Must Read: A Chance For Love… Episode 21

Episode twenty-one

Grief

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Continues..

“But the next time you ever say a thing like

that again, I will make you bathe in your own

blood.”

***

Days crawled past. But my grief remained.

Nothing could take away the rawness I felt

inside, as though it happened only

yesterday. Barely twenty four hours after it

happened, news spread that my stepmother

had taken Cynthia’s body from the morgue

and had buried her in secret.

My indifference to the news had caused

people to rumor pointless things about me.

Most people believed I didn’t care about my

family, and had abandoned my grieving

stepmother at a time she needed me the

most.

Although no one else would admit this, I was

a curse. Everyone I loved and deeply

cherished got hurt. They didn’t just get hurt,

they died.

It was hard to believe my sister would never

come back. Each day, I’d awaken, hoping

the tragedy was all a dream, and she would

return. I’d fool myself for a moment too

long, only to explode into grief when I

realized she would never come back. I

would never get to see her again.

I lay in the bed I shared with Sharon,

refusing to eat or drink. I’d been torturing

myself ever since the day of Cynthia’s

death. I’d spent six days locked up in my

grief.

I was a plague, and for this, I isolated

myself from everyone who seemed to care.

I didn’t want their comfort, nor love,

because I’d love them in return, and then

they would leave me someday. I was

destined to be alone.

Even when a swarm of comforters came

over, I saw nothing but an empty room. And

when they sought to console me with

colorful words, I heard nothing but the silent

scream of grief.

I rolled over and buried my face in a tear-

soaked pillow. A silent scream tore through

my quivering lips. I’d never felt so alone in

my life. Not even when father died. Because,

back then, I had my stepmother and…

Cynthia.

The sound of footsteps approaching told me

to prepare for company. I wiped my tears

with the back of my hand.

“Have you been crying again?” Vicky asked.

I faked a smile and raised myself to sit. “I’m

good.”

“Mummy says it’s not good to cry too

much,” she said. “It doesn’t change

anything. What’s happened has happened.

But that’s just what she says.”

“And what do you say?” I asked.

“If you don’t cry, you’ll just be trapping in all

the pain,” she said. I could tell it was a

quote from somewhere. Or could a seven

year old be this wise already? “Do you know

what I did when I lost Tommy?”

Her question knocked me off balance.

Tommy? Had she lost a brother?

“I cried,” she said.

Although I didn’t know who Tommy was, I

could relate to her grief. “I’m sorry about

Tommy.”

“I got over him,” she said. “Mum got me a

new Tommy.”

And then it clicked. Tommy. A teddy bear

almost as tall as her.

“When you lose something, it comes back in

another form.”

Stunned by the point she’d just made, I

gaped at her. It amazed me how she had

already befriended logic at such young age.

I wished I could share her positivity.

“This isn’t Fiction,” I said. “This is real life, a

city of broken dreams.”

She scratched her neck. “What?”

“Don’t mind me,” I said.

“Breakfast is ready,” she said. “Everyone’s

at the table. We’re waiting for you to join

us.”

For days now, they’d been trying to get me

to blend into their family, just like I had

before. But why would I want to ruin their

day with my cursed presence. Ill fate

followed me wherever I went, hurting the

people that mattered to me.

Vicky stood at akimbo. “I won’t take no for

an answer.”

“Please, just tell them I’m not hungry.”

Although I hadn’t eaten for a whole day, the

lump of grief in my stomach made it

impossible to think of food.

“Maybe you’re not hungry, but I am

starving.” She tugged at my arm. “Please?

They said if I don’t come back with you,

then they won’t let me eat. Please, please.

I’m starving.”

How could these people blackmail me into

eating? Would they really starve Vicky if I

didn’t show up? Her stomach rumbled,

speeding up my decision making process.

“Let’s go eat,” I said.

Hopping her way to the dining, she led the

way. She slid onto her seat, completing the

perfect family picture. A dark cloud made to

settle over me as my thoughts lingered on

how happy and complete they looked.

I eyed the empty seat beside Bolaji. He’d

returned home yesterday and had come to

say a quick hello. Tentatively, I advanced to

the seat and lowered myself onto it.

“Good morning,” I muttered to everyone

without looking at them.

“Good morning,” they chorused.

I stared at the meal set before me. Bread,

omelet and tea. One way or another, I would

have to stuff them inside my mouth.

Half-way into my meal, I could still feel

multiple pairs of eyes boring into me from

every angle. Although I fixated my gaze on

my plate, I could tell the look in their eyes;

the painfully soft look as though they were

staring at a dying animal.

Their eyes burned into me as I sipped my

tea. It seemed as though they’d all stopped

eating, for I could only hear the sound of my

slurping.

Sir Aaron cleared his throat. “Victoria.” Only

after I’d raised my face to look at him did he

continue. “I understand the past few days

have been—”

My eyes misted over, forcing me to look

away. Did they not know that talking about

my loss only made it worse?

“I’m fine,” I said. I hoped my voice didn’t

betray me. Once again, I dragged my gaze

to meet Sir Aaron’s. His eyes told me he

could see right through me.

“You’ve been in that room for days,” he

said. “Any more of this and you’ll break.

Which is why I want us to go out. Maybe

have a stroll, or go shopping.”

“I don’t want to go shopping,” I said.

“Then a stroll it is,” he said.

“Actually, sir, what I mean is I already have

plans for today. Raheem and I are going

out. He also thinks it’s best to step out for

an hour or two.”

Mrs. Aaron’s lips stretched into a smile. “I

don’t know if I’ve said this before, but I

really admire that kid. He’s always here for

her. I can’t thank him enough.”

I hated to lie to them. But if I told them the

truth, they wouldn’t let me go where I was

headed. At least not alone. I’d forgotten

mum’s letter underneath my pillow at home.

And I had to go retrieve it from the witch’s

lair.

Subtly, I tapped my foot underneath the

table as I awaited my ringing phone.

And then, it rang.

Pulling away from the table, I pulled my

phone out of my pocket. “It’s Raheem.”

I hastened toward the room and turned off

the alarm I’d set just before coming for

breakfast. I returned to the dining only after

a minute had sailed past. “I have to go. He

says to meet him up.”

I turned toward the exit, hoping to escape

before someone hauled a question at me.

But I wasn’t fast enough to avoid Bolaji’s

question. “Why would he ask you to meet up

somewhere? Does he have a problem with

coming here?”

“What?” I asked. I’d thought situations like

this were only reserved for people who had

elder brothers. Or had I accidentally gotten

myself one?

“I just thought in your condition he would

come pick you up,” the elder-brother figure

said. “Or isn’t that how it’s done, dad?”

I didn’t give Sir Aaron a chance to speak.

“I’m sure Raheem has his reasons. I have to

go now.”

Without another word, I made my escape.

With each step I took toward my destination,

I sank deep into a sea of thoughts holding

memories of Cynthia. Although it hurt to

think of her, I could only be grateful I had

these memories.

I remembered us standing before my

stepmother. She’d been furious about

someone dumping her phone in water. Back

then, dad still lived. He’d stood around the

corner, observing the scene. He’d had us

raise our hands for extended periods, hoping

we told the truth.

“For the last time, I ask,” my stepmother

said. “Who did this?”

“It’s not me,” Cynthia said.

But it was her. I’d watched it happen. I’d

seen the phone slip out of her grasp and

into the kitchen sink. She’d begged me not

to tell anyone. She’d promised to tell them

herself.

Torn between speaking the truth and lying

to save my sister, I swallowed my words.

Her punishment would surely double if I told

the truth. Mum and dad would be upset

she’d lied to them even after they’d taught

her the importance honesty.

Cynthia glared at me. “I thought you

promised you’d tell the truth. You’re the one

who did it. Why do you keep lying even after

I caught you red handed?”

The day had ended with me being punished

for a crime I hadn’t committed. Cynthia, on

the other hand, had been commended for

speaking the truth. At barely even six, she’d

already mastered the art of manipulation.

Every other day, she’d done many more

unacceptable things, and the blame always

rested on my shoulder like a pet raven.

Ruining my life had become her hobby. But

in the midst of it all, my love for her had

shone through.

I blinked away the tears threatening to make

me the center of attention. I wouldn’t

shame myself this way. Who was I fooling,

though? I’d already become the center of

attention. Everyone stared at me like I had

something on my face. A number of them

even approached me, offering their

condolences. They wore the best sad faces

in their individual emotional markets. Were

they all on a mission to see me dissolve into

tears in the middle of the road?

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Be strong.”

“Take heart.”

“God knows best.”

The so-called comforters hurled a fusillade

of grief-alleviating comments at me, making

my life more pathetic than it already was. I

clenched my teeth and nodded, occasionally

muttering “Thanks,” and “Okay.”

Relief washed over me as I arrived at the

gate of the place I once called home. At

least the condolence session had come to

an end. Three figures stepped out through

the gate, succeeding my relief with

uncertainty.

Why were they here? Last time I checked,

we weren’t friends. So what were they doing

here? Unless of course they’d come to see

the murderer who lived within the four walls

of the house.

Pulling away from Nancy and Precious,

Confidence stepped toward me and threw

her arms around me. I stood like a robot, my

arms never straying towards her. She’d

never liked me, so why this?

“I’m sorry about what happened,” she said.

She broke the unwelcome hug and looked

into my eyes. For the first time, I saw a non-

slutty side of her.

“It’s okay,” I said.

“We came to see your mum,” she said. “We

found the gate open. But we’ve been

knocking at the door for over an hour.

Maybe she isn’t home.”

That self conscious witch had left the gate

open? Weird. She never did that.

“I’m just so sorry about what happened,”

Confidence said. “It’s a huge shock for all

of us.”

“Thanks for stopping by,” I said. In other

words, I meant ‘get lost.’ I was better off

without their pretentious sympathy.

“Will you be in school on Monday?” she

asked.

I shrugged. Arms folded, I trained my eyes

on Nancy and Precious. They never went

anywhere without Cyn. But today, here they

were, very well alive, while my sister was

gone. How could life be so unfair, picking on

me whenever it pleased?

“Sorry about what happened,” Nancy

muttered.

I averted my eyes to my feet. “I really have

to go rest now.”

“Okay,” Nancy said. Waving me goodbye,

she took a few steps away, with Precious

close behind her.

Confidence placed a soothing hand on my

shoulder. “Be strong. Okay? I know this isn’t

easy, but you just have to be strong. I can

understand how you—”

“Have you ever lost someone in death?” I

asked.

She shook her head. “No. But—”

I shrugged off her hand. “Then you don’t

know how I feel. Do you…”

Nancy and Precious seemed to be in a

serious conversation. I strained my ears to

listen.

“Wow,” Precious said. “She should really

sign up for drama club. See the way she

acts like she’s really hurt, when really she

never liked Cynthia.”

“Can you just shut up for once?” Nancy said.

“Why? You know it’s true. Right now she’s

so happy that this happened. It’s no secret

that she never liked her.”

Nancy froze when she caught me glaring at

them. It took a moment for Precious to

follow suit. Now I knew why the two of them

had come. They wanted something to talk

about. And although they’d found nothing,

they would not return empty handed. I

would give them something to talk about.

Adrenaline surged through me, heating up

my blood. My heart beat impossibly fast, like

a time bomb just about to detonate. Letting

my emotions enslave me, I hurled myself at

the object of my rage, knocking her into the

wall behind her. She grunted and made to

tear away from the wall, but I grabbed her

neck and pinned her to the wall.

My hand trembled with untamed emotions

as my fingers stretched like tendrils, halfway

encircling her neck, leaving her without air.

“You want something to talk about? Well,

here is one.”

I could hear Confidence and Nancy

screaming for me to stop. I could feel them

gripping my hand, trying to peel it away from

Precious’ neck. But with their efforts, my

hand tightened instinctively, crushing what I

hoped was her windpipe. The veins in my

neck and arms bulged dangerously, but I

didn’t loosen my grasp.

Ragged gasps slid through the tightness of

her throat. Silent screams tore through her.

Veins stretched across her forehead. Her

arms and legs flailed about as she

scratched, kicked and clawed like a wildcat.

But like a worm to a bird, they caused me

no harm. If anything, they only amused me.

“No…air,” she gasped, her eyes bulging. Her

hands fell to her sides in surrender.

“Victoria, please stop,” Nancy sobbed.

“Please I beg you, just let it go.”

“Thank God you’re here!” Confidence said to

someone. “Stop her, please.”

I heard footsteps as the supposed hero

walked toward me.

“Where is your self control, Victoria Brown?”

Raheem? What was he doing here?

I let my grip on Precious’ neck loosen. She

sagged to her knees, coughing her life out.

She s—-d in lungfuls of air as though she’d

been drowning. Her hands flew to her neck

in an attempt to provide soothing relief.

“Look at me,” I said. My feet connected with

her kneecap. She yelped in pain. Seething, I

gripped her face and dragged her gaze to

meet mine. “You got lucky today. But the

next time you ever say a thing like that

again, I will make you bathe in your own

blood.”

I shoved her head backward and stormed

through the gate. I plucked a bunch of keys

from my pocket and unlocked the door.

Swinging open, the door crashed into the

wall. I slowed down my stride as memories

overcame me.

Cynthia and I had just returned from school.

She’d slammed the door so hard, I feared

the house would collapse.

“Who’s trying to break down the house?” my

stepmother yelled, her footsteps rushing

toward us.

Cynthia gaped at the trail of dirt left by the

soles of her shoes. Smirking, she crouched

and took off her shoes. Her smile broadened

as she stood up, dumping the shoes in my

hands.

“You came in with your shoes,” she said.

“You messed up the floor. You banged the

door. Understand?”

A lone tear glided down my cheek. Sniffing

away the memories, I stepped into my room

and rolled away my pillow. I sighed with

relief as I found mum’s letter in one piece.

Retrieving the letter, I made my exit.

I stood only a few steps away from the

room that once belonged to Cyn. I could

feel a maddening sensation in my chest, as

though an invisible force pressed down on it.

Eyes watering, I sauntered to the door and

wrapped my fingers around the knob. In my

mind’s eye, I could see a five year old me

doing the same. I’d stepped into the room,

only to find an English textbook rocketing

toward me. I’d tried to duck, but it struck my

shoulder.

“Why are you here?” Cyn yelled from where

she was sat on her bed. “Have you come to

steal?”

“Can I play…with…you?” I asked.

She slapped her knees in frustration. “No.

Shooo! Just go away! I am not your friend!”

“But…but…we are sisters. And sisters are

friends.” I advanced to her and made to sit

beside her.

She sprang to her feet. “Just leave me

alone! I am not your sister!” She snatched

her Barbie doll from the bed. “Come,

princess.”

Teary eyed, I’d watched her storm out of

sight. I’d spent the next few days drowning

in a pool of my own tears. I’d spent every

moment of my life wondering why my sister

could never accept me.

Her bed, made and empty, made me

reminisce over the other times she’d spent

the night away from home. More than once,

she’d returned drunk, throwing up all over

the floor. I had sighed and murmured while I

cleaned up the mess. I’d always groaned

about the irresponsible girl she’d become.

But today, I’d give anything to have her here

again, all drunk.

The emptiness of her room made it all too

real. She would never come back. Cupping

my face in my hands, I dropped to my

knees. With gasps, tears and hiccups, I let

out my pain.

I’d only had a few moments to grieve when

Raheem advanced to me. He crouched

beside me and took my hands in his.

“I can’t believe she’s gone,” I half-

whispered.

He made to speak, but I rose to my feet,

cutting him off with my swiftness. I didn’t

want sympathy. It would only devastate me

more than I already was.

“I need to get water.” Swiping at my eyes, I

left for the kitchen.

Walking through the passageway flooded my

mind with memories. I blinked them away. I

had to stay strong. Only then would I live

through this.

Who said I wanted to keep living anyway?

Why keep living when everything had been

take away from me?

Yanking open the fridge, I grabbed a bottle

of water. I undid the lid and made to drink,

but once again, memories overcame me.

Once, I’d drunk directly from the bottle, only

to earn a bone-breaking slap to my throat.

I’d barely recovered from the shock when

my stepmother’s palm slammed into my

face. Gripping me so I couldn’t escape,

she’d pounded me into a sore heap.

Jaws clenched, I flung the bottle of water in

the sink and marched toward the witch’s

room. Although she was the last person I

wanted to see, I knew her grieving self

would be so thrilling a sight.

I threw open the door and stormed into the

room. I froze at the sight before me. I

wanted to tear my eyes away, but control of

my senses eluded me. Devoid of any

emotions, I could only stare at it like it were

a log of wood.

My stepmother lay supine on the floor, and

beside her laid a gun she’d at one time been

holding. Tendrils of hair spilled around her

face. Save for the blood smearing the floor

around her head, and the unnaturalness with

which her head jerked to the left, her

casually closed eyes could have fooled me

into believing she was only asleep.

Judging from the smell of iron and wet

earth filling my nostrils, she hadn’t been in

this position for too long. If only I’d come

sooner, perhaps this could have been

prevented. Or perhaps it would have been

me in this position. I shuddered at the

thought of just how close I’d been to eternal

bliss.

Emotions shot through me with a fierceness

I hadn’t seen coming. My heart thumped

hard against my chest as reality dawned on

me.

“No!” I cried out, dashing to her side. I fell

to my knees and clutched her limp arms,

shaking them with all the strength I could

summon. “No! Please no! You can’t do this!

You can’t leave me. Not now! You have to

stay alive and share with me in my grief.”

I shook harder, but she didn’t budge. This

day, death had finally succeeded in taking

away the last member of my family.

My heartbeat pulsated. Tons of questions

flitted across my mind. Hot tears tortured

my cheeks.

It wasn’t her death that triggered the tears.

For all I cared, the body before me worth no

more than a log of wood. But I just couldn’t

get past the fact that she’d found a shortcut

out of her grief and guilt, leaving me alone

in my devastation. How could life be so

cruel to let this happen?

How could life go easy on a person who

deserved a fate worse than death?

To be continued