It has been a lazy Tuesday in the house, well it has always been lazy days since the baby was born, her friends had been teasing her of deserting education to stay at home, if only they knew the amount of work that was required when there was a new baby in the family. Ebele was in her room chatting with her friend who was already in the university. She was laughing and gisting away when she heard the shrieking sound. That was Eureka’s signature of demanding for attention. She dropped her phone and moved to the parlor.“Mummy Eureka is crying oh”, Ebele shouted to her mum who was in the kitchen preparing egusi soup, while Eureka was in her Moses basket in the parlor
“Is that one crying abi screaming, leave her where she is, don’t carry her”, their mum said as she sensed her older daughter would do, “she won’t die from crying” Everyone felt she was getting too attached to the little one. She carried the baby at the slightest opportunity and lately Eureka would not sleep until Ebele carried her. And won’t keep quiet till she was being carried by Ebele as well. Even their mother haven’t achieved that bond yet.
“Ok mum”, Ebele replied. But Nwakaego noticed Eureka had stopped crying, she shook her head smiling, she was happy that her older daughter stayed with her during the pregnancy stage to this point.
When she had found out she was pregnant with Eureka, it was during the election period and her fiancé was moving around with the president as one of the financiers of the campaign. So she had asked Ebele who was about to enter the university to stay back with her, and Ebele accepted with such enthusiasm one would think she didn’t want to go to school before. But Ebele was twenty one and had grown up as an only child of her single mum, so when she was told to take care of her mum, she slid into the role of a husband and took that role seriously. Nwakaego grew to depend on her daughter throughout her pregnancy stage, all her temper tantrums and emotional swings were unleashed on Ebele yet she took it all in.
As evening approached Ebele performed her usual tasks of hanging around while Eureka ate and was bathed. And then she carried her round, Ebele always spoke to her sister. Telling her things, singing songs in a soft voice and moving her around, before the baby couldn’t move her neck but now Eureka could follow a moving object with her eyes, Eureka looked up to Ebele in a deep serious facial expression while she spoke in soft words till her tiny eyes finally surrendered to sleep. Ebele held the baby in her arms, tomorrow will make it one month she came to us Ebele thought with glee. She walked around the parlor with her while watching the American movie on Mnet movies. One of the character’s name was Eureka and her boyfriend found her shot dead in the bedroom and for a brief moment Ebele had a thought of her own sister Eureka dying too but she shoved it away immediately, it is not my own Eureka and she continued walking round the parlor. Her mum came into the parlor ready to breastfeed the baby. And Ebele went back into her room to continue chatting. She woke up by 3am and felt it was too late to go to her mums room so she slept back again.
It was a knock on her door that woke her up by 6am with her mum shouting her name from the other side of the door, she unlocked her door.
“Mummy good morning” she greeted rubbing her eyes
“Morning, I don’t know what is wrong with Eureka, she hasn’t woken up”, with speed the sleep left Ebele as she moved past her mum and ran to the room, she rushed to the bed and carried the baby, the baby was still breathing, “mummy please let’s boil water”, she told her mum. They both moved to the kitchen with the baby, the mum put the kettle on the gas and went to take the baby from her daughter,” sweetheart wake up she kept pleading”, Ebele quickly gathered Eurekas cup and mixed the water to make it warm and together they tried forcing it into the baby’s mouth but the baby brought out her tongue in between the lips that with tightly shut and rejected the water, then she started talking gibberish opened her eyes and started smiling and conversing with no one in particular, by now both Nwakaego and Ebele were getting scared, Ebele now had an idea and used the hot boiling water from the kettle and poured into the baby’s mouth, yet the baby kept smiling and talking, “mummy please we have to go to the hospital now, something is not right”. In five minutes they had gathered all of Eurekas things and locked the gate as they came out, Ebele saw their nosy neighbor Iya Rukayat the same woman that kept asking her about Eurekas Dad in different formats, she was blowing her firewood
“Neighbor good morning oh”, she greeted in her usual busy body way, her mum answered with a murmur without stopping leaving Iya Rukayat to wonder what would make them rush out like that. As the got to the end of the street, Ebele remembered they haven’t called their cab man. And quickly called him to meet them on the way. By the time they had gotten to the main road, Eureka was already talking and laughing nonstop and bringing out saliva from her mouth,
“Ah! Eureka please stop doing this, you’re scaring me now”, Nwakaego pleaded to the baby, “Ebele call Ali and ask where he is now, let’s know if we are taking another cab here or not” The cab man stopped in front of them while Ebele tried dialing his number, and they hurriedly entered the car, “oya oya Ali lets go please”
Ebele got another idea to pinch Eureka and did just that, yet the baby continued without flinching aye she behaving like she’s no more with us, oh God please don’t take this precious gift away from us, please Father don’t let this little bundle of joy turn to sadness for us, please let her be here with us, I promise to do whatever you want me to do for the rest of my life, please just don’t take my sister, please God, Ebele kept on praying. But this time Nwakaego was already lamenting, and wailing, the driver was torn between beating traffic and sympathizing with her. They had hit her hands several times yet nothing, at the junction of the Hospital they met a heavy traffic on the road and Nwakaego decided to take Keke napep (tricycle) to the hospital, while Ebele came with the driver. All the way Ebele prayed and prayed making promises of all sorts.
Immediately she entered the hospital, she saw her mum holding the baby. “Mummy what did they say, have you seen a doctor”, her mum dragged her to a corner and said, don’t cry, don’t say anything the doctor said Eureka’s enemy was brought in dead. Ebele stood there and looked, numb and then in a swift move she collected the baby from her mum, “wake up! Wake up!” She said “you can’t be serious Eureka, wake up!” By now some hospital patients were already looking at her but she couldn’t care less, “wake up Eureka now!” She shook the baby, one of the nurses came and tried to comfort her, but she must have seen the mad expression on Ebele’s face because she quietly moved to her mum, consoling her. Ebele held the baby to her chest and did not let even her mum pry the baby from her hands, so Nwakaego had to hold both her daughters as she moved them to the car, with the death certificate given to her by one of the doctors.
By the time they had gotten home her mum’s sisters and big Mummy was already there. They took the baby from her hands and took her to the bedroom. Ebele just kept looking at them, she moved to corner of the wall, and in five minutes attention was moved from her to her mother. “You killed her” Ebele’s mother said to her with a glazed facial expression, everyone in the room drew up their breaths and looked at Nwakaego , the accused shrunk deeper into the corner she sat by the far end of the parlor
“Ego!, stop it! Now!” One of the people consoling her quickly scolded her, Ebele craned her neck forward to see who said that, that was her mums aunt, Big Mummy
“Stop what she has killed my child with her Lazy behavior”, Nwakaego continued with her accusation then looked at her Aunty “you took care of her, you put her under the sun, you said the jaundice was gone, why is my Princess gone not the jaundice, you also took part in her death!” She looked round the room look at them pretending to mourn with me, I’m sure they are happy she looked at her daughter, and although she knew she had crossed the line with her accusation on Ebele but right now she couldn’t care, if only she didn’t upload pictures of their little girl on Facebook, maybe Eureka would be alive today, all those Facebook witches have taken her daughter. Her Eureka that was screaming for breastmilk just yesterday night, and now the doctors wrote on a form saying she was brought in dead. Ah my baby, my baby. She stood up and ran to the room to look at her one month old baby who if no one knew would mistake the baby for sleeping. She cried out, “Eureka wake up come and take your food, please mummy is here”, she grabbed the Moses basket the baby was lying up, “nne’m wake up please, Eureka wake up, mummy’s here”. Ego’s sisters gathered at the door and watched as their big sister took the baby out of the Moses basket and held her to her chest, tears in each person eyes, chest hot and heavy and they watched the display, Big mummy had warned them thoroughly in private not to cry out loud, so as to reduce their sisters pain.
By the time everyone moved to the bedroom, Ebele was left alone in the parlor, she pulled her knees to her and placed her chin on her knees, she closed her eyes trying to block the past six hours almost immediately she stood up like in a trance and positioned herself like she was holding a baby, and the she started walking round the parlor and talking, “don’t mind them coming to disturb you”. She started singing and laughing and looking down her hands like she was staring at the baby.
It was Aunty Uloma who just walked in that saw Ebele in this state with her back to her, she was confused, what is going on here she thought, she looked down the hall where she heard her friend making noise and she looked back at Ebele, this girl has gone bunkers she said out loud. Ebele snapped out of her state for some seconds looked at her mums friend then turned back and continued. Uloma was torn, should she go to her friend or console the daughter that was obviously loosing her mind. She decided to go to the daughter. “Ebele!” She shouted. “Ehn?!” Ebele replied with a startle. “What are you doing?” she asked Erhmmm the girl said then she started crying, “Aunty my sister is dead Aunty”. She cried out loud “Aunty my sister is dead oh” she said and just as she was about to collapse Uloma ran and grab her just in time. “It’s okay”, she crooned. “It’s okay”, “Aunty why is God this wicked, why did he have to take my sister. Why ehn? Why didn’t he just take me and leave her alone”, Ebele spoke bitterly with pain in her chest, mucus was already coming out of her nose. “Hush! Don’t ever question God my dear, don’t, God knows why he took Eureka and left you. Mourn but don’t ever say that. Ehn?” Uloma held the girl to her chest and swayed side by side. “It’s ok, it’s ok”, she kept repeating, in her heart she was equally torn, oh God why,
Big mummy had finally succeeded in bringing Nwakaego back to the parlor, and immediately Nwakaego saw Uloma cradling Ebele she screamed and rushed to her elder daughter, “Ebele, she shouted shaking her “Uloma what happened”, “she was talking and laughing to herself when I got in she almost collapsed so I was supporting her”, Nwakaego transferred Ebele’s head to her chest “please oh Ebele don’t leave me”, Ebele looked up to her mum and said, “mummy I’m sorry, I’m so sorry”, her mother shushed her “no my baby I’m sorry I said those mean words to you. I didn’t mean it I’m sorry it was out of pain”, Ebele started smiling again then burst into laughter everyone around became surprised and Nwakaego looked at Uloma with surprise “Ebele what is it”, Ebele stopped laughing and looked at her mum, “Eureka doesn’t know what she left mum, we would have spoiled her with love and care” she said, and then just as if it hit her again she started crying, “mummy you mean we won’t see Eureka crawl or wear those lovely clothes bought for her”, with that new tears flowed down the faces of mother and child and every other person in the room. Big mummy stepped in and held them. “Look at it this way, that Eureka gave you two a gift of one month filled with laughter and joy, think on this and know she is safe in heaven, playing with the Angels, you will surely see her again”.
Nwakaego held Ebele closer to her chest and kept whispering we will be ok. We will see her again, both of them in their own world imagined how Eureka would smile and then frown in one instant, and how she would be catered for in heaven, they drew solace in that.
Sometimes Nwakaego still hears the scream of Eureka and her maternal instincts jumps in on her before it dawns on her that it’s been years since her baby died. Ebele still has the videos of her sister and only watches them on her birthday, she likes to see it as her sister’s gift to her, Eureka’s way of making her smile.
To the outside world the little girl was remembered for being an ogbanje, a spirit that toys with mothers by giving a child only to snatch the child back. But of course no one uttered this to Nwakaego and Ebele, no one dared.
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