Going Home (Cont’d)

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I know my Father loves me.
When I said this to my brother, he laughed sadly and said “How does One who loves you so much keep you in pains?”
I told him, “All, everything, is for my Father’s glory. So, His keeping me in pains, it’s for His glory. The moment before it starts to be about me, let me breath my last”
My brother had called me Jesus Christ that night. He also told me to keep quiet and sleep.
It had been his turn to attend to me at the hospital, mum had stayed all morning and night for three days. Dad had run the ‘night shift’ a few days before, juggling nights spent on a plastic chair by my bedside with long days at work.
I believe every word I had said to my brother. My Father loves me –  Yes, the one from whose loins I came but most especially, the One who crafted and put me in his loins.

***

Kene stepped out into the cold and calm Lagos morning. He tried to avert a lot of the faces around so he could save himself the disappointment and heartbreak of finding out that Chidiebere did not show up.
“Why would she?” He questioned himself. She had not replied his mail, the only one he’d ever sent her so he wasn’t sure if she was going to show up or not. She had every right not to.
Who abandons his wife and then after twelve years, pops out of nowhere and what? She’s expected to come running to him arms wide-open?
He walked away from the arrival lounge and towards the car park. He decided to take a cab into the city, find a nice and cheap hotel to lodge in and calculate his strategy from there.
Yes, he had come all the way with no plans.
“Kene!”
He halted mid-stride and looked back. No one looked like they had just called anyone.
What? Was he beginning to hear voices? Just perfect!
He started again, towards the taxi park. The drivers were beckoning to him already; some were already walking towards him, calling out possible directions in town.
He caught the eyes of one of them.
“Ikeja” he said.
“Kenechukwu!”
He stopped again. He’d heard his name this time. No doubt.
The taxi driver took his backpack off him.
“Kenechukwu!”
He swung around and then, he saw her! She was running towards him like a toddler into the arms of a loving father.
His arms were hanging loosely by his sides.

***

I see the light.
No, not the one in my room. I see the light, the one leading far from here.
It’s not my first time, I think it’s my third. I never looked twice the previous times but, this time around, it’s all I’ve been looking at.
I think it’s time to go home.
Mum… Dad… My brother…
The last time we talked, I told my Father that I may be coming home soon. He assured me that He would take care of all of them…
I see the light. I think it’s time to finally go home.
I push my covers aside and get out of my bed. No, this time around, it didn’t hurt to do so. It is the easiest thing in the world to do. Amazing!
I look back and see myself on the bed,  sprawled there helplessly, sustained and kept by those tubes and machines. I see my brother by the bedside, sitting on that flimsy plastic chair, his blood-shot eyes trained on me.
“I’m not there anymore, look at me here!”
I wave at him but,  he definitely cannot see me as he does not move an inch.
I sigh and turn back to the light. The voice like a thousand waters calls out for me;
“Child”
I hear the hosts of glory burst out in praise of my Father, I cannot wait to join in.
I continue into the light.

***

She threw her arms around his neck and laughed really loud.
“Kenechukwu!” she called again, as if to make sure he really was the one.
“Chid’eb!” When he finally found his voice, it was a mere whisper.
After forever, she let go of his neck and cupped his face in her palms.
He looked into her eyes, brown and bright, and he remembered all that he had once lived for.

***

My steps are light and easy. I swing my body to the rhythm of worship.

***

“Kenechukwu!” she called for the umpteenth time, her mouth aghast in excited laughter.

***

Yes! This is what I was made for.

***

“Chidiebere!”

***

I’m Home!

***

You’re home!

Going Home

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Kene signed the delivery papers and mumbled some greetings in French as he handed them back to the freckle-faced delivery guy.  He didn’t respond, the freckle-faced delivery guy; he only collected the papers, nodded, hopped into his delivery Van and zoomed off. Kene wasn’t surprised nor upset, like he used to be when he just moved to Paris. Twelve years of living with them had taught him that the French were one of those people that almost always seemed to be in a hurry – so much that they sometimes couldn’t respond to greetings.
He stood hands akimbo and trailed the yellow Van with his eyes until it disappeared around the turn then, he reached for the last of the things he had to his name in France – a camouflage backpack and a black suitcase; both holding all he thought he had to go with –  walked down the driveway and away from the condo he had called ‘home’&nbsp for four years and flagged down the first taxi he saw by the roadside.
His flight at Roissy Airport was for 2300 hours. He had three hours to boarding.

***

I have been here for twenty-three nights. Well,  it’s the twenty-third night tonight and I’m hoping it’d be my last. I want to go home. When, about two years ago, I had to come in the first time, I was twenty-one and had spent thirty-two nights and all of dad’s savings. I was later released to go home after a ton of tests and investigations, score dozen of blood and water transfusions, and no precise conclusions reached. Mum and dad were not satisfied with the doctors’ reports but I’d improved and I was most happy to be going back home.
I was soon back there, only six weeks later, in the same ward but a different bed. This one was at least, a little more comfortable. I didn’t have to toss and turn a gazillion times before finding a suitable spot to sleep off in. That I had a comfortable bed did not mean I loved being back; I don’t know anyone who loves dwelling in pains.
The pains are everywhere. They had started in my back and have now spread to my entire body; my back still hurts the most though – my lower back, and mum’s heart. Dad’s pocket also hurts badly. His heart must be hurting too but, dad doesn’t exactly express his emotions so, no one really knows how he feels; well, except mum and of course, God.
There were twelve nights the second time. Twelve nights of worse pains, more expensive tests, lots of needles and blades mutilating my flesh, machines and test results that had names I could not pronounce and Multiple Myeloma.
Yes, Cancer.

***

Kene had flown so much so that flying made no difference to him anymore. This one turned out different – restless nerves, palpitating heart, belaboured breathing. As the craft taxied on the runway and finally took off, he almost had his heart jump out of his mouth.
“Calm down Kene” He whispered to himself. “For the love of God, calm down!”
The last time he could remember himself being this nervous was twelve years ago. Twelve years ago, he had left Chidiebere, the child in her womb and everything else for Paris with one backpack, one hundred dollars and a phone number. Twelve years ago, Kene chose what he thought mattered most in his life – singing.
He had the voice of an angel, he knew it and he had heard it from tons of people more times than he could count. He had sung from cradle – with his mother, with his sisters, with Chidiebere and, when Chidiebere became pregnant, he had hoped she’d have a girl that could sing like he could.
“You have a daughter” Chidiebere had written in the mail she sent him two days after she had their child, “She’s pretty and I hope her voice is too”.
The picture of their two-day old daughter she had attached at the end of the mail – a tiny pink bundle with the cutest smile.
“Kenechukwu, she can sing, and beautifully too! ” That was Chidiebere’s mail when their daughter, Somtochi, turned three.
” Kenechukwu, when are you coming home? I miss you dearly and Somtochi needs her father”. That was another mail.
He never replied any of the mails; and Chidiebere sent one every month – for twelve years.
Jacques had told him that he needed to focus, dwelling on all he left back home would distract him from attaining his goal – a world renowned and celebrated music artiste. Jacques told him many things, he promised him many things, and a lot of those things came to pass. His career as the guitar-wielding songster became nationally and even internationally celebrated. He was booked for a gig every other day and he had even performed at the inaugural ball of the president in 2012.
The accolades rolled in so fast he became too popular for Jacques to control. The money came in too, so did the girls and cars. He ditched Jacques for another manager and got better deals.
He had it all, but it didn’t make sense without Chidiebere – and Somtochi. His success without them had no meaning.
Eight days ago, like the prodigal son, Kene jumped out of bed earlier than he normally would, picked up his phone and dialled the travelling agency. He then replied the mail Chidiebere had sent two days before – her eighth in the year and the first he’d replied in twelve years.
“Chid’eb, I’m coming home. My flight is for Thursday. I’ll land at MMA for 5am Friday morning”

***

Concluding part next week!

Pierced – Ep. 12 (The Final Episode)

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Elsie stood hands akimbo before the two-seater leather divan in her office and stared at the ivory-coloured lace mini dress that she laid out on it. The pair of same-coloured stiletto pumps that he had got with the dress stood on the carpeted floor at the foot of the seat. She had been staring at the ensemble for more than a quarter hour, her brows knitted in confusion and worry.

She sighed and plumped down into the space beside the dress, allowing herself to sink into the softness and coolness of the seat. She knew the dress quite well; it was the exact type that her favourite Hollywood act had worn to the Oscars earlier in the year and she had become obsessed with it for a very long time. Elsie wished she knew what he was up to; she wondered what he was planning and why he still wanted to be with her after what she had done. The thought had come to her mind that maybe he wanted to give her a break-up treat or maybe he had something really horrible and embarrassing planned for her during the dinner. She was tempted to call him and cancel. She yearned to talk to Ezinne. She would have helped her sort through her worries and fears and they would have come to the best conclusion on what she should do. The tears returned; the same tears that had not been far from her eyes in the previous lots-of-days.

Ezinne. They hadn’t set eyes on each other not to talk of saying a word since the Saturday morning her friend left her room, wounded. She had wanted to speed-dial her number so many times in the days that had gone by but she didn’t know what she was going to say to her. She couldn’t blame her friend anyway; she didn’t not have any right to, she was the one that was to be blamed and she was doing a great job at it all by herself.

Elsie wished she could roll back the hands of time and do things differently so she could fix everything, she wished she hadn’t had a late night in the office, she wished she had told the security not to allow Obinna up into her office, everything would have been different and remained perfect. She had longed for the return of Kamal and planned a thousand-one things to do – all her plans came to zilch.

The clock chimed. It was five o’clock. She had practically spent the last hour of the day doing nothing but brooding over a dress and dinner – too short a time to do so, she thought. She pushed herself to her feet, took another half-minute look at the dress and then went into the bathroom. She stripped herself of her clothing and stepped into the minuscule bath, pulled a shower cap over her hair, turned on the tap and let the ice cold water from the shower run over her body. A soothing relief came with the flow.

Kamal got out of the car just as she stepped out of the main door to the building. The air his nose sucked into his lungs almost choked him as he caught a full view of the woman he had spent the last half-decade of his life loving. He knew he wasn’t looking bad himself; he had picked the best of his tuxedos for the night but, he thought she looked like royalty. He walked over to the passenger side of the car and opened the door just as she got to his side.

He looked her over – her dreads were swept into a tight bun just behind her right ear, her ample lips covered in a thick coat of red colour, the ivory dress stood out on her caramel-coloured skin – she looked like a princess devoid a tiara.

“You look amazing”

She tried to force a smile. “Thank you”

She got into the car and he shut the door after her. Elsie rubbed her hands together vigorously and hummed a low tune in a bid to stop the trembling in her hands and the thudding of her heart.

“You’re cold?” He asked as he settled into the driver’s seat.

She shook her head and made another attempt at a smile.

He started the engine and drove the automobile out of the premises.

It took them another half hour through the closing-hour traffic to get to their destination. Throughout the journey, they never said a word to each other; the silence which unknown to both of them, ate them up deep within. Kamal’s attempt at a joke at the beginning of the travel had been received with a very shallow laughter from Elsie and both had thought it best to just keep mum.

“You know Mr. K, for a while, I was beginning to fear you guys had split up!” Quadri, the ever-smiling doorman at La Grande said, as the couple climbed up the flight of stairs to the entrance.

Kamal smiled broadly, drawing Elsie closer to himself by her waist.

“Naaah man! I was only out of town a while, that’s all”

Quadri placed his palm on his chest and sighed dramatically. “Thank God! If you guys broke up, all my hopes on love would be shattered. I see dozens of couples come in here every day but none of them are as in love with each other as you”

Elsie’s heart skipped a beat and she wanted to apologize to Quadri on the shattering of his love hopes but again, she said nothing.

Kamal patted the doorman on the shoulder warmly, his smile slightly faded. “Thanks Quadri”

He pulled the glass door open and bowed slightly as they walked in.

“It’s good to see you again, Miss Elsie”

“Thanks Quadri”

After clearing reservations, they were soon settled at one of the tables in a beautiful corner of the restaurant.

“It’s great to be back here, great to be back home”

Elsie shifted her gaze from the purse she had placed on the table and tried to make herself look into Kamal’s eyes. She failed. She tried to smile, as she settled for the emptiness right above his head. She wished she could be bold enough to take just one look at him and telling him how dapper she thought he looked.

A waiter came to their table and as usual, being the one who had a better taste when it came to culinary, Kamal placed their orders.

When he was sure the waiter was out of earshot, Kamal leaned into the table and rested his elbows on it, arms folded.

“You’ve barely said two words to me”

Oh, really! I can’t find even a word to say. Elsie thought.

She faked a clearing of the throat and shifted uneasily in her chair. She didn’t know what to say to him, his being nice was killing her faster than a terminal disease.

“Elsie?” Her name in his voice sounded like Yanni on the piano.

“Uh…”

He reached out to touch her hand on the table but she took it off before he could.

“Your silence is eating me up. I’ve been gone for months and I thought you’d want to say everything and anything to me by the time I got back”

“I’m sorry” she blurted.

Kamal knotted his eyebrows as he sipped his banana smoothie.

“Sorry?”

It was the turn of Elsie’s brows to knot in confusion, fear and worry. She summoned all of the courage left in her, which equaled nada, and took a glance at his face. She almost screamed in shock – his face was as soft and blank as could be. There was nothing to give away a hint of hidden anger or hatred or hurt.

“Kamal?”

“Elsie…”

“Who are you?”

He gave a short laugh. “What do you mean who am I?”

“Please, just say what’s on your mind, I beg of you. I know I’ve hurt you and I am deeply sorry but I want you to…”

He cut in. “Say something about it?”

She nodded, her hands trembling.

Kamal bowed his head for several seconds and when he raised it, Elsie actually shrieked before she could help it. His eyes were suddenly watery and bloodshot and his lips turned down at the corners as if he had tasted bile.

He shook his head vehemently. “Don’t let me say anything Elsie. I don’t want to say anything”

Her tears poured on the dish of Pasta that had just been set before her.

“Please say something, I beg of you”

He shook his head again. “I don’t want to say what you want me to say”

She sniffed hard. “Then say what you want to say, I want you to say what you want to say”

A tear found its way out of his eye and slipped down his left cheek. Kamal wiped it off with the back of his palm and moved on to the edge of his chair.

“Marry me, Elsie”

For a second, she thought she had died and gone to heaven. She knew only God could say something like that to her in her present situation.

“What?!”

Kamal dipped his hand into the inner pocket of his jacket and produced the most velvety scarlet box Elsie had ever seen. She gasped when he opened it and turned it to face her; the giant solitaire caught the light and shone like the sunrise.

“Elsie, I want you to marry me”

She went dumb. Numb.

Kamal went down on his knee by the table and he let the tears fall. They had created a little scene and half a dozen pairs of eyes were on them.

“I know you want me to say that I am hurt and heartbroken and maybe that we should take a break but I don’t; I don’t want to say all of that to you. Instead, I want you to marry me Elsie, I know you never meant to hurt me and what happened was not a deliberate act, so I forgive you and my heart overwhelms with deeper love for you for being truthful with me and telling me what happened”

Elsie’s frame vibrated as her tears poured.

“It could have been me, it could have been me in your shoes and I could have been the one that messed up and you would have forgiven me, wouldn’t you? So, why can’t I go on to do the same for you?”

He turned her chair so she could face him and took her trembling hands in his.

“Please marry me Elsie and let us put all of these behind us. I still want to spend the rest of my life loving you, please give me that chance”

He lifted her face with his palm and for the first time in a long time, their eyes locked in a soulful embrace. He leaned into her and caught her lips in his.

Elsie’s head thudded like a thousand generals in a march past. She pushed him away, breaking the kiss, grabbed her purse and made out of the restaurant half-walking, half-running.

It took Kamal a few seconds to recover but he was soon on her heels.

“Elsie!”

She stopped at the bottom of the stairs, a thousand eyes now on them.

“I can’t marry you Kamal!”

“But, why? I thought you wanted this, to be my wife!”

“Yes, when I thought I worth it”

“You still do. I still love you”

She laughed sadly. “You know, I’ve always known that you are not the regular guy, I just didn’t know this much”

Kamal caught her by the arm as she began to turn away.

“Elsie, please”

“Kamal, maybe you have forgiven me but, I could never forgive myself!”

“Elsie…”

She let her eyes run over his from.

“If there ever were any man too good, you are he and, of you, I am undeserving”

She yanked her arm out of his grip and ran towards the parking lot.

“El!”

She sighted a cab, opened the door and jumped in the rear seat.

The startled driver looked back at her.

“Just drive, please!” she yelled through her tears.

Ezinne threw an over-sized T-shirt on and mumbled and grumbled as she went on to answer the door. It was almost ten o’clock and she told herself that whoever was at her door had better have a very good explanation for coming so late or else, she wouldn’t let them in. It was Obinna that used to come over late at night but of course, he had no cause to come over anymore; not after she had broken up with him and her traitor of a friend had gone ahead to sleep with him.

She stabbed me right in the back! Ezinne thought as she got to the door.

“Who is it?”

The reply was a thin voice, one she had heard too many times not to recognize even if she were going deaf.

The traitor! What did she want?

“What do you want?”

She didn’t hear any words, she thought she heard cries instead.

Ezinne wanted to turn away and go back to what she was doing but she told herself to open the door and amuse herself with whatever act her ex-friend had put up. She undid the bolt, turned the key in the lock and opened the door. The sight of her the woman she had shared almost every moment with in years sitting on the ground, a mess of hair and tears, put a sword through her heart.

“What?” Ezinne stood arms akimbo, trying to conceal the emotion in her voice.

Elsie sobbed on. Her bare shoulders trembled.

“You won’t talk?”

“Kamal asked me to marry him”

Ezinne suddenly felt dizzy. She grabbed the door post to steady herself.

“Good for you”

Elsie shook her head. “I said no”

“You did what?!”

Elsie wailed. She wanted to talk but she wailed instead. The words only formed in her head, not in her mouth. Her voice was lost. She gathered the last of the strength that was gradually ebbing away in her body and took a hold of her friend’s ankle.

“Ezinne… I need you…” her voice was practically a whisper.

Ezinne went down in a squat beside her friend. Her heart thawed gradually and its fluid flowed from her eyes. They must have been there for several minutes, the silence and tears wrapping their cold arms around them, before she finally grabbed her friend by the waist and lifted her to her feet.

“You hurt me Elsie. I was pretty mad at you but, I can’t let you go through all of these alone”

Author’s Note: …and so, Pierced finally comes to an end. I’m dying to hear your comments on the story… Trust me, I didn’t know it was going to go like this, Elsie and Kamal caught me by surprise too… Thanks for reading, I couldn’t have had a story without you guys.

So until next Friday…

Pierced – Ep. 11

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Elsie sat at her desk and swirled in her chair mindlessly as her eyes darted again from one end of the room to another. All her three-and-something years in it, she had always felt it was quite a large and spacious office but today, after avoiding it for a week, she had finally come back to face the habitation of her iniquity, and its walls felt as if they were closing in on her; the room had suddenly become too small. She let her eyes dart around, wishing her mind would be able to put together the bits and pieces of that act that had altered her entire existence but it came up with nothing but a blank emptiness that she feared was sooner or later going to send her raving mad.

She sat up in her chair and tried to put herself together for the umpteenth time so she could get back to work. She had a bunch of reports to transcribe, mails to sort through and out and a whole lot of filing to do; all accumulation of a week’s work and her boss’ business voyage. The grandfather-clock imitation on her wall began to chime and she looked up to discover that it was already one o’clock and she had barely gotten anything reasonable done since morning. She remembered also that it was lunch time and that she could go and get something to eat but she did not, knowing that Ezinne was going to have lunch at the same spot as she – the spot that they had over the years shared a lot of meals in.

Tears welled up in Elsie’s already blood-shot eyes.

There was a knock on her door and before she could answer, the door swung open and in stepped her boss, his tie hanging loosely around his neck.

He held up his android tab and shook it in the air above his head.

“Elsie, when did you transcribe this report?”

She literally jumped to her feet. “Uh, I…”

He cut in. “It must have been before you took your leave because this work could only have been done by a sick Elsie!”

His tone was upset but calm. He never was the kind of man who raised his voice.

“I’m sorry sir”

“Fix it, please. I need it yesterday!”

“Yes sir!”

“Good!”

He turned around and let himself out the same way he had come in.

She crumbled back into her seat, let her head fall to the desk and sobbed. She felt extremely tired, like she had just run a marathon race; only that this tiredness was not in her muscles, it was some place deep within where analgesics could not reach.

It was amazing how just one night could turn everything she had been in the last five years topsy-turvy. There was no doubting the fact that she was crazily in love with Kamal and that he loved her right back and they couldn’t wait to be married to each other, but right now, she wondered if he ever wanted to set eyes on her again. All of her consultations with wedding planners, obsession with bridal magazines and hours on the internet comparing colour schemes and checking out event centres were now in vain.

Now, as she shuddered with tears at her desk, the last thing she could remember him saying to her was the lethal silence that followed after she, through her tears, told him that she had just slept with her best friend’s ex-fiancé.

Slut! Traitor! Her mind yelled at her.

“Elsie”

She raised her head with a jerk and shrieked as her blurry vision cleared, making out who it was who stood before her.

“I knocked but you didn’t answer so I tried the…”

She nodded, mute.

She couldn’t take her eyes off him as he stood by the door, his skin glowing and his muscles taut and intimidating in the T-shirt he wore. She must have stared like a goon for several seconds before she suddenly jumped to her feet again, almost tripping over herself as she ran into the bathroom. She turned on the tap, splashed handfuls of water on her face and then grabbed hold of the sink as she fought to steady herself and calm down.

“Are you okay?” His voice flowed with the air through the door.

She looked at her face in the mirror – washed mascara, smeared kohl, bloodshot eyes, dry hair – she looked awful.

“Just a second”

She gulped in lots of air and exhaled loudly. She stepped out of the bathroom and shut the door behind herself, leaning on it.

“I thought you weren’t supposed to be back for another few days?”

“Change of plans”

He was resting his back against the wall opposite of her seat, the same wall that bore the framed painting of her silhouette that he had given her as a gift on her last birthday. He didn’t look like he wanted to sit down, like he wanted to stay long.

She stayed on her spot, her gaze dancing above his head, scared of what they’ll see in his eyes. Every fiber of her being screamed at her to go and hug him and fall at his feet and beg for forgiveness; to tell him again how sorry she was and how she knew he was mad and how she didn’t want him to ever leave but, her feet stayed glued to the spot, they didn’t move an inch.

He broke the awkward silence. “It’s Thursday tomorrow”

She nodded again. She actually didn’t even remember what day of the week any day was anymore.

“La Grande still runs, yeah?”

“Sure”

“I’ll call in to confirm six o’clock”

Her heart skipped a beat. He wanted them to go to dinner? She couldn’t believe her ears.

Kamal walked over to her and tipped her head up with his fingers so he could catch her gaze. She looked away, tears forming at the corners of her eyes.

“I’ll pick you up here by five-forty”

She didn’t say anything. Any word she tried to let out would come out as tears instead.

He kissed her on the forehead and, still searching for her eyes said, “I miss you Elsie”

His baritone rang in her heart and the tears came now, hard.

Kamal turned around and walked towards the door.

He pointed to a fancy plastic bag on her table. “That’s a little something I’d love to see you in tomorrow. Five-forty”

…and so Pierced is one episode away from being concluded! It looks like a not-so-sad story after all, right? Well, if I were you, I’d like to find out how this thrilling love concludes. The final episode comes up next Friday. Don’t miss it!

Pierced – Ep. 10

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She hadn’t slept in two consecutive nights and as a result of the endless tears added to her insomnia, her eyes were bloodshot and almost swollen shut. Her mother had prodded and inquired but she gave no information more than “I’m having a tough time right now and I need to be by myself for some time and no, it’s not Kamal”. She rolled off her bed and unto the floor and crawled into the bathroom where she dropped on the toilet bowl. As she emptied her bladder, she wished her shame, pain, and agony would empty with the waste exiting her body.

That she could tell what happened was absolute truth but that she could explain how it happened was what she didn’t think was truth because she just couldn’t explain it. She had tried over and over again in the last looks-like-forever hours to recollect the details of the incident but over and over again, she failed and more and more this frustrated her. She remembered herself standing at the door all furious one minute and the next, she found herself sliding out from under a man who had once been her best friend’s, naked.

She knew he wasn’t drunk, well, she thought he wasn’t but, she couldn’t convince herself that she hadn’t been drunk and even if she had, she didn’t think she had been that drunk. Drunk enough to sleep with her best friend’s ex-fiancé, drunk enough sleep with the same man she had advised her friend to leave, drunk enough to betray her friend, and Kamal.

Ah, Kamal! She thought. She knew she was doomed already. As if he knew something had gone terribly wrong, his call had come in just as she was struggling to cover her shame with her strewn-all-over-the-room garments and she had not been able to lie to him; she never had been able to, not even with the vast land mass and oceans between them. Elsie had never heard him express himself in such a manner as he had done that unfortunate night; the pain, ache and disappointment he felt, he spoke in the loudest silence ever, and then, he hung up. That end-of-call tone rang in her head endlessly ever since.

Elsie got up and trudged back into the bedroom, the weight of her mistake weighed heavily on her frame. She stopped in front of the mirror and shuddered at the image it reflected to her – a slut, a traitor, a liar. She stared on, wanting to yell at the top of her lungs that she wasn’t what she was looking at. That she hadn’t done whatever she did, deliberately. That she did not mean to betray Ezinne nor Kamal. That she was sorry. But, she could not find her voice, it was stuck some place deep down in her stomach and she just couldn’t bring it out plus, her tongue was tied to the roof of her mouth – tied with shame.

The image of who she had now become haunted her and she burst into a fresh bout of tears. Elsie moved to the edge of her bed and she allowed herself fall into the soft sheets, burying her face in them as she wailed. She wanted to pray but couldn’t find the words to say to God; she felt even He was presently utterly disappointed and not on her side.

She felt the warmth of a loving touch on her foot.

“Mother, leave me alone, please!” she screamed into the mattress.

“El?”

It wasn’t her mother.

Elsie felt her heart stop beating in her chest at the recognition of whose voice she’d heard.

“Elsie?”

She turned over in the bed and fixed her gaze above the head of the best friend she had ever had. For the first time in their almost-four-years of being the best of friends, Elsie couldn’t look at her friend in the eyes; they felt like a hunter’s knife cutting through her heart.

“Ezinne…” she was almost whispering.

The skin on Ezinne’s forehead was creased with worry; her eyes began to fill with tears at the sight of her friend looking disheveled and ghost-like.

“What on earth is wrong with you? You look like you’re dying”

“I am”

Her friend blinked back the tears in her eyes. “Elsie, talk to me”

Elsie’s gaze dropped to the floor.

“You didn’t even tell me that you were taking a leave. It was SJ that told me that you came in late yesterday morning to ask for a sick leave”

Elsie nodded. “Chairman is not around”

“He said you asked for a week. I tried calling your number endlessly but it didn’t go through so I called mummy last night, she was the one who told me”

Elsie said nothing.

“You know I would have been here as soon as she told me but I had promised to babysit my nieces for the night”

Elsie tried to force a smile. It didn’t work. “It’s fine”

Ezinne moved closer to her friend and made to lift her face with her hand. Elsie gently dodged from her reach.

“Nne, what happened to you now?” Ezinne’s voice quivered with emotions.

Tears rolled down Elsie’s cheeks. She lifted her hands to her face and covered it with her palms.

“I’m sorry” she sobbed, her voice muffled by her palms and tears.

“Sorry? “

“I’m sorry, Ezinne… ”

“You’re sorry? That you’re not able to talk right now?” Ezinne shrugged, “It’s alright, there’s nothing to be sorry about. Thank God it’s weekend, I have all of the time to spend with you”

Elsie shook her head vigorously and wailed; her heart ached beyond what she could find words to express. The innocence of her friend’s love set fire in her bosom and it burned really hot.

She dropped her hands onto her laps and quieted down. “You should go”

Ezinne hissed. “Go? Where to? If I hear say I go!”

“What is it El? Are you sick? Is it Kamal? Who died? Talk to me, your silence is eating me up!”

Elsie shifted to the edge of the bed, got on her feet and walked slowly to the other side of the room where her friend’s back was turned to. She leaned her own back against the wall and took a long, deep breath to steady herself.

“I slept with Obinna”. The words rolled out of her mouth just as her friend turned to face her.

Their eyes locked for a split second before Elsie shifted gaze again. It hurt too much to look into her friend’s eyes.

It took several minutes before either of them spoke.

“You did what?!” Ezinne’s eyes flashed with pain.

“Thursday night in my office”

Elsie’s voice broke and she slid down into a squat. “I’m sorry”

Ezinne squeezed her eyes shut and when she opened it just as the clock counted the ninetieth second, a tear slipped out one eye and was followed in quick succession by another from the other eye. She pushed herself to her feet, grabbed her bag from the top of the dresser and avoided Elsie’s sight as she walked out of the room.

Pierced – Ep. 9

200215260-001

Elsie hummed a tune and wiggled her body to its rhythm as she gave finishing touches to her face and hair.
She put her face closer to the mirror and bore her teeth widely in an exaggerated smile. “I feel good! No, no, no, great… I feel great! Awesome! On top of the moon!” she yelled, trying to mimic the famous Michael Jackson moonwalk.
She tripped and fell onto her bed and burst out laughing really hard she didn’t notice when her mother walked in.
“Today must be a very good day o”
Elsie sat up in her bed, clutching her sides and breathing hard as she tried to regain composure.
“Yes mother, the rest of my life is going to be very good!”
The mother retied her wrapper around her chest and took a seat on the edge of her daughter’s bed.
“Tell me about it”
“Kamal is coming home in two weeks!” Elsie yelled.
The older woman’s eyes widened with joy. “Aaah! You have to be really happy then. In fact, we all have to be”
“Yes o!”
Elsie pushed herself up from the bed, smoothened her dress over her hips, slid on a pair of stilettos she grabbed off her shoe rack and reached for her hand and laptop bags – the one she hung on her arm and the other, she balanced on her shoulder. She took one last look at herself in the mirror and satisfied with what she saw, flashed another ridiculous grin.
She turned to her mother. “I’m off mother”
“No breakfast?”
“I’m too happy to keep anything in my stomach. I’m sure I’ll be fine till lunch”
“Toh. It’s alright”
She made out the room but stopped at the doorway. “Don’t wait up for me. Late night.”
“Take care o”
“Yes ma’am!”
And with that, she was gone, humming her tune even louder.

Elsie jerked in her seat as her head hit the desk. She murmured some inaudible words and scratched her left arm with the nails of her right fingers, unsure of what exactly made it itch. She squinted at the screen of the laptop in her face as she tried to gather herself back together in one piece.
“Oohh… The NJ proposal…” she muttered, at the realization of what she had been working on before she dozed off.
She glanced at the clock on her laptop; it said eight-oh-seven. Elsie knew the cubicles and hall ways of the office would be empty; she remembered that Ezinne had come to say her goodnights almost four hours ago and one of the junior managers who had won the ‘most dedicated staff’ and ‘most hardworking staff’ awards for three consecutive years and was known to work late nights, was away on official assignment so she knew that she was all alone on the floor – with a janitor or two.
Her eyes felt heavier than her face, she needed to sleep and sleep well but, she had to get the proposal ready for seven o’clock the next day so her boss could take it with him on his trip – one she was glad she didn’t have to accompany him to. If she took the work home, there was no doubt that she wouldn’t be able to get it done before it was needed so she stuck with finishing her work before going home.
Elsie got out of her chair and walked into the small rest room in her office. She opened the tap and cupped her palm to collect some water which she splashed on her face in a bid to help awaken her and her senses too. After repeating the process about a half dozen times without any positive effect, she gave up on it, turned off the tap and dragged herself back into the office the same way she had come in.
“Oh God!” she snapped, “I need to finish this thing jare”
Her eyes rested on the fridge standing in the corner and she walked over to it. She thought: eating something might help. Elsie scanned through its contents – biscuits, chocolate bars, juice packs and a bottle of wine; she reached for the bottle of wine and slammed the door shut. One of her boss’ business partners had brought her the wine so many weeks before after they had sealed a multi-million deal with him – extremely nice man. She read the name of the product and her eyes widened when she saw the alcohol level – it was in the forties. Elsie wasn’t exactly the alcohol-consuming kind of person but she could remember getting wasted on a few occasions.
She returned to her seat and worked the cork with the screw she’d grabbed from the top of the fridge. She told herself she wasn’t going to get drunk, just a few swigs to keep her awake and alert. She took a first sip, squeezed her face into a slight distortion as the liquid burnt down her throat and sharply turned back to work. Indeed, the drink seemed to cooperate with her ‘plan’ as she felt more alert after a third swig.
Her intercom rang. She grabbed the receiver in the spirit of being slightly high and put it to her ear.
“Yes?”
It was security, as she had guessed. A man was asking to see her.
“Who did he say he is?”
Elsie frowned at the mention of his name. She knew what he wanted but wondered how he knew she was still at work
“Let him come up”
She replaced the receiver and returned back to her work. Some five minutes later, there was a knock on her door.
“Come in”
She didn’t look up from her laptop as she asked her guest in nor as he actually came in.
“El?”
It was now that she looked up. “Obinna”
She smiled; her half warm, half nasty smile.
He walked over to her side of the desk and she got up as he approached her and gave him a brief hug. His smile revealed the imperfection of his dentition – two of his upper teeth were missing, they had always been missing. He returned to the other side of her desk, pulled out one of the two chairs, sat and crossed his legs.
“Please have your seat” Elsie’s tone was heavily laced with sarcasm.
Obinna ignored her unfriendly attitude and smiled.
“How did you know to find me here?”
“Well, I was speaking to Emeka as he was leaving work and he mentioned as he drove out the premises that your car was still in”
“Ohhh, Emeka eh?”
Emeka was Obinna’s cousin who worked in one of the other offices in the building hers was in too. He was also the one Elsie didn’t like, she thought him a very lousy and arrogant person who never minded his own business.
Obinna gave a short laugh. “He actually thinks you’re having an affair with your chairman”
Elsie shook her head slightly. “It’s Emeka. He’s dumb”
“Hey ma’am! Easy on my cousin”
Elsie pulled her laptop closer. “What is it that brings you, Obinna?”
The grin on the man’s bearded face disappeared and was replaced with one that would draw sympathy from almost anybody.
“Elsie, I need Ezinne back. I need her”
Elsie didn’t say anything. Instead, she returned to her work and typed away on her laptop shifting her gaze between the keyboard and a number of papers within her reach.
“I’ve not been able to get her off my mind” Obinna continued, “and I know I will never be able to. Ezinne is my life, I haven’t been the same since she left”
“Aww…”
“Please help me talk to her. I promise to change”
Elsie looked at him again. “Obinna, change?”
“I can swear”
“No, don’t bother. Don’t bother raining unnecessary curses on yourself because I won’t even talk to her about you not to talk of begging her”
“Elsie, please help me, you’re the only one I know she will listen to”
Elsie chuckled. “I know, that was why I kept hammering that she should break up with you”
Obinna sat up in his chair and his crossed leg fell to the floor.
“My friend doesn’t deserve the tinniest bit of what you put her through, getting in between the legs of everything called female”
His gaze fell to the floor, ashamedly. “I’m sorry. I really am”
Elsie shrugged and returned to her work. “Well, thank God you are but it doesn’t change anything. At least, I don’t think it does”
The room fell silent save the tapping of keys and the shuffling of papers. It must have been almost a quarter of an hour before Obinna broke the silence.
“I bet if I can get between your legs just once, you’ll come begging for more”
Heat from nowhere permeated her entire body and concentrated in her head. Her eyes shot out with rage and her stomach tightened in a knot.
“You surely are the stupidest of all men!”
She jumped on her feet and took some of her quickest and sharpest strides to the door.
She flung it open and left it ajar.
“Get out!”
Obinna was on his feet, facing her, face blank.
Her head felt like a stadium filled with noise-making-feet-stomping fans – like it was going to explode.
“Obinna Ezeanya, get out of my office!”

Pierced – Ep.8

200215260-001

Kamal’s hands fumbled with his pockets as he searched for the key to his apartment. He greatly hoped in his heart that he had not forgotten it in the conference room again like he did three days before; it was too cold today for him to have to go out looking for any key. He finally found it in the inner pocket of his coat, unlocked the door, walked into the darkness of his apartment and then turned on the lights. The heater was his next point of call as it had been in the last two weeks that the temperature danced between ten and six degrees.
He dropped his satchel on the beige carpet, kicked off his boots and jumped into the king-sized bed, sinking into the soft, cotton-filled duvet. If there was anything Kamal hated about his current environment, it was the skin-stinging cold which most of his other colleagues – non-Nigerians, of course – didn’t really classify as cold; but anytime he got into the bed, he felt a soothing relief he earlier described to Elsie as refreshing. He shuffled between the sheets and duvet until he found a perfect spot where he laid on his back, propped up his head on a pillow and stared at the white-washed ceiling. His stomach growled with hunger but he ignored it for his mind that wandered back home, to Lagos, to Elsie. Kamal wished she were with him; every night, snuggled up under his duvet, his mind dwelt on her like a dog on fresh bones.
He longed to feel her in his arms, breathe in the fruitiness of her cologne, delight in the music of her laughter and rest his tired head in her bosom. Even with the fact that he spoke with her first thing in the morning and her voice was the last he heard every night before he slept off, it didn’t cover up the distance that ran thousands of miles between them. The other day, she had sobbed when they spoke, saying how much she missed him and longed for him to be back. The eight weeks he had left in the US were beginning to look like eight months; he wanted to be home so bad. Hot blood running through his veins didn’t help either, and since Elsie wouldn’t do it with him virtually nor allow him touch himself, he sought relief in plenty mugs of steaming hot chocolate and hard rock music. Not that his relief-seeking methods helped much anyway.
Kamal rolled out of the bed. He needed to eat something and call Elsie, it was past ten o’clock. He moved over to the kitchen area and opened the fridge; so many bottles of beer and packs of bacon and sausages stared back at him. He closed the fridge, looked at the half-eaten loaf of bread sitting on the counter a while and then shook his head. He resisted the temptation to go for sandwiches – though easy and quick, he wasn’t going to sacrifice tomorrow’s breakfast for tonight’s dinner. He dropped onto the stool by the counter, picked up the landline, called his favourite pizzeria and ordered a large box and hot chicken wings with extra chilli. What Americans called hot chilli to him, was like tomato paste.
The door bell rang. Kamal frowned in wonder and took a glance at his wristwatch.
“Ten twenty-five” he muttered to himself, “Who on earth is at my door? It definitely can’t be the pizza guy unless they’d worked magic!”
The bell went off again.
Kamal got on his feet and walked to the door. He was going to take look at his unwanted guest through the peep hole when he remembered that the view it gave was blur, it had always been blur and he had always forgotten to make a complaint to the manager of the apartment about it.
He put his right ear against the door trying to make out any sound but heard none. He hadn’t made any friends that would come knocking at his door at that time of the night and he also wasn’t going to exactly admit that his heartbeat raced a little faster at the thought of racists and their likes.
“Who is it?” he finally asked.
“Trisha”
The racing of his heart stopped for some seconds and then the beating began again, almost normal.
He unlocked the door and stood in the doorway, hands crossed against his chest.
“Hey Trish!” he flashed a what-in -Jupiter-are-you-doing-at-my-door-at-this-time smile.
Trisha, a petite, hazel-eyed, caramel-skinned brunette was Kamal’s neighbour; not next-door, five doors away. She worked a counter at Tesco during the day and that at the Corner Bar at night. The apartment she stayed in wasn’t exactly hers and she used to have a job downtown as a stripper. Kamal knew all of these not because he asked but because she volunteered the more-than-enough-information and more during her many unwanted visits to him, none that had been at a time as late as the one she just came.
“Kamal”
One set of her fingers worked her brunette coils and the other, the top button of her coat.
“Uh, you’re okay?”
She smiled and ran her tongue over her crimson red lips. “Sure. Won’t you let me in?”
“I would, if you told me why you’re here this late”
Kamal knew what she was up to. Some days before, she had come to his apartment early in the morning to ask for some sugar dressed in a sheer mini nightdress without having on any underwear. He’d kept the door open and made her stand while he got her an entire pack.
“Can I come in?” she reached out to touch his arms.
Kamal slid away from her touch. “I’m sorry Trisha, you can’t”
In a split second, she ran her fingers down the buttons of her coat and shrugged it off, revealing her toned caramel body in nothing but lingerie.
Kamal felt his heart stop beating and all the blood in his body run into one spot.
Trisha stepped into his face and spoke in a suggestive whisper, “The bottom’s candy. You can eat that off me”
His breathing became belaboured and his face suddenly glistened with perspiration.
She chuckled childishly and shoved him back inside. Kamal staggered back a few steps and suddenly became awakened by the lightness of his own weight such that she had been able to send him staggering. She came after him and started to run her hands from his chest downward; he caught her hand just as she reached his belt buckle.
She looked into his eyes. “What’s wrong?”
“You” His voice sounded strange in his own ears.
She smiled again, tiptoed and kissed him on the lips.
Kamal pushed her back. “You should leave now”
She struggled to maintain her balance and began to make her way back to him.
Kamal dodged her touch again and went back to the doorway. “Get out of my house!”
She laughed. “House? Your house?”
“Out!”
The smile faded. The eyes dimmed. “Fine!”
Trisha stormed past him and out of the apartment. Kamal sighed heavily, stepped in, shut the door behind himself and leaned his back against it.
He ran his palms over his hair and shut his eyes in a bid to regain himself.
His door bell rang, again.
“Go away!” He yelled.
“Uh, dude, you don’t want your pizza no more?”
It wasn’t Trisha.
Kamal unlocked the door, again. “Sorry man. I thought it was someone else”
The skinny helmeted delivery guy shrugged and handed Kamal his order in exchange for loose change he had fished out of his pockets.
“Thanks”
“Yeah”
Kamal stepped back into his apartment and shut the door behind himself, one more time, only that this time around, he made sure he secured the deadbolt. No more opening of doors for the night. He dropped the box on the floor and slid down into a squat beside it.
Kamal punched the carpeted floor hard. “I want to go home!”

P.S: I sincerely apologize for missing the last two weeks. The last two Fridays have been my craziest ever… I’m terribly sorry. Hope you enjoyed this episode? We’re almost at the end, don’t miss out. The next episode ‘ll come up on Tuesday so as to make up for the ones I missed. See you then and thank you for reading.