Freedom 8

When life knocks you down, certain options seem preferable to others. Crying becomes preferred instead of laughter, groans instead of joyful shouts. In this case, life had knocked Jessica down badly. She felt beaten, bruised and worthless. The dirt from the metaphorical ground stuck to her skin and the shame she felt was so thick it seemed like a sweater.
She was unmarried and pregnant. She hadn’t even realised that she was pregnant until she was in the third month.
In her haste, backed by the fact that she had no one she felt comfortable enough to bounce decisions off of, she’d gone to a quack in a dingy hospital and attempted to have an abortion. Which would have solved her problem, except as she later found out- the man who’d “impregnated” her was certified to be sterile, incapable of having children of his own. Her uncle. And now she was wracked with severe pain, severe enough to take her to the hospital on admission … and to her sister’s church to scream for death.
Monday Ehijie was the older brother of the father of the twins, and Johnson.
Jennifer was 12 when their mother died, old enough to remember conversations between her mother and father where her mother had expressly asked her father to meet with him elsewhere. Remembering how gentle and kindhearted her mother was, she knew that she must have had a very good reason. Which she later found out.
When she was younger, Jennifer was the acknowledged wild child of the family. With a penchant for mischief and potent charisma, she had a way of drawing people out and making them smile. Every one she met couldn’t help but fall in love with her. Her sister Jessica was much quieter but she loved Jennifer with such intense devotion, no one ever dared say anything bad about her sister near her.
The status quo changed one rainy April morning when they were re-introduced to Uncle Monday.


Freedom 7

JESSICA was blushing. She wondered why. She had not blushed since S.S2 when she’d been teased by her crush. Of course, those days were long behind her.
But now, looking at her sister, she was blushing all over again.
Then the pain hit and the redness of her cheeks was replaced by a writhing torment.
Her sister was holding her hand. She squeezed it so hard she felt the blood drain from it. Still, Jennifer held fast.
Spasm done, sweat cascading, she made to release Jennifer’s hand. Still, she held fast.
She kept her head down. Unwilling to look her sister in the eye while she delivered a long overdue apology, the problem was solved when the pain hit again, more ferocious this time.

Johnson never knew it, but he’d arrived just in time. He made straight for his father’s office, thanking GOD all the way. No thoughts lingered of past disagreements, nor of past hurts. All he remembered now was the urgency he’d felt, holding on to his mother while shivering with pneumonia, knowing that if someone would come quick, they would be able to wake his mother up. Knowing even then that she was not asleep.
He felt the same urgency now. The same need to get help before it was too late.
He reached his father’s office early enough. Some public holiday or the other had reformed Lagos traffic. He hurriedly overpaid the cab driver and rushed inside his father’s company, past the sleeping security guard and into his father’s office to meet him sitting peacefully, eyes open at his desk.
What had the urgency been about, he wondered, taking in his father’s serene expression. He moved into the room cautiously, his shadow alerting his father to his presence. Now he remembered all the fights, all the disagreements, the yelling and the crushing feeling of hopelessness. Of worthlessness. It took him exactly 12 seconds to move to grudgingly shake his father’s outstretched hand.
Then he smiled. He’d already forgiven this man.
Now for a civil conversation.

Freedom 6

Jessica took several steadying breaths. If she didn’t, she would get flustered. He knew this. So she decided to turn the tables on him.
“Dad” she called.
He looked up hopefully.
She’d hardly called him that for a while.
“Daddy? “, she repeated.
He smiled now.
She noticed the smile.
“Where’s Johnson?”
The smile slid off his face.
Jessica woke up alone. It was dark. Her father had left. Probably to go do some business and bury his head in the sand some more.
She tried hard to sit up. The sharp pain in her stomach reminded her why she was here in the first place. She fell back down onto the bed heavily.
The sniffles came on and then she felt a weight on the bed and saw a hand extended to help her up.
She took it.
For the first time ever, Johnson felt overwhelmed, entirely by his family.
He had had a niggling bad feeling for days concerning his family. He had fasted. He had prayed. He had called upon his church to pray concerning his family.
Even still, the feeling remained. He and his father were not exactly on talking terms.
His sister, Jessica,  the crown princess of the family in her dad’s eyes and he had a lukewarm relationship.
It was her twin, Jennifer to whom he felt closest.
When he went to Nigeria, it was to her apartment. When he wanted to laugh, when he had news to share. She was his family, in every way that counted. She reminded him so much of their mother. But right this minute, right now, he didn’t feel in his heart that she needed his prayers as much as their father did.  And so he was in a conundrum. He hadn’t spoken to Jessica in exactly 3 years. He felt weird calling her. But then, he knew that the rift between their father and Jennifer was legendary. And he did not have his father’s number either.
He made for bed and then he felt rather than heard, an instruction, a command to get on the 8:20pm flight to Nigeria.
He tried to shrug it off.
Brushing his teeth, the voice gave the instruction again, very clearly this time. He rinsed off and called for a cab.