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Saturday, November 14, 2015

'Sisters at war! - 'He was my man but she snatched him with 20 million Naira!' (1)

They say one good turn deserves another. But what happens when in trying to repay the good someone has done, you lose so much including your happiness and the thing that makes life worth living? 
Three years ago, I lost something very precious to me trying to repay a debt and today, I'm full of regrets and will do anything to undo the mistake I made...

The accident at the junction
 Barbara or Barbie, as we all called her is my elder sister. Due to the ten year age gap between us, she was like a little mother to me. She took care of me most of the time even more than our mother and called me her 'little pet.' Growing up, I grew really attached to my sister more than other members of our family. I liked going everywhere with her and refused to eat or sleep if she was not around.
Because of our closeness, our grandmother, Nene, whenever she came from the village to the city on visits would look at us, shake her head and say:
 "I've never seen anything like this. Both of you must have been 'mother and daughter' in a previous life."
 Even the neighbours used to tease Barbie and greet her whenever she was passing: "Barbie, Barbie! How's your 'daughter?' Is she alright?" My then 14 year old sister would reply that I was fine and sure enough, I would soon run out of the house, grab her hand and insist she takes me along to whatever errand she was running for our parents.
 For Barbie was very hardworking and out of all my siblings, she was the one who did most of the chores in the house. I had two older brothers and a little sister born two years after me. My brothers were lazy and never wanted to do any work, but watch TV, play football and hang around with their friends on our street. 
 Besides doing the household chores, she also helped our mother out at her little shop not far from our home where she sold provisions, cosmetics and other goods. After she closed from school, my sister would rush home, prepare lunch for everyone and join our mother and I, at the shop. 
We were at the store one afternoon when my mother sent Barbie to Mama Solo, one of her suppliers. 
"Give her this money and tell her I need more of the black soap, that customers like it a lot," she instructed, handing some money to my sister. I followed her as she left the shop, but my mother called me back.
"Come back here, Emily! Let her go alone. You will slow her down if you tag along and I want to send her to the market when she returns. Go and play with your sister, Ollie!" she commanded. I was not in the mood to play with my kid sister, Ollie who cried too much and always wanted to eat alone all the sweets and biscuits our mother sometimes gave us.

  I wanted to go with my big sister, so as my mother was attending to a customer, I sneaked out and ran after her. I was about six years old then and I knew my way around our neighbourhood and Mama Solo's house as Barbie and I had been there several times.
 I saw my sister a long way down the street so I ran to catch up with her. As I drew closer, I called her name but perhaps she didn't hear as she kept going. Then at a T-junction on the way, the incident that changed our lives forever happened.  

She crossed to the other side of the road and without looking carefully on both sides of the road as she had taught me to do, I started running across to her. Maybe it was a shout from a passerby or something for Barbie turned, saw me and at the same time, a fast-moving car bearing down on me. She screamed, rushed across and scooped me in her arms. But she was not fast enough. The car hit her hard and the impact flung both of us into a gutter nearby.
Maybe I fainted for that was the last thing I remembered for a long time...
 I recovered fast from the accident. Apart from a few bruises and cuts on my body, there was no serious damage done. For my big sister, however, her injuries were much worse. Barbie had a broken arm and her two legs were shattered by the accident. She would remain in the hospital for months recuperating. With time, her hand healed, but her legs were gone. One of them was so bad that it had to be amputated. With that, my strong, vibrant sister became a cripple and had to learn to use crutches to move around when she came home from the hospital.
Everyone who heard the story praised her for her bravery which they said saved my life.
"What a good girl!"
"So brave! How many young girls of today would sacrifice themselves in that way for their sister?"
"Your parents must be so proud of you!" they all enthused whenever they visited my parents to sympathise with the family on the incident.
 On my part, though I was very young then, I felt a sense of guilt over what happened. If I had remained at the store with our mother and not trailed along my big Sis, she would have been alright. Her long, slim legs would be intact and she won't need crutches to move everywhere. If only... Maybe it was that 'guilty conscience' for after that incident, I vowed to myself to dedicate the rest of my life to ensuring my sister's comfort and happiness no matter what it took...

 Twenty two years later...
The years went by and we all grew up and became adults. Our family fortunes also improved with time. Our Dad who was a civil servant, at a point resigned from his job and teamed up with an old school mate of his to start a construction firm. They won a lot of contracts from the government from his former contacts in service and the money began to roll in. We moved to a new mansion my father built in a nice part of town and we started attending better schools too.

Barbie's condition did not deter her from doing well academically, though.
"I might have lost my leg but my brain is still intact," she often said with a finger to her head. She studied Pharmacy at the University and was one of the best in her class at graduation. My parents were so proud of her on the day of her graduation when she was personally congratulated by the Vice-Chancellor of her school who had heard her heroic deed as a young girl of 16.
She worked in a hospital for a few years, then with our Dad's support, she opened a big pharmacy store in a good location in the city. On my part, after leaving school with a degree in Mass-Comm, I dabbled into different things. I worked briefly as a journalist on a daily newspaper, but had to leave abruptly as the pressures of going for assignments, sourcing stories, writing, producing and all the other things that go with the job became too much. 
 Then I became a production assistant in a film making company. That too, did not last due to the long hours on location, the poor and irregular pay and even the attitudes of some of the artistes we dealt with who could be rude at times. 

Later, I decided to go abroad for a Masters degree programme. While waiting for my admission to go through, I started helping out at the pharmacy, though my sister had enough staff to do the work.
"You shouldn't stress yourself working here, Emily. You are young. So, go out and catch your fun with your friends," she said a few days after I began work there.
"Compared to the other jobs I have done, especially the media work, this is like a picnic. No stress at all. Besides, Sister, you should be the one going out for some fun. You are always working and too much work can't be too healthy for the body and soul," I pointed out.
She shrugged.
"I enjoy my work. And one needs a boyfriend to take one out. And as you know, little girl, I don't have one!" she noted.
 "That's not a problem, big Sis. I will arrange one for you. And please, stop calling me a 'little girl' o! I'm now grown, a big babe! I'm no longer that little 'rat' that used to hang around you like a shadow when we were young!" I said.

"Is that so? So, you are now so big that you can dictate to me what I can call you, abi? Wait, let me catch you! I will show you that you are still that little 'rat' of yesterday who used to wee wee on my bed!" she said and playfully picking up one of her crutches made as if to chase after me. I ran to another side of the store, laughing and making faces at her to the amusement of the staff and some customers. 
We were always playing games like that as if we were young girls again. It was our manner of showing our fondness for each other and the tight bond between us. Back home later that night, I smiled when I remembered the scene at the pharmacy. It was replaced with some sadness at my sister's situation. Though successful professionally, in the area of romance and love, she had not fared well at all. She was already in her late 30s yet, she was still single and there was no sign of a suitor on the horizon. Despite her beauty, most men who were attracted to her would lose interest once they found out her condition.

"I don't blame them. Who would want to marry a one legged lady even if she's as rich and beautiful as the Queen of Sheba in the Bible?" she often said whenever a prospective suitor disappeared after a while. Though, I could tell that our parents were worried about her as their wish was for her to settle down with a family of her own, big Sis took her situation calmly and was philosophical about things.
 "If it's God's will, I will get a man of my own. Maybe someone who is so short-sighted, he won't notice I have just a leg until the wedding night when it will be too late!" she would often say jocularly with a laugh.
 On my part, I had a lot of male admirers. I had even been briefly engaged in my final year in school which ended when I caught my fiancĂ© in bed with my roommate. At the moment, I was not in a serious relationship. Unknown to me, that was about to change with the appearance of someone whose coming would have such an impact on the strong bond and love between big Sis and I...

To be continued...

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