On the first day of April, Noi rolled up his favourite green towel and stood like a sentry on duty at the main gate. It was time for Dada to take them swimming. They all went out for a family splash on Saturdays. It was a weekly treat they took pleasure in: Ma, Noi and his big sister Shormeh. Dada would drive in straight from Cape Coast; they would all jump into the car and zoom off towards the sports club.
The sun was burning but Noi refused to take cover in the shade of the mango tree by the gate.
"I'm waiting for Da," he announced with pride written all over his face, "he'll be home soon, won't he?'
Shormeh looked at her brother for what seemed like an age and quickly blinked away. She wondered whether he had noticed the sniffles that she was trying hard to suppress.
Noi stared at his towel, pretending to admire the patterns on it. He didn't want to hear Shormeh say I told you so but it felt like the sun was actually melting him.
"Ma will stop crying when Da comes?"
"Erm...err"Noi"why do you ask so many questions?!'
Just then almost from nowhere Aunty Nuna appeared, a younger and fairer version of Ma with kind eyes and warm hugs for her beloved nephew and niece.
Noi beamed. "Aunty you're welcome."
Aunty Nuna dug into her big black leather bag and presented Noi with a soft bar of Golden Tree chocolate, two reading books, a carton of apple juice and what looked like a puzzle he could enjoy.
"I know, I know, Aunty, I have to share with Shormeh. But the puzzle is for me!"
"Let me go and keep Mummy company,' Aunty Nuna said, climbing the stairs into the living room, "don't stay out in the sun for too long."
Noi wondered when Dada would finally get home.
He remembered when Ma started crying. It was long ago. Around the last time he had seen Dada. Ma and Aunty Nuna and Shormeh and Noi all stayed up late and went to the majestic stone church down by the football field. Noi and Shormeh counted the solemn bells chime twelve times and joined in as everybody shouted "Happy New Year!'. Ma and Aunty Nuna hugged each other hard. Then they went home sleepy and happy.
In the morning, Noi woke to the sound of sobbing. He listened for a while and clambered out of the lower bunk. He glued his ear to the door but could only catch snippets of hushed talk squeezed in between mournful cries coming from deep within Ma, Aunty Nuna and the many people in their living room.
""terrible news from Cape Coast"didn't see the tree falling"so unfortunate"it was instant"'
"Shormeh"what does it mean when they say somebody is dead?"
She did not see that one coming. Shormeh bit on her lip and fought back the warm tears threatening to spill over.
The sun was beginning to paint the sky in brilliant hues of gold and red. Noi pushed the gate open and headed back to the house. Ma and Aunty Nuna were standing in the doorway smiling and drying their eyes when he approached.
There was hope in his voice.
"Maybe next week Da will come?"