Where We Lived

by Stephanie Odili

We lived in a house filled with horror and chaos. In my opinion, Bartho and Lynn, our parents, had no business getting married to each other or raising children together. When my parents brought Ken home, the three of us older siblings whispered among ourselves what a sour world he was coming into. Three of us had found a way to protect ourselves and each other from Bartho and Lynn. Even though Joe was barely six when Ken was born, he still understood that poor Ken was born into an empty home filled up with an uncomfortable kind of space. Does it sound like I’m falling apart? Perhaps you’re right. Looking at Lynn’s lifeless body now, I am sure, beyond all reasonable doubt, that whoever did this knew her personally and must have tasted a bit of the sour fruit she sold. The obvious indications of an overkill are scattered as evidence on Lynn’s body. There are painful-looking wounds, stabs, blows, bites, all spread across her face and body. The look I give her is still. I feel nothing. I want to call my sister first, before the boys, but I cannot seem to do it. What should I say? How should I say it? When I look at her again, the calmness of her face and body makes me say that is not my mother. My mother is angry, without doing or saying much you can get it out of her. She holds on to her rage dearly, especially when you’ve lived with her. It became even more evident after my sister was hospitalised on her birthday, when my mother broke a water jug on her head.

My mother is crazy. I once broke my laptop; rather, it accidentally fell from the bed to the floor. I was completely out of it, as you’d imagine. It had served me through my last two years in University and I had gotten pretty dependent on the laptop as all my information was on it. As soon it hit the ground, missing the almost grasps of my fingers, I screamed. I could not save it in time and now it’s broken. My mother rushed into the room wearing one of her many hats. That day, she wore the god-complex hat. She unsuccessfully tried to calm me down, but I was just too sad, laden with too much grief, I wouldn’t speak. When her tactics are no longer working, she starts to exert force. Her tone grew louder with each order to stop fussing and wipe my tears. I refused. I wanted to express my sadness, to the fullness of it: my precious and first-ever laptop was broken and I’ll miss her. I held onto my desires until her clenched fist met my unexpecting jaw. My mother is not capable of sitting still. So, as I watched her on the floor, decades of years spent with her, enduring it all, I wanted to lash it out on her. But I was late. She lay on the floor; her left bent at a ninety degrees angle, her right, spread to the side, creating a triangular shape. Her face was not olive colored anymore, and the lavender fragrance used for scenting the living room was clouded by death.

I was running out of time knowing in my heart that if she had scheduled a meeting for this morning and didn’t arrive, her assistant would be the first to arrive, and from then on it’s a public show. Being Lynn Okeke, life is yours as much as it belongs to the public. Because of her role in Lagos politics, it was hard not to notice the only slay queen looking politician there was. And like everyone born in their generation, they do not want to get old. I bent down to pick up my bag from the floor, it had fallen upon the sight of my mother’s corpse. I went to the gym this morning like I always do. I get there after a twelve minutes jog, spend 1 hour there and get back with a twenty minutes walk. How is it possible that someone came here and killed Lynn within 1 hour 30mins? That was when it came to me, what if it was one of my siblings? Joe was a nurse, so I decided to call him first. Surprisingly the call lasted less than two minutes. He listens to me describe all that I am seeing, and only responds with “I am on my way” with the most disturned voice I’ve ever heard him speak in. After I get off the phone with Joe, I hear something behind me. Startled, I turned, and standing before me with as much of a shock on his face as mine when I walked in, was Ken.

He froze while looking directly at our mother’s body as it lay on the ground. “Who did this?” he whispered. The question neither of us could anwer. We got to talking. He woke up because he thought he heard someone talking. I promised him I was talking to Joe and not my dead mother. Thanks to rigor mortis, it didn’t look like she was killed five minutes ago. It’s been about two hours fifteen minutes since her death before Joe pulls up to the house. Shockingly, I realise that my sister still has no idea what is going on. I picked up the phone to dial Teresa, my younger sister. She’s already heard, Joe called her right after we spoke. She was hysterical and cried a bit. It had not dawned on me and probably neither of us until Teresa arrived and her first question was “so what are we going to do?”. Four of us sat across Lynn our dead mother, silently admitting that years of torture and unhappiness were over.

I think about what my siblings are thinking. Being the eldest child and daughter, the responsibility of my younger ones had always been mine to worry about. Lynn said to always know what they were doing, where they were at, and how better their lives could be? So at this moment. While we took a minute of silence to mourn Lynn, I knew in my heart that all of us took the silence to finally exhale. Letting out heaves, closing eyes tightly shot, releasing your shoulder muscle tensions. That was us for the next five minutes. “We’re the last people to see mum alive last night. The press is going to have a field day probing on this matter; social media will carry all kinds of fake and exaggerated news about her death. People are going to come for our asses and lest we forget, daddy and all of us are going to be in the middle of it all. So, I suggest we bury her very privately and make up a story to daddy. Not like he’ll care too much anyway.” When Ken said that, us the older ones looked at each other. It was not supposed to make sense yet it did. Joe shrugged his shoulders, suggesting to provide us with any medical tool or equipment we’ll need. Teresa nudged me to pass her over and speak. I couldn’t. I needed to hear them agree before I said anything.

She suggested getting in touch with a police agent close to us who will handle the whole thing and give us time to break the news to our father. Immediately, I agreed. I wanted this issue to be off our hands as quickly as possible. So, we delegated tasks. My job is to call the agent and explain the scenario as well as seek help. Teresa was to call our mum’s office to cancel all her engagements for that day, as well as the home support staff. Joe and Ken were to meet up with our father to let him know that his estranged wife was dead by murder. It’s one hour after the plan has been set in motion and the agent is yet to arrive. The smell of the living room is no longer perfumed. It is odd, heavy, and bad for breathing. I called the agent again, this time she picked. Like an action movie gone wrong, she tells me to turn on the TV to the news going on. There has been an oil tanker explosion just below the bridge she’s on. They are stuck and can’t move. Politely, and understanding the severity of the situation, she suggests a second agent. I cannot repeat this entire story to an agent. I am sad, worn out, and grossed out by everything that has happened this morning. Teresa is happy to do it, she has carried out her tasks. This second agent is a man, which makes me very uncomfortable.

Male agents are impatient, cocky, and never good enough to really work a good case. This issue needs to be treated thoroughly. Teresa is trying to convince me he is different and he is someone we can trust. She vouches for his competence, his effectiveness. We had looked at Lynn’s body for so many hours, we wanted to put her away until the agent arrived. Nobody wanted to touch her. Joe thought it unsanitary, Ken believed he would rather be dead than touch a dead body. Teresa was willing to, but not without someone else assisting she emphasised. “You all know that Mummy could be weighing as much as eighty kilograms right? So, how on earth will I do it alone? Emma and Joe, one of you have to join me.” I wish I didn’t have to, but I did. I played the older sister card. “Don’t call my name Tesesa. Nobody should call ‘Emma’ here.” Before any of them could challenge me, I walked away hurriedly towards the kitchen, and then was when I saw that the murder did not occur in the living room. The amount of blood on the floor was enough to believe Lynn was exsanguinating. The thick-colored proof of death was like a puddle, one you would not be able to jump over. The bloodied wooden pestle hung across the sink, dripping drops of my mother’s blood all over the rug. This time, I could not scream. I must have been gone for a long time because as I stood there, I heard my siblings, one after the other, express shock with a gasp or a squeal. This was more than bargained for. Now there just wasn’t a dead body to move, there was a messy crime scene to clean up. Teresa started to cry. For the next thirty-five minutes, she breaks into a monologue. My sister is the first to walk away from the kitchen back to the living room. Pulling out a chair from the dining, she starts talking. As she describes how unfair our lives have been.

About the Author: 

Stephanie Odili is a British born-Nigerian writer, and author of ‘Deafening Silence’ the novel; ‘22’, a collection of poems and short stories, and ‘The Lean Wedding: How To Get Married With As Low As N100,000’ a non-fiction finance book for young, starting fiances. Her previous works have been published on Literally literacy, Kalahari review, Medium etc.



  1. Chijioke Chris Chuwa

    Such a great read

  2. I totally enjoyed reading this story!!! I hope to see your work on here again! I felt so connected to the characters and your great writing made it feel like I was there with Emma