Mr. Ajibola has a candy-coated tongue. He taps out saccharine sentences with every twitch of his jaw, rolls sweet nothings with every pass of his tongue. Every time I see him, he hefts me into his squishy lap and says to call him Uncle.
He makes my teeth hurt.
When my father can't take me to work, he leaves me with Mr. Ajibola. Mr. Ajibola owns a jewelry store. He says he'll never marry because his diamonds are his family. I think this is sad, but I don't tell him so. His favorite diamond is a big gaudy piece laid in shiny gold. He calls it Adaora, the Igbo name for the first daughter.
He shines her each day, buffers her face with chemicals, and locks her in a high display case. Every time I pass her, she glints down at me and I am in rapture. I wish to touch her, to glean the truth behind her untouched luster. I imagine that she sings to me from her raised throne, her voice lilting and sultry, a dance between daintiness and danger.
One morning, gray and bleak, a man comes into Mr. Ajibola’s store, his suit dark and fitted, a glimmer of expense at every point of exposed skin. The man, leaning against the wooden counter as if he carved it himself, barters with Mr. Ajibola, a smirk twisting his thin lips. Finally, Mr. Ajibola smiles and shakes the man's hand, eyes glittering with some unseen prospect.
Mr. Ajibola bustles to Adaora’s gilded pedestal and yanks it down, thrusting her absentmindedly into velvet encasing. As she passes before my eyes, I see that Adaora does not shine as I once believed. She glows, but only at the surface. From within, there is no light, only the rebounding fractals of artificial luminosity.
I hear the slow pound of blood in my ears as Adaora sails into the man's hands and Mr. Ajibola is left with only a slim rectangle of paper.
When the man finally leaves, a sting of tears gathers in my eyes.
“Why are you crying, boy?”
“Adaora,” I say, my throat tight. “You sold her.”
Mr. Ajibola chuckles, shrugs. “She fetched a good price.”