“Oh! Grace!” Mrs. Akoka cooed, starring into the mirror in front of her. Running a hand over her face, she felt the aged wrinkles. “Oh my! You’re not getting any younger,” she flipped back the thick braids of gray hair which had flopped down to cover her face.
She flashed a smile and then jolted on remembering that she should be downstairs. Trudging down the stairs, she held the railings, taking a step at a time as she watched her gait.
The empty tray on the dining table shimmered against the light from the chandelier. She squinted when the refected rays stung her eyes.
The deafening silence here made her wonder why they weren’t yet back from the grocery store. She had checked the rooms, the kitchen, the toilet and even had to peek through the window. There was still no sign of them. Taking a seat, thoughts began to bug her mind. How long does it take to buy a birthday cake? Why are friends and families who received the invitation not here yet?
Her eyes flashed a gaze at the door, hoping it would creak open and let her children hop in. Moments had past and not a fly came to knock at the door. The throb in her chest rang deep as she reached for the buzzing telephone. Her hands were jerking as she fought to keep the earpiece fixed.
“Hello!” she responded to the unfamiliar husky voice at the other end. When she dropped the call, she realized that tears had begun to roll down her cheeks, that she couldn’t notice she had been using the wrong key on the door.
Dry-cool breeze greeted her frail skin as she stepped outside the house. The swathe of cotton wrapped around her neck twirled as cars sped past her. She dialed Dan’s number again and a frown crept into her face when she failed. She did the same to John’s, Sandra’s and Mark’s phone numbers. Even as it was pressing on her to inform the police, she wasn’t going to go against the unknown caller’s instructions.
Why were all these happening on her birthday? The sudden disappearance of her children and the unknown caller dragging her to No 6 Chime Avenue were simply too much on her.
A boy who was raking the small garden directly opposite the address caught her sight.
“Hi kid!” she said and walked closer. “You live here?
He looked up and gave a nod. “Yes, I do.”
He let down his rake and using the small drab from his pocket, he dabbed off the glistening sweat running down his face. “I know you. You live two blocks away, right?”
“Yes. You live up or down?” she asked, pointing at the house. It was then she remembered that she was forbidden from speaking to anyone.
“We live down while Michael Smith lives upstairs?”
“Oh thanks!” she heaved a sigh and her face dropped. Could Michael be Dan’s friend? Probably it might be a coincidence. After all, Mike wouldn’t dare to play such a prank on a granny like her. And she had never bordered to know where Mike lived.
She clambered the stairs and halted at the door. Her breathing paced up while she stood and wondered what might be on the other side of the door. She gave a tap, then a knock and then a bang. All the knocking was greeted with silence.
It was all scary here, yet she was walking right into a trap and wasn’t thinking up any other options. If only this was all she needed to do to save her children, she was already.
She twisted the handle, letting the door open. There was nothing she could make out in the darkroom. The torch in her phone hit her mind and she switched it on, steering into the unfamiliar apartment.
If she was scared, it wasn’t apparent until she noticed a movement behind the curtains. There was nowhere a gust of wind would have slipped into the room to flutter the curtains.
Turning back to run, the fluorescent bulbs came to life, highlighting a big cake which sat on the center table, bottles of wine which were arranged in rows and columns and smiling faces, glaring into her face.
“Happy birthday granny!”