Start from Chapter 1: December
urs is a town of shrubs, hedges, short ornamental trees with fences of aluminium, wood and wrought iron separating yards and offices.
The town is divided into three districts. The first is reserved for business and corporate firms—The Globe is in this district.
The Globe is the town’s public-owned corporation, it was presided by the monarch or his successor. The entire town was regulated by the inner circle of Knights, their policies were enforced by The Globe. It was also the place I had always dreamed of working at, I tease myself a lot about this.
The second is the farm district—our family’s hundred acres of land lay on a portion of it. Dad had taken on our ancestral occupation building, a livestock business and a huge plantation that served us and the town all seasons. The third district was for the elites—rows of deluxe and semi-detached homes bounded by low brick walls and wrought fences.
Each living quarters by communal plan had a front and backyard that served as shade to host visitors with a mini orchard. Everyone planted a flowering tree, fruit trees and vegetables.
All of these gave the town an old-world charm, a sensation of peace and closeness to the universe. It seems like a town hewn out of a lost world and put away on an island that whispered calm at every turn you took.
I drove into the boulevard and felt at ease speeding up the hill before taking a right turn to Gracelane Street where the orphanage rested before the end of a bend that took you running the stretch of Owele Lake, popularly called Owele Lake Road or Lake Road.
The drive to the orphanage was breezy, everyone seemed to be going somewhere or coming from one. Christmas travellers are seen everywhere dragging travel luggage with them, excited to be spending Christmas with their loved ones again. Across one of the streets, families busied themselves with last-minute preparations for Christmas.
One woman and her family were setting up decorations for the porch of their one storey home. It has a small garden by the side and a porch with double swings on opposite ends. The garlands look freshly cut out from the healthy garden. I wondered how some people could pull all that freshness off in the current weather. Not everyone in Owele was lazy at gardening as the Elechi family, dumping the outdoor nurture on Dad once spring was over.
I dropped the cake at the orphanage and spent time playing with the kids.
First, we brought in the tiny boxes of presents I bought them from the boot of the car and arranged them near the Christmas tree—it wasn’t a real Christmas tree, but the kids had pulled off the little pine at the back of the orphanage, painted one of the buckets and made DIY stars, balls and garlands.
I admired their efforts, nearly tearing up. A little girl of six tugged at my fingers,
“Aunty, our presents,” she pleaded, her innocent large eyes bringing me off my reverie. I smiled and nodded, “Yes, we ahould do this,” I said and sat down to sort out the presents.
The bigger boys helped to bring food items into the house while the girls took the edibles into the smaller living room.
I wished I could do more for the kids. Their worn-out dresses almost made me cry again but the beautiful smiles on their faces reminded me not to ruin this special moment.
We gathered around for pictures and shared the presents afterwards, the smaller girls posed stylishly before the camera like real models.
It was amazing watching them so close. Their bubbly joy was contagious, and I couldn’t help tickling every single one of them until we were all rolling on the floor with the camera still clicking on us. I only wished I had thought of a Santa costume before now.
When I was done playing with them and listening to their one thousand requests, I followed the matron, Madam Trina, to her office, the same faint-lighted place where she always shared their challenges at the orphanage with me. The town was not supporting, and the kids felt left out of all the new changes happening.
Owele was fast becoming the hub of tech, modern science and green revolution but the kids had no place in whatever direction the new township was headed for.
I stared at the picture of a pretty but younger version of Madam Trina on the wall. She was still pretty but sweet wrinkles told me time and many troubles have taken place between when the picture was taken and now.
I returned my attention to her and promised to do something about it, not that I had any clue how that would happen, but the way her large eyes feasted on me told she had all her cards on the table and I was her trump one.
That felt like so much faith and responsibility, maybe one that I was even scared to face. I didn’t know how I’d do that, but I believed.
I hugged the kids once more before climbing into the car, driving down Lake Road.
The lake slept, orange rays of the now waning sun cast over its waters, evening approached. At night it was my manger, my peace place. In the day, it was the best sight to see, then at night when the moon lit against it, casting night blue and white clouds above, it was tranquil and in the times I spent there, I felt immune to all troubles in the world.
I smiled and willed myself down the road, the day won’t go by without me stealing a moment with Francis. I had hoped he’d call all day while we prepped for Christmas.
I kept checking my phone at the slightest ring but each time, it was someone else and I grunted. I decided to pay him a surprise visit when I couldn’t wait anymore, dropping some cookies into a box only for him. That way, I’d be the first to wish him a Merry Christmas a day earlier.
And maybe, he’d be the first to wish me a happy birthday too. What more can I hope for? He’d get me a gift or maybe… My breath raced as I turned left into Ndudi Street. It was a residential area, home to the elites in Owele. Francis and Sheba lived here but far apart. I slowed down at a bump.
The road was tarred, still, tiny brown dust settled on the roofs of rich stores and houses exposing lawns and yards desperately in need of rain.
I smiled, my thoughts returning to Francis. Will he propose? Did I want him to? Was I in love or…?
Someone honked, cutting off my daze. I apologised and kept my eyes on the road. Soon, I will know.
Enjoyed Chapter 2? Continue the story in Chapter 3: Surprise