by Umari Ayim
– Read Episode 1 of the compelling story HERE.
– Read Episode 2 of the compelling story HERE.
– Read Episode 3 of the compelling story HERE
–Read Episode 4 of the compelling story HERE
-Read Episode 5 of the compelling story HERE
– Read Episode 6 of the compelling story HERE
The Circle Of Light And Richard’s Admission
I wait for the prayers to end and as soon as we say the last Amen, I turn to Sarah who is asking Bidemi something about her shoes.
“Sarah,” I say, giving her a nudge with my right elbow. “I need to discuss something with you.”
Sarah tells Bidemi to hold on a bit and turns to me with a curious smile. “Okay dear?”
“I had a dream about you some days back.”
Sarah turns serious and gives me all of her attention. There are lines of worry on her forehead now.
“I hope it was not a bad dream?”
The others have stopped talking and are looking at us now.
“Hey guys, we are interested in the discussion too,” Chika says with a smile.
I make a silent prayer to God and hope I don’t end up looking like a nutcase at the end of today.
“I was just telling Sarah about a dream I had about her.”
There is a flurry of movements as everyone pushes to the edge of their chairs and waits for me to talk about my fictitious dream. Luckily, I am only acting out Shadda’s script and my lines are ready.
“I had a dream that someone poisoned Sarah.”
The silence that follows my announcement is a long one and Sarah looks at me with wide eyes. “Now that is a bad dream…a very, very bad dream,” she says in a small voice.
“Yes it is.”
Chika sweeps off the crumbs of bread cake of her jean clad knee and looks at me thoughtfully.
“I believe in dreams.”
Turning to Ajumai, Bidemi and Patricia, she adds, “we must take this serious.”
“The question is,” Bidemi says, angling her head in appearing in deep thought. “Who would want to poison Sarah?”
I am ready with my answer but I have to tread carefully. “Maybe someone who feels threatened by her?”
Sarah is twisting a string of her Afro and gazing into space and we all turn to her, waiting for her to come back to us.
After a full two minutes, Chika is not prepared to wait anymore. “Sarah?”
Sarah lowers her hand from her hair and blinks at us. “Yeah?”
“Where did you go?”
“I was just thinking…”
“You know what I told you and Tamisho the last time we met…”
I make sure to nod along with Chika.
Sarah nods back before turning to Bidemi and Patricia, “well, I discovered my husband might just be cheating after all.”
Bidemi shakes her head. “Men!”
“Sad,” Ajumai says with a twist of lips.
Patricia simply makes a face and waits for Sarah to continue from where she left off. Sarah shares her story with the other three women while Chika and I look on.
“What if the engineer Engee woman wants me out of the picture?”
“Well,” Bidemi says with a sympathetic look for Sarah. “Nothing is impossible. Some women can be desperate.”
“Do you think her real name is Engee?”
Sarah shrugs at Chika’s question. “How will I know?”
Ngozi. Ngozi. Ngozi
I count up to ten before I ask Sarah if she thinks Engee is only an acronym of Ngozi. Everyone considers my question along with Sarah.
“It sounds plausible that it is…”
“Yeah,” Bidemi says, agreeing with Chika. “Engee..Ngozi…a name formed from the letters N and G.”
Sarah turns to me with narrowed eyes. “How did you guess that?”
“A wild guess.”
“But still closer to the answer than anything we would have come up with.”
I nod at Sarah, pick up my glass of water and hide behind. I wish they’d stop prying and let me talk about the circle.
“I think you should be more prayerful.”
Sarah asks Chika if she knows a good deliveranceChurch anywhere in Lagos. Chika tells her to consider a deliverance ministry in Yaba. Sarah looks unconvinced.
“Is it not those ones where people fast for two weeks?”
“When you have problems, you should not care about things like that. You should be willing to do whatever it takes to get out of bad situations.”
Sarah holds up her two hand, palms facing us. “Wait guys, we are going too fast with this.” She drops her hands to her laps and looks at me. “What if this was just a dream?”
I don’t know if Sarah’s question is meant for me, but she seems to be waiting for some answer of some sort.
“Sarah,” Chika says, calling back Sarah’s attention to her. “I don’t think you should treat this with levity.”
Sarah sighs and looks down at her coral red painted finger nails. “So what do you all suggest I should do?”
As soon as the women begin to think of a possible solution for Sarah’s problem, I raise my hand so that they all turn to look at me.
“What if I shared something with you guys?”
So they all listen to my fabricated story about a grandmother who taught me to pray in a certain way.
“With rituals?” Bidemi says, looking scandalized. “Isn’t that the sort of things Babalawos do?”
“No, it is nothing like that.”
So I explain to my friends what the circle of light is. Chika is the most open of the group and she has plenty of questions. How is the light summoned? How can the curse be returned back to the sender?
I teach Sarah the words of the incantation and everything else she needs to do. The women look on in fascination and jot down a few notes for themselves.
“So basically the circle of light turns back the curse?”
I nod at Sarah. “Yes it does.”
“All she has to do is visualize it?” Ajumai asks, a note of skepticism in her voice. “Are you sure that is enough to stop whatever it is that this Ngozi woman is calling up?”
Sarah promises to perform the ritual, and we say our goodbyes not long after. As I leave, I know the women are wondering about me, but I also know that they are repeating the details of the ritual in their minds. I hope for Sarah’s sake that everything goes well.
I am sitting on the sofa in Toju’s room and tickling his feet when Richard walks into the room. I heard him return home a few minutes ago. I knew it was only a matter of time before he would come looking for us.
“Had a nice day?”
“Sorry I came late. Had a long meeting with Henry and the auditor.”
We make small talk about work and then Richard wants to know about my social life. I tell him about hanging out with Chika and her friends, but I leave out the prayer meeting part.
“Sounds like they are good company.”
Richard talks about needing to sit down and suggests we leave the nursery. Toju on my hips, I walk with him to the bedroom. As soon as we get there, I leave Toju with Richard on the bed and head for the bathroom. I am just zipping up my black cuffed shorts when I see a white pedicure foot bath beside the sink cabinet. I ask Richard about it a few minutes later.
“I think it is for you,” Richard says, looking up from massaging Toju’s small feet to me. “My mum brought it last week when she came visiting…and with tons of other stuff women stuff.”
I take in this information and promise myself that I will call Richard’s mother tomorrow to thank her for her gift even though I am not looking forward to the awkward conversation. I go back to watching Richard play with Toju but a ringing phone soon cuts through Toju’s happy squeals, and Richard dips his right hand into the pocket of his black Chino pants and brings out his phone.
“Good evening Henry…”
It is a business call and within minutes of starting it, Richard leaves the room and makes a signal to me that he will be returning soon. I walk to join Toju who is already rubbing his small fists against his eyes. I pat his back gently and send him to sleep. I think about returning Toju to his cot but for some reason I feel overwhelmingly tired. I feel a need to rest my eyes and I close them.
I open my eyes when I get the feeling of being watched. Richard is standing beside the bed and smiling down at me. I look for Toju and find him cradled against me, lips pressed to my chest. Richard offers to take Toju back to his cot. I am still lying on my side when Richard returns back to the room and walks to the sofa opposite the bed.
“I think Henry and Tokunbo rub each other off the wrong way,” Richard tells me, throwing his legs over the cushioned foot stool.
I ask Richard why he thinks so and he relays the entire conversation he had with Henry.
“Maybe you need to talk to Tokunbo to find out her own side of the story.”
Richard looks surprised and begins to think,
Quite fair…does not put down Tokunbo…nice
It is when Richard’s face no longer carries the surprise of some seconds ago that I realize to my shock that I spoke out loud.
“Tamisho, come here for a bit,” Richard says, reaching out a hand to me. I stand up from the room and walk with wooden legs to meet Richard. He takes my hand and lowers me to his laps.
“Last time I asked if you had any extra powers and you said no,” Richard says, left hand on my waist and back settled against the sofa as he looks up at me.
My mind begins to churn up several suitable answers to Richard’s query, but I have a feeling that it will be a waste of time.
“Don’t bother,” Richard says, pulling me close so that I am lying back on his chest. “Something tells me that there is more to you than you actually let on.”
I close my eyes and turn my face to his neck. I get a light whiff of Toju’s baby scent. I let my left hand crawl up his chest until they settle on the other side of his neck. I feel a stiffening under my upper thighs and look into Richard’s eyes. There is a smile for me there.
“Okay, the distraction almost worked,” he says, placing his right hand over my wandering own and bringing it down to my legs. “You can tell me the truth now.”
I sigh into Richard’s neck. “What other powers do you think I have?
His two hands clasped on my waist, Richard peels me away from his neck and looks into my eyes.
“Mind reading abilities?”
It takes every bit of my will power to keep the surprise from my face. How did he know?
“The dream,” Richard says, as if he heard my thoughts, but he is staring past me as he continues speaking, “the one with the tall man.”
“He told you I could read minds?”
“Not in those exact words, but I think he said something close to that.”
“Maybe you heard wrong,” I tell Richard with a small smile.
Richard looks ready to concede, and he does. “Maybe.”
I lean back against his chest and enjoy the slow thumping of his heart.
“Would you like to go out with me sometime?”
There is something awkward and sweet about Richard’s question. It feels like he is asking me out on a date.
“In case you are wondering, I am asking you out on a date.”
I pull back to look at Richard strangely.
This is the second time this is happening.
“Why does it feel like you are reading my mind?”
Richard is surprised by my outburst. “I am reading your mind?”
I nod carefully at Richard. “Yeah.”
“Cool,” Richard tells me with a smile. “I guess I am a mind reader too.”
I laugh at this and just then it occurs to me how comfortable we have grown with each other’s company.
“So tell me more about you.”
Once the warm feeling passes, I begin to tell Richard about my childhood years minus Shadda. Richard listens attentively and nods when I end my story at meeting him.
“It was hard for me to walk up to your house that evening.”
Richard tells me of the long running battle over the decision of his parents as soon as he was informed about it on his twentieth birthday.
“I was young and…in a relationship. It was difficult to understand everything they told me about you.”
I nod and turn away from his eyes, feeling suddenly dejected by his admission.
“But after the baby,” Richard pauses and struggles with himself for some minutes. “I think I am getting used to the whole thing.”
Richard looks at his wristwatch and sighs about needing to retire early so he can wake up to leave on time to the office tomorrow. I push off his laps and we both prepare for bed. Under covers, Richard and I sleep facing each other, my arms around him and his right leg thrown possessively over my hips. I feel safe. Very safe.
– To be continued…
Umari Ayim is the author of ‘Twilight at Terracotta Indigo’ and ‘Inside my Head’ both winners of the 2011 ANA NDDC Flora Nwapa prize and 2012 Poetry prize respectively.
Umari blogs at www.umariayim.com and tweets from @umariayim