I crept up the stairs, sure that the boys were too absorbed with playing football with the neigbourhood kids to notice that I was absent. They, just like I was about to, were taking full advantage of having been left unsupervised by our usually over vigilant parents. We were not allowed to mix too freely with the neighbours or play with the kids on the street; running wild, my mother called it.
Right now, I was intent on something more important than playing football. I crept up to the door, and saw that they had left the key in the lock. Wow, my great chance to explore the content of this mysterious room was finally here. I entered, shutting the door behind me in an attempt to fool anyone coming up the stairs into thinking that the room was empty. I was not worried about my parents returning home too early, the room overlooked the street below and I would be able to hear the pii pii of the 504 horn calling us to open the gates and let them in.
There were so many interesting files and folders to go through, and I got more absorbed by the minute. When I glanced up at the clock and saw that I had been at it for about 15 minutes, I decided to go through only one more file before leaving. I reached for the bottom file, making sure to remember its exact position so as to be able to replace just exactly as it was.
I opened the file and started to peruse its content. It contained a tax declaration for my parents for the year of our lord 1982. When I got to the part where the children of the claimants were to be listed, I froze and felt cold all over from what I read. “Taiwo Ajala May 12 1971; Kehinde Ajala May 12 1971. Tinuke Ajala September 1974………”
I frantically placed the sheet aside in order to be able to look through the other contents of the folder. I forgot about putting the sheets aside in the right order. I found the birth certificates of all the kids listed in the folder and some other documents that I was too agitated to read. I replaced the papers back in the folder and put the folder back on top of the file. “No, it should be at the bottom”, I thought to myself as I turned away from the door to replace it at the bottom of the pile and to arrange the pile neatly.
I headed for our room, climbed up to my oasis, the top bunk of the double-decker bed that I shared with Tope. I lay down with my thoughts, too upset to think rationally. My poor, poor parents. What a harrowing experience they had been through. I started to think how I could make it up to them; how I could show them that I cared. No wonder they were so careful with us and very concerned that we not run wild. I decided that I would talk to my father when my parents returned home. I would hug my mother. I was puzzled as to why I had no recollection, but decided that I was probably too young to remember.
My parents returned home three hours later. Immediately my mother changed and went downstairs to the kitchen, I knocked on the door of my parent’s room. When I heard the “come in” in my father’s deep voice, my heart leapt into my mouth, I still didn’t know what I was going to say.
“Daddy, I would like to come clean with you”, I started. “I went into your study while you were away and I looked through some folders. I’m sorry about Taiye and Kehinde. What happened to them? Did they die? It must be really be painful for you and mummy”.
“Don’t worry, nobody died”, my father reassured me. “The forms you saw were only a template, don’t worry”.
"But....", I started to say.
“And by the way, what were you doing snooping in my study, that’s very deceitful and I am very ashamed of you”.
“I’m sorry sir”, I said, hanging my head.
“Go to your room right now”, he said, displaying none of the fierce annoyance that I had come to expect from my father when he was dealing with any of our misdeed. He even had a sort of amused look on his face.
It took me several years to realize that Taiwo and Kehinde Ajala, were my parents way of defrauding the old Western State and claiming extra benefits.