Half a week later, dad was still yet to return but we stopped speculating about his death when he called Toju over Skype. I refused to talk with him though, still majorly peeved that he hadn’t bothered to call me once – even though it was kind of my fault because I was often a truly unpleasant offspring to him.
So with no dad, no allowance, and a sulking boyfriend, I was stuck at home either hanging out with Toju or avoiding needless encounters with the old lady whom I still found creepy – but now reverently so. Thanks to prudence plus computer whiz-dom, Toju had some extra money on him aside what dad had left for feeding. We’d initially planned to just order and inhale several pizzas and shawarmas one weekend, sit before Netflix and generally be slothful, but after awhile we decided being in the house all the time was taking the glow out of our melanin and opted to go to the mall instead. The mall was always packed but for the late-night movie we wanted to watch, it was a bit odd to see the place swarming with people. The snack line was almost endless when we arrived but after agonizingly slow minutes, it was cut to just one couple before us. I mentally chuckled as I observed how clingy the lady was with her man. I only got like that with my brother – on rare occasions – but I wouldn’t be caught dead leeching Chris like that if we weren’t in bed. Oddly enough, the fellow reminded me of him from his height and frame. Both of them were being indecisive and I could tell I wasn’t the only one getting irritated so I reached out to tap the man gently on the shoulder.
“Hey. Do you mind speeding it up please? Our movie starts in a few.”
He turned to face us and I recoiled my hand as though I’d been electrocuted.
It was Chris.
His eyes registered surprise for about half a second before instantly taking on a cocky glaze. I could feel Toju stiffen beside me but I was too shocked to even look up at him. What the…
“Yeah, could you chill for a few more? The lady is checking the menu for her favorite flavor of ice cream.”
I raised an eyebrow at the same time I heard Toju mutter, “Bloody dimwit.” He angrily stepped between Chris and I, shaking off my hand as I tried to grab him by the wrist. I cursed under my breath. Why was this happening? I started wishing we’d stuck with the pizzas. They were less risky. I looked from Christopher to my brother. They were both much taller than my 5 ft 8 but Chris more so. Plus, he was the vain type who worshipped gym equipment almost as much as his pecs.
God, please, no. I pleaded silently, not quite sure whom I was talking to or what exactly I was so scared about, but hoping someone would pick the sound vibration of my desperate helplessness and help me out here. Chris was a troublemaker – even now it showed as he condescendingly smirked in my brother’s face and took a step closer. Toju on the other hand, was the peaceful one who cared more about mental development than how his abs looked in cheap oil. The only times he allowed himself get violent were when I was at risk of being harmed physically…or emotionally.
“I’m just here wondering why you’re throwing your shameless behind around one girl’s home one day, and caring about another’s taste in ice cream the next, Christopher. Does it not sound a bit off to you?”
Chris laughed – one of those fake and unnecessarily loud ones – and popped his gum in Toju’s face before eyeing me with a bored look.
“It makes perfect sense when the former girl is a weirdo who’s into her twin brother. Yo, don’t you two know incest is nasty?”
Someone in the line chuckled and another asked us to take our family problems outside so they could get on with their own business. I stuck my tongue in my cheek and silently fumed as I stared at him. It didn’t hurt so much that the man who was supposed to be madly in love with me was spewing stupidity like a three-year-old boy. It hurt that Toju was getting humiliated because of me…again. A muscle twitched in his jaw but he slowly adjusted his glasses and took my hand.
“I don’t have to sleep with my sister for her to respect me. She does that because I am awesome – and truly care for her. You on the other hand, only get to keep females like her,” he nodded at ice cream menu checker who stood staring at us with her hideous lipstick and non-existent blouse – chewing bubble gum loudly, “because you chew gum like them, run your mouth like them and probably look just as pretty in all your snapchat flower crown filtered selfies.”
A few people behind us started clapping and I was already doing cartwheels in my head as Toju pulled me past the dumb duo and we stood at the counter to place our order. He squeezed my hand gently. “You okay?”
I was about to tell him just how awesome I thought he was when I heard the loud gasps. Before I could turn I heard a loud crack and watched my brother crumble to the floor beside me. I stood frozen, my brain wasn’t helping me register what was going on quick enough until I saw red slithering slowly from where Toju’s head rested awkwardly on the side of the marble counter, a few inches from the floor. My ears started ringing. Everything around me was on mute but there was this distant high-pitched scream that I could hear. I looked up to see Chris holding up a chair, one of the metal legs had stolen what belonged to my brother. Rage burned in his eyes and he tried to kick Toju in the gut when some of the men in the line held him back. Everything was moving in slow motion and I was tempted to walk over to Chris and claw his eyes out but then I glanced back at Toju and saw his eyes rolling backward…
That’s when I realized the scream belonged to me.
I was frantically racing through the house. Of all the times to make a change in her monotonous routines, I thought miserably. Why now? I glanced at my phone as I stumbled down the stairs and headed for the kitchen. The doctor had said I had only one hour.
“GRANDMA PLEASE! Where are you?”
I knew screaming was pointless. She wouldn’t even hear all my stomping around but if I didn’t let out a bit of the panic swelling up within me I was almost certain I would explode. Once in the kitchen, I took a sweeping glance and my features contorted as the emptiness I found in it slapped me in the face. I put my hands on my head. What am I going to do? Oh God…Toju.
“Chris I hope you die and burn in hell. I hope you burn worse than the devil!” I blubbered as my eyes bled. Turning, I walked right into the old lady. No embrace was ever more welcome, no pair of arms felt more secure.
“Grandma!” I breathed and collapsed into her, momentarily forgetting that I probably weighed double what she did. The relief I felt made me weak in the knees. She stroked my back for about two seconds and then pushed me away, gripping my shoulders firmly with a question in her gaze. I nodded and pulled out my phone. I had typed everything I wanted to say in my notepad but I still blurted it all again anxiously as she scrolled.
“It’s Toju. No, actually it’s Chris. He hurt Toju ma. Really, really bad and now there’s blood in his brain or something and we went to the hospital but they won’t do the surgery because we’re both under eighteen and also we have no money. I’ve tried calling Dad so he’ll talk to them but the stupid thing won’t connect and I don’t know what to do! Toju is going to die and it’s all my fault.”
Immediately the last sentence was out of my mouth I felt it sting. In all honesty, she hadn’t really smacked me across the lips with so much force but apparently her bones must’ve been forgotten in steel for awhile or something because it hurt. A lot. I covered my mouth in shock, staring at her. She frowned at me for a second and then typed out something beneath my explanation in the note pad.
Don’t say such nonsense. Did you give Toju life that you’re now trying to take it away?
I shook my head and murmured an apology. She handed my phone back to me and headed in the direction of the bedroom, moving with more speed than I’d have imagined her capable of.
As soon as we got to the hospital’s reception, cleaners and nurses who passed us by bowed slightly or waved and murmured greetings. I looked at her and wondered how sick she must have been before moving in with us, if so many members of the hospital staff were so familiar with her. Toju was in the emergency room and a nurse stood waiting by his gurney. I glanced at my phone – we were ten minutes early. At least for the doctor, I thought, glancing anxiously at my brother’s still frame. I walked up to the nurse and pointed at my grandmother who was still some distance away.
“That’s our grandma. She approves okay? Will you guys please treat him now?”
The nurse gave me a reassuring smile that strangely made me feel like slapping her. I wasn’t here for smiles was I? They’d left my brother in pain for almost one hour so who said we could be guys? She looked past me and her eyes lit up. Suddenly, she could move from her guard post.
“Ah, mama, welcome! Oh my God, I’m so sorry to see you here over such an unfortunate incident. The boy is yours?”
I could tell she was fighting the urge to rush to stand beside Toju. I could tell because I was doing the same thing, knowing if I gave into the urge, I might cause mayhem until somebody got him to a freaking theatre. Grandma nodded slowly and made a circular motion with both hands that translated to: Get on with it! The doctor was called for and after bowing respectfully to her they took Toju away. As they rolled him past I glanced at his face – and regretted it. He looked dead. There was blood all over his neck and his shirt had the telltale stain of dark red that replaced the former white collar. I turned away from him quickly and caught grandma watching me. She smiled – that smile of hers –, shut her eyes slowly and then looked at me again, arm outstretched. I rushed to take it and she led me out to the corridor closest to the theatre where Toju was to be treated.
I sat and put my head in my hands. She nudged me and suddenly her phone screen was in front of my face.
Toju won’t die. I’ve prayed. Would you like to pray too? It might calm you.
I smiled at her and shook my head, slowly mouthing ‘Praying isn’t really my thing. Thank you.’ She smiled and shrugged. Seconds later, her hands were clasped together and her eyes were shut. She bowed slightly and although no sound escaped her lips, there was no doubt they were moving.
I sighed and put my head back in my hands.
Please do whatever she asks you to. I’d appreciate it.
To be continued…