During cold nights like this, when the streets had gone to sleep and it was time for the crickets’ choir rehearsal, Adanna liked to dream. It was those kind of dreams that you saw when you were awake. Every now and then, her teacher would correct her and her friends would laugh at her; it wasn’t a dream, it was called an imagination.
However, she believed only what she wanted to believe. How do you term something so real you could almost grasp it, yet so far away it only exists in your head? At times, she scared herself. She couldn’t fathom the much wisdom she had as an eleven year old child.
It was as if her father’s death, one day before her birth, had fortified her during delivery. Sometimes she couldn’t help but feel like she was sharing her soul with another person. She never mentioned it to anyone else, for the fear of scaring them away; as if they didn’t think she was weird enough already.
The thunderclap, accompanied by torrents of rain, snapped her out of her own world. She got up quickly to lock the only window in the tiny room she had managed to snatch for herself. It was supposed to be a store room, where insecticides and other cleaning agents were kept. But she had begged her mother to let her transform it, as she was becoming a ‘big girl’ and couldn’t share rooms with her little step brothers anymore.
Finally, she got back into bed, under the thin, worn-out covers and decided that it was time to close her eyes and imagine. Half-way into her thoughts, God decided to show himself again, but this time, He came first in the form of lightning bright enough to illuminate the spooky corners, and to top it off, thunder, so mighty, it could power electricity for a whole year.
Adanna laughed in her sleep. She knew what was coming. She could sense they were very close. It wasn’t about being psychic, it was just a ritual that whenever it rained heavily, two presence always came to her room. And so she began the countdown in her head.
On three, the door flew open and two tiny creatures fled towards her. Adanna laughed even harder, as they buried their heads under her armpits and she wrapped her small hands over their heads.
“Shebi you said you will not come again when thunder sounds,” she teased the one that came three years after her.
“Is it not Dumebi that said we should come?” he tried to defend his bruised ego
“Is that true?” she fondly stroked the little one’s chin.
“Me that I was sleeping,” he replied in a small voice.
Every night, when Mother Nature came down with anger to shake the foundations of their old dilapidated bungalow her father had built about thirty years ago, even before he met her mother, her brothers would run to her for comfort and protection.
They had a mother, but a struggling one who was combining her duties with that of a father’s, so she was never around, nor in the mood for tantrums that were natural for children of their age range. Her mother worked as a nanny for a living, and since people who were rich enough to afford a nanny lived in town, about hundreds of kilometers from their outskirts, she had to be gone for days sometimes.
Countless times, she had tried to be with a man, but it never worked out. Twice, she used pregnancy to make them stay, but she was always unfortunate to be with men who had no plans for the future; men who couldn’t even take care of themselves. So when they had stayed with her for a while, living on her food and water, and she began to nag, they found an excuse to exit. She was left alone with one legitimate child and two bastards.
But Adanna cared for these bastards like they were her biological brothers. She was never one to judge someone based on their background, especially innocent children, who didn’t have the power to decide their own fate. So she loved them, because that was the only thing she was rich enough to give them.
“You people should go and meet mummy, I want to sleep well,” Adanna cajoled them.
Sometimes, she didn’t want the idea to stick to their heads that their mother wasn’t there enough for them, so she thought of little tricks to always involve their mother in every situation, to create an illusion that she was there, they just never went to her.
“Mummy was wearing clothe when we went to her room,” Chinonso responded indifferently.
Adanna furrowed her brows in confusion, wondering where their mother could be going at such late hours when the skies were mourning in anguish. She got up from the bed and looked out of the window. The waters were beginning to rise over their terrace, slapping at each other for a chance to get in first.
There were so many things she could do at such a young age, but keeping the rain out wasn’t one of them. She could barely calm the storm that was raging inside her; one she had been bottling up all this years. It was time to set it free, to make it serve as a companion, as a dirge to the song the skies were singing.
The sound of the door being forced openly made her jerk. Quickly, she dashed to the living room, followed closely by her little bodyguards. They found their mother at the door, struggling with the crooked umbrella, her pant trousers rolled up to her thighs, to wade through the shallow waters that had formed around the verandah.
“You wanted to sneak out?”
“I didn’t want to wake you up,” she tried to hide her shock on seeing them.
Adanna stepped forward and took her mother’s hands that had turned hard and bristled from years of hard labor. She had lied to herself about releasing the storm. Seeing her mother in this condition, all she wanted to give was the love she had so much in possession. She wanted to feel like a child again. She was tired of being an adult.
“We need you as much as they do, please don’t go,” she pleaded softly.
Her mother’s eyes welled with tears and her voice cracked with emotions when she spoke.
“You also need to eat tomorrow. Take care of your brothers.”
She turned her back to them and made her way out of the verandah. Adanna tried to swallow down a sob that was fast rising in her throat.
“You are not the perfect nanny. You are just a mother who takes care of other children that aren’t hers,” she called after her in the empty darkness, as her brothers clung to her, shivering from the cold.
Adanna thought she was having another dream; she seemed to be floating in space, with no destination in particular and no solid ground to land on. Although it seemed strange, but she loved it. To just float endlessly, without looking back, without returning to her roots.
She raised her hands and flapped it like a bird. She grinned in satisfaction and she dropped her wings with ecstasy. And that was when she felt it; when she woke up from her dream and imagination altogether, when for the first time, she panicked of being in charge.
The water had rose to about four feet in the room, her bed bouncing happily, going with the flow. She sat up abruptly and looked around the room. Her two soldiers were nowhere to be seen. She waited a little while for her eyes to adjust to the darkness and again, she searched frantically.
Until she saw them; two shadowed figures, laying perfectly still under the dark waters. At first, she hoped those were just sea monsters, hiding in the water to attack her. That thought was better than what could have happened. But then, realization set in and she sat numbly on the bed.
It was pointless to scream, it was worthless to cry. Light had been snatched away from her; only darkness gnashed at her heart, eating away her soul.
Therefore she sat and watched. Hoping the waters will move along and it was shallow enough to go see her babies, to escort them with words of peace to the great beyond.
And for the one who had caused her this great pain, she awaited her arrival.