I held a glass of water in my hand and sipped gently as Jide told his story at the youth gathering.
He had just come out of a bad breakup and didn’t know if or when he’d heal.
I looked at him from where I was seated and saw how the once surly Jide, had been beaten by this experience. I marvelled… but still felt sorry for him. I prayed silently that this would not make a wreck of him.
I picked up my bag, heading to the door, when I heard someone call out to Jide from the other side of the room, saying; “take it, easy man.” I thought of also going over to encourage him, but nah!… Besides, what would I have said? It was just a breakup, and we never really said much to each other besides “hi” and “hello”.
I have lived alone for close to 5 years now since I got out of the University. I had bagged the degree I always wanted since I was a child. If I wasn’t chatting away, I was reading a gigantic documentary book or standing up for my friends or arguing with them. I knew I would grow up to be a good lawyer woman (that was how I referred to my future ambition as a child). Mum and Dad always had a good laugh each time I put it like that. They encouraged me too, every step of the way. I miss living with them. We talk at least 3 or 4 times a week now.
I enjoy my job as a legal counsel, it’s a lot of work, but I enjoy it. I often pat myself on the back saying; “you are living your dream girl.” Even when friends like Neka would ask (with that big sister voice), “Are you happy?. My response was giving myself a double pat on the back and said even louder; “you are living your DREAM girl!” I earned a wholesome salary, combed a good living, and had made big lifetime financial investments. I knew when to take a break and just relax, plus my social life was well over 5 out of 10. I was doing just fine!
“No! Don’t tell me that! I need a response today please!”
“Do something please! Please! They are all I have.” I was telling the Inspector of Police… a respected man in the city, and a good friend of my father, IG Yemi Bakare.
Mum and Dad were both missing. Mrs Kelechi Maxwell who lived close to them for 14 years, whose family had also become friends of ours, called me early that morning. I looked at the small clock by my bedside, it was only 4 o’clock in the morning.
“Hello, Kamsi… it’s Aunty Kelechi. Your Parents had left the house 4 days ago. They had informed me they would spend 2 nights at a resort in a nearby town.
“Yes, yes aunty, they went to celebrate their 31st wedding anniversary… what’s the matter?” by this time, I was out of bed and standing by the window, staring into the dark night.
“Ehn, I want you to handle this very well Kamsi. I wanted you to be the first person I called before calling the police…”
“The police?” I cut in immediately. “What happened aunty?’ I was already pacing up and down the room…
“Don’t panic Kamsi. Kamsi? Kamsi?” Aunty was calling out.
I was lost in thoughts… my mind racing, thinking of all the horrible things that might have happened to them.
“I’m here…” My breathing heavier by the second
“My dear, they haven’t returned. It’s been 4 days now. They said they would spend just two nights. I placed a call through to your mother. It rang severally, no response.”
“Alright aunty, I’ll call you later.”
I immediately began to call my Parents telephone line, I even called the house line… no response.
I then called the resort they had vacationed…
“Yes ma’am, Arc. & Mrs Nwachukwu dislodged 2 days ago.” The resort receptionist said.
My eyes widened, my hands were shaky. I have never been one to handle situations like this well. I would respond with angst outrage, tears, panics… Most of the time, I found out the situation wasn’t that big a deal… I pray this is one of those “NOT BIG A DEAL” circumstances.
“Thank you.” I ended the call.
By the time I was speaking to uncle Yemi, the IG of police, my voice was shaky, fighting tears.
“We will do our best Kamsi. Just relax and let us do our job ok?”
“Yes, sir. Thank you so much.”
I walked to the window, fixing my gaze sternly at the early morning dark sky. It seemed like the morning would never come. It was only 4:30am! C’mon morning, C’mon! I was saying in my heart. I couldn’t go back to bed. I just stood there, thinking of every single moment I was with my parents. I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore when I remembered the last time mom called and asked if I’d want to go on their trip with them…
“No mum! I’d be a romantic spoiler. It’s your day, you and dad should enjoy every bit of it.”
She laughed hard and then said, “I love you.” Thinking about it now, and as though her voice reverberated through my eardrums, her “I love you’s” always sounded like music. There was just a way only my mother said those words.
Oh mummy, daddy… please don’t leave me alone on this earth. I need you both. I was crying aloud, squeezing my night gown against my chest. Maybe I should have gone with them. We’d all be together now, wherever it is… wherever!
Oh God please, hear me in this time of trouble… Please God, bring my parents back…. I’m so sorry, please. I have been preoccupied with my busy life! Not noticing anyone, or anything… not spending time with my family or friends, or even You! Oh Dear God, please have mercy! Mercy!
My tears wouldn’t stop, and it still felt like the night wouldn’t give way to the morning….
It was the way I hurried up when my phone rang, that I realized I had fallen asleep.
“What! 9 o’clock! How could I have slept this long?”
My phone rang
“Kamsi, any news yet?” Aunty Kelechi asked with anxiety in her voice.
“No aunty, none yet. Let me hurry out. I’ll call you later.”
Three days after that night, my Parents hadn’t returned, and no one had a clue where they could be.
The police were still on the lookout and put announcements on radio and television.
“Arc. & Mrs Nwachukwu’s disappearance is a mysterious one, they were seen last on the 6th of September, and since then have…. The Lady’s voice on TV was going on and slowly fading off, I had zoned out.
I had officially become a wreck! I don’t remember if I had eaten anything since that day. I had driven straight to my Parents house that day. I looked at the pictures on the wall and in all the other corners of the house. Running my palm through each photograph, cherishing those captured moments even more. I sniffed on their clothes and put them on. I slept in their bed and cried my eyes sore. This is when I would have needed Neka’s “are you happy” call… but I wasn’t responding to calls, texts or voice notes at this time. I didn’t want anyone’s sympathy or worries added to mine. My Parents will be found. I knew it!
I went into dad’s study, looking through the last architectural design he had been working on. It was an edifice for the Federal capital of the Country. The government had given him that huge contract, many other architects had lobbied for. I remember when he got the contract, we had a sumptuous candlelit dinner at home, with family friends. Mum had made Dad’s favourite meal, pounded yam and onubu soup. We chatted, laughed and dined into the night.
Dad was a tremendous architect, he led a fine team of other sought after architects, young and old. He also owned one of the most prestigious architectural firms in the country. I only hoped his disappearance wasn’t some kind of political gang up?! My heart asking these angry questions. My Parents were such private, good and sincere people, I was always amazed at how my Father made friends even of his enemies… who would want to hurt them? Who?
I stood there looking and tracing the drawings with my fingers, my tears messing up his beautiful work. I was still staring blankly at the work when suddenly a strange breeze blew listlessly into the study. It felt like this breeze came with a message… a good one. It was refreshing but didn’t last long. It was like suddenly, I knew what I must do.
I went and put on my jacket, picked up my car keys and stepped out of the house. I drove miles and miles, this strange breeze was leading the way. I pulled over at a fuel station to get my tank filled up when I noticed a black land cruiser just in front of me, getting its tank filled too. It looked exactly like Dad’s. I was still examining the body of the car when my eyes caught the number plate. It was… it was Dad’s car! And it was driving off.
“Wait wait, stop filling… it’s ok. Take the money.” I told the gas attendant hastily and started off to meet up. Now I was on a mission. I was unafraid. It was unbelievable! All happening so fast. Could this be? Whatever lay ahead, I was going to get my parents back. I picked up my phone and dialled uncle Yemi, and told him my present location.
“Ok Kamsi. We will catch up with you. Just keep your phone close to you.”
“Yes, sir.” I dropped the phone quickly and continued on my chase. I was driving above the speed limit and I didn’t even care. Again, I was on a mission. I reminded myself. I got closer and closer and got in front of the car… close enough to cause a “near” accident. The land cruiser came to a halt, and the driver came down of the car and began to head towards me. As he came closer, I dialled uncle Yemi again and put the phone on speaker.
I opened the door of the car and ran out. I headed straight to the black land cruiser screaming “mom”, “dad”! I opened the door of the back seat and to my excitement and shock, Mum and Dad were seated there, their heads leaned against the seats lifeless. I screamed again, Mum, Dad! Dad steered sideways, his eyes slobby and then he responded with a whimper. I shook him hard, and just then, the driver came up behind, jabbed and dragged me to the ground.
I held onto one of his legs with my two hands, and won’t let go. I looked into his eyes, he was indignant, and he showed it letting out an angry grunt, as though displeased at this plan spoiler! I screamed at him and questioned; “Who are you?” “What do you want with my parents?” “Who do you work for?” While he struggled and kicked me furiously with his other leg, I held tight, this time my body was wrapped around his leg. He dragged me along as he tried to walk back to the driver’s seat. Thankfully, we had created a scene and other people got down from their cars to come to see what was going on. A few young men ran to my rescue, and the kidnapper was held down to the ground. Just then we heard sirens in the distance. I screamed, and shook my parents back to consciousness… to no avail.
“Kamsi, Kamsi, are you ok?” I rushed towards uncle Yemi, hugging, sobbing… “Help them please.”
Uncle Yemi immediately had his policemen arrest the kidnapper. He got into the driver’s seat of the land cruiser and asked me to get into the passenger’s seat immediately. “Let’s get them to the hospital.” He said. My car was driven by another policeman who drove directly behind us.
I was still in shock with all that had happened in just a few minutes, or was it hours? I didn’t even know. I turned around to look at my parents. They looked tired and still unconscious. I had never seen them so helpless in all my life.
“You’re going to be ok.” I reached out to touch them, my hands shaking uncontrollably.
“I want you to know, you are one courageous woman Kamsi. You are a hero… Uncle Yemi said. His voice was warm and firm at the same time. Your parents are safe because of you.” Just then, that strange breeze blew again into the car, and suddenly, I knew who did all this… it wasn’t me.
“It is God, uncle Yemi. It is Him who has kept my parents safe, and He led me to them.”
He nodded with certainty, as though he too had just realized a truth.
He kept driving. I leaned backwards, letting a sigh of relief from all this nightmare. I was exhausted, my body hurt from the kidnapper’s assault, I let my mind roam, imagine… where did that boldness and strength come from? I was grateful.
“ka..msi is that you?” Dad called out. I leaned backwards hurriedly to hold his hand. Leaning myself even closer so he’d catch a better glimpse of my image.
I’m right here Daddy. I’m right here. Holding tightly. Uncle Yemi and I are taking you and mummy to the hospital. You’re going to be alright.” I didn’t let go of their hands again until we got to the hospital.
I stood on the podium at the Youth gathering, to tell my story. I titled it “when time slept.” My story was real, it had happened to me. I knew what it meant to be weak. I know what heartbreak feels like, and what life would look like if you lost the people you loved. I knew the smell of fear, and what it felt like when you weren’t sure the morning will ever come. I know exactly what it feels like to be alone.
As I told my story, I watched as they listened, their expressions and total silence telling me they sympathized with me. They prayed with me afterwards and I was laden with hugs and encouragement.
“I’m glad your parents are ok. And you are one brave woman.” Jide said with a kind smile on his face.
“Thank you. And it’s good to see you are doing so well Jide.” I responded with a warm smile. I hoped it revealed my sincere sympathy.
“Can I drop you off? That’s if you didn’t come with your car.” He offered.
“No, I didn’t. And yes you can. Thank you.” Giggling somewhere in my heart.
We walked out of the room together.
We talked all the way home, and the days, and weeks that followed.
I sense a second story coming soon… a happier one… *wink*