I woke in an unusual way, with heavy eyes and runny nose. A very weird presentation in a hot month like March. I reluctantly got up and stretched my hands to my heart-shaped clock, a gift I got from my aunt on admission into nursing school.
“It is equally an alarm,” she had said. The unserious part of me destroyed its alarm function during one of the mornings I decided to miss lectures. I looked at the time. 11:30am, a very scary a time to wake. I hissed and stood from the bed to ease myself for the morning. My bladder would be grateful as well. On stepping into the bathroom, Akachi interrupted me with a sudden rush in and made me come out again.
“What did I say about knocking?” I fumed. I hated such barge-ins and he knew that too well. I grabbed my wrapper and tied it over the oversized underpant I wore to sleep; the kind of things my mother would buy for one. All the while, I ignored my brother who was breathing so heavily.
“Kedu ihe ọ?” I asked in agitation.
In between his heavy breathing, he managed to say. “Theon..”
“What about Theon?” I couldn’t wait to hear it so I could send him out the way he bumped in.
“He is gone.” After catching some air, he finally said.
“How do you mean ‘gone’?” I knotted my wrapper by the side and started to walk towards him. I knew how well to pull his ears if this turned out to be one of such pranks.
“He just died, I don’t know how,” he blurted out.
I got very close to him and searched his eyes, there was nothing close to a joke in them. “You better be serious,” I voiced.
“Hmm.” He drew back in repulsion.
“Whatever, you see I haven’t brushed,” I sneered and pushed him out of my way to Theon’s crib. I imagined the worst of things, how could Theon be dead? It’s been only a month with him in our home, and everyone had just started getting along with him. At that moment, I only prayed it be one of Akachi’s pranks.
When I got to the place he was laid, I saw his tongue sticking out of his mouth and clenched between his teeth. For a second, I doubted the body before me.
“Father loved him!” I yelled. Tears had welled up in my eyes. How would I explain to father that the young one was gone? He swore to protect Theon. He assured the catechist he was going to cater for him like a father until he is claimed again. He had seen Theon wandering in the church arena in the past month, alone, abandoned and uncared for. He brought him home and made him one of us. And now, we have lost Theon. I wailed even more.
“What did he take last night?” I stuttered amidst sobs as I licked the mucus that dripped out of my nose like a child, but I didn’t care. One of us was gone and that was heart-wrenching.
I paused and stared at the whitish substance around his mouth, without an inkling of what it could be.
“Can you operate on it?” I heard Akachi say to me. He must have been shattered like I was. Tears had dried on his cheeks and left whitish marks on them.
I shook my head in negation, “It doesn’t work that way.”
“Why did he die? who killed him?” he cried.
“Only an autopsy can tell us and—”
“I want us to do it, Enkay,” he interrupted before I could finish. I could see desperation clinging on his thin lips. He sincerely loved Theon like a brother he never had. If only I was trained enough to carry out the process. It’s only my second year in school.
Father returned exactly an hour later and met us mourning. Theon had stiffened and was cold. I expected more reactions from father but he said very little to us. He didn’t cry either. He only shut the young one’s eyes and disappeared into his room. We were anxious to know what he was up to. He reappeared within a few minutes with his gun and asked us to come along with him.
“Theon was poisoned and I know who did it!” he roared. Akachi and I turned and looked at each other in astonishment. Without a word, we followed.
Father walked so fast down the stairs, jumping three steps at a time, with his long gun closely clamped by his side. The khaki trouser he left the house with still retained the normal kerosene smell. He always burned kerosene during his watches as a guard in the local church, the same church he found Theon.
We got to the ground floor and stood before Mr. Etido’s flat, a middle-aged man that lived in our yard. He was the only man without a wife or children in that compound but still had the most visitors. He came out bare, while exposing his scantily-haired chest, likened to a field that was just grazed by cattles.
“Wetin carry vigilante come my house this hot afternoon?” he asked in surprise.
“He is a watchman,” I corrected. I trusted Mr. Etido to mock anyone that tried to get close to him but I wouldn’t take anyone that is directed to my father.
“Keep quiet, madam, see as you tie wrapper. If wind blow now your pant go show.” He smirked.
I bit my lips, I was pained. How could he? I was carried away with Theon’s death that I forgot to wear a proper dress to move outside our flat. I simply rolled my eyes at him and made sure he saw them.
“Enkay papa wetin nah? I hear say una dog don die las las. Theon abi na Thief?” he continued without regards. He was only making the most out of the moment, knowing how much my father loved that dog.
I watched and waited for father to either hit him with the gun, or shoot him with it, or even ask Akachi and I to beat him up, but he shook his head and turned back towards the stairs.
“Adighi abuo a yi ala,” he said in dejection and walked up the stairs. This time, counting every step.