The thunder was preceded by a scary lightning bolt that drew a plexus of sparks in the dark sky bringing a momentary illumination to the thick darkness. The lightning made Emeka brace himself for the shock that would come with the thunder, so when the quaking thundersome sound came, he only blinked, but Kaycee almost jumped out of her skin in terror…
They were alone, under the same shade where they had said the block rosary prayers a couple of hours ago. They had stood there in awkward silence long after the block-rosary had ended and long before the heavy rain started. The zinc roof of the shade cried in anguish as the heavy drops of the evening rain battered it.
Emeka and Kaycee were trapped!!!
Emeka wished circumstances were reversed, this would have been the perfect time to be alone with Kaycee… His First and True love.
But NO! They were fighting, a fight that had exacerbated badly in the last few hours.
It was 9:54pm that Friday night of 1992: that period in Nigeria when Catholics and Anglicans were like PDP and APC of today; that era when Block Rosary was the order of the day for catholic children; that time when some subtle secret romance happened among Block Rosary members… especially amongst the EXCOS. The age of parental trust on their devout block rosary children: once you were at the block rosary, you were at the right place… doing the right thing.
Emeka was 14, but had a plethora of religious resposiblities… He was the president of “Queen of Justice” block rosary center, and Kaycee 13, was the treasurer.
They were crazy in love!!!
They were virtuous
They were virgins
Emeka was also a member of the Altar knight association of St stephen Parish; He was a bonafide member of the Legion of Mary; and he was the Secretary of The Guild of Saint Anthony. He naturally wore the aura of solemnity and righteousness and was the paradigm of a Good Child.
BunkaSiding was a densely populated locality on a sloppy terrain just below the Ngwo hills. From a bird’s eye view one could see the haphazard and disorderly arrangement of the cheap houses that lay askew on the sloppy terrain. Emeka was respected in the neighbourhood and was the role model for all the kids epecially the boys.
Kaycee was the female version of everything Emeka was. Her name “KAYCEE” was very popular in the neighbourhood and almost everybody had forgotten the full version of her abbreviated name. You hear the name KAYCEE in most families in the neighborhood whenever a child is being reminded of “How To Behave”. She was mischieviously nicknamed ‘Sister Mary’ by her peers who felt morally challenged by her religious ways; and a good number of sincere fans thought the nickname was perfect for she was always dressed like a Nun.. with her headscarf always tied the Fatima style. Most kids especially the girls revered her for her pious conduct. The kids had one goal: to be like Kaycee.
Both Emeka and Kaycee strived to remain virtuous though they weren’t sure if they were doing it for the love of God… or for the sheer purpose of upholding their good name and reputation.
The rain battered noisily and incessantly on the zinc roof of the shade and Emeka stared fixatingly at Kaycee in that darkness. His mood was sour, he could not talk… His pride was not helping matters. Kaycee had been all apologetic but Emeka wouldn’t say a word. It was getting too late; Kaycee had earlier complained of an intense headache… plus she was not dressed for the cold that now made her shiver terribly.
Emeka wanted to give her warmth with an embrace, he wanted to offer his jacket, but that would paint him weak… So he stood there and gazed at Kaycee who looked pathetic as she danced to the cold and whistled in response to what the whether had to offer.
“Emeka, look, I’m really truly sorry”, Kaycee apologized again, for the umpteenth time, “Kingsley might be in love with me, but its not mutual” Kaycee was getting tired of saying this same thing over and over. But if that was what it took to convince Emeka, her love, then to hell with fatigue.
“I’m really truly sorry, I don’t know what Kingsley might have told you… but he has never told me anything that might suggest he feels anything for me” she repeated for the 127th time that night. She paused, observed Emeka and still got that annoying fixating stare. It irritated Kaycee that Emeka wasn’t saying anything. And she knew him too well and could tell he was boiling with agony deep inside him.
“So why do you keep apologising?” Emeka finally spoke up after what seemed like eternity.
Glad that he was finally talking, Kaycee brightened up and retorted “Because it hurts me badly to see you like this. Emmy you know I love you Madly, and I would do anything to…”
“So what about the love letter i found in your prayer book?” Emeka quickly shot back at Kaycee, cutting her short as he pulled a book from the back pocket of his jean trouser. From the front pocket, he also fetched his torch: that 8inches long silver torch with a red button for emergency illumination… the kinda torch that reigned that era. He shone the torchlight on the book, The incription on the hard back cover read “ALL ABOUT FATIMA”. He slowly flipped to the next page, deliberately allowing Kaycee to read along. The first page was all blank save for a name scribbled with blue ink: KELECHI.
“This book is yours, right?” Emeka asked.
“No, It’s not!” Kaycee was protesting..
“Just shut up Kaycee, and stop lying for Virgin Mary’s sakes” Emeka shocked Kaycee with his loud voice.
Kaycee obeyed and decided to just observe as Emeka unravelled his weird surprise.
Emeka continued to flip through the dog-eared pages of the old ‘ALL ABOUT FATIMA’ book. As he flipped through the pages, Kaycee felt not only confused… she was feeling very sick. Her chest and ribs ached terribly and her hands and feet had already frozen. The headache had aggravated and her head felt very heavy on her neck. This was not the right time to mention she was sick. Emeka might think it was her attempt at trying to avoid the crux of the matter.
She wished there was a seat so she could sit. But there was none so she decided to persevere… for her love!
Emeka finally found the page he was looking for. Lying flat on page 135 was a neatly folded piece of paper. Kaycee still observed with burgeoning curiousity. Emeka extracted the paper and slowly unfolded it… He read it out loud:
“DEAR KELECHI”, the letter began. “HOW ARE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY? I HOPE YOU ARE SWIMMING IN THE OCEAN OF GOOD HEALTH AND JOY. IF SO, THEN GLORY BE TO JEHOVA JIREH, AND HONOUR TO VIRGIN MARY.
I GOT YOUR LETTER A COUPLE OF DAYS AGO. I UNDERSTAND YOU ARE IN LOVE WITH ME. YOU CLEARLY STATED THAT IN YOUR LETTER. WELL, I’M WRITING YOU BACK TO TELL YOU THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THAT.
LATELY, YOU HAVE BEEN ON MY MIND… I’M OBSESSED, I THINK. KELECHI!!! I THINK I’M IN LOVE WITH YOU TOO.
I SUGGEST WE PROCEED CAREFULLY BEFORE WE RAISE SUSPISCION FROM THE OTHER BRETHREN…
Yours most Affectionately
“Why did you lie to me, Kaycee?” Emeka asked, crying as he carefully folded back the letter the way he had found it, as if he was scared of tampering with the only evidence that might prove that humans exist in Jupiter.
“Emmy, that letter was not for me”, Kaycee tried to point out.
“Stop lying!!!” Emeka yelled, this time, crying like he lost a twin brother. “Stop lying! Stop lying” He was wailing now as hot copiuos tear drops streamed down his frozen cheek.
Kaycee was crying too. She was confused! She didn’t understand what was happening. She needed to clear the air but Emeka wasn’t ready to listen.
“Emeka, please listen to me” she tried again to explain but Emeka’s agony was driving him mad.
“Lies!!!” He shouted in between sobs, “That’s all i get from your explanations… lies!!!” He shouted again as he pointed at Kaycee.
“Just listen to me Emeka…”Kaycee persisted “you’re making a very big mistake by not listening” She added as she coughed spasmodically…. But Emeka was already out of the shade and in the rain. He walked out on Kaycee!!
She felt like running after him to clarify things but she knew she couldn’t do that.
It was only by the grace of God and help of the mother Mary that she had not frozen to death. Stepping inside the rain would mean death for her.
Emeka had already walked a reasonable distance
So she shouted after him…:
“My name is not kelechi!!!”
“The prayer book is not mine!!!”
“The letter was not for me!!!”
…and those were her last words to Emeka!
The rain gave no signal that might suggest it would stop soon. Kaycee was heartbroken but most importantly, Kaycee was terribly sick.
She was having difficulty in breathing!
The downpour was getting more powerful!
She was alone!
She knew she was in trouble!
She started coughing out blood!!!
2WEEKS LATER: KAYCEE’S FUNERAL
Emeka had cried his lacrimal gland dry. His eyes were red now but there were no traces of tears. Since that friday night he last saw Kaycee, he had cried almost non-stop…
Nobody really knew what had killed Kaycee. Her body had been found by a BunkaSiding security guard, around 2am… Rigor mortis had already set in by then.
The sad news had gone viral later in the morning, and it was a double shock for Emeka. He was almost shocked to death when he confirmed that it was his Kaycee. The planet earth spinned around him as he experienced virtigo.
The cry continued for two weeks… but the tears had run dry. Emeka was convinced that Kaycee had lied to him that night about Kingsley. ‘He had the evidence’… but he still loved Kaycee like crazy. He felt guilty to a massive extent. He could visualize Kaycee’s mien that night. She had coughed inbetween her explanations; She had quivered terribly to the cold; She had been really sick that night.
Emeka had questioned his actions and inactions that night: He could have offered Kaycee his jacket but he hadn’t. He could have stayed with Kaycee that cold loney dark night, but No! He had allowed his pride prevail and had walked away. He had abandoned Kaycee when she needed him most! These thoughts haunted Emeka as he battled with the reality that he was somewhat responsible for Kaycee’s death!
It was Kaycee’s funeral. The St. Stephen Parish priest was there present for the Requiem mass: It was a brief mass and in attendance were the members of all the block rosary centres and a good number of parents and friends from the neighbood. A ROLE MODEL HAD DIED!!!
Emeka had come with the controversial “ALL ABOUT FATIMA” prayer book that had caused quarel the same night he lost his love… He intended to drop it on Kaycee’s body lying in state, when he goes to bade the final good bye.
The priest was rounding up with the mass, the atmosphere wore a solemn ambience though sorrow hung in the air.
It was time for the block rosary members to bade the final farewel to kaycee… The privildge was granted only to the EXCOS of all the block rosary centers and they were queuing up for the procession towards the casket that contained the remains of Kaycee.
Emeka doubted if he actually wanted to see kaycee’s face again. He felt a weird form of trepidation creeping up his spine at the thought of the fact that he was about to see that face again.
The procession was a slow one and a Requiem Hymn was being chanted. The hymn brought fresh hot tear to Emeka’s eyes. The tears clouded his eyes though the flood gate had not been let open. The voice leading the hymn was flawlessly sonorous and angelic, making the sorrow in the air thicker. Emeka looked around, trying to trace the owner of the voice. He found her: A new member of Queen of Justice block rosary center… Emeka had seen her two to three times during the prayer sessions, but he hadn’t quite gotten to know her name. What really caught Emeka’s attention and probably made him flinch was the guy holding hands with the new member: IT WAS KINGSLEY!!!
Kingsley was the Secretary of the Queen of Justice block rosary center and was doubtlessly the owner of the handwriting on the “love letter”.
Emeka’s heartbeat was racing 5times faster than normal. The procession continued, and so did the hymn… as they all marched slowly towards the open coffin seated on a white-linen-covered- table at the center of the quadrangle.
Emeka’s head was busy! He tapped the Sister directly infront of him, on the shoulder:
“Sister Perculiar… sorry, do you know the name of the sister leading the hymn?” He asked wearing a fake smile.
“Oh… you mean our new member?” Sister perculiar asked back to be sure.
“Exactly…” Emeka assured, “What’s her name?”
“KELECHI, that’s her name. Sister KELECHI” Perculiar answered smiling. “She’s gat a wonderful voice, right? She probed…
“Yeah! Sure!” Emeka said, feeling like he might slump and probably die that very moment.
Just then, Kaycee’s voice re-echoed in his head:
“MY NAME IS NOT KELECHI!!!”
“THE PRAYER BOOK IS NOT MINE!!!”
“THE LETTER WAS NOT FOR ME!!!”
That was when the flood gate let loose and the lingering tears trickled freely down his cheek. He effortfully kept himself from collapsing. His knees were giving signs of imminent buckling but he stood anyways… though with trembling legs. Funeral brochures had been shared before the commencement of the Requiem mass… but for some reasons he did not understand, he had not collected any… but now he needed it!
Emeka tapped sister perculiar again on the shoulder,:
“Can i please check something from your brochure?” He asked, this time with no effort to wear a fake smile.
“Sure” perculiar said as she observed Emeka critically… then she added: “So sorry for your loss bro Emmy… may her soul rest in peace, Amen”
Emeka just nodded as he sniffed back his snort and wiped clean the tears that were blinding him.
He fixed his gaze on the back cover of the funeral brochure as if he might find the hidden map to heaven thereon. He saw exactly what he was looking for. The back cover read: GONE TOO SOON… LATE MISS KOSARACHI CYNTHIAMARY AMARIBE… (aka KAYCEE).
REST IN THE BOSSOM OF THE LORD.
That was when Emeka’s knees finally gave way and he slumped and fainted…
Foncy Osita Nnodim