HOUSE ON THE ROCK
EPISODE 1 – Graduation Day
My Den of Secrets
Posted by FemmeFaçade in My Life, Poetry on June 23, 2012
I tried to keep it all within but I’m screaming a silence no one can hear,
Because the pressure is now too much for one so young to bear.
The thing I will become is what I fear.
So let me share it all and perhaps you will learn to care.
And even if you don’t, well, these personal demons have to go somewhere.
I’m only sixteen and already have too many secrets to bear.
So I will share the load here, anonymously, without fear.
My first Blog Post, LOL.
Sola stood in front of her full-length, oak-framed mirror, running her hands over the skirt of her strapless sweetheart ruffle dress and staring wistfully at her reflection. She was lost in the image of the young woman before her, seemingly searching for something in her eyes or waiting for her to look back at her and tell her something she desperately needed to hear. Her reflection, slender, curvaceous, and quite tall for her age – the tallest girl in her class at almost 6 feet- simply stared back at her, unyielding. All she could think about was all she had done to lead her up to this point. After what seemed to her like endless years, it was finally Graduation day; her time at American International School was finally up. But this day held much more in store for her than a celebratory cap and gown. It would be, one way or the other, the day her life changed. Of that, she was absolutely certain.
Smiling to herself a little, she spun around for the umpteenth time and admired herself in the French Connection dress she had settled on, quite pleased with the decision. Sola had spent the better part of the morning trying on the ten graduation dresses her mum had ordered just for today – some specially tailored to suit her specific requirements- and dress after dress had looked gorgeous on her, but she’d picked this red number because the color complimented her caramel skin and the length was what she deemed to be perfect – short enough to show off her long legs, but not so short that it was inappropriate for the occasion. She couldn’t wait to climb up on the podium, collect her diploma, and finally be done with this phase of her life.
The future… Thinking about it snuffed out the small spark that had lit up her eyes just seconds ago. Ecstatic as she was about graduation, she was still uncertain about certain other aspects of the day. The only thing she was sure of was that whatever happened, it was definitely going to be the most important day of her life.
KAK! KAK! KAK!!!
A knock on the door dragged her out of her thoughts. Running her hands over the front of her dress one last time, she picked up a brush from the vanity table and pretended to be busy working on her hair. “Come in.” she called over her shoulder.
The door opened just a crack and Bisola, her elder sister, stuck her head into the room
“How many years will you take to get ready? Everyone is waiting for you downstairs.”
Consumed in her own thoughts, Sola had completely lost track of the time.
“Sorry! I’m almost done. I’ll be right down.”
Bisola rolled her eyes and entered the room.
“Let me help you.”
Sola stared at her sister in awe. Bisola looked a divine vision in a purple floor-length maxi dress and was easily the same height as Sola when she had her heels on. Her sister never missed an opportunity to outshine her, and Sola kicked herself mentally for thinking today would be any different.
“Thanks.” Sola handed over the brush and let her sister work her hair into a loose bun.
Stepping back to assess her work, Bisola gave a curt nod of approval and smiled
“Look how pretty you are.”
She watched Sola blush nervously as she picked up a clutch purse from the bed and then pointed towards the door.
“Oya, Let’s go!”
The two sisters giggled as they left the room and shut the door behind them.
Chief Wale Odukoya sat on the couch at the far end of his expansive, plush living room. His son, Yinka and wife were seated on another longer couch to his left, fiddling with their phones. Chief, as everyone referred to him, was typing a message, arranging a rendezvous for the weekend. His wife was pretending not to know what he was doing as she searched for a direct flight to Rome. Yinka was reading a blog. None of them seemed to notice the two girls gracefully descend the carpeted stairs to join them. Wale almost jumped out of his seat, his pride mirrored by the smile spread from one ear to the other.
“Look at my daughter! Sola is that you? Are you now a supermodel?” The girls laughed and rolled their eyes at his exaggerated excitement and the chief proceeded to engulf Sola in one of his famous bear hugs. Amidst giggles, she disappeared momentarily under his 6 foot, 3 inch height and considerable bulk, accentuated by his flowing agbada.
“You look beautiful, dear.” Mrs. Mosun Odukoya chimed in from behind her husband.
“Are you all set? We are a bit early, we can take some photographs”
Gym Class Heroes’ Stereo interrupted the conversation suddenly as Sola fumbled around in her purse to retrieve her phone. Her heart pounded fiercely against her chest as she read the message on her screen.
Breathe, Sola she told herself, making an effort not to give away her sudden and intense nervousness. He wanted to meet her. To talk.
“Actually, I have to go ahead of you guys.” Before any of the shocked faces around her could respond, she quickly followed added “I have to go help in school with the set up.” and started heading towards the door.
“On your own graduation day?” Mosun called after her daughter.
Mosun couldn’t shake the feeling that something had been off about Sola for the past week. Initially, she’d thought it was anxiety about her impending graduation, but now she sensed there was more to Sola’s unease that met the eye, and she disliked that little more than being out of the loop.
“Yinka, why don’t you drive her there and we’ll meet you up at the school?”
Yinka had been more than content with just sitting and observing the scene around him as it played out but he did not object to his mother’s request. He put his phone away.
“Sure, why not?”
Getting up from where he’d been seated, he sauntered after his younger sister.
Red and gold drapes hung round the bottom half of the transparent glass dome, ribbons and balloons the same colours were woven through the beamers, and chairs and tables covered in silk material of the same colours were arranged ballroom style in front of a magnificent stage. Some of the light coming through the top of the dome hit the balloons, casting a pretty yellow glow around the foyer and the eager parents and guests looked around in awe at the magnificence the hall had been transformed into.
The Odukoyas were led by an especially convivial usher to an especially reserved table just in front of the stage. Chief Odukoya waved to some familiar friends and smiled at members of the school staff as they offered various platitudes before sitting down next to his wife, Yinka and Bisola across from them. Not long after they were seated, the MC came on stage wearing a showy silver suit and offered a few obligatory jokes before informing them of the commencement of the event. He was followed by a young woman in a flowing strapless gown, who offered a brief opening prayer and then proceeded to give renditions of both the American and Nigerian national anthems, backed up by a choir of junior students as was AIS tradition. When they were done, the academic staff began to march in, taking their seats beside the stage while the graduating students sat in a designated row. Mosun’s eyes swept the hall poring over the row of graduating students, searching fruitlessly for her daughter.
“Sola isn’t here.”
She whispered to her husband and he too quickly scanned the hall for his daughter.
“Where is she?”
“Didn’t we get here together? How should I know?” Wale turned his attention to his oldest son “Yinka, you brought her here. Where is she?”
Shrugging, Yinka simply waved his hand, gesturing in no particular direction “I’m pretty sure she’s around here somewhere; I dropped her off near the reception. She’s probably still setting up or something; you know how she can be about details and being a goody two shoes. Relax, I’ll send her a bbm”
Yinka casually sent a few PINGS over his Blackberry Bold device and stared at the screen blankly, waiting for a response. None came. The minutes piled on and as they did, so did the worry of his parents. Bisola began to fidget with her hair.
“…and so we present, to you, the American International School graduating class of 2012!” The MC’s voice rang out over the speakers, and a band took up their instruments, playing AIS’s grand march. Guests turned their attention to the entrance of the foyer as the graduating students, decked in golden silk robes and red hats, stood from their designated rows and formed a line, preparing to make their way to the front of the stage.
Mosun leaned over and tapped Bisola on the shoulder.
“My dear, please go and find your sister before she misses her own graduation ceremony.”
She repeated to herself over again, bent over the sink, hands gripping the edge of the cool tile for balance, trying to steady her racing heart. She tried to focus her attention on the hollow sound of steady, dripping sound of water ricocheting off the bathroom walls, but her mind kept coming back to the plastic object on the tile next to her fingers. Hard to imagine a vertical line on a digital display screen could cause a person’s hopes and dreams to come crashing down around them in a single second. For some reason, she’d thought trying it again today, being as filled with hope and elated as she was, would somehow make the results different. How wrong she’d been.
All she could do standing there was play over every possible scenario where she gave her parents the news in her head. In each one, they had the same disappointing look on their faces, and it didn’t seem she could escape the impending disaster. She remembered what he had said a few minutes ago when she shared her worries with him and nausea overwhelmed her. She hurled and gave her breakfast to the sink, then tried to rinse her mouth without ruining her make-up. A strained smile coloured what was left of her made-up face; how silly she had been to allow herself to think things wouldn’t turn out so bad. “Did you think you were going to ride off into the freaking sunset?” she asked her reflection, half-expecting an answer. She sighed.
As Sola bent to rinse her face again, the door creaked open behind her, startling her a little. She looked into the mirror to see who it was, but only managed to catch a blurred reflection before the pain shot through every part of her body.
Between the band procession’s music and the announcer calling out the names of the graduating students to much applause, no one heard the first scream, or the second. But as its source got closer, ears began to strain and people started to ask each other if they heard it. Soon, there was no ignoring the high-pitched shrieks hurtling towards the auditorium. A young woman burst through the doors, interrupting the graduation ceremony and bringing the procession to a sudden halt. Everyone’s attention turned to the wide-eyed beauty in the maxi dress, stumbling forward through the packed hall, still screaming and covered in blood.
Chief Odukoya shot to his feet and began to run towards his eldest child. She finally stopped moving and sank to the ground, her dress a bloodied puddle around her.
“Ah Sola!” She shouted over and again, fumbling with her bloody fingers as her father pushed through the small crowd that had formed around her and knelt beside his daughter. He placed his arms on her shoulders.
“Ah. Ah. Ah. Bisola! What is all this blood? Kilon shele?” No response.
“Where is Sola?”
Bisola stared up at her father with wide, bloodshot eyes and struggled to get the words out in one go.
“Sola is dead.”
HOUSE ON THE ROCK
Next Week: Early in the Mourning
You can read all episodes of HOUSE ON THE ROCK HERE