gabon

Jemma

He snapped his eyes open and met mine before releasing a shuddering breath through his parted lips. “The most terrifying thought is that it might not be just a dream, Belle.”

I swallowed hard, a cold shiver running down my spine at his soft-spoken words. The struggle to run into his arms and hold him was overpowering my ability to speak but before I could decide which one to choose, he looked down.

“Over and over, I see the same scene in my dream… Haunting me like I should remember.”

Finally, my tongue loosened. “Remember what, Papa?” My voice sounded foreign to my ears.

He glanced up, surprised to hear me speak. “Hmm?”

“What did you forget?”

He shook his head, looking down. “Too many things, it seems. I don’t remember more than half of my life.” Lifting a hand to rub his face, my father heaved a deep and solemn sigh. “As I said before, I don’t even know where I came from, what my real name is.”

I frowned. “You’re Emanuel, son of Abraham and Petrice Abarca from Angola.”

“No.”

I blinked, feeling the cold settle in the pit of my stomach. “What?”

“I am the adopted son of Abraham and Petrice Abarca.” He pulled his gaze back to mine, a flicker of hurt in his eyes that made my stomach clench tightly. “They found me in Gabon, about forty years ago.”

“F-found you?” My own voice was now echoing in my ears as questions scattered frantically in my head. My father was adopted? Why hadn’t anyone told me about this before now and did Mama know? “Papa, what are you saying?”

“Hmm,” he mumbled softly. “In an orphanage in Libreville.”

My eyes widened further. “Who told you that?”

“Your grandfather, when I was your age.” He swallowed hard, pulling his gaze over my head. “I remember coming home from college… right after meeting your mother before the winter break. I was having the worst headaches, and the nightmares were more frequent then.” He sighed heavily. “I tried to ignore it but my father realized it was affecting my ability to study. He prompted me to confide in him.”

I tried picturing my grandfather, a stern but kind man that I only knew through my parents’ fond words and faded pictures Papa stored in a dusty thick album full of his past memories. Half of his past memories, I thought bitterly.

“When I described what I saw in my dreams,” my father continued. “He was quiet for a while. Solemn and subdued as if he immediately knew.” He looked back at me, that same solemn and subdued look on his face. “He said I’d always had those headaches… and he’d woken me up several times when I was younger from those same nightmares.” His Adam’s apple bobbed, him struggling to continue. There was a sheen over his eyes and I looked away, not wanting to witness my father’s tears again. “Then he told me everything. The wars, the orphanage, my sickness and recovery…”

“Wars? Sickness?” I echoed, completely confused.

He nodded. “The war in Nigeria and the Angolan war several years later.”

I blinked rapidly, my breath now shallow as everything around me began to crumple. Who was this man before me? “What wars?”

My father gave me a ghost of a smile. “History was never your strong suit, my dear one…”

I scowled. “Papa.”

He nodded, relenting a little. “From 1967 to 1970 there was a Biafran war in Nigeria… I didn’t know anything about that, except that I was in the orphanage during that time, suffering from severe malnutrition. When Mother and Father came to get me and we moved to Angola, there was a war 1975 and we barely—”

“Hold on!” I shouted, holding both trembling hands up. “Wait a minute.”

My father let out another heavy sigh, as though he was relieved that I had interrupted his recanting. “It’s a lot to take in, isn’t it?”

“You have no idea.” The room was starting to spin and blur all at the same time.

“How about we continue this after lunch? Smells like your mother’s made your favorite curry chicken,” he said with a forced smile that made me want to weep in front of him.

“Yeah, let’s,” I said, bolting to my feet and rushing out the room before he could see my tears.

————–

This is based on a true story, with historical incidences but the names and relations are coincidental. 

Credits: Inset Photo from DeviantArt

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