“Gerald, are you going to answer me?” Mrs. Bannerman asked with an increasing annoyance.
“I’m sorry, but…”
“You are sorry? Sorry indeed!” she cut him short.
At this point, Gerald began to tremble. He looked towards Laudina’s hoping that she would be his saviour. She seemed to get his message.
“Mum,” Laudina said calmly, putting her arm around Mrs. Bannerman’s neck. “I’ve asked him quite a lot about Petrina already. He was trying to explain something to me. Can we please compose ourselves and listen to him?”
Gerald took in a deep breath. He was so confused yet so many answers were demanded from him.
“Well. I am quite unsure of what exactly is happening but it appears as though Petrina has not been home since yesterday. I however want to assure you that she left my house at about 8pm, long before the rains started. I tried calling her myself but she never picked up any of the calls. Later, her phone was off. I wondered why myself.”
At that instance, Mrs. Bannerman broke into tears. Laudina seemed to console her, but before Gerald could blink, she had started crying too.
Gerald stared at mother and daughter crying their hearts out. He was so clueless.
Lord, what do I do? What help can I give when I’m also confused myself? Where is Petrina? Where did she go to after leaving my house?
“Oh! Where is my daughter?” Mrs. Bannerman asked in between her sobs as she looked towards the skies. “Oh, tell me God, is she okay?”
Gerald turned his thoughts back to the previous night. He didn’t remember Petrina showing any sign of reluctance about going home.
What has happened to her? I pray she wasn’t attacked.
Just then, there was a knock on the door. Gerald took one look at the weeping women and knew he would have to check the door. He walked with no sense of urgency; no sense of hope that Petrina could be behind the door. He opened it to see Benjamin Benson, Laudina’s fiancé.
“Hey! Gerald! Good to see you! How?” he extended his hand for their usual handshake but Gerald just stared at him with eyebrows raised. Benjamin seemed to draw nothing from this response. He just kept wearing his smile and entered the house, whistling.
Gerald shook his head. Benjamin was always of good cheer. He wondered how he would react to the situation that prevailed at that moment.
When Benjamin noticed his fiancé and mother-in-law to-be sitting on the porch, crying their hearts out, he stopped in his tracks.
“Ei! What is happening?”
Somehow, Gerald still noticed a bit of cheer in his voice. He wondered the point at which it would get missing.
“Petrina…” Gerald started.
“Yes, Petrina! She was acting in such a weird manner. What is wrong with her?” Benjamin asked even before Gerald could finish speaking.
His statement seemed to catch the attention of the women.
“What weird manner, Benji?” asked Laudina. “Petrina is missing. We have not seen her since yesterday.”
“Yesterday? But she left the house this morning.”
“Which house?” Mrs. Bannerman asked.
“You women are full of drama indeed! How many houses does she have?” he threw his head backwards and began to laugh.
Oh my! Gerald thought. I’ve always loved how jovial Benjamin is, but not today. Doesn’t he realise what is happening?
Gerald came in. “Benjamin,” he mentioned his name with firmness hoping that it would help him notice his bliss did not suit the environment. It seemed to work. Benjamin turned to him looking very attentive.
“Benjamin. Petrina is missing, okay. She left my house yesterday evening but somehow, she never got home.”
Benjamin was silent for a while. He appeared to be analyzing something. “But that can’t be!”
“Why?!!” everyone yelled at him.
“I saw her today.”
“You what?” Mrs. Bannerman asked.
“I saw her. I was on my way to the tennis court. I met her around Mango road. She said she had to pick something urgently from a friend’s house.”
“Benjamin? You met Petrina? Today? At Mango road?”
“Yes, mum.” He replied. Gerald noticed a strong wave of seriousness on his face. “She was walking toward the main road. It was so early, even before seven. She explained that she had to leave the house early because her friend would not be available later in the day. She looked so dirty and acted in such a queer manner. I questioned her about it, but she insisted she was okay. She even told me that she would be back home by the time I get here.”
“Benji, Petrina told you all this?” Laudina asked with a trembling voice.
“Petrina told you she left the house this morning?” Mrs. Bannerman added. “But my Petrina never lies…” her voice trailed off.
Just then, Mrs. Bannerman’s phone began to ring. Everyone’s attention was drawn to it. They noticed it was Petrina calling. For a few seconds, they all simply stared at the vibrating phone. Gerald decided to take the initiate to press the receive button and activate the loudspeaker.
“Hello, mummy.” There was an obvious sense of fear and uncertainty in the voice coming from the other end of the line. But it was Petrina’s voice for sure.
“Petrina!” everyone shouted at almost the same time.
The line went dead. There was no reply.
“Petrina, are you there?” Mrs. Bannerman asked.
“Petrina, talk to us. Are you okay?” this came from Laudina.
The call ended at that moment. Mrs. Bannerman immediately called her back. The phone was switched off. She tried two more times but had the same feedback. Gerald also dialed her number but couldn’t reach her either.
Everyone was silent. One thought seemed to be running through their minds.
Where is Petrina?
Did Petrina call because she was considering coming back home? The story continues…