On that faithful day, the rays of the sun brightened the earth. I proclaimed, it was going to be a fruitful day, I was alone with my mother. As usual, she entrusted me with some house chores before she left for the market, I went about it diligently.
I stumbled on my father’s picture which stuck firmly to the faintly painted yellow wall. My mother always reminded me of how the picture had been there before I was brought into this world. I starred at it almost every day, it always reassured me of my father’s braveness. Looking at him in his custom-tailored camouflage uniform with a stern piercing expression often redirected my silly thoughts. Although, his actions always betrayed his fierce appearance. There were days I wondered how he found himself in the military. For me, my father was too warm-hearted and tender to be called a soldier.
He had been away for a year and six months. He was amongst the group of soldiers sent to north-eastern Nigeria to combat against Boko Haram Militants. When the news came to him, he struggled to let it out. A night before his departure, I had a haunting nightmare- I saw a sprawling blood stained figure on the floor. I laid awake all night, dark thoughts hovered around my mind, and I became misty and feverish. At the dawn of the set day, I put up a purposeful shiver and shudder with a silent–doleful look. I turned in the opposite direction and beheld my father’s wanly face with a bleak. We communed in our silence, he was clogged by strange dubieties. He threw his arms around my mother and I and hugged us passionately. He then placed his hands on my shoulder and glanced at me for a second, his red eyes moved back and forth.
“Daddy, promise me you will come back to us safely?” I subtly broke the silence.
“My darling, pray for me” That was all he said with his voice low and gravely. My state of incertitude advanced. At that very moment, I wished I could make it known to him that I had prayed already and received gloomy signals, but I didn’t want to sound like a child who tenaciously clung to her father and wouldn’t let him slip out of her sight even when duty called.
An enormous van filled with men in uniform horned scornfully, I struggled with my emotions as I watched my father hop into the van. This time, I wished I could grab his arms firmly and scream out my lungs, give him reasons to decline this mission and stay with me- I wanted to be that child.
“Don’t worry daughter, your father will be back to us safe and sound. Do not forget he signed for this and can’t go back on the oath he took to serve this country. All we owe him now is prayers, he will be fine” My mother assured as she squeezed my hands gently into hers. I didn’t expect to hear more or less from her, she built this thick wall of courage and hope around her. It wasn’t easy to tell if she acted strong for my sake while drowned in an ocean of worries.
My father repeatedly assured me that he was going to be away for just three months, after which he would come running into my arms. I ticked each day down with a new feeling of anxiety. He had never lied to me before but his words gradually turned into a white lie as six months was down the line and I had not seen him. Every night, I drenched my pillow with tears. My heavy heart rendered a prayer of protection for him. I always stayed glued to news, with fickle hope to hear something about the nation’s soldiers in that part of the country, but my hope was consistently smitten as nothing related flew around.
Six months passed again, I had not seen my father, this time, with no word from him. Even with my weak faith, I prayed without ceasing. I partially got used to his absence, though I felt his presence within. That day made it a year and six months, no word still from my father. No one knew the ugly part fate decided to reveal to him. My eyes were still fixed to his picture, sweet memories of him filled my mind. I prayed for him; that was all he wanted from me.
Tales by Marvy