Wunnam anxiously paced about the room, not sure of what to do next. He picked a black holdall and flung his clothes into it. As he packed, the memories of the day before, flooded his mind. It was just yesterday he met Teeya at her father’s farm, on his return from his own father’s farm.

It was only yesterday they had sat under the soothing shade of a mango tree in her father’s farm, talking about the love letter he had written her back in junior high school. It was only yesterday he had told her that her braids looked good on her, when in actual fact he thought they looked too tight and made her forehead look too shiny. It was only yesterday he felt like he had finally met his future wife, when she expressed a fondness toward him. It was only yesterday she had given him a basket of ripped mangoes. It was just yesterday she waved him goodbye with a smile that will linger in his mind forever.

He tried closing the bag, but spotted Pagnaa’s skirt inside. He quickly removed it and threw it on the floor. He knew his sister would never give him peace even if he explained to her that it was only by mistake he added her skirt to his clothes. He scanned the room to make sure he hadn’t left anything behind, and then he laid eyes on the basket of mangoes Teeya had given him.

His heart skipped a beat. The basket was still full. He hadn’t eaten any and now he had no intention of touching it. He yanked the bag on his back and hastily turned to leave. He bumped into his mother at the door and she stared at him suspiciously. Wunnam had forgotten she was still at home and he searched his mind to find an excuse for wanting to leave.

“Where are you going?” Mma Kande asked in a low voice with her eyes glued to Wunnam’s bag.

“ Eeerm, there is  an emergency, so I need to get back to the city as soon as possible. Kindly inform Mba for me”, he anxiously replied and made to walk away but his mother grabbed the bag and pulled him back.

“You are not going anywhere. You arrived not long ago and you already want to leave? Over my dead body”, Mma Kande admitted with a snap of her fingers. She held his arm tightly and made no attempt to move out of his way. Wunnam pleaded with her but she tightened her grip around his arm. He realised his mother was trying to pull a stunt, so he pulled his arm away from her abruptly, which made her stagger. He briskly walked out of the room and headed for the gate. His mother ran after him and clutched his bag while screaming.

“ Wunnam beat me, beat me. It was only yesterday you suckled my breasts and now that my milk has made you who you are , you want to beat me, your mother. Eeeii !”, she said while brushing her chest against his arm and pulling him back and forth with his bag. Everyone came out of their rooms and watched them with curiousity.

Pagnaa came out of nowhere and held her arm, trying to pull her away, but Mma Kande shrugged her off and held onto Wunnam’s bag.

“ Mma why are you doing this? It’s embarrassing, everyone is watching us”, Pagnaa said.

“ Will you shut that stinky mouth of yours! Oh, even you? You and your brother want to kill me eehn? Then go ahead, kill me”. Wunnam was stunned by his mother’s attitude. He didn’t know why she was acting up and wished she could let go of him.

“ What is going on here!” Wunnam heard his father shout. He was standing at the gate with a hoe on his shoulder and a cutlass in his hand. Mma Kande instantly left his bag and folded her arms across her chest while tapping her foot impatiently.

“And what are you all looking at?” he asked furiously and everyone, including Pagnaa dispersed and went back to their rooms. He asked Mma Kande What had happened and she explained with her usual volubility, while exaggerating every word. Wunnam didn’t look surprise neither did his father. It seemed as though he was used to her exaggerations.

After she was done speaking, his father asked her to leave them. Her mouth gaped open as her eyes darted across father and son. She had expected Mba Yiko to react, but his calmness irritated her. She hissed loudly, hesitated for a while and left. Wunnam quietly followed his father to his door and watched him as he placed the hoe and cutlass on the ground, and stretched himself on a lazy chair. He stared at Wunnam with his hazy eyes, making him shift uncomfortably in his seat. Mba Yiko spat out the Kola nut he was chewing and Wunnam caught a glimpse of his teeth which had completely turned brown.

“ Why do you want to leave? He finally asked. Wunnam didn’t give an immediate reply. Instead, he gazed at his father’s short legs and his even shorter trousers and wondered why his father always wore trousers that hung far above his ankles.

“Are you not the one I’m talking to?” Wunnam slowly diverted his attention from the trousers, to the one wearing the trousers.

“There is an emergency I need to attend to”, Wunnam replied with his eyes casted on the ground. He wanted to tell his father what had happened but wasn’t certain he would believe him.

“ I see”, his father said and Wunnam knew he wasn’t fooled. Wunnam expected him to begin a lecture on how experienced he was as a headmaster and his ability to detect lies. Instead he said, “ Go and put your bag down”. He rested his head on his clasped hands, crossed one leg over the other and closed his eyes. Wunnam waited for him to speak again, but he said nothing.

“Bangda is here to see you”, Pagnaa informed him while standing at the door. She made no attempt to enter the room. Wunnam’s recent demeanour scared her. He caught her on many occasions, stealing furtive glances at him. She seemed to be the only who noticed there was something wrong with him.

Bangda looked older and terse, than the last time he set eyes on him. He grinned when he saw him come out of the room and stood up from the chair Pagnaa had offered him.

“ Has Teeya’s  ghost finally stopped  haunting you?” Bangda asked curtly. Wunnam stared at him blankly and wondered if Bangda knew anything about his experience. Even if he did, he wondered how he found out. From what he could remember, he told no one about it.

“ H-h-how did you know? Wunnam stammered.

“ Know what?”

“ About  Teeya”

“ Oh, I saw you on the day Teeya’s body was found. I called you but you kept running like you were being chased by her ghost”, Bangda admitted with a loud laughter. Bangda’s response assuaged Wunnam’s tension and he giggled at his joke. Bangda seemed not to have changed much; he still had the good sense of humour he possessed since they were children.

“ I was shocked you know. She was a nice girl”, Bangda sighed sadly

“ She really was”, Wunnam admitted, feeling bereft and at the same time, guilty. Even though he didn’t kill her, seeing how she died in his dream made him feel responsible for her death.

“Anyway, how has city life been?”, Bangda asked him with a nudge. Wunnam smiled and told him all about his stay in the city. How his nursing career was tiring and how he intended to settle down, since he now had a stable job and his spare parts business was booming. Bangda listen to him with rapt attention and admiration. He nodded approvingly as he spoke and Wunnam felt more proud of himself.

Bangda on the other hand, was now a teacher at a neighboring town and was getting married in a few months’ time. They both remembered the past and laughed at all the silly things they once did as children and teenagers. Bangda reminded Wunnam of a particular day they took Mba Yiko’s bicycle without his permission and how it got stolen while they were swimming in the river.

“ My father starved me for two good days and threatened to use my school fees to get a new bicycle”, Wunnam said with an uncontrollable laughter. He was grateful for Bangda’s presence and the fear and anxiety he felt for the past one week had vanished.

Bangda stood up after three hours and told Wunnam he had to leave. Wunnam wished he could stay longer. Wunnam accompanied him and they walked in silence till they reached a junction where Bangda insisted to go ahead alone.

“ Don’t let what happened to Teeya bother you so much. You look terrible my brother”, Bangda said in a serious tone and Wunnam looked down at himself as though he was reminded of something he didn’t know. He nodded and smiled slightly. Bangda tapped his shoulder, assured him of another visit before walking away. Wunnam watched his retreating back and thought of how much they had drifted apart. They almost felt like strangers to each other now. Wunnam walked back home while humming a cheerful tune to distract himself from thinking.

“ Wunnam, Kawula? It’s been a while,” a coconut seller whom he was acquainted with, called out to him. Wunnam waved at him without stopping.

“ Wouldn’t you like to have one of these?” he added, bent on getting Wunnam’s attention. Wunnam reluctantly turned and went to him.

“ How much is it?”, he asked with his hand fumbling in his pocket.

“ No, take it for free. You can buy next time”, he said, while handing him one ,with a wide grin. Wunnam thanked him and took a sip.

“ This tastes really good,” he complimented, though it tasted sour in his mouth and made his jaws tingle.

“ It was just harvested yesterday”, the coconut seller admitted proudly.

Wunnam wished he could remember his name. He would have at least remembered, if he knew it in the first place.

It rained heavily that night. Wunnam tossed and turned as the thunder and lightning strobed and crashed simultaneously. He had another nightmare. He was chasing someone with the same machete he held in his previous dream. This time, it wasn’t Teeya. It was a man. A man he didn’t recognize. The person ran faster than he did but he still managed to catch up with him. He held the man by his collar and whirled him around, pulling him down on his knees. The man begged him in tears, to let him go and Wunnam suddenly recognized him. He was the coconut seller.

Wunnam stared at him directly in the eyes as the cold rain drops, splashed on their heads.  He raised his machete to cut him but the man quickly stood up and began running.  Wunnam didn’t chase him. He watched him till he slipped and fell. The man was slowly sliding into a well close by. There was nothing he could hold on to. He screamed and begged Wunnam to help him but he didn’t. The man kept sliding till he reached the mouth of the well and Wunnam woke up. His body was quivering and he was sweating despite the cold weather.

He heard people murmuring in the compound so he went out. He was surprised to see the whole family outside. They stood in pairs and whispered to each other. Some had their arms folded across their chests and others shook their heads slowly. No one noticed his presence. He approached Pagnaa who was setting fire in the kitchen and asked her what had happened.

“ You know that coconut seller?” she asked and Wunnam nodded slowly.

“ The one who sells not far from our house”, she added as though to make sure he knew whom she was referring to.

“ Yes, yes”, Wunnam replied while nodding vigorously.

“He’s dead. His body was found in the well”

To be continued…



Copyright© Nasreen Zankawah, 2020

Written by : Nasreen Zankawah

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