Yesterday left us with Today – Short Story
By: April Laugh
We were roommates in that old ramshackle girl’s secondary school. I was attracted to you as a girl because you loved Mathematics; I could swear your skin emitted numbers each time you walked past me at the school library. You loved giving tutorials to other girls during our night classes in that dirty dormitory. I hated figures, it wasn’t my thing; English was and still is my first love. You were a pretty young girl with wild Mathematical skills. Other girls envied you but I wanted you to be more to me, perhaps to be the beautiful sister I never had.
‘The award for the best student in Mathematics goes to Felicia Pearce.’
You were the recipient of that award severally until the final graduation from school. The pleats on your pinafore dress never went messy; your socks on our brown sandals were always glistening white even when it rained. You were spotless and organized.
‘Don’t drag your feet on the floor. You’ll ruin your shoes.’ Someone tapped me down the hall and told me. It was you, you my secret fan! You had a smile on, it could melt the sun. I smiled back and said thank you.
‘What house are you? I’m in Red.’ ‘I’m in Yellow house.’
‘Oh the house that wins the march past all the time. I wish I could swap houses but I guess it’s too late now.’ You kidded.
You started checking up on me whenever you had intentions of studying in the Library after school hours. I always got excited whenever my name was called at the dormitory.
‘Shalewa! Felicia is waiting for you outside the hall!’
We studied together. You helped me with my Mathematical assignments while I helped you with our Literature writings.
‘I’m going to be a Lawyer someday.’ You once shared your dream with me.
‘All Lawyers tell lies. Be a surgeon, you love to take care of people around you.’ I enlightened.
‘That’s a wrong perception girl! I want to be able to bring justice to the world. So many are jailed and locked up all because there’s no one to speak for them when they are right. I want to be able to give people hope in the midst of their everyday struggles.’
‘Ride on fighter! I’m with you all the way! I’ll publish your stories in my first book when I’m a famous writer.’
I won a scholarship to study overseas, in the United Kingdom, from an essay competition and I had to leave you. I was distraught at the thought of having another friend in my new school to take your place. We cried on each other’s shoulders at the point of departure. Our parents watched us at the Muritala Mohammed Airport, Lagos as we made promises to keep in touch.
‘I’ll miss you my dear friend. Please take good care of you and remember our little promise.’
I choked in my tears when I heard that.
I wrote several letters and sent them via my parents whenever they were on Summer Vacation in London. You complained about the postal system in Nigeria, you sent your letters via your cousins or anybody that was available to deliver letters to me, there was no internet connection.
How are you doing? I hope it is not too cold in London like you said in your last letter, remember the one you sent with a pretty dress for my birthday? I loved the dress so much; everybody kept asking me where I bought it, thank you. How’s school? Have you met anybody, a new friend or boyfriend?
I just gained admission into the Nigerian Law School and I’ve been seeing someone. I’m sorry Shalewa to have broken our promise, we had sex. He said since he’s going to marry me eventually why not give it up if I really love him so much, I did. I was even pregnant during my last exams and he took me to his cousin, a medical student for an abortion.
Shalewa, I cried like a river during and after cords of steel was inserted in my legs to take out the fetus. I hated John for not taking responsibilities for his actions. ‘Just wait for a little while my love; I’ll make you my wife soon.’ We made up during sex and we are happily in love, again.
I can’t wait for your return so you can meet him. Are you dating anyone now? I miss you and hoping to read from you soon. Please take care my friend.
That was the last note I read from you. I slept in my own tears the day I received the letter. Not only did you give up your virginity Felicia but you had an abortion? Why didn’t you just keep the baby? Our promise was to get married and have our kids in the same hospital. What happened to you?
Is out of sight really out of mind? Is this what distance has done to our relationship? As I stare on a picture frame on my wall, these words ‘‘When I get married, she’ll be my maid of honor, when I have a baby, she’ll be the godmother and when I grow, she’ll be playing Bingo with me at the nursing home. This girl is more than my best friend, she is my other half” make me realize how much time we’ve spent far from each other.
‘Mummy I’m home sick. Can you please arrange that I come home for the Easter break please? You know I’ve not being home in years.’ I asked my mom the last time she called me.
‘Well, your father and I have been thinking about it but we don’t have enough funds to buy your ticket. We are still trying to raise funds for your brother’s fees at the University. Times are hard; please reschedule your visit till Christmas my dear.’ She pleaded.
I can’t wait till Christmas till I see you. I need to know what’s happening in your life. I need to know why you broke our promise. I need to know a lot of things going on with you. I need to be home, to see you, my friend. Desperate measures seek desperate answers right?
I’m permitted to take a student loan in case of emergencies at my bank. I took the loan and booked my ticket for the Easter break.
‘Meet my boyfriend. His name is John.’ You announced beaming a smile, wiping your palms on your bum shorts.
He took my right hand in his right hand. His palms were rough, like sandpaper. The handshake was going on for too long. His index finger now caressed my palm. I yanked off my hands. He winked at me, I smiled at you.
You did his laundry. He crossed his legs on the center table while he read a GQM magazine with dog ears. He shouted your name, you giggled, you were distracted by tales about my trip. I was so excited to see you, you my friend. He looked at me, angered, pulled his shoes and threw one at you. It hit you on your waist while you squatted doing his laundry.
I winced in pain, for you. Why are you so dumb now? What happened to you?
Why are you with him?
‘I’m sorry,’ you pleaded.
You were sorry, for what? That he hit you? Or that the shoe hit your waist, not your head? You left me bewildered.
‘How are you my friend?’ I asked.
You smiled; you loved to smile even in untold pains. Your smile, your ever consistent make-up never faded.
You cooked for him, made him all sort of delicacies. Pounding yam and sweating profusely. No! It wasn’t a special occasion! That was your routine, you did it effortlessly. You made breakfast, lunch, dinner and did the dishes after each meal. He hates the mess dirty plates create; it makes him lose his temper. He complained there was too much pepper in the curry soup while you invited me for dinner the last time. He complained about too much salt too.
‘I’m sorry. I didn’t intend to put a lot of pepper or salt. I’m sorr—’
He didn’t wait for you to conclude your apologies; he threw you a filthy slap, on your right cheek. I was mystified! I pulled you away from him, you ran back, to hug him, saying – sorry, again.
You changed over the years Felicia. The last time I saw you, you had dreams, ginormous dreams. You shared your dreams of being a Lawyer with me but unfortunately you turned out retarded. I’m in shock.
What happened to you?
‘I love him. He makes me smile. He hits me because he loves me. He complains all the time because he wants me to be a better person. He talks like my father because my father is dead. You cannot understand till you are in love.’
No! Don’t trick me into your dumbness! I know what love is. Love is loving myself the way I want to be loved. Love is treating me with respect. Love is sweet. I know that I’m smart; I don’t need anyone to redefine that for me. I don’t have to be in a relationship before I understand how to be treated.
You were with him for five years. You had four abortions. You were treated for sexually transmitted disease many times. You dropped out of Law School because you couldn’t cope with being in ‘love’ or achieving your dream. He was just your boyfriend but you played in different acts and scenes the role of a housewife.
As I stare at your pale face in the general hospital where you are admitted for God- knows-what, my heart weeps for you ‘cause if you go back to him after his release from the police’ cell, he’s going to treat you the same way.
He was arrested by your mother after she found out that he beat you to a comma. What was your offence?
‘I gave her 5,000 naira to help me pay into my bank account and she spent it saying she’ll pay me back later. I was very angry and I slapped her. Oga police abeg! Na only slap I slap her o!’ He begged the police officer in charge of your case at the station.
He hit you because of that trifling amount of money? No way! He is a compulsive liar. That was not the story he told me! How come no one can see that he should be locked up for 120years?
I spent my holiday break going back and forth at the hospital where you were admitted.
‘Thank you for your care and subsequent visits my dear. Your mother told me that you are only here for few days. How’s school? Please talk to your friend to leave this man alone before she ruins her life. She needs to go back to school but she’s turned deaf ears to me. She packed into his house a long time ago; look at the way she’s been treated when he has not even paid for her bride price? The doctors found out while she was rushed in that she has an untreated vaginal infection.’
‘The patient needs some silence please. Can you please step out to the reception to have your conversation?’ One of the nurses in her brownish uniform snooped in.
We stepped into the reception to give you some space to rest. Your mother grew old overnight since you lost focus. I helped her with her handbag while we found a comfortable sit.
‘Let me get to the hospital canteen to look for food my dear. I’ll be back.’
The nurses came looking for your mom when she left. You were awake! Thank goodness! At least we can have a normal conversation now, heart to heart before your mom gets back from her break.
You were so ill but had a glitter I your eyes when you saw me.
‘Where’s John? Where’s my mom? What’s going on Shalewa?’
‘You really want to know what’s going on. I want to know everything about John. I want to know why you abandoned your education to be with a man that treats you like shit. Go on, tell me.’
Our arms were braided across each other’s and our hands were locked tightly on her bed. As the young nurse stood on your bed, above us she looked over your shoulder and saw with her eyes that we needed some space…she left us. Your legs shook and your lips quivered.
As you attempted to speak for the first time since we were alone, you trembled. I encouraged you to go on. You cried but I still encouraged. Then, finally, with determination in your heart, she got the strength.
‘No, don’t be sorry my friend. Just tell me what’s going on with your life and why you ended up this way, here.’
You fell straight backwards onto the safety your pillow, you were exhausted.
“John and I met at the University. It wasn’t love at first sight; we were just reading mates that got along. We became very good friends shortly before my father died. There was no other person to be a father-figure to me asides him. Father didn’t leave anything for the family as we spent all his money treating his long term sickness – diabetics. John was my everything during the tough school days, he was the only one who listened to me like a brother and gave me all that I needed after my first degree in Law. I didn’t hesitate to move into his house when we both got admission into the Law School and mother did not have much money. He took care of me with the little we had, we were very happy together.”
‘Wait. So, are you saying you are just with him to say ‘thank you’? This does not sound like what young lovers should be facing. Felicia, you are pretty aware it’s just us two here right and you can tell me anything.’
‘I have a confession to make Shalewa. I’m the cause of John’s hatred towards me. I know I’m the cause and he can’t be blamed for the way he’s been treating me.’
You were dating him and you cheated on him along the way? I know these things happen in life, it is the world we live in but in all fairness, what makes you think that you’re the only John has been with? And you are putting yourself through all this mess? This is more complicated than I thought.
‘He said he was going to tell my mother what I did and dump me. Where will I start my life from? I’ll be twenty-nine years old, dropped out of school and single?’ you related in tears.
We hugged tightly not wanting to let ourselves go.
You were close to have lost all the values we shared even as little girls. How can you be living your life is misery and agony all because someone has refused to forgive you of your sins and move on.
‘Well, I guess I’ve had it to the peak now lying in the hospital bed.’
There was a slight knock on the door, it was your mother. Her eyes lit up the moment she saw that you were awake.
‘Thank God! Thank God! My daughter is awake! My God be praised! Wonders will never end!’ She held on to the tip of her dazzling wrapper, dancing and humming to one of our traditional songs.
She bent low to check if the intravenous drip was flowing properly into your blood stream, it was. As she danced, the ground giving way to her steps with cheers of excitement. She was in deed happy for you.
‘Mother, please can you call one of the nurses, I need to use the loo.’ I pressed the bell to alert them.
As your trembling legs regained their confidence, your mother stood tall and beamed from ear to ear – realizing that she had faced her fear over death. Joy was felt from heart to heart as each of us rejoiced with her.
Months later after I’d left the country, you wrote to me that John was released and you were out of the hospital. I was very excited at the thought of you being well
again. You also mentioned that you were no longer with him as you revised the relationship and opted going back to the Law school. Good for you my friend! Well done! You know whatever makes you happy is mine too, just like you were happy when I told you about my engagement to my boyfriend of eight months. George looks forward to meeting you too.
‘I’m sure she will get over him in time as soon as she’s back in school and making hay while the sun shines. Life is too short to be with people who take us for granted all in the name of being in love.’ George thought.
My mother once told me that if all else fails, education, career, family and the life we’ve made for ourselves will be comforting like a blanket to our cold bed during winter.
I’m happy I’m with a man who respects me and loves me like a fat kid loves cake. Although he’s not Nigerian but I’m sure my father will approve of him when he comes to visit.
I picked up my telephone on your birthday to send my wishes to you, my friend.
‘Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you my friend! Happy birthday to you! Hold on, don’t say anything till I read out the poem I wrote for you.’ I said heartily till a voice interrupted me.
‘I’m sorry this is John. Who is this? Hello? Hello?’
I hung up, heartbroken. You are back to him? Why? I’ll never know.