Adaora’s near-perfect life is about to be shattered.
I missed Dad very much. I missed his humour and his skillful use of the proverbial rod which he used on my younger brother; Ramsey and I, whenever we both fell out of line.
I wished I could tell Dad that I came fifth in class, which was a great improvement compared to my previous results. I would have loved to see his eyes lit up in happiness and then, with his hands around my waist, he would bring me to sit on his laps.
“I’m proud of you,” he would say, “and I think you deserve a treat. All you need do is study harder and. . .Whoosh!” He would throw his right hand in the air. “You’ll move into the first position and stay there permanently. So nne, do you promise daddy to study harder?”
I would nod in agreement, while Ramsey chuckled. I could see jealousy in his eyes.
“Adaora,” Mom would call from the kitchen, signaling that it was time for dinner. “Come and help me set the table, your father must be starving.”
I would run to the kitchen with Ramsey hot at my heels. Dad would laugh out loud and head upstairs to change his clothes.
Life for us was generally palmy and memorable. Our biblical cups was overflowing and undoubtedly running over.
But when Dad took ill, our wines of blessing turned sour, our cups; which was made of pure gold began to rust like an over-used metal, and ultimately for Dad, his cup ran dry. . .
“Sister Adaora!” Ramsey’s voice startled me.
“Daddy asked you a question.”
I turned my gaze to Dad.
“How was your day?” he asked. His voice sounded distant, like an echo.
I would have loved to tell him that I found a boy I liked. “Fine,” I said instead.
He sat up from his sick bed. His eyes roved over the polythene bag that I held.
“Did you bring anything for me?” he asked, smiling.
“Yes,” Ramsey said.
“What did for bring for me?” His question was directed to no one in particular.
“Rice!” Ramsey again took the duty of replying.
Dad laughed. His laughter sounded different to me- like he was forcing it.
I removed the food flask and held it out to him. I noticed that the sparkle in his eyes was gone as his gaze met mine.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
Mom sneezed, bring my attention to her. She had been staring out of the window with a disinterested look on her face. Maybe, she also saw what I saw.
A grin appeared on Dad’s face as he opened the food flask.
“Wow. Who cooked this?”
“Who do you think cooked it?” Mom snapped.
Dad shrugged and without uttering a word, began eating.
An ominous silence descended on us.
But Ramsey broke it.
“Huh?” Dad’s jaws slowed down in its activity.
“Sister Adaora came fifth in class.”
“Really?” He turned to me.
I nodded and cursed Ramsey inwardly.
“Well done.” Dad smiled. “But you can do better, just study harder, you hear?” he said, patting my back.
I nodded again.
But it all felt awkward to me. Why did Dad not sit me on his laps? Why did he not promise me of a treat? Why did Ramsey not chuckle? My head was brimming over with unanswered questions.
After Dad had finished eating, Mom stood up as he drank a glass of water.
“I guess it’s about time we left,” she said, her handbag slung over her right shoulder.
Dad’s eyes widened. “Bu-but,” he stuttered, “it’s been barely an hour since you came.”
“Adaora has catechism to attend.” There was an irritable frown on her face.
I knew Mom was lying, but silence, they say, is golden. Or did the Bible not order us to obey our parents?
Dad cast a glance at me, as if in search of the truth. I guessed my face was too truthful when he gestured towards Ramsey and I with out-stretched arms and said,
“You can go. But first, give daddy a hug.”
Ramsey went first. Dad clasped him in a warm embrace, running his hands over his head. It was as if his life depended on it.
I felt Dad’s breath run down my neck as he held me, and just as he did to Ramsey, he held me the same way- like his life depended on it. I immediately felt a surge of emotions run through me.
Mom averted his gaze as she mumbled “goodbye” and led us out of the room.
When we got home, she raced into her room and slammed the door shut. As I got close to the door to eavesdrop, I could hear her whimper.
* * *
“Let go off me!” Mom said. It was more of an order than a plea.
Dad glanced at me and freed her hand.
We were only three today at the hospital. Dad, Mom and I.
“Please, sit down,” Dad begged, tapping the bed.
Mom clenched her teeth as she let out a deep sigh. She sat down, leaving some space between her and Dad.
“Nne, go and sit in the waiting room,” Dad said to me.
While in the waiting room, I got curious about the whole situation. What was so important to my parents that they could not discuss in my presence?
My legs begged me to go and eavesdrop on their conversation. “No,” I said aloud, “remember what the Bible says.”
An elderly woman beside cleared her throat noisily and stared at me. She wrinkled up her nose in distaste and began flipping through the pages of a magazine.
A phone buzzed in my breast pocket. It was Mom’s phone,. I retrieved it and stared at the screen. Iya Precious was the name of the caller.
Iya Precious was our neighbour’s wife. Perhaps, she had something important to tell Mom.
I decided to give me her phone. After all, Iya Precious was an adult and entitled to some respect, just as Mom and Dad were.
I could hear an angry voice as I approached the door. It was Mom’s.
“Keep your apology!”
“Please, forgive me.” Dad’s voice was equally like Mom’s, pain-filled. “I swear, it was a mistake.”
“Oh! A mistake, right? You call losing your head in the clouds and infecting me with AIDS a mistake? You call all that- a mistake?”
“Please, forgive me–“
“I never will. . .”
Mom’s phone buzzed again. Still Iya Precious.
I yanked the door open.
“You have a call, mom,” I hurriedly said.
There was stark shock on my parents’ face. They did not need anyone to tell them that I had been listening.
* * *
Few months later, Dad passed on. And Mom’s new-filled illness took its toll on her
She sen Ramsey and I to the village to stay with her mother, while we awaited her death.
I would miss her too.