The day Chinwe died, even the skies wept.
It was a bleak Sunday afternoon and mother and I had just returned from the village. We had been there to visit granddaddy who looked older every time I saw him. Of course this was expected; people grew older with time. The only problem is that I did not want my granddaddy to die. It terrified me to think that soon I would come to his orange house and he would not be sitting in his little store outside, selling cigarettes, kai-kai, and groceries to his customers. This fear of granddaddy dying had started only a few months ago after I’d had a frightening dream about a funeral in my family. I had fearfully asked my best friend Theresa for her thoughts on dreams.
‘My pastor says they’re prophecies from God o’ she’d said
Theresa was a staunch Pentecostal who attended Healing Streams Ministry, a new, up and coming church in her neighborhood. Thoroughly petrified by what I had been told, I went home shaking and even as I attempted a mumbling prayer, I strongly believed God would never listen to me, after all I wasn’t even sure he existed. So I stopped eating and lost weight, not because I was fasting, but because I was afraid that my granddaddy who told mummy not to beat me and begged daddy to accept my report card even after I’d taken eleventh position five times in a row already. Granddaddy called me sweet names and gave me sweets whenever I visited. My granddaddy did not think I was too “chubby” for a fourteen year old and he always told mummy;
‘Nene, you know how you looked at sixteen. Don’t treat my baby badly just because you’ve become a slim oyibo and married a rich man’.
Mother would complain about him always taking my side and say how he was making me disrespect her as if she always knew I was eavesdropping. She would say in languid voice;
‘Pa you know I love Nnenne, she’s my namesake now.. it’s just that she’s … strong headed. She should try to be more like Chinwe her elder ; very disciplined. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong’.
And as usual, he would beg her to let me be myself. But who was I? I was Chinwe’s shadow, except I tried to be worse at everything. I couldn’t compare to or compete with her. I would lose woefully. So I did the opposite. I rebelled. My extra weight in a home of petite damsels was just God’s way of saying he supported my rebellion.
My sister Chinwe was ever loving and obedient and intelligent. It was no secret that mother adored her.
‘Chinwe nwa’m’ she would always say, as though she was the only child. When Chinwe was sick, she worried in ways she would never worry for me. She would tell all the visitors about Chinwe’s WAEC result and how she wanted her to write SATs and IGCSE because this country’s universities did not deserve her child. Her golden child.
I had been making mummy drive to our village to see granddaddy every month since I dreamt and I didn’t tell her why. But I told him and I asked him not to tell anyone, because my fear of losing seemed so greatly irrational, it shamed me and I knew mother would be the first to point that out.
When we left that Friday, Chinwe had been talking on the phone and mother had mouthed that we would be back on Sunday morning in time to pick daddy up from the airport-he had been in London for two weeks. She mouthed like Chinwe’s conversations were too intellectual to be interrupted.
Our house was robbed on Saturday night. The robbers killed Musa the gateman and raped my sister until she died. Then they’d looted their fill and left her dead on her bedroom floor. I remember mummy saying how God had decided to open the floodgates of heaven as the rain completely scrambled granddaddy’s CTL. I had been seated next to him falling in and out of a peaceful sleep.
People talk about premonitions and telepathy; we had felt none and it was evident when we saw the crowd gathered in our compound with arms folding and chests heaving with the ‘hmm’s and ‘chai’s. I knew mother would never forgive me when I heard her scream as she saw her golden child battered and deflowered in the most dehumanizing way.
I now live with my ninety year old granddaddy. My mother cannot stand the sight of me; We’re the reason Chinwe is dead. Me and my fear.