*ALL CHARACTERS AND SCENES ARE ENTIRELY A CREATION OF FISAYOTALABI'S
INSPIRATION: So, about two weeks ago, I stumbled on a post from Tosynbucknor on Instagram about Sickle Cell awareness. She wrote about days she lived in self-pity and depression. She thought she wouldn't be alive by now, or live past age 21. She didn't plan or live for a future. "No plans to marry, have kids, work, nothing."
"It is not how long you live that counts but how well."
It really touched me, and I thought to write something about it. I hope I can effectively pass across a message through this very short series.
DEDICATION: I dedicate this to everyone living with the Sickle cell a.k.a SS, or to those who have loved ones with the SS. Hold on to faith, and please live healthy! You WILL SURVIVE the Shoah.
WARNING: This series may be quite emotional...
It's a short series.
"Derin! Aderinsola!" Mrs. Cole yelled her daughter's name from the living room. Derin's phone was ringing and it was distracting the woman from her Yoruba movie.
Derin was there in a jiffy. She had been expecting a call from her best friend, Osas. Osas's mother had called her earlier to confirm if Osas was at her house, studying. Osas had lied that she was sleeping over at Derin's to study for their coming second semester exams. Osas had actually gone out to party with a couple of final year guys from their Uni. They'd asked Derin to come along but she couldn't escape her over-protective mother. She missed being on campus, before their Uni went on strike. She was a wild party girl, even worse than Osas.
She removed her phone from the charger and walked swiftly into the kitchen where she could be alone. The call was from Nelson, Osas's boyfriend. She knew Osas had lied to him too.
"Hey Nelson..." Derin started.
But Nelson wasn't calling to ask for Osas. He was weeping over the phone.
"Nelson what's the problem!!!" Derin yelled, yet trying to lower her voice so as not to alert her mom.
Then Nelson broke the news to her. Osas never made it to the party. The guy driving had been speeding and distracted, and he had run into another vehicle. They had been five in the vehicle, and they had all survived, except Osas.
Derin sank to the floor of the kitchen, this time, screaming like her life depended on it. Her mother was quick on heels. She grabbed her, asking what the problem was. Derin didn't know how to tell her. First, she had lied to Osas's mom that Osas was at her house, and her own mom didn't know anything about it.
After Osas's funeral, Derin became a shadow of herself. She had retreated from everyone she had been friends with. Even her own mother. She couldn't place a finger on all that had just happened. One minute, her best friend had called her over the phone, joking in her usual fearless and courageous manner that she was going to have the fun of her life with those guys. Derin had told her that she also wished she could go, but for her mother-hen.
What Derin couldn't understand was that, she was the one who didn't give any care about life. She believed life was too short to be wasted on dulling things. And indeed, life was short. She was twenty years old, turning twenty one on the sixth of June the coming year. Derin didn't think she would live till her birthday. She was a Sickle cell sufferer. Osas was a very healthy girl, robust and full of life. Why had she been the one to pass away? Why didn't God just substitute her life for Osas's? She didn't mind. She wasn't going to make it past twenty...max twenty one, after all.
Derin's life had always been that way, since she realized the truth about being SS. She remembered when she was younger, and was always the one who had to be rushed to the hospital for her many crises. Many times at school, her teacher would panic and call her mom from work because she had broken down again. She remembered one time her mom had spent so much on hospital bills and drugs, and had started to sell her fine jewelry to be able to complete the bills. Her father had left them, and had gotten married to someone else. He had kids...very healthy kids. And Derin had concluded that it was her fault that her parents split up.
One time, Derin had overheard a conversation between her mom and a family friend. Her mom had been crying and complaining about the stress of dealing with Derin's illness as a single mom. The woman had blamed her mom for marrying her father, claiming that they both knew they were of the AS genotype.
Yes she faced stigma. The stigma of other kids giving her new names like ...Abiku girl or Skeleton. The stigma of not being able to play and jump at birthday parties, because her mother feared she would fall ill again.
Derin had decided she wouldn't stress herself over anything unnecessary. She had a few years to live, and she would live it to the fullest. And so, she never really took anything too seriously. She hadn't bothered to study for her final exams at Secondary school. What was the point? Even if she had all A's, she might not make it to starting at the University.
But she made it.
She had passed so well; both WASSCE and JAMB, and she had been offered a place at the University of Lagos to study Law. She had been so surprised. She knew people who had read their brains out and still hadn't met the cut-off marks.
Her birthday was in two days. She was turning twenty-one. Her friends had wanted to throw her a party, and she wanted it. She was a fun lover. But it was just that, she didn't know if she would be around to celebrate. She had started to feel sick again, and her crises always spanned about five to seven days. The strike in school had been called off, and she was back on Campus. She thought of calling her mom, but she didn't want to bother her.
She had thought she could manage. She'd taken her bath early, and begun to iron her white shirt and black skirt, trying to hold in the pain she was feeling. Then, she felt the sharp pain in her leg and crumbled to the floor, flinging the iron on the mattress. That was where she usually felt the pain first, each time her crises came. It was when she began to feel more pain in her joints that she screamed and called for help. There had been no one in the room. Luckily, someone from outside had been walking by, and heard her.
Her mom had rushed to the school clinic as soon as she had been called. She burst into tears, looking at Derin, who was asleep at the time. She just didn't know why the girl found it so difficult to lean on her for support. She never wanted to call her when she needed help. Sometimes, Mrs Cole felt as if her child blamed her for giving birth to her. And Mrs Cole actually had started to blame herself.
She had been in love with Derin's father, Kola Cole. They'd loved each other for about three years, and not once did they think of finding out if their genotypes were compatible. It was after Kola had said he wanted to marry her, and their church had required they did medical tests, that she found out they were both AS. She had wanted to walk away. Her parents were illiterates so they didn't really know what the implications could be. Kola's parents on the other hand, were enlightened, and they advised against the marriage. But Kola wouldn't listen. He had said the SS thing was just a scare and that there was every scientific possibility that their child would be AA or AS. And so he had gone against his parents' advice and married her.
Derin was born; a beautiful child, filled with innocence and grace. But then, she hadn't picked either
scientific possibilities of AA or AS. She had come SS.
And after many battles of the child's crises, Kola Cole left her and married someone else.
The doctor jolted her from her thoughts when he told her that this crises was a little more serious and that Derin would have to be taken to a specialist hospital. Mrs Cole began to wail, eventually waking Derin up from her sleep.
"God please! God her birthday is just in two days. God please, keep her for me ooo" Mrs Cole cried, holding on to the doctor's shirt.
Derin already understood what was going on. She knew something was different. She was used to feeling those pains in her leg, but she had never felt the locking and grinding pain of her joints multiply at the same time. It had to be more serious.
She shut her eyes, trying not to cry, even though her heart was thumping faster than it ever had. She wasn't going to be the loser. She had to win this battle against the disease. She opened her eyes, and searched for her phone, then she found it, still the way she had left it, with the earphones plugged in it. She plugged them in her ears and started to listen to music. It was Dido's Life for Rent that was on Play. She scrolled down angrily, searching for another song.
Jim Reeves... This world is not my home
Unknown... Amazing grace
She yelled and in anger, threw the phone on the floor, smashing it, to every body's surprise. Mrs Cole had stopped crying now. The tears continued in her bleeding heart.
"Aderinsola Helen Cole," The man holding the microphone, standing on the podium said.
Mrs Cole's heart skipped a beat. She tried to hold back a tear from falling. She smiled, as she saw the whole congregation turn to look at her daughter, robed in her wig and gown from Ede and Ravenscroft. She looked so beautiful and mature. She couldn't believe that was her little girl of yesterday who had missing teeth and big brown eyes.
Derin smiled as she walked towards the Head of Council of Legal Education to receive her award. It was the second one she was receiving that day. She had graduated from the Nigerian Law School, Lagos Campus with a First class degree, and also received awards for being the best student in both Civil and Criminal Litigation. In addition, a top notch triangle law firm had offered her a job in Abuja, and another had undertaken to sponsor her LL.M degree.
After the ceremony, and so many photo shots with her friends cum learned colleagues, she sighted her mom, all smiles, looking even prouder than Derin herself. As she walked towards her, someone bumped into her. He wasn't wearing a wig and gown, but he was wearing the most handsome face she had ever seen! Okay, not the most handsome, but very very handsome.
"Oh, I'm sorry..." He said. Her wig had tilted and fallen. He caught it and placed it back on her head. Derin had wanted to say something rude, but somehow, she was calm.
"I don't want to be sued for de-robing the smartest lawyer in town." He laughed.
She didn't find his joke funny. She was getting tired of everyone attempting to crack dry legal jokes.
"Thanks." She smiled.
"You're welcome, Barrister Derin Cole." He said.
She rolled her eyes, and laughed, then walked away to join her mom.
"Congrats my baby!" Mrs Cole pulled her close, kissing her face. Derin laughed, pulling herself away.
"I'm an adult now, mom! I'm a lawyer!" She said.
Mrs Cole laughed. Then she went on her knees. Derin looked around, hoping they wouldn't cause unnecessary stares.
"I thank God that we are alive to see this day!" Mrs Cole said.
Derin nodded. True. She hadn't expected she would come this far. She was twenty five years old! That had never been a reality for her, not to talk of being a lawyer, or even being the best student with a first class degree.
She hadn't even needed to find a job. A big firm had found her out. Her mother had been quite skeptical about her moving to Abuja but Derin had her mind made up. She needed to leave Lagos and find something else for herself. She knew her mother's fear was the signature crises. Derin was scared too, but she couldn't live with her mother forever. She had to grow up.
She'd packed her things, and headed to the airport to get on board the next flight to Abuja.
It was about two hours after and Mrs Cole was expecting that Derin would give her a call to tell her she had landed safely and settled in. Derin was going to be living with one of her long time friends. Rent in Abuja was pretty expensive. It was also added advantage because her friend was a doctor, and she could help keep an eye on her daughter.
Mrs Cole scrolled through her phone. There was no missed call from neither Derin, nor her doctor friend. She decided to call. Derin's number was switched off. Were they still flying? Lagos to Abuja? Two hours?
She dialed her friend's number. It went through but she didn't pick the call.
She went to the kitchen and grabbed a glass of water. Derin's charger was plugged to the electric socket. She had forgotten to take her charger. She shook her head and went back to the living room then switched on the TV. Channels News was on.
A Bobolibo plane scheduled to land in Abuja for 2.35pm, had crashed!
Mrs Cole's hands became slippery and the glass of water crashed to the floor.
That was the same flight her child had been on!
Then her phone started to ring. It was an unknown number. She looked at it dreadfully. She couldn't take it. She couldn't take the bad news! She knew someone was calling to break it to her.
The phone didn't stop ringing. She eventually picked up.
"What is it?" Mrs Cole sobbed, shutting her eyes.
"Mummy! Are you okay?" Derin said.
Mrs Cole sighed, surprised.
"Aderinsola? Oh God!"
"Mom bad news o. The firm's HR called me. They said they've looked through my medicals and that they can't offer me the job anymore because of...because I'm ...you know, my genotype. They said the work is stressful bla bla and they don't think I can cope." Derin said, trying not to cry.
"Where are you?"
"I'm calling from a call centre. I'm taking a cab back home. I've been at my friend's house since. They called me before I even got to the airport."
Mrs Cole smiled. She was happy. At least, the stigma saved her daughter's life!
*Survived the Shoah
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