by KREATIVE DIADEM | Feb 7, 2017 | SHORT STORIES
Right after my parents died, I was packaged to my brother’s home. I was still in shock from watching my parents burn to death in a fire that I started. At an age where everything was fascinating and worth trying, I had lit a match close to a leaking gas cylinder. The explosion that ensued flung me against the edge of our kitchen table. My father was the first to get to me. Mother was upstairs, ill in bed. He carried me out and told me to run to our neighbors. He ran back inside to get mother, but neither of them made it out.
My brother, Gabe, had left home two years ago. He had concluded that the Christian lifestyle of my parents was below him. He had started clubbing, drinking heavily and bringing his girlfriends home. Mother tried her best to turn him from the wrong path he had chosen. Father took over fully when mother was diagnosed with cancer. I would not say father did a good job of advising Gabe because soon after, both of them had this big row and Gabe left home the next day. He got married to one Faye and got a house.
So, when father and mother died, there was nowhere else to go, except his house. Gabe and I were never close, so it was just strange and awkward at his place. It was worse with Faye, because I saw her as just one of the random girls that Gabe moved with, and not his wife. I desperately needed comfort and someone to share my grief and guilt with. I needed assurance that their death was not entirely my fault. I desired a hug to take away the pains that tore at my six-year-old heart. But, Gabe could offer me none of these. Things got worse a year later when Gabe and Faye divorced. Gabe said he could no longer cope with taking care of me. He put me up for adoption. I thought it was a joke, until my first foster parents walked up the front porch of Gabe’s house. I can’t recall the surname they came with, but I remember the cigarette smell that clung to them. After some hasty handshakes between the adults, I was taken to their green truck. I remember the color of the truck because I so much dislike green and that made me conclude I was not going to like that couple either. I was right.
That marked the genesis of my life as a foster child to more than three homes. The longest I stayed was in the third home, four years. By the time I was to go to the fourth home, I was fourteen. I had experienced more bad than good and had grown a bitter heart. I was going with rebellion brewing in my veins and was determined to fight against anyone and anything that attempted to add to my miserable state. No more was I the whimpering child seeking for any attention I could get. I was all out for war.
Mrs. Hans was my fourth foster mother. She was a very young and recently widowed woman. When I got to her place, I was first enchanted by the beautiful garden in front of her house. The flowers were gorgeously arranged and kept. I wondered if she was the one taking care of them. Inside, the house was even more captivating. There were splashes of many colors adorning the walls. Her wedding pictures hung on walls and stood on tables.
I had come prepared to fight hatred, but was ill-equipped for the love she showered on me. I did not know how to respond to her care, love and attention. In fact, I still rebelled and tried to throw her love back at her. I used rude words, hissed at her when she used the word love. I purposely disobeyed and avoided being with her as much as I could. All that was my way of testing if her love was real and lasting. She passed that test and won my heart. I gradually let go of the hurt and anger I had bottled up for a long time. I later learnt that the garden had been her husband’s idea and he had diligently kept at it for the two years of their marriage. When he died, she took over and made sure it was always neat. Six months on, she still enjoyed quiet moments sitting in the midst of the flowers planted and preserved by her husband’s love.
My fifth year with her, I gained admission into the university. I was so sad leaving her even for one session. Holidays were eagerly expected and were spent in precious moments of love. For me, it was love that sprouted amidst conflicting emotions and was nurtured till full blossom. That love had encompassed my very being and lifted lots of weights off my shoulders. I always went back to the university campus loaded with love and other essentials for living.
Three major things Mrs. Hans dealt with first were my faith in God, forgiving my brother and most importantly, forgiving myself. Once my faith was successfully restored, it was quite easy to forgive my brother. The hard part was forgiving myself. I could not deny that my curiosity had pushed me to do what I should not have done. The guilt I felt had grown into a deep fear of matches and naked fire. Mrs. Hans had a long and hard time convincing me to cook on my own. In my other foster homes, I never had to cook. Most times, I ate in restaurants or went hungry. My first successful cooking left me in tears of relief and joy, mixed with sad memories of father and mother.
I met with my brother the same day I lost my mother, Mrs. Hans. Unknown to me, Gabe had been tracking me throughout my transfers from one home to another. When he saw that I was well established with Mrs. Hans, he decided to come over. I was at church, preparing for a special Sunday ministration with the church choir. I was in the middle of a laugh with some of the choristers when Gabe walked in. It was a moment I had been waiting for and at the same time dreading. His face held lots of emotions and prominent among them was a pain.
I have never seen Gabe in tears and I have never felt those tears on any part of my body. As I drew him into a hug, I felt hot drops falling on my shirt and seeping through the fibres. When he finally pulled back, he said, “She is dead, I am so sorry.” Of course, it took me a long time to come to terms with the meaning of those words. When I finally did, I blacked out. He had walked into the house and met her ‘sleeping’. He made some deliberate noises intended to rouse her. After waiting for a response, he moved closer and called her name, she gave no response. He alerted our neighbors who also told him where he could find me.
Her burial was a quiet one. Apart from Gabe, the attendees had intimately known Mrs. Hans for at least ten years. I wept more than I did at the burial of my biological parents. That woman took me in at a time when she was still grieving, yet, she helped me rise above my own negativities. She helped me look and see beyond the dark tunnel I placed myself. Through her untiring efforts, I grew up into a better person than I could ever have imagined.
Over the next few months, before I left for my final year at school, I got to spend time with Gabe. I got the chance to show him and make him feel the same love I had known with Mrs. Hans. We picked up the thin thread that connected us and forged a bond, a tight bond. Gabe came looking for me with nothing to himself. When I left for school, he had love, a fast growing business and a house.
My name is Vik. In a day, I lost a family and gained a family back. Love is the principal thing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Eunice Oladeji Oluwafolakemi and my pen name is PEO. Starting from essays written in secondary school, I discovered my flair for writing and the joy in it. I live in Nigeria with my family of writers; my parents and three siblings. I am a fifth year medical student in the University of Ibadan. I was born 4th February and I am from Osun state.
I like writing because it allows me create a world where things happen how, where and when I want them to. I can decide the past, present and future. I have written many poems, some short stories and I am still working on my first novel, although none has been published.
I believe, as a writer of faith, that someone, somewhere, only needs to read at least a line of my writing to think, speak and act better.