An invalid.
I have Googled it over and over again since my fight with Mum.
Google says:
“a person made weak or disabled by illness or injury.”

My mum and I have not said a word to each other since our fight two days ago. Apart from the normal greeting, I eat my food in silence, and go up to my room as soon as I’m done. I am hurt, I am angry. I am so ashamed of myself, for lying in the first place, and then for crying when she tried to ask me about it.
Why am I such a crybaby? Why am I so weak?
Why can’t I be like everyone else?

I told Ona what happened, the whole thing, from start to finish, and she had asked a simple question:
“Why don’t you want to do it?”
“Because of you know what,” I said.
“I don’t know anything. I know that you have panic attacks and anxiety issues, but I don’t think that should stop you from living your life,” she said, in her matter of fact way. “And you shouldn’t have lied to our teacher about your Mum saying you shouldn’t do it.”

I know she’s right, I really don’t know what I was thinking. It’s just that Mrs T kept popping up by my desk everyday, asking for when we can start practicing for the spelling bee, and I didn’t know when I blotted out to her that my mum said I shouldn’t do it.
The thing is Mum has always been a good excuse for me to get away with stuff.
Ever since Dad died and the anxiety issues began, she became very protective of me, and was always willing to jump to my rescue, to ensure that I am not triggered.
I had liked it. It saved me from facing the world as it is.
I feel betrayed now that she doesn’t want to help me get out of this spelling bee.

But I cannot stop thinking about that word, invalid.

I have never seen my anxiety issues as anything but an issue. My mum used to explain it by saying that I didn’t handle stress as well as other people, so I needed to be kept away from stressful situations.

This is why she doesn’t let me spend more than a week’s vacation with my cousins; she often says ” the novelty of any vacation usually wears off after a week, and you’re most likely to get caught up in stressful situations.”

I know I have heard her argue with her sisters on the phone about it. They say mum is a snob, that she is treating me like an egg, too fragile and easily broken. Mum often says they don’t understand and that they should come back when they have experienced panic attacks.

I know I have to fix whatever is wrong with my mum and I, because I started it. Mum doesn’t like lies and I lied. So no matter how angry I am, or how hurt I feel, I need to make things right.

I walk up to Mrs T’s desk, during break, with Ona by my side (she agreed to come with me).
“Good afternoon, Mrs T,” I say.
“Hello Brenda. Hello Ona. No break today?” She asks. She is in the middle of marking our notebooks, because I can see her with her red pen and the books stacked on her table.

“I just wanted to…tell you…that…” I pause, bite my lips, look at Ona briefly.
Ona taps my back gently, a gesture of encouragement.
“My mum didn’t say I shouldn’t do the Spelling Bee,” the words come out in a jumbled rush and for a moment I wonder if she heard or even understood me. I look down at my feet.
“Hmmm. I already suspected so, Brenda,” Mrs Taiwo says in a soft voice.
I look up at her sharply. Of course, she’s the one who probably talked to Mum. New anger wells up within me.
“Brenda, come, sit.” She motions to me to pull a chair. “Ona dear, excuse us one moment, please.”
Ona gives me a one sided hug and leaves us alone.

I can’t bear to look at Mrs Taiwo. It is one thing to lie and another to be caught in the lie.
“Look at me, Brenda,” she taps the desk. “You have nothing to be afraid of. All of us have told a lie at one point or the other. But the important thing is realising that we have done wrong, and then fixing it. That’s what you came to do, right?”

I nod.

“I’ve always known you to be a good girl, so this is out of character for you. No matter how backed into a corner you feel, lying is not the best way to go about it. Do you know why? Because when you lie once, people find it difficult to trust you or believe whatever you say. Do you understand?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Good. Now, do you want to tell me the real reason you don’t want to do the Spelling Bee?”

The kindness in Mrs Taiwo’s voixe makes my heart melt and I suddenly feel like I can trust her.

“I have this thing…” I start to speak.

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