3o minutes more, and a turn on left after the curve of the road, .... just 30 mins more.
The thought kept going on in her head
'At least, at the rate we are walking, we should get to the curve of the road soon' , she piped out to carlie.
He stares at her a bit curious as to think if she was the same person who had just walked the last three and a half hours with him in this baking sun.
'Seroiusly Sam, I dont know what you are excited about'. 'I've had it with this trek; I mean the whole thing was a mistake ... we should have just taken a cab.'
Sam turned back to look at her cousin carlie, more like a brother in her life .... 'unbelievable'
'What?, we've gotten lost twice in this romantic notion of how you remember the way we used to cut corners to Natatia's house'. 'Seriously Sam, the right route is less than 50minutes and we were kids then, with shorter legs. Now every tree looks the same and the flowers are all smelling like grass.'
The foolish smile on his face softened the landing of carlie's words, besides, it ment as much to him to walk the path through the trees and wild flower beds which as a matter of fact don't smell like grass at all.
As good an athlethe as he may be, the heat wasn't making it any easier for him or for her as well
Their cotton polo shirts were soaked in the pit area and every step they took had looked positively familiar.
For now, Sam, as though revived by an inner motivation, fixed her eyes on the tree some 20 feet ahead, a little off the track.
She knew the tree even in her dreams ... she buried at its base a little wooden box; about 4 by 6 by 2inches, and it held a few little treasures that meant the world to her just 5 years ago.
She walked closer off track to the tree. Its the tree alright, the only tree struck by lightening. It had caught fire and died to its root and has since then not brought forth any single leaf. At least thats the story Natatia told her when she was 8.
Bana told her that her mum said lightening never strikes twice in the same place. So as best friends, they had decided to make it their 'secret hiding place' for items considered precious.
Carlie did everything to persuade them that rattle snakes breed in the tree's roots and will soon show up to defend their territory. Sam smiled at her memory as she had swallowed the tale hook-line-sinker, but Bana ... rattle snakes be dammed. She'd fleet them out with insecticides, ... they killed everything that creeps and crawls.
Funny, no one ever laughed like Bana. If laughter was a talent, then Bana was very talented.
Bana and her pretty gap teeth, full of ideas and crapy inventions that never worked.
That girl was fun, thats if you didnt mind the pestering you have to put up with in her company, along with the power bike punishments dispensed to all who faulted by participating in Bana's wild schemes. At least wild for girls aged 8-12.
Sam got the tree and felt its dry bark once scortched by a fire older than her person. She remebered the scary stories made up with Bana so as to keep other girls from exploring thier 'secret hiding place'.
Rain, sand and wind had built up a bit of sand pile around its not so broad base where the opening to the 'secret hiding place' was located and just covered with a plank.
She stooped and reached for it.
Carlie watched the crazy girl in front of him and marveled at why he had agreed to this whole memory lane episode.
'so what are we digging for now, and please dont expect me to join you. I didn't play little girl back then and I'm not playing it now.'
'Seriously, Carlie, help me pull this root up a bit' ...
'Come on ....'
'Carlton!, its no snake, hold it up for me ... I need to pull this plank out of the way'
'what do expect to find behind that plank thats worth my time and effort?, An old doll?, it better be a classic worth a ton of cash!'
'Pleeeeeeease, Please, Please Please ... OK, I promise,I'll get you Rita's cell number'
'I dont know what you mean Sam.'
'We are in the same college chess club, I have her cell phone number ... and, I am talking about the 'Rita' who works part time at the school radio station'
'Oh!, she sounds great, at least, The guys think she makes the 'Afternoon blast' worth listening to ... you know.
Sam points out the root to Carlie, thinking what kind of fool Carlie thought her to be. The 'Afternoon Blast' wasn't that bad a radio show, and it wasn't that great either; but you'd catch most of campus news on it, and some certified juicy gossip, if you care.
Carlie holds up the root high and away from his body, concious of the fact that theres no point in getting dirty over an ancient rag doll to be rediscovered. Sam claws a bit of sand and some grass and finally tugs at her target item. The plank gave way, as though her hands had the print of a secret code that it would only answer to.
Not funny, more sand, some stones but the wooded box is in veiw.
Sam claws harder, escavating the sand to make room for her now larger hands to allow her grip a corner of the box for a firm pull.
Mixed feelings, the gloss is gone, the snap lock is on ... it remained untouched all these years behind her.
Bana's mum was right, lightening didn't srike it at all, no matter the wild rains and frightening storms.
Sam dusts the sand clogs from the wooden box and attempts the snap lock. Its resistance reminds her of the way it had to be tapped a bit here and there to prode the lock open.
The lid is free, and Sam pull it open, mentally repossesing its contents before he eyes look on them.
'What!?', this is worse than old dolls, worse than a new doll!. Seriously Sam, you are smarter than this. All this digging for that?
'And what do you know about it?, besides, you are getting Rita's number later tonight so be good and earn your keep.'
'You need some ice on that head of yours, after it manages to get through your weave. What makes you think Rita's number is any thing in a pay category?
'Kenny asked her out on the last night of school, but she said she had stuff to do and Kenny said he'll check on her later'
Sam wished she had a camera, Carlie hardly ever looked stunned, and today's rare episode was a classic ... bottom line, Carlie likes Rita.
'Sam, are you kidding about the phone number?
'Won't she think it strange when I call?
'She was delighted to find out we are related and not seeing each other, and she calls you 'Carlton', and always ask me how my day was, expanding any detail i have about you. I'm not stupid, I know fishing when I see it'.
'Wipe that smirk of your face Carlton, I've got issues with girls in my social circle dating my cuz ... a bit tricky and sure to be boring soon enough!'
'Now put that ugly box away, I've got issues with that.'
Sam smiled at content of the box, the only content of the treasure box ...
'Can we go on now?, I feel filthy and I'm getting hungry.'
... Sigh,'Alright, the curve is just up the track. The grass and flowers may have over grown it but its definitely up the track'.
Carlie didn't oppose this time, even he had a memory jolt, he sort of cared about the lightening struck tree even back then and had often snuck out to see what Sam and Bana had stashed out. The box had a latch that never gave way. Natatia had given Sam that wooden box, 'a safe' for precious things of the heart. What on earth?
Now Sam comes back for it!
It has to be playful coincidence.
Thw two walked on up the road, the curve now in view. No one spoke, each in a sea of thought as they put one foot in front of the other.
They looked hot, the dust, sand and grass on their sandals show they had been walking through the trees, in the grass path.
Carlie's mind wondered back, not to far, when the path was well worn by their feet, and could almost predict when anyone would walk over it.
He began to notice the smell of the flowers, or was it the grass that smelt fresh from the recent rain.
Bashiru and his stunted beloved puppy dog was he companion then, at least for reasonable things.
He wasn't as playful as Chinwendu, the best in football.
His two friends often played at the thought of how he and Sam had english names and yet, Sammuella got the 'buff' nick name while he got the girlie name which so far has stuck for life. He didn't mind. Actually, He liked the idea ... it was unique.
They got to the curve of road and Sams tarted to sing, more like fond tuneless muttering to Carlie.
He knew the song, and to his amazement, the words came fresh to him.
Child chatter that comforts the mind ... Natatia taught them the song.
He joined, but in his head.
His feet knew the way now, and they were approaching it.
It was covered in moss, like wet rusty green carpet.
A lizard was in its center, as one not expecting to be disturbed; their ascending steps persuaded it to move to a safer corner in the crack of the bridge.
'I miss this place'
'Me too, and way water used to trickle to the stream right from under the bridge. Bana and I would dream of sailing on a boat made of thick carton padding, we just waited for the water to rise to no avail.'
'Your girl friend has always been a nut head', ' Dont worry, the rain is coming soon, I'm sure it will trickle again like it should.
'You are funny!'
Laughter!, they both laughed out loud at joke even the resident lizard couldn't share in.
Thats what this place did to them, or anyone else.
The bridge to Natatia' garden house. So short and narrow a bridge, yet the launching pad for many wild dreams, play groups and the site of many territorial fights.
Boy - Girl, who ever won for the day manned the bridge with pride and a strong sense of possesion, vowing to never release it to the opponet.
'Sam, what's in the creepy box?'
'All of us'
'ALL-OF-US!, goodness, your hearing has gotten harder!'
Sam pulls open the lid of the box and hands Carlie the picture.
'Oh!', Carlie's breath holds for just a split second as he stares into 'all of us' ... a polaroid picture of Natatia, Bana, Bashiru, Chinwendu, Sam and Carlie, taken by a passer by with Natatia's polaroid camera.
They were having a picnic that day, their last before every one left for thier respect junior/senior secondary schools. It was pleasant, plain rock out fun. They all sat on the edge of the bridge ... no fights that day.
Belle filled with cakes , pies and ginger spiced drinks; aahhh!, let not forget the koolade.
Bashiru looked so carefree, they all froze in time and love.
Sam's voice sailed out to him, 'breathe...'
Carlie didn't realize he had held his breath quite a bit.
Breathing felt better.
'All of us' smiled back at him, assuring him of the good times that were never a lie.
Natatia looked so much younger and her hair fuller.
'I want a copy of this, Sam.'
'No problem, I'll facebook it'
The flowers weren't as many, but the smell was strong now ... wild flowers, each without a care like Sam and Bana in the picture.
The water lotus, bold and beautiful like Natatia.
Natatia, the world's greatest granny ever!
After that pinic, she had an incident, glycoma rapidly blinded her.
She who cared for all was to be cared for by a paid stranger.
She couldn't be stopped, going about as she pleases with the help of her escort.
Still as bossy as ever!, at least on the phone.
She refused to moved out of her house.
She's expecting Sam and Carlie.
Carlie's BB notification goes off and its Bashiru's ping,' We r at Nattie's hse, & U guys r l8, whats d fuss?'
'We are at the 'Golden Bridge', We'll be in in about 12-15 minutes' Carlie pings back.
Bashiru pings back ' U & Sam get her quick! Bana is talking me crazy'
And some things didn't change.
Carlie pings Chinwendu, 'I hope you brought your super lens camera?'
Chinwend pings, 'sure thing'.
Carlie pings back, ' Sam and I have the biggest surprise for u guys'
With the beautiful bungalow in view, Sam asks Carlie, ' do you think Natatia will remember?'
Carlie answers with a smile, 'How could she forget?, Its 'all of us''.