is. Especially when Miss Elizabeth sings it… hmmm.” Rukky sighed, his small hands clasped together under his chin a dreamy look on his face.
Stella who’d stopped her drawing when he started singing twisted her neck to exchange a look with her father. Caleb gave her a wink and they both crumpled in laughter.
“Okay champ, wake up from your dream world and go get your shoes, we are going shopping.” Caleb snapped his finger in front of the still dreamy face, getting to his feet. “You too, Stella. Put away the drawing materials and wear your shoes.”
“Okay daddy.” Stella was already packing up her things and pushing to her feet. “C’mon Joseph the dreamer, let me help you put on your shoes.” She teased her brother, nudging him by the shoulder.
“I’m not Joseph the dreamer, I am Rukky the singer… the angel-singer.” Rukky disputed springing to his feet and going after her. “And I can put on my own shoes.”
Caleb was already heading towards the kitchen to secure the backdoor and from nowhere images of the big brown-eyed Miss Elizabeth found their way into his mind. What pretty, big eyes! Not bulging, just wide, round and brown. They just gripped at you with their sheer bright brownness. And that glowing fairness of her skin too.
He stopped dead in the middle of the terrazzo-tiled kitchen, and once again pal, you have no business thinking of her brown eyes or her fair flawless skin… you have no right thinking of her at all. You have absolutely no time for women.
Nodding his head and satisfied that he had his mind back on track, he continued towards the reddish-brown steel door, reached it, turned the key and pulled the handle to make sure it was locked. All things in order, he turned around and marched out to go get the kids.
They were at the Adeniran Ogunsanya Shopping Mall. They were at that particular Mall instead of one closer home because they’d been visiting a close family friend not far away and Tonye had suggested that they shop there and afterwards take a taxi home, instead of stopping on the way home to shop and then get back on the road again. Since it’d sounded sensible, she’d agreed and there they were doing their mostly kitchen-affairs shopping.
And since it was all about food items and kitchen odds-and-ends, Tonye was the one calling the shots… so far.
“We can’t pick two cartons of spaghetti.” Elizabeth shook her head at her brother. “Uh huh, we are taking one carton of spaghetti and one carton of noodles.”
Tonye tapped the trolley with one hand while the other was smugly lying inside the pocket of his blue jeans. “Monsieur Chef says two cartons of spaghetti.” He said in his most superior bossy tone. “Not only is it much more economical, it is above all much more filling and a much more grown-up food item.”
Elizabeth snorted at the sneering last bit, much more grown-up indeed. “Noodles is the staple food of the Chinese… and not just for children, Mr. Ignoramus.” Her tone was snooty and superior.
Tonye turned to roll his eyes at the woman who was watching them with open curiosity. “Eliza… Eliza dearie…” His voice was so patient that Elizabeth’s lips twitched.
“Spaghetti is the staple food of the Italians and more than half of the adult humanity, Miss I-know-it-all.” He flashed her a wink. “But beyond all that, I am the big boss in the kitchen and with that last bit of info, I say two cartons of spaghetti and let go off that carton of noodles.” He arched his brows at the carton of noodles she had in her hands.
Elizabeth stared at him, he looked back at her with his brown, superior eyes. She lowered her eyes to carefully study the carton of noodles, raised her eyes back to his and keeping it there, swept past him and dumped the carton right into his trolley.
“We are taking one carton of noodles and one carton of spaghetti. And I say that last bit not only as your big sister, anywhere, anytime but above all as the champ who whooped your sorry chef-ass last night in Monopoly.” She turned to give the chuckling lady a we-rule wink and turned to lean her head towards him. “I am the big boss-lady with all the money.”
She folded her hands across her chest and watched him with a you-try-and-beat-that smile on her lips and in her eyes. Tonye opened his mouth and then shut it again. Their private rule of Monopoly was that whoever the champ was, held the calling-card when it was shopping time… why had he for Christ’s sake invented that rule?
Sighing deeply, he walked over to the spaghetti rack and picked a carton and dropped it with a shake of his head into the trolley.
“Come along then, little loser… oops! I meant little brother.” She gave him a saccharine smile and almost giggled at his baleful glare. “Let’s round up and head home.”
Tonye followed her pushing the trolley and swearing under his breath that he’d be sure to win not only their next game but their next six games. And then he’d make sure they never saw another carton of noodles for the rest of the year.
He almost laughed aloud at his devilish scheming knowing it was already a failure… not that he couldn’t try to win their next six games, but he could never bear to deprive his sister anything, not with those big, appealing eyes of hers. If she hadn’t meanly used her trump card just now, he’d have caved just by one mournful look from those eyes. And because he’d have preferred caving in like some self-sacrificing hero, he decided he was still going to get his own back the first three chances he got.
“Extra fresh gel or Mint gel, you call it?” Elizabeth said raising up two blue toothpaste packs.
“So I get to play big boss now?”
“Hmm, I can be generous, after all I am the champ.” She chortled at his scowl. “So what will it…”
She jerked around to see Rukky just a few feet away at the edge of the aisle smiling at her animatedly. “Hey, Rukky.”
He ran forward, a quietly smiling Stella following more slowly. “Good evening, Miss Elizabeth. Are you shopping here too?”
He stopped right in front of her smiling from ear-to-ear. This was a miracle. Aunty Mabel had said that miracles happened when one prayed and believed. And he’d prayed that daddy meets Elizabeth again and it was about to happen.
Elizabeth smiled back at the sweet-smiling boy. “Ah, this as a matter of fact would be my first time. Actually my brother and I were…”
For the second time she was interrupted by a voice from down the aisle.
“You two mind slowing down for your old daddy?” Caleb said taking the turn and walking towards them. “I’ll have you two know that at my age, I shouldn’t be running.”
He raised his head from the cereal boxes he’d been studying only to have them locked into big, round brown eyes. “Miss Elizabeth!”
Like his son, his voice sounded surprised. But unlike his son, it wasn’t at all excited… just surprised. “What a surprise.” He walked the rest of the small distance to come stand behind Stella. “Err… good evening.”
He smiled at her and tried hard to not notice that she was looking absolutely pretty in her tawny-brown Lycra wrap dress. The orangey brown colour tinged with gold seemed to emphasise the brownness of her eyes. He quickly looked away to stare at the young, tall and handsome man behind her. They looked uncannily alike and he didn’t need to be told to know they were brother and sister… maybe even twins? Although he did look a wee-bit younger, but that could be because of the boyish smile he had on his face.
“Hello, I am Caleb Onofighe and these are my kids – Rukky and Stella.” He introduced with a warm smile. “Rukky is in Miss Elizabeth’s class.”
Tonye inclined his head, aha! “Good evening sir, I’m Tonye Harcourt, Miss Elizabeth’s younger brother.”
Elizabeth smacked him at the teasing emphasis on her name.
“Long-suffering younger brother.” Tonye added with a wink at a grinning Rukky.
Rukky giggled, instantly liking the nice man. “Good evening sir. I am Stella’s younger brother, too.” He said with a beam.
Tonye leaned down and took the outstretched small hand. “Then you and I have that in common – younger brothers to bossy big sisters. Is Stella as bossy as our dear Miss Elizabeth?” He angled his head upward to squint his eyes at a giggling Stella.
“I am not bossy, he is the one who bosses everyone around.” Stella denied with a laugh. “Good evening sir. And good evening Miss Elizabeth.”
Elizabeth smiled down at the girl, doing her best not to appear nervous.
“Good evening Stella.” She responded. “And don’t mind them, little brothers can be such a menace.”
“I am not a me… menace. I am a good little boy.” Rukky instantly defended. “And I am a long… long suf…” He stuttered to a stop.
“Long-suffering?” Tonye supplied.
Rukky beamed at him. “Yes, a long suffering brother too.”
“Do you even know the meaning of long suffering?” Stella teased, giving him a light tap on the head.
“Yes. It means suffering for a long time.” Rukky declared with childlike certainty. “And I have been suffering your bossy… err… behaviour since I was a baby. And I am going to be six years very soon.” He turned his eyes to Tonye. “That is a really, really long time.”
“Too long, my dear friend.” Tonye agreed with a nod, his fair face absolutely serious and understanding. “We are two people who have suffered for a really, really long time.”
Elizabeth bit her lips to stop her laughter. A teacher never, ever laughed at her pupil, never. But she could tease and laugh with him. “Ha Stella, the things we have to put up with, with these deluded little brothers.” She gave a deep sigh and shook her head.
Stella laughed. She wasn’t quite sure what ‘deluded’ meant – she’d look it up in her dictionary at home. But she was quite certain it meant something like ‘silly’ and that was definitely an appropriate description for Rukky, she wasn’t so sure about Miss Elizabeth’s brother though, so she chose to just laugh and say nothing.
Caleb had been watching the scene silently and was quite enjoying it. Or was it the presence of the pretty, big-eyed Miss Elizabeth he was enjoying? That very sneaky thought snapped him out of his pleasurable complacency. They needed to be on their way.
“Okay long-suffering brother and bossy sister, we have to move on and allow Miss Elizabeth and her brother finish their shopping.”
He smiled mildly at Elizabeth. “Nice to meet you again, Miss Elizabeth.”
“Have a great weekend, sir.” Elizabeth responded with a cool smile of her own. “See you kids Monday.” Her smile warmed as she turned to the children.
Caleb extended a hand to the brother. “And a pleasure to meet you, Tonye.”
Tonye shook the hand firmly. “Same here, sir.”
“Bye, Miss Elizabeth.” Rukky grinned and waved. “And bye-bye Mr. Tonye.”
“See you Monday, Miss Elizabeth.” Stella repeated and turned to smile shyly at the tall man beside her. “Bye, sir.”
“See you again, fellow-sufferer and you too, little boss lady.” Tonye waved back with a grin.
They watched the trio walk down the aisle with Rukky already chattering off animatedly.
“So, that was the gawking widower parent you met yesterday.” Tonye stated with a mischievous glint in his eyes. “He has a limp.”
Elizabeth stopped to stare at him. “So?”
Tonye lifted his shoulder in a nonchalant shrug. “Nothing. Just saying you failed to mention it… just as you avoided mentioning he was quite a good-looking man.”
She arched her brows snootily. “Frankly, I don’t see how any of those pieces of information are relevant to you.” She dropped the extra fresh gel pack into the trolley and turned to continue towards the counter.
Tonye chuckled. “But they are relevant to you, hmm?”
“Oh please, stop with your mischief, Tonye.” Elizabeth groaned swiping up a can of spray starch and tossing it in the trolley. “You know very well I have not the least interest in men… anymore. I only met the man because he is the parent of one of my children.”
He grinned beside her, totally enjoying himself. “Of course. Just that Mr. Caleb Onofighe is the kind of a man that most often inspires… passion in women.”
Since there were two people in front of them, she had just enough time to drum good sense into his head, so twisting her neck she said in a low whisper. “I’ve got only one passion, and that is to teach little children and help them grow… mentally and intellectually.”
Tonye nodded his head, grinning widely. “That sounds very noble, Miss Elizabeth.”
“Push the damn trolley forward.” Elizabeth snapped as the lined moved. “And shut your long-suffering mouth or I’ll make you suffer a really, really long time.”
Tonye pushed forward the trolley, his shoulders shaking with laughter. Ah, finally he found his trump card. And he’d also seen her not-so-well hidden nervousness at the man’s presence. She was never nervous with parents. And the man had looked a little nervous too. This trump card certainly had underlining shades of colour. And as a long-suffering brother, it was his business to whip them to the surface.
He smiled charmingly at the pretty cashier as he unloaded the trolley. “Hello, good evening.”
And at the unladylike snort behind him, his charming smile blossomed to the unfortunate sky-rocketing heartbeat of the now googly-eyed cashier.
**And that is it for today, hope you enjoy. Remember to use any of our share buttons and like our Facebook page. Till tomorrow… cheers**