“Hey, are you up?” I whispered not expecting a response. I could tell she was up. That’s the only reason I haven’t yelled a single ‘ouch’ all night. If she was asleep, the bed would have been a kick boxing ring.
Since mum passed things never went back to ‘normal’. The mere thinking of putting in effort to make things as they were made me angry, defensive. I couldn’t let it all go; not like that. And holding on to the sorrow and anger mum’s death caused did me more harm than it will ever do good. It almost feels like my hands are too full to have a good enough grip on Imani. And to be honest, it killed me. It killed me that I was pushing her away when all she wants to do is to be here for me. The down side of it all is that realising my problem didn’t help solve it one bit. Instead, it made me feel miserable and less of myself; the self before all this happened.
“Yes, I’m awake,” I responded after arguing with my ego. I turned to lie on my side so I could look Jim in the eyes. It had been a while since I saw that spark in the dark of his eyes. And it doesn’t look like it will be showing up anytime soon, not tonight anyway. Jim turned to his side so we ended up facing each other. Very gently, he let his hand run down my cheek. I love it when he does that. “Jim?” I called out softly. “How long till I have you back?” He thought about an answer for a while before climbing out of bed, without answering that is. He walked around the wooden bed frame to get to the other side – where I lay – and stretched his hand out towards me. Confused yet curious to know what he was up to, I took his hand and allowed him pull me out of bed to join him. He led me to the centre of the room and bowed slightly. “You still haven’t answered my question,” I emphasised. Still not talking, Jim slightly bowed again and remained in that position till I finally gave in and curtsied. He took my hand, launched me gently into a 360 and rested his hand around my lower back just as my spin ended. Taking advantage of his hold on me, he lowered his hand to my waist and pulled me closer. So close I could feel his heartbeat. I couldn’t help but bite my lower lip. “Dance with me,” he said.
I nodded an okay before resting my head a little under his chin. With my eyes closed, I remembered the first time we danced to no music – at the spa. This time’s feels different; in a better way. Each step was effortless and graceful. We danced to the rhythm of the silence and synchronized with the tap hitting against our chests. Our impromptu routine came to an end gradually and finally halted with the longest hug we’ve shared since Jim returned. “You’ve had me since, Imani. And so far as my heart keeps knocking against my chest, you’ll always have me.”
Imani’s mum is still in a coma. The doctors asked us to keep our fingers crossed and hope she’ll come around soon. It’s been really rough these past weeks. Dad had to quit his job and send his resumé out to corporations down here. We’re still waiting for any kind of feedback but until then he’s grounded at home with his laptop as his workspace. I see him stare at mum’s pictures a lot. I don’t know how it must be for him. What I know for sure though is that wasn’t the welcome home surprise he looked forward to receiving.
All this means that, Imani has to come live with us till things get fine. Assuming they ever would. And with just about a month left of the holidays, we really had to get ourselves back in line lest we perform badly at school.
“Oh Linda,” Dad said to Imani’s Mum. “Whatever shall we do? I left Ghana a long time ago chasing a dream I never did catch. In my quest to give my little boy the life I didn’t have the privilege to live when I was younger, I forgot all those nights my dad didn’t come back home from work. I’m afraid I have become the old man I swore not to allow myself turn into. Everything has a limit I guess. When I started on this journey, I didn’t know how far I’ll go. But life, oh life always has a way of balancing out in the end. Now, in the harshest way possible, life has answered me. I have hit my limit. No more Linda. I called work and quit. I have no reason to leave my children anymore. Instead I’ll find a job to do that is close by. That way I’ll be able to be that dad I should have been. It’s sad that it took losing my wife before realising the mistakes I did. No more broken relationships, not with my son Jim or my daughter Lawrencia. I don’t know how the little girl will take the news when she returns from the boarding house. I don’t know how the kids’ and I would properly bond after all these years. I can’t do this on my own Linda, you have to wake up. You can fight it, just hang in there. Eve left us with no warning at all. You can’t do same. Not with everyone praying you get better.”
Mr. Acheampong has been really good to me. He hosted me with arms wide open and takes care of me like I am his own daughter. Tears filled my eyes when I walked into mum’s ward with Jim only to see him standing by her bedside. I noticed the flowers in the glass jar had been topped up and the balloons doubled. Oh I forgot! Larry! Mr. Acheampong says to call him Larry. I probably won’t hehe. Mr. Larry sounds better. I wonder why mum never ends up with men like him. At least the ‘him’ after returning. Mum’s boyfriend has not been here to visit since the accident. Not to talk of even checking up on me. But here’s a man, who is under no obligation to do these things yet he does them anyway. I only hope Jim would warm up to him quickly so he doesn’t have to add not being liked by his kids to his list of worries.
“Please, how’s she doing?” I asked Mr. Larry. “Not much has changed I’m afraid. But I trust she’ll begin to show improvement soon.”