There’s a little terrorist residing in my house.
I have no idea what happened while I was away for three weeks, but it seems like somebody took my sweet, gentle, loyal, law abiding, 7 year old Xia with big gorgeous eyes the size of the moon. In her place, they left a little monster. The kind that strikes when you least expect. You know the phrase wolf in a sheep’s skin? Now I fully understand how it came to be. Because this small girl looks everything like my Xia, but acts nothing like her.
First came the accusations, then I witnessed her in action. I recall this particular Sunday morning in Worcester. I had just woken up to a gorgeous view befitting a Sunday morning. The sun shone just enough to warm the otherwise crisp fall air. A cocktail of leaves sprawled all over the yard. Golden, burnt orange, purple, yellow. It was a sight to behold.
A different backdrop was in place 11,500kms away, back at my household in Nairobi. I looked at my apple watch and did some quick math. It was 7:45pm in Nairobi. At the onset, it was always frustrating to work out the time difference. With an 8 hour difference and with Nairobi being ahead, I constantly had to add 8 to the current time and it always felt like I was asked to work out something like 147 divide by 13 off the top of my head! Don’t even ask why I simply did not use the World Clock function on my iPhone. Sometimes, we can’t explain why we do things the way we do them.
Anyway, two weeks later, I had become a pro in doing the inevitable time conversions. I even had a short cut which my pal Bianca had taught me after seeing my struggles.
“Just subtract 4 from the current time, and interchange the am/pm.” She offered.
Bianca is this numbers genius who converts miles to kilometres, pounds to kilograms, fahrenheit to celsius, all with the ease of adding 1 plus 1. I used to be a numbers genius too, but two kids later, the only math I am great at involves working out how long 2 litres of cooking oil can last in my household.
So this particular morning in Worcester, I imagined it was dark in Nairobi, and the mister was issuing instructions to the kids to clean up the dinning table and brush their teeth after having their usual meal of vegetable fried rice, beef with green pepper and chicken wings from For U restaurant. I don’t understand the kids’ obsession with that food as I find it more bland than chalk. On Sunday evenings, we have to visit three different restaurants as none of the D’Souza residents would be willing to compromise on their wants. Everyone has a say as long as the mister’s wallet is fat enough.
I Face Timed the mister and true to my imagination, he was just about to get them to bed.
“How much longer before you come back?” He asked.
“Why, is my absence being heavily felt?” I teased.
“Xia has lost it and I am defeated.” He announced.
“Wait, what? Xia or Xena?” I inquired.
“Ebu ask Xena to tell you what she did this morning.” He said, handing the phone to our 10 year old daughter.
I chortled as I listened to Xena’s narration of the incident. If you haven’t met Xena, then you haven’t experienced hyperbole and dramatic flair at its best.
“Mama, si you know how Xia always wakes up before everyone else? I was enjoying my beauty sleep then as I turned to give my left side a break, I first heard something skulking about, followed by chewing. I remembered one of my favourite books Geronimo Stilton, the one where the characters are rats. Immediately I felt goosebumps all over me at the thought of rats having invaded our bedroom.” She reported.
“Goodness, that must have been scary! So what did you do?”
“I gathered courage, lifted my head slightly off the bed to peep. And there it was, a big tall rat seated on my section of the study, legs crossed, my drawer open and all my candy spread out on the counter with a heap of wrappers on one side. The rat, was Xia. Gnawing away gleefully in the still silence of a Sunday morning.”
I burst out laughing at the narration.
“It’s not funny mama. I was so stressed, I cried a river. I did not know what to do, so I just offered her to the lord in prayer in church later on. I don’t think I can live like this anymore.”
I apologised for trivialising her issue and told her I will have a serious chat with Xia once I was back. I did not follow through with my promise once I got back because Xena did not raise it up and I imagined it was a one off. Except it wasn’t!
Last week on Saturday evening at 6:07pm, I was on the couch catching up on the series “The Maid” on Netflix. I know I am late to the party but that’s just me when it comes to any film that runs for more than two hours. Because of how addictive and time wasting they can be, I avoid them until I can’t anymore. Xena was upstairs doing homework, and Xia outside playing with other kids in our neighbourhood. As Alex the protagonist was taking a tongue-lash from her deranged husband, Xia stormed in asking to have crisps.
“You know the drill honey. Go wash your hands first.” I alerted her.
Mercy the nanny was in the laundry room watching whatever nannies watch for hours on end since the advent of wifi. From the corner of my eye, I watched her grab a packet of crisps and pour them on a bowl, setting them on the dining table. In a few seconds Xia emerged from the toilet and dug into her feast of crisps. I went back to watching helpless Alex, wanting to physically yank her and her daughter Maddy from the snare of that pathetic excuse of a man.
About thirty minutes later, mother’s instinct checked in, and I turned towards the dining table. Xia was not in sight.
“Mercy, Xia amenda inje?” I shouted across the living room hoping she could hear me despite being engrossed on her phone. She came over and informed me that Xia was certainly not outside, and she thought I was watching TV with her.
“Xia!” I screamt.
“Yes mama?” Slowly, the toilet door slid open and Xia emerged, her long sleeved T-shirt and pants all drenched in water. I jumped off the couch and ran to the toilet.
The floor was covered in water, hand wash basin filled with foam and my new Bath and Body Works Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin foaming hand wash was empty!
I grilled her, she was speechless, so I sent her upstairs to bring a belt of her choice.
Without missing a beat, she matched majestically up the stairs and in less than two minutes came back with the dad’s leather belt. I swear I even saw her roll her eyes as she confidently handed it to me, or maybe I imagined my own things as I had no clue who I was dealing with anymore! In the past, Xia would do anything to avoid a beating. Apologise, promise to not do it again, ask to be punished differently, you know that kind of thing. And if her pleas would fall on deaf ears, she would take millions of years to fetch her weapon of choice, which would be this small, light belt long enough to only go round an emaciated 1 year old!
Given her belligerence, I figured a beating would beat the purpose, so I asked her to go stand outside and think about her life. It was now 7:00pm. Xena was just coming down the landing and Mercy was setting dinner on the table. It was Xia’s favourite food, grilled chicken and roast potatoes, so I knew my punishment would hit a spot. I saw some semblance of fear in Xia eyes, but she did not protest. She walked calmly and confidently and stood right outside the door, leaning on the wall. I closed the door and proceeded to serve food on my plate, pretending to not be moved, but deep down I wanted to yank open the door and bring her back inside. After about a minute, I heard cheerful banter coming from outside. Xia was happily chatting with the neighbours kids, so I quickly opened the door and informed them she was on punishment.
“Sorry mama Xena.” The two girls said in unison.
I then asked her in and told her to take her place at the dining table. She literally hoped to the table, as if she was skipping an imaginary rope and went ahead to engage Xena. It was business as usual.
“Xia, why do you keep frustrating everybody in this house lately?” Xena shot at her with a stern face, as if to remind her that she needed to stay meek as her sins had been forgiven but not forgotten. Xia did not respond.
The following day, after a productive and gratifying day spent attending mass in church, going to the Village Market for grocery and stationary shopping and lunch at the food court, we got back to the house around 4:40pm. The kids went upstairs to shower, and the mister and I hang around the living room as he caught up with Formula One and I napped. Shortly after I had just settled on the couch, Xena came running down the stairs.
“I am officially done with Xia.” She announced amidst tears.
“What is it this time?” The dad, asked while staring at the TV screen, not wanting to miss a second of the action.
“She wasted almost half of the Laroche. She just kept pressing the pump and oiling herself and did not stop until her entire body was white. She now looks like she’s covered in toothpaste!”
Now this got the dad’s attention, mostly because one 400ml bottle of this Laroche lotion that the girls use is more expensive than our monthly cooking oil, petroleum jelly, and the entire household’s lotions combined. And, there’s nothing worse than the combination of a Kikuyu and an Indian when it comes to money! He sprung off the couch and ran upstairs. I pretended to be asleep as I wanted someone to handle the drama for a change. A few minutes later they walked downstairs hand in hand, and instead, Xena and I were reprimanded. Xena was faulted for watching her waste the lotion and not doing anything about it, and I was faulted for not supervising them while they showered. Xia, the culprit, walked scot-free.
“That’s not fair daddy. She’s seven years old yet you still treat her like a baby.”
I sat up and beckoned Xena to come sit next to me, and then I whispered to her, “I know you are defeated, and so am I. I think the only solution is to take her to the cop station.”
She lit up and snuggled closer. “I think that will work,” She whispered. “It should instil the fear of the lord in her.” She added.
Of course I was joking, and my plan was to research the best way to deal with a feral seven year old. However, it appeared that Xena had taken my proposal seriously.
On Monday morning at 6:45am, I heard a soft knock on our bedroom door.
“Good morning mama. I was wondering what you have planned for your day today.” She inquired.
That was an odd question, and I was curious to understand her sudden interest in my itinerary.
“Just the usual Xena. A couple of meetings with fundis at the workshop, a few errands here and there. Why do you ask?”
“Oh, I was just wondering if you’ll find time to take Xia to the police station. Will it be after school, or will you get her out of class in the middle of her lessons?”