“Sylvie ran off. Do you know where she’s going?” Maman Brigitte asks her husband. Her voice is harsh and accusing.

“I don’t know. She didn’t say.”

“She is becoming impossible. Look! She hasn’t even washed the clothes I left for her! I told you, she’s a lazy lizard! I don’t even know why I give her food.”

“I don’t think you are being fair. She does a lot of work here. Please, be kind to her. She’s an orphan!” Damascene says. But Maman Brigitte doesn’t listen.

“Are you taking her side? I thought you would want to help me to correct her.” Her voice gets higher and higher with fury. “Can’t you see she’s always on that cellphone? Maybe she has boyfriends? I wish I could find out who she is SMSing all the time.”

Nadia is in her room, tidying up. She has made Sylvie’s bed and hers. She has swept the floor. She is arranging their shoes now.

“Nadia!” her mother calls. “Come play with Dudu while I do this washing. I was thinking it would be dry by now. Your sister is useless!”

Nadia takes Dudu, finds the big towel and puts him on her back. “Be nice, Dudu,” she tells him. “I must finish cleaning up here.”

When Sylvie comes back she finds Maman Brigitte washing the clothes. No-one says anything to anybody. But their faces say a million things.

Maman Brigitte has to contain her anger. She does not want to draw her husband’s attention because he is resting now.

Sylvie goes straight to her room where Nadia is still packing away stuff, making the room neat.

“Wow! Nadia, you are a star. I wish my head could be as neat as this room.”

“Where did you go to? My mom is angry with you.”

“I went to see Yonela. I needed to speak to her.”

“Sylvie!” Maman Brigitte calls. “Start cleaning the fish. We will have fish and chips and spinach for supper. You see, if you had done this washing, I could do all the cooking, but now…”

Liar! Sylvie thinks. Even if she had done the washing Maman Brigitte would still have made her cook.

She hates cleaning the fish. She can do anything else in the world, but cleaning the fish – that’s real torture! Maman Brigitte has taught her how to do it. Since then, she is the one who always does the job. Four medium sized Thompson fishes. That’s quite a job. Luckily, this fish does not have many scales. And at least there will be something rewarding: the chips.

Dudu is still on Nadia’s back. He squeals to get off. She sits him on a piece of old mattress on the kitchen floor and gives him a toy to play with, so that she can start peeling the potatoes.

Maman Brigitte is still doing her washing, moaning from time to time, holding her back in her hands. She is thinking of ways to punish Sylvie.


Tell us what you think: What is Maman Brigitte planning to do?