By Marymartin Okoabu:
I am empty soul. A void so deep as the ocean as filled me. I have no words to describe what I feel inside. I am just like a chaff blown about by the wind. My parents look at me and I see them look through me, like I was a shadow that follows the body around. They did not say it, but I knew- they have lost not only one but two children, for I will never be the same again.
I keep seeing my sister Evelyn everywhere, with anger, hatred, tears and accusations in her eyes. I wish to be dead but I somehow I know it will not end there. For even in the grave, her spirit will still come to haunt me.
Evelyn was my junior and only sister born to my parents after six years of having me. I had enjoyed the love, care, protection and pampering of an only child for six years until my parents had her. She became the centre of attraction for them, for she came after they had given up all hope of having more children, and this spook a kind of jealousy in me that I refused to accept. She was a sweet little girl that grew up very beautiful and smart. She adores me as her elder sister, and with time I grew to accept the fact that there will be always someone to share the attention I get from my parents with. I grew to love her very much, but there was this hardened part in me that wasted no time in hauling her over the coals whenever she got me angry. My parents frowned at the way I scolded her, begging me to correct her in love and not with so much anger. I refused to see it that way, letting them know I had to be strict with her sometimes so that she doesn’t become a spoilt child. The scale fell off my eyes a little too late. And everyday I cry and groan in unending agony, wishing I could turn back the hands of clock.
I was fifteen when I got more freedom from my parents. I could go out for parties, visit friends, provided I returned on time. I did not misuse the freedom given me. I went out once in a while and returned at the right time. I took my sister out with me sometimes and we had great time together.
One Saturday, my parents went out early in the morning after granting us the permission to attend my friend’s birthday party. My sister was so happy and practically pranced about all morning. By noon I stepped out to my hairdresser to style my hair and by the time I returned, my sister had busied herself with applying my make-up on her face.
“What is this Evelyn?” I was practically spitting out fire. “Haven’t I warned you to stay clear from make-up?”
“Please sis,” Evelyn turned to me. She managed to look contrite and beautiful at the same time. “I just wanted to look beautiful like you do too.”
“That’s not the point, you were not supposed to touch my things without my permission. And mummy also warned you not to touch my make-up, that you are too young.”
“I’m not too young, I’m nine,” Evelyn pouted. “And I asked mummy this morning, she said I can.”
“But you still shouldn’t have, you don’t listen Evelyn and because of that you are not going with me to this party.”
“No sis, don’t do this to me.”
“No Evelyn, that’s your punishment for being too stubborn.” I made my way to my room with my make-up bag in hand and she followed.
“Please big sis forgive me.”
“No Evelyn.” She stood there begging me while I did my make-up and dressed up, but I remained adamant.
“Please na, I won’t do it again,” Evelyn tailed my behind.
“I have made up my mind and I’m not changing it. I am also going to lock this door because I know you will still come after I leave.
“Can’t you forgive me?”
“No Evelyn stay back and watch TV and be a good girl,” I sprayed perfume on my clothes and started for the door. “Be a good girl,” I smiled at her.
“No na don’t lock the door, I won’t leave. What if I want to go out?” Evelyn protested running after me.
“You have everything here so no going out.” I locked the door and left for the party, leaving only Evelyn in the house and in the whole compound.
After so much fun at the party, I started for home by 5:00pm so as to be home before 6:00pm. The gate was unlocked when I returned home so I knew my parents were back. I entered the gate and saw my parents standing at the door looking shocked. I slowly walked to the door, and began perceiving smoke.
What could that be? My mother suddenly shouted falling on my father who tried to hold her. I saw Evelyn charred body before I saw the fire and then I saw nothing more. I woke up many hours later to find myself in a strange environment and it seemed like eternity to me. I tried to stand up from where I lay but a hand stopped me.
“No, no, rest. You need to rest.” The person pushed me back to the bed.
“What happened?” My voice was croaked.
“You need water.” A hand brought a glass of water to me and I was helped up before I drank the water. I lay down back. My head felt so heavy as I tried to remember what happened. And then it came to me. My locking the door, my parents stiff bodies, my mother screaming, the fire and Evelyn charred body. Evelyn— Evelyn is dead, burnt by fire.
“No, no, no!” I didn’t realise I was screaming until the same hand held me.
“Stop it, calm down.”
“Evelyn, Evelyn is dead, my sister…” That was the last word I remembered saying before I gave in to the thick darkness that overwhelmed me.
I woke up the next morning to find myself alone in the room. I managed to stand up from the bed and followed the door which led me to the parlour. It was then I realised it was my cousin’s house. Everyone in the parlour sat quietly, some had tears in their eyes while others stared at empty space. Some turned their faces to look at me when I entered. I saw my mother on the floor looking haggard and lifeless. My aunt was beside her rubbing her arm. My father was on a chair with his head bent. He looked up and his eyes found mine.
“Why did you lock the door? I could barely recognise his voice.
I tried to form words but my mouth only patted with no sound coming out.
“I said why did you lock the door?” My father shouted, his voice hoarse from unvoiced sobs.
“Michael calm down,” my uncle calmed him. “Your daughter is not in the right frame of mind.
I tried to speak again and I began feeling dizzy. One of my aunt stood up and led me to a chair.
“I–I,” I began. “I wanted to punish her for using my make-up without my consent.” The tears began falling in torrents.
“And you locked the door against her!” My father thundered and stood up. “You see what you have caused!” He held out his hands like he would squeeze my neck but my uncle dragged him back to his seat. I really wished he had done that, squeezed the life out of me, like I had done to my sister- burnt her life. I killed my sister, my baby sister. The realization was a painful blow to my head and I saw myself reeling from the effect. My aunt held me as I cried our in excruciating pain. Something sat in my throat, refusing to come out and refusing to go down. My heartbeat felt painful in my chest and no one could save me, not even death will.
Evelyn’s burial took place three days later or so I believed. She was buried in our compound. I didn’t know the exact details of what happened for I kept slipping in and out of consciousness. We remained in my cousin’s house after the burial even though our house had been put in order. The things burnt in the parlour and kitchen by the gas explosion had been replaced. I began finding it difficult to sleep every night and afternoon for I saw Evelyn whenever I closed my eyes, even sometimes I seem to see her with my eyes wide opened. A kind of resignation had settled on my parent’s face as they tried to mourn their child and bury their pain.
One afternoon, I had settled into a restless sleep when I suddenly woke up screaming. My parents, uncle and aunt with my cousin’s rush to me trying to calm me, but it was fruitless.
“We need to call a doctor,” my uncle said. He did and the doctor who happened to live nearby came immediately.
“She has been finding it difficult to sleep,” my father explained to the doctor.
“Okay, let me give her something that will make her sleep for now, so we talk more.”
“No, I don’t want to sleep,” I began thrashing around fighting off the hands that tried to keep me in place. But what was a weak girl against four people? They finally held me in place and the doctor pierced the needle in my vein. “No— I don’t—” I finally sank into oblivion and my sister’s hand was ready to receive me for more torture.