Her arms swung as she walked gaily, her cousins’ little fingers wrapped around her own. The doors to the minivan skated open, and the car slowly woke while Coty busied herself by collapsing the seat so her cousins could clobber into the back. Her brother and sister decided to help her pack and move her luggage into her car, while she catered to her cousins and her parents packed a picnic basket inside.
Her family were sad to find out she didn’t intend to make the trip with them, but they accepted that she needed to work. Her vacation days were almost over, she needed to get back to her life, no matter how much had changed, she was the only one aware of it. Everything else was normal, she intended on keeping it that way. Which also meant she had to get used to swallowing her tongue and not being too quick to react to Eight’s shenanigans. It wasn’t an easy task, it seemed the man was bored wherever he was hidden and used her for recreational entertainment.
“Okay,” Samuel slammed the car door and walked forward to plop down against the hood of the car. “You are set, Cot. When are you leaving?”
“When you guys leave.” She replied, wriggling her fingers at her cousins who giggled in response. She lifted the chair back up, effectively locking them in the back seat but she left the door open.
Her mother rushed out of the house wearing a short dress and boots with a festive scarf tying up her hair. She held a basket and a lunch box in her hands, a broad smile spreading across her face when she kissed Coty on the cheek.
“This is for you.” Coty took the lunch box her mother stretched out to her. “I know you might not have the time to prepare some food for yourself when you get back to your apartment, so this gives you something to eat.”
“Thanks, ma. Where is baba?”
“Late.” Her mother laughed; she plunked the basket down on the passenger seat of the car. “He is finishing somethings up and taking his meds before we head out. You ready?”
“More or less. When I get back to the apartment, I have a few things to do, then I will call you guys before its time to go to bed. Tomorrow is a busy day, I am not so sure I would have the time. If I do, I will try to call in.”
“What’s in the box?”
Coty sucked in a breath and flashed her plastic smile, the one she used when she tried not to respond to Eight’s sudden presence. He walked up to her car, propping his hip against it, his hands almost grazing her sister’s who was reading something Samuel showed her from his phone. His presence was becoming more life-like each day, it was disconcerting because she had to remind herself that he was not real. When he touched things now, his hands didn’t go through them, he leaned on walls, sat on chairs, spoke like he was part of the conversation.
Coty knew she should be upset that he was fitting into her life, but she never complained. She could barely imagine what his life looked like outside her eye, where he was hidden, the loneliness. He enjoyed being around her family, so she tried to be more understanding. To be fair, he was trying to save her life, she could let him win some battles.
She pushed the box into the car then joined her siblings on the hood. “You would visit me one of these days, right?”
Samuel looked up from his phone and grinned. “Of course. Maybe I will get to meet your friend.”
“Okay!” her mother clapped her hands, and they all turned to look at her. “Your father is on his way out, say goodbye to your sister and get in the car. We wouldn’t want to meet traffic on the way. Hurry, hurry.”
Samuel shoved his phone into his back pocket, towering over her as he pulled himself to full height and closed his arms around her. “I am really happy for you sis. I hope it is everything you deserve.”
She swallowed her laughter and managed a single nod as he stepped aside. Her sister hugged her next then they all filed into the van, waving as they slid the doors shut. Coty walked over to her parents and pulled them into a big hug, her arms wrapping around them.
“Take care.” She kissed her mum, then her father, taking him by the shoulder when he tried to step back. “Take care of yourself baba, don’t give mom a hard time, or we would chain you down and make you listen.”
“We wouldn’t want that.” He kissed her forehead and hugged her one last time.
Her mother waved at her before they walked towards the van. She opened the passenger door for her father and blew Coty a goodbye kiss.
Coty turned toward the house, Eight stood by her with his hands shoved into the pockets of his jacket. She was tempted to speak, but she remembered that they were still in the open. She opted to wait, she sat in her car, giving Ava the order to take her back to her apartment. The gears lit up, the steering wheel unfolded, and a map began to fill out the screen on her dashboard.
“Your family is beautiful.”
She smiled despite herself, folding her legs on the seat and turned to look at him. “Thank you. How do you deal with not seeing yours?”
“Well.” He looked back at her and shrugged. “Well. I am comforted by the fact that they are too far away to be harmed. It is the only thing that keeps me calm.”
Eight had told her that his parents stayed home while he travelled out for his studies. It meant they were safe back home in his country, and there was less of a chance that they would be used as leverage against him. That simple fact put her more on the edge because she wondered about her whole family. They lived in that mansion, a few miles away from the city, an easy day’s drive from the hospital where she had gotten the contacts. If ever she was discovered, it wouldn’t take much for them to be found.
“What are you thinking about?”
“Why would you think I am thinking?”
“Because you have been staring at me for almost a minute and have said nothing.”
“I am not staring at you. If we are being specific, I am staring at the seat.”
“Whichever way, you are thinking. Ask.”
“You have been in hiding for months now, according to you, what’s the plan to get your life back.”
“I told you that’s a work in progress. It is still a bit sketchy in my mind right now.”
“Well, you are a bit sketchy in my mind right now, and I need you to become less sketchy. Whatever rough draft is in your mind… I want to hear it. Please.”
Eight looked at her, his light brown eyes seeming to read her. When he spoke, he turned to face the windshield, his fingers twisting around each other. “The contacts you have on are technologically advanced and have many functions. Aside from being a transplant for your original eye, they are also wireless hard drives that can download information from various sources. Laptops, phones, as long as it is in range, the contacts can pick it up.”
Her mind worked overtime as he spoke, and by the time the last word formed, she already had a rough idea where he was heading…she needed him to change direction.
“You can’t possibly mean…”
“You can get information without them knowing.”
“You can’t possibly be serious.”
“During your therapy sessions, I can pick up on the gadgets in the room, upload them into your contacts and transfer them to my laptop. It would give us a rough place to start, but it will be a start.”
“You said that you didn’t know all the players involved, what if my therapist is not one of them?”
“Then looking into his computer or phone will clear him and we know how much you can trust him with what you say. The point is, the hospital is the only place I know where all this started, so it is the only place I have to fall back on for now.”
“What will happen when I am found out.” She finally wondered aloud, pushing some hair behind her ear when they fell over her eyes. Eight looked back at her, he started to speak but stopped almost immediately. “Answer me, please. What will happen when they figure it out.”
“We already discussed this, remember. That first day.”
“We discussed what they could do to me. We never discussed what could happen to my family if you can’t stop them in time? I know partly how movies like this play out. The main character discovers something dirty in an organization, they hide when their lives are threatened, but the bad guy goes for the family to draw them out.”
She ignored the shock that rose when he spoke her name, her mind was overloaded, she didn’t have time to dwell on such an unimportant factor. “Your parents are safely continents away, my family is not. They are right next door, and if something happens…how can I protect them?”
Eight still didn’t speak, she didn’t need him to answer because his expression told her that he didn’t know the answer to that himself. The car rolled to a stop, she sniffled, sucking in a deep breath and wiping her cheeks to wipe away the tear stain. She didn’t even realize when she started crying. She looked out the window, expecting to see the parking lot of her apartment with its variety of cars but was greeted instead with the red traffic light flashing overhead. She looked down at the GPS, her apartment was close by.
“I know this can’t be easy for you.” Eight murmured, and she turned to look at him, giving him her attention. “I am sorry for involving you. I would always be grateful for the understanding you give me, anyone else would have sent me to hell.”
She laughed, shocking herself, and she shook her head. “There is still time for that.”
They continued the rest of the journey in silence. Coty leaned against the chair and closed her eyes. When Ava pulled into the parking lot of her building, she turned the car off and grabbed her bag and lunch box from the back seat, slinging the arm of the box over her shoulders. She pushed her phone into her trousers and walked towards the elevators, Eight keeping in step beside her.
“Did you lock your car?”
She turned to Eight just as she pushed down the button of her floor on the switchboard. “Yes, Mr Super senses, didn’t you hear it loc…”
“Coty!” She jumped at the sound of her name and tried to compose herself as she held the elevator doors back for the young woman who was running towards it. Eight looked amused, his face smug as he stood back. “Hey. Thanks.”
She dropped her head down for the rest of the ride. Thankfully, the woman standing by her didn’t seem interested in making conversation. She had her head bent as well, typing away on her smartphone as music blasted from the air pods in her ears. Coty waited, holding a breath of relief when the metallic doors whooshed open. She rushed out with a quick wave to the woman before heading towards her apartment. She dragged the card out of her front pocket, placing it over the reader on her door and pushed the door open after the resounding click rang out.
Ava broke out on the speakers, lights flickering on and the air-conditioner coming alive, blasting the room full of cool air. Coty dropped her back at the foot of her dining chair, placing the lunch box on the table and stripping off her jacket. She rubbed her palms over her arm as she looked around her apartment. She noticed the red light blinking on her landline and walked over to it, pushing a few buttons, she waited for the messages to start playing out.
The most recent one played first, the rowdy hum of her brother and sisters voices flooding out into the room as they filled her in on their trip. They were still on the road when the called was made so she could hear the sound of zooming cars. Coty busied herself by checking on her fridge and closet, making sure everything was in place before she sat at the table, pulling the lunch box closer.
Maggie’s messages played next, subtly checking in, reminding her about the meeting they had when she resumed. Coty laughed at a joke Maggie laid out, unzipping the box and pulling out a long Tupperware container filled with vanilla cupcakes and small pipping bag beside it. She leaned over and sucked in a long breathe, taking in the savoury smell of vanilla into her lungs. She wasn’t hungry until she saw them, now, she was ravenous.
Eight leaned on the counter, mooning over the cakes as he licked his lips. “No bad thoughts, but I love your mother, and your aunt, and maybe your younger sister. Mmm, they bake well.”
“Yeah,” she laughed. “Only you got stuck with the one person that had no interest in baking.”
“Too bad I can’t smell it.”
She picked up the piping bag, palming it in her hand and squirting a generous amount of icing over the first cake when another message played, the voice making her freeze.
“Ms Adesina. Hi. Good morning.” She remembered the voice even though she had heard it only once. She knew who it was before he announced it. “It’s Doctor Summers, your assigned therapist for the trial. You called earlier; I couldn’t exactly hear what you said so I am returning the call. If it’s about the contacts, or you aren’t feeling quite yourself, feel free to call back. If it can wait, then I’ll see you on Tuesday, and we’ll discuss it. Enjoy your day.”
As quickly as it came, she lost her appetite.