Looking around me, I couldn’t believe I was actually here. This place was so immaculate I felt guilty just by being there. It was something I had only seen on TV but now here I was; an ordinary girl from the suburb’s in the most beautiful place on earth.
It was my very own ‘garden of Eden’. The grass was so green and looked so well kept that I couldn’t even take a step further from where I was standing. And the roses…ooh the beautiful roses. They formed two hedges beside me starting from where I stood forming a path in front of me which stretched beyond my eye sight. I breathed in the cool fresh air and wished I could stay there forever, doing nothing but taking in the beautiful view until my eyes hurt. I wished I had a blank canvas and some brushes because then I would have painted to my hearts desire.
I felt someone tug at my skirt, I looked down to find my son, Sean, looking up at me with the brightest smile I had ever seen on his little handsome face. I squatted so that I could be at eye level with him. I watched him as he flung his hands into his pockets and later produced a yellow rose flower.
“Here mummy” he said as he handed it to me “they are your favorite ones, right?”
“Of course they are sweetie” I said as I looked at the wrinkled flower that was now in the palm of my hand. It wasn’t the best one I had received but as they said ‘it’s the thought that counts’.
“Do you like it mummy?” he asked.
I looked at him, his face beaming with a need for approval from his mother.
“Mummy loves it honey” I replied.
He broke into a smile and without warning flung his little hands around my neck, gently squeezing it.
“I love you mummy” he said.
I broke the hug and looked at him “you know mummy loves you too” I replied.
“I know that. You tell me every night before tucking me into bed. Lets play hide and seek, I’ll hide and you seek”
“Alright” I said, standing up. I put my hands over my eyes to cover them and started counting “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7…..20. Ready or not here I come”
When I opened my eyes, I wasn’t in my private heaven. I looked around me trying to understand what had just happened. My environment seemed to be straight out of a horror movie; I stood outside a very old house that was surrounded by nothing but plants that resembled baobab tress. The paint on the walls of the house was a dull brown that looked like it had long outlived its usefulness, all the windows within my view where broken and from what I could see, the door was just one jolt away from falling off the hinges where it looked like it was holding on to dear life.
I carefully walked towards the front of the house
“Sean?!” I called out “Are you in there sweetie?”
I was panicking by now. A thousand questions ran through my mind.
What if something had happened to my son?
Was he in there?
How was I even going to find him?
Damn it! Where was I?
I took a few more steps in front, “Baby, that’s enough with the joke. You can come out now. You win.”
I waited a few more seconds and when I didn’t get a response; I slowly reached for the door handle and was just about to turn it when I heard someone calling out my name.
I looked behind me but saw no one. Surely the voice couldn’t be coming from the house.
There it was again. I walked away from the door and towards the thick forest that surrounded the house.
I knew I should have been scared by then but I wasn’t. My son’s life was at stake here and I wasn’t going to lose him to some unknown person without a fight. I was kind of infamous amongst my friends for being fearless. I believed in doing what needed to be done in whatever way.
As I now approached the thick forest, I felt the same way I did before I was about to do a stupid thing; fearless and ready for a fight.
I heard the voice again, “CHANDA” this time it seemed the person was near by.
“Hello?” I shouted “Is anybody out there?”
I then felt my lungs start to tighten and run out of air. I fell to my knees, gasping for air but it seemed as if I had suddenly been placed in a vacuum. I felt the blood quickly leave my brain and I felt very light headed. I fell on my back as I felt the life leave my body, I felt a pain in my heart and then… silence.
Lisa had come as soon as she had received the call. She had been studying when her phone rang; she looked at the caller ID and was surprised as it was a private number. Nobody she knew had a private line.
She reluctantly picked up the call, “H…H…ello”
“Hello? Lisa? This is Ngosa” the male voice on the other side said.
“Ngosa Haiiii!! OMG you scared me. I thought…”
“Lisa listen” He said “something’s happened and it would be a big relief if you drove down here. It’s really urgent”
“What!! What has happened? Are you guys fighting again?”
“No! There’s been an accident and Chanda… she…she’s in the ICU and on oxygen support” he said in a voice that was now barely audible
“You lie!! Are you kidding me?? Because if you are then you suck big” Lisa replied.
“Would I kid you about something like this? I am serious now please get down here ASAP before I lose my mind.”
“Oh my God!!” Lisa screamed “what happened?”
“I can’t explain but please just get in your car and head over here and please hurry up. Things are falling apart”
“I can’t” Lisa replied in between sobs “I can’t”
“CAN’T!!” Ngosa screamed “what do you mean ‘cant?’ you are the closest family she has and she needs you. Dang, we all need you’’
“I mean I c…c….cant drive in Th…h…is state. I will have to take a b…b…bus and that will delay me”
“It’s okay. Just please get over here…” Ngosa said in a very sullen tone.
When Lisa hang up, she quickly but painstakingly packed a change of clothes and headed to the bus station to book a ticket for the next bus out of Kitwe to Lusaka but she was disappointed to find that all the buses where fully booked. The next bus was the next day at 8 a.m. I can’t wait that long, she thought as she looked at her watch. It was only 2:36pm. She would have to wait close to over 12 hours. A lot would happen in that period. Chanda might wake up and she wouldn’t be there by her side.
She looked towards the sky, it was cloudy but the suns rays seemed to be protruding through. She smiled. It was ironic that she was smiling when there was nothing to smile about but the sky had reminded her of a conversation she had with Chanda a few years back as they had lunch by a restaurant in town.
“You know something about me?” she had asked Lisa
“I know a lot about you” Lisa had replied
Chanda smiled. “I am like the sun’s ray of light on a cloudy day”
“Uhm… excuse me?” she had asked, puzzled.
“You know how clouds seem to symbolize pain, grief, hurt and the like?”
“Yeah… more like your paintings”
“Yeah whatever and how light seems to kind of symbolize life, happiness, starting over and all things bright?”
“Uhhh yeah… more like…”
Chanda gave her a stern look to say ‘don’t dare go there’
“Anyway” Chanda continued “usually when it’s cloudy. The sun still manages to shine even if for just a few seconds, its rays project through the clouds, right?”
“Yeah, well I was just now thinking about all that I have been through and it just hit me that somehow I have managed to fight my challenges and shine through”
“With the help of your best friend…Duhh”
“Oh yeah. I should thank her”
“Ohhh am waiting”
“Ahhh I didn’t say I’d do it right away uh huh. Ha-ha”
“Awwww best friend c’mon. You know you wouldn’t have done it without me” Lisa said feigning hurt.
“Okay. Yeah. You’ve been the best and I wouldn’t have done it without you”
“Yeahhhhhh. Thanks man and right back at you”
“Ohhh I know. I know”
“Wait! We’ve forgotten to thank someone” Lisa whispered
“Who?” Chanda asked. “I hope it’s not Ngosa you are talking about”
“Well… him too but that’s not who I meant. I mean ‘THE MAN UPSTAIRS’”
‘’Ohhh!!!!!!” Chanda exclaimed and with that she stood up, lifted her arms towards heaven and screamed “THANK YOU JESUS”
Lisa had ducked under the table so as to escape the stares of the other people in the restaurant.
Now Chanda was somewhere in a hospital on a machine and she wasn’t there to help her shine through the dark clouds.
She looked around her, hoping a solution could pop right in front of her but nothing happened. She sat on one of the benches at the station hoping she’d think more clearly if seated.
A few minutes later, she was still stuck so she just resolved that she’d just buy a ticket for the next day. She stood and headed for the ticket booth, on her way she passed a taxi rank and it was then that it hit her. Snap! She should have thought of it earlier. She quickly turned left and approached the driver of the closest taxi.
He looked to be in his late 20’s, slim, dark in complexion and had a beer gut that looked so irregular on his slim figure.
“Taxi mami?” he asked as Lisa approached him.
“Uh yeah. Shinga ku Lusaka? (How much for a trip to Lusaka)” she asked.
He gave her a hard look and then said “sorry mami, nshiya ku Lusaka. Just within Kitwe (am sorry madam, I don’t go to Lusaka. Am restricted to Kitwe)”
“Fine!!” Lisa said and started walking away towards another taxi man.
He followed her anxiously and stood in front of her “200 pin fye”
“Inkwetefye 120” she replied.
“Yachepa iyo. Bikenipo at least 50 pin(that’s too little. At least add a 50k)
“Sorry” she said and started walking away again.
After a moment, he said after her “ok tiyeni (ok let’s go)”
Lisa turned and entered the taxi but not before texting Ngosa to tell him she had started off and was on a taxi. She also thought it wise to text him the number plate of the taxi just incase something ‘funny’ happened.
The taxi pulled out of the taxi rank and joined the main road on its way to Lusaka.
That had been a little over 3 weeks ago and she had been in Lusaka since then.
The first week had been the longest that she had ever had to endure in her whole life. She had established herself in the clinic and only left to go to Chanda’s house to shower and change clothes otherwise she did everything else in the clinic. She had one of her classmates e-mail her the assignments and help her keep up-to-date with her class work.
Ngosa came by every chance he got and sometimes he brought Chastity with him but he eventually stopped coming with her after a little incident had occurred. That had been in the second week of Lisa’s stay. She had come in the room during visiting hours with Ngosa; he was just from picking her up from school so she was still dressed in her uniform.
Ngosa sat her on the bed next to Chanda and she quickly reached into her bag and pulled out a piece of paper with a drawing of a yellow rose. She then got Chanda’s hand and placed the paper in it then said “HAPPY MOTHERS DAY MUMMY”
The talking in the room ceased as everyone turned towards the 6 year old. Ngosa walked towards her as Lisa burst into tears and walked out of the room.
“Honey, today isn’t mothers’ day” he said as he lifted her into his arms.
“I know” she said “but what if mummy doesn’t wake up and she misses it”
“She won’t honey. She will wake up soon”
“Are you sure daddy?” she asked as she put her hands around his neck.
Ngosa hesitated before answering “I am sure baby. She will wake up”
“I think you should take her home” someone standing in the doorway said
Ngosa turned and came face to face with Jane.
“What are you doing here?” more out of shock than anger.
“Well I heard that she(pointing at Chanda) was in here and I thought I might just come by and play “mother Theresa” Jane said with scorn in her voice.
“Get out of here” he snarled at her
“Ooh easy tiger. Don’t be mean to me. I am your Calvary”
‘’excuse me” he answered with disgust
“I mean, I mean isn’t it time you stopped playing house with her and did something constructive?”
“Well… why don’t you stop by and we can discuss that” she said seductively and with that she was gone.
Ngosa was still trying to recollect his composure when Lisa walked in a few moments later. By the look on her face, he knew that she had seen Jane.
“What was that woman doing here?” she asked walking towards him.
“I’ll take care of it” he shot back as he started to walk away from her.
“Hey hey hey. Just a minute.” She said as she went in front of him blocking his way “ That isn’t what I asked. Now you know what that woman put Chanda through and believe me when I tell you that I will not let it happen again. Not on my watch.”
“I know. I know that and believe me when I also tell you that I will take care of it”
Lisa looked at him for a while and then said “I hope so”
“I promise” he said “now can I please take my daughter home?”
“Yeah” she said reluctantly as moved out of his way.
Lisa was tired. It was almost 2 months since Chanda had slipped into a coma and with each day that passed, all hope of her awakening seemed to be dwindling.
It had been two months since she was last at school and she knew she was now slacking in her school work. It was hard to concentrate when so much was at stake. The only relieving thing was that chanda was no longer on an oxygen machine but apart from that, everything else had remained the same. The last doctors report had nothing much to say…her brain was still active; at least that meant she was still alive otherwise the doc still had no idea when she might wake up.
Looking at her now, lying there peacefully like she had no care in the world; Lisa had the urge to shake her back to life. She wished she knew just how many people were worried about her. Chanda didn’t have many friends, she said it was the easiest way to avoid misunderstandings and to live a happier life but she had touched a lot of people with her art and some of them stopped by the clinic with flowers and cards.
Lisa looked away from her and walked to the window. It was a sunny day and the streets where filled with people hurriedly going about there business. She wished the world would stop for a minute so she could just cry without anyone knowing but that was a forlorn hope and she knew it. It didn’t matter what happened, people still moved on with life and that was the hurtful part about death. It doesn’t matter who you are now, when you die; people move on and after a few years they will act like you never existed. Shame, she thought.
She looked back at Chanda and sighed. She looked lifeless but yet she was the energetic one. Chanda was always the one pushing them to do crazy things like dance in the street or at the mall. What a life. Seemed just like yesterday when they’d met.
It was January of 2003 and it was the 1st day of school. Chanda hated the first day of school because no one would be real. They would all be faking accents, their backgrounds and more importantly just how much each had scored in their previous 7th grade exams.
Chanda deliberately went into class early so as to watch intently as people walked in. the first girl to walk in was dressed in a black hip star, a pink shirt, and pink shoes and carried a pink back pack; her hair was braided and tied neatly in a pony tail. She is polished, Chanda thought to herself.
She immediately came over to where Chanda was seated and introduced herself. Her name was Jane and she lived in one of the upper class neighborhoods just within Lusaka. A few minutes later, Chanda knew Jane’s phone number, her home address, her boyfriends name, her hobbies, favorite musicians and actors/actresses, her favorite TV shows… oh my gosh. The girl was a chatter box. She couldn’t stop talking.
The class was almost filled to capacity when he walked in. he would have walked straight out of a Disney sitcom and Chanda wouldn’t disagree. He was fairly tall, slim, chocolate brown complexion and he had on black jeans, white sneakers, a white hood and a red t-shirt inside his hood. Chanda swore he was the cleanest boy she had ever seen. He looked in her direction and smiled. Oh my gosh, she thought, he’s teeth are so white. He started walking towards her and she couldn’t contain her excitement. She nudged Jane in the ribs with her elbow.
“what” Jane asked
“He is coming over here” she whispered
“Who?” Jane asked
“Him. The guy in the white hood. He’s so hot”
Jane looked up at the guy who was now almost reaching his destination.
“He he I see him. Yeah his hot but that’s my boyfriend”
“What?!” Chanda asked, both disappointed and shocked.
By now, Jane’s boyfriend was standing beside their desk.
“Baby” Jane said, standing up so as to give him a hug.
“How’s the 1st day of school going?” he asked as he hugged her
“Good. Could be better you know.”
“How so?” He asked
‘’well…all the people are boring but my desk mate here is trying” she said, turning to face Chanda who was still in a state of shock.
“Excuse me?’ Chanda asked
“Never mind. Baby, meet my ‘almost’ new best friend. Almost new best friend meet baby” Jane said with pride.
“Does ‘baby’ have a name? “ Chanda asked rather sarcastically
“Actually I do. Am Jake and you are…?” he said
“Nobody” Chanda rudely replied and looked away
“uh okayyyyy” he said and turning to Jane “hey, come with me, there some guys I want you to meet.” And with that they walked out.
Lisa was the last one to come into class. You could instantly tell that she was nervous and out of place. She looked around for an empty seat and seeing one next to Chanda she went over to her.
“Hai, is this seat taken?”
“uh yeah actually it…” Chanda started to say but then changed her mind “ I mean ‘no’, you can seat here”
That was the beginning of a great friendship between Chanda and Lisa and that’s how Chanda and Jane became frienemies.
Lisa pulled a chair close to the bed, sat in it and put Chanda’s hand into hers.
“CHANDA” she said.
No response. She didn’t know what she was expecting but nonetheless she tried it again.
“CHANDA” still no response.
When she didn’t get a response of any kind, she decided to stand up but as she did so; she felt Chanda’s hand firmly grip hers. She looked at her and her eyes where open. Lisa was just about to jump up with excitement when something unexpected happened. Chanda started gasping for air; it was like she was suffocating. Lisa tried calming her down to no avail and before she knew what she was doing, she was already bolting out of the room screaming “Nurse! Nurse!”