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UNDER the big mimosa tree, Dominic sat with the lanky boy with a limp who was taller than him despite being a year younger. He’d always liked Anthony. He was a little too goody-goody for comfort, especially after his sexcapades with Dana. He’d seen the word ‘sexcapade’ on the internet and had since then enjoyed his private use of it. Just same way he enjoyed the pictures of girls’ boobs on his favourite site.
He looked at the boy now. Dominic considered him ‘a boy’ not only because he was younger but also because he hasn’t gotten tiny beards scattered on his chin like he did. Anthony was looking terribly troubled, and that worried him. He’d been looking this way since Dana had dropped dead in front of the garden gate—the slutty witch.
Slut was another word his internet prowls had unearthed and added to his secret vocabulary. To his thinking, the only girl that had perfectly fitted the definition of that word had been Dana. Of course Justina had enjoyed a few sexcapades with Anthony too, but she was no slut. No, she was just a naughty, silly girl who read too many romantic novels.
He’d been trying to talk to Anthony in the last few minutes but he was absentminded. Dominic figured he was troubled because he knew that Dana must be gnashing her teeth as she weathered the burning flames of hell.
If what Fr. Chrys always taught them was true, then surely hell was the only place for Dana since she’d died in a state of mortal sin? Dominic mused. And now poor Anthony was no doubt afraid same thing would happen to him.
Dominic wanted to console and reassure him that that wouldn’t be his lot. But that would mean letting him know that he knew about his secret doings with Dana and all. Well, he wasn’t exactly sure how much of that was still a secret given the fact that he’d seen Cyprian, Justina and Veronica make covert visits to Fr. Chrys’ office. Well, whatever the case, he needed to ease the fear and worry on his friend’s and brother’s face.
“Just because she must surely be in hell now doesn’t mean you too are going there when you die, Anthony. Or that you will drop dead like she did.” He said in a matter-of-fact tone.
Anthony jerked visibly as if he’d forgotten he was there. “Huh?”
Dominic shrugged at his baffled expression. “Dana, she’s in hell now, but that doesn’t mean you are going to die and join her there.”
“What are you talking about?” Anthony still looked baffled.
Dominic sighed. “Anthony.” He would have loved to call him Tony but the boy hated the pet name. The boy was too earnest. “I know about you and Dana. I know everything that happened between you two; everything that you did.”
“You do?” Anthony looked shocked and terrified. “How did you find out? Does Father know? Is it the Inspector that told him?”
“He’s a Chief Superintendent of Police not an Inspector.” Dominic corrected automatically, his brows furrowed in a frown as he wasn’t entirely sure what the CSP had to do with their conversation. “And I don’t know what he knows or if Father himself knows.” He decided that telling him he suspected Fr. Chrys knew would only worsen his state of mind. “In any case, it doesn’t matter what they know or not. Dana is gone now and you can confess your sins and make penance, Anthony.”
“I didn’t mean to do it.” Anthony murmured in a broken whisper. “I was just so angry with her. But I didn’t think that it would kill her.” His hands were trembling and he clasped them together. “No. No, I knew it would kill her and… I… I thought I wanted her dead.”
“Kill her?” Dominic was confused. “Sex doesn’t kill people, Anthony.” At least, he’d never heard or read that it killed; except maybe old men who should have known better. He preferred masturbation himself. It was simpler and private. “You too may have been having sex but that wasn’t what killed her. Of that, I am certain.”
“Yes, it wasn’t sex that killed Dana.” Anthony seemed to speak absently. “It was poison. Poison can kill someone.”
“Poison?” Dominic gaped at him.
Anthony made jerky movement with his head. “I put poison inside the juice. I poisoned the juice I gave to her.”
Dominic felt his jaw slack and drop even as the cold hands of fear gripped his heart. “You poisoned the juice?” He wanted to scream but somehow, by some miracle, he managed not to. “What juice? What juice did you poison, Anthony?”
“The one I gave to her that day.” Anthony used the knuckles of his left hand to swipe off the tears on his face. “It was after she had come into the sitting room that last day and she had mocked me about my limp and everything.”
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“HE was so good, so strong.” Her taunting voice was a low whisper as she leaned close to him. “So hard.” She giggled like she’d said something particularly amusing, then continued with her mockery. “Why won’t he be? He doesn’t have an ugly limp to retard him, does he?”
While he hid behind his book fighting the sting of tears, she flounced to her feet and moved over to Cyprian. And though his entire body was beginning to feel the pain of her spiteful words, he couldn’t help but overhear her next words.
“Cyprian, you should stop over at my room later so we can continue from where we left off last night.” Her snooty voice said.
He swallowed a gasp as his hands dropped and almost instantly his eyes met Cyprian’s. The cloud of guilt and remorse in them hit him hard. So, she had corrupted this little boy as she had done him? She, with her wickedness and evil, had stolen the poor boy’s innocence?
But she was older than him for heaven’s sake!
Anger seared him like burning oil as he sat there thinking over what she had done; what he had allowed her to do. Long after Cyprian and Dominic left, he continued to sit there, ruminating over her words, reliving the torture of her frequent insults and sneers. But it wasn’t the verbal, and mental, abuses that worried him most. No, it was the fact that she had tainted Cyprian with her filthy touch.
He wasn’t jealous. No, he didn’t care if she slept with every boy or man she saw. But it hurt him, wounded him, that she would stoop so low as to corrupt a boy as young as Cyprian.
He hadn’t even suspected it. Yes, he’d been doing his best to counsel the boy to avoid the temptations of the flesh above all other sins. But he hadn’t known that the tempter herself had laid her thieving hands on him and stolen his innocence. She had tempted them both much as Eve had tempted Adam with the apple in the Garden of Eden and led them both into sin. And like God had cursed and banished Eve from the Garden, so it was his duty to banish Dana from this home.
Anthony stood up from the divan and hastened towards the store house. But remembering he’ll need something to extract the liquid, he rushed to his room. Inside his cupboard, he turned aside books and stationeries until his hand touched the old syringe. He’d kept it there months back after there’d used it in the school laboratory.
Hiding it in his pocket, he made his way back to the store. James had bought the insecticide last year to treat a case of insecticide on the Church farm and he had told them that it can kill human being as well. Looking over his shoulders to make sure no one was about, he squatted beside the can of Gamalin-20, opened it and siphoned a syringe-full before shutting the can again and sneaking out of the store.
A few minutes later, he knocked on her door, a pack of orange juice in his hand. “Dana, may I come in?” He asked when she opened the door, smiling as if they were best of friends.
Dana eyed him suspiciously. “What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be outside with your special Justina, helping her to educate that dullard, Veronica?”
Though her sneering words affected him, he continued to smile. “Don’t worry about Justina or about anybody else. I brought you something. Won’t you invite me in?”
She lowered her eyes to the pack of juice and stared at it like it was nothing. “You brought me a small pack of juice, what for?” Not shifting from the door.
“To apologise for the way I’ve been ignoring you for weeks now.” He tried to look contrite. “I’m very sorry, Dana, and I brought this pack of juice to show how sorry I am.”
“Hmm.” She pursed her lips, eyed the pack and then him. “Is that not the pack of juice Sister Clara shared to us last Sunday?”
Evil witch! Anthony felt like slapping her proud, sneering face. He hated her so much and hoped that the quantity of Gamalin-20 he’d put into the pack of juice would be enough. “Yes, it is. You are always very observant.” He smiled at her. “I didn’t take mine that day and it’s been in my room. Though it’s just a small pack, I hope you will graciously accept it and also my humble apologies.”
“I see.” She sniffed. “I am sure this is because you are jealous that I’m seeing Cyprian tonight, right?”
The temptation to hit her was stronger than ever but he struggled against it. “This is not about Justina or even Cyprian. Forget them. Just give us a chance, so we can continue our love again. In fact, let us begin with this peace offering.” He held out the pack of juice. “Please accept my gift, Dana.”
She looked at him and then pouted her lips. “Well, I shouldn’t accept this o, especially as that your stupid girlfriend had just finished insulting me outside. But since you are begging…” she shrugged and took the juice. “Let me just manage it sha. But how am I sure that you won’t go back to that stupid girl again?”
“C’mon, Dana, you should trust me a little.” He smiled teasingly. “Anyway, thank you for accepting my gift but promise me you’ll drink it this evening and that you won’t share it with anybody else o?”
“Who will I share it with?” Dana scoffed. “It’s too small sef. But maybe if you meet me later we can share it together?”
Anthony felt sick to his stomach when she flicked her lashes at him. The girl was truly Jezebel. “But you already made plans to meet Cyprian, remember?” He reminded her, trying to look hurt. “Anyway, make sure you break up with him tonight. Let all this end now.”
“And you too do the same with Justina.” Her inviting smile turned sulky. “Well sha, very soon only the very special people will remain in this home.” She added mysteriously.
He wasn’t sure what she meant and he didn’t care. He had delivered his gift and he was pressed to leave. “No problem, I’ll see you during supper. Thank you again for being so forgiving.”
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“I left her there at her door.” Anthony ended his narration, staring sightlessly ahead. “She must have taken the juice before going to meet Cyprian that night and the poison must have killed her outside the garden’s gate.”
Dominic opened his mouth to say something, but no words came out. He couldn’t think of what to say. He was shocked speechless. So, he stared at Anthony. The boy had a haunted look on his face and tears were pouring from his eyes.
“I know I have to go and confess to Father.” Anthony continued in his broken and lifeless voice. “And with this autopsy they are doing, I’m sure they will find out she was poisoned and then I will be arrested and jailed or even shot at firing squad.”
“No!” Dominic snapped out of his thunderstruck trance. “You can’t do that.” This was his friend, his brother. He shook his head, not sure what he was saying but too scared to say anything else. “Don’t confess anything to Fr. Chrys yet. There’s no certainty she drank the juice at all or if that’s what killed her.” When Anthony gaped at him, he rushed on. “We watch it in the movies all the time and I even read it somewhere that if a person is poisoned, they usually vomit blood before they die. Dana didn’t vomit blood. There was no blood on her when Father found her. So, we can’t be sure she drank the juice.”
Anthony stared at him for a long moment. And then he jerked his head in an up and down motion. Dominic wasn’t sure if he was agreeing to his absurd logic or not, but he wished, and not for the thousandth time, that Dana Bala had never come to the Good Shepherd’s Home.