Must Read: A Chance For Love… Episode 22
“And I don’t break promises. I promised to
bring you to her.”
Eyes flying open, I bolted upright in bed. My
heart raced like I’d been in a marathon.
Dreaming of that woman’s death had
become my alarm for the past six months.
Somehow, she’d managed to survive the
bullet. Ever since, she’d been confined to
her room in the hospital. Although I’d never
visited her, Raheem made sure to keep me
updated on her recovery, even though we
both knew this was the last piece of
information I needed.
I couldn’t get past the fact that she’d
haunted my dreams again. Hadn’t I been
clear enough when I prayed for a peaceful
night rest, with no nightmares of any kind?
One would think by now I’d already realized
that my prayers were marked as spam.
Once, Cinderella had referred to a dream as
a wish our heart makes when we are fast
asleep. I could see the truth in this.
Whenever I closed my eyes in sleep, my
heart made a silent wish that death found
that woman somehow. But this would
conflict with my original intent for her to
stay alive so I wouldn’t be alone in my grief.
Six months had passed, and my wish hadn’t
changed. She had to stay alive and burn in
the fire of grief and devastation.
Raheem’s face skid across my mind. He
would be so torn if he knew the thoughts I
had for her. Every day, I tried to understand
why he’d developed an interest in her. But
nothing made sense.
The hospital had become his second home,
a sanctuary where he’d run off to after
school. He’d even made several failed
attempts to soften my heart concerning her.
Every day, I asked myself why he’d chosen
to support her. Even after I’d told him
everything, from the map of scars on my
body to her two attempts to kill me, he
cared for her no less.
Daylight peeked in through the curtains.
With school on my mind, I sprang to my feet
and rushed through my preparation. I would
not go back to being the chronic latecomer
that woman had molded me into.
I’d barely even touched my breakfast when
someone knocked at the gate. Sighing, I
gulped down my cup of tea, strapped on my
backpack and dashed outside to meet the
But I found Raheem instead. “You? I mean…
what are you doing here?”
Raheem smirked, his trademark expression.
I turned away, scanning the street. Why
hadn’t the driver come yet?
Raheem seemed to hear my unasked
question. “Apologies, my lady. But Peter
won’t be showing up today.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Day off, I guess.” Spinning his car key
around his pointer, he gulped down a
chuckle and tilted his head toward his car.
I dragged myself behind him, thoughts
swirling around my mind. He’d contacted my
driver and asked him not to show up. His
smile gave this away. Obviously, this was
his way of getting me to talk to him. Lately,
I’d built a bridge between us, because he
steered every conversation toward my
stepmother, and how he thought it best to
go see her.
He held open the door for me to climb in. A
transmissible smile crept across his face.
And although I wasn’t thrilled with his
intention of talking me into letting that
woman into my life again, I could feel a
smile tug at my lips.
Once I’d settled in my seat, he shut the door
and moved to his side of the car.
Simultaneously, we fastened our seat belts.
For the first few moments of the drive, he
kept silent. Although I knew I would soon
run out of luck, I said a silent prayer
anyway. I prayed he somehow became
oblivious to my presence and stayed quiet
all through the drive. But as expected, luck
“I’ve been wanting an opportunity like this,”
he said. “To talk to you.”
I looked over my shoulder, and then, back at
him. “Where’s Farah?”
A near-frown tightened his face. “Will take
“Is this you trying to change the topic,
Victoria Brown?” he asked.
I made no attempt to answer. I drew my
gaze to the window, pretending to enjoy the
sight of buildings, vehicles and pedestrians
blurring in and out of view.
“I thought as much,” he said.
I glanced at my watch. Time seemed to be
on his side. I’d only spent three minutes
with him and it felt like forever. Did we
really need to have this conversation? He’d
tried over and over in the past, but this
topic never got us anywhere.
I could already predict how this would end.
It would be no different from his other
attempts. He would try to talk me into
forgiving her. I would tell him over and over
again that I couldn’t. I’d remind him of the
many times she’d hurt me and how she’d
tried to kill me.
Our conversation would end with mutual
frustration. Seething, I’d walk away without
saying goodbye. Why was he so bent on
acting this drama all over again?
“For how long will you keep holding a
grudge?” he asked.
I rolled my eyes. “There we go again. I
mean…do we have to go through this every
“I guess it goes on till we are on the same
page,” he said. “But you just keep fueling
your grudge and bitterness. It breaks you.
And it breaks me to see you like this.”
I made a mental quotation mark around his
last two statements. I had gotten myself the
perfect Romeo. But with our never ending
disagreements, I feared our love story
neared its end.
“I’m not holding any grudge,” I said.
“Really? Last time I checked, you hadn’t
even tried to see how she’s doing.”
“Sorry? Am I supposed to care? Six months
ago, I ripped out the part of me that handled
emotio…” Pausing midsentence, I clapped an
invisible hand to my lips. But the harm had
already been done. Eyes drooping, Raheem
looked away. His Adam’s apple bobbed as
he tried to swallow his hurt. With my
thoughtless words, I’d driven him to question
the genuinity of my feelings for him. Great,
Victoria. Just great.
“Your mother is in very bad shape,” he said.
“Don’t call her my mother,” I said. “My
mother was nothing like this creature. Oh,
and the woman, that beast you’re referring
to deserves no less. In case you don’t
remember, she tried to kill me. So don’t
even ask me to forgive her, because I never
My voice had a tone of finality. Couldn’t
Raheem see that there was no room for
softness in the heart I’d spent the past six
“I’m not asking you to. I just—” He
scratched the nape of his neck, an
indication that he’d soon run out of words.
“Have you read the letter?”
How could he even ask me that? I’d made it
clear from day one that I would not be
reading the letter that woman had written
just before attempting suicide. But Raheem
believed it contained some vital information.
Believing I’d let curiosity take the best of
me, he’d stored it in my dresser drawer,
underneath my mother’s letter.
“No,” I said. “My time is way precious to be
spent doing worthless things. I’m not
interested in whatever that woman wrote,
and I don’t think I ever will be. I haven’t
even touched that letter. Maybe it’s even a
time bomb, who knows.”
“You should put away your stubbornness for
once and just read it,” he said. “Maybe it
can help you see things in a different light.
I’m sure she wanted you to know what
drove her to want to take away her own
life. Isn’t that worth knowing?”
“What makes you think I’m not okay with my
view of things?” I said. “That woman
deserves neither sympathy nor
consideration. She got what she deserved,
and I really don’t care what happens to her.
To me, she died six months ago.”
Raheem pulled his car into his space in the
school parking lot. His eyes pierced through
me as I undid my seatbelt. “Is this really
who you are or the you you’re forcing
yourself to become?”
“This is who I am,” I said.
“And the girl I fell in love with?” Raheem
asked. “Where is she?”
His question hit home, sending tears to
tease my eyes. I could feel him slipping
away, losing faith in me, in our love.
Time slid past, with me blending in with my
classmates, pretending to pay attention as
teachers talked endlessly about things I’d
suddenly lost interest in. Sat in the last
class for the day, I counted down to when
the bell would ring.
“You all impressed me in the test,” Madam
Charity said, smiling. “Well, at least most of
you. So, well done.”
My stomach churned as low voices rose
from every angle. Why the excitement?
They’d only been commended for doing well
in six-line poem centering on sadness.
“Why the fuss?” I muttered. “It’s not like
they won a lottery or anything.”
Amarachi stomped my left foot. A yelp
escaped my throat, drawing everyone’s
attention to me.
“Uh-oh,” Amarachi said, stifling a laugh.
“Shall we proceed?” Raheem’s voice
rumbled from where he was sat. Although I
fixated my gaze on my book, I could tell he
hadn’t bothered to glance at me.
Madam Charity returned her attention to the
class. “Okay, where were we? The poems.
Right. So, I was saying your poems are all
beautifully written. It wasn’t easy choosing
the best. But after hours and hours of
reading each poem over and over again, I
was left with two.”
She looked down at the papers in her hand.
“The first, titled ‘Flames and Ashes’ was
written by Victoria Brown.”
She’d definitely picked the wrong poem. If
that thoughtless poem had made it to top
two, then I feared for Western High’s
seniors. What had everyone else written?
Roses are red
And violets are blue
I suck at poems
And so do you?
I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw a poem like
that. Arms folded, I listened as Madam
Charity read my work.
“It’s an invisible fire coursing through my
A wall of thorns closing in on me
A silent scream trapped in my throat
A two-edged blade splitting my heart in two
A void in my heart that cannot be filled
Flames and ashes where there once was a
Although I had no reason to worry, I did
anyway. I feared everyone could decode the
message underneath every word I’d written.
I feared I had bared my vulnerability to
them, showing them the deadly rawness
within me. I feared I had told the whole
world the struggles I faced every moment
Amarachi touched my arm. “Are you okay?”
I nodded. Raheem turned around to look at
me. His eyes searched mine as though
wanting to hack into my mind and discover
my deepest emotions. His eyes told me I
didn’t have to put up an act anymore. He
knew that behind my mask lived a very
“Flames and ashes where there once was a
fire,” Madam Charity said. “Beautiful line.
Can you share with us your sentiments when
you wrote this?”
“It’s…not about me,” I said. “I just wrote
whatever came to mind. I suppose that’s
not an offense, or is it?”
“Whether or not it’s about you, I still think
it’s a very beautiful poem.”
“Flames and ashes where there once was a
fire,” Raheem mused loud enough for all to
hear. “I am also interested in this very line. I
think she speaks of the feeling of not
feeling. Maybe something happened in the
past. Maybe someone did something
unthinkable, unforgivable. At first, there was
the burning fire of hate, so intense it
compared to the sun’s fury. But then it
slipped away, and now there’s neither love
nor hate. There’s just nothing. It’s a feeling
so disturbing, it drives one crazy.”
Madam Charity beamed. “That’s a brilliant
explanation! I didn’t even think that far.”
“Shall we proceed to the next poem?” I
asked. Raheem flashed me a grin. This was
him getting back at me for our most recent
From the corner of my eye, I could see
Amarachi staring. “What’s with you and
I shrugged. Madam Charity’s gaze tickled
the second poem for a moment or two. She
glanced at Raheem, and then at her entire
audience. “This one is called ‘Why?’ It was
written by Raheem H. Kadir.
Why let yesterday cloud your tomorrow?
Why drown in darkness when light shines
Why reopen the wounds that time can heal?
Why sink when you can swim?
Why burn in hell when paradise awaits you?
Why follow the path that leads to nowhere?”
I knew he’d written this for me, and
somehow, his words sank deep. Was I really
prolonging my bitterness by
Barely an hour later, I found myself at home.
Racing to my room, I yanked open the
drawer. My hands trembled as I reached for
my stepmother’s letter. I s—-d in a deep
breath to calm my pacing heart.
Brushing off the tendrils of uncertainty
flocking around me, I grabbed the letter and
slid it out of its envelope.
‘I don’t know if anyone will ever stumble
upon this. But I can only rest in peace when
I have freed myself of these words weighing
heavily in my heart.
These are the words I wish I could say to
Cynthia my beloved daughter:
If regrets were water, I’d have an ocean.
Nothing feels right without you. Every day of
my life, I wake up, asking myself over and
over again, ‘Why has God allowed me to see
this morning? Why do I still breathe? Why
does the very same rain that falls on good
people still fall on me, and the very same
sun still shine on me?’
I thought that by giving you all the freedom
in the world, our lives would be perfect.
Yours and mine. I was so blinded by love,
always letting you decide your every step. I
remember the first night you went out
clubbing. You were only thirteen. You
returned drunk the next day. And did I say a
word? No. I hid it from your father.
I’m sorry, my darling. I’m sorry I wasn’t a
good enough mother. I was so concerned
with letting you live the way you wanted,
that I forgot to pay attention to more
important things. Had I been a better
mother, trained you as I ought to have, then
you would have been at home with your
family instead of going clubbing that night.
I know I don’t deserve forgiveness. I cannot
even forgive myself for this. It does not
belong to me to keep living. For this reason,
I must end my life.
To you, Victoria. I don’t even deserve to
utter your name. Words can’t describe how
disgusted I am with myself for the way I
treated you. I will not even ask for your
forgiveness, because I don’t deserve it.
All I want is for you to let go of the past,
and move on. I know, I’m in no position to
say this, being the coward that I am for
taking my own life. Before I depart, though, I
must tell a brief story of my life, although I
know that my experience in no way justifies
the ill way I treated you.
I also had a stepsister. Gloria. She was five
years younger. And although my mother
brought her up as her own, Gloria did
horrible things to us. She made a point
clear, that a stepdaughter could never be a
Although it happened years ago, the
memories remain fresh in my head, replaying
over and over again. This was why I taught
myself to hate you. I believed history would
repeat itself if I treated you well. How was I
to know that I was wrong?
I know nothing can make you forget the
hurtful experiences you had with me. All I
ask is that you find happiness. Aaron’s
family loves you very much. And there are
others like Raheem and Stella. With them,
I’ll leave with the knowledge that my
daughter is in good hands.
I wish I could take away every single
memory you have of me. I wish I could turn
back the hands of time, just so I can love
you from the start. If only I had given love a
chance, then the end wouldn’t be like this.
Please don’t cry when I’m gone. I don’t
deserve a single tear.
A lone tear plopped down on the letter. Only
then did I realize my grief. More tears
streamed down my cheeks like rivulets.
Moments before her suicide attempt, my
stepmother had turned a new leaf. Not
everyone survived bullets to their heads. But
she had. If life had given her another
chance, who was I to harden my heart?
In a split second, I made a decision I never
thought I ever would. I would go see her. A
quick shower stood in the way of my going
to see her. Once done, I clad myself in
casual clothes and headed for the hospital.
Blurring past the nurses behind the counter,
I walked through a passageway I knew
would lead to room 24, where my
I remembered walking through this same
passageway, only to find what was left of
my sister. Tears pooled around my eyes, but
I sniffed them away.
Footsteps echoed from the other side of the
hallway. Two men walked into view, pushing
a shrouded corpse on a stretcher.
I halted. A red-hot coal stood where my
heart should be, setting my insides ablaze.
The stretcher’s wheels squeaked past me,
its haunting sound gnawing at my soul.
Had they come from room 24? No. This
couldn’t happen to me. Not a fourth time.
Fighting to gain control of my limbs, I
dashed to the stretcher.
“Hey, what—” one of the men began, but I’d
already thrown open the shroud, baring a
face I would never see again.
My eyes burned with indescribable grief. But
the face staring back at me placed my
emotions on hold. I’d never seen this girl. I
clapped a hand over my mouth to suppress
a joyous shout. This time, death had picked
on some other family.
The peaceful look on the girls face
entranced me. Her lips, slightly stretched,
seemed almost as though she were smiling.
She appeared to be having a pleasant
dream. A part of me wanted to reach out
and touch her, awaken her from her deep
slumber. But if I had such powers, then my
whole family would still be intact.
I stepped away, giving room for the
stretcher bearers to cover up the corpse.
My heart sank as I watched them take her
out of sight. It would break her family and
friends to learn of her passing.
To cope with the death of a loved one, one
must be superhuman. I silently prayed the
good lord strengthened her loved ones and
helped them cope.
Straightening my spine, I resumed my walk
to room 24. I followed a left turn and found
it two doors away. My pace doubled as I
advanced to the door.
Almost noiselessly, I opened the door. Two
pairs of eyes devoured me; Raheem’s and
my stepmother’s. A smile tore through her
lips, and with it came a fusillade of
She had never smiled at me. So why now?
Why love me only after losing her memory?
Why want to fix things when my sister’s life
had already been wasted?
I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t share a smile
with the woman who’d filled my life with so
much darkness. Doing so would mean
betraying my very own self, mind, body and
Shaking my head, I darted outside. I’d
thought I’d be able to handle seeing her, and
then I’d accept her for the new person she’d
become. But beholding her face reopened
my wounds over and over again. These
wounds could never heal. And that woman
would never be a part of my life.
Her smile had lit up my insides with a
scorching envy. She had no memories of the
past, but I did. The image of Cynthia’s burnt
skin, etched to my memory, haunted me
each day, taking away any reason to smile.
I choked on my suppressed grief. Turning
away from the door, I made to leave, when
the door cracked open. Without turning, I
knew it was Raheem.
“I can’t do this,” I said. “I can’t stand the
sight of that woman.”
Raheem closed the space between us and
turned me to face him. “Calm down.”
He held me with his gaze and didn’t let go
till my emotions neared stability. “Remember
that you’re here because you saw it fit to
come see her. It was all your decision, and
it is the right one.”
“Allow me be the judge of what’s right or
wrong,” I said.
“Very well,” he said. His facial features
tightened and relaxed, forming a pattern. I
could tell he was torn between talking and
holding back his words.
He chose the former. “That woman is not
the same person who tried to kill you. She’ll
even be appalled if she learns of how she
treated you in the past. Your wicked
stepmother committed suicide six months
ago. And here now, we have a whole new
person. She kept asking why you hadn’t
come to see her. She kept sighing over her
amnesia. You know why? She says living
without any memories of you is so much like
death. Maybe I made a mistake. I should not
have told her she had a daughter. I should
have just let her build a new life. That would
have been better than subjecting her to a
life like this. She wakes up each day, looking
forward to her daughter’s visit. And today,
when that day finally comes—”
“What do you want from me?” I asked.
“I made a promise to her,” he said. “And I
don’t break promises. I promised to bring
you to her.”
If only I hadn’t let myself be entrapped by
Raheem’s well crafted poem, I wouldn’t
have been propelled to read the letter. And
then I wouldn’t have ended up in this
“Let’s get this over with,” I muttered. It
would only be a minute and then I would be
gone, never to return. I wanted nothing to
do with that woman, and Raheem knew that
more than anyone else.
Cursing under my breath, I stepped into the
room. Sat on the bed, the last person I
wanted to see welcomed me with a
“Are you alright?” She rose to her feet and
crossed the room to meet me. Her eyes
searched mine. “Is something wrong?”
“I’m okay,” I muttered.
She reached out to touch me, causing me to
flinch. Her hand hovered in the air, just a
few inches from my face. It trembled only
just noticeably. I stared at it like it were a
poisonous snake waiting to strike.
I cringed as her palm pressed against the
side of my face, emitting an undesirable
warmth. She wrapped me in a bone-breaking
embrace. I stood motionless, with my hands
glued to my sides. No way in hell would I
return her hug.
“You are here,” she said. “I dream. Every…
every night. My daughter—”
My heart darkened at the mention of
‘daughter’. I disentangled myself from the
embrace and shoved her off. “I am not your
“Victoria,” Raheem warned. What lies had he
been feeding her with?
Swallowing my indignation, I stared at the
uninteresting floor, bracing myself for the
undesirable moments I would spend in her
To be continued..