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Say You Will Stay #17

*** Isio did not tell Obinna she had been discharged from the hospital. She didn’t tell him either, she was going to Ribble with Kanyin and Austin. They had decided to spend the rest of the festive period with Kanyin’s family. The last time she saw him, his neck carried his head like it was a weighty load. It was the day after she blamed him for the baby. The day he told her what she expected to hear. “I’m not walking away, Issy. I will wait for you to forgive me.” When she went to see Annabel, he wasn’t there. Kelly was rearranging books and magazines on a table. “She is asleep.” Kelly did not take her eyes off the books and magazines. Isio shifted from one foot to the other. The books and magazines were familiar to her. Annabel carried a few at a time with her when…

Say You Will Stay #16

*** *** *** “Issy-sweetie, you are scaring me. We’re all worried about you. Mum hasn’t stopped crying. Lotachi has called twice. She wants me to go on my knees when you wake up. She wants you to know she will be the best sister-in-law ever. Trust me, that girl loves you. Just like Ifeanyi and Daddy.” Obinna stopped to avoid mentioning Chibuzor’s name. Isio looked like she had simply gone to sleep. If he just looked at parts of her face. Around her forehead, cheeks and the bridge of her nose. She looked fine. Not like the unconscious body he found beside his daughter’s at the bank of the river. Her dress was muddy. Just like his daughter’s. Her hair, wet. Drenched in soil that clung to strands of her twists. Strands that had come apart. The way he came apart when he saw their bodies. When Chibuzor called him…

Say You Will Stay #15

Obinna’s stomach groaned. The strain of Isio’s feeding had gotten to it. He had to abandon his belt after she served him two heaped plates of Nigerian Chinese rice. Last night, it was pounded yam with a bowl of afang stew. Another bowl of egusi stew with the kind of meat that tasted like game meat. Right after, she knelt before him and unzipped his pants. He would have enjoyed himself more if a tooth had not come dangerously close. Afterwards he had held her and reassured her. It had started on Tuesday evening. When he came back from work and found Chibuzor in his room. He was showing Isio the new tattoo on his lower rib cage. A scorpion tattoo. It wouldn’t have bothered him that she was bent double looking at it, if she didn’t seem so comfortable. On their first night together, she hadn’t been that comfortable…

Say You Will Stay #14

Isio paced the floor of Obinna’s room, looked out of the window for a while and straightened the beddings before scrolling down to Ifeanyi’s phone number on her contact list. It was the other phone number Obinna gave her. Just in case, his number wasn’t going through, he had said. She had been like this at the hospital. Staring at the oncologist’s thin lips and hairy face and not really listening. It had taken Mrs Okadigbo’s sighs of relief and thank you Jesus for her to take in what the oncologist was saying. She was trying to listen. She even nodded to the oncologist’s prodding gaze and gesturing hand motions. But everything she saw and heard reminded her they had not spoken in twenty four hours. That her friends’ voices when they told her not to worry did not sound convincing. Mrs Okadigbo had to pull her back when she…

Say Will Stay #13

he smelt his aftershave before she had opened her eyes. It was intoxicating and yet calming. Vaguely familiar. “Have you got something to share, sweetheart?” His eyes were gleamy bright. Joy had settled in them, around his eyes, forehead and chin. “Are you pregnant?” “No, I’m not.” She was thinking that the morning he proposed would not matter that much. It was just that morning. “Mum said you came to look after her. Here you are sprawled on my settee like you’re the patient.” He was grinning, “Mum is currently making you catfish stew in the kitchen.” She could smell the tempting, peppery aroma from the kitchen. But what she wanted to ask him was how he got back so quickly from his board meeting. “I thought you were at work?” His tie was a blue patterned one. Paired with his grey suit, one of his favourites, she guessed his…

Say You Will Stay #12

The bed was warm. Warmer than it had ever been. Sleep inducing. Comforting. She wanted to stay like this forever. In this picture-perfect moment with him. She wanted to turn to him and kiss him until his eyes fluttered open. Until the gleam she saw in his eyes occupied them again and he stopped being aware of everything else but her. The way he was last night when she asked him if he would call his mother to tell her he wouldn’t be home. And he told her he had never forgotten to call his mother and daughter to say goodnight before. In fact, he had never stayed out at night except when it was for work. He was right, when during the night, lips on her stomach, he told her they were not going too fast. That they were meant to be. That was his argument after she questioned…

Say You Will Stay #11

*** *** *** His mother was in the kitchen when he came back from work. Balanced on one of the dining chairs, the white, laundry basket on the table beside her. “Nno, my son,” she greeted and placed the kitchen rolls she was folding on the pile of folded beddings and towels on the table. “Did you go to see Isio?” “I went to Aspire, Mama.” He dropped his bag on the table, walked over to the fridge and picked up a bottle of Lucozade from it. “I have to work.” “So, you could not go and see her from your office.” His mother was not letting go. She held on sometimes with such stubborn rigidness. “Chibuzor said she lives near your office.” “Did Chibuzor also tell you I went to see her last night. And her flatmate, Habiba threatened to pour dirty water on my head from the…

Say You Will Stay #10

*** *** *** He found her in his bedroom, clutching the bedsheet she had taken off the bed. She was on the floor, face wet. Chest rising and falling like someone who had been running.      She didn’t look at him and he was glad. The glare of her eyes when Kelly finished talking could have easily struck him down. As if the shock of seeing Kelly in London was not enough. “I came to change the sheets.” She dumped the bedsheets and held her hands in front of her. “Then I realised I can’t just walk past your wife and daughter in the kitchen to the washing machine …” “She is not my wife.” “Don’t.” “No. She isn’t.” He felt like going back downstairs and ordering Kelly to leave. He would have, when she walked in, if his daughter had not looked at him with pleading eyes. He was…

Say You Will Stay #9

*** *** *** Biba had gone out by the time they woke up. When they heard voices downstairs, Isio and Kanyin piled at the top. The first-floor balcony’s thick railings made it easy to stay up there unnoticed. Another grand feature of the house, it opened into metallic spiral stairs. Spiral stairs that were curved like stacked up rings. Damian and Biba were hugging in the living room whilst their son chased his toy car about. The car veered underneath the bottom of the stairs. Pete looked up, saw Isio and squealed. She met him at the bottom of the stairs, picked him up and embraced him. “Peaches.” “Issy! I miss you.” “I have missed you too.” Pete kissed her cheek. His cheeks were flushed red from running around. He looked more like his South African, Dutch descended father this morning. His affectionate, lively personality, he inherited from his…

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