EPISODE 4

“ How did you know?” Dari asked in a trembling voice while looking over his shoulders to see if there was anyone else at the door. In a husky tone, his grandmother replied, “ When you both were born, I was the first to bathe you. I opened Yomba’s tiny hand with my finger but immediately, he let go of my finger and closed his hand again. I opened yours and to my surprise, you clutched tightly to my finger. When I tried removing it, you smiled even though you could barely open your eyes. And that’s how it has been all these years I watched you grow. You always held on tight to me and were always the first to come to my aid, always the first. Not once did Yomba ever help me with anything first. He always came later, after you had handled the situation. Do you remember when I broke my leg while you were in your final year in Junior High school? You came to me without your parents’ permission even though you had a mock exam the next day. And do you also remember when I had my first stroke? You suspended whatever you were doing, even the surgery you were about to perform, and came to Damongo as soon as you could, notwithstanding how late it was. So when you stepped into this room, I knew it was you and when you held my hand, I felt the same way I did, when you clutched my finger the day you were born. I knew without a doubt that it was you.”

Dari leaned his forehead on her bed and began to sob. “I’m sorry Naana, but this was the only option. I never intended to impersonate Yomba, it just happened.” Dari said and immediately explained everything that transpired on the wedding day.

“ I feel like a prisoner, Naana. I’m no longer who I used to be. I just wish I could go back to being me, but I don’t know how. There are too many people involved here; Mom, Dad, Allila. I don’t want to hurt them.” Dari felt a weight lifted from his chest and realized that he had been waiting for so long to speak to someone about it. His grandmother still remained silent and Dari wondered if she had fallen asleep while he was speaking. Maybe the whole situation was difficult to phantom.

“ So you haven’t heard from Yomba?” She finally asked.

“ No. We reported his disappearance to the police but their investigations yielded no results. Sometimes I wonder if they were unable to find him because they thought I was the one missing.”

“ Listen, my son, you can hide the dead body of a man, but you can never shield the smell of his rotten bones. I know it may be difficult for you, but I advise that you tell the young lady and your parents the truth before it’s too late. Sooner or later, the truth will definitely come out. Relieve yourself of that burden Dari, you’re distressed and I hate seeing you this way.” Dari placed his hand on hers and assured her he would do as she said. He knew he was lying. He didn’t have the courage to do that yet. Maybe Yomba will return soon and take his place so that they can all live their normal lives without anyone suspecting their deceit. Dari wasn’t bothered about his grandmother knowing the truth. She would never tell anyone, just as she never told his father that he was responsible for the fire that devoured their previous mansion. It happened when Dari was fourteen years old and his grandmother was in Accra for a visit. She always insisted on using charcoal to cook instead of the gas cooker. Dari offered to help set the fire one day. As he tried, the fire continued going off due to the strong wind so he took the coal pot to the kitchen and decided to use kerosene to set the fire instead of the usual sticks and plastic bags. The fire flared up and caught the kitchen curtains. Dari froze and watched the fire spread without knowing what to do. His mouth felt so heavy to call his grandmother as there was no one else at home. His, grandmother, after perceiving the smell from her room, came to the kitchen and tried quenching it. They ran out of the house after realizing their efforts yielded no results. Most part of the house was completely burnt by the time the fire service arrived.

Dari stayed in Damongo for a week even though his grandmother looked better and his parents had left five days prior. Upon his grandmother’s insistence, he finally decided to return to Accra. On the morning of his departure, he went to bid his grandmother farewell while Allila waited in the car.

“ Naana, we are leaving”, he said but got no response. His grandmother’s hut was dark as usual and he could barely see her lying on a mat. He touched her arm but it felt extremely cold and still. He drifted closer to her and looked into her face but her eyes were shut. He shook her while mentioning her name, but she remained still like a rock.  He screamed for Allila and asked her to call a doctor immediately.

Dari paced anxiously outside his grandmother’s hut while the doctor examined her. Allila persuaded him to have a seat but he ignored her. What he had been denying all along was finally confirmed when the doctor announced that his grandmother was dead. To Dari, it was unbelievable because just an hour before he went to her hut to inform her about his departure, she had told him she was a bit exhausted and wanted to take a nap. But before she went in, she had said to him, “ Set your mind free, because I will not always be here to comfort you, and if I don’t come back before you leave, know that I found solace on the cold floor of my hut.” Dari made nothing of what she had said, for his grandmother always said things that sometimes did not make any meaning to him. He wasn’t aware the warm liquid he felt on his cheeks were tears until Allila wiped them away and hugged him. It was the first time he was clasped in an embrace with her. And even though it felt strange, it was comforting. He wrapped his arms around her and his tears refused to cease. Dari’s parents returned to Damongo that same day and his mother wouldn’t stop crying. His father was more subdued and barely said a word not even on the funeral day which took place a week later. Dari’s grandmother was buried in her hut which was now locked with a huge padlock. They all returned to Accra after the funeral and Dari knew it would take decades before he ever stepped foot into Damongo again.

Ayuu, who had equally attended the funeral, requested to go home immediately after they got to Accra. Dari offered to take him home since he did not have a car but Ayuu declined.

“ You’re still grieved bro, and I think it’s best you just stay home, I will find my way home”, Ayuu suggested.

“ Being grieved doesn’t mean I’m indisposed and can’t drive. C’mon, I’m taking you.”, Dari said as he picked up his car keys and headed for the door.

“ Any news about your brother?”, Ayuu asked and Dari shook his head. It was one of the conversations he avoided ever having with Ayuu. The fact that he always had to feign knowledge of some memories Ayuu had about his friendship with Yomba was enough. Dari almost got caught when he once had lunch with Ayuu in a restaurant. A lady whom Ayuu recognized, walked into the restaurant and took a table beside them.

“ My goodness, that’s  Chenti. I wonder what she’s doing here.” Ayuu said in a whisper while blocking the side of his face with his hand.

“ Who’s Chenti?” Dari asked.

“ Are you seriously asking? It’s Chenti,  my ex-girlfriend. The one you broke up with on my behalf.”

“ Oh, yes, yes, I remember. How can I forget?” Dari said though he had never set eyes on that lady. Unknown to him, Yomba had assisted Ayuu in breaking up with her six months before, because Ayuu didn’t have the courage to face her and claimed he didn’t want to hurt her feelings. The lady later approached and greeted them with a fixed smile which did not waver all the while she spoke to them. Dari noticed how she glared at him with contempt as though he was the reason for a misfortune she was currently experiencing. He was finally relieved when she left with a man, he suspected was her date.

They reached Ayuu’s house and just when they were about alighting, they saw a man banging hard on his door. Ayuu hastily closed his door and asked Dari to reverse the car. Dari saw how tensed Ayuu was and even with the AC on, he was beginning to perspire.

“ Who is that man.” Dari inquired.

“ He’s my landlord. My rent expired three months ago and I haven’t been able to renew it. He wants to finally kick me out.” Ayuu replied. Dari fell mute. He never for once thought that Ayuu may have serious issues of his own, especially with regard to finance since Yomba was his best friend.

After thirty minutes, they drove closer to the house by which time, the landlord had left. Ayuu lived in a one-bedroom apartment with a living room, smaller than Dari’s bathroom. Dari scanned the place and noticed the peeling leather of the sofas, the absence of a television which Ayuu later explained he had sold, a ceiling with portions turning brown as a result of leakages, and a still ceiling fan that looked worn out.

“ I’m sorry the room is hot. I haven’t been able to recharge my prepaid card for the past week”, Ayuu said as he handed a small bottle of Coke to Dari. “ I’m sorry my place is in a bit of a mess, I didn’t really think you would come in.”, Ayuu added.

“ But why did you think I wasn’t coming in?”

“ Because you hardly do. I guess my home is less exquisite than yours”, Ayuu chuckled, but Dari sensed the sincerity of his statement.

“ Look man, I would appreciate it if you could lend me the money asked for two months ago. I promise to pay you back as soon as I’m paid at work. I need to settle my landlord as soon as soon as possible.” Ayuu added almost on his knees. Dari only nodded without saying a word. He always knew Yomba was insensitive. But he never knew it was to the extent of neglecting his own best friend, especially in times of need. It now explains why Ayuu always wore specific shirts all the time and kept accepting Yomba’s old clothes. Dari always thought they were his favourite, but now, he just realized it could be because he couldn’t afford more good clothes. He wondered why Ayuu was still friends with Yomba after all this. Dari gave the coke back to Ayuu because he realized he didn’t have one with him. It was probably the only one he had.

“ Ah, don’t you want it? Is it because it’s warm?”

“ No, that’s not the case. I have a sore throat.” Dari lied. Ayuu shrugged and drank the coke in one chug. Dari looked out of the window, angry. At that moment, he wished he could find Yomba immediately and skin him alive.

At 5:am the next morning, Dari went to Ayuu’s house and asked that he go somewhere with him. “ This early?  Can’t it wait?” Ayuu who was in boxer shorts and had a cloth around his shoulders, said in a nasal tone.

“ Get dressed quickly, I will be waiting for you in the car,” Dari demanded and went back to his car.

They parked in front of a white, gated house in a residential neighbhourhood and a man in his late forties emerged.

“ What are we doing here?”, Ayuu asked.

“ We are here to see a friend”, Dari answered while he shook hands with the man. The man gestured them into the compound of the house and Ayuu continued scanning the house in admiration.

“ Take, sign them.” Dari handed some papers to him and resumed speaking to the man. Without reading, Ayuu signed them and handed the papers back to Dari who in turn, handed them to the man.

“ So, how do you like your new three-bedroom home? Oh, and car?”, Dari asked Ayuu who turned to look at the red Camry he hadn’t noticed when they entered the compound. He stared at Dari with wide eyes and a gaping mouth.

“ The house and car are mine?”

“ Yes. And they are all in your name”, Dari said with a hearty laughter and Ayuu went on his knees thanking him profusely after which he stood up shouting and jumping with joy while waving his shirt in the air. Dari felt an elation he had never felt before and was glad he made the right decision. After all, Ayuu was now a friend of his and deserved more. He had been of great help after Yomba’s disappearance and Dari realized he was an honest and loyal friend, who hardly held grudges and probably the reason he was able to remain Yomba’s best friend for so long.

“ And don’t bother going to your office. I told your boss you’ve quit”, Dari added.

“ But-but why?”, Ayuu stammered.

“ You will be working in my company from now onwards, as an engineer. Who knows, you may even get promoted if you do great.” Dari added. Ayuu hugged him and couldn’t stop thanking him.

“ But on the real, how did you even end up in an advertising agency when you are a trained engineer?” Dari asked jokingly.

“ I don’t know bro. The universe just dumped me there”, Ayuu said and they both burst into laughter and went on to inspect the house.

It was a Sunday and Dari was relaxing at home while browsing his Instagram page. He came across a post which caught his attention. The picture was posted by a woman with the Instagram name, “sallyforrealz”. She was clasped in an embrace with a man who had his back to the camera and looked to his right. Dari zoomed the picture and panicked when he realized who it was. Even though he could only see the side of his face, he was certain it was definitely him. Dari will never mistake anyone for him. Dari checked the location of the post and noticed the picture was taken in Abu Dhabi.

Dari seethed with anger when he saw more pictures of him on the woman’s page. So while he was in Ghana trying to conceal everything and protect everyone from getting hurt, he was out there with some foreign woman in Abu Dhabi, living his best life. Dari knew then that if Yomba happened to appear before his eyes, he would strangle him.

 

Written by : Nasreen Zankawah

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