My Run Your Time

We alighted from the car after he had parked in the lot. I was so angry and frustrated that I had been towed there that Sunday. For God’s sake, I thought Sundays were for rest. 

“I have told you to stop wearing short dresses if you won’t wear them properly,” dad said as he dragged my dress down. 

“Dad stop this thing you are doing,” I angrily mumbled to him and he gave me a bad look. 

Sophia chuckled in front of me and it was I and mum’s turn to give her the bad eyes. 

We went into the hall. I’d admit it was beautifully decorated. They put a lot into it. 

I hissed and crossed my leg as I sat close to mum. “Mum do I have to be here?” I sulked. 

“Well, your father insisted we all come. He claims it’s a special day,” she said faking smiles as she greeted some people. And I realized she was just as dissatisfied as I was to be there. 

“Just relax and enjoy it. I bet it’s going to be fun,” the annoying younger sister squeaked like a rat. 

I frowned at her, “you… you better move away from me before I pluck your small eyes out,” I threatened and she humbly moved to the end of the roll. 

My sister was a pain in my ass; like father like daughter. 

I was still furious that I had to be there. “Why couldn’t these men just celebrate their end of year party alone just like when they always have their meetings.”

My thoughts were cut short when my sister tapped me. I didn’t even know when mum moved over to where dad was seated. 

Sophia was smiling sheepishly. 

“What is it?” I asked her without blinking. 

She signalled with her head towards the door. I looked and I saw that a very handsome man and his parents had just arrived and they were exchanging pleasantries with people. 

I was still staring when his eyes caught mine and I quickly looked away. 

“He saw me,” I whispered to my sister. 

“Really?” She giggled. 

I expired and pretended to be looking at my parents. 

Merriments had already begun and everyone was having fun especially Sophia who had already blended with some girls and was carried away by their small talks. 

After about what came off as hours, “Merit, come,” dad called from where he was seated. Mum had already been hauled away by her “fellow” women. 

I stood up and readjusted my dress, I didn’t want to get one of his looks in front of all the people there. 

“Dad,” I said as I got to him. 

“Ada m,” he remarked smiling. “This is my first daughter I was talking about.” He told the men around him. 

The man who I had seen earlier with the handsome man spoke, “I saw her sitting over there looking so pretty. She’s perfect.”

I was confused, what was dad trying to do?

“He’ll like her,” the man added. 

“Excuse me. Perfect, pretty. I’m sorry what are you talking about? Who will like who?” I asked. 

The man smiled and looked at me, “My son. I think you’ll make a perfect wife. Don’t worry, he’ll be here soon.”

My eyes widened and I tittered, “wife?”

“Yes. You will make a good wife to him, Merit,” my father commented with a straight face. 

“Dad,” I called and he gave me the usual look. 

I couldn’t explain how angry I was at that moment and I couldn’t express it either. So my dad was serious about this marriage talks and now he just wanted to peddle me off like that. I stood there like a dummy in front of them, waiting for a man I knew nothing about to show up. I couldn’t believe my life was going to change soon. Me, a married woman? I wasn’t even ready to think for myself let alone for two people. A new life. What was it going to be like?

“You pushed me into something I wasn’t ready for. You ruined my life. You almost killed me. I don’t know if I can ever forgive you, dad,” Merit turns her head to the other side of the bed. 

“Ada m,” her father calls but she doesn’t reply. 

Sophia lays down beside her and hugs her from behind. 

Her mother after staring at him for a while, “Did I not warn you? I told you all that glitters is not gold. You said let us try this gold. You said she’s taking too much time. I told you she’s just taking her time. For heaven’s sake, she was just 24,” a tear rolls down her cheek. 

“Now see what you put my baby through. See what you put our daughter through. I knew that that fine face was a demon from the very first day I saw him get angry at that party over a mere wine bottle that was broken by that poor boy. A wine that did not even concern him, bottle or wine did not even touch him. It was so glaring that he was a mad dog waiting to be unleashed and today, he intentionally broke a wine bottle and stabbed my child all over with it. The child I carried in my womb and suffered for, he almost killed her.”

She shakes her head, “somebody’s husband. I don’t care how long this abuse has been going on but that idiot will not escape this one.”

Merit’s father lowers his head. 

“Look at me.” 

He doesn’t raise his head. 

“Look at me Jacob,” she thunders. 

He lifts his head to look at her. 

“Now look at her,” she says in sobs. 

He looks towards the bed and her state pierces through his heart. He shivers. 

“Yes, I hope your conscience can handle this,” she swallows. “If not, I want Ebere to suffer like my daughter is doing right now.” 

She daringly looks into his eyes. Then she dries her eyes and strolls out of the room. 

Jacob sniffs, lets out a heavy sigh as he takes his eyes off Merit’s bed and leaves the hospital room too. 

Merit bursts into tears and Sophia tighten her hug. 

Bad Omen

Ignoring the rustling sounds of the dry leaves being blown around in the compound by the wind, she walks to the cleared spot on the ground and drops the basket. She wipes her hand on her cloth, moves to the hut, bends and goes inside. 

Few minutes later, she comes out and goes to sit on the cleared spot close to the basket. 

A man comes out of the hut, stretches and looks up at the sky. He exhales and he too goes over and sits on the other side of the clear spot. 

The woman brings out the little calabashes of food and they begin to eat. 

“Dim oma, what is wrong? You are not eating your favorite ‘ofe ora’ like you do. You don’t look happy and even when I came to call you from inside, you were in deep thoughts. Please talk to me. What is it? O gini?

He drops the fufu he is holding and lets out a disheartening sigh. 

“Dim oma,” she calls. 

“Ugom, I am worried,” he tells her. 

“About what?” She asks. 

“About what the Chief Priest said,” he replies. 

Ugo readjusts herself, “that’s true. You didn’t relate the outcome of your visit to the shrine yesterday. What did he tell you?” Ugo asks curiously. 

Her husband looks directly into her eyes, “Ugom, we are going to have twins,” he reveals. 

Immediately, “Tufiakwa. May the gods forbid,” Ugo spits. “Dim oma, how can the Chief Priest say that?”

“Are you calling the gods liars?” He asks her. 

“May I be damned if I ever blaspheme against the gods. Dim Oma, what I’m saying is that there is no way I’m going to carry twins in my womb and give birth to them. The Chief Priest may have made an unintentional mistake this time around. Think about it, my great grand mother did not have twins, my grandmother did not have twins even my own mother did not have twins. So how can I? It will not happen. It can’t happen. I can’t have twins,” she spits again. “I will give you a child and not twins.” She maintains. 

He gazes at his wife. 

“Dim Oma, stop worrying yourself. The gods will not allow such a bad thing to happen to us. Calm yourself down and eat, biko. Eat my husband,” she adds. 

She brings the fufu to his mouth and he eats it. 

Ugo comes out of the hut and as the night breeze blows on her, she wraps her arms around her body. She looks up at the dark sky with sadness. 

“Gods of my forefathers, please do not forsake me. Do not let me be put to shame. Do not let my husband be put to shame. For three years we have yearned for at least a child of our own to bring us blessing, not a curse. Gods of our land, I pray that you revert this curse if it is true and bless me with just a child. Please gods of our land.” She lets out a heartbreaking sigh and gently sits on a stone in front of the hut. 

“Ugom,” she hears him call and she turns around. 

“What are you doing outside in this cold night?” He asks her. 

She smiles, “I couldn’t sleep. The child was making me uncomfortable so I decided to come out for a bit,” she explains. 

“But you should have at least woken me up. Remember it is our child, not yours alone. So whenever things like this happens, let me know. Please my love,” he tells her. 

“Anugom,” she says still smiling. 

“Let’s go inside, this cold is not good for you and the child,” he tells her as he helps her up and they enter inside. 

Ugo’s screams fills the whole compound if not the whole clan as well. 

“Gods of our land, please protect my wife and my child. Please keep them alive,” he prays as he clenches his fists and paces around the compound. 

After about few more minutes of Ugo’s screams, he hears the cries of a baby. He could not contain his joy as he runs to the hut and back to where he had been standing. 

He turns around and sees the midwife looking downcast. 

Still smiling, “Adaku, how is my wife and child doing?” 

Adaku shakes her head, looks down and then back to him, “Bad omen,” she divulges. 

“No, no, no, no, no……….,” was all he kept screaming as he runs into the hut. 

He was still grieving when the Chief Priest arrived with his assistant carrying an earthenware pot. He looks up and his sadness is visible. 

Without looking at him, “Ozoemena, it has happened as I predicted. You know what you must do. First thing tomorrow else the goddess’s wrath will visit not just your family but the whole clan.” Then he turns to him, “tomorrow Ozoemena, tomorrow those weapon of destruction dies. For now, go in and bring them to me.” The Chief Priest orders. 

Ozo stands up and sluggishly heads into the hut. Few minutes later, he comes out with the babies, making efforts to ignore Ugo’s cries. Without looking at his babies, he hands them over to the Chief Priest who puts the babies into the pot. 

“You must come with two tubers of yams, two white cocks and two kolanuts for the cleansing of our land,” he turns around and leaves quickly while his assistant carries the pot and follows behind him. 

Ozoemena watches them with teary eyes till there are no longer in sight. 

Ugo walks out slowly and sits on the stone, staring into emptiness. 

She is startled as a hand touches her shoulder. 

She shuts her eyes knowing it’s her husband. 

“Why?” Ugo asks. 

He doesn’t respond. 

She takes his hand and holds it. 

“Why?” She asks again. “Why us? Three years of childlessness and then this. Obim, I waited, yearned, prayed and walked with pride for nine months, and all for what?” The sadness in her voice pierced through Ozo’s heart. 

Ozo squats and with his hand, he turns her head to him. 

“My love, you have to be strong. You have to be strong for me and you, for the child that we will have,” Ozo tells her. 

“And what if we have twins again?” She asks him. 

“We will keep trying. It is not the end of our world. As long as we have each other, we will be okay. We have lived three years without a child. At least people will know that you are not barren.”

“But they will say I have a cursed womb,” she cuts him short. He just stares at her. 

Softly, “do you know how it feels to not hear the cry of a child in this compound for three years and when I finally do, it’s a bad omen?” And then a tear drops from her eye. 

Ozo dries it with his finger. 

“Tomorrow we will get rid of the bad omen and we will keep trying,” he tells her and stands up. 

Ugo looks up at him. 

“For now, lets go inside. You need to rest,” he stretches his hand to her. 

“I am not pregnant and I’m not a nursing mother either. So there’s no need for all that care,” she comments sadly. 

“You’re still my wife and you deserve all the care I can give,” he states, still with a stretched hand. 

She looks away and reluctantly takes his hands. He helps her up and hugs her before taking her into the hut. 

Carrying the pot on his head, Ozoemena, Ugo, the Chief Priest with his assistant carrying the bag of the items for the sacrifice walk through the lonely bush that leads to the “ajo ofia” (evil forest), silently. Getting to the entrance, Ugo stops. 

The Chief Priest pauses but doesn’t look at her, Ozo urges her with his eyes, she ignores him. The Chief Priest continues while Ozo drags his wife by the hand into the Evil Forest. 

“Drop it there,” the Chief Priest points to a spot close to a tree and Ozoemena gently brings the pot down from his head and places it on the spot. 

The Chief Priest starts his incantations as he carefully takes out the sacrificial items from the bag, dropping them close to the pot, at the foot of the tree. As the incantations went on, Ugo holds on to her husband. 

“We are done. You’re free to go. The land has been cleansed. We have all been cleansed,” the Chief Priest, smiling, announces to them after the incantations had come to an end. 

“Thank you Great one,” Ozoemena and Ugo greets him in unison. And the Chief Priest nods in satisfaction. 

Ozoemena takes his wife by the hand and leads her out. Ugo turns back to look at the pot, tears welling up in her eyes. 

“Look at me woman,” Ozo says as he tries to shake her out of her grief. “The gods will help me give you a child and I will make you happy again. I will give you a reason to walk with pride again.” He tells her softly. 

Ugo looks at her husband and at that moment she believed everything he said as she felt a rush of peace down her spines. 

She stands on her tip toes and hugs him tightly. 

“I love you,” Ozo whispers.

Father

“Miracle, go back,” Jennifer shouted as Miracle stepped into the house. 

Shocked, Miracle paused with eyes wide open as she beheld the drama in front of her. 

“Mum, what is going on?” Miracle asked. 

Jennifer, on her knees, sighed when she realised there was no way out for Miracle. 

“Mimi baby. My angel. You’ve not changed one bit. Still the same spoilt girl I’ve always known. But if it makes you feel any better you’ve grown to be so beautiful,” Greg said to Miracle who was staring furiously at him. “Isn’t it too late to be coming home by this time? He died worrying about where you’ve been,” he told her as he gave way for her to see what was behind him. 

Miracle gasped, “ Oh my goodness,” she expressed in shock as she saw her father sitting on the sofa in his own pool of blood. 

“What have you done?” Miracle yelled as she made to attack him. 

Greg pointed a gun at her making her stop in her tracks, “Don’t even think about it my darling.” 

“You killed my father, you monster,” Miracle stated softly. 

With rage, “Are you insane? How dare you refer to him as your father in my presence? Last time I checked you weren’t so little when your witch of a mother took you both away that you can’t remember my face.”

“And the last time I checked, a man who has moral standards, who knows how to take care of a family even if it’s not his, is who I can call father. Not one who has the same qualities as a dog,” Miracle vocalised and a hard blow from the gun landed on her head. 

She screamed and Jennifer made to get up. 

“Get up and I’ll blow your brains out,” he threatened. 

She retreated. 

“Now join them,” he ordered Miracle. 

Miracle removed her hand from her head and saw blood on her palm. She gave him a bad look. 

“I said to join them,” he pushed her forward. 

Miracle staggered and still holding on to her handbag, she walked over to her mother and knelt beside her. She bent forward and whispered to her younger sister by her mother’s other side. “Are you okay?” 

Benita nodded her head in fear. 

“Come on Jennifer. Stop giving me that look. You thought I wouldn’t find you? Or you thought I would let you go just like that?” Greg asked. 

Surprised, “Yes. Of course, I thought you would let me be. Of course, I thought staying away from you would give me peace and maybe it would give you some peace too. What did I ever do wrong?” Jennifer replied. 

Greg chuckled, “What did you ever do wrong?” He walked over and stood in front of her. “What did you ever do wrong, Jennifer? So you think waking up one day, taking my girls and leaving me alone wasn’t wrong?” Greg asked again. 

“No, no. You’ve always hurt me. Long before I ever conceived the idea of running away,” Jennifer said. 

“I own you, Jennifer,” Greg uttered. 

Jennifer chuckled, “No you don’t. You’re so heartless. So you wanted me to die because I was married to you? You disrespected me. You beat me. You treated me like I was an animal. What am I even saying? Worse than an animal. What did I not endure for our love but you were bent on sending I and my girls to our early graves,” on top of her voice, “and you stand here to tell me that I was wrong for running away to save my life and getting married to a real man? What do you want from me, huh? What do you want, you bastard?”

Greg hits her hard across the face. 

“You won’t talk to me like that.” 

Miracle and Benita held their mother as they stared at him with disgust. 

Greg cocked his gun, “I’ll show you what I want from you.”

Jennifer, with eyes blazing with fury, looked up. 

“I want you and your girls to join your hero.”

Jenifer shakingly looked at the lifeless body of her husband. 

“You’re going to kill me and your daughters?” Jennifer asked him. 

Cautiously, Miracle dipped her hand into her bag and gently searched for something. 

Greg snorted, “you do not matter to me anymore. As for the girls, their blood will be on your head because you caused all this.” Pointing the gun to Benita, “and I’ll start with the youngest so you can watch everything you cherish die with your eyes,” he laughed hysterically and Jennifer swallowed hard in fear. 

As Greg made to pull the trigger, Miracle charged with force and stabbed him in the waist area. 

“Mum, Benita, run,” she thundered as she ran towards the door. With her mother and sister following behind her, they rushed out. 

“Run for the car,” Benita yelled. 

“Why?” Miracle asked. 

“I grabbed dad’s keys,” she replied. 

They got to the car panting. Benita threw the keys to Miracle. 

“Why are you throwing it to me?” Miracle asked with surprise. 

“You don’t expect mum to drive in this state, do you?” And without waiting to hear her reply, Benita opened the door and helped her mother in as she rushed in too. 

“I’m on no position to drive either. Can’t you see I’m drunk?” Miracle muttered to herself. 

“Miracle, get in the car now,” Jennifer yelled. 

Seeing Greg open the front door, Miracle without thinking anymore got into the car and drove out and into the streets like a mad person. 

“This is not the end, Jennifer. This is not the end for you and the girls. You’re mine to kill,” Greg spat in anger. 

INTENSE

We were laughing hard at his joke, and then she walks in. I look towards her and the laugh ceases. I become irritated on the seat as she walks over to kiss him. She gives me a bad look as she sits by his side. 

Feeling uneasy, I get up, “Sir I’ll leave now. Call me when you need me,” I say to him. 

“All right Sandy,” he replies smiling, that always gives me cold chills. 

I pick up my tablet, steal a glance at her and hurriedly leave the room. 

I sigh immediately I close the door behind me. 

I can’t explain but I always feel choked whenever I’m with my boss and she comes around. The way she even looks at me doesn’t make things easier. 

Twenty minutes later we are at the meeting I was discussing with him earlier on before she walked in on us and I am not surprised she is here too. Why does she always have to be all over him? She should let him breathe, she isn’t the first to have a rich guy for a fiancé. 

But what’s my business? Why do I care? It’s their life. 

Oh, Sandy stop this and focus. 

I cough softly using my left hand to cover my mouth as I raise my right hand up. All eyes turn to me. 

“Excuse me, I need to use the restroom,” I get up without waiting for a response and I quickly walk out of the room. I stop outside the door to catch my breath but as I hear another chair sound, I hurry to the restroom. 

I rinse my face and look into the mirror, “Oh my goodness,” I said in shock seeing him stand behind me. 

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you,” he apologises taking my hand. I stylishly pull my hand away, dropping the napkin on the hand basin. 

“It’s all right Sir. I’m fine,” I say as I gaze intently into his face. 

“That’s your problem,” he utters. 

“What is?” I ask in a curiously calm manner. 

“You can look me in the eye when it’s just you and me but not when I’m with Jennifer. Why is that so?”

Woah, that question hit me hard. I wasn’t expecting it. How do I answer this? Thinking to myself as I scratch my head. 

“Sandy,” 

“Sir”

He gives me a quizzical look. 

I stammer, “It’s nothing serious. Just that I…,” 

He cuts me short, “Is it what I think it is?” He asks with that charming smile. 

Confused, “What do you think it is?” I ask him as my heart races. 

Still smiling, “that you li…,” immediately the door comes open and her head pops in. 

We turn to her and he exhales a sigh. 

“Baby, what are you doing? They need you. Come,” she says stretching her hand forward. 

He shakes his head and points at me, “We are not done with this conversation,” he tells me as he moves towards Jennifer. I swallow hard as my mind runs in circles. “Hope he hasn’t figured out?” I mutter to myself. 

MY MIRROR

She takes her eyes off the wall clock, turns around and puts her hand on her head as the pistol dangles in her left hand. 

She looks at the well built guy on her left and then the short round guy by the doorway and she giggles. 

Sluggishly, she takes her hands down and taps the pistol on her lap continuously. 

And then, “Marvellous,” she screams startling everyone. 

“You are wasting my time. Let’s just make this easy for ourselves so you and I can leave this place in peace. My patience is running out,” she says as she smiles. 

“Why is Catherine doing this?” Makuo asks. But she doesn’t answer him. Not because she was scared and he could see that but because she was torn between rage and regret. 

 Catherine inhales and exhales deeply, she opens her eyes now filled with hatred and suffering. 

“Boys, tear this house down and bring them to me,” she orders and immediately unpleasant sounds of broken objects fills the room as they carelessly scatter things. 

As the only object close to the TV, the boys give themselves the go ahead look as they pull the shelf down together. A smirk appears on their faces. 

She looks up as they push the couple to where she’s sitting. 

Her charming smile returns, “Oh well, look at who we have here. I must tell you, that was one good hide and seek game you put up. I’m thrilled, as usual,” she comments as she claps. 

With rage and fear now, Marvellous gaze doesn’t leave Catherine’s. 

“Make then kneel,” Catherine orders again. 

“Kneel down,” the muscly guy roars as he taps their heads. 

Her smiles gradually turns into an evil look, “Fucking bitch,” Catherine spits as she lands a resounding slap on Marvellous’s face. 

“Stop it Catherine. What has come over you?” 

Catherine tee-hees derisively, “Are you mad? One more word and I’m going to blow your fucking brains all over this room,” she threatens as she points the gun to him. Makuo swallows with a little bit of fear. 

She slowly turns her head to Marvellous. 

“I thought you were dead.” 

Catherine bites her lips and turns to him again. “Really? Well, don’t I look dead to you? Do I look alive with these scars all over my body? Do I?”

Makuo looks away. 

“Don’t look away. Answer me,” she thunders. 

“No,” he replies. 

“Good. Did you hear that? I don’t look alive,” she giggles and then pauses. 

“All thanks to you, bitch. I hate you more than I hate my body,” she voices and turns her back to Marvellous. 

Marvellous swallows. 

“I gave you everything.  I did everything for you. I loved you with all my heart. And I know you didn’t lack anything.” She laughs and shakes her head, “Marvellous I loved you like I loved me,” sadness fills her voice, “but you chose to do this to me. You let greed and jealousy come in between us. You decided to kill us. I trusted you so much that I’d do anything for you, same reason I followed you to the plantation that day and before I could say knife, you turned into a Lioness and plucked my wings.” The anger in her heightens. “You could have just killed us but no, you still wanted to have the pleasure of torturing us like animals, for three days.” She squeezes the gun, “you killed the love of my life after I begged you. I couldn’t understand why you left me alive, “she shrugs her shoulder, “maybe because you thought I wasn’t strong enough and that I would probably bleed to death.”

She exhales, “You thought me something Marvellous. If my own blood sister can make an iron go through my arm without blinking then nothing would make a tear drop from my eyes.” 

“Catherine,” Marvellous calls out softly and Catherine turns to face them, smiling. 

“This is what I wanted. To see you on your knees, crying, helplessly,” Catherine laughs hysterically. 

“You know when you know your sister’s strengths and weaknesses, you can strike anytime,” she bends over and looks into her eyes. 

Marvellous stares into her eyes too, trying hard to fight the tears as she seemed defeated, her bravery fades. 

“Catherine sighs, “this gun wasn’t for you, it was just for shows,” she walks to her back, bends over again and whispers to her, “Tell my love I said hi,” with that she slits her throat with her pocketknife. 

“No,” Makuo screams. 

She unsympathetically turns Marvellous around and pushes her to the floor as she watch her grasp her neck, choking on her blood. 

My Gaffe

“Excuse me, what did you just say?” I asked in utter confusion. 

“I’m just saying that I have seen how she bubbles with joy when she paints. I’ve never seen her that happy when she sings,” my friend explained. 

“I don’t know why she sings anyways,” my friend continued as I stared into her face, clueless. I just watched her lips move but I wasn’t listening. 

“You should see the number of followers she has on her media pages.” 

I heard her say as I came back to reality. 

Goaded with anger, I stood up stunning her as I abruptly cut her short. 

“Mercy, what’s wrong?” She asked me in wonder. 

“Excuse me Cathy. I have to go,” I told her. 

“Did I say anything wrong?” She asked. 

“We’ll have this lunch next time,” I declared as I grabbed my bag from the table and stormed out of the restaurant not minding how she’d be feeling. 

“Welcome ma,” my gatekeeper greeted but I ignored him still having that apoplectic rage all over me. I rushed into my house, dropped my handbag on the couch and headed upstairs. 

I turned the knob and pushed the door open; stepped into the room as I looked carefully around. 

I sighed and walked to her wardrobe, moved it from its closed position. I brought out everything I could find in the wardrobe but didn’t find anything relating to what I was looking for. I was so angry to think straight. 

I turned and as I bit my lips, I caught sight of the fancy white cupboard close to her bed. I rushed to it, opened it and I became fixed to that spot. 

I reached for the papers with shaky hands and I became fully aware of what Cathy had told me. 

As I went through them one by one, the only question ringing in my head was how this happened under my roof and I wasn’t aware?

I wanted to get angry. I really wanted to explode but this beautiful paintings right in my hands were telling me otherwise. Then it dawned on me; these paintings were mostly of places we’ve been to for our music tour. 

I snorted as I rubbed my nose. How did I let this happen? How could I have let my concern for my own advantage swathe me at the expense of her own happiness?

My eyes fell as I fell on my knees. 

I couldn’t believe I had been a monster. 

I felt someone watching me so I turned my head to the door and my eyes met hers. 

Clara, nonplussed, stared at me. Maybe seeing her room ransacked and me in her room didn’t make sense to her. 

I stared back at her for a while before leaning on the cupboard to help me up. 

“Clara,” I called. 

She didn’t answer but bit her lips. 

I sighed with hopelessness. 

“How could I not have noticed you were so great at painting?” My hopelessness grew as I looked into her blank face. “How could I have let my own selfish reasons blind me from the truth all this while? Oh God, what have I done?” Tears streamed down my face as I walked to her but she moved away when I got to her. 

I stopped and turned to her, “My darling, I’m sorry. Forgive me,” I uttered. 

I saw a tear drop. 

“Please don’t hate me,” I said to her. 

With the aid of her palm, she wiped her eyes, “I can’t hate you mum. I know you did what you thought was best for me,” Clara spoke and I could feel my hopelessness fading away. 

“But not like this. I’m not doing it the right way. I know that now. I can’t keep pushing to be me. I’m sorry. Forgive me.” 

She let her bag fall to the floor as she threw herself in my arms. “I forgive you mum.” 

Disallow

“You may kiss the bride,” the Priest passed freely. 

Without hesitation, the couple kissed and the congregation or should I say the five persons they had invited, cheered. 

Feeling uneasy, Uloma got up from the back where she had been seated watching the whole thing. She knelt with one knee as she made the sign of the cross. She got up, kissed her Holy Rosary and made to leave the church. The worried look on her face was conspicuous. 

“Uloma,” a loud voice startled her as she got to the narthex. 

Uloma looked down and saw her standing there, she held herself from spitting on her. She just gave her the bad eyes. 

“Uloma eeeeh. Is this how you are?” 

“Adanma, Ogini? What is it ehhh? Why are you shouting my name like that? Don’t you know that this is the house of God?” Uloma retorted. 

“House of God gba g’oku there,” Adanma returned. “So after warning you to tell your son to stay away from my daughter, you didn’t yield instead you allowed your son to stupidly lead my daughter to this altar. To think you even passed by my shop this morning and you didn’t deem it wise to let me know, okwa ya?” with an evil temper. 

“Look at you. So you think I was invited. Well unlike you, I found out about it and I honored the event in ‘peace’. But here you are raving like a madwoman. I don’t have time to exchange words with you. I’m leaving,” Uloma said and pushed her aside. 

“You’re leaving, right? Okay. Where is that son of yours?” screamed Adanma as she turned and started marching down the aisle to the altar. 

The couple turned to see her when they heard the screams. 

Fear crippled the bride. 

“You won’t touch my son, you witch,” Uloma yelled as she went after Adanma. 

“Did you tell her anything?” Ebube asked his bride. 

She directed her attention to him and in surprise, “of course not. How can you ask me that?” Kelechi responded. 

“Then how did she find out?” Ebube asked again. 

“I don’t know. How did your mother find out too?” Kelechi asked as her ire had been aroused. 

“I’ll kill you both today,” Adanma threatened as she drew closer. 

She made to seize Kelechi but a hand pulled Kelechi away and dragged her towards the vestry. 

“Chibuzor,” Adanma roared. 

“This girl won’t kill me.” Immediately she grabbed Ebube by the collar, “you dared me, this boy. Ebube, you dared me,” she vociferated as she choked him by pulling his tie continuously. 

“Mummy,” Ebube managed to call out as he choked. 

“Let go of my son, witch,” Uloma struggled with her till Adanma let go of her son. 

Still fuming, she ran off to where Kelechi had gone to. 

“Thank you mother,” Ebube uttered. Uloma eyed him from his head to his toe as she let out a deafening hiss. 

Knowing the exact room they were in, she walked up to the door and banged on it. 

“Kelechi, Chibuzor, open this door right now,” she ordered. 

Chibuzor looked upon her elder sister who was sitting on the floor with her wedding dress. They could hear their own heartbeats. 

“Open this door now,” she shouted behind the door. 

“No mother. I will not open this door and I’m not coming out of this place,” Kelechi found her voice. 

Adanma chuckled, ”so you girls have now grown to defy my orders. Kelechi, I ordered you not marry any man at all; rich or poor, dead or crippled but you went ahead to marry Ebube. Chim o, you’ve killed me,” she whined. 

“Why do you always think we should let you ruin our lives because you say so. We do every single stupid thing you’ve asked of us. Mother, I have not offended you in any way. I only got married to the man I love…”

“Shut up your mouth. Lover girl. I got married to the man I love,” Adanma mimicked her. 

“Yes mother, I am now Ebube’s wife and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Kelechi stated unapologetically. 

Adanma banged on the door more furiously, startling the girls. She couldn’t stand their insolence. 

“If you like break the door, I’m not coming out of here,” Kelechi vocalized. 

“Mother, we can all talk this out. Just calm down. See, Ebube is a nice guy; he’s intelligent, caring, well to do, handsome and above all, he loves sister,” Chibuzor added. 

“Shut up that stinking mouth of yours. What do you know about love, little girl?” Adanma riposted. 

“Okay o, all-knowing Mother Oracle, you will sleep out there this night. I’m not saying anything again,” Chibuzor stated as she joined her sister on the floor and held her hands. 

“And until you conceive vividly that all your reasons for always hurting us are useless, we are going to remain locked in here. If we die, we die at least it’s better than spending another minute with you,” Kelechi said as she looked into Chibuzor’s eyes. She squeezed her palms and they smiled. 

Forget me

Getting to the palace they found out that it was guarded but not heavily. 

“How do you intend to go through them?” Udodi asked her. 

“Well, there was no plan of going in the right way, was there? We stick to the plan and that’s how we are going in,” Binyelum replied. “Let’s go,” she added. 

Udodi held her hand as she made to move. 

“Binye, wait! What if you get there and he embarrasses you, what will you do? Remember all he said to you,” Udodi expressed. 

“Udo, Chidubem is my family. I know he hurt me but my heart won’t be able to get around this until he says everything to my face. It’s been two months already and I should have gotten over it but I can’t. I just need to know why,” Binyelum told Udodi. 

“If you say so. I know I can’t change your mind. Besides we’ve come this far so let’s get on with it,” Udodi stated. 

They lurked through the bushes and to the front of the palace gate. Binyelum sneaked up on the guard by the left and Udodi, the guard on the tight wrenching their necks. The maidens nodded at each other as they entered the compound. 

Cautiously making sure no one saw them, they searched every hut in the palace and hid themselves when anyone was in sight. 

The maidens met at the back of a hut. 

“He’s not in any of the hut. I searched all of it,” Udodi said softly as she breathed heavily. 

“Me too. Just the palace maids going about their duties.”

“Are you sure they didn’t see you?” Udodi asked as she looked out. 

“Of course they didn’t,” Binyelum replied. 

“I think we should leave now before anyone notices the guards at the front” Udodi suggested. 

“I’m not leaving without seeing Chidubem,” Binyelum responded. 

“But we’ve……,” Udodi was cut short by a singing voice. 

They kept quiet and listened. 

“Chidubem,” Binyelum uttered with a smile, “That’s Chidubem’s voice. He’s close.”

She traced where the rhythms were coming from into a nicely trimmed bush. She froze at the spot when she saw Chidubem playing his “ubo” and singing his heart out. When she regained her composure, she sluggishly walked towards him. 

“Chidubem,” she called. 

Immediately he stopped and turned to look at her. He was dressed in royalty. 

“Chidubem,” she said as she knelt down and touched his face. 

Tears streamed down her cheeks and it was as if the anger she held for two months till this last minute had vanished. Seeing him again mattered more right now. 

Udodi swallowed hard and turned to look around at intervals. 

Chidubem, without words stared into Binyelum’s eyes. 

“Why didn’t you keep her busy long enough?” Binyelum heard a voice ask. 

She turned back and saw the princess standing with Udodi. 

“Why didn’t who keep who busy for long?” She asked the Princess. 

“I remember you saying that you didn’t want to see Dubem anymore,” the Princess asked ignoring the question. 

“That was after you sent your messenger to tell me that Dubem wanted me out of his life,” Binyelum replied. 

“Did she touch him?” The Princess asked, this time around making it obvious she was talking to Udodi. 

“Yes my Princess,” Udodi stammered. 

Binyelum was nonplussed but quickly collected herself. 

“What is going on here? Udodi, why do you have to answer to her?” Binyelum asked. 

Disregarding her, “One job, Udodi. I gave you one simple job to hold her off but you failed. You’re going to pay for this,” the Princess blurted.  

“My princess, I can explain,” Udodi quivered. 

Snubbing Udodi, she turned to Binyelum, “And as for you, I’m going to kill you,” she uttered as she made to grab Binyelum’s neck. 

Mixed feelings of fear and confusion circumfused Binyelum as the Princess made to hold her but she grabbed her hands instead. 

“Binyelum,” she heard him call. 

Letting the Princess who was still struggling go, she turned around and their eyes met. 

“Dubem,” she said and walked over to him. 

The Princess was filled with rage. 

“Binyelum, where have you been?” Dubem asked when she got close to him. 

She chuckled, “Dubem, you told me to stay away from you; you made it clear that you didn’t need me anymore, that you’re fine without me,” Binyelum explained. 

“When did I tell you that?” Chidubem asked her, confused. 

Surprised, “two months ago through the King’s messenger after you came to play for him and you never returned,” Binyelum told him. 

Chidubem looked at the Princess and gave her a bad eye. 

“Binyelum, do you think I’d ever live without you?” He asked as he walked towards the Princess with his hands behind him. 

“Sincerely no, that’s why I came all this way to hear you say it to my face,” Binyelum said from behind. 

Staring into the Princess’s face, “I felt something leave my body when I felt her hands on my face again. What does that mean, Princess?” he asked the Princess who looked at him with disdain. 

Binyelum sighed and closed her eyes as she compassed what had happened. 

“I told you that I was not interested. Why did you have to do this?” He asked her softly. 

“Why?” He thundered and the princess shook. 

Her guards made to move. 

“One more step and you’ll all visit the grave very early,” Binyelum threatened. The guards all knew her as a fierce warrior so they all withdrew. 

She walked up to where the Princess and Chidubem were standing and gave Udodi an ear splitting slap. 

“You deceived me for two months. My friend! You know how long Chidubem and I have been together but you still chose to stab me in the back. Just so you know and I mean both of you,” she said referring to Udodi and the Princess.

“Nothing will ever separate from Chidubem and I’ll fight for us no matter the cost. Don’t ever forget that,” she said spitting in front of them. 

“Ever,” Chidubem added. 

Binyelum turned to him excitedly, “I missed you,” she said as she took off the beads he was adorned with. 

“I can’t believe I spent two months without you,” he uttered hugging her tightly. 

“It’s okay my love. I won’t let anyone one come between us again,” she assured him. 

 He drew her close and with his arm around her neck, they walked out of the palace. She feigned she wanted to hit one of the guard and they all moved back in fear causing  Binyelum and Chidubem to laugh out loud. 

The BlueVirus

I wiped my hands on my apron as I came out of the kitchen. 

“Don’t worry honey, I’ll get it,” I said to him as he made to get up. 

Justin sat back and continued with the series he was watching. 

I opened the door and a smile appeared on my face. 

 “Camilla baby,” I called as I hugged my visitor. 

I opened the door ajar, allowing Camilla in. Camilla stepped in while I closed the door. 

Still smiling, I walked over to Justin. 

“Honey, Camilla’s here,” I informed him. 

He looked up and with an obvious frown, “Hey Camilla,” then he turned back to the Television. 

“Hi Justin,” Camilla responded as she expressed a displeasing look. 

I giggled and Camilla made to sit. 

“No, don’t sit down. I want to understand what kind of greeting both of you just displayed now. What is ‘hey’ and ‘hi’? Has this lockdown made you lose the sense of proper salutation?” I asked them. 

With a scoff, “What am I supposed to say? Jump up and kiss her all over” Justin retorted. 

“That’s not what I’m saying but you guys don’t have to be so formal. We are more than,” I stated but Camilla cut me short. 

“Don’t mind him, Angel. I don’t know why he always behaves like we’re seeing each other and we’re trying so hard to act like we dislike each other,” Camilla verbalised. 

Shocked, I turned to look at her and I saw Camilla, lustfully staring at my husband. I needed no diviner to explain what I had just heard but the human in me still felt the urge to ask. 

“Excuse me. What did you just say?” I asked the Camilla who appeared to have become conscious of herself as she took her eyes of Justin. 

Camilla stared speechlessly at Esther like a child who had been caught being naughty. 

“What did you just say, Camilla?” I asked again as I looked at Justin; he sat looking shamefaced. 

I laughed, paused, I laughed again, paused then laughed out very loud. 

Pointing at them, “So the both of you are having,” not being able to complete my question because I was still laughing. 

Camilla scratched her head as she stood with pouted lips. 

“Justin, tell me that I’m just imagining things. That I didn’t hear you both well,” I said to him. 

“Baby,” Justin uttered as he stood up. 

“Don’t baby me,” I said softly using my hand to halt him from coming close. “So all these while, this display of hatred has just been a way to hide the sparks of passion between you two from me,” I cackled as I didn’t know what emotions to display at that moment. 

“Esther it’s not like that,” Camilla finally said and I gave her a stern look. 

“What is it like then? My best friend and my husband,” she scoffed. “Justin you look me in the eyes every day, you tell me you love me, you sleep on the same bed with me and you stab me in the back at the same time? You are a beast. How could I not have noticed? Worst of enemies indeed,” I turned to Camilla, “and you perfidious bit…,” I closed my eyes, heaved a sigh and opened them again. 

“I don’t have anything to say but you both can go to hell,” I said to them as I walked out of the sitting room. 

“Camilla, what have you done? What were you thinking?” Justin rushed to Camilla. 

“What was I thinking? Why are you uncovered? Your abs are everywhere!” Camilla said to him. 

“Why am I uncovered? I’m in my house Camille and neither I or my wife was aware of your visit,” Justin replied her. 

“It doesn’t matter honey. Gosh, you’re so hot,” she said as she touched him. “You know I can’t resist you especially when you’re like this,” she said as she kissed him and he responded. 

“Oh my God. This two aren’t even remorseful. I can’t watch this,” I said from behind the curtains.

“Camilla. This is wrong,” He said as he sniffed. “The food is burning. Check on it while I check on her,” he pushed her aside and ran towards the room. 

“With a glower, “Justin,” she called out softly. “The food is burning, so what?” She said as she sat on the sofa, brooding. 

Emotionally hurt, I covered my mouth and walked quickly to my room as I heard him approach me. 

NEed YOu LIke A HEart NEeds a BEat.

Suzanne descends the stairs quietly, and when she got to the end, her face slowly lit up in anger. She couldn’t stand the sight of them cuddling and laughing in her sitting room. 

She hissed softly and walked to the veranda; she turned off the generator’s fuel tank and tiptoed up, back to her room. 

“Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry about this,” Jack apologized to Tonia as he reached for his phone and turned on the torchlight. 

She chuckled, “It’s all right there’s no reason to apologize. It’s late and I should be leaving,” she stated. 

“I’m very certain that I filled the tank with fuel. I don’t know what might have gone wrong. Are you sure you don’t want me to check it out?” He persuaded. 

“Don’t worry. You can do that later. I’m leaving now,” she said smiling. 

“Fine. Then I should see you off,” he said. 

She picked up her handbag and made for the door while he opened it for her to go through. 

“I’ll see you tomorrow morning,” he told her and she placed a kiss on his lips. 

“Suzanne, Suzanne,” Suzanne heard her name and she slowly arouses from her sleep. 

“Yes, what is it?” Can’t you see it’s midnight?” She asked him yawning. 

“Of course I can,” he replied. 

She scornfully looked at him. 

“Did you tamper with the generator when Tonia was here?” He asked her. 

She hisses and tried to go back to sleep. 

“I’m talking to you,” he yelled and dragged the duvet from her. 

Suzanne sits up, “I did, so?” 

He chuckled, “You’ve gone totally crazy.”

Surprised, she looked at him. 

“Listen to me, Suzanne, this should be the last time you’d ever try something like this again. I’m warning you and I wouldn’t do it again. The earlier you understand there is nothing between us anymore the better for you and me. Good night,” Jack said and stormed out of the room before she even got the chance to speak. 

Tears rolled down her cheeks, she snorted and laid down.

She drove into the restaurant’s parking lot, got down and goes into the restaurant. She walked over to the table. 

“So you guys are having breakfast without me?” She startled them with her question. “Tonia, weren’t you just in my house yesterday and this morning you guys are having breakfast without me.” 

“Jeez, Suzanne are you okay? Did you get any sleep last night?” Jack asked as he tried to get up to touch her. 

“You sit down there and don’t stand up,” Suzanne ordered. 

“Jack, is she okay?” Tonia asked. 

Suzanne giggled, “How can I be okay after you spoke to me like that last night?  Like you’ve been doing to me for the past twelve days.  Can anyone get any rest after hearing that?” Suzanne asked Jack. 

“Jack if she wants to have breakfast with us, then she should go ahead and sit because if she continues like this, I’ll be forced to leave,” Tonia verbalised. 

“You’re not going anywhere you bitch,” Suzanne said as she pulled out a gun from behind and points it at them. 

“Oh my God,” Tonia screamed in fear. 

“Suzanne, what are you doing?” Jack asked. 

“If you do not put down that phone, you’re going to be the first person I kill. Abi, you dey craze. I said put the phone down,” Suzanne yelled at the cashier who gently put the phone down with shaky hands. 

“Good girl. Now if any of you makes any stupid move like that again, I’ll kill you,” she threatened. 

All the employees nodded in fear. To Suzanne’s advantage, the customers in the building were only but a few. 

“Jack, why are you making me do this? This is not me.”

“Then put the gun down,” Jack told her. 

“Shut up,” Suzanne thundered. She exhaled, “This wasn’t what you promised me. You told me it was going to be us forever. No one else.”

Tonia looks at them in amazement. “What’s going on here?” She asked. 

“I warned you. I told you that this wouldn’t turn out great but you insisted. You told me you’d always love and care for me. That you’d protect me no matter the cost,” tears streamed down her cheeks as she spoke. 

“Jack you told me that I was going to be your everything,” she smiles. “And now you’re with her and you just expect to pretend like there was never an “us”? You changed so much and I don’t like it.” 

“Suzanne, I grew up this past month,” Jack told her. 

“But you grew up a long time ago. You’re twenty-seven or am I mistaken?” She asked him. 

“No, but I grew up and I have come to understand so many things that I didn’t before. You have to calm down so I can explain to you, my sunshine.” 

“Don’t call me that. I’m not your sunshine, I became your darkness the day you fell in love with her,” Suzanne vocalised and they both turned to look at Tonia. 

“Wait a second. If I’m hearing all these correctly, Jack you’ve been having an affair with your little sister?” Tonia asked as she came to the realisation of what was happening. “Oh my God. What a day!”

Suzanne snorted, “You know what? I’m going to end this.” 

“No, you won’t. We can talk this over. Please let’s talk this over,” Jack begged her. 

Suzanne smiled, moved over to him but Jack leaned backwards. 

“I can’t live a life without you being in it with me. I love you so I’m going to give you what you want because I want you to be happy,” she told him as she leaned on him and stared deep into his teary eyes. 

The gun went off and Tonia screamed. 

Suzanne expired as she fell but Jack caught her, “No, you can’t do this to me.”

“I can,” she said with difficulty as she touched his face with her blood-stained hands. 

“No. You are my happiness. I was doing this to keep you safe from the abomination I lured you into. I am not and was never in love with Tonia, I only wanted to move on from what we created to protect you. You’re my light. Suzanne, why did you do this to me?” Jack confessed amidst tears. 

Suzanne smiled whilst her hands slowly dropped from his face. 

“Nooooooo,” Jack screamed as she died in his hands. His worst fear had come to reality and he couldn’t save his only sister. What would life have in store for him? What was he without Suzanne, his best friend? And most importantly, what would he tell his parents? 

Tonia was torn between feeling pity and disgust as she left the siblings and the terrified employees, who were making calls already, in the building.