By Ekeoma Ajah

Osinachi finally arrived over an hour later.

“Sorry it took so long to get here,” she said as she rushed in, panting and brushing rain water off her clothes. “You know how mad traffic gets in Lagos once rain starts.”

Ogemnabia had not noticed the rain, consumed as she was with packing.

“Ogemnabia,” Osinachi said, eyeing the restless men moving about the living room. “What’s happening?”

“Madam, you have forty minutes left,” Mr. Tamuno Daniel said to Ogemnabia, as though on cue.

Ogemnabia sighed. “I can’t explain now. Just come.”

Ogemnabia led Osinachi to the upstairs living room where the girls sat waiting with Patience and their packed boxes. Adaeze’s face was a picture of shock but Olanna, at age three, was blissfully oblivious of the enormity of their situation. Thankfully, the boys, CJ and Uzo, were away for a few days, sleeping over with some friends from school. Ogemnabia would have hated foisting all of her four children on her sister. Also, the boys, being older, would demand explanations and wouldn’t be so easily distracted by Osinachi’s promises of ice cream and a fun time at her house.

“Girls, who wants to go to Aunty Osinachi’s house?” Ogemnabia said, trying and failing to adopt a cheerful tone.

After a few minutes, Ogemnabia succeeded in coaxing Adaeze and Olanna down the stairs. She gave the girls long hugs by the front door, and watched them get into Osinachi’s car which she had parked as close to the door as possible. With the girls settled in the car, Osinachi gave Ogemnabia a long look.

“I’m sorry this is happening,” Osinachi said. “Don’t worry about the girls. You know they’re in good hands. Just do what you need to do, ehn. We’ll talk.”

They exchanged a quick hug, and just as Osinachi stepped into her car, there

was a loud thud that seemed to be coming from the front of the house. Ogemnabia ran out under the rain, to find one of the men in coveralls throwing down packed boxes from the upstairs balcony.

“What are you doing?” Ogemnabia screamed. “Our time is not yet up!”

Ogemnabia raced to rescue the box from the rain. As she dragged the box to shelter, another one fell right where she had been standing moments before. She was suddenly glad for the rain because it was now the only thing hiding her tears.

She stood defeated in the pouring rain, staring after her sister’s car as it drove out of the compound with her daughters in it. She could make out her girls’ faces staring back at her. She didn’t think she would ever forget the look of horror etched on Adaeze’s face as she watched the men throw down their packed boxes from the upstairs balcony. She held on, waiting for the car to be completely out of sight before giving in to her grief, falling to her knees as she screamed at the sky, at the unseen forces that seemed to mock her. She didn’t know what she had expected but the ensuing thunder only seemed like the gods were cackling, laughing at her.

Ogemnabia did not know how long she remained there, drenched by the pouring rain, until she felt Patience gently pull her up from the floor and guide her into the house.