Mirror (Part One: Paradise Lost)

                                             The universe takes care of all its birds- R.J Palacio
The feeling of emptiness seemed to engulf her. It swirled inside her, sweeping in anger, pain and regret along with it, like a hurricane. She once saw a question about which was more painful: physical pain or emotional pain. At first she was a bit uncertain, but now she knew. How can you heal what you can’t see? How do you mend what you can’t feel? How can you put yourself together when you don’t even know the pieces that are missing? That’s how she felt, like a jigsaw puzzle with some pieces missing, so it was just an incomplete picture. Her name meant happiness but she always seemed to feel the opposite.
“Idunu,” her mother called, “dinner is ready.”
Just what she needed, more food. At this point she had already learned to eat her feelings at an almost professional level. She stood up from her bed to make her way to her door, barely glancing at the Beyoncé posters on her pink coloured wall, she wasn’t in the mood to dawdle. She also briskly walked past her full length mirror, she was the last person she wanted to look at. Her room wasn’t much to look at, really. It would resemble a store if not for the bed and her own little personal touches, she was the only chid but with none of the privileges.
“Idunu!’ Her mother shouted. “I’ve called you more than five times or am I your mate that you want me to bring your food up to you?”
Sometimes she wondered if her mother knew she was exaggerating or if over the years, continuous use had made it a second nature to her.
“I’m coming, ma” she shouted back, in a volume that was neither rude nor disrespectful, Nigerian parents were very touchy about that. Walking down the stairs she passed some family pictures hung on the wall, pictures that showed happy people with happy smiles, but that was far from the truth, those smiles never existed in reality. She hated the pictures, they represented a time that never happened, her family had never smiled like that. They had never gotten together like that. They were barely even a family, just three related people in a house, not a home.
Even from the middle of the staircase she could smell the sweet aroma of the freshly prepared soup. Her stomach rumbling in response. She walked into the kitchen and looked in awe at the feast laid before her. Despite her mother’s flaws- many as they were-she was something of an adept cook. Laid on the table was a wonderful meal made up of Amala and Ewedu soup. Yes, she was unhappy but at least she wasn’t hungry.
She was busy eating, enjoying the meal when she looked at the empty chair and a thought struck her.
” Where’s daddy?” she asked. “Why didn’t he come home last night?”
Her mother’s reply-as always-was snappy and devoid of warmth.
“Why don’t you just focus on your food and leave your father alone?” she said with a stern look.
The thing was, Idunu wasn’t fooled. She saw the quick but noticeable look on her mother’s face, she knew that look, it was the exact same one she used when she was trying to be strong. When she asked that question, she suspected that her mother had asked herself the exact same thing. Truth be told, she didn’t know much about her father. He seemed so cold and unwelcoming, every attempt to start a conversation with him was just an exercise in futility so she gave up on trying. She had always wondered why her mother loved him. Birds of the same feather, she thought, and smiled to herself. But her mother had the eyes of a hawk.
She frowned. “What are you smiling at?”
Your strange marriage, she thought.
“Nothing, I just remembered something funny.”
“Well, okay, I just don’t know how you can smile with that body of yours. Please calm down with the food, it’s not running away”
Yeah, sure, why not? Body shame your fifteen-year-old daughter, nothing off beam there.
Sometimes, when her mother was feeling in a better mood, she’d ask what was wrong. Sometimes, she was what was wrong.
Unsurprisingly, her hunger faded. Now, all she wanted was to leave her mother’s company.
“Thank you for the food” she said as she picked up her plate to clear it.
“Ahn ahn, but you’ve barely touched your food,” her mother said, “what’s wrong?”
“Nothing, I’m just full, I’m on a diet”
“Finally.” Her mother said.
She quickly left the kitchen and tried her best to hold in the tears that were threatening to escape her eyes. She quickly climbed the stairs, a small feat since her vision was blurred with her tears. She entered her room and fell on her bed, silently wishing she was never born.
That night she stayed up, thinking about how different her life would be if everything was just perfect. If she wasn’t so fat, if her mother wasn’t so mean, if her father actually cared maybe, just maybe her life would make sense. But for now, it was all just a fantasy, but that didn’t stop her from replaying it in her mind, over and over again. She did this until the cold embrace of sleep finally took hold of her.

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