The night Arch. B.M Okorie died, in his house two women sat with his wife. They were in her bedroom consoling her.
Mama Chinyere her closest friend and Adure, her husband’s brother wife had remained behind after others had said their sorry and gone back to their homes.
Adanne watched her mother with helpless eyes; she looked like a shadow of her former self. Her scarf was hanging loosely around her neck while her braided hair was scattered around her shoulder. Even though her mother no longer wept the sound of her wails still echoed in her mind and head.
When she went to hug her mother good night Adanne smelt the scent of her mother’s deodorant which she had used earlier that morning. It occurred her mother had not had a bath since they arrived from the hospital.
She and her siblings were ordered by their mother to wash themselves clean when they had arrived from the hospital. But mother had not been strong enough to do same.
“Would she have to shave her head like her great aunty whose husband died a year ago” Adanne began to wonder, she begin to imagine her mother bald and her stomach turned making a sound only her seem to have noticed.
As they broke embrace and Adanne was about to leave, her mother started lamenting again with a more sorrowful voice this time. “They sent us home without my husband, is there a home without a husband?” She asked no one in particular lifting her both hands to the air. Earlier she had insisted on staying at the hospital with her husband or let them allow her take the corpse. The commander had told her to go home as the necessary arrangements would be made soon. “How will I cope without my husband (she said in a coarse voice so scratched from wailing) I am finished o! I am finished!” She kept saying throwing both hands on her head now.
“Nne go and sleep” Mama Chinyere said to Adanne motioning her to the door. When Adanne closed the door behind her she didn’t walk to her room immediately. She leaned on the door and listened to the sound of her mother choking back tears.
“Why are you wailing like a hopeless person eh?” Mama Chinyere said in tone Adanne thought was too harsh. “See your children Obidiya, If you grief yourself to death who will take care of them? Even I your friend can’t because I have my own children to look after.”
Obidiya was Adanne’s mother nick name that her close friends and family called her. It was a significance of the love she shared with her husband.
In the past, the name which meant “her husband’s heart” lifted her spirit but today she felt a sharp pang of pain at the mention.
“You have your husband to hold you every night, where is mine?” She intercepted mama Chinyere.
“Anywhere yours is he won’t want you to leave these children alone; he would want you to take very good care of them.” Her friend replied her. “What has happened have happened my husband’s wife” Adure added.
As Adanne walked back to her room she stopped by her brothers’ door contemplating whether to go in or not. The staunch darkness she met when she opened the door slightly screamed off zone.
She wondered whether they were sleeping or awake, she wanted to call out to her twin brother but let it alone.
Heavy with her own grief Adanne walked towards her room.
She literally crashed into her bed lifting herself a few inches high before landing on the soft mattress with a “thud” sound. She placed her face between her palms feeling the tiny drops of sweat that had gathered on her forehead.
Closing her eyes she tried to recollect the day’s event, from the moment her sleep was cut short by the align sound of a bomb that tore the church by the junction into half and later her computer lesson abruptly stopped by the same monstrous sound that claimed her father’s life.
She couldn’t just make out a dead image of him, images of him while he was alive kept appearing on her mind. Plenty bubbling images of him, his wide smiles lightening the images, he was telling them jokes after the family’s Sunday lunch.
Mostly they were about his childhood days back in the village. Only she, her mother and Alex were conversant with places he talked about because each of them had spent some little time in the village.
The youngest in the family was left to his imaginations as the rest of the family roared to laughter at the end of each joke. There would be no more jokes after lunch on Sundays and perhaps laughter too.
A knock on the door startled her and brought her back to reality. ‘Nne would you like to have something for dinner” her mother’s best friend Mama Chieyere asked without opening the door.
“No Ma” Adanne managed to say feeling the sharps pangs of hunger pulling at her intestines. She ignored the pains with a determined bitterness.
She had no right to feel hungry let alone eat tonight. How can she eat at the same table she had shared with her father this morning? Thinking about it broke her heart once more and hot tears started to run again freely down her cheeks.
Only if she had a chance to re-live today, her father won’t have to die.
They would leave for the village before sunrise. For it was in the village they felt safest from all the problems of the world.
No fear of bomb blasts or flying bullets. Nor fear of their Muslim neighbors. Laden with grief she let her mind wander as she drifted off to sleep.
The next morning there was no movement as twenty four “24” hour curfew was imposed upon the city.
Adanne’s mother fruitlessly, begged the commander in charge to let her have her husband’s corpse for burial. She wanted him to enjoy eternal peace not lay around in some morgue.
“The government will take care of it in a couple of day, Mrs. Okorie” he replied adamantly over the phone.
“I don’t want the government and media feasting upon my family’s misfortune.” She had fiercely replied.
“I am sorry but it is a direct order from his Excellency.” He replied before hanging up.
Adanne was beside her all the time.
Her Mother’s phone rang continuously that day, so many friends and relatives called from all over the world.
Once after an unexpected call she exclaimed to Adanne “I don’t know how this news spread so fast overnight?”
Beyond the walls of their house it was so quiet as though nobody lived several miles away.
Only occasionally did they hear a car pass by “it must be the patrol team of police or soldiers.” Alex will say.
They all sat under the orange tree in the small compound. The only tree in the compound, of the three their father had planted only this one had survived.
Late in the evening after the sun had gone down and the melodious voice of the imam was heard. He called out to Muslim faithful with his sonorous voice to come and worship Allah.
After the prayers which Ada knew by following the chants over the speaker, when they were younger she had recited them with Alex till they knew every word but not what it meant.
Halima, one of her class mates and close friends called her on the phone.
“I am sorry about your Dad dear” She said after they had said their hellos. Adanne’s voice was faint when she answered.
She could hear her friend choke as she struggled with tears.
“I hope you are going to be alright and your mother she is holding on fine dear?” Halima said in low voice after a moment of silence.
Adanne couldn’t tell her friend how her mother had wailed even though she wanted to, the very thought of talking about it depressed her.
She could hear Halima sobbing quietly but more audible over the phone, lost for words they said bye to each other and hung up.
From her bedside stool she took a framed picture of her and Halima. She ran her fingers over their young smiling faces.
It was same one they took in Obudu cattle ranch during Halima’s birthday holiday trip. She started to miss the company of her friend who was soon leaving to India to continue her studies.
Feeling the emptiness of her world tears began to stream down Adanne’s cheeks once more. She buried her face in the pillow and wept some more.
To be continued…..