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How could she be Ella? This lady doesn’t look a day above twenty. Or maybe twenty one but that’s not my point.
Sam leaves and I ask her for her name in my own way because she looked unsure of herself when she said it. Like a new word a baby was trying.
Ella she replied.
Wow. This is too much coincidence. I have spent the better half of my life searching for this lady and she just pops up on my bed? Really?? I can’t decide what I want to do with her, whether to kiss her or to hug her or to just hold her close or maybe to cry. I named her Ella. Ella wasn’t her real name. She was withdrawn even though she wanted to be friends with me. I could see it in her smile and the sneaky looks she gave me when she thought I wasn’t watching. I used to call her Snow White because I thought she was the fairest of them all- yeah, I was a child- but then I decided to start calling her Cinderella since she did all the chores in the house. There was a sad aura around her even back then but I didn’t think she would consider suicide.
Why were you trying to do what you were trying to do earlier? I try for tact since she considered my bluntness, rude.
She collects the phone from me and reads. She becomes sadder if it is possible. She turns away from me and curls up dragging the duvet properly over herself. I entangle my fingers with hers and let them rest on her tummy. She is typing as much as she could with one hand. I know she is talking or crying or both because of the vibrations I feel from her tummy. When she is done, she turns and passes the phone to me. I read through till it gets to me and I know without doubt that she is Ella. I look up from the screen and I see her staring right at me with swollen eyes. So, she was crying. The rain keeps pouring outside.
I look at her and I see what she sees. It feels like I’m looking in a mirror because actually I am. We both went through a lot of things growing up. I used to suspect but now, I have facts. So, she was molested. I don’t know what I can do to ease her pain. I wish I knew but I don’t. The fact that she is this younger than me. I don’t understand how to go about this. I thought we were age mates. She said she was eight when she met me but she also thinks her name is Ella. So, some facts are not to be trusted right now. I am glad that I have the chance to take care of her like I always wanted. Wait till Sam hears this. I’m glad Tony didn’t make her suicidal but I suspect strongly that it is the neighbor I saw her enter his apartment some days ago. I don’t know how to ask without seeming cheesy. I take the bull by its horn.
Was it that guy I saw you enter his apartment two days ago? Your neighbor?
I didn’t have to elaborate. Her eyes widen and her lips start to quiver just as fresh tears fall from her eyes. Honestly, I have never felt sadder in my life as I watch her. I squeeze her hands and she stops instantly, her eyes growing cold. “He is going to regret he ever messed with me.” She says, vindictively.
I nod as I agree with her and squeeze her hand again.
Maybe we can help ourselves. It’s just a pity that my entire life would change by Monday. It doesn’t matter though. Or does it? Really?
Fareedah disconnected and dropped the phone by her side. Raji was standing beside her and she pulled him close adjusting his shirt. He looked sad and she tried to cheer him up. “Your baba is coming today.” It was a bit jarring the way his face magically changed. She felt like she was the cause of his deprivation.
“Olumide is coming?” He said. He called his father by name.
“Yes, he is.” Fareedah replied and he beamed. It was his tenth birthday and he couldn’t think of a bigger gift. At first, he didn’t know he had a father but when he met him, Fola thought he would always be around for festivities like his classmates’ fathers but he was disappointed. It was a priviledge that his father was going to attend his tenth. He ran to his room and started tidying up for preparation. Fareedah sighed. Olumide called again.
“I’m running late, Fari but I will be there. Something came up. My mother needs some help..” Olumide said into the phone.
Fareedah rolled her eyes. “Your mother again. Olumide, be a man and be here for your son.” She said. His mother had been a pain these past few years but she was matching her blow for blow. Recently, she felt she was going to lose to her so she threatened her with exposing her secret.
“I will be there, love.” He stated and disconnected. She had never regretted anything as much as her marriage to Olumide. Her father warned her strongly of the family but she didn’t listen. She thought he was just prejudiced against their tribe. She met Olumide when he came to Katsina on a business trip and fell in love. She felt with time, her father would come to accept Olumide but she only got disowned.
She put down the phone and sat back. She felt a bit dissatisfied but didn’t know why. Everything was fine. Everything was good. So why did it feel like there was something missing? There actually was. Raji ran into the room. “Mama, do you think I should change this shirt?” Fareedah glanced briefly at it but didn’t reply. There actually was a reason she was feeling incomplete. Her second child, Aisha was supposed to be here with them. After all, she was Raji’s twin. She sighed deeply and reminded herself of the fact that whatever she was doing was for Aisha’s sake. She trusted her twin sister to do a great job. It is not like she had a choice. Her sister, Faheeda and she were identical but everything ended there. Their characters were nothing alike.
“Mama!” Fola nudged Fareedah obviously growing impatient.
“Kyale ni!” Fareedah shouted in Hausa telling him to leave her alone.
“Dakata, mama!” Fola shouted back, near tears.
“Ina son ka” Fareedah said as she drew him close.
“I love you too, mama.” Fola replied.
Olumide woke up with a heavy heart and a banging headache. He couldn’t believe he failed his son. How did he sleep off? The last thing he remembered was his mother handing him a glass of wine. Mother! He blamed her for missing his son’s birthday. He felt she was stalling but he didn’t understand why his mother would want to keep him away from his son. He thought that was what she wanted. His phone rang.
“Hello.” He said into the phone, his voice groggy. “Fareedah, I’m so sorry…” He started to apologise.
“It’s not Fareedah.” A deep male voice says into the phone. “It’s me, Aliu.”
“Aliu?” He removed the phone from his ear and glanced at its screen to check the caller ID. “But this is Fareedah’s number. How do you have her phone?” He asked, his senses flaring.
“I’m sorry.” Aliu said apologetically into the phone.
“What do you mean you are sorry? I told you to watch over them.” He said fearing the worst.
“You told me to be discreet. It curtailed me.” Aliu said.
“What happened?” Olumide asked.
“It was last night, sir. Gunmen came. I found Fareedah’s body but not your son’s.”
For the first time in Olumide’s life, he cried.
I hope we are together? 😀