EVEN for my age, I knew Miss Jean was wildly beautiful. I am sure my father had the same opinion about her, my mother on the other hand was never a fan of hers. She always complained about her fat cheeks and legs, her article of faith was that the men living in the apartment block were blind and lacked a contextual definition of beauty. My father always disagreed with her submission on Miss Jean’s beauty. He would give up when my mother reminded him of the fact that she was single and also growing old. She often said “If she is beautiful as you people claim, why doesn’t she have a husband?”
A week before my birthday I knocked on her door and reminded her of my upcoming birthday. She said and I remember those words up till now “Why would I forget my sweetheart’s birthday?” She locked her door, went to her car and drove off. That evening, she returned holding assorted cooking items. When I saw it, I was very happy because I thought she had bought those things for my birthday. That evening, she prepared vegetable rice and black sauce. My mother was in the shared kitchen when she was preparing the food. Little words were exchanged between the two; my mother never liked her, she used to be the beautiful woman in the apartment block before she came so it was more like Miss Jean had come to eclipse her shine.
After cooking, Miss Jean, went to her room and never came out. But from outside, I saw candles lit on her dining table, it was very obvious that she was expecting a special visitor of some sort. My mother too saw this! I doubt if there was ever an issue in the house which my mother was ignorant of. “I think Miss Jean is expecting a visitor” my mother greeted my father immediately he came home from work.
“I have every reason to believe so. I hope it’s a husband for her” he replied and quickly went to the table to have his diner.
Nothing happened, no one came to look for Miss Jean. On the next day, the food that had been previously been prepared by Miss Jean found its way to the bin. You can imagine the smirk that was on my mother’s face when she saw this.
For five days in a row, Miss Jean prepared special food each evening and ended up throwing them away the next morning. I was particularly annoyed about the whole happenings. For the love of God, Miss Jean was a better cook than my mother, instead of her wasting the food, she could have given it to the children in the block. Before long, everyone noticed this and became worried even my mother.
On the sixth day, something happened that changed my life forever. Miss Jean never came out of her room. She missed work and this was quite unusual. We stopped hearing the sound of her sweet voice as she sang to popular songs we all knew of. Her apartment was just quiet.
“Don’t you think we should go find out what is wrong with Miss Jean?” my mother said.
“I think not, we all know she has been through a lot recently, we should let her sob. She will be alright at the end.”
This conversation came to an abrupt end after my father headed straight to the dining table to have his meal. My mother was however not satisfied. Immediately, my father stepped out for choir practice, she went to knock on Miss Jean’s door. No one answered. She knocked again waiting for a response. After standing there for about ten minutes, she gave up and walked to the kitchen.
She barely reached the shared kitchen when she heard something heavy fall in Miss Jean’s house. She quickly rushed there and pushed the door, luckily it was opened. And there Miss Jean was; as dead as a door knob. My mother shouted and this attracted the attention of everyone living in the house. Beside her was a note which read “Bruce, is this too much to ask? Just a night with you to make me a mother?”
She was sent to the mortuary. A week later, she was buried and her apartment was given up for rent. Her replacement was the exact opposite of Miss Jean who matched my mother boot for boot. A year later, we moved out the apartment block to another because my father was tired of stopping these two women from fighting. Till then, I never got my gift from Miss Jean and more importantly, Bruce never passed by the house to look for Miss Jean.