They arrived in town at around 13hr. As much as they hadn't enjoyed the overcrowded and steamy bus ride, they'd kind of missed it and, the sentiment was felt across the whole bus. Even once outside the bus, the same energy resonated. Everybody was greeting everybody, frowns were a foreign concept as and even drivers were waving hi to jaywalkers instead of flipping them the bird. Things sure were looking up.
Stadium fireworks - by 12019 - CCO, pixabay.com
Lena: So, Lala. What's the first thing you want to do?
Asked Lena as she put her phone in her jeans.
Lala: Let's go get our nails done. No! Ice creeeam! Then we can get our nails done, and then our hair done, and then our feet done.
Lena: Uhmmm How about we do the hair tomorrow. You might mess up your hairdo up when you go swimming in a few hours.
Lala: No! I want to be as pretty as you in the pictures. We'll buy a swimming cap on the way to the pool just in case.
Lena: They're not always effective you know.
Lala: Then we'll go get it done tomorrow again.
Lena: 😂 Yes boss.
Lena wasn't joking. The last few months had been hell back home. Understandably, Lala had been more frustrated than the rest and with all her pent up energy she'd been akin to an agent of chaos. She meant no harm, but you can't expect a 5 year old to not grow restless after spending 7 months without playing with her friends and/or indulging in her escapades, you just can't. Pandemic or not, a 5 year doesn't and shouldn't get used to such a life.
Which is why a few weeks ago, her sister who lives in town and who she hadn't seen in months promised her that if she behaved until the DIVOC restrictions were lifted, she'd come over to pick her up and give her the time of her life on the day of Firework 0'Clock as she knew that seeing fireworks were on Lala's bucket list. "Firework'O Clock" as it's organizers called it was the the main event of that day but preeceding it and even after it, were a lot more activities for kids and adults alike, all to be held in and around the stadium that had been barely inaugurated when the pandemic hit. Although the main event itself wasn't going to be free, during the day all sports and organized games would be free for kids, and discounted for adults. Even in the after hours most venues would be offering massive discounts. The biggest companies in the country were in on it, the government was in on it, and almost every citizen wanted to partake, many willing to make trip from outside of town.
Lala had indeed behaved, as much as she could at least. Lena intended to keep her promise and had it all figured out and planned. She'd spend the whole day with her sister then take her to her cousin where they were going to spend the weekend at around 22:00, put her to sleep with a lullaby, and then head out for a long overdue get together with her friends. And the next day, rinse repeat.
And so here we are, 0'Clock day.
Lena: Ok, let's go to Balibali, apparently the best mall in the stadium. I hear they have great ice cream flavors, a very diverse food court, hair salons and all the activities will be at a walking distance. So, you down or want the usual place?
Lala: I like the name, Balibali. Let's go there. Let's go on motos, I've always wanted to that.
Lena: Not yet, you're still too young. We'll take a taxi cab.
Lala: But you said I could have whatever I wanted.
Lena: Within reason of course.
Lena said caressing her little sister's head.
Lala: Ok, pouted Lala.
🚘 + 🤳 + Hihihuhu =>🏟️
Once at the stadium they didn't take the escalators but decided to walk Balibali mall which was on the third floor. They were in no rush and both had been dying to see the rumored futuristic architecture that's sprinkled with traditional designs. Three words. Elegance without trying. With each floor they were more astonished than with the last. They kept wandering off to check out the stores, taking pictures of the artworks depicting national landmarks, myths and legends that were imbued in the walls. The ambiance was also exquisite. Smooth jazz in the background, laughter and banter in the forefront, a charming and ridiculously attractive staff, and play fighting kids that added a liveliness that hadn't been felt in ages.
It took them 30 minutes to clear the first two floors, but who could blame. As soon as they stepped into Balibali they were hit with such a rich mix of aromas that their stomachs growled in unison. As with the previous floors, Balibali was jam-packed despite it encompassing most of the third floor. Luckily though, our heroes didn't struggle to find a table and barely they start reading the menu that the waitress arrives.
Waitress1: Balibali no mi, how may I serve you?
Lala: The Neapolitan milkshake for me please.
Lena: You should take something else but nothing too heavy either. Can't go play on an empty or too full stomach.
Lala: Ha! I'm way ahead of you. I'll also have the cheese and ham sandwich.
Lena: Good. The chicken fillet, fries and the same milkshake as her.
Waitress1: Coming right up!
While they waited Lena handed Lala the fees for tonight's main event and told her to go purchase the tickets. As if it's fate, Lala got back to their table at the same time as their milkshakes.
Both: Cheers! 🍻(Milkshake version.)
The shakes were life changing. As they enjoyed them Lena took the opportunity to teach Lala about the history, importance and significance of all those landmarks carved in the mall. She then looks up, points at the deity in ceiling, Imana he's called, the first and main Rwandese god. She tells his known tales, origin, what he represents, and then she does the same for the other trapped gods. At least for the ones she knows. Lala's fascination with the wall is quickly apparent, so apparent she doesn't see this coming.
Lena: 😂😂 Brain freeeze! I think you better slow down.
Lala: 😂 Yeah. But what comes next?
Lena: That's pretty much all I know on the subject. Maybe you can learn it and teach me one day?
Lena said playfully elbowing her sister.
Lala nods, vows to do so then resumes sipping her milkshake.
Lena: Oh the food's here. Well they're quite fast.
Waitress1: Thanks. Our cooks are something else...Here's your sandwich.... Your fillet and fries. Anything else?
Both: We're good, thanks.
The food was indeed worth the hype, so much so they gobbled their dishes and were done in an instant. They gave themselves 20 minutes to digest, decided that the salon would be for tomorrow and then headed to the swimming pool area on the first floor. Once there Lala was unstoppable. One minute she was swimming, the other playing soccer, then in the arcade, handball and then the swimming pool again. Meanwhile Lela followed along, always at a watching distance with her novel and red wine glass faithfully in her hands. Before she knew it, it was already 6 past 18, not even an hour before firework O'clock.
Lena: Crap! 4 missed calls and 6 unread messages.... LANA! GET OUT OF THE POOL! IT'S TIME TO GET READY!
Lala: Comiiiing. Just one last lap!
Back at Balibaba, the same waitress approaches where they are seated.
Waitress1: Balibali no mi, Happy to see you again so soon. How may I serve you?
Lena: I'll have Chicken fillet but with only a salad this time. Lala, make your order fast. We don't have much time.*
Lala: A cheeseburger with fries and a Neapolitan milkshake will do.
Lena: Noooo, you've already had one today, maybe tomorrow.
Lala: Please, pretty pleeaaase.
Lena: ...Ok, fine. Just don't tell mom.
Waitress1: Got it. Coming right up!
Lena's phone starts ringing again and this time she has no choice but to respond, but not wanting to face the wrath of her boss in front of Lala, she excuses herself.
Her boss, is a handful. Just like Lena she started from the bottom. She is as inspiring as she is terrifying, had to had to kick and claw her way her to the top and now the CEO of TEXTINAP.ltd, Celicia Tongoremy doesn't pulls no punches, specially now that the first non virtual board meeting is happening since the lockdowns. As her personal secretary Lena gets the brunt of it. This time though, it was different. This time Lena fights back.
Sure, she understood that her boss was also under a lot of pressure, sure she understood what she had bargained for when she had signed up for working for a perfectionist but, this week her loyalty and hard work had been abused this week told to repeat the same task over and over again because her boss kept changing her mind. To make matters worse, they had made an agreement that she wouldn't be bothered this weekend, weeks ago. Yet Celicia was trying to change the terms, insisting that Lena should head to the office ASAP!
Lena was having none of that which resulted in a very heated conversation, so much so that she's starts fast stepping all over the place. She then catches a glimpse of her phone's screen and notices that 16 minutes had passed since their phone call started. Without hesitation she hangs up and rushes to their seat only to find Lala's shake finished, though no Lala to speak of. Lena panics.
She takes off while her mind also races. She wasn't even gone for 20 minutes, where could have Lala run off to. At this time, in this crowd, in this city in which she knows practically no one and, she has no phone! Where are you Lala? Is she still on this floor? If not, the arcade, a last viewing of the pool, where? She blitzes past their waitress and into the crowd in which she twists and wriggles through. Looked like her formative years as a soccer player were still paying off but unfortunately, not enough. Before she knew it she'd ran into an innocent bystander spilling his drink on his fancy looking shirt.
Bystander: Hey watch it!
Lena: I'm so sorry, it's just...
Bystander: (Sighs) Never mind, just be careful.
Her phone starts ringing again. She sighs, thinks about throwing it but switches it off instead, and as she's about to resume her sprint, shes stopped in her tracks by their waitress who asks;
Waitress1: Hey What's wrong? you look frantic.
Lena: I cant find my sister. Help me find my sister!
Waitress1: You should ask our spotter over there. If anyone would know where she is it would be him, and don't worry I'm sure she's fine.
Lena: Hi I need your help!
Spotter1: Balibali no...
Lena: Have you seen a dark girl about yea high, brown eyes wide smile, she's wearing slightly oversized blue shorts and a just as big Messi jersey, and... What am I fckin doing, I have pictures.*
She reached in her purse, grabbed her phone and switched it back on. It only took about a minute for it to properly switch on but it felt like forever.
Lana: Here! Have you seen her?
Spotter1: Oh, her. Yes, I did see her. Just a few minutes ago I saw her heading over there with what I assume is an interracial couple.
The spotter said pointing to the trio standing right next to where our pair had been sitting earlier.
Lena: You gotta be kidding me, sorry for the rudeness, thanks!
Spotter1: Don't mention it, visit us again!
🏃🏾♀️(Realizing she needs to exercise more often.)
Lala: Lenaaa! Where have you been?
Lala asked while jumping on Lena.
Lena: Worried sick. Where were you and who are your new friends?
Lala: Oh I just met them, they were helping me find you. I went to the bathroom and when I came back didn't see you at the table or where you had gone to take the call. I was so worried!
Lena: It's ok I'm here now.
Dex: Hi, I'm Dex and this is my fiancee, Lala was just telling us how much of an amazing sister you are.
Lena: I try, but thanks. Nice to meet you guys.
Makena: We were telling her to stay in her seat and that you'd be just around the corner and that we'd stay with her just in case.
Lena: I see. Thank you.
Lena said holding her sister's hand while their waitress also arrives with the food.
Lala: Say Makena, can I ask you a a question?
Makena: Sure sweetie, go ahead.
Lala: When you guys have babies, will one come out black and the other white?
Speechless, Makena looks at Dex, then they both look at Lena who's still winded, and then they all look at Lala. On queue they all crack up, tears forming soon after.
Lala: What? What's so funny?
Lena:hhhhhh Nothing. But let us get to munching, we ain't got much time left.
Dex: hhhh Let us not disrupt you while you eat. We're gonna go grab a quick bite ourselves, hopefully we'll meet come firework 0'clock.
Lala: I would so love that!*
Makena: Alright, we'll see you guys inside.*
On the clock, there wasn't much talking this time, just a few glimpses and winks here and there in between bites. The food done they called out for their waitress.
Lena: Hi. First of all you have been such a sweetheart to us. Thanks! Second, what's your name if you don't me asking? Every time I come it's you I want.
Waitress1: Melissa. And don't mention, it was my pleasure.
Lena: Lovely name. Here, take this.
Melissa: Thanks, but that's way too muc...
Lena: Just take it, it's way less than you deserve anyway.
Melissa: Thanks so much! Visit us soo
Lala: See you tomorrow!
Lala said hugging Melissa.
Lena: Alright, let's go. You got everything?
Lala: Yeah, we can go.
Lena: Ok, hand me the tickets. It'll be quicker if I handle it at the check in.
Without a word they both search themselves in vain and panic sets in.
18:54 - It's been 2 minutes since they picked their belongings, rushed to the boutique where Lala bought the tickets earlier with Lena not letting of Lala's hand, and fought their way through the mall's traffic at it's peak but, they finally made it. It's closed.
Lala's smile completely fades and Lena is forced to watch her spirit shatter. Her hands shake and look like they weigh a ton. She tries to hold her tears and attempts to apologize to her sister for making her lose a fortune for nothing, for being careless but even then the words won't come out. Lena kneels down, hugs her and tells her it's all good, that everything will be fine and that they'll just find something else to do, but that only make the waterworks flood. So they just stay there, silent, watching the line to the main event diminish, and Lena wondering what do to
Makena: Hi guys, what's wrong? Why are you so down?
Our sisters lift their heads to see their new pals next to them, both holding funny looking massive popcorns.
Lala: I..(sob) I..(sob).. I lost our tickets and now we can't get in because the boutiques are closed. Why am I so dumb?
Makena: Oh I'm so sorry sweetie. But you're not dumb, we all blunder from time to time.
Dex: Hey Makena, how about we give them our tickets, we've seen enough fireworks for a lifetime haven't we?
Makena: We sure have, you guys can have our tickets. And Lala, hopefully one day you'll tell me what you thought of of the fireworks.(Wink.) We're keeping the popcorn though.
Lena: That's so generous, but are you sure? These are V.I.P tickets after all
Dex: Positive! You guys just focus on having a great time tonight.
Lala: Oh yes we will!
And on that note, the sisters thank their benefactors, exchange contacts as tomorrow Lala will be telling her experience to the couple. They hug for a bit and then go on their merry way.
Bouncer6: Balibali no mi, your tickets please.
Bouncer6: You guys have a great time, visit us again!
They can't believe it, they actually made it in the nick of time. Both giggling they rush to their seats and barely they sit that;
MC: Laaadies and gentlemen! Long time no see, long time no speak, long time, no feels. But tonight we change that! No long pleasantries, let's just light up the sky, overload on selfies and then send you off to a merry weekend, filled with laughter and festivities!
crcrcrcrcrcrc - by emkanicepic - CC0, pixabay.com
In that instant the fireworks take off and 3 seconds later the night erupts confetti in the midst of cheers and blasting music. As they crackle Lala's smile grows wider and wider, the beam in her eyes shine brighter and brighter and then she starts to clap profusely. Lela follows suit while staring at her amazed sibling.
Lena stares at her astonished sister and can't help but be a bit jealous of her sister's innocence and joie de vivre. She makes a decision. Today was all about Lala and so will tonight. She texts her friends in the group chat telling them that she won't make it to the barbeque, tells them it's Lala season but that she'll make it up to them soon.
Yeah, their night will go on, they'll go sightseeing for a bit then go to their cousin and movie night will begin. It will probably be frozen again but hey, she's the boss.
And then somehow, while maintaining her smile, Lala yawns, and Lena yawns back. Or maybe they'll just call it a day after this. Regardless, today was a good day.