AMERLEY WAS LYING down in bed staring at her husband Narteh. He’d been refusing to touch her for some days now and it was so frustrating. She’d suspected he was getting sweet on a girl behind their house and had gone to warn her away from him. This had incensed him so much that for about 9 days, he’d refused to touch her. For someone who loved sex, the 9 days felt like 9 months. It was hell.
She’d returned home from the market to find him sharpening his machete. The entire neighborhood was talking about Nukunu being rushed to the hospital after collapsing but he’d looked unconcerned when she asked him.
“He’s at the hospital and so? I go to the farm every day. It’s hard work but it doesn’t make my body soft. His refusal to do any hard work caused all this.” He’d told her. Without another word, he’d walked past her into the room.
She was now staring at him and wondering whether to ask him why he was refusing to touch her when she heard a loud scream. It was so guttural that the hairs along her spine rose. Narteh stood up and went to stare out of the window.
“Narteh, who is it? It sounded like your brother’s wife.”
“It is her”
“Eii, why? Is her husband dead?”
“How dare you?” he bellowed. He walked towards her with so much anger that she was scared he was going to cut her with the big knife. “That is my brother you’re talking about here. Fool.”
“I’m sorry,” she cowered on the bed, her gaze fixated on the sharp machete
He stared at her for a moment, saw the direction of her gaze, and with a snort left the room.
PAPA ADJEI HAD reached Naa Dei, his sister’s door but stopped. He wondered if he should knock on her door and inform her but changed his mind. His problem was how to help Asor deal with what she was going through now. He was there when his father died and it hadn’t been easy. He knew Asor was blaming herself which meant such mental torture, the likes he’d rather wish on an enemy and not a loved one. He’d wanted to approach her but had been worried as to how she was going to react towards him.
When he heard her scream, he ran inside and stopped. He wanted to hold her but this was a family house. Anyone could read meanings into it. He turned when the door opened. Narteh, Nii Moi, Odartey, Woedem and Naa Dei entered looking worried. His sister Naa Dromo had traveled and would have to be informed as soon as possible.
Woedem took a look at Asor and knew that something was very wrong.
“My sister, where is my brother?”
ASOR HAD BEEN standing there with her back to the door and sensed whom and who had entered. Each of her husband’s siblings had a distinct smell. He’d always marveled at how she’d known which of them was home by merely smelling the air. He’d always laugh and call her “my favorite witch.”
Her legs gave out from under her as his voice rang in her mind. The memory of how his large eyes had remained closed at the hospital filled her with so much anguish that she burst into tears. Naa Dei ran to hold her and burst into tears herself.
Papa Adjei turned to his brothers and shook his head sadly. Woedem pinched the bridge of his nose to prevent tears from coming out. He and his elder brother were the youngest of his mother’s kids as their father had been her third husband. They were so close that one couldn’t do anything without the other. He was the one who had convinced him to ignore their siblings and go ahead with his schooling. He had even sold most of his produce at one time in order to pay for his brother’s schooling. He’d been so proud when Nuku became a cocoa krakye as this meant no one would be able to cheat them.
Nuku was gone? How?
DELA ENTERED THE house and looked around frantically. Where was she going to get water at this time? She spied a bucket and ran to it. She was hoping to find some at the bottom. She peered into it and sighed with relief. There was water in it. She took the pail lying on a table nearby and fetched some into it. The bucket was for her auntie Naa Dei. That aunt of hers hated for anyone to touch anything of hers but this was an emergency.
She quickly ran out and handed the pail to Adjei. He sprinkled some water on her face and jumped when his auntie Asor screamed. The sound was so loud since her window was so close to where they were standing. He sprinkled the water again on Nuna and she jerked a bit. She opened her eyes and looked disoriented.
“What- what happened?”
She stared at Dela in bewilderment. Why was she looking at her like that? And who? Oh it was Adjei. What was going on?
The events of the past hours came rushing like a flood. She burst into tears. Dela really tried not to cry. She always took a cue when it came to emotions from Nuna. When Nuna laughed, Dela was sure to smile. When Nuna became sad, Dela would also become the same. Nuna was her angel, her anchor, and seeing the strong girl she proudly called her sister burst into tears opened the doors of tears.
ADJEI LIFTED HIS eyes to the dark skies and sighed deeply. One thing he had always hated was to see a female cry. To find himself in between two crying girls made him feel so uncomfortable.
Some minutes later.
Adjei asked, “Nuna, are you okay?”
“How can I be okay? I killed my dad.” With that, she walked away. Adjei chased after her with Dela on his tail.
“Who told you that?” he demanded
“Can’t you see that it’s my fault? I was told to do one thing. My mother told me to do just one thing. Watch over my father’s food. That was all that I had to but I wanted to win against you so badly.”
Adjei sighed silently.
“I didn’t even see him come back home,’ she continued sadly. Dela slipped her hand into her sister’s but Nuna’s mind was somewhere else. “He died and neither my mother, me, Dela or Fiko were there. My dad died alone because I wasn’t there. I killed him.” She said on a sob. Dela looked down at the ground.
IT WAS A somber mood as Naa Dei led Asor out of the room to sit on a bench outside. The room was too small to accommodate all of them. Papa Adjei pulled a bench from his porch and sat down. He watched as Naa Dei sat down beside Asor on the one opposite him. She put her arm around Asor, unable to say a word. The star of the family had fallen. Hmmm.
Woedem stood nearby with his hands in his pockets. Papa Adjei sat down facing the trio. He was worried about Asor but his younger brother’s behavior since finding out about Nuku’s death was worrying him. He knew how close the two of them were and something told him the worst was yet to come before they finally buried his brother.
“My sister,” he addressed Asor. “I came home from work and was met with the news that you had rushed my brother to the hospital after you found him unconscious. I decided to come over to the hospital in the morning and check up on him. I didn’t know the unfortunate had happened until I met you beating your daughter and then you dropped the bombshell. I’m sure I’m speaking for all of us when I ask to be briefed on what exactly happened”
DELA STOOD QUIETLY watching her sister. Her young mind was exhausted. She really wanted to sleep but still wanted to be there for her. She suddenly took notice of their environment. The muted music wafting from two houses away. The shrill sounds of night birds. Her dad had told her they were bats. Those birds looked strange and scary. She hoped she never saw one at night. There were crickets chirping nearby. Her teacher had taught them in school that they made noise by rubbing their legs together. Fiko had caught and killed one but had run away with it when she’d wanted to take a good look at it. A mosquito bit her and she jerked.
“Mosquito,” she said out loud.
“Come,” Adjei held his hand out to Nuna. “Let’s go inside.”
Nuna stared at his hand and into his eyes. She seemed to be warring inside her. He waited patiently. She stretched out hers and held his. He finally let out the breath he hadn’t known he was holding and walked her towards the house.
Nuna heard her uncle’s voice before she saw him. When they entered through the open doorway of the corridor, she saw the adults seated on two benches facing each other. Her uncle had asked her mother a question. She hadn’t heard him from the beginning but he was asking her what had happened.
ASOR STARED AT the ground for a moment and rubbed her fingers along her wrist. She wished she could somehow faint and also die. That was one thing she would really love to do now or just sleep…sleep for a very long time, wake up and sleep again. Perhaps, never to wake up again. She was just tired.
“My pastor called me that his wife wasn’t feeling well,” she said with a half-smile. She gave a sharp sigh. “I had finished cooking by then so I called Nuna,” she stopped.
Nuna heard her name and stopped. She stood there staring at her mother like a deer caught in the headlights of an approaching vehicle.
“I told her to watch over the food,” Asor continued. “and I left to meet my pastor’s wife but she wasn’t as seriously sick as I thought. I hurried back and there was my daughter, the one I told to watch over her father’s food till he came back, playing outside. I went in and there he was, unresponsive beside his food. I thought he was asleep oh,” her voice caught on a sob.
“I thought he was asleep but he wasn’t. I was trying to wake him up when people came to help me to take him to the hospital. It took so long to get a doctor to check him up. When he finally did, he said my husband was dead.”
Naa Dei burst into loud tears.
Dela had stopped behind Nuna, watching her aunties and uncles. She hadn’t seen her mother at first until she heard her talking. She gave a sob when she heard her mother say, “my husband was dead.”
Asor heard the sob and turned. With all the evening sounds in the compound, music from a room, crickets, the hmmming of those around her she still heard that sob. She turned and her gaze fell on Nuna.
The light from Naa Dei’s porch threw Nuna’s face into stark relief. Asor saw the tears welling up in her daughter’s eyes and felt a sharp pain over what she’d done to her. Her daughter must already be regretting leaving the food yet, she’d overlooked that and beaten her up. At just 10 years, she was too young to go through what she was going through now. She felt so bad over beating her up. She had to go to her. She stood up and lifted her hands in an open hug.
Nuna saw her mother get up and raise her hand. She didn’t wait for a second, turned, and ran out.
Adjei had stood near Nuna waiting for a prompt from her. He hadn’t known whether she wanted to go to her mum or go to her room. He saw the look of fear on her face as her mother stood up and watched her run out of the house. Gosh. He was so tired. He sighed and slowly walked out. He was sure she’d gone to stand outside. He hoped she wouldn’t faint again. Sigh.
TO BE CONTINUED