Must Read: A Chance For Love… Episode 23
“I will make your life a living hell.”
“Sometimes I really don’t understand him.” I
stabbed a potato chip with my fork and
shoved it into my mouth.
I’d been nagging endlessly over Raheem
taking sides with the enemy. Flora and
Amarachi had barely even said a word. Their
silence didn’t bother me anyway. I’d rather
have them say nothing than take sides with
From the corner of my eye, I could see
Raheem, Farah and Mary staring at me from
their table. They were obviously talking
about me. Losing appetite, I shoved off my
tray and took a sip of my water.
“Victoria,” Amarachi called. She reached out
to hold my hand. “You have to calm down
and think about this with a cool mind.
Raheem is only trying to help. He is doing
the right thing. Everybody deserves a
My face wrinkled with confusion. Prior to
this moment, I’d thought I knew her, and
that she wanted the best for me. But it
turned out I was wrong. Weren’t we
supposed to be best friends? Wasn’t she
supposed to understand and support me?
“I thought you were my friend,” I said,
snatching back my hand. Although I tried
hard to shroud my rage, success eluded me.
“But here you are, supporting the woman
who wants me dead. Who knows, she could
be faking the memory loss!”
“Not everyone survives a bullet to the head,”
she said. “But that woman is alive. For a
“To kill me,” I said. “Because she failed the
first time.” I glanced at Flora, hoping she
was on my side. But I knew better.
Throwing my hands in frustration I yelled,
“My God! What is wrong with you people?”
“If God has given her another chance, who
are you to deny her?” Amarachi asked.
“Vicky, you are my friend. All I want is for
you to be happy.”
“I am happy without her,” I said. “If you
really are my friend, then you should know
this.” I bolted to my feet and stormed out of
I returned to class, my heart heavy and
weighing me down. I plopped down on the
seat that was once Cynthia’s. There I sat,
drowning in my hopelessness as I watched
hours roll by.
Once the closing bell went off, I grabbed my
bag and dashed out of the class. I heard
Amarachi call after me. Tuning out her
voice, I dismounted the stairs.
I had thought I’d be able to distract myself
from thoughts that sought to break me, but
hours of trying to write my story proved me
wrong. I’d ripped out over five pages, all in
the name of starting a new chapter.
Sighing, I tossed the book to the floor and
lay down in bed. I curled myself into a ball
and squeezed my eyes shut, hurling myself
into a sea of memories.
A knock at the gate caused my eyes to fly
open. I gathered myself to my feet and
advanced to the gate. Raheem flashed me a
smile as I unlocked the gate. I made to
smile back when a movement behind him
caught my eye. My stepmother.
I scowled at her. “What is this woman doing
“She’s been discharged,” Raheem said.
“And so you brought her here?” I fumed.
“This is my house, Raheem. Not a charity
house. How could you bring in a stranger
without consulting me first? Who does that?”
“This is also her house,” Raheem said. “And
she will be staying here.”
The woman sniffled. She turned away and
wiped a tear with the back of her hand. Her
tears could fool anyone. But not me.
“Please go in,” Raheem said to the woman.
“We will be with you in a moment.”
Tentatively, she advanced toward the house.
Too broken to speak, I could only welcome
the hard lump in my throat.
Raheem had chosen her over me. The same
Raheem who told me I was what mattered
most to him had placed my evil stepmother
ahead of me.
“Why are you doing this to me?” I asked.
“She has nowhere to go,” he said. “Nowhere
“My father’s house is not a charity house,” I
“She is your father’s widow,” he said. “How
could you forget that?”
“She tried to kill me,” I shot back. “Twice.
How could you forget that?”
“The woman who tried to kill you died six
months ago,” he said. For how long would
he keep deceiving himself? If the woman
had died back there, then what did we have
here, a ghost?
“Will you not give this brand new person a
chance?” he asked.
“She died?” I asked. “It is settled then. I
don’t do ghosts.”
Glaring at him, I walked through the gate. I
could use some fresh air.
“Where are you going?” I heard him ask.
“To see someone who truly understands
me,” I said. “Since that is a task too big for
Everyone else had chosen the murderer over
me. But this one person would always
support me. Blocking out all thoughts of the
drama in my life, I approached his resting
place with a calm heart.
My footsteps ripped through eerie silence as
I walked down rows of tomb stones. I
fixated my gaze on the one I’d come to
visit. Branches of trees reached out as
though groping for an unseen prize.
The smell of old stones and dust filled the
air. Gravel crunched underneath my feet as
I proceeded, counting each step.
Underneath each tomb stone laid an empty
shell, what was left of someone who had
once been living. Here they were, faded into
nothingness, devoid of any emotions, leaving
nothing but memories.
Dad would have hated this place. Had he
had a choice, he wouldn’t be here. He’d
always hated extended moments of silence,
especially one as eerie as this.
My eyes searched every tomb stone in sight,
hoping to find Cynthia’s name engraved
somewhere. Although I knew how pointless
this was, I couldn’t help it. After her
disappearance from the morgue, Raheem
and I had visited every graveyard in Port
Harcourt, but none of them had Cynthia’s
body. So where had she been buried?
I arrived at dad’s grave and sagged to the
ground. Tears stung my eyes and blurred my
vision. “Dad, if you hadn’t left, none of this
would have happened.”
Although he could hear nothing I said,
pouring out my heart to him would bring
some measure of relief. I would rather
spend the rest of my day here, with him,
amongst the dead, than ruin it with the sight
of that vile woman. The dead, after all,
could not harm me. But the living could.
Climbing atop the grave, I curled into a ball
and closed my eyes. I thought back to those
moments I had him with me. I could stay in
his arms without saying a word. He, more
than anyone else, had understood the
unspoken words embedded in my silence.
Today, just like the good old days, I would
fall asleep in his arms. It didn’t take long for
sleep to find me. I embraced it with open
My eyes fluttered open. A headache greeted
me as I reached full consciousness. I didn’t
know for how long I’d been asleep, and I had
no idea how I’d awakened on my bed.
In the middle of my slumber I’d felt
someone cradle me. But instead of
awakening, I’d melted into his arms. Without
a doubt I knew it was Raheem. Why had he
come to help me when he’d shown me just
how little he cared of my happiness?
Someone knocked at the door. I gasped,
jumping out of bed. It took a moment to
remember I now shared the house with the
“Vicky,” she called.
Memories of six months ago flooded my
mind. Was this her trying to kill me once
“poo!” I dashed to my dresser drawer, where
I’d hid dad’s gun. Reloading it with some
bullets I’d found in the study, I’d kept it
within range, just in case the witch tried to
attack me again.
Grabbing the gun, I spun around to train it
on the door. The door creaked open. My grip
tightened instinctively. Today, I would not
be the victim.
The woman stepped into the room. Gasping
at the sight of the gun, she threw her hands
in the air, sending a tray of possibly
poisoned food crashing to the floor.
I remembered the first day I’d accidentally
broken a plate. She’d starved me all day.
Today, I would have her taste her very own
medicine. For everyday she spent here, she
would pay for the way she’d dealt with me
in the past. This was my promise to her.
Her lips quavered as she tried to speak.
I cocked an eye at her, scanning her
thoroughly to be sure there were no hidden
weapons. Finding nothing, I lowered the gun.
“Clean up the mess.”
Trembling, she nodded. “I’ll go get—”
“Whatever,” I said, waving her off. She
turned away and disappeared into the
passageway. Taking my gun with me, I
stalked into the bathroom. A few minutes
under the shower, and I stepped out, into a
sparkling clean room.
I clothed myself in a gray polo shirt and a
pair of black skinny jeans. Spending the day
here was the last thing I wanted to do. I
needed to be away, in a quiet place, where I
could escape reality and make progress with
my ongoing novel. And was there a better
option than spending the day with dad?
Grabbing my phone and my writing
materials, I shoved them into my backpack
and set out for my day with dad. I stepped
out of my room, only to see the evil woman
coming after me. I rolled my eyes and kept
walking, telling myself I’d seen nobody.
“Victoria,” she called.
I whirled around to face her, my pointer
jabbing the air toward her. Gritting my teeth,
I said, “You will address me as miss. Do I
make myself clear?”
Without waiting for her to assimilate the
order, I added, “That is one of the rules you
must follow if you wish to stay here.”
I turned toward my room and pointed. “Do
you see that door? It leads to my room. That
place is strictly out of bounds.”
The woman stared unblinking, too stunned
to speak. My heart soared at her helpless
state. Yesterday, she’d been the one in
control. But today, the tables had turned,
leaving her at my mercy. And what choice
did she have but to do all I asked of her?
“Now, for rule number three, come with me.”
I advanced to the main door, and through it.
The woman, my new slave, followed by
footsteps. Once we were outside, I slammed
From outside, the door could only be opened
with a key. And I had the key in my
backpack. “Rule number three. This house is
mine. And I do not trust strangers enough to
leave them all alone in my house. You will
be outside till I return.”
Without waiting for her response, I headed
for the main road where I stood, waiting for
a cab. Almost immediately, a taxi pulled
“Where to?” the driver asked.
“Catholic grave yard,” I said.
He seemed to ponder over my destination
for a moment or two. I always got this
reaction from commercial drivers. Try as I
might, I could never understand their fear.
Why would anyone live in fear of graveyards,
seeing it as a place that should never be
visited? Why fear the dead, when they lay
asleep, unable to lift a finger at anyone?
“Get in,” the man said.
I settled in the back passenger seat. The
driver started the engine, never stopping for
anyone till we arrived at my destination. I
handed him his pay and stepped out of the
I’d only taken a few steps when I stopped
dead in my tracks. Raheem’s bike was
parked a distance away. How had he known
he’d find me here?
He was mistaken if he thought I’d gotten
over what he did yesterday. I would never
forgive him for making decisions for me.
If I left now, then he wouldn’t know of my
coming. I turned around, hoping to make a
clean escape, but there he was, standing
only an inch or two away. My face contorted
with confusion. How had he come so close
without me noticing?
Amused by the look on my face, he burst
into laughter. “Easy. It’s only me. Why do
you look like you’ve seen a ghost?”
“What do you want?” I asked, folding my
“To talk to you,” he said. “What else would I
“I’m not in the mood to talk to you,” I said.
“I’m here to have some quiet time, and I
don’t want anyone to ruin this moment.”
“Is this you getting angry?” he asked. “Wow.
You should know by now that you can’t stay
mad at me. I’m way too charming.”
He winked at me. And in that moment, he
looked even more charming. But I didn’t let
it get to me. By bringing that woman into
my house and life, he had ruined what was
left of my happiness. And I just could not
play along with this.
Unable to restrain myself, I let it all out.
“Who do you think you are to interfere in my
life like this? Just who do you think you are,
Raheem Kadir? You’re trying so hard to
unite us. Why? Where were you when she
abused me day and night? Where were you
when she tried to kill me? It was just me. I
had to go through hell all by myself. Do you
even have any idea how I hurt? And here you
are, making decisions about my life. If this
is how relationships work, then I’d rather
stay single for all eternity.”
I could see the hurt look in his eyes, but I
couldn’t take back my words. Even if I
could, I wouldn’t.
“I’m done, Raheem,” I said. I knew better
than to make rash decisions. I knew I would
regret ever saying this, but still, the words
spilled out of my mouth. “I can’t have you
interfere in my life like this, making
decisions for me like I’m incapable of
managing my life myself. I know I made a
promise to your mum, but—”
I took a moment to steady my wobbly voice.
Blinking away the tears forming in my eyes,
I went on, “I can’t go on like this. I can’t live
like this, I’m sorry. It’s suffocating and I
can’t take it.”
Tears glided down my cheeks. I would be
leaving behind my first love, and every
memory we ever shared. Although this hurt,
I had to do it. If I didn’t, he would someday.
Lately we’d been having too many
disagreements. Sooner or later, this was
bound to happen.
“Hey, calm down,” Raheem said. “I mean,
wow, slow down, will you? I didn’t hear a
word you just said.”
Perfect liar. Why did he have to be so
He gripped my arms and looked me in the
eye. And there, the tears I’d tried to hide
were out in the open. He collected a
handkerchief from his pocket and wiped my
tears. “Calm down, okay?”
“Good,” he said. “Are you free tomorrow?
We should go see a movie or something.”
“Alright. I’ll pick you up tomorrow.” He
planted a kiss on my forehead.
“Raheem, I—” The words died on my lips.
How could I even think of saying those
magical words, when barely a minute ago,
I’d broken his heart?
“I know,” he said. “I love you more.”
Although he’d said this a number of times in
the past, I could still feel a dance of
butterflies in my stomach.
“I’m sorry about what I said,” I said. “I
shouldn’t have acted like that. I’m just so
He pulled me into a hug. “Shhh. it’s okay.”
In his embrace, I felt whole again. I felt my
worries slither away. If I could, I’d hold him
forever and never let go. But his ringing
phone said it was time to let go.
“Perfect,” I groaned.
Raheem chuckled. “Sorry.” He pulled out his
phone. “Sorry, I gotta take this call.”
Moving away from me, he answered the
call. He spoke fluent Iraqi. Arms folded, I
watched the road, waiting for the call to
“I have to go,” he said. “Call from home.”
“Come, I’ll drop you off.”
Drop me off? Not a chance. I didn’t want
him finding out that I’d locked my
stepmother outside and left her to starve.
He would hate me for it. And I didn’t want
“I’m not ready to leave,” I said. “I need to
see dad first.”
“I just want to stay a while. I’ll be fine.
His eyes roamed the graveyard in search of
a reason to stop me from staying. Finding
nothing, he sighed.
“I’ll be fine,” I said. “And besides, this is not
my first time.”
“Very well then,” he said. “But I’ll ring you
every five minutes.”
“Feel free,” I said.
Smiling at me, he shook his head and
walked to his bike. He mounted it and
waved at me. Grinning, I waved back. I
watched him speed out of sight.
Once the roar of his engine subsided, I
pulled out my phone and dialed Peter’s
number. “Good morning. Come pick me from
“I’m on my way,” he said.
I hit the end button. It would take no less
than thirty minutes for him to arrive. I
walked over to dad’s grave and pulled out
my writing materials. Hopefully, I could write
the infamous chapter eight.
Barely an hour later, I smiled down at a
wonderfully written chapter. My fairy
godmother would be so proud of me. I
looked toward the road just in time to see
Peter pulling into view. Tossing my writing
materials into my backpack, I strapped it on
and headed for the car. Peter had already
stepped out to hold open the back door for
“Good morning, Miss Vicky,” he said.
“Hello, Pete.” I’d told him a number of times
to add no titles to my name. But he was
bent on treating me like a boss. What could
I do but accept his extreme politeness?
Ever since I returned to my father’s house,
he’d been treating me somewhat differently,
as though he were seeing me in a different
light. Sometimes, he’d even commented on
how good I looked.
I giggled at the thought of how Raheem
would react if he heard about this. He would
definitely try to find me a driver old enough
to be my grandpa. But that would only come
after he’d failed to get me a female.
“A penny for your thoughts,” Peter said,
stealing a glance from the rearview mirror.
He flashed a smile that couldn’t even
compare to my Raheem’s.
“It’s nothing,” I said. I rummaged through
my backpack for my earpiece. Finding it, I
rammed each piece into my ear and blared
Skillet’s Comatose. This way, I’d be shielding
myself from further questions.
Well into the twelfth song, I felt Peter slow
down. I raised my head and found him
staring into the rearview mirror. Now what?
He glanced back at me. I turned off my
music to hear what he had to say. “Isn’t
that your mum?”
“What? Where?” I whipped around, and there
she was, walking in our direction. She
cradled a kitten in her arms.
“Pull over,” I said. Peter did accordingly.
While we waited for the woman to meet us,
I rapped my fingers on the window.
Oblivious of our presence, or pretending to
be, she made to walk past us. Peter honked
to get her attention. She turned around,
eyes narrowed to slits as she tried to look
through the windows.
She grinned at the sight of me. Rolling my
eyes, I returned my gaze to my phone and
played the video, Pain, by Three Days Grace.
I heard the door slam as she climbed into
the front passenger seat.
“Can I have the cat?” I asked.
Beaming at me, she presented the kitten.
Poor little darling. White as snow, I’d name
her Snow if she were mine. And I’d never let
her out on the streets, because predators
roamed around, looking for an innocent soul
“Sorry,” I mouthed to Snow, just before
winding down my window. I tossed her out
like she were trash.
Peter and my stepmother screeched out
incoherent words. Thanks to the music, I
couldn’t make out a single word.
My heart reached out to Snow. I hoped she
hadn’t broken a bone or two from the fall. I
cringed at the thought of what I’d just done.
But I’d only done it to prove a point. If I
wanted to come off as cold and
emotionless, it was time to start acting it.
All my life I’d given room for emotions and
feelings. But where did it get me?
As we neared our street, a brilliant thought
occurred to me. My stepmother had
questions about her past. Why delay when I
could fill in the information gap right this
In the past, she’d made crying an integral
part of my life. But from this day, her tears
would flow. I would make them outflow
every single tear I’d shed.
Pausing my music, I said, “Turn around,
Peter. We are taking this woman to see her
“We are going back to the—?”
I cut him off before could say the word.
“Yes, so turn around.”
Peter made a U-turn, heading back to the
graveyard. My stepmother looked out the
window the whole time.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“Wait till we get there,” I said. “For now, just
sit back and enjoy the ride.”
Once again, I inserted my earpiece to tune
out whatever conversation would ensue
between them. This time, I watched
Raheem’s video. Last week, he’d performed
a song titled ‘Crawl’. His smoldering gaze
burned into me from the video, and it
seemed as though he were actually staring
After moments of browsing through my
media, we arrived at our destination. I
turned off my music and detached the
earpiece from my ears. Stepping out of the
car, I turned toward my stepmother and
found her frozen in place, unable to climb
out of her seat.
If only Raheem had told her himself, then
we wouldn’t be here. But no, he had only
told her she had a daughter — me. He’d left
the many untold stories to me. And what
could I do? I had to see to it that she knew
the most important things about her life.
Peter held open the door for her. I rolled my
eyes at his kind gesture. My stepmother
needed no special treatment.
Her beady eyes swept around the graveyard.
“Why…why are we here?”
I smiled at her. “We are here to meet your
husband, aren’t we?”
She nodded. “He…works here?”
Had she seriously asked me that? How could
someone who worked in a graveyard own a
Ignoring her thoughtless question, I led the
way to father’s grave. The crunching of
gravel behind me told me she trailed after
me, as expected. I halted in front of dad’s
“He…he’s dead?” she asked, her eyes devoid
of any emotions.
I hadn’t expected her to be affected by the
news anyway, considering that she had no
memories of him. And besides, an evil
woman lived inside of her. I doubted
memory loss could change her completely.
“No,” she whimpered, dropping to the
ground. Peter made to help her, but I held
out a hand to stop him.
Her sobs perforated the silence building up.
And although I knew better than to feel
sorry for her, my heart, the traitor, hurt like
it’d been stabbed all over with a two edged
She smoothed her palms over the writings
engraved on the tombstone. ‘Emmanuel
“How…how did this happen?” she cried out,
gripping the edge of the tombstone. Her
body trembled as she bowed before the
grave. The raw emotions in her weeping
voice clawed at my insides. But I would not
feel sorry for this woman.
A misguided tear escaped my eye. I wiped it
off and prayed no one noticed my broken
“That’s enough,” I said.
Playing deaf, she sobbed on. More tears
would come where those came from. I
would drown her in a sea of her own tears.
“I should feel sorry for you,” I said. “But I’m
She raised her gaze to meet mine. Her eyes,
puffy and bloodshot, made to fool me into
believing she deserved sympathy, but I
didn’t let it get to me.
I walked slow circles around her. “And does
that make me a bad person? No, because
you deserve every single thing that
happened to you. Sympathizing with you is
what would make me a bad person.”
I looked down at her, and on her. It spelt
power, and power drives one crazy. I wished
I could make a painting of this scene; a
painting of me on my feet, and my
stepmother on her knees. The gravestones
standing tall like an army of the dead,
added a touch of dark to the scenery.
Beautiful, in a twisted way.
To spite my stepmother, I would definitely
transform this dream painting into reality.
And I would display it in the living room, for
every guest to see just how hard she’d
“Life has gone easy on you,” I said. “It has
deprived you of your memory, making you
live peacefully while I dwindle away in the
flames of the heated past. I cannot watch
this go on. No, you have to know everything,
just so you can hurt like I do.”
My stepmother rose to her feet. “I don’t
“Let’s start from someone,” I offered. “What
did Raheem tell you about your past?”
“He only…told me about you,” she said. “He
said you’d be the…one to…to tell me every
“And who am I?” I asked.
If she were a child, spanking her for the
dumb look on her face would be in order.
Moments of glowering at her told her I
wouldn’t repeat myself.
“My daughter,” she said.
“What?” I asked as though I hadn’t heard
“You are my daughter.”
A fit of laughter stole me over, forcing tears
out of my eyes. I laughed so hard, my lungs
burned. “Daughter? Do you honestly think
someone like you can give birth to someone
like me? Or have you ever seen a guava tree
bearing fine apples?”
“I don’t understand.”
“What is there to understand?” I yelled. “I
am nothing of yours. We do not relate in
anyway. I do not have your bad blood
flowing in my veins, thank God for that.”
“Victoria,” Peter called.
“Stay out of this,” I warned. Returning my
focus to my stepmother, I said, “You claim
to be my mother. But can a mother do this?”
I turned my back at her and flipped open
the lower half of my top, letting her catch a
glimpse of her malevolence.
“Oh my God,” she shrieked. “I…I did this?”
Wordlessly, I pulled my top over the scars. I
started off toward my car, but she dashed
after me, as expected. Catching up with me,
she stood in my way and took my hands in
She sobbed. “Forgive me. Forgive me,
please. I…I can’t justify my wrongs. All I ask
is that you—”
I snatched my hands from her hold. Tears
sprang to my eyes. This time, I didn’t try to
fight them. I let them create a path along
my cheeks. “Do you know what hurts me the
most? It isn’t that you always treated me
like a plague. It isn’t that you tried to kill me
twice. No, what hurts me the most is that
you failed at being a mother to your very
own daughter. Had you been thorough about
your duties as a mother, then she would still
be here. I can forgive you for every other
thing, but for Cynthia’s death, there is no
mercy. I will make your life a living hell. It
doesn’t matter to me that you have no
memories of the past. There is no peace for
the wicked. Keep that in mind.”
I turned to leave, but once again, she
reached out to hold me.
“Wait, wait, please,” she begged.
“Don’t touch me, woman!” I shoved her off.
Stumbling over a grave, she lost her footing
and toppled over. Her head slammed into
the tombstone with a cracking sound. My
stomach twisted into a painful knot, but I
held back from advancing to her. Peter, on
the other hand, sprinted to her side.
She grunted in pain and touched her temple,
right where a trail of blood snaked along her
“I’m fine,” she said, brushing off his worry.
“Peter, let’s go,” I said. “Leave her be. I’m
sure she’s fine. She survived a bullet to her
head. There’s nothing to fear. She’s death
itself. Now, come, let’s be on our way. I’m
sure she can find her way back home.”
“We can’t just leave her here,” he said.
“One more word and you’re fired.” I knew
just how much Peter needed this job. He
would do anything to keep it.
“Go,” my stepmother told him. “Go. I’ll
Resisting the urge to look back at her, I
climbed onto the back seat of the car. Peter
sauntered to the driver’s seat and started
the engine. He pulled away from the
graveyard, his neck turning toward my
“I really don’t think this is a good idea,” he
What was wrong with everyone? Why did
they all feel they could tell me what to do?
Last time I checked, I hadn’t hired a
Lips sealed, I counted down to when I would
arrive home. Peter would definitely try to
talk me into doing the supposedly right
thing, making it take forever to arrive home.
Reaching for my phone, I found escape in
music, once again.
To be continued