It was midday when they returned from the walk. Marachi had shown her the island, it was a rare beauty and for the first time in years, Nimisola felt at home though the memory of her lost child got her heart racing every time her mind wandered off. She suddenly remembered how it happened.
She was there in that soft white sand when her water pot broke, she struggled to get the child out and just when she birthed her own child in her blood, two men appeared. Initially, they told her not to fear claiming they had heard her voice from afar and came to help. One of them with a big dash of a tribal mark on his face brought out a pen knife from his faded khaki shorts. They looked haggard but not unkempt. She wanted to ask questions but shut her mouth.
He bent to cut the umbilical cord, her eyes were misty, mixed in gratitude and at the same time dread of something sinister.
She looked at the child in her hands, she was the perfection of anything called beautiful and at that moment, all the hate she had for the world distilled like soft vapor on coal colored rocks when the sun rose in the east. She had dreamt of how they could grow together, maybe build a home on this forbidden island.
She was still dreamy when one of the men, the lanky one with a cut beside his lips wiggled his head to the other, they exchanged known looks and came for her child. She held on to the child, her fear gripping her more than the pangs of labor. She screamed, cursed and fought back, they kept hitting her but her grip was wild. When they couldn’t take more of her shouts, one of them picked a thick twig and blasted it on her head. The next time she opened her eyes, her child was gone.
Tiny droplets of tears rolled down her cheek as she sat in the crystal sand staring into the ocean. Twilight was beginning to creep in and she felt Nori’s eyes on her. She sighed deeply.
“To think with my education, I would have gone through this. Life’s a funk.”
Nori nodded, “Tell me about Jehu, what did he do to you?”
“He was the father of my child.” She replied looking straight ahead as if the ocean held some answers to life’s funk.
Nori was shocked, he was going to talk but the words never escaped his lips. “Was that why you left home?”
Nori stood and made to walk away, “He had a mistress and when mother found out, he covered it with lies. Years later, he brought her home – my step-mother and her wayward son. He said the boy was his son, he should be my age mate. Mother was furious, she wouldn’t take any of that crap.
One day, when she was in the kitchen, the other woman, my step-mother challenged her, they started fighting and…” her voice started to break, she drew quick breath before continuing, “she smashed mother’s head on the cooking gas. The kettle of boiling water shifted and hit her head, the water gushed all over her. Two weeks later, mother passed away in my arms.”
Nori stormed to his feet, he could have sworn this was not reality, “And your father?”
“He bribed the police, they reported that it was a house accident, they said that when she wanted to take the kettle off the gas, the water had spilled and she slipped in it, hit her head on the gas and that was it.”
“Damn, Dawn. Jeez, that’s savage, so inhumane.” He lamented, Nimisola could feel he wanted to hold her but fought against it. She didn’t care either, dealing with men was the last thing she craved in the world. Until that evening, ending her life was all that mattered. Had she not met few good ones, she would have believed all men were like her father, a misogynist, blatant lair. She always knew he was a monster who always put his political aspirations before his family.
She never forgot that chilly night right in her brother’s room. He was a 300L Biotechnology student in one of the best private universities the country could afford. Their mother worked hard to put them through school since their father only provided for their feeding.
That evening, he became choked as other times, he struggled hard before they got to him.
Everyone was frantic, they searched for his inhaler, alas he left it in school. When they checked the time, it was few minutes before 10pm. Her mother couldn’t drive in the dark and like the devil was on highway patrol, Suleiman the driver was not back because his oga, her father was attending a political meeting for the party primaries around the corner. She was under aged, a school-leaver awaiting her result for university admission.
She dialed him several times but he wouldn’t pick, she tried Suleiman and all he told her was, “oga never finish.” She was mad and screamed into the receiver, “Suleiman my brother dey die, you say oga never finish.” He hung up before she said another word.
She raced the stairs, falling down on the steps, for her hand on the banister, she would have rolled down all the way. When she got into his room, her mother was soaked with sweat, her vegetable wax abada lying loose on her waist, her legs spread out before her and her brother – silent like a sleeping python.
She rushed and shook her mother, “Nne, get up.” Her mother was an eastern woman, she left her and rushed to him, “Nna, wake up.” She shoved him this way and that but his limp body was numb. She shoved him more, at 21, Nnamdi was hefty, he was a bodybuilder and spent his free time training others. Even in death, she couldn’t move his body.
He was buried in her mother’s hometown, her mother had insisted that her child will not be buried in a strange land. Few years later, her mother was lying side-by-side her brother.
Nori listened with rapt attention as Nimisola recounted. He wished he could go back into her past and change the story. He knew better, having watched his white girlfriend crushed by a moving train, he knew what pain was but he also knew that pain was part of the act called life. He, like Shakespeare concluded that life was a stage and everyone were just actors. Fate was the wicked director.
“I left home when his son almost raped me in my last trimester.”
Her revelation bounced around in Nori’s head, he raised his face off the ground he had starred at the whole time. He cursed and cast her a mischievous look. How could one person embody so much pain, he could have bet it was a curse. If it were in his station, the black American soldiers would have chorused, “what the hell.”
“Gush, you’ve been living in hell all your life.” She nodded and rose to her feet.
“That was why I came here,” she looked at him, “I walked for weeks, I had hoped to meet death on the road, it never came. I hoped I would die before I had my child, instead it took her. But do you know my greatest pain?” she said and walked towards him, he didn’t withdraw as other time. When they were a breath space from each other, he reached out and held her before she almost slumped. He took her in, steadying her.
Sorrow and pain washed through her, he could feel her tremble. He clinched and gritted his teeth, tightening the muscles on his hands still securing her to him.
She eased out of him when her emotions subdued, “My greatest pain is that she was taken from me and I don’t know the life she’ll have.” She broke down again, hot fresh tears trickling down her cheek.
“It’s going to be fine, come here.” He led her to the sea, the moon was beginning to appear from the north, tiny twinkle stars dotted the skyline while filmy clouds scattered scantily above them.
He picked a shell and played with it, a dry smile escaped from her lips. “Look at the sea, it comes and goes, it is free, it’s life giving, doesn’t keep dirt. You’re like the sea, you deserve to live, you’re worthy of freedom, of happiness.” She cast gleeful gaze at him, his words echoed like a voice from the ocean.
Then he raised her chin to him, she blinked rapidly, her heart racing, “Your child will come back and you will give her the best life she deserves. We will make magic with her,” he whispered. His voice messed with her ears, she lit up in blushes, “We, who are the we, I am all alone.”
Nori laughed flashing white teeth, they were like coral shells in the deep blue night, she imagined how much time he spent keeping them clean. “Look around you, father, mother and I Lieutenant Nori, we’re here for you and your child. Just think of it this way, greater are those for you than those against you.” Nimisola smiled again, “Yes sire, and about my child, hmmm, she’s gone.”
He stopped her with his hands to her lips before she continued, “Shiii… I will bring her back.” He said with all faith and she believed because he was too honest to lie, he was like god since she first cast her eyes on him. She believed him even as he splashed salty water at her, as he tickled her until her laughter echoed into the night, she believed.