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Eketi @eketiette
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That day, I did not mean to lock my sister in the freezer. We were playing #hideandseek.

Once upon a time....time time.

My people, issa thread.
It was one of those days; the sweltering heat was softened by cool breezes and leaves swayed on the trees, their shivering letting permitting the speckled rays of sun to touch the ground.
The adults were all away; my parents at work and the maid had gone to the market. We were outside, me, my siblings and a cousin. As it is said amongst my people, we were playing the lives of our heads. That means, we were having the time of our lives at play.
I don’t remember why we left the mango trees that afternoon; perhaps we were tired of eating the fruits. Or maybe the sun was too hot. I don’t know.

But I do remember that someone suggested we go inside the house and play #hideandseek. It may even have been my suggestion.
Inside, we went. We took turns. I would hide and count one to ten, then open my eyes and start searching.

“Ready or not, here I coooommme…” I shouted.

Of course, finding them was easy. The way they ran, noisy as little mice stumbling in the dark; it was easy to tell.
“Found you!” I’d yell each time I found one of them.

We would fall over each other, laughing our heads off. Don’t ask me why that was funny; it just was.
This went on until it was my immediate younger brother’s turn.

“One, twoooo….thereeee…,” he started counting.
I ran behind the curtains in the parlour, the one closest to the door. Then I changed my mind; too obvious. I made for the wardrobe in the maid’s room. No one would look for me here, I thought.
As I stepped in and tried to close the door, my three-year-old sister, our lastborn, held it back with her chubby hand.

Then she wriggled her body through the narrow opening and planted herself beside me inside the wardrobe.
I tell you, lastborns are the most annoying people on the earth!

Pests, the lot of them. They want to follow you everywhere and snitch on you with impunity. If they’re girls, they grow up and steal your dresses, perfumes and novels.

My sister was no different.
“Why are you here?” I hissed in annoyance.

“I want to hide with you,” she replied. “You people are always finding me when I hide by myself.”

“Fiveeee….siiiiiixx……,” I heard my brother drawl from his bedroom.

“Ohhhh! You’re going to make them find me!” I snarled.
You see, my sister had a tendency to giggle. That’s why she was always easily found.

“Eigggghhht…..eight and a haalff….”

I was desperate.

“Come, let me hide you,” I said.

Without waiting for her to agree, I snatched her up and dashed out to the lobby.
As quietly as I could, I lifted the lid of the freezer and somehow managed to drop her inside.

“Koko, it’s cold,” she said, shivering as her feet settled on the packs of meat and containers of soups and stews.
“Don’t worry,” I said hurriedly. “You won’t have to stay here for long. Once they don’t find you, you’ll win and I’ll come and take you out.”

Before she could offer any protest, I shut the lid and raced back to my hideout, and just in time.

“Teeennn!” my brother called out.
I heard him begin to search. One after the other, he found us. As before, we’d each laugh and laugh at being found.

That's when my cousin said she should go next, instead of my sister. We agreed, for we all didn’t want Baby sister to slow us down.

And so, the game went on.
It was my turn again, when Mama returned form the school where she taught Integrated Science and Biology. As was the custom, we all filed out to greet her.

“Mummy, welcome,” we chorused, collecting her handbag.

“Ehen,” she replied. “How are you?”

“Fine, Mummy.”
“I can see you people have been playing.”

She looked at the small crowd.

“Where’s my baby?” she asked.

And just like that, I remembered.

My baby sister. Was still in the freezer. It’d been more than twenty minutes.

Jesus, God of my progenitors!
Have you ever had those moments in this life, when the bottom drops out of your world and the saliva dries up in your mouth?

Your heart stops beating, and your brain starts pounding, and you know that death is better than a thorough ass-whupping?

That was my moment.
“Eh, Koko, where is she?” my cousin queried. “I haven’t seen her since it was Esi’s turn.”

My people, I died there.

Because my sister was the smallest of us all. But her birth was a difficult one, and my mother never let us forget.
No, Mama never missed an opportunity to remind us just how precious her last child was to her.

So, I tell you, I died there.

As it happened whenever I was frightened out of my wits, a little urine soaked my panties.
“She….sh…she’s in….,” I stammered.

“She’s what?” Mama snapped, her eyes narrowing with suspicion.

As one who is headed for a firing squad, I couldn’t answer. I simply walked to the freezer, opened it, looked inside and and….
Baby Sis was huddled inside. Frozen, half-asleep and near dead from hypothermia.

Mama let loose a scream. She sprinted to the freezer and scooped up her baby. Still screaming, she ran to their room and dragged the big, yellow duvet off the bed.
She wrapped it around my sister, and yelled for the driver.

“Muh…mmmy…,” my sister stuttered through chattering teeth, her eyes half-closed. “They….they…did..n’…nd…me. I…I…won.”

I stood by the door, petrified. Silent tears rolled down my cheeks, unnoticed.
Mama picked up the swaddled bundle and ran out of the room. At the door, she stopped long enough to bestow a well-aimed, destiny-resetting slap across my face.

“Kokomma, ayem adiwod ayen ami? You want to kill my child, abi?” she asked, tears and anguish sweeping across her face.
I didn't even have the liver to rub my smarting cheek.

While she waited for the driver, who could somehow not be found, she vigorously rubbed down my sister.

“Get me Rubb!” I went.

“Bring the flask of hot water!” I did.

“Get me the towel!”
In no time, my sister was warmed up and back to her usual bubbly self. Tuckered out from all the activity, she soon nodded off in my mother’s arms.

For minutes, Mama just rocked her and cried. After a while, she took her to the room and laid her on her and Papa’s bed.
“Kokomma, di mi!”

From the living room, I heard that and knew that my time had come. Fresh tears streamed out of the corners of my eyes.

I bade my siblings and cousin goodbye and trudged into my parents’ bedroom.
“Come here and close that door behind you,” she said when I hesitated at the doorway.

Ah, so this is how I was to die—in private.

Shaking like a flag in the wind, I entered and shut the door behind me. Head down, step by very reluctant step, I made to my mother.
I flinched as her hands settled on my narrow shoulders.

I never expected it.

She pulled me to her bosom and wrapped her arms around me. Mama kissed my forehead.
“I’m sorry, baby. I’m sorry I hit you. I knew you were scared, but so was I. You need to be more careful with your sister, okay? She’s the only sister you’ve got. Okay?”

Silent tears gone. I was now bawling like a new-born lamb.
I nodded and hugged her tight, this mother, whom I loved above everything and everyone.

And that, my people, is how I’m still alive to tell this tale.

The End.

My sister and I are best friends today. The memories of our childhood fights are now filtered through the lens of a fierce, undying love.

Does she still get on my nerves? It’s what baby sisters do. Still, I’d give my life for her.
The Real End.

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