She wrapped her five stubby digits around the lipstick. It was the colour pink, which was her favourite colour, and she wanted to look nice today. She turned the tube until it came all the way out and then she pressed it on her mouth, leaning against the mirror so that she could see clearly.
Chief Teddy was watching her with his dark beady eyes. He was supposed to be the lookout but instead, he stared at her. There was no danger of mummy catching them anymore.
The pink lipstick called Forever bent, and then broke, falling off the tube and unto the wooden floor. Would mummy come in now, and scream at them? The last time this had happened, it had been the red lipstick called Danger, and mummy had turned around and grabbed her by the wrist.
“Jumoke! Mo ma no e o!” Mummy always threatened to beat her but she rarely did. Instead, she had swung Jumoke away from her dressing table and picked up the Danger. She moved Chief Teddy and put him on the bed. “Maybe we need to get you your own makeup, this is becoming ridiculous.”
“Can I have mascawa as well?”
Mummy had laughed.
“Yes, you can have ‘mascawa’”
Then she had carried Jumoke up and sat her on her wide laps. She laid her cheek on Jumoke’s fluffy hair and squeezed her. Mummy smelt of pepper and maggi. Jumoke squirmed.
“Let’s snap!” Mummy announced as she stretched and grabbed her phone. Jumoke waited patiently until the phone was in front of them and they were looking at their own faces. She smiled and mummy said –
“My daughter just put on her own lipstick. Now isn’t she cute?”
And Jumoke said –
“It’s called Danger.”
And mummy said –
“Because we’re dangerous,” she opened her eyes wide when she said it and Jumoke copied, “By Supi. They should pay us for this free advert.”
Mummy put the phone down and Jumoke pushed off her lap.
She wondered if mummy’s phone was still in the room –
Jumoke turned around, her heart hopped, but it wasn’t mummy. Aunty Moradeke looked a lot like mummy, but she was skinny and she had just finished university.
“Everyone is waiting for you downstairs. Don’t you want to see all the presents?”
“I’m coming, I’m getting ready.” But aunty Moradeke didn’t go away. When mummy said it, people always went away. Instead, aunty Moradeke shut the door behind her and knelt down, so that Jumoke was looking right into her eyes. They were dark, like Chief Teddy’s eyes.
“Maybe I can help you get ready?”
“I don’t want you to.”
Aunty Moradeke closed her eyes and then opened them again. She did this a lot. She looked down and saw Forever on the floor.
“You were putting on lipstick?”
“It’s called Forever.”
“Forever…now that sounds nice.”
She crawled to where the lipstick had dropped and picked it up. But she didn’t throw it away like Mummy would have done. She wiggled the lipstick back in the tube, then she stretched her arm towards the dressing table, took one of those paintbrush-looking brushes and rubbed it on the lipstick. She walked on her knees back to where Jumoke stood and watched her.
Jumoke smooshed her lips together and aunty Moradeke painted Forever on her lips.
“Now don’t you look beautiful?”
Jumoke turned to look at herself in the mirror. The pink lipstick matched the pink bows in her hair, which her aunty had tied after she brushed Jumoke’s hair into two Mickey Mouse style buns. Chief Teddy was watching her in the corner and aunty Moradeke was watching her too.
Jumoke spotted mummy’s phone hidden beneath a fluffy white rabbit that was called Chief Rabbit. It was a stupid name. Chief Teddy didn’t like it either. She shoved the rabbit to a side and held up the phone.
“The phone is dead, and I don’t know your mum’s password sweetie,” said aunty Moradeke softly, without taking the phone. “Why don’t we use my phone?”
Aunty Moradeke held out her phone and Jumoke looked at their reflection. Aunty Moradeke looked a lot like mummy. They had the same fat lips, and they both had dimples that were as deep as portholes. But there were lots of differences too. Aunty Moradeke didn’t even know what to say –
“Hey all…so I don’t really get this whole Snapchat thing, but my niece is a Snapchat pro. And it’s her birthday today!”
Jumoke opened her mouth and shut it again. She didn’t know what to say either. She stopped smiling and turned away from the camera. Aunty Moradeke swiped and sighed. Jumoke walked over to Chief Teddy and grabbed him, holding him tight, laying her cheek on his head, between his large soft ears.
“Sweetie what’s wrong?”
“I want my mummy.”
“But, Jumoke – “
The door opened and revealed mummy in the doorway with one hand on her waist and the other wrapped around the baby called Kehinde. There were two of them, but mummy rarely carried them both, at once.
“Jumoke, don’t make me come over there and smack you. Everyone is waiting for you downstairs.”
Kehinde giggled. He didn’t usually do much except giggle, eat, throw up and sleep. Taiwo, the other one, wasn’t much better. He giggled less. Sometimes, mummy confused the babies, but Jumoke always knew. And so did Chief Teddy.
“Give them the birthday!”
Mummy frowned and looked at Kehinde. Kehinde giggled. Mummy sighed.
“Moradeke, joh, take him for me.”
Aunty Moradeke stood up, took Kehinde, kissed him, cuddled him and walked out of the room. It was just them again – Mummy and Jumoke.
“You look pretty.”
Jumoke turned away. She was glad the baby was gone, but that didn’t mean she was happy with mummy.
“I see you have broken another one…which one is it?”
Mummy smiled. She knelt down and pulled Jumoke into her soft arms.
“Because I love you forever,” she said.
*Written in response to an assignment from How Writers Write Fiction 2016: Storied Women