I woke up groggy with a fierce headache threatening to blow my skull off and my world was black. At first I thought I was dreaming, if not why would it seem like I was awake but everywhere was pitch black? I felt something laying across my face and I tried to claw it off but a soft hand gently pried off my hand. I tried to sit up but this time a deep masculine voice commanded me not to. I heard Mama’s voice, she was crying and I also heard Dupe’s voice soothing her.
I knew then that I was definitely dreaming. Mama and Dupe together? Not likely! I felt something sting me briefly and I surrendered myself to a drug induced sleep. I drifted in and out of a hazy black world which I was strangely becoming accustomed to for a long time. Days?, weeks? maybe a month. I don’t know how long I slept.
“Merry Christmas,” a cool feminine voice whispered, kissing my rough stubbled cheeks.
” Dupe?” I asked.
” Yes it’s me.” She replied.
” Where are we?” I asked, wondering why my body felt so sore. Why it felt like I was truly awake and that I wasn’t hallucinating but everywhere was so dark. Was it daytime or night?
” We are together my love. That’s the only thing that matters” She replied.
” Am I awake?” I asked foolishly.
” Of course you are” She said.” Sit up dear. Let’s unbox your Christmas gifts. You have so many. Annie brought you thousands of gifts and your colleagues too.”
The word ‘ colleagues’ pricked something in my tired head. Why wasn’t I at work? was I sick?
” If I am awake, why can’t I see you?” I asked, sitting up. My weak hands went up to my face and I felt a thick bind across my face. ” Why can’t I see you Dupe? ”
She had gone so quiet but I could hear her breathing. She was standing so close to me. I touched my face again and slowly it came to me. The screams, the inferno. We were heading back to our hotel room in Town when Mr.Thomas realized he left something behind at the site. He asked me to drive back to Town , that he would take a while and he would catch a ride back with the other guys. I was almost at the outskirt of the site when I felt a pressing need to answer the call of nature.
The next thing I knew I had been lifted off the ground and slammed against a tree before a loud deafening sound went off. That was the last thing I remembered.
” Dupe, have I gone blind?” I asked with my heart beating wildly.
She took my hand in between hers.” Baby, you are alive. It’s a miracle.”
I tried to assimilate her words and it didn’t go down well with me. She hadn’t said yes or no but she had subtly confirmed my worse fears. I tried to get out of the bed, She tried to hold me down but I pushed her off. I heard her cry out and even in my state of confusion my heart went out to her. I heard footsteps hurrying into the room.
I felt someone trying to hold me down but I pushed whoever it was away. I wasn’t blind, I would prove them wrong. I only had to take off the blindfold. I was sure it was all one big joke. I felt a needle stab into my shoulder and I felt myself slump back on the bed.
I had been holed up inside the hotel room. My body burned all over and the bed sheet was drenched in my sweat, I tried to get up but I swooned and landed face flat on the ground. I felt the vomit seep out of my mouth before I could hold it back. I crawled towards the bathroom on my elbows and knees. My head felt like lead and my bones were liquid. It was Christmas morning and there I was lying sick in my own vomit. I had been feeling sickly since the day Tade handed the cheque to me. I had to open an account and pay it into it before I decide how to go about executing my goals.
I closed my eyes and lifted myself up with all my might. Lord I don’t want to lose my baby, I thought. Please spare him for me, please Lord. I staggered into the bathroom, hit my head against something and felt blood trickled down my cheek. I managed to get into the bathtub. I placed my head against the edge of the tub and cried. I cried for my lost innocence, I cried for my past mistakes, I cried for the woman I used to be and the woman I had become.
I used to recognize myself but I no longer do and it hurt. A lot. I cried for Tade, I cried for the innocent child in me. This wasn’t how I envisioned my life turning out. I cried till I passed out.
I set the tray of baked turkey on the table, while Serwa all dressed up in her princess gown with a tiara placed on her head set out the plates. Tade walked in with his phone, he had placed a conference call to my father in America. He pulled me lovingly into his arms while we took turns asking my father questions about Mami.
” Grandpa, is Gramma there?” Serwa asked.
” Serwa, is that you?” Mami’s voice came through and I felt tears spring to my eyes.
“Yes Grandma, Merry Christmas!” Serwa said.
” Merry Christmas Princess ” Mami said.
” Mabel there?”
Oh my! Mami remembered me today! It was the best Christmas gift.
” Mami, My Mami. Merry Christmas” I said, pressing back against Tade. He wrapped his strong arms around me.
” Merry Christmas pumpkin, ” She said.” My turkey is burning!” She shouted and scuttled off.
We all laughed. We called out byes and disconnected. Tade popped a champagne and filled our glasses. He filled Serwa’s plastic globlet with juice and we held hands and shared the grace just like Funmi taught us. Funmi, I hope life is good to her wherever she may be, I thought. It had been a month since she came to beg for my forgiveness. I didn’t tell Tade she had come to see me.
After our lunch, we went to the Christmas tree and unboxed our gifts. Tade had given me a box of my favorite chocolate, a book I always wanted to get and a necklace. I had given him a muffler, a pair of designer shoes and cuff links. He pulled me into his arms and kissed me to show his appreciation for the gifts while I giggled like a little girl.
I hadn’t seen Annie since the day she staggered out of my house with the knowledge that I was her mother’s murder. I didn’t look over my back every second, expecting the law to throw cuffs on my hands and hurl me off to jail. No. I went on with my normal routine. I threw myself into work and in the evening, alcohol became my companion. And I simply waited. I waited for when she would return with the law and point her fingers at me. For three weeks I drank and waited.
I fed my dogs, hung up Dupe’s portrait and opened a new bottle of bloody Mary. It was christmas morning, so for once I had cause to open a new bottle of drink. I and the dogs watched Tv, we played ‘ catch and fetch’ for a while before we went for a long walk. I returned compliments and greetings from my neighbors like my heart wasn’t troubled.I pushed thoughts of Dupe out of my mind, she was where she should be.
The dogs returned to their cage after our walk and I went back to my bottles. Aside from the dogs, the bottles was the second best companion I could ever ask for. They don’t make you catch feelings and leave you, they don’t ask to be loved back and they don’t demand for anything. They are loyal and they are always there to offer you succor.
To be continued..