The air was thin, but the fluorescent light was bright.

“Hand me those earrings,” she said, without looking away from the mirror that reflected her gentle hands as they outlined her perfectly tweezed eyebrows. Ene shrugged and let out a loud sigh. This was the third one this week. She ruffled through the mesh of gold jewelry in the box that lay only inches away from her mother. She was unsure if her mom meant the pearl-like ones or the slender ones with amber highlights that she recently ordered from Buccellatti. She was too scared to ask, so she assumed.

“Found it,” she said, with hands stretched out, letting her pointer and middle finger guide the slender gold earrings.

“Thanks, love,” her mother said as she adjusted her gold gele and burgundy bubu. As Ene watched her mom get ready for her soiree, she couldn’t help but wonder why everything was so shiny and extravagant. It seemed to Ene that although these soirees were often labeled as award ceremonies, or gatherings centered on Nigerian politics, advancement, and petrol, neither were ever the true theme. To her, it was a constant opportunity for “adults” to show their colleagues their successful lifestyles. Often weighted by the foreign designers who created the clothes that they wore, the potency of the wine that tickled the back of their throats, the perfume that left the longest trail, the luminosity of their jewelry, and the number of children they had studying overseas. Rarely did this opportunity to mingle end in a discussion that could improve or ease one aspect of the nation.

“I’ve told you, you should come. This is a good way to meet people, Ene. Life is all about connections,” her mother’s warm tone shocked Ene’s presence back to the room. Ene paused. She was right. Chief Okonkwo would be there. His pockets were always a bit too full. His agbada, always engulfed in just enough starch, enough that the agbada did not become a nuisance, but that the extra material would occasionally fall and grant him the opportunity to do the almighty “one thousand, five hundred.”

“My tummy is paining me, Mommy,” Ene replied with a squeeze in her mid-section that was slightly exaggerated, ushered by a winced facial expression.

“That’s your business. I’ve told you my own. You are no longer a baby.” She stood, pumped her fancy perfume head one time too many and switched off the light in her room. Ene hugged her mom, “I love you, Mommy.”

“I love you too, my dear. Oya, let me go before I’m late.” As the gate locked behind her mother’s car, Ene dashed to the kitchen, boiled water, and dumped two packets of Indomie noodles into the pot. As “That’s So Raven” played, she felt she was just where she needed to be at thirteen.