Ebere had been gone for only days but it felt like years. I missed her, I missed her voice, her gentle and assuring touch. I did my best to discourage her from going but she was adamant. She had walked into my hospital room looking so tired i felt my heart squeeze in pain. The AIDS wasn’t only killing me, it was trying to destroy those who loved me as well. Chiboy hadn’t called me in weeks and somehow within me i knew it was going to happen. But i never expected it to be so soon.
” Kofi called me from Togo ” Ebere said, leaning to kiss my cheek.
” Am glad he made it. How are you?”
” Am alright. He said there’s a cure in Togo ”
Another bull story.” Okay. Is he cured now?”
She smiled reading between the sarcasm. ” Am going to Togo next tomorrow. Would you mind staying with your parents until i get back?”
” My parents are divorced and there’s no cure”
” You could stay with your dad. If Kofi said there’s a cure then there is” She had said stubbornly.” Don’t give up yet”.
” Ify your friend is here!” Mom stuck her head inside my room, jolting me from my riverie. I had my old bedroom back, everything was in place just as i had left it that fateful day when i went to school and came back to meet my belongings outside. ” Ebere?” i said excitedly.
She walked into the room.” Juliet”
I frowned. ” How does she know that i’ m here?”
” Ify, i know she has wronged you in the past but please let by gones be by gones.”
” So easy for you to say” i muttered under my breath. ” I don’t want to see her”
” She has also been through a lot. She lost her husband and his family sent her away because she had no male child for him.” She searched my face, searching for pity but found none. ” Her brother is also in the hospital ”
That caught my attention. ” What happened to her brother?”
” He came back from work one day acting strangely, he got into his car and drove off hastily again but sadly he ran into a trailer.”
Good news.” So he’s dead?”
Mom sighed dramatically ” It would have been better if he had died! he broke his spine and lost both of his legs. Juliet is really going through a lot now”
” Let her come in”
Mom went out and a tired looking woman came into the room. I blinked over and over, this wasn’t the Juliet i knew. She smiled uneasily and sat beside me on the bed.
” Have you started Chemo yet?” she asked out of the blues.
” You know, Chemotherapy. Your mom said you have cancer ”
” Really?” I felt the anger burning in my chest ” Mom!”
She came into the room smiling but stopped short when she saw the anger blazing in my eyes.
” Did you tell Juliet i had cancer?”
She looked embarrassed, she met my gaze pleading with her eyes. ” Yes” she said softly.
She walked out of the room.
” What was that about?”
” Nothing ”
She nodded her head. ” Ify am sorry about all i did in the past, we were young and i was so foolish. ”
” So did you get lucky with Chiboy when i left?”
She was momentarily stunned. ” Actually we went steady for a while but you were all he talked about…..he loved you.”
” Had s-x with him?”
Her cheeks burned. I swallowed hard in pain. Chiboy told me nothing happened between them.
” You f*ucked him Jules?”
She stood up. ” Yea and am not sorry i did. Look am sorry but i can’t go back and undo the hand of time. If you can find a place in your heart to forgive your mother, then i think i can also be forgiven”
” Your brother raped me! I called out for help….. i screamed out your name but you didn’t come to my rescue. You were my best friend! you were like a sister to me! how could you do that to someone you call a friend!
” I was jealous of you!” She blurted out, ” You were the most brilliant girl in Clive high! All the teachers sang praises of you! you charmed my brother and he started showering you with love and affection! My mother took to you immediately you moved in with us! i felt neglected! and to crown it all you went and charmed the only boy i ever loved!”
” You were never my friend Juliet.”
” Am sorry” she said and walked out of my room. I picked up my purse and went in search of the woman who had given birth to me. She was in her room watching a movie on her laptop.
” Has your friend left?”
” Why did you tell her i had cancer? ”
” Ify i was only trying to spare you”
” Spare me what! ”
” Our society is not kind to those with……with… ” she struggled to say the words.
” Say the words Mom, you won’t become infected if you say it. Its not transmitted through words of the mouth”
She looked at an invisible thing on the bed. She was ashamed of me, she was ashamed of what i had become. She would never accept me or love me as a mother would her child. The truth didn’t hurt as much as her pretentious and false care had. I felt rejuvenated. The HIV and something incomprehensible hung heavily in the air between us. I felt pity for her. She has forgotten about old age and how you would have to rely on others for care. There would be no one to care for her.
I walked out of the room and went outside. I felt the cool evening breeze on my face. I was free. I had stopped seeking for love and acceptance where there was none. It was like a miner discovering after years of digging for gold in a certain mine that there was none to be found but rather than feeling despair he had found happiness because he could finally stop digging.
The cab i took stopped in front of Chiboy’ s gate. I let myself in, Chiboy had lied to me, he said nothing had happened between him and Juliet.
” Ifeoma, when will you stop digging this mine? ” i said aloud to myself. ” When will you accept that there’s no gold to be found with Chiboy? ”
I walked into his living room and the smell of delicious cooking welcomed me, i followed the smell and stopped in front of the kitchen. Chiboy and a lady where all lovey dovey, he had her in his arms while whatever it was they were making for dinner cooked on the gas cooker.
” Hi” he said walking towards me.
I stopped digging that very moment. The deed to this mine was no longer mine. I slipped off the ring on my finger, i kept it on his center table while he looked at me uncomfortably.
” Ify, please keep the ring”
I turned around and left before the tears could betray me. I looked at my bare finger where the ring had sat for months.
” Hey, i need a shoulder to cry on” i said into the mouth piece of my phone as soon as the receiver picked up at the other end.
” Am here” was all he said.
To be continued