STARLESS NIGHTS EPISODE 14
Seconds turned to minutes, minutes to hours, hours to days, days to weeks… Loveth knew the sound of silence. It is the loud echo of nothingness which deafens the ears even when there are voices all around. There was a stabbing pain in her little heart that wouldn’t go away, no matter how hard she tried. She should have talked to him when she had the chance. She should have told him how much he meant to her; definitely should have told him that she loved him so much. She should have been there, been there with him in the hospital, holding his hand as he grabbed ferociously onto the reins keeping him alive. She should have been the cord that held him together; she should have been his anchor… like he had been to her, her whole life.
Tim was the one who always understood her. Even when others misunderstood her and probably thought her a bit weird, Tim was the one person who could tell what she was thinking. He defended her even against their parents when she was about to be punished for doing something wrong. Still… she wasn’t there for him when he needed her the most. She wasn’t with him, and when he begged to speak with her, she had refused. Her reasons for not speaking to him seemed senseless now. He had begged, God knows he begged to hear her voice, and yet… and yet…
Loveth bit hard on her lips, as she filled herself from crying. That unconscious act probably runs in the family. She blinked severally times as she watched Tessy and Jerry play a bit sluggishly in the compound. If only she could be as young and as naive as them, Loveth thought, feeling way older than her nine years old self. She was growing up but maybe that wasn’t a good thing. If she was to be granted one wish, she will she’d be as young and naive as Jerry was, maybe that way, she won’t feel this pain anymore.
“You’re doing it again”
Loveth jerked out of her reverie and turned to the watchful gaze of Mrs Peters. The beans they were obviously picking was poised between them, in a fairly round tray. A bit was suspended in her small palm, only God knows how long it had been there.
“Sorry ma” Loveth said shortly.
Mrs Peters let out an exasperated breath as she dropped a palm full of picked beans into a bowl. She fastened her eyes on Loveth who had her eyes on her palm, picking out chaff from the beans. “Loveth, you are too young for this. You need to stop worrying so much”
Loveth blinked, pouring the beans into the bowl without a word.
Mrs Peters sighed, put her hand under Loveth’s chin and raised her head till the girl was looking at her. “I’m sure your brother is fine”
Loveth pulled her head away gently as she fastened her eyes on the beans, obviously to hide the pain in her eyes. “No, he’s not”
Mrs Peters gasped. “Don’t say that, Loveth” This was the first time Loveth was actually saying that.
Loveth’s eyes snapped up. “You know it is true” her eyes watered. “You know it. We have not heard from him or my parents for several weeks now. No calls, daddy hasn’t even come visiting like he used to.” she dropped the beans in her hand, her eyes flashing. “Obviously… Tim…” she bloke off, unable to continue. “… it has happened and they don’t know how to tell us”
Mrs Peters stared at the little girl with compassion. “Nothing has happened” still she couldn’t deny that not hearing from the Rogers for so long was really weird.
Loveth stared into the older woman’s eyes, reading it as surely as she’d read a book. “You don’t believe it yourself”
It’s no use lying to Loveth, Mrs Peters had learnt this quickly. The girl might be so young but she surely had a mature mind. The only thing that could work is tact, a child would always be a child. “Okay, Loveth… I admit I am also very worried” she leaned forward, coming at level head with Loveth, “but we can’t afford to give our hopes up. We have to merge our faith if Tim would be fine again, I have told you this, right?”
Loveth’s eyes watered so much, Mrs Peters thought she’d actually cry for the first time. “I’m so scared… What if… What if he…”
Mrs Peters watched Loveth struggle with tears, feeling bad for the girl. She so wanted the tears to win, Loveth badly needed to let the tears out, it might help sooth the pain she was feeling. “You can cry, Loveth”
Loveth froze, seeming to realise that she was actually on the verge of tears. She blinked back furiously, rubbing the moisture that managed to slip past her steel lashes. “No, I can’t cry.” she cleared her throat, picking the beans again. “Crying means something bad has truly happened” she choked out
Oh, so there’s hope there after all. “Come. Come give me a hug”
Loveth hesitated for a brief moment, then went ahead to hug the older woman. Who would have thought she and Mrs Peters would actually get along after all that happened. But it seemed people are not averse to change. Mrs Peters had changed drastically since her husband reprimanded her, and slowly, she had tried her best to work her way back to the hearts of the children. For Tessy and Jerry, it was pretty easy. A few gifts here and there and she was the queen of the world in their hearts. Loveth had required a lot more but Mrs Peters, ready to .make up for her mistakes had been patient. Loveth loved cooking, Mrs Peters had realised and harnessed that, teaching her how to cook and creating a motherly atmosphere around her. It had kept Loveth’s mind busy – which was a good thing – and also won her the little girl’s heart. Mrs Peters and Loveth were inseparable now as Mrs Peters became a mother and a friend.
Loveth was just pulling out of the much needed hug when she heard the shrill.
Loveth spun so fast as her siblings ran towards the towering figure of her father, seeing as he scooped up Tessy and Jerry into .his strong arms. Loveth blinked severally. “Dad?” she ran forward, as she also gave her father a hug. Her heart was pounding wildly in her chest. She was so happy to see her father after several weeks but she was also scared, really scared. She couldn’t tell if this was a good development of a bad one… a very bad one.
Loveth tried her best to hide her anxiety and put a smile on her face as her father squatted before them but for the first time, her feelings were not easily masked.
George saw the anxiety in the face of his children and his heart broke. Tears were not an easy thing for a man but George has been doing a lot of that this past few days and weeks. “How are you children? I’ve missed you all so much” he put a big smile on his face for the sake of his children.
“You didn’t come to visit us” Tessy accused instantly as Jerry stayed poised in his father’s arms. Mr and Mrs Peters watched the children silently from a distance.
George rubbed his hand on Tessy’s cheek, smiling softly at them all. “I’m sorry, but now, we are going together”
Everyone’s eyes flashed with delight. “I’ll see mummy?” Jerry mouthed.
George grinned at the baby of the house. “Yes, Jerry, you’d all she mummy”
“And Tim?” Loveth asked pensively. Everything depended on this question.
George stared at his eldest daughter for a second, then nodded. “Yes, Loveth, and Tim”
Loveth stared at her father. She couldn’t read his face the racing of her heart had pretty much engulfed her senses. Tim is alive! “He is better now?” she mouthed again. There was something she couldn’t read in her father’s face. Surely, she was imagining it and over thinking things like Mrs Peters said she does. But why was he much quieter than his usually quiet self?
George smiled widely. “He is alright now”
Undiluted happiness filled Loveth. Surely her instincts were wrong. Her father couldn’t lie; he had never lied to her before. “Alright kids, why don’t you go pack some we can get going”
In a flash, Loveth and her siblings dashed into the house. Mrs Peters turned. “I’d help them pack” she mouthed, leaving the two men alone. They surely had much to talk about. Weirdly, Mrs Peters was sad thinking she’d not be seeing the children again. Despite her initial reception, the children had grown on her till she developed deep affection and love for them; she was probably missing her own children too much.
Mrs Peters helped the children pack and watched them fuse their clothes into bags carelessly, too impatient to worry about folding them. Loveth had never looked to do excited and enthusiastic. Mrs Peters hoped to God that their hopes were not bashed. She hoped George told the children the truth.
The taxi wasn’t moving fast enough. It didn’t look like they were going to their house. George had told them that they were going to another house but it seemed so far away. As long as Tim and their mother was there, the children couldn’t ask for anything more.
Loveth took her eyes from the road, turning away from the window. Her large eyes met her dad’s as she asked for the umpteenth time. “How much longer?”
George smiled and repeated what he had been saying over and over again. “We would be there soon”
Loveth sighed lightly, turning back to the window. She continued her daydream of what she’d tell Tim. And what he’d tell her. She just wanted to see his face and hear his voice. He’d be so shocked when she told him that she could cook now… that she could cook so many things. Loveth smiled to herself in anticipation, already envisioning his stunned face. She doubted she’d be able to catch a whim of sleep tonight.
She stared at the road again, it never seemed to end, she thought with a frown. Patience. Patience!
Finally, after a few prolonged minutes, the taxi pulled off the road and into a large compound, with tall buildings. The place was beautiful. Way more beautiful than their former apartment, this place looked like it’s meant only for the rich.
Loveth started towards the first staircase she saw.
“Loveth, won’t you carry your bags?” George called.
Loveth nodded and backtracked hastily. She grabbed two small bags from the trunk of the taxi as George handled the rest. George led the way, followed closely by Tessy and Jerry. Loveth trailed behind them.
Suddenly, she became apprehensive. What would she say to Tim first. She had never premeditated words with her brother, but now, she was suddenly feeling shy. It’s been months. What if her brother wasn’t how she remembered him to be? What if he had changed? Loveth sighed. Well, she’d just have to see for herself, wouldn’t she?
They arrived at a door and George put down the bags on one hand to push open the door. The children stared at the door as it pushed open, unconsciously holding their breaths for whatever laid ahead.
The children ran into the waiting arms of their mother. Bola knelt down on the rug of the moderately large sitting room, enfolding her children in her arms. Tears filled her eyes and spilled over as she felt extreme happiness. “Oh… My babies” It was like nothing she had ever felt before. It was pure bliss. The distance could have pulled them apart but instead, it brought them closer than they were before.
Bola pulled back, inspecting them to see if they held up well. She never wanted them away from her again, not even for a minute.
“Mummy missed all of you, so much… so so much” she muttered.
“I missed you too, mummy”, the children murmured simultaneously. Tessy and Jerry wiped at the tears in their mother’s eyes as Bola wiped at their.
The children’s eyes started going round almost instantly. Something wasn’t right. Someone was missing…
“Where is Tim?” Loveth mouthed the unspoken question as she shrugged out of her mother’s arms, looking around, wildly. Her heart raced fast.
“Loveth…” George began.
“Where is T.boy?” she cried, her voice rang out in the room as she stared at every corner, only seeing walls and doors. “You said he is here!” she screamed at her father. “you said he is here with mummy” this time, Loveth couldn’t control the tears that filled her eyes and spilled over for the very first time.
“Loveth… honey, calm down” Bola gasped out. Tessy and Jerry looked on in confusion as they started tearing up also.
“No!” Loveth yelled. “I want to see Tim! I want-”
Loveth froze in place as that voice that she knew so well beckoned. The voice that belonged to only one person.
“Tim!” Tessy and Jerry squealed as they ran in one direction.
Loveth turned around slowly as her eyes connected with the one person she really wanted to see. He was smiling in that familiar way she knew so well as he bent fractionally, lifting Jerry into his arms, while holding Tessy by the side. They were all smiles and less words, as they reminisced in the reunion of the family. Tim lifted his smiling gaze till it connected with Loveth’s.
“T.boy” she gasped out. And for a weirdly unknown reason, Loveth started crying. And once the tears started, they never seemed to stop. It wasn’t what she had imagined their reunion to be, she surely hadn’t thought she’d be crying like Jerry – like a kid. But she was ‘still’ a kid and for once, she was glad about it.
After the storm comes the calm. The wind normalizes, blowing gently across the earth, swaying trees and grasses as they dance seductively to celebrate the return of normalcy. The dark clouds shift, revealing clear skies, a mockery of its former state. Still, the havoc the storm wrecked remains fresh in the minds of all. The grounds are wet and water flows in torrents in gutters and canals.
Loveth looked at the darkened sky from the veranda of their new apartment. Stars littered the sky, some bright, some dim. She exhaled. A movement behind her made her turn.
Tim smiled at Loveth as he joined her at the railings. He brushed aside her hand gently so he could see her face. “You shouldn’t be out here alone”
“I know” Loveth answered shortly, staring at nothing in particular. Then she looked up at her brother. “I was scared, T.boy… I thought I’d never see you again”
Timothy was silent for a while, seeming lost in thought. “Me too, Love”
“I should have been with you”
“Maybe I wouldn’t be here if you were” Tim countered.
Loveth blinked, looking away. “I should have spoken to you”
“Maybe I wouldn’t be here if you had”
Loveth opened her mouth and closed it. “What happened Tim? Everyone stopped calling, we thought…”
Timothy breathed. “I was flown out of the country”
Loveth’s eyes flashed with curiosity. “You went to America?”
Tim nodded, grinning. “With mummy and daddy” He hadn’t felt the thrill of it then though, he had spent all the time in the hospital. It was a terribly painful time, thinking he was alive now was nothing short of a miracle. “Mrs Pascal paid all the expenses”
“Who is Mrs Pascal?”
Tim smiled. “You’d meet her soon, and Doctor Kemi”
Loveth frowned, she hated not knowing something. “But you are okay now?”
Tim nodded with a sincere smile. “Yes, Love, I am fine now”
Bola stood a few paces away, concealed by the curtain as she watched her two eldest children. She wiped at her tears, her heart bubbling over with joy and gratitude to God. She had missed sights like these – her children together, happy and without fears. She watched Loveth launch into tales of the past weeks. She watched their laughter, feeling bubbles of happiness envelope her insides. She had thought it impossible to have this again, she had thought her son couldn’t live again, she had thought their family couldn’t be complete and happy again, but here they stood, the storm had passed and they were still standing, their bond even stronger than before. They had learnt to be grateful for the challenges life brought their way because it made them stronger.
Bola stepped into the veranda. “Okay kids, time for bed”
For once, Bola noted that Loveth didn’t argue about not being a kid. She smiled.
“Let’s go, Love” Tim held his sister’s hand and together, they walked into the house. Bola smiled, her heart full of happiness as she walked in behind them.
They never heard of Fred again. No one saw him, heard from him or even knew what happened to him. George and the family were forced to forgive Fred in their hearts because unforgiveness has a way of turning around to hurt the offended.
Ironically, Mr Haruna grew to be a really wealthy businessman but he lost what was more important and couldn’t be bought with money – family. But after all said and done, the Rogers were grateful for the journey they’d been through, they were grateful for the flowers found amongst thorns, the ones who made life a bit more bearable as they journeyed through the wilderness. And they knew that whenever life brings a starless nights, they’d fight through together, knowing that afterwards comes the dawn of a bright new day.
Multiple thanks to everyone who journeyed with me through this nonfiction series. To everyone who might be going through a trying time, I hope this story has been able to inspire hope and faith in you as it has in me. To all, everyday is another episode in life’s novel, don’t be the villain, be the hero. Be the reason for someone’s smile and leave a positive mark in life.