Kelvin dangled the key before her, looking so fly in a sleeveless orange T-shirt on a floral trunk short and a white flip flops. “Darling, I want you to drive.”

“Seriously.” She tilted her head to one side and searched his face. She looking breath-taking in an embroidery multi-coloured beach dress that stopped above her knees with white grin ankle strap sandals.

Kelvin nodded and then she smiled brightly at thought of being mischievous.

She collected the key, marched to the car and went ahead to open the passenger side.

Kelvin remained where he was and began to shake his head. “We’ll be switching roles today. You’d better go to the other side, let me open the door for you.” He instructed with an index finger.

“I drive, my rules.” Before he could object she ran to him, he ducked and ran to the other side of the car.

For two minutes, she tried to catch him to no avail, when she tried to climb the booth of his car, he stopped running.

“Kathy, please, don’t…don’t climb before you sustain a fracture or dismantle my car, this is not a Range Rover o!”

She couldn’t helped but burst into laughter at the accent.

Eventually, he got in, she closed the door and rounded the car. She got behind the wheel and drove out of her compound.

“You’re bundle of surprise. It wasn’t up to a month you got your official car when you limited the services of your driver.” Kelvin said few seconds later.

She didn’t answer immediately as she reduced the speed of the car and waved at the security personnel at the main gate leading out of the estate. She joined the express road and the car sped up.

“I first learnt how to drive when I was fourteen.”

“Fourteen!” He exclaimed taken aback.

“I used those few weeks to refresh my knowledge and decide if I should take the steering wheel or not.”

He had a thousand and one questions to ask but he had a strong conviction to change the subject. “Tvies do you favour?”

Katherine couldn’t help but glance at him, she was astonished he had just let that slide. “I love comedy, family, drama…”

*-*

“Kathy, you’re staring at it as though you can ride it.” Kelvin observed.

Katherine blinked back to reality from memory land. She didn’t hear so she couldn’t respond.

“Or can you ride a horse?” He questioned with a smile, the bridle of the horse was in his hand.

She closed her eyes and momentarily ran her hand on the horse neck and face. “I could try riding it.”

“A horse is not something you jump on and begin to ride without afore knowledge of it.” He informed her.

She helped herself on the horse and grabbed the bridle from him and used her legs to set the horse in motion. It was so abruptly done that when he recovered the horse had covered a reasonable distance.

He glared.

They turned and advanced towards him. When she neared him, she slowed the horse so that when she swerved close to him, he jumped back.

“Oh God.” He muttered and laughed at himself.

She alighted from the horse and expressed gratitude to the horse for a lovely ride. She handed the bridle to him and put up a straight face. “Can I ride a horse now?”

“I don’t know, Kathy… in fact, I’m speechless.”

She winked at him and he laughed long and hard. “Let’s ride together.”

They rode together and they took photographs until Kelvin decided to payback.

He made a straight advance towards the sea.

At first she thought he was joking, but when he kept nudging the horse, she clasped a palm over mouth.

“You better scream if you want to, it might make me change my mind.” He whispered.

He didn’t finish before she screamed.

He made an abrupt turn out of the water and as soon as horse stop, she practically jumped down and slumped on her knees.

He stood beside her and in between stifled laughter said. “I’m waiting for you to catch your breath so we can take another ride.”

She stood, sized him up with her eyes and marched their shade.

He ran after her. “Sweetie, I’m sorry!”

Few minutes later, he opened the picnic box and set the table with the still hot boiled corn and coconut, his housekeeper had prepared and packed for the occasion. Earlier they had potato salad.

“I’m sorry, dear, please let’s eat.”

She folded her arms beneath her bosoms and si her arms beneath her bosoms and sized him up with her eyes.

He pulled his chair close. “I’ll feed you. Here, drink some water first.”

She opened her mouth.

*-*

Katherine exhaled. “I’ve never had to tell someone what I am about to tell you.” She sighed. “I’m about to answer all of your questions, questions you’ve voiced out, those I’ve seen in your eyes and expressions. I’m going to tell you about Katherine Sylvester. Get ready, Kel, you about to see the me you never knew existed.” She reached to take the bottled water.

Kelvin saw her hand tremble.

She stared at him for the longest time and glanced at the ground, the sand and shells, then out at the sky and then at the sea and when she eventually looked back at him. Tears were flowing down her face.

“Kathy…” He gasped, she had told him to prepare but this was the least of what he was expecting. He didn’t even know what to expect.

“Kelvin, my life is a switch of emotions, when something happens and it’s expected of me to jump excited, I might act shocked, when it is expected of me laugh gleefully, I might just give a faint smile and vice versa.” She began calmly. “There are families and there are families.” She repeated emphatically. “I had a family, a special kind, a lovely one…” She bit her lower lips. “The most unique, how bonded were we! My family was an epitome of a normal definition of the word -family, father, mother and child or children. I had a dad, mum and a brother. Permit me to start this way, my father was a petrochemical engineer and worked for a prominent oil company in Nigeria, my mum owned and ran a guest house. It was majorly known because of its restaurant. My mum was a born cook, she was good. As a matter of fact, good is an understatement. People trooped in and out despite alcoholic drinks not being sold.” She beamed. “My brother was five years older than I am.” She fetched her hanky and wiped her face. “My brother and I were born with a golden spoon.”

He raised a brow.

“My parents were wealthy despite that, we children got what we needed not what we wanted nor what every other child had.”

Kelvin nodded, he could relate with that.

“We were made to understand why. They were parents with top positions that demanded attention and time yet we were always top priority. Nothing interfered with our time. They didn’t hesitate to profess their love for us. Even when we made mistakes, they corrected us in love. My brother and I were trained in best of schools. We had vacations in and out of the country. We celebrated special days, remember my grand birthday party I told you about.”

He nodded.

“In my family, I had more I could ever ask for, love, care, attention, security and what have you.” Her tears were back in trickles. She stared into space. “I had more than enough mentors spiritually, educationally, socially and in all aspect of life. I was like a focal point, where my parents stopped, my big brother continued.” She glanced up then at Kelvin who had his eyes fixed on her and heaved.

“We were more than brother and sister, he was my best friend. We were more than twins and were so close that he knew when my menstrual period starts. For those days I suffered cramps, he places a warm compress on my lower abdomen and do things to cheer me. We talked about everything. He was the one that taught me how to ride a horse and how to drive. We had our fights and fun. When we go shopping, no matter how much I like a thing, once he shakes his head, I dropped it. My knowledge increases every time he takes me out. Neighbours and friends called us KK twins.” She smiled

He smiled too.

“When he travels, I take it upon myself to watch his favourite TV programs even when I don’t fancy them just to see the smile on his face when I narrated to him. We made our sacrifices.” She chuckled. “My parents were in charge of my bed time stories but when I outgrew it, he took over. He called it a game and laid down the rules. Every weekend, we went to the library, picked a book and read it, checked out difficult words in the dictionary, jot down what we learnt, exchange what we jotted to read and we were to ask ourselves ten questions respectively.

“Wow.” Kelvin said impressed.

“We were not limited to any field of study.”

“Your brother was wise.”

“Yes. I learnt and knew so much, things I didn’t completely understand then but came to understand later. That knowledge helped me as a secretary, when I worked with your daddy, the wisdom I acquired is what I practice in most of what I do on daily basis. We were young, yet we lived our live maximally like we knew it… it wasn’t going to be for a…” She burst into tears.

He stood and placed his seat beside hers and took both hands in his.

“Kelvin, it is going to be a long day.” She exhaled and shivered slightly.

“I’ll be right here with you through it all.” He smiled at her and wiped a lone tear with his thumb.

“My life took a turn when I was fifteen, about to be through with my secondary education. It all began when a huge amount of money was stolen from my daddy’s company. The money vanished as a result of conspiracy. Before then, my dad was bribed by some of his colleagues to join the plot but he declined and became their enemy. When investigations began, they placed him at the forefront. He was arrested, tortured, his bank accounts frozen, most of his assets was seized and they didn’t bother to do a thorough investigation before he was sacked bearing in mind that he would be retiring in few years and lost all the entitlements.”

His brows furrowed into a frown.

“Kel…” She called softly and held his gaze. “That is why I didn’t want you to go ahead to do the mass arrest, I didn’t want the innocent to suffer with guilty. I remembered the ordeal my dad and we all passed through, the psychological implications.”

“I’m glad I obeyed you.” He squeezed her palm and smiled at her.

“We had to vacate the house they were living in. Daddy had built a house here he was yet to complete. We moved there. My mum took up the responsibilities of the family gladly. We adjusted real well but dad wouldn’t sit back. He tried to secure a job but he spent the better part of his working years for the company. In spite of the disappointment, he didn’t give up. One day, in the course of his looking for a job, he was involved in a road traffic accident that almost led to the amputation of a leg.” She closed her eyes and exhaled. “When he recovered, I could remember being upset and saying –‘Daddy, I told you should take it easy, look what it has cause all us. Dad, I understand the depression, frustration and everything but you don’t have to take it out all yourself.’ And then he said to me, ‘honey, you don’t understand.’ I sat beside him and embraced him. Kelvin…” She called.

“Yes, darling.”

“It didn’t take me nineteen months to know my dad had been right.” She sobbed and clasped a palm over her mouth.

“Darling, easy.” He soothed and pat her palm.

“O… kay, Kel.” She mumbled but couldn’t fight back the tears that were flowing down her cheeks like they were naturally meant to be neither the shakiness in her voice. “We lived and our family atmosphere remained. I concluded my final exams in high school and graduated. Two months afterwards, tragedy stuck.” She closed her eyes and blinked severally. “Kel, my hands, I can’t see.”

He released her hands and watched as she wiped her tears and blew her nose in a tissue. He knew it wouldn’t be long before his tear ducts got active. How was he to know that his curiosity all along would uncheck checked emotions? He fetched a neatly folded handkerchief from his pocket. “Here, Kathy.”

“Thanks.” She collected it. “On that gloomy day, my mum got to her guest house just to see… see her investment over the years …her family financial lifeline razed to the ground by fire.”

“No.” He whispered as his brows creased.

“We were not able to figure out how it came about. It occurred in the early hours of morning and the fire claimed everything burnable. No life was lost but my mum collapsed and never got on her feet. She never recovered from the shock even after three days of intensive care. It killed her, Kel. It killed the Queen of my very heart, my role model, my lovely mum…” She sobbed. “She was a strong woman but I don’t anyone who would survive that, considering all the kind of thoughts that might have rush through her mind.”

He bobbed his head.

“We wished that God had kept her because we knew that no matter what, we can still forge ahead. She was buried, we mourned her because of what she meant to us. We loved her dearly.” She paused and swallowed. “We appreciated her, we cherished her and there was never, ever going to be a replacement of her in our hearts. In the midst of it all, we comfort ourselves and draw closer to one another.”

“That’s terrible.” Kelvin stated.

“Terrible?” She almost scoffed. “Hmmm” She reserved. “I’ve been to this beach about three times before today. First as an excursion in my primary school, family and the third with my brother and his friends.” Her smile was sad. “My brother took the responsibility baton. My mum car was sold and he used some of the money to purchase a commercial motorcycle. He also took a job. I was scared because he combined his education with job and used his spare time for transportation. I took care of the home front. I desired to assist him even if it is take away the littlest burden off his shoulder but he wouldn’t hear of it…” She pursed her lips, stared into space and her tears flowed. “He wouldn’t hear of such. He sat me down and told me about being beautiful and didn’t want me to be exposed to the harsh reality of life. He told he didn’t want to hear of such again since he wasn’t asking for an assistant. I was annoyed and wanted to shake him until he agrees with me. I left his room for mine and cried myself to sleep. Yes, I did not accept, good, he was being protective, splendid, because he thinks I’m a baby that can’t differentiate her right from left. All thanks to him!”

Kelvin chuckled imagining how she must have pouted her lips then. “I understand what your brother tried to do. Well, you know your onions, you know what you are capable of doing but there is what is called voluntary deed and forceful deed. There is no limitation to what people can do to have their way. You never can tell what they might be thinking of and the set up that might came about. Your brother is more experience, definitely more learned and he was in this world before you came about, so darling he look at things far beyond your view. He knows that…” He was thoughtful. “He knows that you are going to give your output innocently and they in quote…,” He signalled with his fingers. “Might give some forceful actions.”

She pouted her lips and narrowed her gaze at him.

“Don’t look at me like that, girlfriend.” He grinned. “Let’s see it from your own point of view. You really want to help, you might be helpless when things tighten up. He is going to be very worried about you and that does not help relief stress instead it adds. If I were him after your suggestion and the reluctance you put off, anytime I leave I’ll lock the door in case you change your mind after I’ve left.”

“You’re sounding bossier than my brother.”

Kelvin laughed and she smiled.

“There was a time I followed him to his university. He wanted to show me around so he asked me to drop my bag with a course mate. By the time we came back, I saw three envelopes with contacts in my bag. I showed them to him, he opened and read their contents, he had an expression of anger initially but then he began to laugh when he handed the letters over and asked me to read them.” She grinned in remembrance. “When I was done, he asked me to sit beside him and educated me on guys and relationships.”

Kelvin laughed and took a gulp of water.

“They were love letters written by his course mates and they dropped them in my bag knowing the kind of person he was.”

“I can only imagine the kind of talk it was.”

“Of course you can, since you have two sisters and I can remember the bully story.”

Kelvin rolled into bouts of laughter.

“Can you imagine two thousand naira was in one of the envelope?”

“That’s some real competition.” He beamed.

“My brother used to tell me that I was his Princess and that if he had his way, he would have me beside him always because I was an influence to him and when people see us together and smiled at us, he felt taller and more handsome. He told me that I was his first lady and I glared at him bemused. He knew it was because of his girlfriend. Guess what he told me.”

“I suck at guessing.”

“You can tell her if you want to, after all I knew you before I met her.”

“Wow. I’m surprised you are tall and don’t have a tiny head despite the endearment that was heaped on you.”

She could have jabbed him if she had the strength instead she rolled her reddened eyes. “My brother was the best and I loved him fiercely.” She affirmed. “We lived happily though we didn’t have the luxury we were used to. My life took another drastic turn during the month most people call the love month.” She sipped water and all previous excitement vanished.

“February.”

“Yes.” She stretched her hands to him and he took them. “I remember my brother asking if I wanted to go out and I said yes. I got ready, it’s been a while we indulged ourselves due to our shortcomings. We took permission from our dad and left on his bike. He took me to a couple to places where we had a pretty good time. We went to the library to pick two books as before, though since he got so busy, I went by myself and read alone. On our way back, we got stuck in an unusual traffic…” She sobbed and tears began to flow down her cheeks. “Can I do this?” She whispered in between sobs. Her body shook convulsively and her lips trembled. “That was the last outing we had.”

He closed his eyes broken hearted. He felt the sting of tears when he opened them.

“The place where we were began to tighten, in an attempt to move forward, the front tyre of the bike scratched the lower part of a Jeep mistakenly.” She bit her lower lip and her grip tightened on Kelvin’s hands.

‘The driver of the Jeep came out and examined the scratch, he was in uniform. I can’t remember which of the force. The traffic had become stand still. My brother and I alighted and began apologizing. He didn’t hear them or it did fuel his anger because he lashed out insults that I never knew existed. At a point, I felt that the insults were just too much for a scratch after all, the vehicle was not made of gold though it was one of the latest Jeep at that time but since my brother was apologizing who am I to object? Never knowing that there could be no love lost in the human mind for another who he had not met afore time. The man went back into the car and fetched a gun.”

“Jesus Christ!”

“What can a person do when at gun point? Even if one was right, you resolved to beg. I could still see my brother prostrating on the ground, I remember myself going down on my knees begging.” She continued with a voice energized by anger. “I remember people that had gathered pleading on our behalf. All that went to one man, one human… and yet…” She swallowed hard and tears flowed down her face.

“You know most people…” She wiped her weeping nose with the hanky but it was immediately was replaced. “Most people are monsters in human form, they are beast not even fit to live in the jungle because most animals if not all care and most don’t practise cannibalism.” She place a palm on her forehead. “As my brother stood, he pulled the trigger, the bullet hit his fore head and another to his abdomen. He was dead before he reached the ground.”

Kelvin pulled her into his arms with eyes filled with tears.

“I flung myself at him so he could kill me too but he pushed me away, I stood to throw myself at him once but froze at the thought of my father, he was going to die of cardiac arrest.”

“I screamed and slumped on my knees and became absent minded of happenings around me as I placed both palms over his head and begged him to survive, begged him not to leave because it was going to kill our father. I clung to him and screamed till I lost my voice. It took effort for the crowd to separate us.

The man used the gun to distant himself from the crowd who were ready to attack him until the police came and whisked him away but they couldn’t go with his Jeep. Other commercial motorcyclist set the Jeep ablaze. They organised for a vehicle to convey him to the—mortuary but I insisted they took him home.” She released herself from his embrace. “I never saw my dad cry until that day. That’s how the life of a 400 Level medical student was cut short, that is how I lost my brother.” She closed her eyes and shut her ears with both palms.

“Katherine?” He called concerned.

“It’s all coming to me that moment—just like a flood, I’m overwhelmed by it. I can hear the bullets, so loud and for a moment, my heart beat stopped. That was how I lost my Kennedy Sylvester, my bestie, my chief bodyguard, my head teacher.”

Tears filled his eyes and spilled.

“We buried him.” Katherine sniffed and coughed. “The press arrived before we took Kennedy home, so they captured him lying in his pool of blood. They came to the house after the burial and wanted a couple of interview. The man who killed my brother was sent into thick clouds and not presented to face the consequence of his action.”

“What obscenity!” Mouth agape, he glared.

“I honoured one interview where Nigerians were given the opportunity to call in.” Her voice reflected her weariness. “They expressed their grievances to the extent I broke into tears right there in the studio and then it dawned on me that it can only be talked about until the matter dies and whatever force or click he belonged to would protect him. So when next I was asked for an interview to talk about the horrifying experience, I refused.”

Kelvin placed the thick woollen shawl around her shoulders because she was shivering and the sea breeze had become cooler.

“Did you check his name tag, can you remember his ranking from his uniform?” There was optimism in his voice and expectation in his eyes.

“I don’t even know if I can recognise him, I can’t remember what force he was in, all I know is that he was top ranked. Kelvin, no matter how people like me try, we don’t have advantage over people of high class. He was so protected that even his name wasn’t released. The law can always be modified to suit people who know how to grease the right palms.” She blew her nose and wiped it. “You wouldn’t believe the number of terrifying events that are allowed to slide on daily basis.’

“That’s crap.” Kelvin said irritated. “How can it just be swept under the carpet?”

“For the fact that he had committed murder when his defence was not threatened, for the fact that he was a uniformed man and should know better would have been the reason while he shouldn’t go unpunished. That is not obtainable in this part of the world. When a poor person tries to get justice done, he will eventually discover that he had wasted his resources, time and hurt himself more.”

“That is baloney…absolute nonsense.” He bobbed his head from side to side before drumming his fingers on the table in controlled agitation.

“I have learnt to place my solace in God.” Her eyes drifted to the sea. “Let’s hear the conclusion.” She drew out a shaky breath.

He directed his attention back to her.

“Kennedy and I were born with golden spoon yet our parents taught us that life was not a bed of roses. Time changes yesterday. When the rainy days came, we were able to find our feet, when Kennedy dropped the baton, I picked it up with determination. What he wouldn’t have me do, I was compelled to. I had to fend for my daddy and I— I got a teaching job.

My dad and I were closer than ever.” She blinked and tears fell off her bloodshot eyes. “Those days, I used to have horrible nightmares, he was there for me and we were always there for us. We spent most of our nights crying. We couldn’t recover from the absence of Kennedy. My daddy was not happy I had to work, he didn’t express it though but I could see it eyes, in the way he looked me over when I came back from work. His eyes held disapproval when Kenny was working talk more of his baby girl. He wasn’t pleased that he had to helplessly watch his children fend for themselves and him so early. In the course of working, I did understand what my big brother was trying to protect me from. Despite how they tried they couldn’t change me because I had already took the words of my parents and brother to heart and sealed it there. When my brother was alive, I was ready to wait for him to gain his feet before going to college.” Katherine shrugged.

“When all expenses were deducted from my salary including my daddy monthly appointment with an orthopaedic doctor, there was hardly anything left.” She shrugged and exhaled. “My dream was to become accountant and a financial consultant as I go higher.”

Kelvin beamed.

“My daddy was an orphan but he had two younger step-brothers from my grand mum who remarried after the death of grand dad. Being from a poor family, my dad struggled through school and worked his way to the top, he sponsored his much younger brothers through school and got them connected to good jobs after they graduated.” She gave a short laugh and dabbed her eyes. “I remember those beautiful days when our lives were rosy, they were always around the house at the littlest break, and they enjoyed the treat in my mum’s restaurant like they were Co-founders. I remember the special treat every weekends.” She inhaled deeply and exhaled. “Wind of fate could be such a merciless snatcher. The home front was my mum priority, she was kind hearted and an epitome of the Bible’s virtuous woman. I remember how my friends and classmates wished my mum was theirs. They all looked out for invitation to treats in my house. Every Sunday was Africa salad treat.” She smiled at him.

“I see.” Kelvin chuckled.

“When things changed, we stopped seeing the faces of my uncles, the older one got married a couple of months before mummy died. They attended her funeral but they didn’t come for Kenny funeral. They didn’t give any assistance… I mean any.”

Kelvin raised a brow.

“When Kenny was alive, how I love that guy. He didn’t consider begging anyone. I decided to give a trial without my dad approval but in his presence I called them and a minute into the conversation, I was so pissed that I hanged up and switched off the phone. As days rolled into weeks, I did my best to take care of us. Four months after Kennedy passed on, that month was a rainy one, that very week got streets and houses flooded, and so many were displaced.” Tears formed in her eyes and she extended a palm to Kelvin.

He took the palm and placed his free palm over it. It was cold.

“The weather situation made news because the rain descended the earth with no mercy. It was so serious that most couldn’t go to work.” She closed her eyes briefly and took a couple of deep breaths. “You remember I told you about having nightmares.”

Kelvin nodded.

“At a point, I couldn’t sleep alone so I slept with my dad. On that particular day, I woke up to discover my daddy wasn’t in bed, I turned on the table lamp and the table clock told me it was forty minutes past four a.m.

I went to the sitting room and discovered he had gone outside. Out of curiosity, I lingered at the window with a worried frown because he was allergic especially to such weather condition. I couldn’t hear him but from his gestures, I knew he was pouring his heart to God so I didn’t interrupt.” She paused and stared into space as tears now flowed in torrents. “If I was not too young, if I had known that the wind of fate was not through with me—I would have known…I would have known.” She bit her quivering lower lips and sneezed.

His jaw dropped.

“I left the window before he came in to boil water for his bath and make breakfast, his cloths were soaked and dropping, it was all stained. He met me at the kitchen, I had planned a surprise breakfast for him. When I told him, he told me I should have prepared for me alone.” She smiled amidst tears. “I wouldn’t hear of such. He told me how much he loved me, I never knew it was the last -I love you, his last words. He also asked me to take care of myself.” She rocked herself obviously in pain. “I promised him I would. Oh my God…” She broke into sobs.

He took her into her arms.

“By the time I went to his room to wake him for the breakfast but he had passed on.”

He closed his eyes feeling her pain and conscious of the wetness on his shoulder. He felt her neck temperature was on the high side when he rested his palm on it.

“He was my mentor, the best daddy in the world, the only person I lived for.” She shut her eyes tightly though it was ached. “I was dazed, I was only sixteen. I had perspectives of human and a distasteful taste of wind of fate.” She placed an arm around his neck. ‘There is still more to come.’

“More to come?” Kelvin muttered flabbergasted.

“Yes, Kel.” The sound of her voice more like a croak. “After all, the Lord said in the book of Jeremiah chapter seventeen verse five that “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.”
Verse nine said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked who can know it?” She freed herself and looked him in the eyes. “Let me make you understand why I quoted from the Holy Scripture.” She adjusted the shawl around shoulders.

He opened a bottle of water and handed it to her. “Drink water.”

She obeyed.

“Drink more.” He told her when she took only a sip.

She took more almost emptying the 75cl bottle.

*-*

“My daddy died and had to be buried. I couldn’t do that on my own so I called my uncles. They came and decided to bury him in the cemetery but I wanted him buried in the house. Their will prevailed despite my objection. They left me after that.”

“How can they leave just like that, after everything your parents did for them?” Kelvin frowned.

Katherine laughed heartily and then held her throat. “They left me just like that, not even interested in my welfare or how I would cope.”

Kelvin shook his head.

“Two days after my dad’s burial, I went to their various offices to ask for advice and help. They told me same thing.” Her smile was bitter and wiped her face. “They told me looking me straight in the eyes that life was a ”scratch my back, I scratch your affair”. That was the first time I heard that, so I didn’t understand what it meant and I did ask them to explain and they told me, I will be having sex with them and they in turn would take care of everything I needed.”

“Jeez! You were only sixteen! What is wrong with some people?”

She pursed her lips and tears flowed. “Right there in their office, I felt as though a bomb had exploded in the premises.”

“Oh my God—I thought this only happens in the imagination of a writer. This is ridiculous.”

“I guess I was like you until I was a victim.”

“What did you do?” He searched her facial expression.

“Tears just welled in my eyes—I was too disappointed, too dazed to utter a word. I picked my bag and left their office. By the time I got home, I was seriously contemplating suicide. I knew I would rather die than do want they wanted.”

Kelvin exhaled pained.

“I picked to knife to stab myself but I couldn’t because I knew my family especially God would be disappointed in me and I wouldn’t go to the resting place up above…I wouldn’t go where my parents and Kennedy were.” She sobbed.

Kelvin stared at her with so much respect trying not to think of what he would have done in her shoes. He would have contemplated been an assassin. He took her palms in his.

“A week later, my eldest uncle came to the house and told me he was giving me twenty fours to vacate my father’s house. He asked for the documents of the three plot of land. Three days before my dad passed on, he handed them over to me. One part of me wanted to deny knowledge of it, so I could burn them before vacating. I suppressed that part and handed them over to him.

My brother’s girlfriend came that evening and I narrated the latest to her. She arranged for a lorry and people who helped move every movable property in the house.

The house I am living in was given to me by her as a parting gift. She left to live abroad where her family was.” She looked at him.
“I wished so many times that everything that had happened to me was a horrible dream. Nineteen months had gone and many months after, it is still difficult for me…losing them all. It is still like a horrible nightmare. Do you know it means to lose people you’ve know all your life and learn to live life without them? Do you know the pain and emptiness that engulfs me anytime I wake just to realise they are no more? Do you know, Kel… do you?” She clasped a palm over quivering lips.

Kelvin heaved. “No, dear I don’t, I can only imagine.”

“Imagination can never do, never.” She sniffed and her tears began rolling down her tears-stained cheeks. “Family is very important.”

Kelvin was heartbroken to see she still had more tears in spite of the multitude she had shed already.

“My brother’s girlfriend left two days after I moved in, her family were aware of their relationship and were on her neck for her to come over knowing she was devastated. The days that followed…” She stared into space. “I slumped in and out of consciousness. I hardly ate, I lived behind closed door for about three moon, I longed for death as though it was natural. When I saw it wasn’t forthcoming, I went back to God and his words. I got uplifted, little by little, I was able to pick up the broken pieces of my heart and put them together. I willed my heart to forget special dates and days like my birthday for me to move on.”

Kelvin remembered the look on her face when she came to his office with the birthday gift. He understood it all, all the lack of trust she had put up. It became succinct.

“I took jobs, I was a cook in the first and soon enough the boss son wouldn’t let me be, my colleagues got jealous and I had to quit.
Same for other jobs I took, it’s either the boss, the son or their guests. I worked in one as a companion to three children for two years before their father started giving me unnecessary attention. The man was an engineer and the wife a bank manager. When I told the children I was leaving, they wept because I more like a mum to them. I made them promise not to forget all I taught them. They made promise to check on them someday.  I wish I could see them.” She smiled.

“Nothing is holding you back darling, when you’re ready, I’ll come with you.”

“Kelvin.” She whispered and her smile widened. “You are crying.”

“Am I?” He touched his face. “Oh my…” He chuckled embarrassed and wiped his tears.

“It was when I was going back home, I saw SIC and the advert for a cleaner. You know the rest of the story.”

“I do, darling.” He took her palm and kissed it.

She coughed, her body ached and felt hot. “Thank you for everything… everything. I can’t begin to express…”

“Shhhh—thank you for being you.” He beamed. “I’ve learnt a lot from you today.” He said and opened another bottled water. “Drink water.”

She shook her head.

“I’m not asking you, Sweetie, I’m telling you. You’ve lost so much fluid.”

She obeyed him.

He poured some water on a napkin, wiped her face and then dabbed her neck.

He took all they brought for picnic to the car.

Katherine bend over rocking herself with a palm over her forehead with swollen eyes shut. She winced in pain.

Soon, they were walking to where the car was parked with Kelvin hand around her waist supporting her.

Suddenly, she lurched and he felt her become limp against him.

He grabbed her as panic surged him through him.

“Katherine…” He shook her arms.

As her head fell back, he saw only the white of her eyes before it closed.

He swept her off her feet and hurried as fast as he could to the car.

He laid her on the back seat and felt for pulse on her wrist. He didn’t feel any.

‘Katherine please… don’t give up on me….” He slammed the back door shut and slid into the driver side.

“Oh God please…help me… help me please…” He let a shaky breath as he glanced at the side  mirror and then reversed. “God please… no traffic.” He muttered. “Katherine…” He called and glanced at the inner mirror, hoping she would stir to no avail. “Stay with me, darling.” He gripped the steering wheel and joined the express road leaving dust behind.

*** ~~~ ***

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