It was like someone dropped a bomb muting all noise the ears could pick as she sauntered towards the front for her much awaited testimony. Nicola had always complained about the carpet of silence we made her walk on each time we would act like we were going to die if we missed on the surprise she has got waiting for us. She said the quiet always made her feel like she was entering a chapel and needed to fall down on her knees to say a little prayer.
“Ok! I have cast out the spell of silence. Now, you could all go back to your chatty selves.” That was clearly an attempt to get everyone resume twittering. Ordinarily, that “Nicola talk” would have done the trick but except for a few polite laughs, we were all hung on suspense on what show she had brewed for the occasion.
We did not have to wait long.
“Now, Julia, I had prepared something for you but I would not give that to you now as I originally intended.. That would come later. Instead I would give you this set of cutleries I stole from the cutlery collection of Evas’ mom.”
“Eva, you would not need to worry.” She chuckled. “Like my mom, I would bet your mom would never notice anything missing in your house.” I could only guess what her message was behind the cutlery sets but I knew what she meant in her last statement and I could feel her pain. That moment, I thought of my mother and how much I missed her warmth embrace. God! It had been two long years since I last saw her.
“This wouldn’t be because I want you to learn using them, far from it. It would be because you taught us not to fear going out of our comfort zones. You showed us the need to unshackle ourselves from the chains that keeps us from enjoying the fun of living our lives in freedom.” It was a beautiful compliment. I could almost cry. I wanted to tell them, they were the ones who taught me the beauty of living a life of someone really “born free”.
I could not help myself. I embraced Nicola and let my tears roll. She would not know and neither would I at that time, how much influence she would be playing in my life.
“Now stop those tears so I could do my own part!” said Eva chortling. Without wasting time, she fished out a beautiful necklace from her pocket and handed it to me.
“Julia, we have pooled our daily allowance for a week so we could buy you this necklace. We hope that each time you would wear it, you would remember us. We all had our initials engraved inside the heart locket as Julia your name would always be engraved in our hearts.” I closed my eyes. I feel so blessed. This time I did not want to cry. Eva would always tell me how she would shout with joy when she was happy. I wanted to shout with joy and shout with joy I did.
It was my turn. This was to be my testimony but also my farewell speech. After tonight, I may never see them again. The thought sent a stab on my throat.
“I had stayed awake each evening trying to think of one beautiful testimony I would leave behind which would have you thinking of me even when I would be gone. I was glad I did not have to think of material things to give you because you knew too well I could not afford it. That’s the advantage of having rich friends. You would not have to give them material things. They could easily buy those things for themselves.”
There was laughter. I paused to look into each one’s face. They were all brimming with smiles. I smiled back. I wish there were video cameras then to capture that smile. It must be one of the most beautiful smiles I ever wore on my face.
“I had been very fortunate to have had the beautiful experience of having you be part of my life. I was blessed and I just could not think of a great way to thank everybody. I could only offer you a promise. I promise to keep the beautiful spirits that you are, alive in my heart and in my thoughts. You would be alive in the stories I would be telling my friends back home about you. I would tell your stories to every important person that would come into my life. I would tell your stories to anyone who listens. I would tell it to the world. And Eva, because you made a way for this friendship to happen, you deserve a special mention.”
My testimony was met by a stunning silence. Everyone was misty eyed.
“Promise you write a book about it and let us know. I would order a ton ” shouted Betty. That “I would !” I retorted in a jest. Whatever I said next was drowned by a thunderous applause.
The book never came but I delivered my promise and continue to deliver. They had all gone ahead of me now. But wherever they are, I hope they are all cheering for me.