Osei, my friend who lived opposite my room, threw me a wavering smile, and Hanan, whom I usually sat with during lectures, gave me a short nod and immediately turned his face away. Sensing the guilt in their demeanour, I ignored them and buried my face in between my knees. In all the twenty-five years of my life, I have never been this scared. Surprisingly, I wasn’t scared of losing my life; rather, I was scared of my mother losing me. I was her only hope, her hero. The one whom she always claimed would put her enemies to shame. As a single parent, she had toiled to raise my brothers and me with the little she earned from her numerous trades. Growing up, I had lost count of the trades she ventured into. After our cocoa farm was razed by a mysterious fire, I would wake up one morning and see her selling charcoal in our compound and wake up the next to be informed that she had gone to the market to sell groceries. There were times she carried mortar at construction sites or helped farmers during the harvest seasons in exchange for a meager fee or foodstuff.

What finally broke my heart was when she began selling her lappas and jewelry to fund my high school education. There were times I would sneak up on her and catch her sobbing, with my father’s picture in her hand. I was told he migrated to Libya in search of a better job when I was six. Unfortunately, he never returned. My mother always believed that the illegal ship he bordered may have sunk in the middle of his journey and he was probably dead. His disappearance was the beginning of my mother’s misery, as his family threw my mother out of the house and left her to cater for three children without a job or support. Living in a small town in the Ashanti Region did nothing to ease her dilemma. She was ridiculed and shunned. Some accused her of killing my father and others said my father deliberately left her for another woman.

So, when I received a scholarship to study medicine at Kyiv Medical University, I felt the universe was gradually coming to terms with my ambitions. The joy I felt was an extension of my mother’s. She wore white garments throughout the week and told almost everyone she came across, about my admission to the university. Even without voicing it out, I knew she was depending on me to help her cater for my younger brothers. Hence, I promised myself I wasn’t going to let anything distract me from achieving my goal of becoming a doctor. Anytime I felt distressed or unfocussed, I always thought of my mother and my zeal immediately returned. Now, six years on and just when I was in my final year and felt my success was now an arm’s reach, this war occurred threatening to push it further away from me.

“Hi,” a husky voice emerged. I turned to my side and saw the Ukrainian lady I had met earlier, smiling at me.
“Hi,” I responded with a wavering smile. Her small blue eyes searched my face and her eyebrows furrowed.
“Are you okay?” she asked with concern and I immediately realized my face was soaked in tears. I turned my face away and dabbed my face with the hem of my shirt before telling her I was fine. She stared intently at me, nodded unconvincingly, and leaned her head against the wall.
“I’m Kweku,” I introduced myself. She blinked as though astonished I was trying to initiate a conversation, before replying, “I’m Lavra,” she said with a smile, revealing her perfectly aligned and white teeth. She tucked some strands of blonde hair behind her ear and pursed her full lips awakening the dimple on her cheeks. Taking a deep look at her, I suspected she may have been nineteen or twenty years old. We began a deep conversation and I learned that she was an elementary school teacher and worked part-time as a waitress. She was also born and raised in Dzembronya and loved riding horses and playing the guitar.
“You’ve been to the restaurant where I work a few times,” she disclosed while shyly fidgeting with her fingers. I tried hard to remember if I had ever set eyes on her, but couldn’t. She looked at me again and I saw her eyes, begging me to recognize her. To avoid disappointing her, I feigned remembrance of ever seeing her though I didn’t even know the restaurant she was referring to. The smile on her face lingered for minutes and was only disrupted by another loud explosion which shook the ground and got everyone screaming.

To be continued…

© Nasreen Zankawah,2024

Written by : Nasreen Zankawah

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