“Sola, I love you”
I stepped out of the kitchen, smiling. It was weird, but it felt good, my husband proclaiming his love to me. We had been married for eight years and Femi wasn’t the man to declare love or affirm his spouse randomly. He only poured out his feelings in words on my birthday and our wedding anniversary- if he remembered. But I didn’t hold it against him. Whether or not he said it, he never left me a chance to be in doubt of his love. People had a lot of opinions about the man Olufemi Morris, but I, his wife loved him- warts and all.
The smile on my face died before I entered the living room, from where my husband had spoken. In the living room I saw a masked man holding my husband at gun point. I gasped. I saw the muzzle of his gun flash. Everything happened in slow motion. I could bet I saw the bullet scythe through the air before it made my husband’s chest its home. It felt like the sound of the gunshot was an explosion in my head. Once my husband slumped to the tiled ground, everything took on an ethereal speed. The masked man disappeared. I scrambled to Femi’s side, right into the fast expanding pool of blood. I took off my bonnet and pressed it on the bullet injury, my best attempt at stanching the flow. He mumbled words to me. I grabbed his chin roughly. “Don’t you dare give up. Femi don’t die on me.”
He was saying something when I snatched him from the floor, groaning. I picked the car key from the dining table before I hefted him out of the house, mustering all the energy I had to avoid buckling. I drove to the nearest hospital like a crazy woman. I should have spared myself the hassle. He was dead before I got to the hospital.
At the funeral, I didn’t cry. I was irritated by those who came to comfort me. The anger in me left no room for grief. Everything irked me. The fact that Femi could just die like that; no prior warning, no room to prepare, he didn’t even have a will written. How could he leave me with 2 children to raise? And there was another growing in my uterus. But the most part of my anger was directed at the murderer of my husband. Why would anyone want to kill Femi? I scanned the crowd by the graveside. Seeing everyone as a suspect, contemplating why they could have killed him. I was still browsing through the people when Femi’s last words came back: ‘They will come for you. Run’
Who will come back? Why would they? Where was I supposed to run to? The string of questions in my mind was endless.
I turned around to see Dosunmu, Femi’s elder brother, as a burly as ever clad in a black T-shirt on a pair of black jeans. He took off his shades.
“Sorry,” I promptly supplied, scoffing. Everyone was sorry. It was trite and rankling. I folded my arms over my chest.
“I know this is hard. We love you Sola, the family is more than willing to accept you” Dosunmu said, patting my shoulder.
“Thank you” I nodded and looked away. I was done with the conversation. He got it and walked away. Femi’s mother came next. She was barely intelligible through her tears. Although disgusted, I wrapped my arms around my mother-in-law, still wondering who could have been behind my husband’s death. Femi’s mum gripped my arm, with those gnarly hands of hers so firmly that her nails sank into my skin. I grimaced and pulled out of the hug. Mama apologized and left. Something was not right. I stared at my arm. I saw three small cuts on the side of my left arm from Mama’s clinging. The abrasions smarted but beyond that there was a swirling in my head.
They will come for you. Run.
I closed my eyes and a strong sense of imminent danger swamped me. In a flash, I saw a strong hand pull Adeyemi, my first child, into a tunnel. Alarmed, my eyes popped open. The moment I opened my eyes, panting, I saw Dosunmu hold Adeyemi by the hand and lead him away. My pulse was like a brigade’s drum in my ears. I jostled past a group of women and hurried after Dosunmu, grabbing the train of my flowing black gown. When I reached Dosunmu, I screamed, “Where are you taking my son?”
Attention was drawn to me. Dosunmu looked at me, confused. “I was just leading him to the toilet. He said he needed to pee.”
I yanked Adeyemi out of his grip before he could finish his statement. I ran my hands down his face, his body, I turned him around. “Did he do anything to you?” I was hunkered beside my son, sweating and hyperventilating.
“Excuse me?” Dosunmu said at the same time my son said, “Mummy, I asked uncle to take me to the toilet.”
I straightened, abashed. I looked around, now aware of all the eyes on me and the absurdity of my actions. Everyone looked at me as though I was out of my mind. My mind was definitely playing games with me. There was nothing out of the ordinary in Dosunmu leading my son to the toilet. What was wrong with me?
I held my head.
“Look, Sola, I know this is difficult. But you can trust us. We are family”
I nodded, teary. “I think I’m getting paranoid. I’m sorry Egbon”
I allowed Dosunmu take my son to the toilet.
Nothing much changed after Femi’s demise, yet there was a strange ambiance in the house. It was like a dark presence. Suppressed grief was what my therapist called it. He urged me to allow myself feel, to allow myself heal. That day in his white-themed office, I let down the walls of anger and I wept for the first time since Femi’s death. Yet, when I returned home, the presence was there, sitting heavy in the atmosphere like a foul incense.
Adeyemi was becoming more and more reclusive. Sandra, the second child was just 4 yet she screamed out of her dreams every now and again, claiming she saw her Father. When I asked her why she screamed she’d say her father had horns and he tried to grab her.
I sat on my matrimonial bed and felt Femi’s side. The anger in me roiled more violently.
Femi, I promise you this: I will find your killer and I will bring you justice. A Bible verse plopped into my mind, something about vengeance belonging to God. I thought to pray, but decided against it. Waiting on God to avenge one was a weak approach. God was far too lenient, far too kind, to mete out the justice Femi deserved. For how many years did my own mother wait, praying, hoping that the oppression she suffered from her husband will end? It wasn’t until towards the end of my father’s life that he met Christ and became a changed man. God came through, but like the Yoruba’s will say, Mo’n bo oluwa, ki ya l’ogun odun (If God says I’m coming, he might not come until 20 years later). I didn’t have that patience.
I picked my phone and dialed Saliu, my private investigator.
“What have you found so far?”
Saliu’s voice came over the line exuberant and confident. “Ma, I have a lead, but I’m still on it”
“What lead?” I asked, testy and bloodthirsty.
“Like I said, I’m still on it. I don’t want to say anything before I have something concrete. But I will keep you posted”
“You do that fast. Okay?”
“Right. I need some more money tho”
I smiled. Rogers who recommended Saliu had forewarned me. ‘Saliu is good but he loves money’. Femi left quite some fortune behind and it was a good thing we kept a common purse. I put the phone on speaker, minimized the call and opened my mobile banking app.
“150k has been sent. Do what you have to do quickly. I have money to pay you, what I don’t have however, is time”
“I will come through. You can count on me” I could almost touch his smile.
I smiled too. When I’m done with that idiot, whoever he is, he will know better than to mess with Sola Morris.
How was I going to deal with the murderer? With a gun? Where is the fun in that? I had to make his- or her- death slow, painful, gruesome. I had to relish the sight of gall going up into their nostril. I will have the killer abducted. Rogers knows the right plugs for all such things. I will run my fighting skills on the person first. It’s been a while, then I will skin the person alive. I will gouge out their eyes I-
My thoughts were silenced by my son’s scream. I started, jumping out of my bed. When I got to his room, I saw him on the floor, a terrified whimpering bundle.
“Yemi, what happened?” I sat on the floor, beside him. A painful déjà vu lanced across my heart, a picture of me hunkered beside Femi whilst life ebbed out of him.
They will come for you… His voice reverberated in my mind.
“D- daddy,” Yemi stuttered. “He was here just now. He said I should follow him, he wanted to hold my hand and then he disappeared. I turned around and he was behind me, laughing”
There was a dull ache in my head, confusion set in. Could it be that my husband’s death had some supernatural undertow? I remembered what happened at the funeral: what I saw and the scene with Dosunmu. Mama’s piercing nails came to mind too. I looked stealthily at the place where she had injured. The wounds were healed, leaving behind two small scars, I stared at the scars and before my eyes, it transformed into Femi’s face. I shuddered.
“Mummy, did you see him too?” Deyemi asked.
I chuckled and said, “Yemi, the mind is very powerful and it can play games with us especially when we are stressed or grieving. Daddy is dead. We will meet him in heaven, okay? You can’t see Daddy”
“But I saw…”
“Now, that’s enough dear. You need some rest”
I picked him from the floor and sprawled him on the bed, before he could protest. I tucked him in and kissed him goodnight. He didn’t respond, he just kept staring at the ceiling, still very shaken up by what he had just seen. It was when I reached for the door that his voice, plaintive and fearful, stopped me.
“Mummy, can I come and sleep in your room please?”
I nodded. He got out of his bed, slowly, grabbing his duvet and holding it to his chest. I let him walk in front of me and as he made his way to my room, I feared that Adeyemi will never return to the boy who played around the house, riding on his father’s shoulders. My heart broke for my son. I tucked him in my bed and sang to him, hoping to allay his fears. He lay there, staring at the ceiling with unblinking eyes, turning his neck with alacrity to look around intermittently. Sandra slipped into the room too and clambered up to my bed. As the both of them looked to me for answers, I wished I had something to say, some hope to give. The truth was, I was just as confused as they were.
“You two will be having a brother or sister in a couple of months” I announced to them, hoping to cheer them up.
Neither said anything and in that moment a lump came into my throat. Femi and I had been planning how we were going to break the news to the children. We were supposed to take them out to the beach and spill the news there, we were meant to have filmed the moment and shared it on IGTV. But there was no Femi any longer. I held my two children and cried passionately. They cried with me.
Long after the both of them slept off, I was sitting up in the living room, right where Femi had been sitting before he was shot. I mulled over everything. The death of Femi was purely natural. It happened before my eyes. He was assassinated by someone. This wasn’t anything spiritual. I couldn’t let mawkish thoughts or Nigerian sentiments get the best of me.
I am an educated woman. I will think like one. I won’t let my sentiments mislead me like they did at the funeral. Femi was assassinated, I am about to find the perpetrator and I will make him pay.
I returned to the room and lay down beside Sandra. The next morning, I snoozed my morning alarm, my boss had been kind enough to give me some time off to grieve, what I couldn’t snooze was the loud knock on the door. I rolled out of bed; the knocks continued. Hasty, hard raps on the door.
I approached the door, yawning. “Who is it?” I asked, peering through the peephole.
I saw it before I heard her say it: Mama.
They will come for you. Run.
We’ve agreed to drop these silly thoughts, Sola.
I adjusted my pajamas and unlocked the door. When I opened it, I saw Mama smiling, holding a small bag in her gnarled hands. I know this woman, I reassured myself, I’ve known her for well over eight years. She and her family have done nothing to hurt us. She has shown us love. Memories of all the times Mama came over to help us flooded my mind, the times she bought foodstuff, the times she helped with taking care of the children. I have a good mother-in-law.
“I have come to stay with you and the children for a while. You need the support”
I kicked aside the suspicion and skepticism that was niggling in my heart. This woman couldn’t have done nothing against her own son. I hugged her and collected her bag. But no matter how hard I tried to convince myself, there was still that lopsidedness in my intuits, a silent warning bell that had been rattling since Mama dug her nails into my skin. Why did she leave after inflicting the wound, that day at the grave side? Was that why she came to meet me that day? Was that why she hugged me? Did she nick my skin on purpose? Was there something more to the cuts than cuts?
Sola! Stop it already.
The children were out to welcome their grandma. She hugged Sandra first and then Yemi.
“Ouch” Yemi winced. “Grandma, your nails.”
My heart jack-hammered.
“Sola, I need a nail clipper. These nails have been causing quite some havoc lately. I don’t want my lovely grandchildren thinking I’m a witch.” She laughed.
I didn’t share the mirth. I went to my son and asked him where he had been injured. It was on the side of his left arm. Three small cuts, all in line, wringing out a single drop of blood, precisely the way mine did.
I looked at Mama, but Mama was already chattering away with Sandra. Why was she so cheery? Hadn’t she just lost her son?
She’s trying to encourage the children.
“Follow me, we have to take care of that wound.”
“Mummy, I don’t want you to put spirit on it,” Yemi whined, stamping his feet. “It will pepper me.”
“My friend, follow me jo” I snapped. I was suddenly irritable, the needle of a meter in me was deflecting strongly. Again, that overwhelming sense of danger.
I will thoroughly clean the wound and plaster it, that way no germs will affect Yemi. I am an educated woman; I will think like one.
But nothing in my educated head could explain the reason why Yemi’s cut had morphed into Femi’s face before my eyes. I quickly came up with an explanation. I saw Femi’s face in his wound cos I had seen Femi’s face in mine. Why then did I see Femi’s face in my wound in the first place? I saw that because Yemi was talking about seeing Femi. It was all mind games.
The next episode will be uploaded next week Wednesday. By then, my novel will be out for sale. Yes, you read that right. See flier for details. If you’re resident in Ibadan and you’ll like to purchase a hard copy of the novel, send a WhatsApp message to me on 08128511857. For those in Diaspora, the book is available on amazon. The hardcopy goes for $9 and the e-book on kindle goes for $6 only.