So she was called.
A popular figure on Faraday street.
On a bench she sits, staring into nothingness.
Clad in tattered ill-smelling clothes, a clump of matted hair on her head and nothing encasing her feet, she sits.
When, what and if she eats, no one knows.
Some say she feeds on stubborn little children, tearing their hearts out in a sick frenzy.
Another name of hers.
On that particular bench, she sits, day in and out.
“Goodbye mum, goodbye dad, ” I bade, waving as the car drove away.
As governmental secret agents, they had been called for a special case that early December morning. A 7 O’clock flight had been booked and by half-past 6, mum and dad had left for the airport.
It was on the 23rd of December, and they had promised to be back home before Christmas. So, I wasn’t worried.
The old woman was there that morning, staring into thin air as usual. My curiosity about her has been brewing since childhood.
Who she is. Why she’s always on that bench. Where her family is. What she eats.
At seventeen, she still stands as an unravelled puzzle. While some feared her, some hated her, some blamed her for their failures and losses, I pitied her.
Such a lonely life shouldn’t be lived by humans. Everyone needs a companion in their life, someone to talk to, play with, cry with, laugh with.
Call me stupid, call me foolish, call me whatever you like.
That Christmas eve, I did the unthinkable.
“A very merry Christmas to you” I greeted with a smile. In my hands, I clasped a bowl containing jollof rice, a huge chunk of meat and some salad.
It was half-past six and Dad had called earlier, informing me of their 8 pm return flight.
The setting sun cast a light glow, illuminating the woman’s features. For the first time in my seventeen years, I saw her face clearly.
A round abode of wrinkles, little eyes and a petite mouth. Staring at me in shock, her face slowly crinkled into a smile.
Returning her smile, I held out the bowl to her.
“Here you go. Merry Christmas once again.”
Out, stretched a wrinkled hand, gently plucking the bowl from my fingers.
And for the very first time, she spoke. ” Merci, mon chérie.” (Thanks, my dear.)
Walking off that evening with her smile imprinted on my mind, intense joy filled me
“Breaking news: The Abuja to Lagos flight scheduled for 8 pm, has been involved in a terrible crash. The…”
“What!” I screamed, leaping up and throwing my book away in the process. I’d been swimming in the pages of Akwaeke Emezi’s “The death of Vivek Oji”, with the television tuned to a low volume when the announcement had been made.
8 pm flight. Mum and dad’s flight!
I went numb. This couldn’t be happening. No! No! It can’t be.
Grabbing my phone, I dialled their line. It wasn’t going through.
My panic increased. Breathing became difficult. I started seeing doubles. I felt myself go faint. And just before my body kissed the ground, a blinding light gleamed on the wall before me.
Waking up, I found myself lying on the couch. How I got there, I couldn’t fathom.
Memories of the news came gushing in.
It was all a dream. I tried reassuring myself as I stood up. The pictures of the wreck showing on the television spoke otherwise.
I let out a scream as I searched frantically for my phone.
Then, my eyes caught upon something.
Written on the wall before me, were the words:
“Above the clouds lay
A large bird asway
On the ground lay
A troubled infant asway
Scurrying to relief, your lovers flee
Kindness, a lifesaving beau.
Au revoir, sorcière.”
How did that get there?
What the hell does that mean?
The ringing of my phone drew me out of my thoughts. Picking the phone and peering into the screen, the joy that filled me was indescribable.
” Mum! How are you? How’s dad? Are you two fine?” I asked in a rush.
Mum let out a shaky laugh “Calm down, baby. We’re fine.”
I couldn’t have been happier at that moment.
Mum was still talking.”… the airport, we’d seen an epileptic child lying on the ground in an epileptic fit. No one was paying her any attention, so we’d taken her to a hospital. I’m so glad we did. ‘Cause if we hadn’t…”
Mum burst into tears.
The last line of the words on the wall rang in my mind, “Kindness, a lifesaving beau”. It all made sense now. It all did.
Mum and dad arrived home that night, safe and sound. My joy knew no bounds. Informing them about the writing, they didn’t believe me. To complicate matters more, the writing was no longer on the wall.
And the sender, still a mystery.
Christmas morning, mum and I baked some cakes and cookies. Heading to the old woman’s spot with some cookies and cakes in a carton, I got a great shock.
The woman who always sat on that same bench…
The woman nicknamed a witch…
The woman with a beautiful wrinkly smile…
She was nowhere to be found!
In her place sat a half-eaten dinner.
And beside it, the word, “Sorcière”
Copyright Etoniru Favour
About The Author
Etoniru Favour is a Nigerian writer. Her goal is to utilize writing to change the world.
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