May 23rd, 2013
Seeing Akunna with Phillip, after work on Tuesday evening, was one of the most heartbreaking episodes I have had in a long time. Yes, I knew she was taking the loss very badly, but, in my mind’s eye, I had only imagined a slightly more subdued version of the old Akunna. I was in for a shock.
The Akunna we saw was almost as lifeless as the baby she had lost. Yes, she was breathing, and speaking, and moving around, but it was obvious that her spirit had died with her son. Her eyes were flat and expressionless, and her voice was barely a whisper. Not even when she’d seen me had she registered any emotion. No anger, no happiness, no shock, no excitement, no relief, no bitterness…nothing. I would have even preferred it if she’d been crying nonstop. At least, we would have known how to deal with that. Sitting quietly in the living room, with nobody knowing what to say, not even the ever imposing Aunty Josephine, was one of the most distressing things I have ever had to endure.
“Wow!” was all I could manage, as Phillip and I drove home.
He sighed and shook his head. “I’m worried…I’m really worried about her…”
“It’s only been a few days. I’m sure she’ll be better as time goes by!” I said reassuringly, trying to convince myself as well.
“I hope so…” Phillip answered, his voice trailing.
Yesterday, Vou arrived, and she had surprised me by stopping over at my office, on her way to her husband’s brother’s house, where she was staying.
“Faith! What on earth are you wearing?!” she had exclaimed, cutting short my excited screams. “Trainers?!! To work??!”
My attempts to convince her that it was the only type of footwear I could manage were futile.
“Girl, you have no excuse! If you’d only just told me before I left, I would have gotten you some very comfortable, and more appropriate, shoes for work! This is unacceptable!”
She was only appeased when I promised to look for an alternative a.s.a.p. As I walked her to her car, and after we’d talked about her, or rather Diana’s, plans for decorating the new house, the topic had trailed to Akunna.
“How is she?” Vou asked, with genuine concern.
I shook my head. “Not good!” I then proceeded to tell her about how she’d been, when we’d seen her the night before.
Vou nodded, deep in thought. “I have a message for her from Diana. Do you think I can come with you and Phillip when you see her today?”
I did a double take, not only because I was surprised that Diana was reaching out to her former rival, or that Vou wanted to see Akunna, but also because I really had no plans of subjecting myself to the depressing melancholy of last night anytime soon.
“Diana was really devastated by the news.” Vou said. “I have to admit, the rest of us were kind of relieved. Yes, as a woman, I feel for her. But even Diana will soon have to admit that this makes things a lot less complicated! But right now, she is so overwhelmed with grief for this Akunna…mainly because she knows what kind of heart ache she is feeling now.”
I nodded, understanding perfectly why Diana would be empathetic, and why the rest of her family would be relieved.
Even though I wasn’t sure how receptive Phillip would be to it, I told her it was okay for her to accompany us to Aunty Josephine’s house that evening. Phillip had been surprised, but had agreed to pick her up, before coming for me. Getting to Aunty Josephine’s house, I was pleasantly surprised to see my Mother there. She had cooked up a storm; a variety of soups and stews, and had even done something she hadn’t done in a long time…baked a small cake. All to cheer up the woman she had despised only a few short days before. But the plated meals sat in front of Akunna, untouched. They could have been plates of sand, for how interested she looked.
Mom had been happy to see Vou again, and for the first time since all this happened, I saw a flicker in Akunna’s eyes, when she realized who she was. The older sister of her nemesis! I tried to decipher what that flicker had been; curiosity or anger? But as quickly as the flicker had come, it had been replaced by the same deadpan, expressionless look as before.
Looking at Vou, I could tell that seeing Akunna’s condition for herself, had melted her heart. She sat tentatively next to Akunna. “My family is really sorry for your loss…” was all she could manage.
Akunna nodded, and managed a small smile.
“My sister would like to speak with you…if that’s okay with you?” Vou asked.
My mouth actually popped open, and I saw Aunty Josephine and my Mom exchange a surprised look. Even Phillip looked confused.
Akunna sat up. “Yes, I’d like that very much.”
Vou nodded, and proceeded to dial Diana on her phone. Handing the phone to Akunna, the rest of us watched her with bated breath, not quite knowing what to expect from this surprise call.
“Hello Diana…” Akunna said, her voice more animated than I’d heard in the last few days. “Thank you…Yes, I know…I know…” and then her voice had given way, as she started crying. “It’s just so hard…It’s all my fault…No, it is…” as her sobs grew heavier, Vou sat closer, and put her arms around her. After a while, her sobs abated, and she started nodding, as she listened to whatever it was Diana was saying. “I’ll do that…I will…Thank you. Thank you so much.”
As Akunna handed the phone back to Diana, and as she wiped away her tears, for the first time that week, I saw the veil of despair begin to lift. I don’t know what Diana had said to her, but somehow, it had helped restore a little bit of life in her. She sat up, and leaned to take a forkful of the meal Mom had made for her.
Trust my Mom! She immediately offered to re-heat the food, which had already gone cold, but Akunna was already devouring the meal like someone breaking a 100-day fast.
Diana had done the impossible, and had made her make a turn for the better.