My Darling Baby Nya,
Before I say goodbye I need to explain what happened. You need to know everything, and, I think it may help me accept it myself.
Everyone thinks it all started last Monday, but it really began six years ago, with a terrible fire. The ugly smoke billowed up into the sky and I watched as the flames consumed my family home, shattering my simple life. All around me, people were screaming in terror, I saw as their eyes widened and their jaws tensed with panic, but I heard nothing. Nothing except for the sobbing of the child in my arms. Amara, innocence in its purest form, was too young to become an orphan. So I resolved to protect her from that fate, and, at eleven years old, I ceased to be her sister. I became her mother.
Slowly, the two of us managed to fill the void caused by the loss of our parents. Our life was barren but bearable, until the arrival of summer, which suffocated our village, gradually killing us all. For months it seemed the only moisture falling on our parched ground was the tears of the grieving. We had nothing; for once even I couldn’t find a trickle of hope. So I made a sacrifice to save us. I married.
I’ve never told Amara what I thought about Okpara, but I think you deserve to know the whole truth. I loathed him. My husband was a miserable beast of man twice my age. While the bellies of starving children swelled with hunger, his stomach remained grotesquely bloated thanks to his endless supply of alcohol. It made me sick. Nevertheless, I cannot regret my decision to marry him, because then I would not have had you. I need you to know that through everything that happened, I never stopped loving you, Nya.
Then you became ill and my world grew darker. I lay awake at night devising new ways to cure you, or even just to ease your suffering, but all to no avail. Your tiny body grew frail and weak despite the extra food I fed you from Armara’s plate. I promise you I tried, with maternal ferocity to save you, and I never would have stopped trying, until the day of my argument with Okpara.
“It’s time to let her go,” he said, without introduction. He didn’t bother to cushion the fall. So I fell, and each word was agony.
“No,” was all I could stammer.
“There’s nothing more we can do to help her –“
“No,” I interrupted with more force and anger.
“I know this is difficult, but we’ve tried and there’s nothing more to do.” At this point I threw my hands to my ears, trying to shield myself from the words. But fingers cannot block out the truth, which is what Okpara spoke next; slowly and deliberately.
“You are hurting her. Nya is suffering, because you refuse to let her go.” He paused and I heard feet turning to leave, but he stopped. “How selfish.”
I was overcome by rasping sobs, fuelled by self-loathing. I had thought I was doing the right thing, for you, and it was this knowledge that helped me through each day. How ignorant I was. I read in an English novel that ignorance is bliss, I never understood until mine was snatched from me.
Once I had controlled my gasping enough to stand, I ran. I ran to the only place I could think of.
Caleb. I suppose I need to introduce him to you, although in reality you have met before. His was the first lullaby softly whispered in your ear when you cried. His were the arms that held you when my own shook from exhaustion. Caleb is more than my friend. He is my soul mate. On that tragic day six years ago, he was there, offering his strength. Although I never turned to see whose hand rested on my shoulder, I know it belonged to him. So I ran in search of the same support, and found it the moment I rushed into his small hut.
I don’t know if you know a lot about love, but I think that in death you are granted a certain amount of wisdom, so maybe you’ll understand.
The second his dark eyes met mine, the chaos and panic inside me faded. It didn’t disappear completely; my maternal instincts were too strong for that, but perhaps they decided to grant me a moment’s calm. Caleb stood immediately and wrapped his familiar arms around me.
“Everything will be fine” He mumbled into my hair, and though others had said it before, it suddenly seemed possible. Nonetheless, I opened my mouth to protest, but he spoke to stop me. “Let’s dance.” My confusion momentarily prevented me from arguing, which was enough time for him to begin singing. Caleb’s voice was too beautiful to be interrupted, which left me no choice but to comply.
As he crooned softly we spun slowly around the room. With each turn, I felt my worries and troubles melt away, until we both became our childhood selves. Memories of myself walking home from school with Caleb drifted into the room; him sceptical about the worth of an education and me rattling on regardless about the joy of it. I suppose you don’t know that I wanted to be a teacher. By the time you arrived those ambitions had been shelved away, and were gathering dust.
We stopped, and though nothing had changed, I knew what to do.
“Every child deserves to live.” I said aloud, and as faint smile crossed Caleb’s face, I realised that he’d known all along what I would do.
“I’ll walk you home,” He said quietly.
So you know, that despite what you heard from your father or Amara, I wanted you to live. If God wanted to take your young life, he was going to have to wrench it from my iron grip. Little did I know, I was already too late.
We smelled it before anything else. I felt Caleb’s hand tense around mine, but nothing could hold me back. I tore it away and ran.
Then it was in front of me; our family home, ablaze once again. I searched the crowd, but only as a means of delaying the agonizing truth. I knew you weren’t there. With a scream I forced my way through the people towards you, but strong arms held me back. I kicked and shouted and even tried to spit at him, but Okpara would not let go.
I awoke in Caleb’s home, but this time it was crowded. Amara was sat beside me, crying quietly but when I stretched out my hand, she jumped back, shaking her head.
“I need to tell you something.” She sobbed. “I wanted to make everything better for us all. I wanted you to go back to school, and stop worrying all the time.” She paused. I waited. “I started the fire.”
I waited for some form of anger, despair, hatred even, but I felt nothing. “I thought it was the right thing to do, but now I regret it with every breath I take. I’m sorry.” She collapsed into tears but before I could say anything, a hulking man walking into the room.
“Someone reported a fire. Was this fire accidental or deliberate?” I looked at Amara. Her hair masked her face, but I could tell that guilt distorted it. She was going to confess.
“I started the fire.” I said, standing.
I refused to lose both my daughters.
And so I ended up here, in a dank cell that stinks of urine.
My life as I knew it began and ended with fire, but I would accept that fate a thousand times if I could change yours.
All my love forever,
(Based on this Story Jam)
Fruit from this Jam:
Descent by Benjamin
pari libra by Envy
"They do not use anaesthetic." by Jan Flisek-Boyle
Morning Cereal by H.L.W.
The Unexpected by appylord57
Past Life by Vivian Peng
Out of Season by RichardLakin
The ethics of genocide by kouq
Them. by ustink
Dangerous Path by Zita Barlai
the disease by
Duck...Duck...Goose by Ameya
Ashes to Ashes by Jess Fechner
Cardinal by a-bigler