“What happened?” Ifee demanded, still beset with the spine-chilling terror that had curdled his blood when he’d heard her piercing scream. “You fainted, why? What happened to you?” He’d never known her to faint and finding her crumpled on the floor of the hallway had terrified him like nothing else had ever done.
Chizu gripped onto his hand. “Jam… did you see him?” She was quivering and her eyes were darting about, wide with stark terror. “He was here… there… at the hallway.”
“Jamuike?” Ifee frowned, cast a glance over his shoulder at the door and then back at her. “Jamuike is gone, Chizu. He is not here. He cannot be here.” He gently rubbed her trembling hand. “You are still thinking about him. You haven’t completely let go and so—”
“No! He was here. I saw him!” Chizu bolted up on the bed and pushed her body against him. Her heart was pounding with fear. She was trembling with it. She could still see him—pointing his finger at her. Accusing her. “I saw him, Ifee. He was wearing his clothes… the ones he was wearing when we took to the hospital. The ones he died in. But he was different… his eyes were different. He looked at me with—” Hate. She spoke the word in her heart but could not voice it.
“Chizu, you only imagined it. He is not here. He cannot be here.” Ifee sighed and gently nudged her back on the bed. “Stop it. Stop thinking about him. Let him go, Chizu. He is gone now. We will have another. Please learn to forget.” He tenderly wiped the dampness off her forehead, leaned down and kissed her. “I know it’s hard. I know it’s hard for you to let him go, but you have to. Thinking about him is making you conjure up things.”
“You think I imagined it, Ifee?” Had she? No, that wasn’t possible. Or was it? “I saw him as clearly as I am seeing you now, Ifee. He was walking towards me and he—” She wanted to tell him what Jamuike had said but the words stuck in her throat. She couldn’t voice them. Tears slipped from her eyes instead. “I am afraid, Ifee. I am scared to think that he might not be at rest. His soul might not be at rest, Ifee. What if our son is not resting in peace?”
“Of course he is. He is with God now, in heaven.” He took the damp cloth from the glass-top table and mopped her face. “Relax, Chizu. Stop worrying about Jam. He is at peace. I think you just got overwhelmed by the newness of this house. Maybe I should not have left you alone before we were properly settled in. Don’t worry anymore, I am here with you. I will stay with you. We don’t have to go out. We can’t anyway, not with that little bump you’ve got on the back of your head.” Ifee sent her a half teasing smile. “Thank God it’s no bigger than a thumb. It will go down before the night is over, I’m sure. I will order in. Is that all right?”
“Yes.” He didn’t believe her. He didn’t believe that she had seen Jamuike. Maybe she hadn’t. Maybe it had been a fictitious imagination, like he said. Chizu wanted to believe that. She desperately wanted to believe that. “Yes, order something. I don’t feel up to going out. My head hurts.” It vaguely did. But it was her fear that crippled her most. “I’m sorry I ruined our celebratory mood.”
“You did not ruin it.” He kissed her again. Tenderly caressed her cheek. “We are still celebrating and we will be celebrating more tomorrow. Maybe it’s even good we are not going out any longer. I think an early night will do you good.”
Chizu nodded, forced a smile. “Yes, I will like to sleep early. I am quite tired.”
“Good. Hold on a minute. I think I left my phone in the living room, I’ll go get it and make the call to a good restaurant.”
“No!” Chizu grabbed onto him and held him back. She didn’t want him to leave her. “Why don’t you use mine? It’s right on the dresser. Call the restaurant with it.”
Ifee hesitated before nodding. “All right, I’ll do that.” Then he touched her face. He worried about her. He worried about the state of her mind. “But you need to relax, Chizu. You need to know that everything is all right now. Nothing will ever go wrong. Nothing.”
Chizu nodded and fought to believe him.
But when they were in bed and Ifee slept soundly beside her, her eyes crept about the semi dark room as her mind relived the occurrence over and over again. Each time she lived through it, she knew she had not imagined it. He blamed her for what happened to him. He blamed her.
“SHE hit her head hard on the floor, she could have died.”
“She didn’t, did she?” Jamuike dismissed. The atmosphere was dark with shades of grey and the clouds gloomy with shadows. It suited his black mood.
“No, she didn’t.” Tobi murmured. She was torn between loyalty to one like her and pity for the terrified woman down below. “But she is in pain now.”
“Negligent pain. One she will recover from. I will never recover from this, Tobi.”
No, he, they will never recover from this life they’ve been condemned to. “I pity her. Then I’m furious with her. With all of them.” Tobi confessed. “Why is humanity so tainted by evil? Are we not supposed to have been made after the likeness of a good God? Why then are we not naturally inclined towards good?”
Jamuike spun around from his pensive study of the dreary clouds and looked at her. Around them, other beings, caught in the limbo of an existence that was far from where they should be, glided glumly about.
“Why are you here, Tobi?” He had met her here. And because she had spoken first to him, he too had spoken to her.
Tobi raised her head. Her eyes were dark with sorrow. “Like you, I have unfinished business with the world we were catapulted out of. My life too was cut short. I could be living now. But they took that from me.”
“No, they were not family. Not by blood. But they were the only people I knew.” She hated to remember. Yet, she had never forgotten; never forgiven.
“How long have you been here?”
Jamuike lowered beside her. “I will not be caught in this existence too long, Tobi. I will not allow myself to be. I will make them pay and then, I will move on.”
“THE party looks like it’s going to be magnificent. I saw foods on the trays being passed around that I never knew existed.” Nkem observed. She was clothed in a rich stone-beaded dress and yet felt shabby beside the lace appliqué adorned dress Chizu had on. She looked like an exquisite mermaid even with her makeup not done yet. “I didn’t know you guys were planning on hiring a catering service company.”
Chizu chuckled. “The catering company is a gift from Onwa. He hired them and paid them to handle everything from menu to service. It is his housewarming present to us.”
“Oh. How very generous of him.”
Chizu did not miss the note of sarcasm in her voice. She turned from her dresser mirror and stared indulgently at Nkem. “He’s not an evil man, Nkem.”
“I don’t know what he is, Chizu. I just ask that you two be careful.” And because she didn’t want to cloud her sister’s happy mood, Nkem shovelled aside her reservations and beamed a smile. “But this place… my God, I cannot believe it!”
Chizu grinned, happy with the switch to easier to manage topics. “It is something, right?”
“Something? It is too many things all at once. The utter opulence of it. Unbelievable!” Nkem looked from the ornate furniture that surrounded the room to her sister. “Are you all right though? You look tired somehow. There are dark circles under your eyes.”
“End results of a late night.” Chizu swept back to face the mirror. “Ifee and I celebrated way into the night after moving in yesterday. Who can blame us? We were so excited.”
The flippant tone again. It worried her more than anything. But Nkem managed a smile. “Well, as the expert makeup artist you are now, I’m sure you have tactics to cover it up.”
“You can bet on it.” Chizu chuckled, then encouraged. “Why don’t you go ahead and mingle with the other guests? I’ll be right out in a few minutes.”
“All right. Don’t take too long.” Nkem picked her clutch purse from the plush cushion of the loveseat and started towards the door.
Jamuike watched her walk down the hallway and right through the door before he crept out of the shadows. He walked to the door she’d left slightly ajar and into the bedroom. The size of it shocked him. It was bigger than the room they’d all slept in at the old house and the bed was huge. He stared about him and then his eyes focused on the light switch.
A memory sidled into his mind. Him lifting to his toes to touch the light switch and she laughing at him—“you are too short to touch that switch, Jam. Besides, switches are not play things for little boys.” No matter how high he’d lifted to his toes, his hands had never touched the switch and sometimes even with the aid of a stool, he’d still not reached it. But now—Jamuike strolled to it, lifted off his feet and swaying above the polished wood floor, tapped the light switch. The chandelier light went off. Now, he could touch it.
The bathroom door opened and he at once made himself invisible.
“Hmm, who turned out the light?” Chizu made a tsk and slapped the switch on the wall beside the bathroom. The chandelier flickered on. She strolled back to the dresser and sat down to finish her makeup.
A light with two switches, imagine that. Jamuike lifted his hand towards the switch intending to turn it off again, then lowered it, changing his mind. Instead he glided towards her. He stared into the big bag with assorted pencils, stick-like tubes and round covered objects. She didn’t used to have so many. She used to have just two pencils and one round object in her small purse before and there didn’t used to be sticks with feathers at their tips before.
Chizu set back the Mac beige lipstick and picked the angled blush brush. Jamuike lifted the tube she’d dropped and stared at it. This was what she took his life for—to have this stick that had a tube she rubbed on her mouth? Irate, he flung his hand and the makeup bag and tube clashed to the carpeted floor.
Chizu snapped her head around, startled. Then she hissed, muttered a cuss and bent to retrieve the fallen items and bag. Her elbow had probably knocked them down. Jamuike stared malevolently at her. And then he turned and he sidled around her to the mirror, leaned his mouth towards it and breathed on it.
Chizu raised her head, picked the powder brush and her hand faltered. There was a mist on the mirror. Her heart bounced in her chest but she quickly inhaled, reached for the mini towel and wiped off the misty surface. Then she leaned purposefully forward and raised the powder brush and her powder. But even as she placed the brush on her face, the mist started to rise slowly from the edge of the mirror and then spread to its centre where it formed a wide circle.
“No!” The brush and powder clattered out of her hand. “Jamuike.” She whispered, and then shook her head. “No, stop it. Stop imagining things. He’s not here. He’s not here.”
Jamuike raised his forefinger and drew a sign on the mist.
The scream tickled up her throat at the scrawny diagram that looked like an upside down T but Chizu caught it back with a clasp of her hand over her mouth. She sprang off the stool, spun around and ran out of the room.
Jamuike turned and slowly followed her. He stopped at the door of the living room and stared at the throng of people. So many of them. Many that he did not know. They were all here, chattering, laughing, eating—while he stood among them unseen and forgotten. But she did not forget. He pinned his eyes on her, his mother, and willed her to look at him.
Chizu turned away from Nkem who was saying something she’d only been half listening to and stared at the connecting door. She saw nothing there but she sensed the loom of a dark presence. He was there, she could feel it. Oh God, what had they done?