I knew dad was responsible for John’s disappearance, even though there was no evidence to prove it.
I acted calm, sold the water for the day, and then went back home without asking him about anything.
I was scared he would hurt John if I talked about it.
I kept it to myself, but I just cried in my closet, praying that God would protect John.
He had been through so much in his life and didn’t deserve anything that happened to him.
John didn’t do anything to me to warrant such punishment.
Even in the street, he could barely feed himself, and I wondered how he would cope.
Dad would have just focused on me and done anything he felt like doing to me instead of hurting someone who had done nothing to him.
The next day, before I went to hawk my pure water, dad was also about to leave at the same time.
I was forced to ask him. I didn’t even greet him for the day, I just said, “Sir, please, I want to ask you a question.”
He stared at me, and his face said it all. He knew where John was.
“Catherine, I’m running late. Whatever you want to tell me can wait.
I know you want to ask about school, but you should know you need to put more effort if you really want to continue your studies,” he said, stamping his feet on the ground.
I didn’t even want to ask about school because all hope was lost.
I wasn’t sure if I was going back to school unless a miracle happened.
“Sir, please, where is John?” I asked, shivering, and I moved back so he wouldn’t hīt me.
His face changed after I asked that question.
He came at me and raised his hand. I shifted a bit and said, “Why should you ask me that kind of question, Catherine?”
He asked, “Have you lost it or don’t you have manners again?”
I knew guilt was written all over him, and he wasn’t ready to tell the truth, but his face gave it away.
“You know what, I don’t have time for those kinds of questions,” he finally said as he got into his car and revved the engine.
He pointed towards the gate, and when I ran and opened it, he sped out so fast that he nearly hīt me with the car.
I was determined to find John. He shouldn’t have to suffer the same fate I did with my own father.
I didn’t even know how or where to start looking for him.
I grabbed my water and walked slowly outside the gate towards the junction.
I felt like I had lost everything that day. I couldn’t smile, couldn’t talk to anyone.
I was so down. The only person who could make me smile again was taken away from me, and I had no idea how to find him.
The other hawkers and I even organized a search for John, but it was fruitless.
There was no trace of him. The woman he borrowed the water from came with the police to arrėst him for running away with her money.
When she arrived, I was the first to spot the police, and I was scared at first.
But since I hadn’t done anything wrong, there was no need to run.
I stood still, and when they approached us, they said, “Don’t be scared, the police are your friends.”
It was obvious that we were scared because some people started running away.
They asked, “Have you seen David today?”
We all replied in unison, “We haven’t seen him for the past four days, ever since some people came and dragged him into a car and took him away.”
It was like we had all planned what to say.
“The woman who was initially upset carried a pitiful face.
They all left, while I sat down thinking of how four days had gone by like that and John was still nowhere to be seen.
I wondered if he was still alive. I had missed talking to him and the way he advised me like a father would.
I didn’t leave the house without thoroughly searching if I could find John, but it was obvious that Dad had hidden him somewhere.
Because if he was in the house, there was nowhere I wouldn’t have found him.
Another day passed, and Dad was the first to leave the house.
He had a business meeting. I was about to leave the house when my stepmother stopped me.
She said, “Catherine, come here. There is something I want to tell you, but promise you won’t tell your father.”
I was surprised because she had never told me anything before since we didn’t even get along.
Or maybe pregnancy had a way of changing people,I thought to myself.
But I had to give her a listening ear. I sat down on the couch, which was the only time I had to enjoy its comfort.
She started, “There is a boy in the storeroom.”
She didn’t even finish, and I started screaming, “Jesus, John” I wanted to run to the storeroom.
I checked everywhere else, but I didn’t have the key to that particular room.
Dad kept a lot of things there. She asked me to calm down, and she continued, “Although I don’t like you or your mother, I wouldn’t want a young boy to diē in this house.
Your dad told me everything. Just get him out of there.
He hasn’t eaten for days and might diē”.
I didn’t care about anything else she said. ‘Where is the key?’
I asked, and when she gave it to me, I ran to the storeroom and opened the door.
John was tied to a chair, and his mouth and hands were tied with ropes.
When I untied him, he fell to the floor face down.
I called his name, but he didn’t answer.