The Midnight Call

Ulumma was a a second-class upper degree graduate in Accountancy and had more curvatures than women who did butt-lifts and tummy tucks to look ravishing and so, finding a job and a rich man ready to marry her will not be a problem.

Her parents firmly believed in using what one had to get what one wanted. Her decision to stay back in the village after the death of her brother did not sit well with her parents, who wanted her to return to the city with them and find a good job.

The state of her mind was similar to theirs  until her brother’s death almost one year ago.

She had waited sixteen years for a sibling. So, when he finally came, she assumed the role of a mother and nanny and did not get into the university until after three years, when he started nursery school.

He was her joy. The reason she visited home very weekend. The tiny silver lining in her stormy, emotionless life.

His laughter made her giggly, his eyes were full of love, and his soft hands always reminded her of the first time she saw him sleeping in his cot. Best of all, whenever he wanted to sleep, he would reach for her arms and fall asleep in her bosom.

On her convocation day, as her parents gave her the keys to a new Toyota Corolla, he  presented a box of chocolates to her and pecked her cheeks. It was the same chocolate box she had gotten him the previous weekend.

“Why did you keep it?”

“I didn’t know what to give you,” he blurted, sucking his thumb like kids do and ran to hide behind her luggage.

“Oh, baby. Come here. Come,” her mother called out to him. He stuck out his tongue and she captured it with her phone camera.

Immediately he heard the shutter of her camera click, he ran out, crying: “snap me, Mma!’

She had known that that would work and swept him off the ground. Rubbing her face in his, she strapped him in the backseat of her car while he chuckled, kicking and grabbing her hair extensions until she pulled away from him and got into the driver’s seat.

Their parents watched with smiles on their faces, as they drove round the field until Ulumma’s friends and onlookers gathered around the new ride. They prayed, popped some bottles of wine and made a toast to more celebrations.

Her brother did not leave her side until it was time to pick the empty bottles, biscuit wraps and other rubbish that littered the field. In a minute, the field was cleared and those who helped received souvenirs.

One of Ulumma’s  junior colleagues, whom she had once offered accommodation for three months, hugged her briefly and gave her brother some 500 Naira notes before taking her leave. He danced around and flashed the mint notes before her face and begged to be photographed.

After much back and forth, she brought out her camera and took pictures of him in different poses. Rather than accompany his parents home, he opted to follow her back to her lodge to pick the remainder of her belongings. Her mother would hear none of it but after much pleading from Ulumma, she gave in.

They waved at their parents until they were out of sight and got in to their car. It didn’t take long for Ulumma to drive into the street where the Mayor’s lodge, where she stayed, was located. Some acquaintances waved as she drove past, congratulating her on the new ride while her brother watched his favourite cartoon on her Samsung tablet.

When she got out of the car to open the gate, she didn’t hear him saying that he wanted to urinate. So, when she came back to drive in, he wasn’t there neither was her tablet. Everything else was intact.

She called his name a few times and asked some passers-by if they had seen him around. They answered in the negative and kept walking. Moved by her tears, some joined in the search but after two hours, she mustered up energy to call her mother.

Ulumma couldn’t stand her mother’s screams on the other end of the phone and her father’s voice asking her to stay calm and report to the police and began to cry softly. Someone offered to call the police on her behalf and luckily, someone had earlier reported a missing child.

They all got in and drove to the police station where she saw her brother excitedly arguing with one of the officers over something. He was called to identify her.

“Who is that?”
“Mma!” he screamed and ran to give her a hug but a glass door stopped him.

The police officers requested for her identification card, ran her details through the system and allowed him to follow her home, after her records came out clean. She heaved a sigh of relief, wiped her tears and sent a message to her parents informing them that he has been found.

Her joy was rudely cut short when he started having a seizure right inside her car. He had forgotten to wear his seatbelt and hit his head on the dashboard when she attempted to maneuver to a pothole.

She stopped in the middle of the road and tried to open the door when a car on top speed, ran into her car and she lost consciousness. She woke up, weeks later, on a hospital bed with a fractured shoulder, broken ribs and a badly sprained knee.

Ulumma knew her brother didn’t make it when she didn’t see him in the room with her parents and burst into tears. He was dead before the ambulance got to the accident scene and had to be buried quickly because his death was a bad omen to the family.

After her discharge months later, she moved into his room and lost so much weight that she began to fit into his clothes. Countless therapists tried to adjust to the loss of her brother but that did not work.

One night when her mother woke up to say her midnight prayers, she heard her laughing with no one in particular. She knocked on the door and saw her daughter promising to visit her late brother the next day. True to her words, she packed her bags and went to the village.

Although she had never been there since her recovery, she was able to find the exact spot where he was buried. It took her only a week of being close to her brother to start looking like her usual bubbly self.