The moon glowed against the backdrop of a sky that was beginning its slow progression from gray to black. I rarely stay this late at work; today was an exception because I had a deadline to meet. I was expected to present a client’s financial statements the next day at the client’s Board of Directors’ meeting. I had to stay back in the office, alone, to tidy up the accounts and to make sure the balance sheet was balanced and every figure fixed where it ought to be, ready for the next day’s presentation before I left the office.
As I set out to go home, I realized that the entire street was eerily quiet — it was strictly a business environment. There were no residential homes around — it was uncomfortably glaring that everyone had closed for the day and had gone home earlier. I am never a night person and would hardly go out when the place is dark.
It dawned on me that I was alone on the same street that was bustling some few hours ago. The pure, unfiltered fear that coursed through my veins made me dizzy. I could hear my heart pumping in my ears as I navigated the quiet route that will take me out of the quiet environment. I kept fiddling the necklace on my neck with whatever hand was free while I drove with the other.
Few minutes into the drive, the sky suddenly seemed to have changed its mind and started boiling with dark ominous clouds. A flash of lightning sliced through the sky while claps of thunder followed. The rain started pouring as though buckets were used to let out the water from heaven or wherever it was coming from. I could hear the patter of rain against my front and rear windscreens.
The rain blinded me. I had no choice, but to abbreviate my trip. I parked my car by the curb and sat in the car to wait for the rain to dwindle.
Too many memories swirled through my mind as I sat there in the dark. I settled to dwell on the memories that seemed to make the years rolled backward. The memories that made me the little girl I was 20-odd years ago.
A flicker of sadness and loss sidled up to me and wrapped its stiff arms around me; I felt the pressure of tears beginning to form and I continued to fiddle the gold necklace hanging close to my heart where the memories of my father would always be evergreen. I recalled with suffocating nostalgia the day Daddy bought the gold necklace for me. It was my sixteenth birthday and Dad surprised me with the glittering piece of jewelry.
“Awwww… Daddy, this is beautiful!” I squealed with excitement when I saw the necklace with a miniature picture of my family in the locket and with, “Daddy’s Little Girl” engrave on the back of the heart-shaped locket.
“You know you will forever be my girl, right?”
“You are special, and no man should take you for granted. Raise the bar, always be at the top of your game. Do not look down on anyone and allow no one to look down on you. Even when I am no longer on this side of life, know that I will always be with you and will always love you,” he said in a voice dripping with all the affection he felt for me, his little girl.
“I love you, Daddy, and you too, Mum,” I said to my mother, who sat down watching our exchange with tacit approval.
My dad was everything a child would ever pray for. He made sure I lacked nothing money could buy. We were not rich, neither were we poor. His hustle was for him to make my mum and me as comfortable as he could be. Relatives and friends hassled him to get another woman pregnant to have a son. No one understood why he was contented to have only one child, a female at that.
He had told me several times how he and Mum had tried to conceive again after me, but didn’t succeed. Several hospitals told them it was a case of “unexplained infertility” and there was nothing they could do. At a point, my parents wanted to try IVF, but the cost, physical and emotional torture that accompanied the procedure discouraged them.
I became the cynosure of my parents. I was the strongest link to the chain that anchored their lives. I was the centre of their existence and the apple of their eyes. No, I wasn’t a brat. I didn’t take advantage of their attention. I did all I could to make them proud; to fill in the void that an additional son or daughter or even both would have filled.
Barely three weeks after my 16th birthday, Dad was unusually late from work. It was very unlike him. We tried his number, but it kept telling us that is was unreachable. At exactly 9 PM, my dad called my mum. Only that it was not him at the other end, but someone who had found him on the scene of the accident that claimed his life on the spot.
Mum let out an ear-piercing scream. Her shell-shocked expression said all the words she couldn’t voice out. I knew without being told the a tragedy had happened.
I felt my world tilting when unexplainable darkness descended on me. I wanted to run out of the house and keep running and running with no destination in mind. To keep running, never to stop until I saw my ever-smiling dad who left home alive and healthy that same morning.
My heart was broken into a million tiny pieces. Pieces that time have not been able to put together. His death felt like I was ripped off my clothes and left for every kind of weather — rain, sun, cold, and heat — to deal mercilessly with me. Life was never the same for mum and me after Dad’s unexpected demise.
The honk from the horn of a passing vehicle snapped me out from the blur of memories. The rain had diminished and it was drizzling lightly.
I drove for few minutes, and when I realized I was already at my gate. I joyfully greeted the sight of my gate like a beloved old friend that I had not seen in ages.
It’s been over twenty years since I have been wearing the necklace. I am 38 years old, but no matter how old I get, I will always be Daddy’s Little Girl.
Roselyn Sho – Olajide works with an Audit Firm in Jos, Plateau State. She loves reading and writing and can be reached via email@example.com