“What time did u say your parents are arriving town tomorrow?” Debra asked, sprawled on a side of the bed with her phone in her hands
“They are scheduled to arrive at Johannesburg International airport by 1O’clock I think. I should give them a call. It’s been skipping my mind” Sarah replied, picking up her phone from the pile of folded clothes she had on her bed and typed her mum’s number offhand into the phone. Her mum picked on the third ring.
“hey baby” her mum sounded breathless on the phone
“hey mum, what’s up?” she replied, balancing the phone between her right ear and her shoulder.
“I’ve been up all night packing. Your dad didn’t even lift a finger and just expects me to get everything ready. Can u imagine?”
“hmmmn hmmmn, yes mum I do understand” Sarah replied, arranging the folded clothes into a compartment in the wardrobe she shared with Debra.
“what I don’t understand is why you still complain after twenty-three years. You should be used to it by now”
“you never get used to stress sweetheart, wait till you get married”
“well, that’s not something I plan on doing soon anyways so I don’t have to worry about the stress” Sarah said as the put the last piece of clothe in the wardrobe
“hello Mrs Johnson!!!! We are expecting you very soon ma’am” Debra shouted rolling off from the bed, putting on her slippers and walking towards the hanger
“is that Debra??” Sarah’s mum asked over the phone already sounding excited
“yes mum it is your naughty daughter from a different mother and no, you can’t speak with her. If you want to talk to her, call her on her phone, my credit is on the line here”
“you’re just jealous” Debra said, sticking out her tongue at Sarah and picking up her jacket from the hanger
“I’m going to call you later Mrs Johnson” Debra continued, zipping up her jacket
“she said she’d call you later mum. Wait till then”
“yes, I heard that, I’ld be expecting her call”
“Hold on mum” Sarah held the phone’s screen to her thigh and raised a questioning brow at Debra who was at the door to the room
“where are you going to??”
“Daniel is taking me out. He’s outside” Debra replied, her hand on the doorknob
“I think he wants to propose. I’d give you the deets when I’m back” she continued with excitement in her eyes
“wow!! Are u serious??”
“yup!! Take care. See you later in the evening. Send my regards to your mum” Debra said hurriedly as she shut the door outside behind her
“mum are you there??” Sarah spoke placing the phone back on her ear
“yes baby, what happened?”
“Debra was going out. When are you and dad arriving tomorrow?”
“we are scheduled for the 7am flight so we should get to JoBurg by 1pm thereabouts”
“okay mum. Debra and I would be there to pick you up. Johannesburg International airport right?”
“yes dear. I’ve got to go now, I’m not done packing and your sister is being a brat”
“hold on a minute mum”
“yes baby, did you forget something?” her mum sounded impatient
“no, not really. I wanted to ask if uhm” how was she going to ask her mum without sounding weird? “is Kenny coming with you tomorrow?” she continued in a small voice
“I’m sorry sweetheart, you should understand she’s still trying to get over what happened. Give her some more time, I’m sure she’d be fine with time” her mum was trying to be optimistic but she could sense the disappointment in her voice.
“it’s okay mum. I understand” it wasn’t like she was expecting Kenny to come anyway, after what she did to their relationship and things she said to her a little over four years ago. She just wished her sister could be there to celebrate her. It wasn’t going to happen.
“sweetheart I really have to go now, see you tomorrow. Love you!”
“Jenny!!!!!” Sarah heard her mum scream her youngest sibling’s name and smiled. They were at it again, always at each other’s necks. She disconnected the call and placed her phone on the dresser next to her bed, picked out new bed sheets, changed the one on the bed she shared with Debra and placed her worn out black new living translation bible on the bed next to her pillow. She walked out the room and headed to the kitchen where she heard Mrs Botha’s voice humming to a familiar song.
Mrs Botha was quite a large woman, large everywhere with a round pretty face, long rich black hair, ebony clear skin. An African woman. She was humming in the kitchen, preparing dinner for the family when she heard Sara walk into the kitchen. She turned off the burner and looked up at Sarah as she picked up bowls to dish the food into.
“Sarah please can you help me dish some of the food into these bowls” she said placing three colourful bowls in front of her
“sure, no problem ma’am” Sarah picked up a bowl and walked toward the burner
“I just spoke with my mum. They are arriving tomorrow in the afternoon”
“okay sweetheart, we’d prepare the guest room then. Are you going to pick them up at the airport?”
“I plan on doing that”
“you can take my car then, I’d take the bus to work tomorrow. Is Kenny coming tomorrow with them?” she asked softly.
Sarah paused for a minute and slowly shook her head and replied in almost a whisper “no she isn’t”
“thanks for your hospitality mummy”
“c’mon sweetheart you are family already, no need to mention. I suppose you’re going with Debby tomorrow right?”
“both of you should be careful and no playing while driving”
“mummy we are twenty-two, and adults” Sarah said, smiling at how Mrs Botha could always make them seem like babies sometimes.
Mrs Botha gave a knowing smile at Sarah, the wrinkles at the corners of her eyes becoming more obvious
“be responsible adults is what I’m saying, a week to your graduation ceremony, we don’t want anybody getting injured. Please can you call everyone down before dinner gets cold?”
“Debra isn’t home. She’s out with Daniel for dinner”
“Oh yes she told me that before leaving. Are the boys home?”
“I think so” Sarah replied, leaving the kitchen
“call them down then” Mrs Botha said, placing the last bowl on the table.
Dinner was a bit noisy and playful with the boys talking about their next basketball game at school. Mr Botha, their father couldn’t make it because he had to stay behind at work to get some work done. Their father and elder sister’s absence gave them all the liberty they needed to make all the noise they wanted to make and as their punishment, their mum made them do the dishes much to Sarah’s delight. She’s not been feeling her best since her conversation with her mum and she didn’t want to bother Mrs Botha with it; but it seems she caught on because when Sarah told her she needed to go out for a walk after dinner, she just told her it was fine, not asking any questions.
Sarah zipped up her jacket as she stepped out of the Botha’s family home and started walking towards her favorite spot. It was especially chilly this evening and she wished she brought her scarf with her but she was feeling too lazy to go back to get it so instead she pulled on the hood of her jacket and increased her pace. She put her hands into the pocket of her jacket and let her thoughts drift to the first time she got to JoBurg. She was so naïve, young and lonely. Nobody travelled with her because everyone at home was angry and disappointed with her and she didn’t care because she felt she could take on the world then; she was pretty, smart and independent- she thought. It was a miracle she met Debra at the school gate immediately she alighted from the cab else it might have been the most frustrating day of her life if it didn’t own that award already.
She could see her spot come into view already as she walked closer to the large tree with an old concrete bench erected under it. The bench was chapped at the edges and it was brownish in color, nothing special, but even as she sat on it she felt the familiar calmness go through her body. She still didn’t understand her connection to this spot but she always felt at peace each time she came here. It was like it was easier for her to talk to God from here. She watched as two fireflies played in front of her before finally flying away from her view. She smiled as they reminded her of herself and Debra. She remembered having a problem with her accommodation when she arrived and Debra offering to share her room with her at her home. She didn’t know it then, but God provided her with a friend, a family, and a home away from home. A second chance. Through the Botha family, she became born again and grew to know, love and depend on God.
Now she knew she had to make amends and reconcile with her first family. Her parents had forgiven her but her sister, Kenny hadn’t and she didn’t know how else to apologize. Her sister never picks up her phone whenever she calls. She took in a deep breath and looked up to the sky knowing God could see and hear her
“Father I’m confused. I don’t know what to do.” No response.
“ I know I messed up really bad then and I feel terrible about it but I’m so scared she’s going to hate me forever” no response.
“I’ve been making plans to go back home for a few months with my parents after my graduation to apologize to her in person, but she’s not schooling in Lagos; what if she decides not to come home when I’m around?” no response.
“God I know you are listening. I don’t want to go back if you’re not coming with me or giving me the go ahead. I need to know You are with me” this time she heard Him and felt His assurance
Daughter, I’m always with you.
She smiled, knowing she was on track. Things are going to be just fine in time, she believed that.
“Thanks so much. I needed to hear that”
She stood up and felt like taking a picture of herself there. She brought out her phone from her pocket and realized she had missed two calls, both from Debra and figured she must be home already. She took a picture of herself sitting down and another one at the edge of the tree and started walking back home. She was relieved and wore a smile on her face till she got back to the house.
Sarah was right. Debra was home by the time she reached the house and was sitting on a couch in the sitting room watching a program when Sarah entered the house. She looked up from the screen at the door when Sarah came in.
“Hey, I’ve been waiting for you and you weren’t picking up your phone. Is everything okay? Where have you been?” Debra stood up from the couch and walked towards Sarah with a hint of worry gracing her features
“Hey Debs, a question at a time please” Sarah smiled taking her jacket off and placing it on the arm of the couch Debra was sitting on a few seconds ago. “I needed to get some fresh air and think so I went out for a walk. I put my phone in the silent mode because I didn’t feel like talking to anybody, besides I wasn’t expecting your call after you left me all alone and decided to have dinner with your boo instead” it was Debra’s turn to smile now
“You should get yourself a boyfriend too, you know”
“Hmmm I think I should. So how did it go? Did he pop the question? Let me see your hand” she reached to grab Debra’s hand but Debra took two steps backward hiding her hands behind her back
“Calm down girl, a question at a time” Debra said sweetly mimicking Sarah’s line earlier.
“Just spill it already. Remember you promised to give me the full deets when you get back. Was it romantic? Let me see the ring. You’re glowing so it’s obvious he did propose”
“Tada!!!” Debra squealed, taking her hands from behind her back and showing Sarah the silver ring with crystal stones embedded in the centre all round the band in her left middle finger. Sarah held her friend’s delicate fingers and took a long look at the ring, it was genuine; that much she could tell. She was sincerely happy for her friend but couldn’t help but feel a pang of jealousy tug at her heart.
“Wow, it’s so beautiful I’m jealous. Congrats Debs, I’m so happy for you” she said wrapping her arms tightly round her best friend
“If you’re jealous, get yourself a boyfriend” Debra said in a muffled voice, trying to free herself from Sarah’s arms, sticking out her tongue at her when she finally succeeded.
“OMG Sarah I feel like the happiest person on earth right now. c’mon let’s go and start checking up prospective wedding dresses for the wedding” she screamed holding her best friend’s hands and swirling around her dragging her to their room
“Okay bride, be careful with my wrists so I wouldn’t lose a prospective boyfriend because I have bruised wrists” Sarah said, trying to fall in step with the over excited bride to be
“Hold up, have you told your mum yet?”
“Not yet. She wasn’t around when I got home. Gabe said she took a change of clothes to dad at his office. We’d tell her tomorrow morning” she continued dragging her friend by her wrists.
“Okay, that sounds good. Oooow! That hurts, be careful really” Sarah winced, releasing her hands from her friend’s grasp.
“Sorry oldie,” Debra replied, sticking her tongue out at her friend. “ you know, I was thinking about a body hugging dress with lace embroideries at the neckline and sleeves with a really long lacy train attached to the dress following my every step as I walk down that isle, with Daniel waiting for me at the altar; all smiles…. Hmmmm” she plopped on their bed after closing the door to their room, Sarah trailing behind her
“What do you think? Wouldn’t it be so beautiful? Lots of flowers; roses of different colours, everywhere smelling nice, family and well-wishers smiling and waving at us, mum would probably be dabbing at the tears on her face with her silk kerchief and dad would be acting all mature and manly and, and.…” Sarah joined her on the bed, scooting closer to her
“and I’d be your chief bride’s maid,” she continued from where her friend stopped “I’d be wearing a peach colored dress with cream lace linings, smiling at the both of you, with my sisters and mum whispering to me to catch the bouquet when you throw it..” she rolled to her left side, facing Debra “I want my family to be around. I plan on making up with Kenny when I return back to Nigeria with my parents for a few weeks.
“Are you sure you’re ready to face her?” her friend replied almost silently, placing her hands over her shaking own
“I doubt I’d ever be ready to do that but it’s something I have to do if I want to move on to the next phase of my life. I can’t keep on living with the guilt, knowing she is still mad at me and expect to have a relatively normal life.”
“Have you spoken to God about it? What is He saying? Is it the right time?” Sarah attempted a small smile, remembering her discussion with God at her ‘spot’
“Actually that’s what I went to do outside before you came in. He said He’s always with me, He’d help me find favor, I’m sure about that. He’s a good God”
“Yes He is. Look how far He’s brought us. He that has started a good thing would perfect it, He doesn’t abandon His projects. Don’t worry, everything is going to be fine, okay?” She squeezed her friend’s hand this time around
“Yes I believe that, thanks so much.” She could feel herself getting emotional
“You should be, I mean, I’m like the awesomest friend ever right?” Debra was grinning mischievously “as a thank you gift, can you let me wear the new dress you bought last week, tomorrow evening pleeeaasseee? I’m meeting up with boo” she put on a cute puppy face and blinked both her eyes twice to have maximum effect
“You’re not serious. Is there even a word like awesomest in the dictionary?” Sarah said, rolling her eyes “of course you can have it. But it’s not a thank you gift, it’s an engagement gift. Congrats love”
“Awwwww you’re so sweet, you remind me of cupcakes. Thanks hon’” she was grinning from ear to ear.
“No, I should be the one thanking you” Sarah looked at her best friend of four years and smiled at the memories. “Thank you really. For being a caring, understanding, forgiving, and of course the most awesomest friend in the whole world. Thanks for accepting me as family, for leading me to Christ and for the support. You would forever be in my heart as a God sent.” A drop of tear rolled down her cheek
“It’s okay. Friends are not just there for food and dresses. Besides, you’ve also been a great friend to me, it’s a pleasure being your friend.” Debra smiled, giving her a wink. Sarah gave a small smile in return’
“Speaking of dresses, shouldn’t we be checking out the bride’s prospective dresses?” Sarah said, pulling out her cellphone and scrolling to the browser
“Of course” Debra sat up, pulling Sarah up with her. The excitement of the forthcoming wedding ceremony back in full swing. She collected the phone from her hands and started typing into the search box of the search engine.
“Give me the car keys” Debra stretched forth her right palm in front of her best friend.
“Why?” Sarah asked, raising a brow.
“I’m in the mood to drive. Isn’t it obvious?” she replied, raising a brow too. They were both walking towards Mrs Botha’s car parked in front of the house.
“Debs we both know that I’m the better driver out of us both, and with the excitement of your wedding, you could actually drive us into a ditch or something” Sarah teased, smiling. She handed the keys over to her anyway
“Funny” Debra scoffed. “Get in. we’re gonna be late” she slid into the driver’s side of the car and shut the door.
“Buckle your seatbelt please. Safety measures” Sarah smiled as she slid into the front passenger’s seat strapping her seatbelt in and shutting the door.
“Okay grandma” Debra rolled her eyes reaching for the seatbelt’s strap behind her and starting the ignition. “Can we listen to music at least? Would that also cause an accident grams? She picked up her phone and cable from her bag and soon music was blaring from the speakers.
“Would you stop the music if I told you it might cause an accident?” Sarah asked, turning to face her friend and reducing the volume of the speakers.
“I’m pretty sure you know the answer to that question love” Debra replied, sticking out her tongue at her friend
“Gross. Stop that habit. You’re twenty-two but you look five every time you stick out that ugly tongue”
“You’re just jealous I can still pull off a young girl’s look unlike someone else I know who is twenty-two but acts sixty-five” she stuck out her tongue again
“You’re going to make me sick. Please could you concentrate and look at the road ahead? I really don’t want to die soon.” Sarah checked her wristwatch “The plane should be about to land now. How long would it take to get to the airport?”
“Sorry I can’t answer that question now. I’m concentrating on the road” Debra kept a straight face, focusing on the road ahead; then she slowly stuck out the tip of her tongue and withdrew it back knowing it would get on her friend’s nerves. Sarah was about to make a comment when a song started playing from the speakers and they both reached to increase the volume, giggling. It was their favorite song of the moment and they knew the lyrics by heart, soon they were singing along with loud voices excited.
“Like sunlight burning in midnight
Making my life something so
Mercy reaching to save me…”
Debra took a left turn towards the airport road and unbuckled her seatbelt, adjusting in her seat and moving her body to the rhythm of the song. Sarah gave her the warning glare but she just ignored it and continued shouting to the song playing from the speakers.
The next events happened so fast. First Sarah saw Debra steer the wheels to the left, to the next turn then suddenly she saw a big vehicle whose model she couldn’t place rushing towards their direction uncontrollably, like it had a brake failure. She could see Debra trying hard to control the wheels of the car to avoid collision with the oncoming vehicle with raw fear in her eyes. She felt the first collision immediately it happened with the oncoming vehicle smashing into the driver’s side of the car. She could hear screaming voices but couldn’t recognize if the screams were coming from her or Debra and she watched in horror as she windows smashed into Debra face, shreds of glass and metal cutting across her face and neck. She could feel their car spiraling out of control and saw her friend hit her head on different parts of the car, eyes wide open in fear, silently pleading for her life. In that moment, Sarah could see their lives flash before her; their years of friendship and love, of family, their future plans, Debra was supposed to get married with her being the chief bridesmaid. What was happening? Her friend and sister, was bleeding too much… and what was wrong with that expression on her face? She looked like she was being drained, drained of life. Sarah could feel herself hit her head a couple of times on the door of the car and headrest; she felt the window of the door at her side shatter but she felt no pain. She was numb. What’s happening to her senses? When the car finally came to a halt, smoke filled the whole vehicle and was clogging her nose but she didn’t care instead she stretched her hand towards her friend and tried to shake her awake. Her best friend opened her eyes slowly, like she was using her last energy to open them. Her face was covered in blood and she was bleeding profusely from her neck region. Sarah’s gaze met Debra’s, she saw her friend give a weak smile as a drop of tear slid down her face. She was struggling to draw in the next breath. Sarah shook her friend and pleaded with her eyes to her friend to stay awake. She couldn’t let go now. She couldn’t die. She shouldn’t close those eyes
“Debs please hang in there, don’t let go” she could barely hear her own voice
“You can’t leave me alone, you can’t leave your family, you can’t leave Daniel. Please, stay awake” she saw her friend smiling; an apologetic smile, with sad eyes.
“Please don’t go. How…how do you expect me to go on without you? You’re my only friend. You didn’t even meet my parents yet. We didn’t even graduate; what’s going to happen to our dreams and plans?” the look on her friend’s face told her she was fighting a lost battle as Debra closed her eyes, and slowly but eventually breathed her last. At that moment, Sarah knew her worst fear just became a reality as she struggled and hoped for a miracle tugging at her friend’s arm; still arm.
“Debs! Debs! Debs! Wake up girl! Open your eyes. Stick out your tongue and tell me you’re just playing a prank on me” she could feel the tears rushing down her face, begging for a miracle.
“God where are you? This wasn’t part of the plan” He was supposed to always be with her. Why was this happening? “Please let her live lord. Do something please” she tugged at her friend’s arm once more, this time with less energy
“Debs I need you, please don’t go. I can’t cope. Where do I start? I need you around to tease me and console me, and..and encourage me. Open your eyes and I promise I’d always be nice to you. I’d let you play as much as you want, stick out your tongue as often as you’d like. Just….” She could feel the throbbing on her head as she started feeling dizzy and felt her body losing strength.
She heard the ambulance sirens and voices coming closer. Taking a last look at her friend she whispered with the last ounce of her consciousness
“P..l..e..a..s.e…. Don’t go” then she let herself slip into the realm of unconsciousness.