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Fiction
When English singer and songwriter, Adele, released the sonorous ballad – Hello, little did she know that it was going to caught on like wildfire. Still topping global charts weeks after it release, the song shows no sign of slowing down. And as the song became more popular, other artistes jumped on the trend voicing different covers for the song. But hey, why should musicians be the only ones to enjoy the fun, can’t writers join in too? So inspired by Abiodun (@Maskuraid), for the next few weeks, we would be publishing short story covers inspired by the of the monster hit – Hello. And @Maskuraid sets the ball rolling…. Enjoy! ****** The doctor dropped his stethoscope and sat down, an indication that he was finally through with his very thorough and lengthy examination. Next he gave me a clean bill of health and said we were free to go home. “Are you sure Bode? Are you sure nothing is wrong with her?” Doctor Bode smiled reassuringly, his well-manicured fingers splayed out on the table separating him from myself and Dad. “One hundred percent positive sir, nothing is wrong with your daughter, you can take her home.” “What about the hallucinations then? Why is she seeing things where there are none?” “Sir, I’ve checked and rechecked her body for signs and I’ve also tested all her reflexes. Your daughter is fine. Smart young lady too if I may say….” Dad cut in impatiently before he finished, just as he always does when he thinks someone is digressing from the issue at hand.
“Iyen ko la n so jare ogbeni, that’s not why we’re here. Leave smartness alone and focus on why I brought her to you in the first place. A l’omo n so kati kati o n s’oro smart. I need to be sure nothing is wrong with my daughter before anything else. Can you assure me of that?”
Doctor Bode had been our family doctor for as long as I could remember, so Dad’s somewhat rude antics didn’t faze him one little bit. His benevolent smile just grew wider, and his eyes more reassuring. “Chief, I can categorically tell you that nothing is wrong with Tunmishe. It’s probably the stress of her upcoming bar exams that’s getting to her. I’m willing to bet she has not been getting enough rest lately due to her reading schedule, so I’ve instructed the nurse to give her some tablets to help her sleep. Once she takes those and gets some rest, she’ll be as right as rain. Trust me on this Chief.’’ “Okay o Doctor, I will if you say so but if you saw what I saw last night you would be worried too. I couldn’t wait for the day to break before rushing her here. However, since you say it’s rest she needs, then I will make sure she gets enough it. Exam kan o le wa s’omo l’ese fun mi, ti o ba see se l’odun yi a de se l’odun to n bo. It’s not like she hasn’t done enough to dust the exam sef.” Turning aside to face me, he continued speaking. “Sebi you heard him with your own ears Tunmishe. Please, take it easy o. Exams will come and go and I’m sure you’ll pass with flying colors. Mo fori iya e be e, jo o ma ko ba mi o.” I didn’t say anything, although I wanted to. Wisdom made me just sit there like a zombie, looking contrite and nodding gently repeatedly, waiting for him to finish so that we could go home. Eventually we left the office, Dad walking in front looking regal in his expansive white agbada with the doctor and his flapping white coat in tow. I followed, a few paces behind both of them. Doctor Bode accompanied us to the garage where both of them leaned against the smoothly tiled wall and spent some additional minutes animatedly discussing their teams’ exploits in the English Premier League. Dad loved his football and never missed any opportunity to discuss it with whoever was remotely willing, sometimes even with people who were not.  Finally he looked at his watch and realized that time was far spent. “Oshe gan ni Bode, maa tu ma a  ri e. I will definitely give you call you in a week or two at most. I think I want to come for my regular checkup a few weeks ahead of schedule sef. The way people are just succumbing to strokes and heart attacks left and right these days is a big cause for concern.  Ko ju ma ri bi, gbogbo ara loogun e.” “No problem Chief. Anytime you’re ready just call me. You know our doors are always open to you and yours, any day of the week.” “Oshee mister open door, hospital wa je bi t’eeyan a maa sere lo ni gbogbo igba abi, bi eatery or amusement park? Oloun ma je a r’aisan la n gba l’adura l’ojoojumo, and as if your fees are not exorbitant enough. Gbese re o!” Dad burst into loud laughter and Doctor Bode joined in. I watched disinterestedly from where I stood a few feet away. At last we said goodbye and got into the car, Dad as usual spread out at his preferred ‘owner’s corner’ while I deliberately chose to sit beside Nnamdi the driver,  to avoid being lectured by Dad about the need for adequate rest all the way home. The ploy didn’t deter him that much. ***** B3JQw He was waiting for me. Dressed in all-black attire and invisible to all but me, he sprawled just beside Tolulope on the living room sofa, his long legs stretched out in front of him as if he belonged there. His shoes peeking out from beneath the coffee table were black too. Tolu jumped up and ran to hug me immediately we entered, totally oblivious of his presence as usual, just like Dad and Nnamdi, who had followed us inside carrying Dad’s black leather bag. The black bag, very similar to those preferred by Jehovah’s witnesses on their evangelism forays accompanies Dad everywhere he goes, except maybe the shower and the toilet. It is always on the bed beside him while he sleeps. Maybe I should even start to call it mommy. He watched me greet Tolu. He watched me flop down on the single seat beside the water dispenser and fling my shoes carelessly in the direction of the rack near the visitor’s toilet. That habit used to annoy mom when she was still alive but now nobody cared. Tolu resumed her seat on the sofa and picked up the novel she had dropped earlier. He watched me pretend as if I didn’t know he was there, knowing I did. How could I not? Even if I wasn’t looking at him directly, his presence hummed silently through the air and touched my skin with its energy, making the fine brown hair stand on end. Who could ignore that? Just as I settled back into the welcoming seat to focus my attention on the ice skating event showing on television, he opened his mouth and started singing. It was that song again. I am okay, totally healthy and not hallucinating according to Doctor Bode. What then would explain Jude, sitting there as handsome as ever, dressed just like he was that night two years ago, when he died an untimely death on that dark and twisted campus road, a victim of my drunk and reckless driving. That song again, loud and hollow, it haunts me alone, just like the accusing look on his mangled face. “Hello from the other side…” ***** By @Maskuraid
2

Fiction
***** Irenosen Okojie is a writer and Arts Project Manager. Her debut novel Butterfly Fish and short story collection Speak Gigantular will be published in 2015 by Jacaranda Books. ***** DISCOMBOBULATED HERD First the wives went bald. Their gleaming crowns like plump brown melons waiting to be pulped, clutching their thick, fluffy hair as if they would vanish like puffs of smoke. And by now the palace grounds were vomiting. Dead insects littered hidden crooks, red ants rolled on their backs in haste and confusion, mosquitoes buzzed about in panic swirled patterns and the strange blueish plants in the garden had wilted. As though the heat off a cutlass had crushed their hopes to death, and really, they couldn’t blame the heat. Not when hundreds of fish lay on the weather worn red trail leading up to the gates; bucking against each other in those precious few moments before their stories of water escaped them forever. Not when it began to hurt to look around the palace, to see the tiny bits of crumbling terracotta walls a virgin eye wouldn’t pick up, the abandoned rooms unattended gathering only dust for comfort, the circular courtyards once bursting with congregated shades of brown bodies vacant and naked in their loneliness because people stopped lingering. Instead they rushed through, shutting themselves off from the miniature storms whipping through their heads. And the days merged into one long passage of time that seemed to never end or repeatedly began depending on how you looked at it. The palace rumbled, grumbling low so gold kissed leaves left their trees to drop down and listen, carrying what they knew to the feet of the inhabitants who couldn’t understand the crackly language they spoke. Some people began to sense the unknown growing in mass without seeing him, an occurrence that could frighten hearts out of chests. So they sought the council, begging them to do something to stop this invisible hand that was twisting them all. Their worry was now distorting their voices, even to their own ears, changing their walks, splitting their lips. They were being smudged and blurred, their bodies like misshapen brown clouds. The council members bit down on it all gently, apprehensively. Bloated with their cheapened version of power, they kept their stiff necks outstretched. This was bigger than them. All they could do was to show the people of the palace their palms, empty of any answers. Omotole and her baby survived the incident with Oba Odion. She was too strong to allow an inept king to finish her, husband or not. It was a bottomless will that allowed her to crawl her way out of there, while he sat rocking himself into the bleak, dark enclave he had built for himself. She had not seen him since, so when her water broke, the blue tinged liquid splashing between her feet in the yard outside her chamber, she did not ask for the Oba to be told. Instead, she grabbed the hand of the servant girl that was called tightly and thought she caught a wince flash over the girl’s face briefly before she lifted her up. The servant girl shouted out for more help and one of the other wives came. Omotole recognised the eldest wife before she gripped her arms, one on each side as they moved her back inside her chamber. There, a musty scent was clinging to her clothes and her head dress. They laid her down on her newly made grape coloured mat with its thin, slightly rough edges. The pains of childbirth came thick and fast and her screams pierced through the rooftops. Later, other details would come back to her; taking short sharp breaths, the feel of a small wet cloth on her forehead, advice that rained, a jumble of words that fell all over her body and her legs propped up. And a hazy feeling of confusion that continued to grow throughout. Both the servant girl and the first wife were alarmed at what was happening, though they tried to keep it from their voices. When the baby finally came some hours later, the servant girl was unable to stop shocked words flying through her lips. “Oh the Gods help us!” “What is it?” Omotole said, limp and tired she struggled to raise her head up. They handed the baby over to her wrapped in a sucking, gloomy silence. The first thing she noticed was a soft looking, small exposed chest and it was a boy. He was wriggling in the way that newborns do, covered in an unusual blue gunk. As her eyes wandered up, a horror gripped her by the throat. He was alive, but her baby had no face. The bad news seemed to travel faster than a drawn breath, and before they knew it, residents in the palace found themselves making excuses to visit Omotole, just to get a look at the baby. Some even made bets on how deformed the baby would be, but nothing prepared them for it. From the neck down, it was perfectly healthy. Its arms, legs and body were just as they expected. But it was his face… Such a shame and they had never seen anything like it. It was completely flattened, as though what lay under the skin wasn’t bones but mush. It looked as if he had been filed down; there were no angles or planes, just an insult of a face stuck there like a terrible truth. An ugly face not even a mother could pretend to love. Even with the eyes, tiny slits of flecked brown and the wide mouth, you couldn’t tell anything about the child, whether it was happy, sad, and hungry or tired. All Omotole could do was interpret his thin, high cries as the instincts of motherhood abandoned her, frightened away by the sight before them. And she was inconsolable those first few days afterwards. Her eyes moist with tears, carrying him as if he were a mistake, labouring over why it had happened, how it had happened. And how could a grotesque child ever become Oba? Shame, heavy and scorching burned her, so much so that she felt hot even when it was cooler in the evenings, and you could smell the dry earth and relief of the suffocated air that darkness was coming. She thought of the blueish excretions from her body that had suddenly stopped, and the petals under her tongue no longer appeared. How deceptive it had been, she almost felt she had imagined it all, only she knew she hadn’t. A hard blame began to form in her stomach as she thought of Oba Odion up in his hand made fortress sheltered away from it. No, this was not her doing, but the disgrace would never leave her. And she would sit there, in the cusp of night, staring at her son dumbfounded, beads of resentment popping on her brow, she and that wailing baby; while she attempted to talk expressions into his face. While Omotole’s baby sent tremors through the place, something else was bubbling beneath the surface like simmering soup. Council man Ewe could never keep a secret, particularly if it was of no benefit to him to do so. If you knew you wanted to keep a secret protected, they should never pass your lips in his presence. That night after he had seen them, he was almost drunk with his knowledge coming back to the apartment he shared with his wife. How those fools could be so brazen right under their noses! Oba Odion’s appointed guard and his youngest bride laughing at them all. The council had warned the Oba about her, they had all seen that she would not make a good wife but bring shame on the palace. No amount of undoing could change what had happened. He arrived to see their small, apartment had been swept, and the terracotta walls darkened by night made his eyes swim a little. He was a success, a member of the Oba’s council, residing in the palace with a wife and two children. He had truly arrived, and he imagined the tiny village he came from just shy of Onisha hailing him, the dancing and music leading all the way back to his family’s home. So engrossed was he in that image he nearly tripped over a, chipped dark wooden chair they usually left in the corner of the back room. The apartment smelled of the homely mixture of cooked goat meat and Ewe’s ambition. He could hear the reassuring breathing of his children as he stopped momentarily to listen to them caught in sleep, their chests rising and falling. Finally, he took off his native wear, beaded adornment and crept in to sleep beside the broad, fleshy frame of his wife who murmured a little in response. He tried to sleep but found himself tossing and turning, till his wife frustrated by it said. “Ah ah what is it?” So the secret entered her ears. “Tell the council Ewe” she humphed. “You know what the punishment is for such a thing?” “Tell them.” And he ran his excited tongue over his dry mouth. Amidst these events in the palace, Filo remained surprisingly calm. As if the shrieking hammertan wind inside her that had pulled her furiously back and forth suddenly stopped. She thought it funny that the slow destruction happening around her created an opposite effect within her. And she began to run towards her thoughts instead of away from them. Just outside her narrow chamber doorway, if you stood on your toes you could see the Oba’s back room window staring the horizon down. Every time she looked, somehow it seemed further and further away. She had allowed a thought so delicious to leave her head and sit in her mouth that she no longer felt guilty carrying it with her. And it was this: she was glad Oba Odion was suffering. Through her hair falling out, the blood from the main palace roof and the stream of bad luck that had plagued the palace it was clear that he knew. He knew why these terrible things were happening but couldn’t show his face. The Gods would disapprove but she was happy the Oba was being handed the fate she believed he deserved. It was a clear, slow burning day when it happened, your skin felt sticky and no amount of water wetting your dry throat was enough. She was tending to the group of fowls that tentatively hung outside their back yard, throwing grains of corn to them and watching them pick at it. At the same time thinking of the street vendors that lined the roads on market day, whistling through their teeth and shoving handfuls of material, native jewellery and spicy food wrapped in broad green leaves your way. But then a curious thing happened, Filo softened, her body had stopped turning to stone. She dropped the corn, haphazard yellow mouthfuls scattered as if to be replanted. The fowls, sensing the importance of the moment began to cluck, her only interested audience, as she started a sure, confident retreat. She took nothing; she turned to start the walk towards the main palace where the gates were waiting. People were milling about within pockets of the grounds and she passed some guards laughing at words hanging between them. They nodded at her and she did not stop. She walked out of the palace gates pulled forward by a distant no named thing baring its teeth; because beyond her, that body and that life, the rivers and the land, another world beckoned. Winking just behind the edges of broken clouds, she imagined people filled with so much light, it would be blinding, to a place without the sham of one life swirling in her gut waiting to smother the next. ***** SOURCE: HOME SLICE
0

Fiction
The note was written on a yellow Stick-It but held in place by the car wiper. Dorothy would have missed it if she was walking to her car as absent mindedly as she usually does; her mind pre-occupied with things she would promptly forget once she hits the road and joins the endless traffic out of Victoria Island towards Third Mainland Bridge. Things she would forget because her mind would usually roam until it finally settles on nothing to avoid thinking of everything.   Today is different. It is as if she has been struck with punctilio. She catches sight of the note and pulls it out and unfolds it. It had been folded in half with the glue edge facing the bottom of the note but it was not sticking together. It looks like the paper has not been recently detached from the whole, as if it is a page long left drifting and gathering dust rendering the gum inactive. The writing is in capital letters. Dorothy slides into the driver’s seat and reads the words, “I HAVE YOUR NUDES AND I AM GOING TO LICK THEM”. Dorothy reads the words again broken into two lines at “NUDES” and then she bursts out into a near hysterical laughter. She laughs until the tears run down the side of her face and settle into the edge of her lips and she tastes the saltiness. She wonders if this is a case of pun or  malapropism and the fact that she cannot tell which only makes her laugh some more. She extracts a piece of serviette from the box and dabs the tear off her face careful  not to ruin her makeup.  She turns the note over.  There is no indication of who could have sent it. She squeezes up the note and stuffs it into the pigeon hole trying to deign it no further thought as she fits the key into the ignition and the engine turns over. She winds up windows and switches on the AC.  Thoughts of what her life was not too long ago flashes through her mind. ****** Dorothy steps on the accelerator.  The roads are somewhat free today.  Maybe because it is a Thursday,  slow day for the traders who spend about a third of the day cleaning up their environment.  Dorothy momentarily thinks of the economic waste of spending three hours every Thursday cleaning.  That’s 12 hours a month. She wonders if anyone has analysed how much Lagos generates per hour and what hours of the day traders are most productive.  She approaches a red light and is again reminded of her life.  Each time something new happens and she thinks she is going to be propelled to the next level, something else comes along and puts a stop to her movement. She recounts some of her almosts: almost graduated with a first class; almost got her first job as an aeronautical engineer; and just last week, almost making Managing Partner. She is that person who gets knocked out at the last minute, the could-have-been. Oh, there is also almost engaged…thrice. [color-box] Read: 55 Nigerian Writers you should read. (No. 4) [/color-box] The traffic slows to a crawl and Dorothy changes the channel as they begin to play what she terms Nigerian savage music, a mixture of danceable beats and sordid language. How this music appeals to anyone,  Dorothy cannot fathom but she sees people bob their heads to this and at parties,  waists gyrating to the beats. She finds a news channel and feels the sadness settle into the pit of her stomach as she hears news of yet another bomb blast killing scores. She offers a silent prayer for the bereaved. Life expectancy in Nigeria is already 41 and she wonders how much lower it will get if Boko Haram is allowed to continue their rampage in the North. The light turns green and she shifts the gear stick to drive, propelling the car forward. The driver of the gray SUV had been travelling at 80km/hour.  The only thought on his mind is how to get to the hospital on time. He had received a call from a bystander who had seen his mother slump in the mall. The stranger had been kind enough to take her to a hospital. He had ended the meeting abruptly. His mother has been his all, his pillar, his support. And if she dies now it will a terrible blow to his so far wonderful year. He has accomplished all he wanted this year well ahead of schedule. The traffic light is about 300 meters ahead.  He sees it is on green,  perhaps if he accelerates he will make the cross before it turns red.  Somewhere at the recesses of his mind the warning about how deceptive the green light is comes on.  He can almost hear his driving instructor say, “Green light bad, red light good” following the pattern in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. He hesitates for a millisecond, his reflex forcing a tap on the brakes, but the urgency of the call gets the better of him as he shifts his foot almost immediately. 30 metres out and the light goes red.  He is travelling at 93km/hour. The crash of metal into metal sends Dorothy’s car into a spin. The car does a complete 360 and finally crashes into the concrete road barrier. Dorothy hears Bach’s Cello Suites playing in the distance, the tempo  dragging at 30BPM while her physical world speeds at the tempo of allegro vivacissimo. The automatic break system of the SUV had kicked in, greatly reducing the impact of the collision. It takes ten seconds for the driver to recover from the impact of the airbag. Ten seconds for other road users to begin hooting. The driver gets out of the car in a flash,  not caring about his momentary disorientation. He hopes against all odds that the occupant of the car he just hit is fine.  His hope rises a notch as he sees he had smashed into the passenger side and there is no passenger in the car.  Other road users are hurrying over to help but he beat them all to it. Dorothy’s head is  lying over her hands which are still gripping the two sides of the steering wheel. The driver cannot see her face clearly but he can see her airbags had not deployed. Thankfully she is wearing her seat belt. The door is stuck, slightly knocked in and the driver is assisted in forcing it open.  The driver leans over and checks her pulse. ****** It has been two years since the accident. Dorothy’s life had taken a turn for the better since  then as if the accident shocked the demons out of her life.  Dorothy smiles as she puts on her sun glasses.  She had stepped out of the car without a scratch.  The driver had insisted on repairing the car and they had become friends.  Their wedding was coming up in two weeks.  She is to become Dorothy Isa-Dada. She had chosen, to the chagrin of her friends, to adopt both her husband’s first and last name. [color-box] Read: #Fiction: Fairy Tale [/color-box] Dorothy’s mind momentarily returns to the rumpled note in the pigeon hole.  Hadn’t one of her girl friends told her to expect the unexpected? But she cannot remember sending anyone any nudes. But there was a time she had been wild and free. Did anyone hate her enough to do this? Dorothy engages the car and then a tap on the window. Isa. He is already going round and getting into the car.  Dorothy is so glad to see him she forgets the note sticking out of the pigeon hole.  He gets into the car and smiles at her. “I thought to pay you a surprise visit.” “And I am surprised,” Dorothy responds leaning over for a quick kiss. Then Isa spots the note and pulls it out.  Dorothy’s heart stops beating for a second. She swallows trying to calm her nerves and think of an appropriate defence.  What if he doesn’t believe her? Isa opens the note and straightens it out on his thigh. “This is no way to treat your husband to be’s forget it not note.” “You dropped this?” Dorothy asks incredulously. “Of course,” Isa responds as he produces Dorothy’s Strawberry flavoured nude lipstick. “Who else would steal your nudes and then lick them?” The End.   [color-box] Abigail Anaba is a writer, teacher and thinker. She has been in the writing business for about fifteen years where she worked mostly in the movie and TV industry with writing credits to “Eve”, “I Just Came Back”, among others. She recently published her debut novel, SectorIV. [/color-box]
0

Fiction
By @maskuraid
Our last conversation was exactly two years ago. I remember clearly what you wore, how dashing you looked dressed in a white long-sleeved shirt, blue Jeans and those hideously expensive blue Nike sneakers you’d bought during our honeymoon trip to Johannesburg. I can remember clearly where you sat, on the red leather settee facing the sitting room window. How can I forget the way the light danced on your face, highlighting your cheekbones and your finely sculpted sideburns, the way my heart constricted; almost choking my thoughts, because you looked so handsome and I couldn’t just believe you were mine. Asa’s ‘Bibanke’ playing from your big Nokia phone was the perfect soundtrack to the romantic setting. There you were, nodding along to the beat as I drank in the ambience, content in the moment, until you started to speak and everything came crashing down. Of course you didn’t notice my reaction, the sharp intake of breath, an indication of the enormity of my hurt. To you it was nothing, as usual, but your words struck mortal blows, opening deep wounds, from which my heart is yet to heal. They have stayed with me ever since and who knows for how long more. It’s been two years since our last conversation and I miss you. I miss the warmth of your smile, the light in your eyes and the beautiful ring of your laugh. My arms ache as they long to hold you again, in that loving embrace. I miss the way you squeal in delight, when we tickle and kiss. I miss our long rambling walks, how we used to debate and discuss. I miss all of you, like darkness misses the light. I miss you so much and it breaks my heart that I miss you so bad. I miss you darling and even the heavens can testify, that every day, I wish you’d kept quiet just that once. Maybe if you had, fate wouldn’t have been tempted and you’d still be here by my side, alive.
0

CEq05MRW8AEDpyH By @emini_ANOTI Hero by Enrique Iglesias began to play as they walked to the dance floor. He smiled as he stretched out his hands for her. She smiled back and placed soft, well manicured hand in his. He allowed himself to stare at the ring on his finger for a while and he felt very proud he had chosen the diamond with turquoise set in platinum ring; it was a beautiful contrast against her dark skin and she had been thrilled with his choice, her smiles beating the obscene thousands he had spent on the ring. They had always talked about a significant wedding band, something extraordinary and something with her birthstone. She was the old school type that wanted to wear the something old, something blue, something borrowed on her big day. That why she had chosen to wear the off shoulder thigh high slit cream silk dress her mother had worn on her wedding day. Her friends had thought it was not so fairy tale-ish but looking at her now, she looked like royalty; expensive royalty even though the only jewelry she had on was her ring and the diamond earrings my mom had given her last year after we announced our engagement, her way of saying she was really pleased with my choice. She was too beautiful for words and he was proud she was his as long as forever. She felt as if she was going to explode with all the joy she was feeling. Her heart refused to stop dancing in her chest and she could not stop herself from smiling. How could she, when she was marrying the only good man left in the whole universe. He had looked beyond her faults and loved her in a way she could not believe she could be loved. He had made her the happiest woman to walk this earth; something she had only thought was possible in cheesy romance novels and movies. She still often felt like she was dreaming. As he drew her in a warm and tight embrace, she could hear his heart pounding so loudly; a perfect beat to her dancing heart and they moved to the best music of all time; their beating hearts. He looked down at her and she saw tears glistening in his eyes like fine diamonds. Her heart was melting, her knees were weak but she had never been so strong. She looked at his now tear-streaked face and she felt like she was going to explode into beautiful colourful pieces; a perfect show of how much beautiful emotions were running through her mind. “Oh babe, you are going to make me cry too”                                    “Nope, all I want to see is that sunny smile of yours and I am at peace” That was all she needed. The tears flowed freely down her cheeks as she laughed. Only him could make her feel that way; the only one for her. He held her tighter in his arms where she would always belong and he had never felt so much peace as he was feeling at that moment. She was the only woman in the world who could make him feel that way, the womb that will birth the man God has destined him to be; his woman, his everything. Enrique Iglesias sang on as they swirled together on the dance floor, lost in their fairy tale. I can be your hero I can kiss away your pain And I will stand by you forever You can take my breath away You can take my breath away I can be your hero
0

Fiction, Series
“You’re unusually close-mouthed for a guy,” Idowu said. The restaurant they were in was nice – and quite quiet for that time of day. Frank nursed the bottle of water on his table and stared at the woman sitting opposite. He couldn’t help but wonder why he wasn’t feeling more irritated than he was. “There’s nothing quiet about you – typically,” he retorted and almost raised his hand to slap himself. “That was unnecessary,” he continued. “I’m sorry.” Idowu waved his apology away, smiling graciously. “It’s okay – I understand. It would be nice to hear some voice other than mine though.” Frank took a swallow of his water. “I’m not an interesting person – I like work and sleep and food.” He paused. “I only recently started smoking again.” She squeezed her nose at him, looking quite young all suddenly. “How come you don’t smell – like most of them do?” Frank made a rattling sound that was supposed to be laughter. “You hang around smokers abi?” Idowu nodded. “1 – 1.” Their laughter was soft and careful – if jovial. Frank kept catching himself staring at her chest, and looked away every time their eyes met. He didn’t mind her company – it wasn’t like he was getting anything done at work in the first place. But he was feeling awkward around her and it wasn’t his fault. He hadn’t done this in a while. “I haven’t done this in a while,” Frank said. “I don’t know how it works anymore.” “It’s simple. You talk, I listen – I talk, you listen. It’s basically a ‘getting-to-know-you’ kind of exercise.” “Hmmm,” Frank said. “Okay. Why do you want to marry me?” Idowu coughed into the glass of juice she was just drinking from, hastily putting it down as she started to choke. Frank looked on, horrified as she continued to cough and beat on her chest, attracting the stares of other customers at the restaurant. A serving girl bustled over, opened the bottle of water she was carrying and shoved it in Idowu’s hands. “Here ma – drink a little.” Idowu nodded, weave bobbing as she took small sips of the water. Slowly, her coughing subsided – and then stopped – but her chest continued heaving. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, and then she raised her face slowly to look at Frank. “Nice question. That would make it 2 – 1, abi?” Frank hesitated, but when he saw she was smiling he smiled back. “I cannot allow you to be shinning off me like that na,” he joked – and then his tone became sober. “Are you okay?” Idowu coughed softly before nodding. “Yes, thank you.” She pushed her hair back and smiled. “Really not the best impression for a first date, right?” Frank looked blank. “Who said anything about a date?” Idowu blushed. “3 – 1. Well done.” Frank smiled, moving his bottle of water aimlessly over the table. He let his shoulders sag and he slumped into his chair. He was starting to enjoy himself – he was starting to enjoy the company. “Do you have a car?” “Sure,” Frank answered. “I drive a Corolla. Has some issues concerning the wheel shaft and so on – so it’s been at the mechanic’s for a while.” “I understand.” She paused. “So – so I heard you recently got divorced.” Frank sat up and frowned at her. “Yes I did. So?” Idowu waved long, tapering fingers in front of his face. “Look, I’m not trying to fight you. Getting a sense of you however; is important. I’d like to know you before I decide if I just want to sleep with you or keep you.” Frank sniggered, intrigued in spite of himself. “And I don’t have a say in the matter?” She smiled at him. “How well do you know women, Mr. Frank?”   ***********   “…lot of pressure from both our families about her – our – childlessness. And honestly, I think somewhere along the line, we started to grow apart. I just didn’t see any reason to continue a lie so I …” Frank shrugged. “I cannot imagine what that must feel like. Pele.” There was a pause – and then, “So what happens for you now? I mean, do you want a wife or do you want a child?” Frank sat up – and then back down. He hadn’t really thought about it. “I haven’t really thought about that – about moving on or what the next thing is supposed to be. It’s my first day back at work after so long, I’ve started smoking again after so long…” he shrugged. “I’m still missing my wife – a lot – so for now I’m just taking it one day at a time.” “Work – that’s tailoring, right?” Frank nodded. “Can you actually sew – or you just own the business?” “I’m an international tailor,” Frank remarked dryly. Idowu chuckled. “Male or unisex?” “Actually, I cannot sew male clothing to save my life.” Idowu’s mouth dropped open. “You cannot be serious.” Frank shrugged. “I thought guys were more sexist that women. Another stereotype, right?” Idowu held up her hands in surrender. “I surely apologise. I find male hairdressers and guys who can make female clothes fascinating – I just have never met a male tailor who can only sew female clothes.” “That should help you remember me,” Frank said. “Oh, I don’t think I need any help with that!”   **********   “Oh – I promise. I will call you.” “You better.” Frank froze as Idowu leaned towards him – and then he relaxed as she kissed his cheek softly. “What did you think I was going to do?” She asked as she leaned away. He shrugged. “I try not to think that far.” Idowu laughed – and then shivered. “The weather’s changed.” “Yes it has,” Frank answered, and then stepped off the restaurant’s sidewalk and towards Idowu’s CRV. “Unpredictable as always.” She opened the door and got in. “I meant what I said about you calling,” she warned. He nodded. “I know – and I meant what I said about promising to call.” “Okay.” She waved and drove off.   *********** “But Afo, you said my car would be ready yesterday. I didn’t even call you then – so that it wouldn’t be as though I was disturbing you. And now it’s still not ready?!” Calm down, Frank told himself, snapping his fingers to resist the itch for a cigarette as Afo his mechanic mumbled an explanation. Not having a car was becoming a pain, a bother – an inconvenience. And he told the mechanic same. “My not having a car is becoming a problem. There are only so many places I can take a taxi or jump on okada to now.” He went quiet – and then said, “Okay, alright. We’ll see.” And hung up. Poking his head around his office door, Frank called to James. “James!” he yelled. And when the boy came scampering up he said, “Help me find a cab that can take me home.” He cocked his head sideways and then asked, “Anything happen while I was away?” James nodded. “The Alhaja don come collect her clothes – and she don pay balance. Some new orders came too – mostly school uniforms and choir gowns. I thought you’d want to look at them tomorrow.” Frank nodded. “That’s till tomorrow then. Please get me a cab.” James nodded and ran off.   ********** “Fola!” There was no answer. His knuckles smarting, Frank lifted the front door carpet and took out the house key. And then he opened the front door. “Fola!” he yelled again, snapping on the hall light. The other parts of the house was in complete darkness – and the sitting room was silent; highly unusual if Fola was in the house. And his wife wouldn’t be back yet. But what about the kids? He left the hall light on and made his way towards his room upstairs, careful not to bump into anything. He was fiddling with his room key, trying to find the lock when it occurred to him that his phone had a flashlight. Just then, the key slipped in and he opened the door. The room was cold in spite of the AC being off – so he threw on the light switch and shut the door. The AC stayed off. He put his phone on the bedside table, and then his keys – and was reaching for his wallet when he remembered Efe’s invitation to dinner. Frank groaned loudly – but continued unloading his pockets. I hope she doesn’t think I intentionally freed her o. I just forgot. He was removing his trousers when he heard the main door open. Hastily he slipped back into his pants and stepped into his bathroom slippers. And then he hustled out of the room, buttoning his shirt as he went. “Fola!” It was Stella yelling. As Frank got to the stairs he heard her say; “Oya go and sleep. I don’t have the strength to supervise you bath yourselves – so we’ll do that in the morning. Goodnight.” He heard some mumbling of what he imagined to be ‘goodnight mummy,” but didn’t know for sure. He waited until the children’s rooms closed – and then he continued downstairs. “Good evening, Stella.” Frank said to the woman who was stretching and yawning over the kitchen sink. She whirled around, and her frown deepened when she saw who it was. “I thought you and Fola went out together – went out and forgot to go and pick my kids. Where is he?” He couldn’t hide his surprise. “Forgot to pick the kids? Are you saying you’re just getting them from lesson?” She didn’t answer him. “Where’s Fola?” she asked again. “I – I haven’t seen him all day. I went to work!” Stella looked at him – and then she exhaled, all the animosity leaving her body with a rush of air. “I’m sorry, Frank. It’s just – “ she sighed. “I don’t understand how he forgets the children in school!” She shut off the running tap and wiped her hands. “So you’re not one of his drinking buddies?” she asked. Frank turned away. “I don’t drink.” He stopped at the doorway, and then turned back towards the disgruntled wife. “Have you tried to call him? Something might be wrong – “ “There’s nothing wrong, Frank. Your friend my husband is just irresponsible. This isn’t the first time.” Frank surprise was evident in his gait as he suddenly seemed to lose air like a deflated balloon. “Wait – what?” Stella chuckled as she took a pure water sachet from the fridge. “He’s been coming home early since you got here because you stay at home most of the time and he didn’t want you to be alone. So he gets the kids and comes home to stay with you.” She cut the water sachet with her teeth and drank some; dentures gleaming like neon in the dark. “The moment you started work he returned to his old habits.” She looked at Frank. “You told him you were starting work today, abi?” Frank nodded. “Ayuwa,” Stella said and snorted. “At least you aren’t as irresponsible as he is – or maybe your wife would say different.” She trudged past him out of the kitchen, and as Frank looked on thunder rumbled in the distance. *********** Directed by @seunodukoya
0

Fiction, Series
The sun was barely stretching; lazy arms reaching to uncurl the blanket of the night by the time Frank was standing in front of his shop. He looked at his phone for the time; 6:42am and leaned against a table standing to one side. His fingers itched – straining to reach into his pocket for the pack of White London that rested in there – a desire that seemed to have heightened within the past few weeks. He shuddered – and pulled his hand away. He didn’t – wouldn’t want his staff and work neighbors to know about his ‘sudden’ passion for ‘cancer sticks’; as Fola jokingly referred to them. Besides… Besides, it was too early for him to smoke anyway. So he leaned against the bench and watched morning arrive Orile while wondering when his shop would open.   *******   Frank started awake groggily and looked for the time again. It was a few minutes to nine. The sun was out in all its angry glory and Frank rubbed his neck – specifically the small ache that had made its way there. He looked around – he was still outside his shop – and was about reaching for his phone when he spotted the person he’d left in charge; James alight from an okada. Frank’s clenching and unclenching fists were the only sign he was feeling some kind of upset – otherwise he was still, at least externally. James still hadn’t seen him. As the okada drove off, James started his jaunty walk towards the shop, not in any hurry as he smiled and waved at the next door shop owners and people who kept hailing him. He didn’t notice Frank in front of the shop till he was climbing the stairs. And then he froze, dismay, surprise and fear fighting for expression on his face. “Ah – oga! Good…good…” “Open the door and allow me enter, James. I’ve been standing here since after six.” Poor James tried several times to put the key into the huge padlock; repeating and failing at an exercise he had performed every day for the past three years almost effortlessly. After watching for a bit, Frank impatiently snatched the keys from him and opened the shop’s metal doors – and then he stood aside, allowing the hapless manager stumble into the shop before following him. “James, give me your phone.” Frank said quietly, stopping James in his tracks as he approached the first set of windows. He turned around and silently handed over his phone; a battered Blackberry; before continuing to the window to pull back the curtains. The sunlight chased away the shadows that clung to the deepest parts of the shop – and Frank nodded approvingly, looking like a new king surveying his domain. The shop was as clean as he insisted it had to be – he ordered them to sweep every day before they closed shop – and they hadn’t neglected that part of his instructions. They got that one right. He watched James hastily head to the cupboard against the shop’s far wall to unpack half-done jobs – before calling his attention and then shaking his head slowly. “Not yet James,” he began, “let us wait for the others to arrive.” And James, knowing the others were going to be very late – and knowing he couldn’t warn them that oga was around, sat in his chair and chewed his lips while mentally willing his fellow workers to hurry.   *********   It was a few minutes to twelve noon before the last person arrived – and at that point, the tension in the room was thick enough to be cut with a chicken wire. Frank regarded his hapless employees – or rather; regarded the various emotions they wore on their faces; hopelessness, fear, sorrow – and tapped his forefinger on the table before him. A couple of the workers jumped in fright; most of the others just looked up and looked away. “How many of you are not happy to be working here?” The seven employees – James included – four men and three women, ages ranging from twenty to forty looked at each other, and then back at the boss. “Oga, we no understand,” James muttered. “Which language you wan make I take talk am?” Frank snapped. James seemed to shrink into a shell – pretty much like a snail. At another time, Frank would have laughed. But not that day. “If you’re not happy to work here, you can just carry the things you came with and leave now.” There was silence for a bit – silence interrupted by the vibrating of his phone – but he ignored it. And then one of the women, Alhaja spoke up. “We are ferry happy to be hia, Oga Frank. ‘Is the devil that make us to be late…” Frank silenced her. “The same devil will make your salaries late too. How can you resume here at ten o’clock in the morning?! Do you know how many people I had to turn back because the shop wasn’t open?!” A lanky fellow standing in the back opened his mouth – probably to point out that Frank also had the shop keys – but one of his colleagues, someone somewhat more discerning than he shoved an elbow in his side. He closed his mouth. “Maybe you thought something had happened to me – or maybe you were hoping I was dead – “ There were various shouts of ‘ah!’ ‘God forbid!’ ‘Tufiakwa!’ and Frank, lips curved in what could only be referred to as a smirk interrupted them. “You can all be saying that now, yet you’re behaving as though I wasn’t supposed to return. Is this how you run a business?” His staff hung their heads in shame.   ********* Frank sat in his darkened office, a vacant look on his face. He had just gone over the accounts with James – and he couldn’t help wondering why he wasn’t in a better mood. The staff’s tardiness hadn’t affected their turnout rate much – and the books looked just as promising as they had when he was around. But he was feeling out of sorts. He picked up his phone to call Igo – he actually started to punch in the numbers when the last words she’d said to him echoed in his mind; Stay away from me. Gently he put the phone down, and slowly clenched his fists and teeth. The air was beginning to feel oppressive; he wanted to get up and just go away – go somewhere. He wasn’t in the right frame of mind for work – His phone rang. It was an unfamiliar number – but he picked it anyway. “Hello?” he grunted. “Hello Frank. This is Efe.” “Eh..Efe?” he paused for a moment – wondering who it was. And then – “Efe! Hi! How are you?” She laughed, a sound Frank discovered he was starting to like. “I thought you wouldn’t remember me. How are you?” “Fine, fine. I’m back to work now.” “That is good. I’m pleased to hear that. When will you be back home?” He hesitated. “I really can’t say yet – Why? Is something wrong?” She laughed again. “No jo! I’d like to invite you over for dinner – that’s all.” “Ah – “ Frank began, and then paused. “Well…” he began again. “Come on, Frank dear. We’re adults. You’re my best friend’s ex-husband, I’m married with kids. What’s the worst that could happen?” What’s the worst that could happen – indeed? “Ah – sure! What time?” “Any time from eight pm is fine. You can call me on this number when you’re on your way.” He nodded – as though she could see him. “Alright,” he said. “Bye!” she said cheerily and hung up. Frank stared at his phone – as though it had suddenly grown eyes and a mouth – and then he set it aside, resolving not think too much about Efe and her offer. But… “…oga?” He jerked out of his woolgathering to find James looking at him with concern. “Yes, what is it?” “Oga…there’s a woman here to see you. She say her name is Idowu…” Frank frowned. He couldn’t recall any female Idowus in his life, past or present. He couldn’t remember ANY Idowus for that matter. “Is she a customer?” James scratched the little fringe of hair on his jaw. “Oga, I don’t know. When I asked her what she want, she ask for you.” Frank sighed and nodded. “Tell her I’m coming.” But James lingered. “What is it?” Frank asked the boy who was twiddling his fingers and exuding an air of nervousness. “Em…oga, are you okay?” Frank stopped his rising movement and fixed James with a stare and he; getting the hint moved quickly out of the office. Allowing himself a stingy smile, Frank stepped out from behind his table and out into the main shop. “I know independent women are quite the in-thing these days, but women still like to be pursued, you know.” Started, Frank looked towards the voice to see a pretty woman folding a newspaper and rising from a bench to his right. She walked towards him, looking very official in a white blouse and black skirt. Heels showed off her brown legs and everything else showed off her body. She had a nice body. “Excuse me?” She stopped when her face was a few inches from his. “I called you last night – and I’ve sent you a couple of texts this morning. No response.” She paused, and then looked at him accusingly. “Did you even read the messages?” At the confused look growing on Frank’s face she rolled her eyes. “Great. You don’t even remember me.” Frank shook his head. “I’m sorry – but who are you?” She smiled. “I am Idowu – Idowu Bakare. My father lives next door to your parents…” Frank hit himself on the forehead. “Don’t vex. Idowu!” Of course! She was Idowu, the girl his parents – his father; at least – wanted him to marry. *********** Directed by @seunodukoya
0

Fiction, Series
“Man, Folly, this is one kind jare.” The living room was way larger than Frank was used to – the ambience was quite pleasant too. He and his friend were lazing on the sofa, watching Super Sport and jawing. It was almost a week since he had moved in with his friend – and they were just managing to sit together for the first time in a while. It was awkward. “What is one kind?” Fola, his voice musical and quite effeminate asked, scratching his thigh in a distracted manner. “This,” Frank said, waving around. “I’m a grown man squatting with a friend in his own house – and to make matters worse…” The front door opened and a loud “Honey I’m home!” interrupted the friends. “Hey baby!” Fola said, rising to hug the slim, fair and taller woman. They kissed briefly. “…he’s a happily married man with children,” Frank muttered under his breath. And then he rose and smiled politely. “Good evening, Mrs. Akanji. How was the day? “It was splendid,” she gushed, hugging Frank eagerly. “And please, it’s Stella – abi baby?” The last part was added as she turned towards her husband, still holding Frank around the waist. “Hmmm? Oh – yes, right you are darling,” Fola answered, his attention occupied with the screen in front of him. “Frank can like to be formal sometimes,” he finished, and tuned off from everything except the television. His smile a bit strained, Frank stepped away from the clutching woman whose cheery grin followed him. “Have you boys had dinner?” she asked as she exited the sitting room. “Yes, Fola made rice – which is about the only thing he can make. It’s a bit salty, but I’m sure you’re used to his apology of cooking by now – yeee!” He grabbed his side in pain and frowned at Fola who was glaring at him. “What?” Frank asked. “How can you be bad-mouthing my food in front of my wife na?” “How can I not – if you’re trying to kill me?” “Baby, where are the kids?” Stella asked from somewhere within the bowels of the house. Fola looked away from the TV for a moment. “Ehn?” he said, distractedly. “The kids? They went to bed since. I gave them dinner and we did homework and watched small cartoon. And then they slept.” There was the ping! of a microwave going off, and then “All that already?! How late am I sef?” Stella’s voice was becoming louder as she spoke – and then she reappeared in the doorway, carrying a steaming plate of rice. Frank moved out of the way in time else she would have dumped herself in his lap. As it was, she propped her feet on her husband’s thigh, leaned against the cushions and grinned at Frank, a habit he was rapidly finding annoying. “I’ll leave you lovebirds to it then. Me, I’m off to sleep. Thank you so much for having me, Mrs. – Stella – I hope I’m not too much of an inconvenience.” He turned and made his way up the stairs, acknowledging the couple’s greeting with a wave of the hand. “Baby, is your friend okay?” Stella asked her husband, with a mouthful of rice. “Hmmm? Oh Frank? He’s fine, don’t worry. It’s just one of those things.” ********** Exhaling heavily, Frank slumped on the bed in the cold guest room. He lay on his back for a small while, hum of the air conditioner lulling him into a doze – and then he rubbed his forearms, shivering from the cold. “Where’s that…” he looked left and right, and then jumped off the bed before proceeding to pat it down, searching for the AC remote. His left hand touched something hard, and he pulled aside the covers to reveal what the hard thing was – His phone. A small green light was blinking at the top right hand corner of the device; a signal that he had pending messages. Grunting, his quest for the AC remote forgotten at the moment, he entered his unlock code and opened the phone, hands trembling with excitement. He had nine WhatsApp messages from three chats – he felt down as soon as he realized none of them were what he was expecting. Sorry about your… Man! What happened? We thought you were happy… He cancelled the messages without reading them – and; feeling sour sat and looked at the phone for a moment. There was a hitch in his throat and he cleared it a few times, wondering why his hands were still shaking. And then, without allowing himself too much thought he dialed her number. He tensed slightly as the call connected and began to ring – but there was no other sign that he was nervous. The silence between him and Igo was stretching longer than he was comfortable with – he would really like to speak with her. The number you have called is not responding… He didn’t realize he was holding his breath until with a oooooofffff, air rushed out of his mouth as he exhaled. Impatiently, he tossed the phone away, lay back on the bed and closed his eyes. But he could not sleep. ********* Sometime later, his phone began to ring. He pounced on it, shaky hands almost dropping the phone in his agitation. When he finally could hold it steady, he looked at the screen – and his trembling stopped – because it wasn’t Igo who was calling as he’d hoped – but a strange number. Grunting, he switched off the phone, tossed it away again and closed his eyes. But still, he couldn’t sleep. ******** “How far guy? No work again today?” Frank groaned and rolled over, covering his eyes from the onslaught of light piercing the curtains. And then he swore and sat up. “What time is it?” he asked Fola, who was standing by the door, a tolerant smile on his face. “It’s a little after eight.” Frank slumped on the bed, and then regarded his friend with a raised eyebrow. “You nko – no work today?” Fola’s hand waved up and down, pointing out the fact that he was wearing a suit. “I just came back to get some stuff – sudden portfolio review at the office.” He stepped away from the door – and then looked over his shoulder at Frank. “I understand what you’re going through – or maybe not. Sha, you have to rejoin humanity at some point.” He pulled the door shut. “Have a nice day, my guy.” Frank slumped back on the bed – and the door opened again. “How about this girl you were telling me about – this Idowu girl your parents want to hook you up with?” Fola asked. Frank frowned. “What about her?” “Have you met her – is she pretty? What do you think – “ “I met her briefly on my way out the last time I went visiting. I was leaving; she was coming in from work so we didn’t talk much. I didn’t even see her well – because it was evening and all – but I’m not even interested in that now.” Fola nodded. “Okay. Take care.” ********** It was early evening before Frank ventured out of the house in search of a mallam he could buy cigarettes from. As he walked, several things ran through his mind, slipping like water through cracks in asphalt. He could barely think about a particular thing for too long – thoughts kept chasing themselves across his mind; shadows in dying light. Should I have sacrificed my marriage because of a child? I’m a man. How else do you measure a man than by his achievements – including adding his physical quota to the population? But we were so happy… And they continued, running circles, going on and on and never coming to a stop… Not until he spotted the aboki’s kiosk. *********** He puffed angrily on the cigarette as he walked, as though trying to find out how many White London sticks he could smoke within five minutes. Inhaling harshly, he ingested raw smoke through his nose and bent over, hacking, coughing and spitting out the smoked out husk of what was once a cigarette. Dragging air into his lungs, he straightened and reached into his pocket, intending to light another one. So caught up in what he was about to do, he didn’t realize a car stopped beside him till someone spoke. “Frank? Franklin…Franklin Omure?! When did you start…oh my God. Oh my God. I’m so sorry…” His hand freezing on entry into his pocket, Frank’s head turned on a neck that was suddenly stiff to look to his right, wondering at the same time who could address him so familiarly and recognize him in spite of the darkness. She was a woman; that much he could tell from her voice – not a very tall one, he surmised as he looked at her through the lowered window on her side of the car. Still, she was a blur in the dark, illumination from the dashboard display not enough to show clearly who she was. “Excuse me, I’m sorry I don’t recognize…” She reached towards the roof of the car and with a subdued click she was bathed in interior car lights. What you or I would have seen would have been a light skinned, attractive woman on the plump side, lips looking like they were stuck on, eyebrows too arched to be natural – and a pair of breasts that belonged on a porn site. What Frank saw was his wife – ex wife’s – best friend, Efe. ********* “I saw you on Monday alighting from a bike – but I wasn’t sure and I was too far away to be screaming. So I thought if it really was you, I would see you again.” She paused and smiled at him. “And here you are.” Frank shifted in his seat, looking out at the passing estate horizon. “And here I am.” He had always felt uncomfortable around Efe – she had a way of unsettling him with her eyes. “How are you doing?” she asked him. While he hesitated, she answered for herself. “It can’t be too good if you’re smoking. I’m so sorry.” Frank sighed. “I wonder what you’re apologizing for. And really, apologizing so much doesn’t help.” He shifted in his seat again. “What are you doing here anyway?” Her soft laughter was a sound of pure pleasure. “I live here – just down the road. It’s the brown house down on the corner from where you stay.” There was a small pause. “What are you doing in here? Is this where you live now?” Frank sighed. “I’m having a hard time getting accommodation so I’m squatting with a friend and his family. I tell you, it’s awkward.” The car stopped suddenly and Frank looked up to realize they were in front of Fola’s house. “If ever you want to talk – or just see a familiar face, I’m just a few blocks away.” Her hand slipped from the wheel and unto his thigh. She patted it twice – and then took her hand away as Frank opened the car door and got out. And then he put his head through the window. “I’ll remember that.” He was quiet for a bit – and then; “How – how is Igo?” “She’s sad, Frank – but no worse than you. Worry about yourself, okay?” As he stepped away from the car, he heard; “Frank?” He turned towards her. “Yes?” “Where’s your car?” He sighed. “Mechanic.” “Oh. Okay then. Take care!” She waved as he straightened and then zoomed off. *********** Directed by @seunodukoya
0

Fiction
SEPTEMBER 5 Today, I was conceived….. shhhhh!!!, my parents don’t even know about this. Like a tadpole I made mum’s womb my pool. OCTOBER 25 I’m one month and twenty days old today but they still don’t know that I am here. My hands and limbs are growing; my ears are beginning to pick a distant sonorous voice. I think it belongs to my mother, as she sang, a deeper voice told me that her beautiful voice matches her angelic face… NOVEMBER 10 So much is happening in this little body of mine; lashes on my lids, curls on my head, limbs and wrists, ears and nose… But, I still can’t open my eyes. NOVEMBER 23 I wonder why mum and dad don’t talk about me. Just the other day, dad sounded very excited and shouted something like ‘goal!!!’ mum won’t even stop trying different pitches that often make my home in her vibrate. Afterwards, they  talk about everything but me, don’t they understand that I need their attention? NOVEMBER 30 I am becoming bigger but this place won’t stop expanding. I can hear mum saying her body no longer feels like her body… finally, the attention. I tickled her womb a bit this morning and she threw up, after which she decided not to attend classes for the day. DECEMBER 5 Mum throws up again today, it’s being going on for five days now. Dad comes around, and suggests mum sees a doctor, and stop self medication. I think mum should see a doctor too; I hate the fact that she is constantly weak. I also wonder why dad and mum don’t live together. DECEMBER 7 Dad takes mum to the hospital, and the doctor introduced me to them. I was shocked and excited. Shocked because both my parents never knew of my existence up until now; excited because now I know they would shower me with attention! DECEMBER 18 Back to the hospital today, the doctor placed something on mom’s womb, I think he gazed at me  through it, because he told mom and dad that I’m a girl. Now I know I will be as beautiful as mum, but I don’t think my voice will be as sonorous as hers. I can hear the doctor tell them that I am 16 weeks old and they should expect me in the next 24 weeks, I can’t wait to see them, I hope they can’t wait to see me too. JANUARY 5 Mum has been sad for days now, she sobs constantly. She keeps saying she has to go to school and wants no distraction. She keeps saying she doesn’t want ‘it’, that ‘it’ was a distraction and ‘it’ wanted to ruin her future. She says she wants to do away with the ‘it’ I wonder what the ‘it’ is, and why won’t ‘it’ leave mum alone, instead of constantly making her sad. If only I can give the ‘it’ a piece of my mind. JANUARY 12 Mum and dad had an argument today over ‘it’…   mum keeps saying she doesn’t want ‘it’, and she has no plans for ‘it’, while dad says he wants ‘it’ and would make plans for ‘it.’   Who is ‘it’, where is ‘it’?, if I know ‘it’, I will give ‘it’ a piece of my mind. JANUARY 18 Something is wrong,  white things are coming into mum’s womb. More liquid are flowing in. What is mum doing?  This is getting painful, I have started bleeding.  What is mummy doing?  Can’t she feel my pain? JANUARY 19 I think it’s the end. Mum said she does not want me… all dreams and plans forfeited… I could have become an astute writer or even something more eminent… but I can’t take this pain anymore… I give up.  My beautiful skin has become bloody…  now I proceed out of mum’s womb not as a living creature I was meant to be,  but as free-flowing blood with no essence, no future, no hope!  She has done away with me. My mother, my killer!
1

Fiction
By Odesomi Olanrewaju (@lanreode) Friday – 7:30 Aduke ran outside, hands in head and screamed: “Help me. Help me.” Her retorts filled the dark night, and ripped it of its innocence. “People, help me” She threw herself on the dirty ground, and rolled, the uneven, bumpy road ripping part of her top, and trouser. Her blood soaked top was now a dark shade of red as it mixed with the brown mud on the road. She stood up and jumped, hands trailing, as her voice rang out incessantly. Neighbours were now out in their numbers. Some were alarmed, while others were simply annoyed by the disturbance. “What’s wrong,” most inquired from other other puzzled faces around. They had no answers but to nod at the young girl lying on the bumpy road, with hands beating the hardened ground. “Where’s John, is he all right?” was the question most asked on seeing her position. John was her son. Aduke stood up but continued wailing, and shaking, hands in head once again – in typical Yoruba calamity pose. She ignored all the concerned faces that surrounded ber and all their questions. Her face was a river of tears, and her nose ran wildly with watery mucus. Her eyes narrowed suddenly, and the iris focused for once.  She took a laboured breath and pointed to the house opposite – the house she shared with her Uncle and his wife. They followed her insinuation, as some went towards the building. Its gate was opened and a streak of light illuminated a straight path through the compound but left the remainder in shadows. People kept asking what the matter was. She just shook as she watched them, her gaze pensive, and faraway. She sat on the floor again and hushed, as people whispered around her, their heads bubbling together in speculation and fabrication. Suddenly, there was a piercing noise from inside the house – loud gasps, after hollow ones, followed by a chorus of deafening screams. Surprised, people left her, and watched the house fearfully, as the screaming ceased. A man reminded others that some of the neighbours just entered the house and a woman in iro hyper-ventilated, knowing her husband was one of those that entered. The tension was palpable in the air as the street was now now a beehive of human commotion. Someoneshouted for the Police to be called, as another looked to stop a bike. Many ran inside their houses, shouting at their children to get inside, and stay there. “Uncle. Uncle. Uncle” She finally murmured, as she clutched at her soiled tank top, head continuously bubbling forward, and backwards monotonously, as if in a trance.                                                   __________________________________                                                                  TWO DAYS EARLIER The market as usual was humid with humanity, and greediness, the lack of patience palpable, and deafening. But even with such unlimited activities, hardly could Aduke pass a store without stares. Every now and then, a seller would pause in the midst of cheating a customer and glare at her, while some buyers, before telling their stories of woes and lack, would fix her with a heated gaze. She was sixteen, slight of frame, with a heavy bosom and a face strikingly beautiful.  But it wasn’t her physical glory that was demanding their attention, as their faces were not shining with envy, nor were their brows furrowed together with jealousy. Infact, they were not even contriving to hide the displeasure, drawn on their faces like tribal marks. But instead, they bore holes into her in shape of their superiority, and judgements – she was yet another young girl with a child. She hated the never ceasing glare, and even the little time she was able to summon courage, and returned it with her own increasingly deepening pout, their glare only turned to frown. Most times though, she just looked at their feet, too ashamed to look them in the eye. She was used to the stares, and murmurs, yet every time, a thing died in her – shredding the humane in her soul, a stare, or shake of head at a time. What they saw was the ‘useless nymph’, not the beautiful and sprightly girl she was. She slightly touched the rear of the baby on her back, sighing from the strain his weight demanded of her small spine. She felt her purse, currently hanging under her armpit, and increased her strides. As was typical of the market, people were everywhere, all talking at the same time, trying to better everyone else, financially, and for space. She sidestepped a small huddle of water, and was almost ran over by a woman who brushed her off, and just continued walking, without even a backward glance. Her laboured movement only drew further attention. She knew the kind of message she conveyed; she, barely more than a child, slightly built, and no more than sixteen and already with a baby could only mean one thing – promiscuity. The real bone of contention, for those who knew her or her story was who fathered the baby. She knew people have asked, wondered, and gossiped about the father of her child. Most of her friends stopped seeing her, as their parents warned them against continuing a friendship with a girl that was not only pregnant, but also couldn’t fathom who the father of the child was. She could barely go anywhere without whispers, and even when she decided, after she gave birth, to return to school, she realized, only after the third day that it was a bad idea. A girl in class told her to go and search for the father of her child instead of being in school. And then later, when one of the teachers made an example of her in the midst of a lecture. She didn’t defend herself, as she thought they were probably right. She didn’t blame them, because she believed she could have stopped the acts. School wasn’t for her again anyway, as she was nothing but a mere squashed being. She couldn’t tell them the truth too, as sometimes, the truth is more dangerous than facts. She had never even revealed it to her Guardians. She left school that day, and never returned. When she told her Aunt, she promised brimstone; yet, Aduke stood her ground, and the support of her Uncle, who insisted she shouldn’t be forced to do anything she didn’t want to, saw her through the episode. Her uncle always defended her in all matters. In fact, it was he who stood by her when they discovered she was pregnant, and her Aunt wanted her out unless she revealed who was responsible, of which she remained mute. Even when her father, who stayed in the village, heard, he exploded with expletives, cursing her, and questioning her sanity when she still refused to name anyone. Yet, her Uncle was calm, holding on to his ‘faith’ that things would come good. He had to, for the sake of his family. It was the same unshakeable faith with which he preached every Sunday in church. He stood by her when everyone else thought she didn’t deserve to crawl on the earth. His favourite argument being ‘let him without sin cast the first stone’. If only they knew the real sin, she thought. She didn’t need the reminder that came with the stares though, as every waking hour was spent reliving the horrors of her existence, and every sleep was a ticket into the deepest, scariest echelons of her subconscious, laden with horrific disturbing imagery. The ‘thing’ on her back was another vivid reminder of her curse and cross, and she alternated, depending on her mood, between love and hatred for it. She got to a junction, with two turns, and a shop in the corner and stopped. At the other side of the shop was a man dancing, attired in some sort of rag, a rope holding together small nylons wrapped around some brown powder, hung around his neck. He saw her looking at him, pointed at the wrappers, and asked if she wanted to buy rat poison. She bounced from one leg to another, trying to appease her wailing son, and thought about it. She decided that would be too easy, and turned away from him. She faced the shop at the corner, where they sold farm instruments, and paused, an idea forming.  An old man bumped into her, shouting for her to leave the road. She quickly moved towards the shop, and felt her purse again. The attendant, a young girl smiled at her, and asked what she wanted. She had an accent, probably from Oyo, and reminded Aduke of her younger self that arrived Lagos two years ago – eager to please, and innocent of spirit. She just wanted to check if there’s anything she might need there, she replied. The girl left the way, as Aduke entered the shop and browsed through their catalogue. There were daggers, cut lasses, rakes, shovels, and all sizes of knives. They had ropes too – long, and thick. She stared at the rope, and scratched her brows, deep in thought. She tore her gaze from it, and allowed it to wander to other stuffs in the shop. Nothing interested her again, but her eyes returned to the rope, lingered a bit there, and finally back to the dagger, and shovel. The dagger especially was the right size for her. Something she could wield easily. Perfect.                                                                    FRIDAY – 6:00PM Aduke watched the Choir as they practiced the songs they would sing for the programme tomorrow. Her Uncle’s church was a small church built on a half plot of land on a narrow street. He was the head pastor, and was loved and respected by his congregation. They all thought him a saint, and many even believed the only reason she still had a home, despite her misadventures and disgraceful acts was down to his magnanimity, and godliness. The building itself was uncompleted and the walls were not yet up to the ceiling level, leaving spaces in between, from which the evening sunlight strolled in, and brightened part of the church, the altar in particular. Four pillars held up the roof instead. The church was currently empty, apart from the choirs and Aduke. Aduke was not part of them, but she needed to be there. She watched them as they argued over things she couldn’t decipher from where she sat at the back of the church. She left her son with her Aunt and left the house without a word. She needed time alone with her maker. She stood up aßnd with shaky legs, made her way to the altar, ignoring the stares from the choir. She knelt below the statue of Jesus on the cross, and closed her eyes. “Why me? What have I done? Why has your well of mercies dried up, leaving me in a desert of woes? Every Sunday, I pray for emancipation from this pain, this hurt, these demons, but yet – yet, they still mock me with their presence.” She sighed, her eyes still closed, as a heavy silence descended over her, punctuated by the chorus of ‘God’s mercies’ coming from the choir. She sighed, and stood up. The sunlight seemed to directly beam on Jesus’ ‘frowning’ face, leaving everything else in a haze of shadows, as if telling her only he could save her. She was tired, and empty. She looked up and gazed at the ceiling as the rising crescendos of the choir reached a feverish pitch, swelling her heart. Her eyes welled. Her mates would be writing their WAEC in a month’s time. But that was the least of her troubles. He not only took her virginity, but also her zest for life. Her days were now, not only filled with a dramatic indifference, but for everything beautiful and a disdain for anything masculine. Now, all she wanted was to spend her days in the doldrums of her small room. She was not worthy to do anything, nor be anything. Not after what happened. No one understood, no one cared. She couldn’t tell anyone, because then, they would see her for the squashed orange she was. No, she would not; instead, she’d take it to her grave. And dying couldn’t be that bad a customer as they all preach, especially when one was dead inside already. She was dead already. She thought she saw the frown on the dying Jesus deepen. When her father brought her to Lagos after the death of her mother, it was here they came to meet her Uncle. He was simply dressed in a shirt and trouser; and with a Bible in toll, welcomed them with prayers and praise. He promised to take care of her, ‘God willing’ as his eyes twinkled with joy. He and his wife had been trying unsuccessfully to have a child, and she was to act as one to them. His uncle smiled often, and his lanky frame and easy countenance put her at ease. That was a Friday, too. He was the one that brought her to Jesus, and it was from his sermons that she learnt about the abiding glories, and powers of the angels of light. He preached about love, and Godliness, and echoed everything through tongues, while eschewing continuously, the powers of the Holy Spirit, and then some. But he also showed her that real evil was mundane, and not an exception – the exception was light, especially in this world of shadows. Now, she knew better – evil was not just the old, wicked mother in law in fairy tales, but something close to heart, and sharing a home. In her case, it shared a bed, and slept with her, quite literally. Evil did not discriminate, neither did it hold punches. No, it gave a lot of itself, and demanded a lot of you. The world it seem adored the audacious, and it was with a great deal of audacity that evil visited her bed every night, forcing her to squirm in shame as it conquered her peak, and swam into her valley, probing and throbbing for release. Evil, in the form of her Pastor and Uncle. He raped her for months while his wife was in the same house, only stopping when her stomach began to sing a tune of the disgraceful acts. People lamented and got carried away by the tune, yet, not one of them understood the music. When she gave birth seven months ago, she saw the lights of lust return to his gaze, and the heat of his thrust resumed their warmth between her legs. Now, every time she saw him, conflicting emotions fight for domination in her. She was scared of him – knowing what he had done, and could still do to her. How with just a stroke and thrust, he took her innocence, dreams and sanity away. Yet, she wanted so bad to kill him. She wanted him to suffer, the way he made her suffer. She wanted him to grunt with pain, the same way she did with shame. But also, she wanted to end it all – her whole miserable existence. She was just tired; tired of living and also tired of praying for grace not to smother her own child. Jesus frowned down. He knew her thoughts. The sun suddenly disappeared, leaving darkness in its wake. She crossed herself, turned and left the church.                                                                      FRIDAY — 7:15PM. Demons do come in form of angels, She was now sure of that. She just found it hard believing the man she stayed with wears the crown of the Godly to hide his scalp of darkness. She went to the back of the house, took the dagger she knew was there, and made her ways indoors. She couldn’t take this no more – the lies, the deceit and the pain of knowing, yet doing nothing. She was at the edge of her sanity, and she needed closure. A man forcibly having canal knowledge of his own niece didn’t deserve to live, man of God, or not.  She opened the door to the sitting room, and there, sitting on a cushion was the so called man of God, looking like a lamb – innocent, as he welcomed her with a smile. Then he spotted the dagger in her hand and the smile faded, replaced by a confused look as he seemed to recognize something sinister in her poise. The fan circling above singing a monotonous tune was the only sound in the room, yet, the deafening, silent understanding between the hunted, and the hunter drowned it. “Why” She asked, the dagger hanging loosely in her right hand. “It’s the devil’s work” He whimpered cowardly, as his lips quivered. They both knew what she meant. The knowledge had been a silent understanding between them for some time, neither willing to open Pandora’s Box, until today. “So, the devil made you sleep with your own niece? You, a pastor? And you better not lie to me.” “Yes” He whispered. And she believed him – she knew humans were rarely called into action through reason, but mostly by darker forces. It was the same force that was now domiciled in her, she welcomed it even. Evil was redundant in everyone, until it arrested their attention, and occupied any available space.  She stared at him, her eyes glistening with hatred, and a picture of all he had done to hurt her and decimate this family. She sighed deeply, as she took two steps forward. He recoiled against the chair, holding on to it for dear life. Two steps later, and half a dozen raised dagger after, blood cascaded from the carcasses of his perfidious, cowardly guts, painting her, and the carpeted floor, red with murder. He didn’t even try to fight back. He was a coward, except for prurient matters. The wailing of the child in the next room echoed against the deathly silence in the sitting room, but it dwindled evanescently into a lull in her head. She spit on him, and wiped the smirk of blood on her nose, and left brow. She felt nothing – no remorse at all, only a gaping hole she hoped to fill with thoughts of his death, and suffering. She watched with icy detachment as he feebly clutched at his open skull, where she had hit him first. It was now gushing with blood that escaped through his fingers, and dived into the rug on the floor, as his eyes dulled. He whimpered and lifted his body a little, before going still as life left his battered body. She felt no contentment, nothing, just finality. She heard a surprised gasp, and turned to the doorway. And there was Aduke, leaning against the door frame as if she needed the frame to support her wimpy legs. Her eyes widened with surprise. The shaky hands that covered her mouth were doing a poor job of suppressing her bout of hiccups. Aduke stared at her Aunt, dagger in hand, as she hovered over her dead Uncle, who was in a pool of his own blood. “I know what happened” Her Aunt said, barely moving her lips. Aduke didn’t say anything. “I put one and two together, and came up with a conclusion – you always seem scared in his presence, and he always changes the subject whenever we talk about the father of John. And I can’t live with it. I can’t live knowing what he did to you. I can’t live on with him as my husband knowing what he did to me also, and I can’t possibly reveal his deeds to the world either. I guess I just lost my mind.” Aduke looked both agitated and confused now. What could he have done to her Aunt? Her Aunt smiled sadly. “He did to me what he has been doing to you, and that’s the only reason we married.” She gave the lifeless body a stare full of contempt and hatred. “When I was about your age, and he was the youth leader at our church, he raped me too.” She made a howl that pierced deep from her lungs, and reverberated against the grey walls. “Do you know the sad thing, Aduke?” Aduke was still as the body on the floor. “No one believed me. Not even my own mother. The consensus was that I was the one that seduced him. Imagine.” She kept starring at the lifeless body, her mouth carved into a wry smile. She released a deep breath, and faced Aduke. Aduke starred into her Aunts eyes, and was taken aback with what confronted her. Her Aunt’s normal dull eyes were now alive with a dark shade of brown, sunk deep into her irises, which were now transparent like a body of clear, clean water, asking you to take a peep into its soul. Aduke averted her gaze instantly, too scared of what she might find mirrored in her Aunt’s soul if she looked too much. “It was actually funny. The bastards praised him for agreeing to marry me after it was discovered I was pregnant.” Her Aunt suddenly started laughing wildly, her hands flared everywhere, as saliva streamed down her mouth. The laughter ceased as suddenly as it started. I aborted the bastard.” She smiled. “And then paid the doctor to tie my wombs. That’s why we can’t have a baby, and I don’t care.” She starred at the door, and then at Aduke, her mouth quivering the whole time. Her Aunt seemed to have not only lost her husband, but her sanity too. Aduke discovered her Aunt was staring, not at her, but at an imaginary figure behind her. She suddenly moved towards Aduke, slowly, and Aduke retreated, until the door stopped her, and she could only watch as her Aunt’s smile grew with each step. Then she hugged Aduke. Aduke froze, and held her breath. When her Aunt released her, she surveyed the sight again, as Aduke, with a shaky voice, asked what they would tell people. “Lie of course.” Her aunt didn’t miss a beat. “He was murdered by a gang of criminals in a robbery attempt that went awry. You of all people should know by now that perception is greater than reality. They will believe what we tell them, especially with this sight.” Aduke nodded. “You were planning on killing him, weren’t you?” Her Aunt asked, still smiling. There was silence. “I know you wanted to. You bought this dagger, didn’t you?” More silence. Her Uncle seemed to have created two monsters; while Aduke was turned into a self-depreciating, suicidal young girl, her Aunt has transformed, obviously not overnight, into a new kind of monster – an unfeeling one who could murder in cold blood, and it scared Aduke to her marrow. Both were not much different though as they were now capable of taking a life. Her Aunt ignored her silence, and said. “Just go outside, and create a scene. I’ll do the rest.” It was only then that John’s cries permeated through to their consciousness. Aduke turned, and left the building. She was no longer sure what was real, and what wasn’t; what was perception and what was reality. She had a baby by her Uncle and was about helping his wife get away with murdering the same Uncle. She stepped outside, and immediately shrunk against the silent reverie of the night, and watched with welled eyes as the sky line twinkled down like an interlude of dancing lights. She sighed, and stepped out of their gate, a blot of blood on her tank top. Photo Credit: Nikosay via Compfight cc
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