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The day Eva died, the music died in everyone.
The cold silence of death rested over the Ditorusin residence like an ill-omened fog. No more music, no more dancing. Each day arose without words or laughter. Smiles, if ever there were any, passed over faces briefly without warmth. They had all been affected in different ways; the shock of the tragedy left them all wrecked.
Wura’s nightmares had returned and they didn’t come with their former pleasures. The familiar entity she dreaded now visited her almost every night to choke her. She would wake up screaming, drenched in sweat and calling out the name of Jesus. For the first week, she suffered the torture alone. The second week, Mahmud moved her to his home and took her to see a psychologist despite her objections.
Kasi buried himself in a project he had abandoned in the past. He locked himself in whenever he was home and put his entire effort to completing the project. His relationship with Chichi suffered. He distanced himself from her and didn’t bother whether it upset her or not. His only concern was Lexus.
Lexua was still lost to the world around her. Every day came and went without leaving a mark. She sat in her room all day and night without communication to anyone. An expert had been called in to examine her and his prognosis indicated that she was fine. He instructed that she be watched closely for any changes and assured that she would get better with time. But time wasn’t really on their side; Eva had to be buried and Lexus had kept them all waiting three weeks.
Dominic and Genesis faced their businesses and tried to resume normalcy in the work place. At home, their bond tightened. The shock over Dominic’s confession of how he brutalized Bashorun had passed and Genesis was willing to let their relationship continue. But it was no small decision on her part to stand by him, to defend him and find justifications for why he acted the way he did. A few times she had considered walking out the door and disappearing from everyone entirely. Yet she would wake up every morning to his face, to the memories of laughter and intimacies of a not-so distant past, the echoes of which still lingered in his eyes and touch; and she would have no need to leave. He was hurting, she could tell, but there were no outward signs.
Bashorun had managed to survive and recovered quite quickly, yet he pressed no charges. The silence from his end was a cause of anxiety for Genesis. She feared that he could do something dangerous in retaliation but Bashorun was more interested in beefing up his image in the media. To the outside world, he was mourning the death of his beloved fiancée and mother of his unborn child. Gossip blogs lapped his sob story like ravenous dogs. He shared heartfelt photos of Eva, showing a side of her nobody ever saw. A good number of the photos were of her in bed, without makeup and mostly asleep. The others were selfies of them together. Nigerians soon forgot his history of scandalous escapades with other people’s women and his unhealthy number of baby mamas. He became the man of the moment.
“Eva was an angel and she will be missed. By her fans, by her family but most importantly by me. We had plans. Together we wanted to build a talent school for underprivileged kids, to train them in their dreams but… now she’s gone.”
Genesis walked into Dominic’s room and stopped before the bed, where a laptop was streaming live, Bashorun’s exclusive interview with Toolz. Genesis crossed her arms and brought her eyebrows to a frown as she watched him.
“Genesis, are you set?”
She turned to the voice of Dominic coming from the bathroom. He emerged from there, folding up the sleeves of a black shirt he had tucked in black pants. Despite the fact that he had lost weight, he looked good. She wanted to tell him so but she changed her mind.
“So, she will be buried this morning…” Toolz’s voice made Genesis turn back to the laptop. “Why did it take so long? Three weeks after her death? Why?”
“Well, the police are still carrying out their investigations. Her family and I needed to be sure that she really died in her sleep as has been reported. We wanted to rule out every possibility of foul play, considering the circumstances surrounding her death.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, she died in the bedroom of a woman she wasn’t so friendly with in the house of the man whom she had ended things terribly with…”
Genesis’ jaw dropped open. “Can you imagine!”
“But you are very close with this same man, Dominic Ditorusin, who is Eva’s ex and father of her child.” Toolz stated.
“We used to be close friends. He was never supportive of my relationship with Eva. He did everything to separate us.”
“I’ll make no replies to that question yet but everything will soon come to light.”
“So you’re insinuating that Evangeline Ogiame was murdered?”
“I am not insinuating anything. The primary autopsy reports read that she died in her sleep. In two months’ time, we hope to get the full report after thorough investigation. I don’t want to believe…”
Dominic walked to the bed and slammed the laptop shut.
“Did he just accuse us of murdering Eva?” Genesis asked.
“He’s looking for trouble,” Dominic replied, took Genesis face in his hands and kissed her. “Ignore him.”
“Everybody will start looking at me different, Nick. No one knew she died in my room. He just revealed it to the world and now they’ll think I killed her.”
“Ignore him, I said, and everyone else, okay?”
“But I’m going for her funeral.”
“Shh. You were good to Eva that night and that’s all that matters, baby. Forget what anyone out there today will think. And erm… I don’t dream that much but I had a good dream today. Eva was here,” he said, looking around the room. “She told me to, I quote, ‘throw a freaking party.”
“No. She was standing where you are right now.”
Genesis took a step backwards and he laughed – for the first time in weeks.
“But are you throwing the party?”
“Nope. I never really did anything Eva wanted me to do.”
He leaned forward and kissed Genesis’ lips again.
“Go put on some makeup. I have some things to handle.”
He began for the door but she stopped him.
“How about Lexus? She’s still not speaking to anyone.”
Dominic slipped his right hand into his pocket and pulled out his phone. “Actually she is. Texted me this morning.” He held out the phone and peered into the screen. “She says, ‘Dad can I shave my hair for Eva?’”
Genesis smiled in relief. “And your answer?”
As if prompted, loud music broke into the air from Lexus’ bedroom, bringing with it a good feeling of nostalgia that left Dominic and Genesis with smiles.
“See? Everything’s fine. Relax.”
After Dominic left the room, Genesis remained standing, listening to the sounds of Usher singing Good Kisser.
She didn’t want to at first, but she found herself nodding to the beat at some point.
She was to sing at the funeral. But her voice was slightly out of shape. Breathing exercises and lozenges didn’t help and to worsen her situation, she was in that stage where sleep was a lot sweeter during the day, heightened by the fact that her nightmares had made it hard for her to sleep the night before.
She woke up, tired and lazy. Mahmud hadn’t spent the night with her as an emergency had taken him to work and dumped him in the theater for eight hours. Lethargically, Wura tried to go over the song she was working on but long yawns and stretches interrupted her rehearsal session and she stretched out on Mahmud’s bed for what she thought was going to be a brief nap but then she slept for another two hours.
It took Mahmud snuggling behind her to wake her up. It was a misty and pleasant feeling having him that close to her. They hadn’t been that cuddly in a while. He mostly slept in the sitting room.
“You’re almost late,” he whispered in her ear. “You have less than an hour. I’ve been calling you but your phone rang off the hook.”
She turned around to meet his face.
“I’m worried about you,” he said.
“You want to share with me what you and the psychologist have been discussing?”
“He told you why you’re having those dreams?”
“I don’t want to talk about it, Mymood.”
“Sorry. Just wanted to know how you’re doing.”
“I’m okay. I just can’t take away that picture of Eva in my head.”
“It will go away soon.”
“I pray so.”
He took her hand and slid his fingers between hers. They lay down silently for a couple minutes until her phone started to ring.
She took the call. It was from Kasi; he wanted to know where she was. She told him she was on her way. After the call, she was drawn into Mahmud’s arms and delivered an indulgent kiss.
“Marry me, Wuraola. I won’t make you convert to Islam, I won’t change you, I’ll just love you.”
“Aww, Mymood…” She placed her hand on his stubble and rubbed over it gently. “Ask me another day. Not today.”
After leaving a peck on his nose, she got off the bed.
“The dreams… it’s a spiritual thing.”
Mahmud navigated his car towards one of two lanes that read eTag as they neared the first tollgate coming from Victoria Island towards Lekki.
“What do you mean spiritual?”
Wura kept mute.
“Sleeping with some random guy two years ago and having dreams about him don’t make it spiritual. Something triggers your episodes and I’m very certain Eva’s death was another trigger. So, nothing weird or supernatural is happening to you.”
“Genesis also feels it’s spiritual.”
“Oh, come on, mami. You should know better.”
The car drove past the eTag lane and continued on a freer route in the course of their destination. Wura wanted to press on the conversation but Mahmud was a skeptic when it came to certain religious opinions. She let it rest and shut her mouth about the previous night’s episode. It hadn’t been the same guy that visited her in her dreams, there had been more. All were men she had slept with in the past, represented in the face of one man. As horrific as the dream had been, it had left her more confused. She wondered what the psychologist would say about it. So far she wasn’t liking her sessions with him. He was digging up her nasty past.
It didn’t feel good one bit.
She turned her face to Mahmud. His eyes were fixed ahead of him, shielded by tired eyelids that held long, fine lashes. His facial features were notched and conspicuous. She felt lucky being with him, grateful that she found someone who loved her even after all she had done. She wanted to say yes to him, to damn whatever magnitudes hung over them and ride off to the sunset. He saw life through stress-free eyes. He was at ease with the world. He carried no burdens on his shoulders except hers.
But she was afraid that she would destroy the good man in him. Sometimes she still felt the old person in her stir. Elicits of her past constantly reminded her that her history might never be evicted forever. The struggle to be free completely was difficult. Not even all of Mahmud’s loving could assure her that things were going to be fine.
“Masoyina,” he called in the new Hausa petname he had recently dubbed her. “You want to kiss me, this one that you’re looking at me like this? I can just park and you can take me.”
“Just drive jor.”
“I love you too, baby.”
They were all waiting for her but he was particularly waiting outside her door. The music in her room was really loud and he could hardly hear his own thoughts. But he didn’t need to. They were etched on every part of him, displaying how much he had missed her. It showed in his eyes, on his face, in the way he walked, the words he said and the way he went about his business. She had been the pulse to his lifesong. He prayed that she stepped out of her room with some sort of healing in her eyes as he had some waiting for her.
The loud music died abruptly and he straightened his frame. He counted mentally, his heart pounding with each tally. Finally she stepped out and put a pause to her movement at the sight of him.
He almost had tears in his eyes when he saw her. A lean body drained of what little was left of its fattiness stood before him. She seemed fairer and carried a more exotic look with the makeup she had on but it didn’t mask the signs of the pain on her face.
“Gosh Kas, I missed you.”
She hugged him and his hands enclosed around her tightly. The familiar scent of her masculine-inspired fragrance made his head swirl to a good feeling.
“You think Eva would mind I was high at her funeral?”
Kasi didn’t have an answer; he just laughed. Her question was unnecessary. He knew she was already high.
Dominic appeared at the hallway.
“It’s good to see you back, Woyintonbra but we’re late already.”
Kasi released Lexus and muttered a greeting to Dominic. The three of them made it downstairs where the others were waiting. Standing on a bier in the middle of the sitting room was Eva’s coffin. With Ralph’s permission, Dominic had brought it to the house on Lexus’ request. It was going to be her first time seeing Eva since she got the news of her death. Dominic had not liked the idea and initially denied her request but Ralph felt it was therapeutic and gave assent as long as Eva was transported to the funeral venue on time and in one piece.
Now everyone watched as Lexus slowly approached the coffin. Wearing a black tank top with Eva’s name bedazzled at the back, her emaciated features came out pronounced, accentuated by a long, black gypsy skirt that swept the floor as she walked.
Her jeweled hands lifted the upper lid of the coffin gradually and her eyes fell on Eva, lying undisturbed in a cushion of white silkiness. Every person in the room watched the scene with bated breaths. They were waiting for tears or some miserable reaction from Lexus but nothing came. Her blank face stared at her mother without distraction.
“You could talk to her if you want to,” Dominic said and a sniff followed, coming from Wura.
Lexus shook her head and placed something nobody saw into the coffin.
She gently let the lid down. Her fingers caressed the smooth, white surface of the closed box and she smiled sadly.
“She’s really gone,” she murmured. Kasi took it upon himself to pull her away from the coffin when he saw tears began to fill her eyes.
Pallbearers walked in at that moment and they carted away with Eva.
The funeral was a very private business that took place in Eva’s new home, an extravagant duplex she was building somewhere in the outskirts of Lagos. The house now belonged to Lexus who was the next of kin and it was she who gave the go-ahead to have Eva buried there.
There was no heartbreaking eulogy from her but Dominic spoke and had everyone there in tears. Ralph managed through the first part of his eulogy but broke down and one of his brothers took over from him. Wura sang a song and Eva was lowered into her grave amidst hushed weeping. When Lexus was asked to pour in earth over the coffin she turned away and clung to Dominic for strength. He held her hand and together they paid their final respects. Up until that moment, he hadn’t shed a tear and feeling the strong vibrations from Lexus’ body as she cried in his arms almost stirred him but he kept his composure, his eyes on Bashorun, who had chosen to wear a white, embroidered kaftan while everyone was dressed in black.
Lexus hung on to Dominic and refused to let go. Standing with the Ogiames, they accepted condolences from sympathizers until the crowd disappeared. They were the last to leave and they stayed behind until the last earth was covered over Eva’s final resting place. On their way home, Lexus sat between Dominic and Genesis. At some point she laid her head on her father’s thighs.
“It’s just me and you left, dad,” she said. “Are you going to die too?”
“don’t speak like that, Tonbra. You know I’m not going anywhere,” he replied.
“God hates us, dad. Is there something wrong we’ve done?”
“He doesn’t hate us.”
“Then why?” Lexus sat up. Her eyes were bloodshot and sullen. She had emaciated so bad that it was hard to stare at her. “Why do people keep dying around us?”
“God loves us, Tonbra. Never forget that. But you… no matter what happens, don’t shut me out again, okay?”
The car drove back to Lagos in dead silence but the moment they got into civilization, Lexus came to life as if returning from a trance.
“Dad, I lied…”
“About what?” Dominic was distracted with his phone.
“About the amnesia thing. I was faking it.”
He put the phone down. “But why?”
“I just wanted you guys, you and…Eva to spend more time with me. I wanted us to be a normal family.”
“Aww…” Genesis put a hand on her knee.
“Well, it’s all wasted now. It didn’t work,” Lexus added.
Dominic put his arm around her and pulled her head in for a kiss on her cheek.
“You had me fooled. You’ll make a good actress like Eva.”
Lexus giggled, Genesis smiled.
Seyi was waiting for Dominic at home when they got in. He had been absent at the funeral because of an important business meeting with the governor that was canceled. After proffering apologies and sympathies to Lexus, he sat with Dominic in the upstairs living room for a serious discussion.
“Do you need anger management classes?” he questioned.
Dominic put his face away. He had avoided this conversation for a long time, always giving Seyi some excuse not to delve into it.
“You almost killed him.”
Dominic simply got out his phone and played the recording of Bash confessing to being responsible for Eva’s death.
“And this recording will hold up where? In a court?”
“A dwarf, Domi. A dwarf?”
“I’ve heard about that dwarf.”
“He’s an urban legend, Domi. He doesn’t exist!”
Dominic left his seat. “You know Bash killed Eva! You know it!”
“I don’t know it! Geez, Domi! Eva was drunk that night! She was so messed up she could hardly walk!”
“After you beat the shit out of him!”
“He did it.” Dominic lowered his voice but held his infuriation.
“This recording won’t help your case. They will arrest you and dig up the past, bringing up how you beat Martin too, Domi. You better start pulling all the ropes you can pull now before the police come knocking on your door. Bash wants your hide and he’ll get it.”
Dominic walked about aimlessly.
“But you screwed up. He was baiting you. You shouldn’t have fallen for the trap. Did you watch the interview this morning?”
Dominic stopped moving. “I did.”
Utter silence followed that had Dominic drinking three stiff glasses of Gin. After the last gulp he slammed the glass on a stool and the image of Eva flashed before him. It was the same stool she was seated on when she was speaking with Genesis the night of her death. The brief attack to his memory muddled something in him.
“She can’t just die lie that, Seyi,” he remarked with severity. “She just can’t. And I don’t care what this takes me. Bash must pay for her death.”
“But you’re going to pay first. Are you ready?”
Dominic stared at his friend. Both of them knew he wasn’t ready for any trouble coming his way.
It didn’t feel like home anymore. Everything was as it used to be—the blue, the nautical theme, the scent of the ocean—nothing had changed. But it wasn’t part of her anymore.
“You haven’t been taking care of your skin, Gen.”
Mother’s touch was still gentle. She lifted Genesis’ weave, wound it up in a bun and held it with a band. Then she tapped her shoulders lightly.
“Take off your clothes. I’ll have one of the girls run a bath…”
“Mamisi,” Genesis protested, staring at her wristwatch, “I have to go home. I have to be with Dominic as he attends to sympathizers.”
Mother gave one of her patronizing smiles. “Call and tell him you’ll be sleeping over…”
“I have someone I want you to meet. He’ll be spending the night. I’m sure Dominic would understand that you’d want to stay at your mother’s after being away for so long.”
Following the unspoken message in her voice, Genesis knew what Mother wanted of her. Confirming this, Mother called a maid in and gave precise instructions for a special type of aromatic bath to be set for her. Genesis laughed in her head; the old woman had to be kidding. There was no angel or demon that could make her sleep over. The house had suddenly become too eerie for her.
“Are you on your period?” Mother asked.
“No,” Genesis replied and Mother continued with her instructions to the maid. Period or not, Genesis had made up her mind to leave after the aromatic treatment. She had missed the baths and massages and aromatherapy, and she was going to indulge herself one last time, allowing the pampering of the expensive essential oils Mother was going to use on her do their job on her skin. Then when she arrived home she was going to make Dominic forget his pain, even if it was just for the night.
Sitting on what once used to be her bed, she let her eyes roam around her former bedroom and thought about how much her life had changed. Dominic’s influence on her had transformed her to the point she was beginning to consider Christianity. Having not clung fully to any religion in the past but sheepishly followed Mother in the worship of a mythical sea goddess, Genesis felt it was time to seek something meaningful. But she needed some convincing. It was going to be a major disappointment if she stepped her foot into Christianity and discovered it was another myth that held no answers to her lifelong questions.
“The client asked specifically for you.” Mother came back into the bedroom and with a quick motion asked Genesis to rise to her feet. She led her before the mirror as before and studied her features. “You’ve added weight. Haven’t you been going for your dance classes?”
Genesis looked her square in the eyes and lied. “I have.”
Mother ran the zip of Genesis’ dress down. She stripped her, piece after piece of clothing, until she was nude before the full-length mirror. She studied her body through judicious eyes, then felt her breasts and left her hand on her lower belly.
“Well, I’m impressed. Ditorusin sure knows how to take care of a woman. You actually look well-kept. Still, you need that bath. You do know that Ditorusin’s time is up, right?”
The last statement was said so casually that Genesis was forced to glare at her.
“His time is up? But it’s barely three months, Mamisi. All my past clients stayed with me at least eight months. Why is this different?”
Mother delivered a piercing stare as her words came out. “It is what it is, Gen. His good fortune came in faster than the others and now it’s time for him to face the waves.”
“This makes no sense. I haven’t even gotten him to trust me.”
“don’t insult my sensibilities, young woman,” Mother rebuked. “I know you love him…”
“I do not.” Genesis retained an honest face. “I have done my job diligently, Mamisi. I have no feelings for him. You cannot even love such a man. He is difficult and complicated.”
“You describe him well.”
“I swear, Mother… I…”
“Get ready for your bath.” Mother turned her back on her. “And don’t even think of leaving the house this night; the gates are guarded. By morning after you’ve attended to your new client, you can go back to your lover boy. I’m sure you’ll enjoy watching as everything around him crumbles.”
Speechless, Genesis watched her leave. It took quite a while before she collected herself and made a phone call to Dominic. She related her discussion with Mother to him and he gave a quick reply.
“Do what she asks.”
“Do what she asks?” Genesis said through clenched teeth as she heard someone knocking on the door. “She wants me to sleep with some stranger this night.”
“You’re smart Gen. You can get yourself out of that mess.”
“We have a plan, Gen. don’t muddle things up.”
“Oh, I should take one for the team?”
“I didn’t say so.”
“You know what?! Fuck you and your plan!”
She put an end to the call and shut down her phone. It was her first real cuss word at him and she didn’t like that she had spoken to him that way but she was really angry.
The knock on the door persisted and she invited the person in. It was a maid with a bathrobe in her hands. As Genesis slipped into it, she felt as though she was entering a cage with her past life wrapping its tentacles around her.