“Oh my God!” A firm masculine voice exclaimed from behind.
I turned to the just entered presence. I knew him. Though it seemed like ages since we last saw, but that face I couldn’t forget from my early awakening from Amnesia.
The man stopped some feet away. With a puzzled look, he took in my length. An ingenuous smile played on his lips as he returned to my face with clear admiration. “You look so good.” He said on a whispered breath. I wondered how to respond to that.
“Can I sit?”
I shrugged, and he settled beside me on the couch with an odd combination of reluctance and eagerness. His eyes held a merry twinkle in it as it framed my face.
“Can I hug you?” his brows dipped with a little frown.
I looked to Kamiyes somewhat relying on her take on the man. Her smile was enough approval, so I let him. He closed the distance. I couldn’t help the heightening feeling of forebode even as he plastered a light kiss on my cheek and withdrew. Something about him was deeply unsettling. I shook it off. I will not give to hysteria. Not after the terrible fit of conquering it.
“You look really good Pelumi! I mean it.”
Kamiye who all along had been quietly watching the exchange returned to her spot on the single adjacent couch. “This is Tomiwa Adegbeluye-Dimeji’s brother.” She introduced.
Apologetically, Tomiwa raved a proper introduction, mostly with a list of long-dated un-necessaries. He stopped, on my puny grin.
Tomiwa was good looking. That I must admit and need I say I’m not ashamed to. The Adegbeluye brother’s seemed to have beauty coursing through their veins despite their obvious differences. The elder was more stoically built with a roguish handsomeness. Tomiwa was serenely beautiful with a softness that shone in his features. Then why am I disturbed?
“It’s nice to meet you Tomiwa.” I finally spoke.
His smile lifted at that. He released a breath and tapped my arm with what could only be regarded as affection. I might be amnesiac, but I was not blind to see through his ease with me, which hinted a bond, a friendship we once might have shared, or even more.
“You look really good. Good enough to eat.”
Throaty laughter sprang from Kamiye. My heart pinched oddly. Not at her laughter of course, but of the threatening intensity of both Tomiwa’s words and stare.
I shook my head unaware of my seen shudder.
I was in safe hands, I told myself, painstakingly reminding myself that Kamiye and Tomiwa were both family and friends.
“Why are you here, I thought you were supposed to be on your way to Georgia.” Kamiye directed at Tomiwa but had her concern fixed on me.
He shrugged and settled deeper into the seat, severing eye contact with me for the very first time since his arrival.
“I missed my flight.”
“I had some important stuff to settle, I was late and… don’t worry about it,” He dismissed nonchalantly. “Tomorrow is yet another day. I’ll leave tomorrow.”
He turned to me again with mischief clear in his eyes as he reached across the couch for my arm the second time. His mouth kicked up at a corner. “You look really well. I’m happy to see you.” His voice and touch made my skin crawl. It took extra will power to stay put. “Let’s get married already.”
I blinked stupefied. His eyes were laughing at me.
“Stop it Tomiwa. Don’t scare her.” I heard Kamiye say, and as if on cue, Tomiwa burst into laughter. He reverted again into a serious mode, making plain promises that the last minute was nothing but a joke, but again ruffled my demeanour when he ended with the words. “But you will marry me someday.” Though the words had been spoken teasingly, it held enough conviction that made it seem like a vow, as was the circling of his lean spidery fingers around my ring finger. My nerves jumped. I tugged my arm, and he politely released it.
“Stop it Tomiwa! Stop it!” Kamiye firmly chided.
Thankfully, he did stop and shifted his gaze to the TV, to join in the movie we were seeing.
A single knock sounded against the door, every face turned in unison as it opened to Kazeem in striped pants, striped shirt, and same tie.
Horror registered on Kamiye’s face. Tomiwa’s lips like mine twitched with the impulse to laugh, but Tomiwa’s more. He seemed ready to explode at any moment.
“-xcuse me ma.”Kazeem raised a finger as he started somewhat tentatively into the room, gaze flicking confusedly from face to face. “Oga asked me to give you this.”
Kamiye’s face cracked an easy smile took the parcel. Tobi had been a romantic before marriage, and eleven years of staying together had not changed him. She loved him so, if there were an afterlife, she would choose him a million times over.
And then to Kazeem “Did you win a jackpot?”
He lowered his face sheepishly, and for the first time, I caught a glimpse of vulnerability in the man I never knew existed. His face split with a smile.
“I have a date with Nike. Lunch date.” He revealed with a smile showing deeply set dimples on scarred cheeks. If he weren’t dark, it might have been said that he blushed. His word reflected the dialectal mispronunciation of the letter ‘ch’.
“I just wanted you to know.” He added on Kamiye’s quiet urge.
“Does Oga know?”
“Yes.” He switched to pidgin and told of Tobi’s consent to driving the Mercedes, which Kamiye also didn’t seem to mind.
The conversation ended and when he started out, he retreated on his heels with eyes raking over every single face.
“Yes, princess!’ He spun almost halfway to the door and retraced to Kamiye’s beckon.
Wordlessly, Kamiye pushed to her feet, her parcel carefully placed on the sofa, and we watched puzzled as he reached her. Kazeem was most addled and he stood ramrod as she unknotted his tie and slid it off his neck. Without any objection, he took the tie from her even bowing low as he did.
“Now you look less of a Zebra.”
Tomiwa choked on laughter, briefly stealing the attention, but he knew to regain composure for Kazeem’s sake as the man nodded embarrassed and shamefacedly hurried out the door. The door clicked shut, and immediately Tomiwaburst into raucous pent up laughter. I helplessly followed while Kamiye gave no more than a smile.
A nurse walked in just then, my demeanour dropped. I knew her purpose even before she produced the round pills of tablets. I must eat before I take them
Kamiye then served lunch, pounded yam with a rich vegetable soup tweaked with snails, meat and the shredded processed cow skin-ponmo I had come to love, Sigh! Heavenly! Soon my plate was scraped clean of the sumptuous delicacy just in time as the door cracked open to a familiar nurse. Instinctively I turned to the much-dreaded pill on my nightstand. But with her gaze darting between Kamiye and me, I realized she was here for a different matter. She confirmed it when she announced the presence of an aunt whom Kamiye after a moment’s hesitation, demanded she is ushered in. I’d also noticed the briefly confused pass between her and Tomiwa.
“Who is that?”
“She said your aunt, your mother’s sister.” Kamiye supplied equally as expectant as I was.
Before now, I’d not known the existence of an aunt or any extended family at that, paternal or maternal. No one had ever spoken of it. Now looking back at it talks about them had been avoided like it was taboo, which made it even more surprising that an aunt would suddenly pop out the blue just a few days following father’s visit.
I briefly looked to the TV but turned as the door opened to a plump middle-aged fair woman in patterned Ankara. Something about that face struck familiar. I tried for a memory of her, but Kamiye’s dash for her was somewhat distracting. Kamiye crouched, with her knees almost touching the floor in respect to the elderly woman. Though their ensuing exchange was inaudible, it was easy to tell neither woman had met the other.
As the beaming woman’s gaze collided with mine, her smile dwindled. Tomiwa spoke something unintelligible, and with the barely heard excuse, he was gone.
Reluctantly, the woman started forward, with a haunting flick in eyes as huge as mine. Though her face was worn and bearing streaks of agedness, it spoke what beauty it might have boasted of at some time. Even her Ankara, I noticed was whitewashed and somewhat wrinkled. She stopped steps away, hovering as guilty as ever. I had long noticed such looks in my visitors, that I now was certain whatever it was had more to do with me than them.
“Hello,” I spoke first. Again my head screamed her recognition.
Waves of emotion crossed her face, from apologetic to searching to appreciative and then awe, passing a confusing mix of pain, agony, relief, guilt, and joy. The next instant she burst into unprecedented sobs. My head reeled between sorting my own feelings and deciphering hers. I looked to Kamiye for intervention. She as I, seemed confused as the woman bled out her heart at my feet. Relief swept when she finally reached into her worn leather bag and produced a handkerchief to dab her tears.
“I’m sorry.” she raised her head apologetically as tears continued to stream down her cheeks.
Kamiye apparently had had enough because soon she appeared by the woman, and comfortingly led her to her previously occupied seat. Kamiye let her a moment to catch her breath and then she inquired. “Are you okay? Is something wrong?”
“I’m sorry” the woman’s voice choked again with convoluted emotions tossed between Kamiye and I.
Truthfully, her apology was beginning to sound creepy.
“For what?” my heart drew to the woman.
She searched my eyes confusedly, obviously stunned I couldn’t relate with her. Her mouth opened, shut almost immediately, and opened again, this time starting with a bit of a stutter. “I read about you and Tobi in the paper. How are you?’”
We were in the paper? “We are fine.” I nodded ebulliently showing I really was. “So how are we related?”
I needed more, a more substantial introduction, history, whatever-than just ‘my mother’s sister.’ My brows irked unconsciously on her repetition of the exact words.
Her eyes grew wide, she dabbed her face more frantically. “You don’t remember me?”
I shook my head badly wishing and wanting to. “I lost my memory.” Her pupils dilated even wider. “I don’t remember anything at all.”
My revelation hit home and left her shaken. Good! Maybe this would spur some history. Maybe she would have mercy on my poor soul and help with my identity.
Of the tons of inquiry that roamed my head, at present, this woman’s identity topped the list. If she was family, how could she have read about us in the paper and not gotten firsthand information? Something was amiss, and I was determined to find it. Plus if anyone had known my mother, it was this woman, the one whom she’d shared her childhood with.
“I know my mother is dead.”
Her eyes glazed with fear. Dang! I knew there was something about mother’s death.
“How did she die?’
She passed Kamiye a nervous glare. Even Kamiye’s eyes flashed with ghosts I’d never noted.
“She…she slipped from the stairs, she fell, hit her head, and died”
For the first time, I was enraged by that response. I would have voiced it, but for the surge in my memory. The woman I’d seen fall of the stairs was no illusion. She was real like Dr. Halima had ascertained. Rightly put in the psychologist’s words, it was someone significant, something eventful-her words rang. Deep down, I now knew who it was.
“She fell down the stairs.” I matched both stares, unsurprised at the unmistakable jolt in them.
“Yes.” she averted her eyes.
A ringer buzzed noisily into the silence, I wondered what the strange sound was until she dug out mobile from her bag. Soon the woman was walking frantically out the door, promising a later visit and ignoring Kamiye’s call as she’d begun to dial Tobi.
“What’s your name?” I called after her.
“Yemisi.” She said with a little reluctance. “You used to call me aunt Yemi.” With that, she was gone.
If there ever was doubt about hanky-panky on mother’s death, all of it was slain by her reaction. Plus, I have never been more positive about something as gravely wrong and suspicious as mother’s death.