Everywhere remains clothed in deep silence—a silence so calm you can feel it. Now she listens, hears a faint breathing. She listens again and hears again. What?!
She springs up from the sofa as though performing a stunt. Breathing heavily, she mutters, “Who’s there?” and all the bulbs go off immediately. Startled, she takes two steps closer to the table, tries her hand blindly to reach her bag. But heck, it’s not there. Second attempt, the bag is missing still. Wait… is something toying with her sanity? She is sure she put it here the other time. She keeps turning and turning around and around, seeing only black and black and black darkness and nothing more. And worse, it’s hard to trace her way out without finding the bag housing her torch and phone. She stands stock-still, frozen to the heavens.
A gentle footstep creeps in from the dark. It sounds closer by the seconds. Her heart jumps, racing off-beat. No action no words, a concrete pillar is better than her. Things aren’t foreboding well. What if it’s a ghost or something worse? Her bones soften up like a biscuit dipped in a pool of milk. She develops a sharp headache, her stomach threatens to give way, and before she does anything, the footstep stops right in front of her.
J-J-J-Jesus! She screams and shivers, her hands grabbing her chest hard. One second, two seconds, the bulbs come on.
“Happy birthday, Titi!” echoes many voices. Damn! Her eyes fail, but in front of her is her Lagos sister, Mary, holding a birthday present. Kola, the cool guy with a dark acne-ridden face emerges from behind the curtains. Junior, her neighbor’s fifteen-year-old crawls out from under the sofa, holding an iPod. From the kitchen, Lizzy, Toyin, and Emma enter the living room with doughnuts and rolls. Tunde surfaces from under the dining table, pulling out a crate of Coke.
She stands on the same spot, mouth open wide, too stiff to fall. Tofunmi, the semi-friend from her workplace enters with a cake bearing her name and +1 written on it. Mr. Sam, the electrician living next door, enters with a package on his right and a kit box on his left.
Even if she wants to hug Mary tight and cry her shoulders wet till her eyes no longer produces more drops, she can’t. She is way too drained. She slumps backward like a sawn tree and Mary receives her and lays her well on the sofa.
As everyone comes around to check if she fainted, to know whether to pour water on her or not, or to just fan her up, she signals with her weak hand for the party to continue while she tries hard to digest the ongoing.
A soft music starts playing in the background. When Titi regains her strength, Mary would explain why she masterminded the whole scene, the heart-attack surprise—it is simply her creative attempt at making up for the lost days.