"Mummy, open the door!" Ajibike shouted as she jumped up and down excitedly at the entrance to her home. She had just come back from a photo session with her best friend, Lanre. They were neighbors- the Adekomi's stayed on the ground floor while their family occupied the upper flat of their building, which was among the staff quarters on campus.
Ajibike had been scared at first when her mother had told her Mr. Adekomi would be taking them there, a man so tall that all she ever saw were his long long legs. The only time she ever saw his face was the one time he had carried them all to school, when he yelled that she had not closed the door of his VolksWagen Beetle car properly, and after that, she had cried that she never wanted to follow him to school again. It didn't help that his cheeks were lined from one end to another in tribal marks either.
Ajibike had sat quietly in the car until they had gotten to the studio, and had scrambled out so she would not be the last one out of the car - and thus the one to close the door. She had had a fun time making faces at the camera, only to be told that she had been there before as a baby, with her friend Lanre. She had been given a complimentary copy of their early photo and she was clutching it in her hand at the door right then.
Before she could shout again, the door swung open, and she ran into the living room. Her Aunt Itam, her mother's Calabar-born help was busy trying to force her little brother to wear a sweater over his shirt - with one glance Ajibike saw she wasn't making any progress.
"Where is mummy?" she asked.
"Is that how to say good afternoon?" Aunt Itam replied.
"Sorry Auntie," Ajibike mumbled. "good afternoon Auntie."
"Good afternoon to you too," Aunt Itam replied. "How was your photography?"
"You mean photo session, Itam," Aunt Ibiriyike interrupted as she entered the room. She was Ajibike's mother's younger sister, and as far as Ajibike was concerned, an angel from God living among humans.
"Yes," Aunt Itam agreed."Your photo session, how was it?"
"Fine Auntie," shouted Ajibike, who pivoted to her angel instantly. "I behaved myself, and the photographer gave me this as a gift! He said I had been there before as a baby!"
"Yes that's true," agreed Aunt Ibiriyike. "When you had no hair on your shiny head."
Ajibike touched her head of full, curly hair. "I didn't have hair?" she asked, dismayed.
"Yes, but you have plenty now," Aunt Ibiriyike said, rubbing her head affectionately before she pulled out the large-scale photo gift, and smiled. It was a copy of the shot showing Ajibike sitting on a stool, and Lanre standing beside her, both smiling so happily.
"Lemme see!" shouted Ajibike, as she jumped up, trying to catch a glimpse.
"Here have it," Aunt Ibiriyike handed it over to her.
Ajibike stared at the picture and smiled, already sure she was going to tease Lanre for his almost toothless grin at his age - he was about a year older than her and should have had plenty teeth by the time of the picture. She felt a tug at her shirt and looked down at her baby brother Deji as he used her as a prop to stand. When he was upright he reached for the photograph but she raised it out of his reach.
"No Deji," she said repeatedly. "You will spoil it!"
Frustrated, the toddler grabbed her clothes closer as if to hug her.
Ajibike smiled. Her baby brother had never tried hugging her before, she thought, as she put her hands around his body, bending a little to enjoy the special moment.
Then she felt the bite.
Her baby brother had bitten her stomach, in the navel area, with all of his five teeth.
It would have been mild if the boy had let go but he held on to her flesh, through her dress, as tight as he could.
Ajibike's yells brought everybody, including her father, to the living room. Eventually they were able to separate the two children. While Deji gave his first true smile since he could crawl, Ajibike cried and cried so much that her mother was scared that they might have to go to the hospital just for check up. As their father was still contemplating whether to disagree, Mrs. Adekomi, who was a nurse, knocked on the door.
"We heard Ajibike screaming," she said. "Hope no problem."
"None o," replied Ajibike's mother. "Just the two of them fighting. Deji bit Ajibike in the stomach."
"Thanks for checking on us Madam." Ajibike's Dad interrupted Mrs. Adekomi's sympathetic response. "And if you dont mind, could you please examine the bite? She keeps crying and crying."
Fifteen minutes later Mrs. Adekomi confirmed his thoughts - no serious wounds. She must be crying from the emotional pain,the nurse concluded.
But when by nighttime Ajibike was still sobbing and scrambling away from Deji everytime he crawled near, her mother knew she had to do something.