By Chidera Onyebuchi
“They have a problem with people of colour. They run an underground buying and selling of…” he takes in air “…black people. I mean the organization not my parents. The only thing my family do is to ensure that there’s no meaningful ties between us and blacks.” She waits for him to say “like you, like our relationship”. He notices the shock on her face and begins to gropes for ways to make the topic understanding for her. “But they were found out one time, I don’t know if it’s still on. They believe that things should be how it used to be before black people gained freedom, they feel like black people are a liability and are taking over things meant for Whites. They believe that black people are kind of unequal with them. That they…”
“Brian stop, stop. Can you hear yourself? Your family is on another level of racism and you didn’t think to tell me? So this was what they meant?” People made negative comments when they were out, she heard the whispers when they were at a public place, and the way people stared at them. Ezinwa recalls being visited or called by different members of Brian’s family. At first, they had tried to buy her off until they found out how prominent her family was in Nigeria. It was Brian’s mum who told her about the other members.
“If you don’t leave Brian, he won’t leave and like I said, he’s only doing this to spite us.” She said. “Do you really think he’d be with someone like you? Someone from your country? For all we know you could be a fraud but that’s not the point. What I’m saying is, there are other people who don’t like the fact that you and Brian are together. It would not only affect the both of you but Brian’s family as well and we won’t be too happy about that.” Ezinwa would not forget how the woman’s eyes bored into hers. Eyes made of steel. Eyes that robbed one of words.
Brian tries to take her hands and she recoils, favouring the door of the car. A lot of things swim through her mind. The fact that her boyfriend’s family were part of a white supremacist organisation bothered her. He wasn’t party to that, right? He was against it. She tries to tell herself, but he was related to people who sold and bought people of her kind.
“I’m not like them I promise.”
“An apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Brian.”
“This apple did.” Brian says and she turns to look him in the eye. There is look of sincerity on Brian’s face. He looks like he wishes everything he said were not true, but that did not make it okay. She feels like a traitor.
He opens the door for her and holds her hands as they walk through the interlocked pathway in the garden, where the event is set to take place. She feels something inexplicable with the soft music playing in the setting. There are several people laughing and talking. When they sit, they took pastries from trays held out by stewards and make a toast to their relationship, sipping their drinks with all elegance. Ezinwa is the only black person who is not dressed in a white and black attire, serving drinks. She appears more elegant than everybody in the room. One would think she was the one who organised the party, except she would not have made the people who served, all black. She adjusts her fur scarf and tries to ignore the gaze of people on her. It seems like the music stopped for a moment, like everything stopped. Even Brian was invisible. She has never riveted heads the way she does ever since she began attending events together with Brian or even alone.
“What are you doing?” It was Brian’s mum, Mrs Smichdt. She pulls the both of them out from the gathering. Mr Smichdt joins them minutes later, leaving a punch on Brian’s face.
“Are you out of your mind?!” He barks.
“Brian’s girlfriend, it is very clear now that Brian is using you to spite us. This is a party held by our organization every year.” She’s speaking hurriedly as though she fears of something Brian knows. Ezinwa has never seen her with her guard down. “Nobody in our organization is allowed to associate with black people even for work, except on the basis that they’re going to serve them. He’s clearly taking advantage of this event to get at us. The president is approaching, tell him you’re Brian’s maid.”
“Ezinwa don’t do that. I’m not using you.”
“You didn’t tell me it was the organization’s party.” Brian searches his pocket for a ring and goes on one knee.
“I love you Ezinwa, Nkem. I would do anything to be with you for the rest of my life. Marry me, please.” Brian’s parents are trying to pull him up now
“Brian stop this!” Mrs Smichdt pushes him on the floor once the president arrives. He’s a short man with a corny look. Ezinwa wants to say yes, to spite his parents, to rattle the organization but something tells her that Brian has been using her all the while. Did he plan to propose to her there to spite them? She doesn’t get it. Has she been a pawn? Should she be happy that he was using her to try to make changes in the organization? Brian was back on his knees with the ring in his hands. The President looks amused as he stares at the ring and then at Brian’s parents.
“Who’s she?” The President asks.
“Brian’s maid.” Mrs Smichdt says.
Brian shoots up to his feet, simmering with rage. “My fiancée.”
“Well, his claim is believable.” The President says, smiling as he studies Ezinwa. “It seems like them dirts are attracted to your family members, Smichdt?”
“We can fix this one, give us time.” Mr Smichdt says.
“I don’t believe this.” Ezinwa takes off her fur scarf and walks out of the garden, letting her scarf dangle as it grazes the grass. A young white girl in a ball gown runs after her. When she is close enough, she pulls at Ezinwa’s gown. Ezinwa stops and turns, the girl is breathing loudly.
“Did they let you stay?”
“My friend Malika, I invited her last year and mum and dad grilled me, then after that they grounded me. Malika never came back to school, they said she went back to her country. Mum and Dad don’t let me have African friends. I think they’re really cool. I was really happy when Uncle Brian brought you.” They turn back to where Brian, his parents and the President are in a heated argument. “I guess they’re going to send you back to your country.”
“They can’t.” Ezinwa says. “Malika would come back one day and you’ll understand. I hope that you fight against what’s wrong like Uncle Brian.” The girl nods.
“Emily! You’re so grounded!” A woman is running towards them with a man following close behind.
“Your dress is really pretty by the way and so are you.” Emily snaps a flower from beside her and hands it to Ezinwa. “You look like the flower.”
“Thanks.” Ezinwa makes to take the flower from Emily when she is pulled back by the man and they quickly hurry away. Emily waves at Ezinwa who picks the flower from the grass and leaves the garden. Brian does not come after her. He only wanted to make a point and he used her for it. She takes off her heels and walks down the road. As she waves down a cab, settling into it, she makes up her mind to take her car with her when she goes on dates with the next man she meets.
Ifenna walks into the house, wondering whether her sister was back or still out. She notices that Ezinwa’s shoes are arranged. Ezinwa never places her shoes side by side. It was Ifenna’s duty to place them together before heading into the living room. She picks up a white flower from the floor, confused. Her sister is lying on the couch, a knife in her hand, a red patch on her tummy and a pool of blood on the floor. Ifenna thinks it’s a dream so she pinches her wrists and blinks her eyes continuously. She dials 911 and goes to check Ezinwa’s pulse, she feels nothing. She crumbles to the floor crying, she wants to scream but she waits, and after a short while the urge to scream comes. She gives in to it, half-expecting that it would wake her sister up. She calls Brian, she needs to tell him that she thinks Hassan killed Ezinwa. She knows something happened between Hassan and her sister. She had read their texts, she had seen him hovering around the house and running once he spotted her.
Brian arrives minutes later after the ambulance. A cop in a baggy blue sweater is present too. He holds a notepad while two other people are studying Ezinwa’s body.
“Was Ezinwa suicidal?” Brian and Ifenna look at each other. Ezinwa may have thought of killing herself, but she wouldn’t. All Brian wants to do is leave. He wants to find out if his parents were responsible or Hassan or Ezinwa. Brian isn’t a part of his parent’s organization. He works on his own. He knows that he could kill Ezinwa by himself but he likes the process, luring her, getting her to trust and love him then making his parents do the dirty job. They had no idea that every time they reacted to the black girls he dated, they were walking straight into his trap. He likes to know that the population of black girls who tried to rule the world, were reducing and he was a great part of it. They always felt supreme and he hated it. Ezinwa was not the first girl he had set as bait for his parents, or the second or the thirteenth. All he needs to know is who did it?
“She was, but she would never kill herself.” Brian says. He knew Ezinwa wanted to kill herself, He knew Hassan had raped her. He followed her everywhere. He needs to get on Ifenna’s good side because he knows that she is going to be some sort of idol, some sort of queen for other black women. Ezinwa’s death would ignite it and he would quench it.
“My sister would never do that.”
“The cop outside has seen your sister with this knife before. She was raped and she had not gotten over it yet. She has been to the station several times but she never says anything. I think your sister was traumatized by it. It’s hard for you to believe. I know, it’s normal.”
“I told you that her shoes were arranged, Ezinwa never arranges her shoes when she gets home.”
“When you’re traumatized, things change. Your normal way of living is altered. Ifenna I’m sorry for your loss.” Ifenna knows it’s a lost cause. Maybe the cop was right. What if her sister had had enough? Ifenna thanks them and goes to her room. If her sister who told her everything, couldn’t tell her that she was raped, then maybe she had been wrong along. Ezinwa had told her of all the times she had been sexually abused, in the bus, the train, at the store, at work. Maybe being raped was a different type of sexual abuse. Maybe it was the highest form. Ifenna wonders how all the other women who had been raped or sexually abused dealt with it. What if some women were not strong enough to withstand any form of sexual abuse? She wonders what the world would be like if women were never raped or sexually abused. At least, the world would not have lost Ezinwa and it would have made things better for Ifenna. She slides under Ezinwa’s blanket and begins to cry, praying that her sister’s soul rest in peace. Later, she would be at the frontiers of weeding the world of rapists, molesters and sexual abusers.