A STORY WRITTEN BY SERAH IYARE
Charles and Nnese walked into the sitting room and took a seat on the brown leather three settee. John led the opening prayer and sat down beside his wife when he was through.
“I called this family meeting because we need to talk, air our views on issues, reconcile and seek a way forward,” he watched his children and their spouses closely. “We will begin with Martha and Daniel.”
Martha cleared her throat, “One, I want to know why my only brother and his wife refused to attend my wedding,” she glanced at John, then Eureka, and turned to face their daughter, “Two, I want Sheila to apologize to my husband and I for the prank she played on my 40th birthday.”
Charles faced his son, “John, what do you have to say?”
John smiled and looked at no one in particular, “I stopped attending family functions after the day dad banned my daughter from showing up at family gatherings,” he glanced at
Martha who glared back at him, “Banning Sheila is indirectly suspending me and my wife from coming for family events.”
Martha shook her head in disagreement, “Regardless of the ban or suspension, that isn’t enough reason for you and your wife to decide not to attend my wedding.”
“Exactly,” her father added, “She is your sister for heaven’s sake.”
“Really?” John faced his father, “Sheila is also my daughter.”
Nnese sighed, she wondered if they would get to the point of reconciliation. The meeting was turning sour and they had just started.
“I do not regret what I did on your birthday. I was simply retaliating. You slapped me, do you think I would let that go?”
Martha got to her feet, “Look at this incorrigible thing… ”
“My daughter is not a ‘thing'” Eureka corrected her sister-in-law.
Martha clapped her hands, “Look at them, like mother like daughter.”
“Darling please sit down,” Daniel pulled his wife back to her seat.
“What kind of a mother are you? Your only daughter seduced a man… Who knows what else she has been doing behind your back? Little prostitute.”
Nnese covered her mouth with one of her hands, shock was written all over her face. She couldn’t believe that her eldest daughter nursed so much bitterness for her grand-daughter. She noticed Charles’s sad countenance. He was equally astounded.
“I will not sit here, while you call my daughter names,” Eureka’s voice rose a notch.
“Martha, that was uncalled for. I cannot believe that you actually said that,” his angry eyes drilled into hers.
She waved a hand at them, “Irresponsible parents, why won’t your daughter turn out this way. Shameless father, dormant mother, wayward daughter,” she hissed and eyed them.
“It is okay darling,” he squeezed her palm and she fell silent. Dorcas cleared her throat and her husband coughed.
“My husband and his partner are at the point of a break up. Our multi-million naira wedding contract is almost non-existent. But, it can be rectified. All Sheila needs to do is to apologize to our client, simple.”
“Exactly, it doesn’t matter whose fault it was. But in good faith, in order for peace to reign, Sheila needs to apologize to our client.”
“I don’t understand how my so called family will take sides with their client, all because of a few naira notes,” she addressed her aunt and uncle.
Dorcas cleared her throat again, “It is not a few naira notes dear. Do you know how much this contract is worth?”
“I don’t want to know and I am not going to apologize to those silly girls. For the love of God, they are beneath our social status.”
Imabong coughed again, “Look here young lady, there comes a time in life when you need to disregard your social status and do the necessary.”
“My daughter will not apologize to a couple of girls who almost got her dragged out of the restaurant and beaten up,” Eureka eyed her brother-in-law, “And that is our final stance.”
“You cannot be serious… John… ” Dorcas turned to her brother.
“You heard her,” he responded.
“That is unacceptable!” Her voice rose.
“Then deal with it!”
Nnese covered her face with her hands. This wasn’t how they had planned it. Her children were making things worse by throwing insults at one another. Would they ever reconcile? Bitterness and bottled up resentment was eating away at her family and she was helpless. God! God! They needed Him more than they could imagine.
“I have a question to ask dad,” he faced his father, “Why in the world would you turn your back on your grand-daughter when she needed you most?”
Charles opened his mouth but nothing came out. He could barely remember the last time his son had spoken to him in this manner.
“Stopping her from seeing her own family does not solve anything, it only worsens it.”
He nodded, “I can see that now,” he swallowed.
“You are the head of this family, if you cannot make good decisions in the time of crisis,” he shook his head, “What will become of this family?”
Charle’s mouth moved, but no words came out. Why was John angry at him? What did he do?
“That is enough John! He is your father for Peter’s sake,” his elder sister berated him. “Coming from you, someone in God’s ministry,” she eyed him, “I am highly disappointed.”
“What did the good book say? Honour your father and your mother… ” Dorcas sized her brother up.
John relaxed. Why was he upset?
Nnese held her husband’s hand, she could sense his hurt. The meeting had been a total waste of time. But at least, it had opened their eyes. They needed to do something fast before their family disintegrated and dissolved into oblivion.
“Where is Sheila?” Eureka looked at John. Everyone turned to look at where she sat for the past twenty minutes, the seat was empty.
Sheila got into her father’s car. She could hardly sit in there a moment longer. Nonsense! Stupid meeting, what was the essence anyway? Everybody hated everybody. What kind of a family was that? She was going home. Her parents could find their own way back. There was no money with her, she would have taken a taxi. Her father would have a fit by the time he discovered that his car keys were gone.
Her phone started to ring. She ignored it. She won’t answer it until she got home and was lying on her own bed. She started the car, backed it out of her grand-parents’ compound and nosed it into the road.
“She is not picking her calls,” Eureka cried out in alarm. John dialed his daughter’s number with his phone. It kept on ringing for several minutes.
“Let us go home, she probably got tired of all these unnecessary arguments and headed home.”
Nnese closed her eyes and prayed. She hoped her grand-daughter was okay.
John and his wife walked out of the sitting room without speaking to anyone.
“Dad, you must bring John back to his senses. Sheila must apologize to our client. This contract is important to us,” Dorcas sat beside her father. He sighed and remained quiet. At that moment, his mind was in turmoil.
Martha hissed and turned to Daniel, “Don’t you think we should leave too?”
“We will… Please be patient.”
John and Eureka returned looking worried.
“Sheila left with our car.”
Martha started laughing, “Wonders shall never end.”
“When did she start driving?” Nnese tried to get up. Charles helped her to her feet.
“Why don’t you call her again?” He suggested.
John dialed his daughter’s number, but there was no response.
“We will take you home, hopefully she got there safely,” Imabong offered. John nodded in agreement.
“Honey,” he glanced at his wife.
“I will stay here,” Dorcas leaned back on the settee.
“All right then,” Imabong, John and Eureka left in a hurry.
“Take me to the room, I need to pray,” Nnese beckoned to her husband.
John, Imabong and Eureka sat in the doctor’s office. They had found the remains of John’s car at the roadside, several miles away from the Adams’ mansion. They were informed by people around that the driver of the car ran into an electric poll while trying to avoid hitting a child that escaped from his mother’s grip and crossed the road all by himself. They were directed to a nearby clinic, but they were not allowed to see Sheila.
The doctor stopped writing and looked up at them, “The patient hit her head on the steering wheel when she ran into the electric poll.”
Eureka tightened her grip on her husband’s hand. She hoped her daughter’s injuries were mild.
“The cut on her forehead is a little deep, but it has been stitched. We ran several tests. I can assure you that she is okay.”
“Thank God,” she whispered. She hoped Sheila can be discharged that evening.
“That’s good news,” Imabong patted John on the shoulder.
The doctor cleared his throat. They all stared at him, wondering what else he wanted to say.
“The patient… ”
“Yes… ” John leaned forward.
“She doesn’t know who she is.”
“What!” Imabong exclaimed.
“What does that mean?” John addressed the doctor.
“What happened to my baby girl?” She cried out.
“Please… Please… Please, you need to remain calm.”
“Calm? Seriously?” Imabong frowned at the doctor, “Your father is a retired medical doctor John. I think we should transfer Sheila to one of his hospitals,” he got up.
Eureka nodded in agreement. John met the doctor’s relaxed gaze.
“What is it doctor?”
“We think she is suffering from amnesia.”
“No!” Eureka locked gazes with the doctor.
Imabong walked out of the office, he was tired of listening to the doctor’s diagnosis.
“Thank you doctor. Please prepare my daughter for a transfer. We would like to seek a second opinion,” John shook hands with the doctor and walked out with his wife.
Charles spoke to his children and their spouses in the waiting room.
“Sheila has been seen by one of the best doctors in the whole of Africa. I have also checked herself. I might be retired, but I know my onions.”
Boma chuckled, but no one noticed. He had boasted about his grand-father’s medical achievements when he was in school. Charles Adams was the main reason why the Adams’ social status had risen over the years.
“She is okay. She would be discharged today.”
Eureka sighed in relief. John squeezed her hand. It had been a long weekend.
“But, she has been diagnosed with amnesia.”
Martha felt no remorse. She couldn’t be bothered whether her niece lived or died. These emotions made her shudder, when did she become so bitter?
“She doesn’t know who she is, she doesn’t remember anything about her past. I want her to see everybody today. Hopefully, she will recognize someone. But if she doesn’t… ” He coughed, “It can take days, weeks, months or worse, years, before her complete memory returns.”
Eureka dabbed her wet eyes with a handkerchief. How would it feel like if their daughter did not recognize them? She wasn’t sure if she could go through with it. God! Help!
“We will see her in batches, let’s start with Dorcas, Imabong and their children,” Charles led them all to Sheila’s room.
The doctors and nurses said her name was Sheila Adams. It sounded strange. Why couldn’t she remember? She had been scared since she gained consciousness. Not knowing who she was and trying to retrieve nineteen years of memories had scared the life out of her. The retired doctor told her that he was her grand-father. But, she doesn’t know him. He had promised to bring her parents and the rest of the family. She hoped she will remember someone. Even if it is just one person, that would comfort her fried and blank mind.
The retired doctor told her that her memories would return gradually. It could take days, weeks, months or fearfully, years. She hoped it won’t take that long. She would definitely go crazy if it took that long.
The door opened and the retired doctor walked in with four people.
“Good morning Sheila,” he sat on the bed beside her.
“Good morning Doctor Adams.”
“How is my girl doing?”
“So, so… ”
“It is going to be all right,” he patted her on the shoulder, “This is my youngest daughter, Dorcas,” she stepped forward, “Her husband, Imabong and their children… Boma and Edidiong, your cousins.”
Sheila looked at them. Dorcas was a very beautiful woman. Her husband was also easy on the eyes. It was a good match. Their children were the exact carbon copies of their parents. Nobody said a word, they were all starring at her, hoping that she would recognize them.
“Beautiful family… ” She stared at the bedsheet.
Charles dismissed them. Dorcas and her family left.
“It is okay, don’t give up yet.”
Dorcas and her family returned to the waiting room.
“How is my grand-daughter?” Nnese looked up at them.
Dorcas shook her head and sat down.
“She didn’t recognize us,” Imabong sat beside his wife.
“She called us ‘beautiful family’,” Boma folded his arms across his chest.
“Sheila… The Sheila I know isn’t that nice,” Edidiong tried not to laugh.
Charles returned, “Martha, Daniel, Nnese, you are next.”
Martha wished she didn’t have to see her niece. She doubted if the brat would recognize her. She wished she could convince Daniel to take her home. She shook the thoughts away and concentrated on the task ahead.
They followed her father into a private room and found Sheila sitting on the bed watching the television.
“Sheila, I want you to meet your grandma.”
Nnese stepped forward and sat on the bed, “How are you baby girl?”
Sheila looked at her. She felt comfortable with her, just the same way she felt relaxed with the retired doctor.
“I am… okay I guess.”
“Hang in there darling. It will all come back to you.”
She turned and saw a couple staring at her.
“This is my eldest daughter, Martha and her husband, Daniel.”
Martha and Daniel exchanged glances. She didn’t recognize them.
“Hi… ” Daniel smiled at her and kicked his wife on the knee. She cleared her throat and tried to smile.
Sheila returned her attention to the television. She could sense that her aunt did not like her. She wondered why.
“I will go and get your parents.”
She nodded without looking at him. Charles led them all out. Nnese broke down crying while Martha and Daniel returned to the waiting room.
“How did it go?” Dorcas asked her sister.
Martha shrugged, “She is like a different person… We are like strangers to her.”
Eureka wished she could close her ears. Their comments and assumptions were accelerating her fears.
“Come on, let’s go and see our daughter.”
She held her husband’s arm and followed him to the room Sheila’s was kept.
They knocked and walked in. Sheila looked at them and they stared back at her. She noticed that she looked a little bit like them. She made a sigh of relief. They must be her parents. Why can’t she remember her own parents? She noticed that the woman’s eyes were red. She must have been crying. The man looked tired and sad. They must have been worried about her. She could feel their hurt. It made her want to start to cry.
“Are you my mum and dad?”
They both nodded.
“Can you hug me?”
“Yes pumpkin… ” Eureka began to sob. They sat on the bed beside her and pulled her close.
“I am so scared,” Sheila began to cry.
“Oh baby… ” John could hardly hold back his tears.
“I don’t remember anybody… I feel so lost.”
“It is okay sugar plum. Your memories will return. We are here for you,” John assured her.
“Jesus is also here with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you,” Eureka dabbed Sheila’s face with her handkerchief.
“Never ever,” she smiled and Sheila returned it with a grin.
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