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Rasheeda was carrying a baby and rocking it as she sang a soft lullaby, she looked so beautiful and at peace that I did not want to intrude on the peaceful scene. I wanted to watch her forever. How could I walk to her and tell her that she was dead and had been for a while?
I was still pondering on the situation when she called my name.
“Bilquis, where is my baby?” she asked with her eyes shut tightly.
I looked at her with confusion, what baby was she talking about?
“Rash, what are you talking about?” we called her Rash and it never failed to make her very irritated.
She rolled her eyes and stamped her left foot rather dramatically and I remembered that it was Rasheeda who resembled Maami the most, she had been the one with the fiery blood and perhaps that was why she was the one who was no longer with us.
“But you are dead!” I blurted in a squeaky voice.
“Why are you asking about a baby when you are dead?”
She came close to me, our noses were practically touching and she smelt like vanilla perfume just like she did when she was alive. I ached to hug her, to touch her even though she would evaporate like mist if I tried to.
“Find my baby” she commanded and disappeared.
Freedom Park is one of my favourite spots in Lagos, I love the serenity, the artsy atmosphere but I do not love the prices of things there, everything is so fucking overpriced. After Rukayat’s call, I went there to clear my head.
I had sat on one of the concrete seats and snoozed without even knowing, I woke up with my heart beating so loud that I could hear it.
Ibrahim was in danger, my sister only appeared to me when she felt her son needed protecting. She had appeared to me in the past when Ibrahim was sick, she would nudge me to go her son. With shaking hands I brought out my phone and dialled his teachers’s number.
“Where is Ibrahim?” I asked the minute she picked the phone.
“Good morning to you Bilquis” she said archly, we had been friends since we were in primary school.
“Give Ibrahim the phone, I want to talk to him” I continued
“Your mother came to pick him up, she came with a man who shares a strong resemblance with Ibrahim”
“And you didn’t call me!” I screamed.
“Is she not his grandmother, she said there was a family prayer or meeting thing that Ibrahim had to attend as the first grandchild”
“Tolani if you know what is good for your life, you will not let Ibrahim go with those people” I said calmly.
“Bilquis, what is happening?” she sounded bewildered.
“Don’t let Ibrahim out of your sight for any reason”
“But they are already on their way to the Head Master’s office” she stammered.
“Get Ibrahim, I am on my way”.
The taxi driver couldn’t believe his luck when I did not haggle like a trader at Oshodi market when he mentioned his price, he kept looking at me in amazement when I nodded my head and fumbled with the car door.
“Erora o, take am sofly so you no go spoil the door” he said and leaned across the passenger door to open it himself.
I called my mother’s number but it was switched off, there was no point in calling my father because he was firmly under Maami’s thumb. I decided to call Muyideen, he was a police officer who would periodically ask me to marry him. He had two wives already, Alero- who had been his secondary school girlfriend and had their first child when they were in SS2 and Jemila who was the eighteen year old daughter of his landlord Alhaji Abdullahi. He had also gotten Jemila pregnant and Alero had nearly killed him for it. When the dust settled, Alero moved out of the house to a mini-flat in Ikate which he had to pay for while he remained in his three bedroom flat in Mushin with Jemila.
“My runaway wife!” he exclaimed when he answered my call.
“I have an issue, it concerns Ibrahim. I think my mother is trying to kidnap him”
“Kidnap her own grandson? That sounds incredible,” the scepticism in his voice was thick enough to coat a loaf of bread
“See!” I stopped to catch my breath and to sound coherent.
“She’s working with Ibrahim’s father to abduct him”
“Why would they conspire to kidnap him?” He sounded very confused.
“Baba refused to allow him access to the boy and now that Baba is gone, they want to handover the boy to him.” I smacked my nose and lips so I I wouldn’t start sobbing.
“And now they haven’t even allowed his body grow cold before trying to take the boy” The effort had been useless, I was sobbing now.
“Darling mi, Eni temi, stop crying”
I rummaged my bag for a handkerchief, blew my nose and dabbed my eyes
“Can you please arrest them for me?”
“Sweety mi, it’s not that easy. If he is the father of the boy then you have no case.”
“But he is not listed anywhere as his father, Baba trained him from day one until now. Baba’s name is on the birth certificate” I countered.
“Na Naija we dey o, that one no mean anything here.”
“Wetin I go come do?”
“I for say make you look for lawyer” he paused and I could see him in my mind’s eye, he was scratching his chin.
“Hmmmmm, lawyer ke?” I asked
“Yes lawyer, but I am not sure if that would even make sense. The best thing is not to allow the boy get into their hands.”
“I don’t know…” The taxi driver tapped my shoulder and cut off the flow of words.
“We don reach Madam” his voice sounded like sandpaper.
I gasped when the import of his words hit me, I threw the naira notes that were his fare on his laps and almost leapt from the car. I am sure that I did not close that car door.
I do not know how I got past the gate to the headmistress office, when I got there and met it locked, strength left my legs and I sagged against the door. It didn’t take me long to regain that strength and I bounded to Ibrahim’s class.
Tolani was teaching them something that I cannot remember now even if you gave me a million dollars, my eyes instantly went to the empty seat in the room.
It was Ibrahim’s chair.