I was worried…
It’d been seven months of silence. Seven months without a word from Shade.
When I couldn’t reach Bukky the day Shade was set to return, I called my parents immediately. They flew home that day and an intense search began.
First, we drove down to Jide’s house but met a heavily chained gate with the largest padlock i’ve ever seen. Mum quickly put a call through to the police commissioner who sent out armed police men into every nook and cranny of the city. Televisions, newspapers, radio stations stood at alert.
Judge Bamidele’s daughter is missing.
Every weekend, I alongside Chuks stormed the streets sharing printed pictures of my sister and somehow I wished I was this devoted to sharing tracts for evangelism.
We waited. We hoped. We prayed.
A hand touched my shoulders. It was mum. She joined me on the red taupe settee at the veranda and together we watched the scorching sun beat against the trees. No movement. The trees just stayed still. For several minutes, none of us said a word. I placed my head on her shoulders.
“Why are you punishing Chuks?”
I raised my head sharply and stared at my mother. I could see sadness in her eyes. My eyes darted from her hair to her lips and back to her eyes. She’s aged since Shade’s disappearance.
I decided to change the subject. “Mum, why did they stop looking? Why did the search end?”
Mum placed her hand on my shoulders. “Funmi, it’s been seven months since your sister disappeared. For goodness sake, she is not the only citizen in need of protection. They have other things to do. Besides, Shade …”
“… is not dead!” I screamed.
“My sister is alive somewhere. We just have to keep looking. Mum please, don’t lose hope. Shade will come back home someday. We will find her.”
I hate when mum cries. I hate to wipe the tears away from her eyes but as always I rubbed my thumb over her wet eyes and watch her trembling lips. It didn’t matter that my eyes were blurred by tears and I could hardly take see what my hands were touching.
“Food is ready.” I heard Cynthia say.
At the dinning table, Cynthia, my sister-in-law was her boisterous self. Since Shade’s disappearance, my brother and his wife had visited two weekends in a month. Cynthia had a way of making my mother laugh, and that upset me, because we weren’t supposed to be happy when my sister was somewhere crying for help.
I cast a brief glance at my father. He stopped eating and stared at me.
“You’ve not taken even a single spoon of rice to your mouth.” my father said.
“Oh no! Don’t you like it? its your favourite.” Cynthia said.
“Why should I eat?” I said, a little loudly. “Shade is somewhere suffering and we are here, laughing and making fun of it. We should be out there looking for her!” I pushed the plate aside and marched to my room.
Mum entered and sat at the edge of the bed. I faced the wall.
“We all love Shade but life must go on. We’ve done our best.”
I half-sat, my back against the soft pillow.“it’s not enough Mum. We are not supposed to give up.” I said.
Mum stood up. “Now listen to me. Give Chuks an answer as fast as possible. It is cruel to keep him hanging for so long. If you don’t want to marry him, just say so.”
Quietly she left the room. I pulled the blanket over my face and cried.
The following week, I set a date to meet Chuks. I had my answer ready. I couldn’t bring myself to walk down the aisle with a man while my sister was out there in the cold. I needed to devise new strategies of finding her. Focus that’s what I needed.
“I can’t marry you.”
I could feel his eyes boring at me as I fixed my gaze on the empty table.”
“That was pretty fast. Shouldn’t we order something first?”
“That wouldn’t be necessary. “ I said, taking a quick glance at the love birds who had just entered into the restaurant and who couldn’t stop staring at each other as they walked over to the counter.”
“if I may ask,Why are you rejecting my proposal”
I shook my head. “ Chuks, I’m not ready for marriage now and I don’t want to keep you waiting.”
“It’s been seven months and I think you deserve an answer.” I continued.
“I need to focus on finding my sister.”
Chuks cleared his throat. “if you had specifically said, God told you not to marry me, I would have backed off. But now you are telling me it’s because you are not ready yet, Funmi, that excuse is lame. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, you haven’t given me a an answer.”
I stared at Chuks.
“Funmi, do you love me? Have you even prayed about this at all?”
My mouth moved but no word came out of it.
“Let’s order something now and then we’ll plan new strategies of finding Shade. I think I know what the first strategy is.”
My eyes brightened. “What’s that?”
Chuks smiled as our eyes locked. My heart beat increased not because of what he was about to reveal to me but because I loved the man sitting across from me...greatly.
“Stop worrying and allow God to work.” Chuks said, finally.
Exactly nine months after Shade’s disappearance, I decided to let go. Shade’s grave was constructed right at the back of my bedroom and so that Sunday evening, I stood with my parents in front of Shade’s grave.
I reminded her how much I loved her and that I missed her so much. Chuks held my shoulders as my body vibrated, the tears flowing non-stop. Only then was I able to let go.
Quietly, we returned to the house and for the first time in a long time, I felt peaceful. It was time to move on. To give Chuks the answer that has been on my mind, long before Shade left for Jide’s place.
I should give him my answer in the weirdest place ever, I thought.
“I want to see a movie. Can we go to the cinema?”
As Chuks drove out of the house, my eyes lit with fire. I couldn’t hold back the smile. I laughed ecstatically.
Yes! I’m going to marry Chuks.
Chuks glanced over at me, confused. I laughed again.
Should I just give him an answer now?
My phone rang. I ignored it.
“You should pick your call.” Chuks said.
I shook my head. This was a special moment. No interruption.
My phone rang again.
“Please pick it up.”
Reluctantly, I dug my hand into my bag and brought out the phone. I stared at the caller ID.
The phone stopped ringing.
Good riddance, I muttered.
The phone rang again.
I picked it up. “Funmi, this is Bukky.”
I sat up, my eyes popped out of their sockets, my veins tensed. Chuks pulled over slowly.
“Where is my sister?”
“There is an uncompleted building few houses away from Ajilosun Police station. Pick her up there.”
The line disconnected.
My heart thumped. I saw Chuks pull the gear in reverse.
“How do we find the place.” I asked, my voice shaky.
“stay calm. I know the place.”
My heart didn’t stop beating until Chuks pulled over beside the uncompleted building. I was about to jump out when Chuks firm hands gripped me. “You have to wait in the car. This place is home to criminals. It’s dangerous.”
“You should already know I won’t do as you have said. I’m sorry Chuks.”
Chuks let go of my wrists. “Fine, we are going in together.”
I waited impatiently as Chuks locked the car and held my hands. We entered the building. There were all sorts of things scattered at the narrow passage flanked by four empty rooms.
We peeped into each of the rooms. Half eaten cans of food, dirty clothes, ants moving in and out of opened Milo tins, stubs of cigarette, broken bottles, blood stained walls, underwears, lay scattered here and there.This indeed was a criminal hide out. Shade was nowhere to be found.
Someone grabbed Chuks from behind.
A man covered in a black pointed a gun at me. With his other hand, he covered my mouth.
My bladder gave way. Trails of urine descended down my thighs. Slowly, we are dragged into an empty room, a much smaller room and the only room with a door.
Next episode comes soon.