”Hurry up! ” called Abigail as she kept trying to start the pickup truck

”Coming. ” Dian answered descending the wooden stairs with a large took box in her hand.

Dian live with her family in the Northern wild of Nigeria after a devastating war broke out in her fatherland. Then she was too young to make sense out of the violence and the harsh sounds of gunshots. She could remember the ruins and debris littering the streets, the half-burnt buildings and some completely reduced to nothing.

Her father had told her that they were on a long family vacation when she asked once why they kept moving to new places. She had wholeheartedly believed him when he assured her everything was fine when in fact she could see the world totally crumbling. In as much as she tried to ignore the uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach, she knew the obvious cannot be denied and the quick aging on her parents face did not go unnoticed.

”I will be going to buy some groceries in the market, ” Abigail announced, ”that is whenever I am done with this old junk of a car. ” She sighed.

”This truck is as old as I can remember ” Dian giggled handing over the jack to Abigails already waiting hands.

”Where is Kingsley? ” asked Abigail as she worked on lifting up the truck with the jack.

”In his room. ” She answered simply as she watched Abigail crawl under the rather too old pickup truck with a spanner.

The soft wind blew on her face, playing with the free strands of her hair bringing up an uneasy feeling in her guts, drawing her eyes automatically to the willow tree at the fair end, other side of the small river that made its majestic current east of their isolated abode. She had had that feeling many times before, when the willow seems to sparkle as if it has small electric currents in it, beckoning her to come closer. She had once yelled to it one chill and silent mid-night when it had felt so strong like a bond. She had that still dark night made her way like in a trance out of the house, over the little bridge and a little closer to the willow before she chickened out at the last minute.

”Dian, ” called Abigail more like a question, drawing her attention from her glassy-eyed trance, ”is something wrong? ” Abigail asked analyzing her in concern from under the pickup truck where she lay, ”You seem to be in your own world. You know you can tell me anything darling. ”

”Its nothing, ” she lied, ”Im fine, why? ”

”I have asked for the pliers for the hundredth time ” Abigail exaggerated with a tint of her head and a sarcastic pout, ”do you want to talk about it? ”

”Im fine. ” She repeated handing over the pliers to Abigail.

”Well, I hope you are ready for the special delicacy that I will be cooking tonight with my magic fingers. It sure will be your new favorite. ” Boasted Abigail with a cheeky smile effortlessly changing the subject after a quick questioning raise of her eyebrow.

Poor, poor thing. Dian thought. Abigail seems to smile unnecessarily nowadays trying to mask her pain from the incident after they moved into their new home.

Father had announced that he was going for a short trip, Abigail has strongly opposed but he insisted that it was for a good reason. Young Dian had said nothing but the casual childish comment ”Daddy buy chocolate and a pony for me on your way back. ” And he had left after a quick peck on her head when Abigail was throwing a fit.

He promised to come back soon and life will be better, but he did not. Abigail had cried Dian with her and Kingsley; he was still a toddler and knew next to nothing.

Did father abandon us? Is he dead? Did he run away with another woman? Did he loose his way? And more has been Dians unanswered questions, ones she deeply wish someone could answer.

Even with all the glamorous smiles Abigail uses to assure her children that all will is fine, she should have known better than to try. Dian could see past her glamour deep into the ugly bruises in her heart, most still bleeding profusely.

”Want a break to clear your head? ” Abigail asked, pocking her now greasy face out from under the pickup truck.

Yeah, you are right. Dian thought to herself as she swept her surrounding with her eyes attentively. Though she had lived there all her life, she cannot help but wonder why Abigail had not bothered to fix the rusty zinc on the roof that chatters audibly as the breeze swept through it as if playing melody only the evergreen rows of trees and thick shrubs of weeds close by could dance to. And the willow tree could not be ignored. Though distant into the thick bush, it did nothing but stir her curiosity even more. Something is definitely wrong with that willow tree.

”Sure. ” She replied, running back into the house, reemerging later with a basket and giggling Kinsley.

”Where are you two going? ” Abigail asked stopping them as she crewed out from under the pickup truck to assume akimbo.

”To the garden. ” Kinsley piped up before Dian could, ”Dian said that we are going to get flowers. ”

”And vegetables. ” Dian added when she noticed Abigails questioning stare, ”and fruits. ” She added skeptically when Abigail refused to bulge.

”Okay, you can go. ” Said Abigail sagging her rigid pose, ”but don get into trouble. ” She warned more to Kinsley who faked an innocent grin.

”Promise. ” Dian quickly assured, dragging Kinsley along before Abigail could change her mind.

Mother was right, Dian thought, only if father would have listened and stayed home, stay home with them when she needed him the most, when parental love was all she craved for. She wished she could take back the hand of time to that lonely day. She could have persuaded him to stay back home, what could have possibly gone wrong? But if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

”Lantana is not really my choice when it comes to flowers. ” Said Kinsley while he mindlessly pick flowers from the lantana plant as he stared at Dian who was meticulous unlike himself.. ”I prefer roses or hibiscus. ”

”Everybody loves roses and hibiscus. Besides, roses are feminine. ” Dian snared. ”Why don you fetch some cashew and local apples while I sort the flowers. ” She suggested, snatching the ones in Kinsleys hands who wasted no time in rushing to climb a nearby cashew tree in a monkeylike perfection earning an envious eye role from Dian.

”Show off. ” She murmured aloud enough for him to hear. ”What I meant is for you to throw stones and pebbles not climbing it. ”

”Jealous much. ” He winked and proceeded to shaking of cashew from an overlaid branch.

”You wish. ” She sighed. ”You know your limitations, and don let me remind you of last time. ”

”Last time was a mistake. ” He continued, knowing perfectly well what she meant, ”I am more than fine now. ” He assured, shaking cashew off another branch.

”I pray so. ” She proceeded to pick stacks of dandelions into the garden basket, keeping a close watch as Kinsley climbed down the tree and up the local apple tree with an almost stress free ease. ”Whats the matter? She asked when she noticed his sudden pause as if in awe.

”Noting. ” He continued as he proceeded to shaking off local apples, ”I thought I saw something. ”

”You never cease to amaze me. ” She teased, ”Thats enough fruits for now. ”

With that, Kinsley climbed down the tree to help her pick as much fruits as the basket could contain.

”We need to hurry, Kinsley. ” Said Dian, as they made haste tossing the fruits into the basket. ”its getting late and it seems like itll rain soon. ”

The wind picked up almost immediately snatching the basket forcefully, tossing off stacks of daffodils and a local apple from the basket, sweeping all to a rather odd direction opposing the east wind.

”Come on Kinsley, ” stopping him from chasing after the lost fruits, ”we already have more than enough. ”

They ran off to get home as soon as possible

”Not funny Kinsley ” Dian scolded Kinsley who ran faster, giggling as the sky rumbled.

She ran faster trying to keep up with him who was far off out of sight in the heavy down pour with his laughs faint and distant.

A thorny bush caught her overall jean along the waistline causing the basket in her grasp to tumble over, her heart in her throat as the wind suddenly changed to the opposite direction. Now strong and sending gust of dust into her wide eyes. With lumps in her throat, she tugged unfruitful to break free from the thorny bush. She screamed for help, which came out more like a whimper. Unfortunately for her, Kinsley is out of sight as the darkness blinded her the more.

Now the thunder roared louder, lighting up the sky enough that Dian could have sworn she saw a silhouette approaching from behind through the forest which danced violently in the wind.

With urgency for safety, she pulled carelessly against the thorny bush, ripping her now drenched jeans in the process. She quickly picked up her basket not minding how scanty of what remains inside could be and ran off as fast as her legs could carry her.

She made a sudden halt, drenched by the heavy rain to dare a look behind her into the distance as if out of compulsion. She could make out the familiar willow tree which now glitter hypnotically, daring her to return as the wind whistled tentatively. But she couldn , could she?

She ran away, ignoring the strong tugging of her heart to run back to the willow.

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