(An excerpt from the novel AFTER THESE EERIE DAYS by Abiose A. Adams… continued from last week).
The two days looked exactly alike. But one was sweet and the other was sour.
We drove in a convoy of four cars, from the hurly-burly of city life to the serenity of sleeping towns, from Austria to the hinterlands of Bonn and Frankfurt.
Khalil and I, in his Rolls Royce, Seth and Ruth in theirs, and another friend of Khalil -Sheriff and his girlfriend friend, Maybelle- in theirs. The last one was an escort.
The sun was unusually warm that Friday in autumn, and so were the cockles of our hearts. It was supposed to be a getaway with Khalil but two had become a crowd.
We had fun though; street partying, winning and barbequing, sleeping in chateaus or bed and breakfast inns, whenever we couldn’t complete our journey. Finally, we settled at Liebe, one of Frankfurt’s best hotel.
On a sweet day, several hotel guests lay supine on the beach beds by the poolside, tanning, basking or probably admiring the sun.
Seth and Sheriff in bare chest, Ruth and Maybelle in swimsuits, merrying and toasting to perhaps, happy days ahead. I had been swimming and was about to emerge from the pool, when Khalil dived in a second time, boasting he will outdo me this time.
I laughed and told him, it would be like a leopard boasting to a snail, that he will outdo it in a competition.
“I’m gonna compensate you for the victory,” he yelled, in his usual exuberant self, from inside the pool, wiping his face, and pushing his wet hair away from his face.
I leaned on the pavement by the pool’s staircase, my midriff downwards, still in the water. He swarm towards me, troubling the waters, splashing it on me, until he stood beside me. His midriff downwards, also in water.
“You know Questa…I’ve been thinking of how I will get cured of this incurable disease,” he said, his eyes glittering with both mischief and excitement.
“What disease…,” I said laughingly, knowing it was one of his pranks.
“Your love… it’s killing me. Seriously…trust me… I’ve been thinking about retiring with you.”
“…hmmh.., you aren’t even old, you want to retire..??!!” I said pretending not to know what he meant.
“Don’t be cheeky, haven’t you been thinking about it too.”
“…thinking about what?”
And then he opened his fist.
“Questa, you have to marry me, or I die…”
“Khalil,” I laughed. “You don’t blackmail me into marrying you?? I looked at him.
“Come on baby….save my life,” the way his eyes pierced mine, told me he wouldn’t let go.
What a place to propose! Here we are, half of our bodies in the water, half naked, and half sure of myself. I had thought about it before, if I marry him, it would be great. A football star, rich, influential, intelligent, funny, playful and loving. Almost everything any sane girl would want. But as good and glittering this gold was there was this lump lodged in my heart that made me fear. Was it a premonition?
And then I heard laughter ripple across the pool stadium. I looked and saw everyone looking at us. Was this planned? It felt like a vow in front of the witnesses. Khalil inched closer, held my hands.
Despite myself, “yes,” I said.
And then came the ring, the kiss and the applause.
On our way back, Khalil told me, he had three months more with his current Italian club and then he would take me to mama in Chicago.
My mind began working over time. Oh my wedding dress, or my wedding ceremony, our children — they would be biracial!
And I would be an American citizen, carrying an American passport! All possible fantasies, gratefulness for God’s enduring mercies and reward of my faith and struggles. This is just too good to be true.
Finally, I can reach out to my parents and tell them God had vindicated me. I can become whoever I want to be.
“But I have to give that asshole a quit notice, he said, while driving back.
“So where will he go?”
“And why the hell do you care about that?”
When we got to Rome a week after. Our convoy had dispersed and our friends had left.
It was exactly a week after my engagement, a Friday. A day that left a sour taste in my mouth. Khalil and I drove into his house in Rome, to pick up a few things. We drove at 1 am, but we didn’t meet Hamil.
I had pacified him about Hamil, and he had agreed to be civil about what he was going to tell him.
At about 8 am, we were in the kitchen trying to fix breakfast when we heard footsteps. I was in Khalil’s grip and tried to disengage because I was sure it was Hamil and I didn’t think it was a good idea to throw our romance in his face, but Khalil’s grasp was stronger and he wouldn’t let me go.
“What is the meaning of this?” His eyes became fiery, as he stood watching us. No pleasantries. He was wearing a sleeveless black jersey, that exposed his big biceps.
“Exactly what you are seeing Hamil,” Khalil spoke from behind me.
“You, Questa slobbering over my brother?’ His lips quivered, his hands trembled.
“I can explain,” I stammered looking at him over Khalil’s shoulders. The glance of his eyes was like two arrows of fire about to dart.
“You owe him no explanation,” Khalil snapped.
“Just shut your trap you negress!” he barked.
He walked away from me and stood right in Khalil’s face, eyeball to eyeball, their foreheads almost touching.
“How dare you call her the N-word,” Khalil barked.
“So this is what the leave my house, you texted me was all about? Khalil, why do you always do this?”
“She was first my girl,” Khalil enthused.
“You coward!” He pointed his index finger in his face. “I brought Questa into this house, gave her a shelter when she had none, gave her a job when she had none. Where were you in all this, Khalil,” he yelled with a deep throaty wrath-rich voice.
“Answer me, where were you?” he clenched his teeth and fist and pointed almost into Khaili’s eyes.
“You always like to reap where you have not sown. You always take anything and everything that belongs to me since I was a child.”
Khalil swung swiftly and grabbed his twin brother by the shoulders and shook him vigorously.
“This house belongs to me, but your sense of entitlement has blinded you. You bully me everywhere. You can’t terrorize me any more, Hamil. I am no longer afraid of you,” Khalil said in a surprisingly low tone, and then his tempo rose.
“You are the big coward here, Hamil. Do you hear me? You reap where you have not sown. I feed you, I clothe you. You run my house the way you like. You never even told me there was a girl in this house. Then you used her, dumped her, left her here starving for Chicago, I gave her a job at the spa. I invested in this girl. Don’t you dare give me that bullshit,” he yelled, releasing his grip, and leaving Hamil to stagger?
I immediately squatted begging both men. I had never seen Khalil this red with rage.
“This is my house and I can do whatever I want with it and with whomever I want! Enough of this….domineering attitude of yours,” he said with fiercely clenched teeth.
“I would not have you boss me around no more.”
“Oh, I see. I will put a stop to this. Today, I will put a stop to this,” Hamil sneered, and then stormed the staircase and went upstairs.
I knelt begging Khalil that we should leave before Hamil returns, and then suddenly, we heard him smashing bottles, glass frames on the walls and window frames and all sort of rattling sounds of things breaking and falling out of their places as though there was a landslide.
“This must stop now.”
He was still shouting from upstairs. I was scared and began to beg Khalil with my eyes, again.
And with the speed of light, Hamil sped downstairs took a glass stool, hit it on Khalil’s forehead, his twin brother.
With minimal resistance, Khalil fell flat.
In a twinkle of an eye, I saw blood spurting out of his forehead and nostrils. Instinctively, I rushed to help him, and a knock landed on my head, I fell.
“I’ll kill you before you take what belongs to me this time,” Hamil roared.
I immediately jumped up, taking a second look at Khalil. His eyes were open, staring at me, but I wasn’t sure he was seeing me or seeing the world. I stood there like a dummy, quivering, sweating, dazed and blank; unable to process what was happening, momentarily unable to spot the difference between the two identical brothers, the sweet and the sour.
Abiose A. Adams is a novelist, investigative journalist and programme officer at TheCable Newspaper Journalism Foundation. She can be reached on [email protected], @abioseadams, 08174217144(WhatsApp only).
Synopsis (After these eerie days)
She is ambitious but unschooled in street-wiseness. Seventeen-year-old Funto Colesworth did not know the trip to study her dream course, Medicine, in France, is one to nowhere until she finds herself in a brothel in Cotonou.
Rather than remain there to hawk sex which she is mandated to do, she escapes and joins another set of human traffickers to cross the ghoulish Sahara Desert with ten other trafficked girls. On surviving, she continues her flirtations with danger; gets into a close-shave with death in the Mediterranean Sea, where she is the only survivor amongst the girls. Arriving Italy breathless, Funto is introduced to Rome’s red-light district, where she subsequently meets a rich and snazzy footballer, Khalil.
Their whirlwind romance would have resulted in marriage and landed her a fortune, but her hopes went up in flames again when he is killed by his irascible, psychotic twin brother Hamil. Then she realises the more ruinous cost of naivety when Hamil implicates her, leading to her imprisonment in Germany. Thrown in gaol, and with no clemency in sight, Funto felt defeated until she meets a Ghanaian missionary, Duncan Mellanby, whose romance with her leads to the fence-mending between father and daughter, after twelve eerie years.
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