I found a letter under my bed this evening; my bed which had not been touched in three months. I decided to do due diligence to my room since the one who usually did the cleaning work with a smile was no more. I picked it up, the letter, Intrigued and shocked as I flipped it over and saw the inscription on it.
“To my brother, Steve Wonder!”
A huge lump appeared in my throat. The waves of nostalgic tunes hummed hauntingly within me. Only one person called me that, only one person was bestowed with the power biologically to call me brother.
She was my sister, “was” because she died three months ago. Sorrow returned in waves that moment and threatened to wash over me as the scene came flashing before me.
I pictured her frail skin that used to be oily and smooth, her face that emitted contagious smiles, an over bloated belly that disoriented me and sockets that lacked lively balls.
Waves of spasms hit me and I slumped to the bed — letter intact.
She did it overnight. We couldn’t tell why. Neither mom nor dad could. Those first few days after her body was found on her bed, dead, they kept asking me questions like I was privy to her decision. I felt bad, betrayed and incapacitated. We had talked extensively the night preceding the act. I never knew gloom could be blinding to the eyes.
She mentioned not wanting to go to Uncle Richard’s house in Uyo. Richard, my father’s younger brother who spoiled us with gifts, edibles and gadgets. At the thought of gadgets my eyes looked across my room to see the computer he got us the last time we went for holidays.
Trying to fathom why she didn’t want to go. I asked her.
“Uncle Richard is nice. He spoils us. Why don’t you want to go?”
She stuttered with the sentence.
“I don’t want to go.”
“Why?” I repeated, ignoring the contorted substance her face had become.
“He may be nice to you but he’s not to me. He has never been. The gifts were to blind you.”
Gutted by her statement, I bent over and cupped her face.
“You’re not making any sense. Can you please explain?”
She shook her head.
“Okay. We’ll tell Dad none of us is going this year.”
A smile swept across her face at my comment that she leaped and embraced me in a tight hug.
“Yes! Stevie, yes!”
That night, Dad and Mum would hear none of us. The grimaces on their faces when we aired our opinion could not be mistaken. I didn’t have a reason but my sister did, albeit a hideous one and kept shedding tears. That disturbed me and mum but mum — that one? She’d always give in to dad’s whims.
Dad’s words were final. And when he said we’re going the next day, my sister slept and never woke up.
Another wave of spasm hit me, jolting me out of my trance. Chinaza’s letter was still in my hand. Chinaza was my sister’s name.
I tore it open. Breezed through it with precision. It was dated the night we talked. I presumed she hid it when I was fast asleep. I continued reading, wetting the white A4 paper with tears at the encomiums she poured on me, her apologies on why she had to do it, the deaf ears mum and dad lent to her and the mystery behind her refusal to visit Uncle Richard’s house.
When I got to the last part, my eyes popped out of their sockets, first with shock then rage. It started making sense to me. Those times Uncle Richard would send me on errands with his son prompting my sister and his little daughter to stay back. Those times, he would poke her right before our eyes and smile, those times he would ask for her opinion on matters and times when he bought chocolates specially for her.
I remembered one particular moment, Uncle Richard… Uncle? How can a beast be called uncle? He sent us to buy yoghurt and peppered meat, the subdued eyes of raving lust he had when we returned earlier than usual, his snarls at us like we caused the Hausa man’s less inflow of customers. I met him leaving our room, the room my sister and I shared at his place.
I smiled and handed him the package but he declined saying I should devour it with my sister. Poor little boy like me. I should have known that something was amiss. Feeling fly, I bounced into the room, and sprawled on the bed was my sister, soaking the pillows with tears.
“What’s the matter, Naza? Why are you crying? Is it uncle or aunt? What happened?” my questions fell on deaf ears as she neither acknowledged nor gave an answer.
It all made sense to me when she complained of nausea, of abdominal and waist pains. Hell! My uncle had been a beast ravaging the developing body of my sister. This was why she refused to go, refusing to hear anything about him.
And as I read to the end, the last sentence said, “it’s better I die than visit Uncle Richard again. I know you love me bro and it hurts you to lose me like this… Avenge my death!”
Anger returned in full force and occupied all the space in my heart. I stepped out of my room and headed down to my parent’s room. Dad and Mom are getting this letter and if they do nothing in three months, my uncle or one of his children is going would be joining my sister.
Wish me luck!
© Stephen Toochi