Please this episode is way longer than it should be, partly because there was a need to talk about as much characters as possible, in a bid to unify the story and mainly because I would be gone for a long time. School work demands a lot more from me and there, I’d totally forgotten that I’m still a student. I hope this episode convinces you enough to consider my pleas. Thanks.
* * *
The grand clock struck the hour of 11 and began to play the tune of a nursery rhyme, an unpopular one. Bobo and Sandy turned sharply to it and sighed in unison, withdrawing their faces as quickly as they had turned them. Just as Bobo was taking his eyes away from the huge clock on the wall, he noticed the awkward shadow that loomed over theirs. His eyes grew wide in horror as his senses interpreted what he had seen. He needed not to be told that Casmir was behind them with something upraised in both hands, something quite big, and it was too late to stop him. The upraised hands were already on its way down and it was coming with an electrifying speed.
“Sandy!” He screamed as he made himself fall flat on the sofa.
He grasped her hand reflexively and pulled her to him, to fall on top of him. She succumbed to the force and urgency of his pull but then, something seemed to cause a rethink in her. She resisted halfway down. The expressions on her face swiftly transformed from shock to anger and her brows knit tightly together, DISTRUST was the unspoken words that her face conveyed. She had sensed something foxy in his act and wouldn’t stand another guy forcefully getting his way into her. She struggled to free herself from his firm grip with all the strength she could muster and succeeded, unknowingly placing her head in perfect position for Casmir’s strike. She opened her mouth to say something, to reprimand him and maybe accompany it with a slap, when she suddenly went limp and spilled unto the ground.
It was a perfect hit and the speed of it awed the hell out of Bobo. It was unbelievable that a drunk who was lying unconscious moments ago could strike with such precision and force. Casmir, seizing the moment, struck the second time but Sandy was no longer in place for it and the stool swished through the air, almost making him fall over. Realizing that his victim was down, he rushed over to meet him with the eagerness of a predator, the stool still in his firm grip.
Bobo thought Casmir had seen him all along so he scrambled out of the sofa and out of panic fell to the ground with a thud. The sound diverted Casmir’s attention. There was a brief moment when they looked at each other which seemed like a very long time. He saw madness in Casmir’s eyes, it intensified as the understanding of his patent failure hit him. All the strength in Bobo ran out, uncultivated fear came in its stead and Bobo did the only thing cowards do. He ran.
* * *
Casmir’s mind had been whispering incoherently, “HIT! HIT!! HIT!!” and as it were that his normal flow of blood had given way to the speedy flow of alcohol, he had no option than to act in line with it’s directive, the directive to HIT.
It was very clear that the other guy was down from his first hit and it was only normal to put finishing touches to a nice job. He ran on feet that though felt wobbly, were nonetheless pro in the act and in no time, he was at the other side, kneeling astride his supposed opponent. He instinctively raised the wooden framework to deal some more blows when the heavy sound of something falling disrupted the buzzing sounds that still inhabited his eardrum. He turned towards the sound and his fun died. He suddenly felt the effect of alcohol dissipate as a wave of unadulterated fear coursed through him.
What in God’s name has he done?
The other dude was staring back at him from the ground where he had landed with a terrified look on his face. Casmir knew he should quickly rush over to him like some events had not preceded this moment – like awakening from sleep to find the devil still waiting – and start unleashing the hell he had planned to unleash (before falling asleep) but that was a lie, something had happened. He had hit someone.
He looked at the figure underneath him and realized with growing dread that it was no masculine figure, it was perfectly feminine. Her superfluous hair spread about the floor around her head, concealing her face, a face he was so fond of.
He didn’t know whether to be mad at being interrupted by the sound from the fall or to be grateful (he couldn’t imagine the fellow sneaking away from him). He was totally uncertain on how to feel.
The other dude was still starting at him. Casmir turned and fixed him a look of utter contempt, the red fire of rage burned in his heart, cleansing it from every tenderness he once possessed. He stamped a resolve in his heart, a resolve to kill. He leaped to his feet and ran towards the other fellow in pure rage.
The other fellow seemed to have anticipated his action before he acted for he was already on his heels, Casmir chased after him.
The fellow had fast feet, he didn’t bother running in spirals with the intention of dribbling, he ran a straight course aimed for the exit door which was unlocked and was very close to it.
Casmir wished he had locked the door after sneaking in and dumped the key in his pocket, that way, the night would’ve ended with little sweat.
It would take nothing but just a few loose seconds once at the door, for the fellow to open it and disappear into the night. There was no letting that happen.
He threw the stool low and with enough force, it parted from his grip with a hum and sailed towards the desired direction with amazing speed, covering the distance in a heartbeat and hit true. It struck the other fellow on the knee, causing it to buckle with the other knee and down the fellow went with a squall.
Casmir quickly covered the distance. He knelt beside the fellow who was nursing his hurt knees, held him tightly by the collar and launched blows on his face repeatedly. The fellow didn’t resist and Casmir was totally lost in rage to notice the fellow stretch out his hand and picked up the abandoned stool.
It landed on him unexpectedly and he lost contact with the world immediately.
Minutes later when his eyes flew open, the room was dark and silent, the pain in his head was maddening. Something warm trickled down his face, it coursed through the slope of his lips and he opened his mouth to let some trickle in. He spat it out almost immediately with horror.
“Blood?” He whispered
He was uncertain about where he was and the darkness had started to get frenzied, it was terrifying. He crawled in the darkness like a mole, hoping to burst out from somewhere, anywhere that had light but then his hand touched something soft. He screamed, retreated quickly and bumped his butt into something, the leg of a couch. He sat up and rested his back on the couch, and tried to think back on how it was that he came to be in darkness. His nose caught the whiff of a perfume, one he recognized easily. The recognition dragged along with it his precious memories.
He scurried all the way to the direction he had come from and his hand made contact with the softness again. It was her. He stretched on the ground beside her.
“Sandy!” He called.
He drew her face to his and his hand did a quick, rough caress on her smooth cheek. She didn’t move. His heart beat picked up speed, he placed the back of his hand on her neck and found them warm. That meant hope but it was not convincing enough. What he had just done was not suitable for the situation, it was the gesture for confirming whether a patient was terribly sick, so he thought. He frantically took her hand and checked for a pulse and got none. It didn’t steal away his hopes, instead it intensified it, knowing that he had never before detected a pulse even when it was that the person whom he was checking was talking with him at the moment. One final check was left.
He pressed his ears above her breasts in the dark and tried to concentrate for the sound of her heartbeat, but the thumping pain in his nose seemed to have acquired its own beats and they were amplified in his ears. Yes,he could hear these clearly. He sighed and sat up, carrying Sandy with him so that he hugged her like a mother hugging her beloved child.
He was still capable of producing tears and they rolled down freely, washing away blood from the trail they traveled and dropped on her.
His own blood still flowed – in rivulet now – from his head and mingled with his tears in a woeful union (cursed matrimony) but he wasn’t bothered. He was very aware of one thing- he had screwed up big time. He had killed the one whom he wished to spend the rest of his life with.
“No” he whispered, “she can’t be dead. Sandy talk to me.”
He slapped her lightly on the cheeks, still nothing, no movement. He sat there rocking her from side to side as the memories of beautiful times spent together came to him. He remembered their outing to the beach where Sandy had crept up to him from behind and stuffed his pants with wet sand, how he had jumped in surprise and cursed, how her laughter then had rang in his ears as he chased her round a little hut…
Bright light suddenly washed the entire room, in it he saw her blood streaked face and the possibility of her dying in his arms filled him. He realized then that he should’ve sought for help all the while, screamed for help.
“Who is there? Please come over!” He cried out.
The light picked him up quickly, he was blinded by it. He was certain the bearer was coming to him as the light grew in intensity, he turned to face the oncoming light with tightly shut eyes and Sandy lying in his arms.
“I didn’t kill her.” He said. “Please don’t hurt me, I didn’t do anything to her.”
“What happened?” A shaky voice asked, “I heard loud noise coming from here and I knew something was wrong. Oh God, it’s Sandy, nice girl. God please don’t let them go scot free with this wicked act, whoever they were. You can’t imagine that out of everybody in this compound, the thieves chose our Sandy’s house. Jesu Oluwa wa–
“She is dying mommy. Help me, let’s take her to the hospital. And your light.”
“Oh! E pele omo mi.”
The light went away from his face and he saw the woman who came to his rescue, she was in her late forties, she was terribly shaken and in tears. She wouldn’t even come closer to him. He lifted Sandy up and almost fell back, his head swam and his vision wavered. He steadied himself at last and took the big torchlight from the woman’s hand. A growing sense of urgency filled him now, it brought with it an understanding that another second wasted might be an affirmation of her death.
“Mommy, do you have a car?”
“Yes, the key-” She broke off in tears again. “Is she still alive?”
“The key. Please get it. What’s the colour of your car? Where is it parked? Let me wait for you there. Fast Mommy, she can still live.”
He didn’t know if he believed what he had just said about her chances of living, putting it the way he had just put it was very reassuring and he needed every assurance he could lay his hands on. She described her car to him as she hurried out of the house, more scared and confused than him. That was good enough if it would help her hasten things up. He carried Sandy all the way to the sky blue Peugeot 406 parked outside the building with great effort and care not to let her fall out of his hold.
The old lady returned quick enough with the car keys and handed it to him. He lay Sandy carefully in the back seat and turned the ignition.
“Where’s the way to the nearest hospital?” Casmir asked.
“Ah! Me I don’t know any hospital around here oh. But I know one Amazing grace hospital like that. It’s far oh but not too far.”
“You know the road abi?”
“Then just tell me when to turn, don’t cry and don’t get us lost. We’d get there in time Sandy, we would.” He said, more to himself than to the old lady.
At the moment, Casmir prayed for just one thing whose success might be a huge determinant of the success of every other thing. He prayed that he kept to the road even at the dangerous speed at which he drove. His vision blurred and the road seemed to be floating in space, three lanes instead of one. He tried to keep to the middle lane…
* * *
Doctor Al Ameen of the Amazing Grace hospital, fondly called Doc Al was the doctor in charge of Mrs Nweke before she passed away. He sat in his office and blamed himself for her death. It was not out of his carelessness that she died (though that was still part of it) but out of his selfishness. He felt he had been a philanthropist for too long, offering free treatments to people just to ensure that they still remained here on earth. No patient had ever died under his care and the closest to death – which was a patient who had issues with his liver and had received so much dialysis treatment to be considered healthy – had had to be transferred for further treatment outside the country. The hospital management was in serious disagreement to his humanitarian services and as such had withheld his salary for three successive months. That was the reason he had decided to refuse serious treatment for the woman until he received payment. Moreover, he had started growing some attraction to the lady who happened to be the woman’s daughter and he didn’t want to offer any free help because of the charms of a lady’s beauty. A man should have some strong will and self control sometimes.
Stroke was what he had diagnosed the woman, and it was the weakest of all forms, Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA). Hopefully, it would be temporary and would require little medical attention. This was another reason why he had been totally relaxed, he was confident it wouldn’t escalate. But she was dead. He would’ve believed the death to be spiritual but he was not a man to believe in such.
Doc Al sat contemplating on how to disclose the news to the woman’s daughter and after making up his mind to disclose it to her through the phone in the morning, he grabbed his briefcase to leave for home which was just two blocks away, he couldn’t stand the presence of the dead.
He opened the entrance door to three people, all in panic. Two were blood decorated and one was fear decorated, this one was old. One of the bloody persons carried on his shoulder the other bloody person who looked lifeless.
He passed them deliberately and walked on but not without taking a back glance and that was what changed it all. The almost lifeless person was the daughter of the deceased woman, the Lady whom he wouldn’t let his feelings stray to, but it did now and he felt a serious obligation to keep her alive. He dumped his briefcase on the floor and rushed in after them, wearing his white coat on the way…
* * *
Wunmi walked into the kitchen and turned on the light. She was very hungry. She walked over to the window just above the sink and before sliding the glass open, she caught her reflection staring back at her, it was not a nice looking one. Her hair was in a mess, standing in tufts like those of clowns she’d seen in movies of the 80’s, her eyes were swollen and her face looked puffed. She looked fat, very fat. She blamed it on the noodle and egg diner which could have been avoided by just a courageous act of denial but the hunger was the negligible sort, it had to be quenched. She sighed and slid the glass window open, letting in a gust of chilly early morning breeze. Goose bumps appeared on her arms and in an offhand manner, she rubbed them as her eyes scanned the kitchen. It was all white – white tiles, white sink, white refrigerator, white fluorescent bulbs, white ceramic cups and plates – and she imagined she should also be in white to enter the kitchen. The thought forced a smile out of her as she walked over to the tall refrigerator.
She fished out a big loaf of bread and strawberry jam from the refrigerator, paused to consider the amount of calories she was about to take in and dismissed it. She drew out a wooden stool (the only brown item in the kitchen, so far as she could see) from underneath a white table which didn’t seem to be plastic. She tapped on it with her knuckles and it produced the famous KNUCK! KNUUCCKK!! sound of knuckles on wood. What was that? White wood?
She set the bread and jam on the table and started making them disappear while her mind drifted to last night. The night didn’t end the way she wanted it to but, well…
Wunmi came out of the bathroom and stood at the door with a white towel wrapped loosely on her well rounded body. She looked very sexy and she was sure any guy with his normal senses would grow a boner at just a glance. Water dripped from her hair to her face and shoulder and she unwrapped the towel with one hand and clutched the remaining piece awkwardly around her body, making her half nude while she tended to the dripping water from her hair. She was certain that Ochuko was sitting at the end of the bed and watching her sorry of a strip (so she intended it to be) so she perormed the act slowly, and in a seductive way. She expected him to interrupt her with his hands over her body or maybe by a clearing of the throat; the former would be preferable, but there was none. She angrily wrapped the towel tightly over her body and looked towards the bed.
Yes, she was right, Ochuko was sitting at the end of the bed but he sat with his head bent. He was looking at a picture frame sitting on his laps and the mood he was in? It was no mood she had ever seen a grown man in. She went to sit on the bed, some distance away, dreading to interrupt him the way she intended.
“Chuks?” She called.
There was no reply, not even a slight movement from him. He just sat there as if lifeless, like he was in a trance, until he sniffed in loose snort running down from his nostrils.
“Oh baby.” She shifted to him, “what’s wrong?”
He let her slide her arm over his broad shoulder but didn’t look at her face nor showed any indication that he had been invaded by another’s presence.
“Look at her.” He said at last in a hoarse voice, placing the picture frame on her laps. “She was beautiful and innocent, yet i killed her. Goddamit! I killed her.”
“You didn’t Chuks, whatever happened just happened.”
She didn’t even know what happened to the lady in that frame, and it was just pure natural instinct that told her that the lady was his wife. She could be anybody at all, Wunmi didn’t care, all she cared for was to get rid of the present atmosphere, tucked away somewhere for the mean time and let the right atmosphere take its place to prepare them for the right action every sane couple would perform when provided with such luxury of privacy.
“You know, God sometimes takes what was not meant for us to bring what is rightfully ours.” She said.
“That’s trashy talk!” He fired back at her.
She jumped and shifted away from him, better to keep distance at such times to prevent the preventable.
“Everybody would try to air one erroneous view upon another just to erase the guilt and the pain it brings along but nobody can shut the truth from singing that angry monotonous song in your heart.” He said
“But,” she tried to put her jumbled thoughts into one piece and say something reasonable but nothing was forthcoming. “But-“
“But she still haunts me, in my dreams, at work and right now and it’s just still weird how much of her I still keep in my mind. I still love her.”
“You know,” she played with the hem of the towel, “you know, I could replace her.”
He threw her just one cursory glance and in it she saw the outright dismissal, saw bleak hopes.
“Good night.” He said.
She watched him retreat into that corner of the bed which joined to the wall in all his complete sophistication of clothing – shoes, pants, shirt and tie – except for the suit jacket which had been successfully hanged in the wardrobe. All the strength to fight the course of bringing back the right atmosphere was drained from her, all she could do was stare. After some time, she got out of the towel and slipped into a flowing night robe and joined him on the bed, facing the other side, the opposite direction.
… well, that does not necessarily mean that all hopes are lost, as long as she was still in his house, anything, in fact, everything can happen. She still had her bag of tricks in wait and her weapons of seduction were being warmed up in her arsenal, all would go well, she would get her man and getting him on a Saturday like this shouldn’t be written off from the plan.
Daylight had finally found a way to steal the sky, the birds had started to gist each other their sweet dreams as well as their nightmares, they wailed and made merry at the required time and both sounded nice. The trees scattered in the compound were swaying this way and that way to the reggae music of the wind and the wheezing of the water in the jug almost got Wunmi dope high with euphoria. It was all too perfect, a perfect surrounding to raise children.
Music was coming from somewhere in the room, it was the same one that he had commented on last night on their ride here, In Another Time, she shook her head and smiled.
She took a note in her mental jotter to start seeking and loving all that his deceased wife once loved. That, to her was a sure move in getting her man. She was certain now where the music was coming from.
The need to hasten up grew in her, he was awake now and she had intended to be done with the simple but perfect breakfast she was preparing before he did as much as stir from his sleep. She wanted to greet him in bed with it. She had broken the eggs she got from the refrigerator, opened the sardines and everything was in place for commencement. She lifted the electric jug from its base and raised its lid while her mind contemplated on the type of tea to prepare.
“How did you-” Lucy tugged at Wunmi’s robe. She would’ve completed the statement but it ended in shrieks.
Wunmi had been scared shitless. She hated rats and they never ceased to give her the jumps. She had not heard the little girl talk and all that came to her mind the moment she felt the tug on her robe was: RATS!
She turned instinctively and with fear filled heart and spilled the content of the jug on the little girl, all of it. The little girl screamed in that horrifying way kids do and she didn’t blame her, she blamed herself for being so easily frightened and blamed Ochuko more for holding so much back from her. But…
“Lucy! Jesus! Wunmi what have you done to my girl?” Ochuko surfaced from the door.
“Daddy, i’m burning.” Lucy ran towards the door with eyes closed and hands outstretched.
Wunmi tried to say something but nothing would come out, tears rolled down instead. She turned a pleading face to him but his heart was made and his face was set. He made no effort at all to conceal his anger, hate and disgust. He was totally mad but he still refrained from taking the rash action she was anticipating. Any punishment would suit her at this moment and the least that would be tended her was a terrible beating, and she would gladly receive it. He carried his daughter with extreme care and rushed her out of the kitchen, hushing her with sweet words and promises. He threw her a final glance before he jammed the door.go-getter-go-get-her
“If you know what’s good for you, don’t let me meet you here when I’m back or ever again.” He said.
From the open window, she watched him drive out of the compound and that was when she surrendered. She fell to the ground and wept uncontrollably. It was all over, only God could bring him back to her at this point.
Ochuko drove all the way without stopping until he entered the premises of Amazing Grace hospital. It was not the best hospital around but it was the closest and time was of essence.