%ON THE THRESHOLD OF MATURITY ONE%

Then things began to change at home .Your sister started leaving early for school and came back late .Your mother was delighted that she has began taking her studies seriously ,but you weren't deceived ,you smelt a rat ,because you knew your sister better than your mother ,because she's still Ugomma not Ugom as your mother called her,she's still your sister .The other day you you saw her hastily hurrying some of her casual wears into her school bag .You knew she was up to something . As days rolled you noticed changes in your sisters attitude .She kept to herself and said only what needed to be said , yet appeared happy.She stopped taking money for snacks and still didn't complain of hunger,your mother was happy because for her that's a sign of maturity ,the quality of a good woman ,a wife who would be independent not relying on the husband . .On her face were mixtures of excitement,fear and uncertainty.An excitement for something that's obviously filling her drum of self sufficiency ,the fear that your mother would find out and the uncertainty that her source of sufficiency might dry up.
As days grew into weeks you began searching her bags .Her school bag and her box .What you had seen validated your suspicion. New pants ,trousers that she would never wear, because she lived in your house ,moreover its a sin according to your mother, two creased letters that you had hurriedly read with each ending with "your love Izu and your love Micheal ".But she had caught you and began to protest and shout .Your angry stare told her that the last thing she would think of was to make a scene .She opened up and told you everything .Then you became the playmaker in charge of the game and she became the lackey that took instructions from you because she was afraid you will tell on her that she had a boyfriend..... ,no ,boyfriends .That would make your mother mad.
In the coming weeks you would begin to man a surreptitious love rendezvous.You began standing at the Spirogyra ridden wooden gate ,with decaying hinges and clandestinely but hurriedly let your eyes travel to and fro the rough mud road ,creased by potholes made by virulent erosion and search for your mother and notify your sister when she's on her way back .The neighbours were oblivious of what was happening ,except Mma Ndidi .The poke nosy woman, with shrivelling over bleached skin with shimmering dark elbows and knees.Who would always laugh with derision in the coming week when your mother boasted of the innocence and maturity of her daughter -ugo.How she had known ,none knew, but her derisive laughter showed she knew something and thus laughed at the naive ignorance of your mother.
What Ugomma did inside with the boys that visited was what you didnt know.The last time you saw her with the boy called Michael.A fair pear faced boy ,with bony cheeks and smiley face,with sluggish green veins crawling up in his Styrofoam skin. Who was anything but handsome ,but with his smiley face he struggled to look good,not so much for Ugommas pleasure but for yours -the supposed big brother ,for your validation. You saw in his eyes someone who didn't actually love your sister but just wanted to be in a relationship for the sake of it ,to try a new experience of going with the tag boy friend and you knew it was the same with Ugomma.So you just let them be.The excessive fluidness in his speech ,his over slurred " r,,o and f" when he talked,he said "kee ifo not kee ihe o,ife anyi ,not ihe anyi" suggested one who was more interested in what he said,how it sounded, than the actual meaning of his words .
On the Monday you visited Izunna after school he updated your dictionary. He gave you the connotative meanings of words you thought you already knew..It was there you learnt that socks doesn't actually mean what is put on before wearing shoes ,that another part wore it.You learnt that the word bang has more to do with other things than Knockout,what it meant to be on heat and what wet dream meant.He taught you how to runs girls ,how to know when a girl likes you .You had sat there gulping everything down without any questions, not that you understood it all but because you were already confused and yet didn't want to appear Jew .Everything was moving too fast and you seemed to be the only person left out .How Izunna knew all these still baffled you yet you were older ,but he's more shrewd.Ugomma has a thing for him.

********
It was on the 5th of October 2004 that things began to settle down .That morning your mother numbed Ugommas cheeks with slaps before asking her to get dressed because she thought .......To be continued.....Matthew Ogbonna