The Other Side of Truth
until the morning. One of the Children’s Team will come over.”
    “Looks like they’ve been places! Know what I mean? I’ll show them their beds straight away. Kevin!”
    A boy about Sade’s age dragged himself off the leatherlike sofa in front of the television. Sighing loudly, he ambled over to them.
    “This is my son, Kevin.”
    Sade’s eyes flicked between the smiling mother and the unsmiling boy. There was a strong likeness between the twoof them. The boy shared his mother’s plump cheeks and narrow forehead but not her pale complexion and green eyes. His skin was distinctly light brown and his hair dark, short and curly. For a fleeting moment Sade wondered about Mr. Graham but Robert Hair-tail had made no mention of him.
    “Take this young man to your room, Kevin. Give him the bottom bed and you move up top. Mind you show him the bathroom on the way.”
    Protest was written all over Kevin’s face.
    “Aw, Mum! You always give me grief! Why can’t he sleep with the twins?”
    “I’ve told you already. The girl is going to sleep with the twins. There’s not even room to swing a cat in there. Now get moving!”
    Kevin kissed his teeth and muttered something under his breath. Sade saw Femi’s jaw set. She half expected him to refuse to go. To do his “I’m staying here until I’m satisfied” act. But Femi was so tired that when Kevin brushed past him, he tramped behind without a word.
    Ten minutes later when Mrs. Graham showed her to a camp bed, Sade hardly noticed the small shapes on the other two beds, fitted at right angles to each other. Mrs. Graham handed her an oversize T-shirt.
    “Sleep tight!” she said. “This’ll do as a nightie if you need one.”
    Sade suddenly felt so limp that it took all her energy just to tug off her shoes, climb into the bed and pull the quilt over her. Mrs. Graham’s T-shirt slid off the bed onto the floor.

    SADE IS TRYING TO PACK books into her schoolbag. She is struggling to push them in but something is blocking them. She must hurry up. Papa has already called her twice. She’s holding him up. Making him late. Why won’t the books just slip in? She has to pull out the books that are already inside the bag and start packing it all over again .
    Sade is slipping her English book into her schoolbag when she hears Mama scream. Two sharp cracks splinter the air. She hears her father’s fierce cry, rising, falling .
    “No! No!”
    The revving of a car and skidding of tires smother his voice .
    Her bag topples from the bed, spilling books, pen and pencil onto the floor. She races to the verandah, pushing past Femi in the doorway. His body is wooden with fright .
    “Mama mi?” she whispers .
    Papa is kneeling in the driveway, Mama partly curled up against him. One bare leg stretches out in front of her. His strong hands grip her, trying to halt the growing dark red monster. But it has already spread down her bright white uniform. It stains the earth around them .
    Sade woke shaking and trembling to the sounds of crying and sobbing. She struggled to raise herself up on her elbow. Two small shapes squirmed and twisted on the beds next to her, one sitting upright and the other lying down. The camp bed squeaked as the upright child howled even more loudly. Sade’s own cheeks were wet. Had she cried out in her sleep and woken the infants?
    “Sshhh! Sshhh! Sorry!” Sade whispered. But hearing footsteps, she flung herself down and curled quickly back under the quilt, making a roof over her head. The door opened and Mrs. Graham came in, softly clucking.
    “Aahhh, what’s the matter then? Did you have a bad dream, Lizzie-girl? What’s wrong, Johnny? It’s only a friend come to sleep with you.”
    Sade heard Mrs. Graham shuffling through the narrow gap between the beds to reach the twins. Sade pressed her palm against her mouth to hold back her own weeping.


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