As soon as the car went out of the compound, Ebuka walked in. Immediately, I turned around to get into the house.
Not a moment after, I heard Ebuka yelling my name. I kept walking as I was not ready to deal with whatever trouble he was about to start.
Just as I got into the house, I felt a rough palm tightly wrap around my wrist. I looked down at my hand to see his hand on mine.
Ebuka stood in front of me.
I raised my head to look at his face. “Could you unhand me now?”
He put his other hand on my waist and pulled me extremely close to himself. “Relax,” he breathed on my nose. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. Exactly what game was he trying to play? “Well,” I whispered back, “if you’re not going to hurt me let go of me, now.”
He gently let go of me and took a few steps backwards. “Can’t you see I’m trying to apologise and sympathise with you?”
This time my mouth had fallen to the floor. “Excuse me. Did you just say apologise and sympathise?” Something was amiss: the Ebuka I knew never apologizes to me. And, he had just accused me of killing his brother, so why on Earth did he say was trying to sympathize with me?
“Yes,” he said. “It was wrong of me to accuse you of being a witch and killing Kelechi; it’s obvious you love him and would never hurt him.”
“Oh really?” I rested my weight on one leg and folded my arms on my chest. “And what makes you say that?”
He put his right hand on my waist and pulled me closer to himself. Our faces were only a few inches apart. I could feel his hot breath on my face. His eyes soon drifted to look at something below my eyes. He stared at, probably, my lips for awhile before he fixed his eyes on mine again.
Then he said almost inaudibly, “Despite how I’ve been rude to you to make you give up on him and for you to move on to another man, you’re still here. You even thought of doing what he was supposed to do for me.”
“What’s that?” I whispered back.
“Ensuring I have a way to go back to Onitsha.” He held my jaw with his left hand as his eyes shifted from side to side. “Fisayo, I’m sorry for treating you the way I did in the past years. Will you forgive me?”
My eyes were as wide as the ocean. Chukwuebuka Ezekiel was asking for forgiveness! Was this really Ebuka, brother to my late husband, or entirely someone else? Had a screw in his head got unscrewed – or should I say screwed pretty well? – to make him a gentleman?
As I gazed into his dark brown eyes, I didn’t miss how really apologetic he looked. It was strange seeing this look on his face.
And what was with all the physical contact? Wasn’t he the same person who looked disgusted or livid each time he glanced at me?
Anon, I became uncomfortable with the way held me. It was a way a man never should hold his elder brother’s wife. His thumb caressed my cheek as he still looked hopeful for me to forgive him. He gently massaged my waist before I felt his hand gradually go south of me, causing my heart to thump against my chest: I was nervous. Staring into his eyes at such proximity also made me feel like a betrayer: my husband had just passed away and here I was, standing in an intimate position with his younger brother.
With all the strength I had in me, I pushed him away from me. Right away, my blood rushed with a speed greater than a cheetah chasing its prey. I glowered at him as I stepped many paces away from him. He dared not to have touched me like that.
I was so mad that I wanted him out of my sight as soon as possible before I could do something to physically hurt him. Luckily, I could get a hold of myself. It wasn’t the first time I faced something like this.
Pointing at him, I said, “Stay right there. I’m getting your fare for you.” I turned around to go to my bedroom.
When he said, “Fisayo, Kelechi already gave the money,” I turned back to face him.
“When did he?”
“After dinner last night while you were in the kitchen.”
“What are you still waiting for:” I yelled, “an angel to appear?” I pointed at the door and didn’t waste time to state, “Get out of my house!”
He slowly walked towards me and calmly said, “Wouldn’t you let me at least take my bath?”
I was surprised at how calm and apologetic he still was. His new attitude made me know one thing: I didn’t like this new Ebuka; he was too gentlemanly, and I was suspicious of it.
I also didn’t want him close to me like before so I complied. “That’s fine. But I want you out of my house as soon as you’re done.”
He bowed and stretched out his arms. “Your wish is my command.” He looked so smug as he raised his head to look at me. Then he did something which made me more suspicious of his motives: he winked and smiled at me. He left me in my dazed state after he stood upright.
The whole time he was not in my presence, I paced up and down the parlour, biting my nails too. I was trying to figure out what Ebuka was up to.
His gestures moments ago were so different. Was it because Kelechi was now dead that was why he decided to be nice?
I shook my head. That thought made no sense at all. It couldn’t have been that which made him sober. He was playing a game with me, and I was certain he was determined to win at the end of it.
I was still pondering over his matter when I heard him say, “I’ll be coming with Nkechi and my parents on Monday.”
That sentence alone triggered another flow of anxiety over my entire being. What were they going to say concerning Kelechi?
I shook my head to get that thought out of my mind. Now was not the time to think about their opinion about his death. There were more important things like the work I had to do before even worrying about how I would live my life without the other half of it alive.
Ebuka put his hand on my shoulder. “Hey. Things would be alright.”
I brought his hand down and rolled my eyes. Surely, in his imaginary world things would be alright. I knew what he said was certainly falsehood so long as his entire family were still in existence. They never liked me before today. Was it now that their family was gone that they would?
I pointed at the front door. “Would you just go already?”
He lightly nodded before leaning close to me. Then, he left a lingering kiss on my cheek.
You could say it was as if I was brought out a freezer: I stood frozen, my feet glued to the floor. My jaw, surely this time, was on the floor. Ebuka freaking kissed me! If all his actions ever since he stepped into the house, after arriving from the hospital, had me in doubts, I was certain now that I had to brace myself for the dangerous game he was playing with me.
“Take heart, okay?” he whispered in my ear, bringing me out of my reverie. He stepped away from me, having a sympathizing smile on his fair face. He walked towards the front door and finally out of the house.
I breathed out a sigh right away. I could finally have my peace and concentrate on my work. I decided to go upstairs to take a shower before heading to the office in my house.
As I went up the stairs, an image of Kelechi smiling mischievously at me appeared at the top of the staircase. Tears already formed in my eyes whilst I ignored the thought of the last time he surprised me. I shouldn’t have been thinking about it as it was going to be a distraction.
I walked past the spot he stood, feeling a sense of guilt in me. Was I now forcing myself not to remember the good times we had? He wouldn’t be happy with me if he was alive and got to know about it.
Right as I entered the corridor, he was all over the place: he was standing at the door to our children’s room with his index finger against his brown lips, silently telling me to be careful with the tone of my voice as he had just put our kids to sleep; I saw him kneeling on one knee in front of the door to our bedroom with a large bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolate in both his hands as he asked me to stop being mad at him.
Many more images appeared of the several times we were together in this corridor. Reminiscing those times brought so much agony and grief to my soul. It was as if the remaining life in me was sucked out of my body and into a black hole each time Florence’s statement: “Kelechi’s gone, Fisayo,” echoed in my mind.
Staying at the corridor wasn’t the best thing for me. Howbeit, stepping into my bedroom was far worse.