Two Days To Her Birthday Episode 3
A short story by Ebuka Stan
Oluchi stayed in the hospital for two days. With her was her father’s only sibling – his elder sister, Margaret who came from faraway Sokoto to stay with the young girl.
The doctor Mr Steven had already warned Margaret that the young girl had endured so much in such a young age and many never fully recover from the trauma.
Sometimes Margaret would use her white handkerchief to wipe the tears in her own eyes as she shook her head in regret.
On the third day, she took Oluchi to their hometown of Nanka in Enugu where they joined relatives and family friends in the burial ceremony.
In attendance were their relatives, and invited guests. Bradley’s Principal, Mrs Adetunji and ten of her classmates also came to console her.
“We in the police command, are sorry for your lost. The witnesses said it was a scary sight to behold. But they didn’t call us on time. By the time we arrived, it was already too late.”
“Where is she now?” asked Margaret. There was anger in her voice.
“She is now in police custody. On Monday, she would be charged to court to answer for her crimes. She may be sentenced to life imprisonment.”
Oluchi didn’t want to hear anymore, and so she ran out of the house.
“Oluchi!” Aunt Margaret was shouting. But Oluchi was already sitting in front of her father’s grave, crying.
She now looked older than her age, with dirt all over her clothes. But she wasn’t bothered. Life had suddenly lost its sweet taste and all she was left to grapple with was its bitterness. Her eyes revealed bitter truths about life and deep scars that may never heal.
She shook her head as flashes of the tragedy that struck crept into her mind.
Her mind took her back to the long corridor leading to her classroom where she was reading the letter. It was signed by Inspector Donald Thompson from the police divisional headquarters at Onitsha.
“Dear Oluchi, we regret to inform you that your dad died in a fire incident last night. This is according to eye witness report. Your step-mother’s whereabouts is unknown at the moment. We are doing everything we can to locate her. We are still trying to ascertain the truth of what happened that night.
We will surely get to the root of the matter and make sure that justice is served. We didn’t know who else to contact. Your late father – may his soul rest in peace – gave his neighbours your school’s address and told them to contact you if anything happened to him.
We didn’t know why he made the decision but we are now carrying out his wishes. Please report to the station as soon as you can.”
In the next minute, she was in the hospital watching the television after regaining consciousness.
On a day that was supposed to be her birthday, she was in the hospital watching the news.
The news anchor was saying, “The manhunt is over. The police has finally arrested the woman who was accused of setting her house on fire on Saturday night killing her husband Mr Paul Obidike in the process.
From our investigation, the couple had involved in a lot of quarrels and violent fighting involving damage of properties. Most times, they’d end up wounding each other in the process.
It was gathered by our newsmen that on that Saturday when the irreconcilable issues between the couple reached its climax, the accused came home late in the night and caught her husband red-handed with a younger lady in their matrimonial bed.
Feeling furious, she locked their door from the outside and began to pour petrol throughout the house. Then she set the house on fire and took off. By the time neighbours came to the rescue after being disturbed by huge smoke coming out from the house, the whole place was already engulfed in fire.
Both the man and the woman died from burns sustained from the fire. What a mess. What a waste. Now the police…”
Oluchi shot the memories from her mind and began to kick so hard on her father’s grave as she cried so hard.
So much had changed in a week. She blamed God for not saving her mother. She blamed herself for allowing her dad to remarry.
Dad, the world was lovely and sweet when it was just the two of us against the world.
She blamed herself for agreeing to go to boarding school.
If I was there, it wouldn’t have happened, she kept telling herself.
That was when Aunt Margaret joined her where she was sitting close to her late father’s grave.
“Stop crying Oluchi. I will take care of you. God knows best. It will be alright. You are eighteen now. You must now strive to be a strong woman. That’s what dad would have wanted.”
What would dad have wanted?
This was the question in her mind as they went back to the house. Gradually, another thought crept into her mind and somehow she knew what her dad would have wanted.
He would want me to rise from the ashes of my bitter past and become a stronger woman. He would want me to be like mother and to remember all that mom thought me.
Suddenly Oluchi felt better knowing that her dad was with her mum in a far distant land watching her and guiding her footsteps. And in her heart, she knew that she would not fail them.
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