Sally is my best friend and sister. She is my father’s daughter but not my mother’s. Her skin, soft and succulent like a ripe apple fruit, glazes like rich coffee in a porcelain mug. Although she dislikes being compared to a beverage, I think it is the closest I can get to describing how ‘hot’ and sought after my sister is.
Her oval face sits pretty on her slim, long neck and her chest –an orchard of two lush plums- is the fall of many a man. Grown men weep like babies when she refuses their advances and literally, worship the ground she steps on. She walks like an angel among mortals.
My mother had died during my childbirth and my father –not knowing what to do with a frail infant who cried all the time- married a new wife, seven days after my uncelebrated birth. I do not hold that against him in any way because any man who had to wait for twelve years to marry the woman he loved, only to lose her to some ill-fated childbirth, would act in a most unpredictable manner.
While Sally’s mother was nursing me, she took in and soon after, Sally my beautiful baby sister was born. I was only eleven months old. All the affection that Father tucked safely away from me, was emptied on her like one did to one’s favourite wine.
Anytime I stumble on pictures of us as toddlers, I can’t help but notice how lovingly he clung to her and Mother (what we call Sally’s mother) while I, dressed like an eighteenth century nomad, had the demeanor of a total stranger. Years later, I cannot categorically say what it was that made me look that way but I guess it came from a place of deep hurt and suppressed pain.
I was not allowed to plait my hair like the other kids in my school but Sally always used hair extensions. While she wore leather sandals, I managed an ugly pair of rubber shoes that seemed uglier whenever it rained because of the thick pads of clay that stung onto its surface.
She won numerous prizes in school and was given new toys while I was chastized at the end of each academic session due to the poor results I brought home. The scars of the whiplashes abound all over my back, tummy and legs. The most obvious is the thick, cylindrical one strategically positioned on the centre of my forehead but I do my best to hide it with a beret, which has become more of a fashion item for me.
Whenever Mother made derogatory remarks at me, usually during dinner, Father would hiss and immediately order me out of the dining room. My presence was akin to a bad omen. It was as if I constantly reminded him of a past he struggled to leave behind.
I would sneak behind the door and watch them through the key hole laughing and chatting as they ate. They were a happy sight –the three of them and I would wish that I hadn’t survived. I was better off dead than lonely in the midst of people, I always wondered.
The first time Sally and I talked like sisters was when she joined me in boarding school. I was a class ahead of her and so, was the only familiar face she knew.
Secondary school was a world of its own. One had to follow the school regulations or else, miss out on some of the day’s activities. My parents had planned to get her a different Guardian but the Principal insisted that mine was also going to be hers, as prescribed by the school rules.
As we sat in the principal’s rather too small office, I could read the anger on their disgruntled faces and swore to have nothing to do with Sally when she finally got in.
Fate, on the other hand, had an interesting plan. Sally was assigned to my house. Surprised? She was not only my housemate but my bunkmate. I slept on the upper bed while she took the lower bed.
Very late one night, a week after resumption, she lightly tapped me to wake up. The room was quiet except for the chirping of crickets, twirling of fan blades and the snoring of pursy girls. In panic, I jumped down almost spraining an ankle in the process and pleaded with her to tell me what was making her cry instead of sleeping. Her eyes were swollen from crying.
She pointed a finger to a pink irregular stain covering more than half of the bed where her buttock had formed a shallow depression. With a smile playing on my face, I shifted my gaze to her feet and observed the rosy fluid rapidly trickle down the inner sides of her legs, having marred her flowery, cotton night gown.
It was her moment of self-awareness and she needed more than ever to be reassured. I could see her chest rise and fall like a tide. Gently placing an arm on her shoulder and peering into her eyes, I told her it was okay.
I accompanied her to the bathroom to have a shower. While waiting, I told her about my first menstruation which happened on the day of my baptism.
As a frightened JSS1 student, on my white on white attire, I beckoned on a deaconess and whispered into her ears that I felt like I had pissed on my pants but that I was certain I hadn’t done so. She got the cue and wrapped her shawl around my waist and led me out of the Chapel, back to the hostel.
It was she who told me that I had matured into a lady and taught me how to properly wear a sanitary pad. Sally made a vague comment about how scared she knew I must have been and I honestly thought it was a sweet thing to say.
When she was done and we returned to the dormitory, I brought out a pack of sanitary pad from my closet and showed her how to wear it. I was swept with a feeling of nostalgia as I remembered my own experience of the apparent transition to womanhood.
At first, she was terrified that it might fall off but I convinced her that it would stay in place. I helped her to change her bedsheet and waited until she had slept to climb up to my own bed. I stayed awake for a really long time, thinking about what had just transpired, before my eyes became heavy with sleep and I hit the sack.
That was the first and last we ever spoke. If it were in my power, I would go back in time and revel in that beautiful, yet short-lived moment. I call her my best friend because no one else would take me, a doleful soul, for a friend.
Perhaps one day you find me cold and lifeless, please tell it first to Sally. Only then, shall I truly rest in peace.