I fell to my knees and muffled a scream, Tolani ran to me, helped me to my feet and led me away from the prying eyes of the pupils. My shoulders shook as she led me to a quiet room that had to be the staff room.
“I couldn’t stop them,” she said gently.
I did not say anything, my tongue could not even form any word. My shoulders continued to shake while Tolani did not stop patting my back, hot bursts of pain radiated from my heart to my stomach and to my feet. We must have spent an hour that way, when I had composed myself enough to stand up, I found that she was crying too.
I gestured to her that I wanted to leave and she nodded with a tight smile on her pleasant features, I hugged her and walked out of the office with no direction in mind, I just wanted to walk to the end of the world and back.
I went to the closest mosque and lay on one of the prayer mats, I must have slept because my ringing phone startled me. The number was unfamiliar and I was very tempted to ignore it but it is very hard for me to ignore a ringing phone.
The voice was unfamiliar but very pleasant to the ears, like Yul Edochie’s voice which makes my heart skip.
“Bilquis this is Abdul, Rasheed’s brother. There’s been an accident involving…” my phone slipped from my hand.
“Bilquis!!! Are you there?” I hear the words coming from far away.
I picked up the phone and stared at it for a second, it seemed to glow with an evil light.
“I am here” my voice sounded like sandpaper so I cleared my throat and repeated the words.
“The bus they entered ran into a truck, Ibrahim had a few bruises but your mother and my brother are in critical condition. They are at National Orthopaedic hospital, the one near Onipanu.”
The hospital was a curious mix of the old and new, with ultra-modern buildings right next to the ancient buildings that housed the wounded soldiers from World War 2. The casualty building didn’t fall into either category, it seemed to have been built in the 1970’s or 80’s.
I didn’t want to think of anything other than the fact that my Ibrahim was safe and I would see him in a few minutes. Not even the long walk to the casualty building- who builds the casualty/emergency section of a hospital so far from the entrance? This sucks!
Ibrahim was sitting in the reception and looking a little dazed, I’d never been so glad to see anyone in my entire life. He was worth everything I’d been through today.
“Ibrahim!” I screeched and several people turned in my direction.
He ran to me and launched himself at me with such force that I staggered.
“They took me from school and then we entered a bus and then the bus was going very fast and then they were shouting in the bus and then, and then” he panted in my hair.
“Calm down my darling, you’re safe and that’s all that matters.”
“I’m glad you’re here Bilquis,” it was Abdul’s voice that floated to my ears.
He looked a lot like Rasheed and that meant that there was a strong resemblance between him and Ibrahim. I subconsciously tightened my grip on Ibrahim and planted a scowl on my face.
“We lost Rasheed” I let go of Ibrahim’s hand.
“How could you tell me in front of Ibrahim?” I said through gritted teeth.
“He knows, Rasheed died in transit. He didn’t make it here”. His voice was flat
“May his soul rest in peace.”
“Can I go with Ibrahim now?” I asked impatiently.
“Well you haven’t asked about your mother yet” he said quietly.
“I don’t care about her” I answered in the same tone.
“I’m sorry we had to meet like this, I wish things were different”
“Whatever” I snapped and led Ibrahim out of the reception.
I turned back and saw him staring at us, I went back to him and gave him Rukayat’s number.
“Call her and she’ll be here” I said
He stretched his hand like he wanted to touch me but he didn’t complete the action.
“I’m sorry about your brother” I said quietly
“It was Allah’s will” he replied.
I made a few phone calls, while cradling Ibrahim’s head on my right shoulder while I held and operated the phone with my left hand.
We heard a car pull up and someone called my name, it was that same voice.
“Bilquis please get in”
“Do you know where we’re going” I was smiling
“I need to drive and take my mind off things”
“Let’s get in, Ibrahim” I guided the tired little boy into the car
We drove in silence but when I realised that we were headed towards Mile 2, I looked at him quizzically.
“We’re going to Badagry, there’s a resort I love visiting. We’re going there”
“Ok Uncle Abdul” Ibrahim chimed in
“Uncle Abdul, already?”
“Well there’s a story behind that” Abdul said in a voice that swirled with undercurrents.
“Now’s a good time to tell me”
“I have been a part of Ibrahim’s life since he was born, Baba made sure that I came only when you weren’t around.”
“Baba was a wise man” a wry smile crossed my face as I said those words.
“I didn’t think Rasheed did right by your sister”.
“There were many things, many reasons for what he did. It wasn’t right but, but. In short I don’t know again”. He said with a wistfulness in his voice.
“Both of them have gone to meet their maker, it’s not in our place to judge or to continue to carry grudges.”
“Uncle Abdul when will we go and see Maami?”
“Never” I said
“Soon” Abdul said at the same time and I glared at him.
We were there for a week, Abdul and Ibrahim spent most of their time on the beach. I would join them sometimes and we had a fabulous time in those hours. Rukayat and my father called my repeatedly but I refused to answer their calls, Abdul respected my wishes and did not mention my mother.
The car was silent on the drive back home, even the hum of the engine was subdued. Ibrahim slept before we got to Okokomaiko and I stroked his head to keep my thoughts from wandering to my mother.
My father was sitting in front of the house when Abdul pulled up, he looked expectant and it occurred to me that Abdul must have called him before we left.
I approached him warily but when he opened his arms, I ran into them and sobbed into his shirt.
“How did it all go wrong?” he mused.
He led me to the bench and told me that my mother didn’t make it, she had asked for my forgiveness and hoped I would not think of her with bitterness. I nodded because my throat burned too much to form any words.
Two weeks later, I was at work when my phone rang. I had been sitting with Oge and when I said “Abdul” on picking the call, she winked at me and made swooning gestures. He called me daily and Oge was convinced that we were in love and would have four children together after we had gotten married. She should have been a novelist with that imagination of hers.
“I’d like to take Ibrahim to see my parents this weekend, do you mind?” He asked after we had exchanged pleasantries.
“Not at all” I replied smoothly. He taken him to see his grandparents twice, Ibrahim seemed to have taken to them and they bought him enough things to start a children’s store with.
“I’d like you to come too”
“Me!” I croaked, “that would be awkward”
Oge looked at me sharply, I’d put the call on speaker because I was arranging a few things.
“It wouldn’t” he sounded sure and calm, just like Yul Edochie.
“I want us to take steps towards healing and this would be a huge one”.
“Say you’ll come and I’ll buy you coldstone icecream daily for a week”
“Now that’s an offer I can’t resist” I laughed.
“It’s only fair because you’re the woman I can’t resist.” His voice wasn’t as steady.
“I like the sound of that” I said saucily and winked at Oge whose smile was threatening to split her face
Finally we have gotten to the end of this journey, writing this has been tough! I enjoyed writing the series though, exploring characters so different yet so similar to myself was a beautiful learning process for me.
Thank you for following this series closely, thank you for the encouragement and love you have shown in your comments. I’ll start writing a book soon… Y’all gave me the courage to consider that path. Ndewo.
PS I know I said this will not be a love story… I don’t know how love entered! Abdul basically wrote himself into the story. My next series might be a love story with a paranormal twist, I can’t wait to start!
PPS thanks Oyinlola for spotting the typos, in answer to your question. I occasionally go back to old posts and I’d see the typos in all their glory (I try to read a thousand times before posting to avoid them but the little buggers keep showing up!) Hero, my friend was my editor but went AWOL. I need an editor (preferably one who’ll do it pro bono like Hero did. Hero you can still reapply :-p