Start from Chapter 1: December
verything began to clear up like a film strip from negative to positive. The signs I ignored, the hidden languages, half-spoken truths. I steadied the wheel with one hand and dialled Sheba with the other.
She picked on the second ring, “I’m coming over,” I said and cut the call. I needed my head decluttered to drive down to her quarters.
I honked and parked by the gate, picked my phone and got out. She was already outside the house before I finished locking the car door. She stood by the doorway with her hands resting on her waist.
She was dolled up in a short kimono and a head wrap barely gathering her bulky curly weaves.
I ran into her hands, every tear lurking in my lacrimal found their way through my pupils. She studied my face after we let go.
“Come in,” she said and walked with me into the house. The house was the same, empty of emotion, not anything new. The rest of her family lived overseas except for her mum who passed away the same year we got into university.
Before Mrs Amaeze died, the house was always bubbling—now it was hollow and you could feel her long lost presence.
We sat on the sofa; my hands clasped into my thighs. My phone rang, I looked at it and cut the caller off. It rang again and this time I smashed it on the floor. It fell apart, I didn’t care. Sheba observed in silence.
“Tell me everything about it. What happened?” I couldn’t bear to open my mouth, my hands quivered, my mouth did too but the words were stuck to my throat.
Sheba’s eyes kept searching but sobered. It was full of understanding, the same I have always known and as if knowing what I wanted, she closed in and wrapped me into a warm hug. It was safe and secure like Owele Lake.
“The Lord knows everything, my dear.”
I wriggled away. “Did He know Francis will cheat on me on the eve of my twenty-fifth birthday, a day before Christmas? Did He know and still let me make those cookies?”
Sheba smiled, I was taken aback, it was ridiculous, and I was slit through by it but before any idea could form in my head, her words crashed in.
“Before you were born, I knew you. Do you remember?”
How could I forget our Sunday school anthem? Mr Nathan made us learn Jeremiah one, verse five by heart till it was a part of us.
If the Lord knows, why then does He allow us to trip? I looked back at Sheba not knowing if the Lord knew about this but if He did, He should also know that right now I denounce Christmas and every memory it held. Darn the magic of Christmas, the belief that it brings goodwill. It brought me nothing but shame.
I nodded and hugged Sheba. She was all I could hold on to.
Later, she made me a warm cup of chocolate and forced me to have everything. When I got up to go, she offered to drive me home but I declined.
“It is fine, I’m not drunk on grief to miss my way.”
She snickered. Her eyes traced the scattered pieces of the phone on the floor.
I shook my head. It was a gift from Francis and like they say, good riddance. I told her I would get a replacement. She walked me to my car and waved me bye while I drove away. If only she knew how much I was hurting.
Enjoyed Chapter 4? Continue the story in Chapter 5: Pain