Prologue

Never had she felt this happy and excited about anything before. Her parents were even here for a change, she thought to herself with pleasure, the day could not get any better. She let out a loud scream of sheer pleasure with all abandonment, as the swing carried her into the sky.

This birthday had to be her best. Just like the pictures in her storybooks, the park was greater than anything she could have wished for or imagined.

“Goke, can I go higher than this please?” She called out to her older brother. He was her everything, and she idolised him, she knew he was the reason behind their parents allowing her to visit this park as a fifth birthday present.

Goke let out a heavy sigh while shaking his head ‘no’ at his little sister, unknown to her his heart was weighed down with sadness.

“It is not fun anymore!” Gbemi retorted in the sassy way only a five-year-old could pull before she proceeded to let go of the swing. She giggled with excitement, loving the rush of being tossed into the air with nothing to restrain her little body. She wasn’t the slightest bit worried about herself because she knew as long as Goke was around nothing would ever happen to her.

Just as she expected, her body settled into Goke’s arms as he caught her. He had been far off sitting on a bench talking heatedly with her parents and her nanny, Ronke, but she thought nothing of it, they were always having heated discussions.

“Gbemi you cannot pull stunts like that anymore.” Goke scolded his sister, who giggled and hid her face in his chest in her adorable manner.

“I wish Zaria could have come along,” Gbemi said at last to Goke who had taken a deep breath in response.

She looked at her brother wondering what was wrong. When she saw the expression on his face was a sad one, she instantly became sombre.

“Forget about Zaria and do not mention him around mother or father.”

Gbemi looked at her brother confused. Why should she forget Zaria, one of her only friends? She could never forget him, but Goke was right their parents did not know of her friendship with Zaria.

“Mother the time is unfortunately here.”

Goke said in the direction of their parents, speaking coded so as not to upset Gbemi. However, she came undone at the sight of her mother bursting into tears. Goke put down his little sister and watched her run to comfort their mother.

“It’s alright mother. I don’t want to go home either. Father, can we not stay a little longer? Please?”

Gbemi added the please as an afterthought, as she looked at her father pleadingly. She just wanted her mother to stop crying.

“Oh Gbemi, I love you so much! I do not—I cannot—Kayode!” her mother said as she tightly hugged her.

Her mother continued screaming for her father, placing her daughter on the ground. Gbemi was upset about how her birthday was making everyone sad. Even her father looked very displeased.

Gbemi felt her brother’s hands on her shoulder, and she looked up at his face.

He refused to look at her, but said to her instead, “Gbemi, no matter what, be strong and never let anything hold you back. Know and remember that your family loves you.”

What Goke had said was sweet and she vowed never to forget his words. Still, she wondered why he had said it within such a depressing tone. It was like a farewell. She wanted to cry, wanting her birthday to be over.

“Ronke, we entrust you with our most valuable and loved treasure.” Her father said.

Gbemi listened in confusion because again, the tone which was being used to address the situation was that of a goodbye.

“Gbemi, we have to go. We love you.” Her father said to her.

She smiled at him in understanding.

“It’s okay father, and I would rather leave if everyone is getting sad.”

Her father just nodded his head at her, before taking his wife’s hand on his left and his son’s hand on his right. His wife and son linked their free hands, barricading Gbemi in the middle of a circle made of their bodies.

“Take excellent care of yourself.” Goke said to her before her family started chanting in a foreign tongue.

Gbemi understood their words but did not understand the meaning behind them. The three of them closed their eyes and Gbemi’s eyes, on their own accord, followed suit.

Gbemi opened her eyes and rushed to the swing. She was so happy to be here. This birthday of hers had to be the best.

“Gbemi let’s go home. It’s getting late.”

Gbemi whipped around in the direction the voice had come from to see Ronke approaching her. She looked at the sky to see it had indeed gotten darker. She carefully got off the swing and skipped over to Ronke. Gbemi smiled up at her. Ronke, of course, grinned back.

“Best birthday ever, Ronke!” She exclaimed to her before looking around the empty park one more time.

With a final smile, she turned, letting Ronke lead them back home.

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