Dr Hope had suspected she might be lying, but she remembered her.
She was Cynthia’s friend. She had actually introduced her as her “sister from another mother”, that afternoon they came for the pregnancy test.
Dr Hope remembered the short dark girl that was all smiles that day. Her smile was even larger than that of her friend who the good news was for.
She had remembered her perfect white dentition, the way it lit up her entire face in the smile.
She had wanted to ask her what brand of tooth cleaner she used. But eventually she asked her what she did for a living. Hoping to hear her mention dentist or actress, she heard pharmacist instead. Dr Hope had been impressed all the same.
But now that she had asked Nurse Bisi to show her the ward where the girl was, “the poor girl”—as she’d referred to her, she had developed a bit of scruple.
Vanessa took a fat breath and pushed the door of the room open.
Mma was fast asleep on the bed.
With a small smile of evil, Vanessa removed the syringe from her bag. It was loaded with the same wickedness that was to be found if one cut open her heart.
She fixed the needle and walked straight to the bed, to the silicon-like sac hanging from its holder above Mma’11s bed.
The plastic sac was half-filled with a bloody liquid. Its long and thin tube travelled all the way to Mma’s wrist.
Vanessa was near the bed when one last step went awry and instead of holding the IV bag to inject her deadly substance, she found herself crashing down the tiled hospital floor.
Cynthia slammed her fist to the front door the second time.
She tried the bell again. Nothing.
She pounded the metal door again.
The handle turned and someone pulled it open from inside.
“What do you want?” Vanessa’s face was devoid of any sign of familiarity.
Cynthia pushed her aside and walked into the room. “All I’ve come for is an explanation.”
“Explanation of what?”
“This wickedness, what is in it for you? What do you stand to achieve?”
“Does that give you the right to barge into my house?”
“You are such an ungrateful bitch. After all I did for you, you could go this far to—”
Vanessa thrust an open palm forward. “Hey, hush it right there! What and what did you do for me? What? You spend his money like it’s yours and buy me useless gifts like I’m some sort of school girl to you!”
“Yes, Cynthia, remember that afternoon, it was me, it was me he came for before you smiled your way into him, like you’ve always done!”
“Vanessa, what are you saying?
“Are you okay?” Cynthia asked as Mma returned to the table.
“I fine now. I just using the toilet.”
“Ok. Finish your food before it gets too cold.”
Mma stared at the soup as though she couldn’t recognize what it was. “I think I full already. I not eating again.”
Cynthia’s eyes ran up at her. “You are filled?”
“So who will now finish the food?”
Mma wondered if she was upset. She had never known her to concern herself with who finished or did not finish her meal. She was the perfect picky eater herself: two or three spoons of rice and a few bites at the chicken and that’s it.
It surprised Mma now that she was still at the table, still on a dish she wasn’t familiar with.
Mma shook her head. “I not eating again. I rushing and eating the food before and now it tighting my belle.”
“Oh ok. You can clear the table then.” Cynthia washed her hand.
Mma left with the dirty plates and she quickly poured a glass of juice and added the killer drop in it.
She swirled the yellow liquid in the glass and dropped it on the table.
Soon Mma was back at the table to carry the wash water.
“Take the juice,” Cynthia said, “it will help your indigestion.”
“Thanking you, ma.” Mma picked the glass and downed all of its contents in a single drink.
The house felt strangely empty, and uncomfortable.
Madam was away. Stella was nowhere to be found. Okon rarely came upstairs. The few times he did; to carry food, ask for a cold water or drop something for Oga, he didn’t say much.
Strangely, Mma found a part of her missing the fat maid.
She’d concluded when Richard came back, that she was going to tell him to bring Stella back too, just as she’d told him to do Madam.
Before her stern eyes that evening, Richard called Cynthia fifteen times and she did not answer.
“Continuing to calling her, she will answering,” Mma had told him.
Richard shook his head. “I don’t think she will.”
“I knowing she will. If not, she will offing the phone since.”
Richard tilted his chin in consideration. “You may be right,” he said.
But he did not call Cynthia again. He would go to Ikeja and bring her back himself.
“I will get you a phone tomorrow morning so that anyone can easily reach you. Do you have any make you like?”
“No o. No buying me anything again o.”
“Is it not the first one you buying me that sending me out of the house?”
Richard curved his lips.
“Let’s go back, Richard,” Vanessa said. “The girl has obviously gone.”
“Let’s check at the Akasson’s too as the guy said.”
“She probably would have used any of the bigger names.
“Oh well, we wouldn’t know for sure, would we?” Richard’s eyes didn’t leave the road.
They passed a small crowd of noisy people and Richard slowed the car.
“What’s going on there?”
Vanessa rolled her eyes. “How would I know?”
Richard stopped the car and pulled the shifter to R. The car started to reverse.
“Let me check out what’s happening there.”
Vanessa let out a small groan of impatience.
Richard parked and stepped down.
Vanessa reluctantly joined him.
A large fair lady held a younger lady in a long flowing dress by the neck. Most of the people gathered round were asking what the matter was, some pleading to the woman to leave the girl or at least tell them what the problem was.
Finally the woman released the young girl. Her forehead was reddened in fury, beads of sweat steadily condensing on the surface.
“How do I look?”
The excited cry startled him out of his thought. He turned to look at her. She looked breathtaking, like a mermaid princess dressed in a flowing, shimmering white gown.
Then he saw it. Like a flash in his mind’s eyes—him in a sky blue suit with tails and she in her mermaid princess flowing white dress, walking down the aisle of a magnificent church, arm-in-arm. Soft, soulful music played in the background. The guests were all standing, applauding, hailing, delighted… for them. They were married. They were husband and wife.
“Kolbe, I said how do I look?”
This time he jolted at the faint impatience in her voice. He blinked and stared clearly at her. “You look beautiful.” Kolbe said softly.
“I do?” Marlene let out a delighted shriek and whirled around to gaze into the oak full-length mirror. “Oh Kol, I don’t just want to look beautiful. I want to look exquisite, breathtakingly, unbelievably gorgeous. I want to be the most beautiful bride.”
“And so you are… so you’ll be.” Kolbe’s heart thrummed with heaviness as his eyes drank her in.
Flawless, fair skin. Peculiar grey eyes—so un-African in the oval, barbie-doll lovely face. She was slim and small, like a Barbie doll herself. Her fair floated down her back, framed her face. Reddish brown waves of thick tresses, a natural mane as un-African as her eyes.
Many would call her a near miss albino. He simply called her, beautiful.
“Richard, did you just slap me? Over some smelling bush girl?” Cynthia looked more disappointed than upset.
She threw her items to the couch and stormed off into their room.
Richard dropped on the couch and sank deep into it. His heart was racing and he felt dizzy. He leaned out of the chair and buried his face in his hands.
Stella crept away.
The sound of rolling plastic wheels on tiled floor jerked Richard alert.
Cynthia’s eyes scanned the space. “Stella!”
“Take this downstairs.”
Stella’s eyes grew wider. “Ma?”
“I said take the box downstairs!”
Stella began to roll the tall box away.