THERE ARE NO FIREWORKS IN MY CITY.
The night is still and quiet, there are no stars in the sky and the moon is not visible either. Not yet. A soft breeze blows and rustles my hair. A single teardrop falls from my eye and seconds later, the silence of the night is broken by Aniekan.
She screams my name, then my mother’s, and then my father’s before marching outside to meet me at the verandah.
“Did you know?” she asks, her voice shaking. She’s on the verge of tears.
I respond with silence and light a cigarette, my hand trembling violently as I struggle to use the lighter.
“Did. You. Know?” Her voice is firmer this time, but she makes no effort to hide the tremor in it.
I take a long drag from my cigar and exhale slowly, my eyes never leaving the dark sky. The clouds move slowly to reveal a crescent moon. A bad sign, perhaps? I do not know. I am not superstitious but in this moment, I wish I were. For then I’d have the courage to face my sister and I would have something to blame for the misfortune that has just paid a visit to my family. It came like a ghost and left a volcano behind. One that threatens to erupt in a way I do not know.
Perhaps I should blame the moon. Or the gods, even though I don’t believe in them either. I believe, however, that if the gods were real, they’d be more sinister than the devil himself. More worthy of my fear. More sadistic than ant creature I have ever imagined.
“What I know” I start, turning to face her. “Is that we are alone.” Both of us, against the world and all the evils that come with it. What’s going to happen to us? I can’t survive like this- alone. I’m alone. I’m scared. I loved them. I miss them. Please bring them back. I need my mommy. Please.
My heart burns as my sister screams and cries in agony. As she falls to the ground, sobbing heavily. As her shoulders shake violently. If the gods were real, I say to myself, they would pity this eleven year old. They would bring her parents back. They would take me instead.
I, on the other hand, refuse to cry. What good would it do? My parents are no longer in this world and I need to be alert; to toughen up for we have been left in the care of wolves parading as relatives, hungry for an inheritance that does not belong to them. Perverted uncles that daydream of violating my sister. Abusive aunties that think all a girl is good for is cooking and cleaning.
I put out my cigarette, crouch down and embrace Aniekan. There are no fireworks in my city, no celebrations in this dead, cold house. There are no crickets out tonight, no cars passing by to birth loud honking noises. Only my sister’s loud sobs echoing throughout the compound, indicating life but mourning death.