Gone was the moon, hidden behind pregnant clouds rolling in from the deep. Lightning streaked through the air, thin branches shooting out, searching, seeking for what mortals cannot fathom. Its brilliance lit up the city, among which was a man standing in front of a wrought iron gate watching the red lights of a car fade into the night as he crushed a cigarette beneath his heel.
The gate swung open, recognising it's master, wishing to please. In the distance, Namdi saw home blending with the night, the gravel driveway unlit. Through the gate, he took a heavy step, the first of many, a firm understanding the end of this path would change everything.
In his heart Namdi was not an evil man, or so he told himself, his head unable to lift high enough to search the skies. Trudging along the path, the gravel crunching beneath his shoe, he thought of how similar this walk was to the hallway of the hospital on that fateful day.
Slipping past the gossiping nurses had not been difficult, few truly see a child. All he had to do was make it through a dark hallway containing odours of disinfectant sickness and death. The power had gone out in the hospital, the backup generator taking its time. He had never been one of those kids who feared the dark but there was something about that stretch of tiled floor and the red glow of emergency lights which forced him to take a step back while entertaining thoughts of turning tail. Something stronger held him, dousing the fear, replacing it with a courage born of the unfathomable love between mother and child.
Each step he took was heavier than the last, his body hugging the wall, his chattering teeth betraying a cold not born of the weather. At the end of the hallway, he could see his goal. Double doors leading to the ward he knew she would be. Though his mind urged to go faster, his feet refused to listen. It was already a small miracle he didn't just cower on the spot. Closer and closer the double doors came, till he was only a few steps away. Thoughts of lying in bed with her, arms smelling of cocoa butter wrapping around him further dimmed the fear he still harboured as warmth took over. The double doors swung open, not by his hands.
A gurney swept out, a doctor and team of nurses guiding its path, their passenger covered completely with a white sheet. Not a word was said about Namdi who currently hugged the wall. Few truly see a child. Not wishing to spend another minute in the hallway, Namdi walked through those double doors to find his mum, not realising they had just missed each other.
"If only I had been braver."
A grown up Namdi thought, unable to forgive himself for missing the chance to see his mother one last time. He looked up for the first time since this gravel filled walk. His heart steeled, his mind preparing for what was to come. Firm were his footsteps, though still heavy, lifting with a once missing strength. Lightning flashed once again and thunder hammered in the distance; as if in approval of his path. He could now see the car park. It was not empty.
A Mercedes sat there where his used to be, identical in every way, illuminated for a split second by natures power. Approaching the car park, a light came on, his eyes had not been misguided. "Her father," he thought, memories of their time on the balcony forcing his heart into a faster rhythm. The strength he had gained began to bleed away, fear replacing it once again. All thoughts of the truth died a pitiful death, his mind racing for another path to take. Unknown to Namdi, time had run out.
The door to their home quietly opened with Namdi a few lengths away. Gone was the metal that once stood in stark contrast to the elegance around it. Its replacement mahogany possessing history. A door graceful, refined, melding with the home but still somehow possessing a certain unintended ‘je ne sais quoi’. Leaning against it was Zainab, her 5ft5 frame looking larger than life. Across the space of a few lengths they gazed at each other, each waiting for who would make the first move.
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