If you have been following Kenikodjo long enough, you know I absolutely love Christmas, hence the 7 days of Christmas series, but not everybody does- and with good reason. This one is for those who don’t! The stories in the Christmas series aren’t related so you don’t need to read the first one to appreciate this one, but you can go back and read them as you sit in the unbearable Year of Return traffic. Even if you have already read the first 5, you can still do a refresher. After all, we watch Home Alone every year in this country 😉 Happy reading, guys!
‘Dem start oo! Every Tom, Dick and Harry is going to forward those annoying ‘Season’s greetings’ ‘Merry Christmas’ messages to me. Nothing dey bore me pass the pictures that have glitter and snow. Bro, we don’t have snow in Ghana. And these people didn’t even speak to me all year round! Why? Why? Whose idea was it to go around wishing people a Merry Christmas? What is merry about this Accra? The only good thing about Christmas are the days off.’
‘Party pooper nie! Caleb die3, you have a problem with every single celebration. If it is not Val’s Day, then it is International Women’s Day or Father’s Day. Nothing makes you happy.’
‘I just don’t like being forced to deal with people. Christmas forces me to deal with people that ignore me all year round. I have to sit in traffic for longer hours because everyone is rushing to go and spend time with people they don’t really like. You people make resolutions you don’t intend to keep. Chale, ‘tis the season to be fake!’
Caleb and his work colleague, Jerome, were walking through the mall, after a long day at work. All he wanted to do was to pull down all the decorations in his way. He could hear the faint strains of a Christmas carol from the shop directly opposite them.
‘Oh and don’t get me started on the carols. Ghana here sef, all they know is ‘Feliz Navidad’. On top of all that, HR will force you to buy someone a present sake of Secret Santa. Last year, I bought perfume for that girl in Accounting. Jerome, guess what I got in return? A pack of handkerchiefs.’Tweet
‘Yeah, I dey kai! That day moom die3, if they had shown you who bought it anka, blood and fireworks!’
‘Bro! At least there will be football matches during Christmas. Something to make the season a little bearable.’
‘Auntie Rose, don’t lie to me. If you know it won’t be ready in time, just tell me. It is not Bronya ataade oo. I need it for an event on the 22nd.’
‘Oh mensuro. I will do it for you. Today is what? 9th? Come for it on 17th. Let me do it now and be free koraa before the Christmas people come with their pressure.’
‘You koraa, that is your cocoa season. You must be very happy.’
‘Happy? My dear, you don’t know whyris going on. They come with unreasonable demands with unrealistic timelines. Someone will come on 28th and say she wants a white dress for Covenant Service, first Sunday in January. The style is a combination of 2 pictures from Pinterest, one blurry screenshot and another picture from Instagram. Maaba? The older women are even bigger culprits.’
‘Ei! Hahaha, no be easy for this side. But you are making money right?’
‘And worsening my eye problems and ulcer in the process. I don’t have peace of mind during this season koraa oo.’
‘Then don’t take the orders eh?’
‘I used to do that until someone went to spoil my name on Instagram. I lost a lot of money that year. You know taking care of adolescent boys doesn’t come cheap, so Christmas slave it is. It is especially hard because their dad died during the Christmas season 5 years ago. All I want to do during that period is to lie in bed and think about him because everything triggers a painful memory, but sika nti.’
‘Money is good but take care of yourself too, I beg. So you said 17th abi?’
‘This bow tie will go nicely with the blazer. I have already asked Foster to come by and give you a haircut, just in time for the family portrait at 2pm.’
‘Remind me again why we need to do this, Agnes.’
‘Because your family believes that appearances are everything. How else do you expect your parents to announce your return? Besides, you know your mum will pull her manipulative tears act if you refuse to take this picture. She has already picked a spot on the wall for this picture, and if i know her well, also booked a spot in the Glitz magazine. All you need to do is get the haircut, dress up and smile for the camera.’
Agnes was his family’s ‘manager’. She was the first person to survive his mum’s unbearable ways for more than 3 months. She came in as a personal assistant, now she basically managed everything and everyone in the Bediako family. She was the one who ordered birthday cakes, remembered appointments, arranged airport pick ups, bought books, cleaned up messes and never panicked in any crisis. She was also blunt and yet discreet. His parents trusted her completely.
‘But this doesn’t make sense. We haven’t even had a family dinner since I came back because they are both busy but they can find the time for a family portrait? Classic Bediako style!’, he grumbled as he pulled a shirt over his shoulders.
‘Less complaining, more movement, Barimah! The party is later this week. Friday evening. Don’t say I didn’t tell you.’
‘Yes ma’am! If you find my mum, can you tell her I am looking for her?’
The Bediako empire was built on business and politics. Dad always said that was the perfect cocktail for staying wealthy. He was the business man and Mummy was the politician. She channeled the political money into the businesses which in turn paid for their lavish lifestyle and the political campaigns.Tweet
Every party organized by the Bediakos was the social event of the year. Rumour had it that this year, some of the very high profile artistes coming for the Year of Return were scheduled to perform at the Christmas party. Of course, those rumours would remain unconfirmed.
One of the unspoken rules for these parties was to make sure that what happened there stayed there. Nobody took pictures/videos other than the official photographers and nobody leaked any details of the party. In return, the invited guests stayed on the guest list of the party that allowed you to rub shoulders with the most influential people across the continent- presidents, musicians, business moguls. It was like the ‘Davos’ of Christmas parties. Preparation always took weeks. Agnes and Mummy went over every detail painstakingly and each year’s party had to top the one from the year before.
Barimah and his siblings had been taught how to work a crowd- compliment the ladies, impress the gentlemen. Keep them entertained but don’t give away too much. Make them open up to you but maintain a boundary. Get as much information as you can without giving as much back. It was like a game and Barimah hated playing it. They had their work cut out for them- go to the best schools, visit the most beautiful cities, intern at the most outstanding firms, marry strategically and pick one side of the Bediako coin- politics or business. Maame Adwoa was clearly headed in the business direction with her LLB and International Business Management master’s degree. Nana had the politics in his blood. He had every one of the older guests eating out of his palm at every gathering.
Barima walked into his father’s study abruptly.
‘Dad, have you seen Mum? Been looking all over for-‘
Nothing prepared him for the sight that was before him. A woman who was not his mother, scantily clad in one of those leather outfits that the Mortal Kombat fighters wear, was sitting on his father’s desk. His father’s head was buried between the woman’s thighs. Suddenly it felt like the room was spinning.
‘Can’t you knock? Privacy is still something I expect as the head of this house.’
‘Wait, what is happening right now? Who is this?’
‘Barima, quit overreacting. You are no longer a child. You can’t possibly be the only stranger in Jerusalem. Your mother and I have an arrangement that works for both of us. In exchange, we both look the other way while we find pleasure wherever we please. Your mother’s boy toys know better than to come to this house though.’
‘Jesus Christ!’, Barima exclaimed while averting his eyes from the sight that was before him. His palms were sweaty and he could not stop blinking.
‘What have I told you about getting overly emotional? How are you going to succeed in this world of ours, with these idealistic expectations?’
‘That was my mistake-thinking that i could survive in this world that you have created. All of this is such a façade- the picture perfect family- and I am the fool that believed in it.’
Barima turned and walked out of the study, ignoring his father’s ‘Close the door behind you!’. He marched past Agnes and the caterer, almost knocking over one of the lights that the photographer had set up for the portrait session.
‘Barima, where are you going? It is almost time for the shoot. We talked about this.’
‘Agnes, you will take this picture without me. I don’t care how you will explain it. I trust you to come up with an excuse that will satisfy the gossips. I won’t be part of this. No party, nothing. I am done. I won’t even ask how long you have known about the women and men that share my parents’ bed. You are all liars and I am the biggest fool of all. I legit thought that we were a family. Apparently, we are just a business arrangement.’
Sheila opened her Instagram app and sighed.
Why did I think this was a good idea?
Hating Christmas came naturally to her. She was sexually assaulted on Christmas Day 13 years ago, by one of the men sitting around this very Christmas table. Of course, nobody knew except the two of them- her 45 year old cousin and her 28 year old self. Keeping quiet at the time felt like the best option for her because she knew he was going to get away with it.
Of course, her 15 year old mind did not process the fact that he would still be invited to all the Christmas parties and family gatherings, and that she would lose her appetite every time he laughed like he was doing now.
Her mind kept screaming ‘Shut the hell up’ each time he opened his mouth to answer a question. Her mother kept asking her if she was okay and she nodded and smiled each time like she did in 2006.
Scrolling through IG didn’t help her. Not with everyone on her feed, posting their picture perfect family portraits, sharing video highlights from the concerts and celebrating.
Looks like everyone is having a good time. Except me of course.
‘So Sheila, when are we meeting that lucky gentleman? I am ready for a 2020 wedding oo’
She blinked twice and scoffed.
This stupid rapist has the nerve to ask when I am getting married after traumatizing me and destroying my impression of men?
She pushed her chair back and mumbled, ‘I need some air.’
Not everyone enjoys the holidays. Writing this piece made that even clearer. This season, be kind and empathetic. ❤ Merry Christmas (or not), depending on where you stand! You can find the other Christmas stories here!