Unlock the Stars



Trust me, having a best friend who was a superstitious freak isn’t fun at all. You get to hear how everything little thing that happens is either premeditated in the great cosmic design or some danger to your destiny. What is destiny, anyway? And who believes in such hogwash these days? Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you—Mark, my best friend who believes in omens, tarots, herbalists, and—can you believe it?—fortune-tellers. Which was were he was dragging me to. This guy is impossible!

Don’t get me wrong here, I totally accept whatever anyone chooses to believe, but when you try to drag me into it, that’s when I get really pissed off. What’s wrong with not believing in such concoctions of people who have devised intricate methods of cobwebbing the minds of people?

Mark had been trying to bring me to this woman he claims ‘would tell me why I was so unlucky in love’ for as long as I can remember. But today, it seems like he had steamrolled me with counter points on why I should, at least, pay her a visit. So voilĂ , here we are.

We went in his Lexus RX 360 which he had bought new (courtesy of the new good luck charm he wore around his neck, or so he claims). I’d never been to this part of the city. Here, you could easily get lost among the various similar looking streets about. At every corner, there seemed to be ten or so shops sprawled about. The shops were built as if the builders had no interest of the occupants at heart. They were shabby and looked as if they would crumble at any time.

The number of people milling about the streets here defied belief. Thousands of faces crisscrossed each other with seeming indifference. If you took a kid to this place, you’d better be careful, or the child would be lost. As I was ruminating over these features of this strange place, Mark pulled over in front of a nondescript shop with red and white clothes tied all around it.

“Here we are,” he announced, as he jumped down. I also came down and joined him as he entered the shop. As I entered, I had the distinct feeling that cobwebs were on my hair. Frantically, I raked my hands through my hair, but nothing was there. Was my mind playing tricks on me?

Mark stopped at the counter where a youngish woman stood. She tied a green satin material over her body up to her chest. Her face was painted with red and white chalk, with her eyes, left cheek and jaw painted in white. Then her forehead, right cheek and nose were painted in red. She wore large beady earrings that clanged together whenever she moved. As I looked at her, I thought, she was incredibly beautiful! What was she doing in such a place like this?

“Mama dey? Mark queried in pidgin. She nodded and with her back towards the little door by her right, she went in. What sort of strange place was this? I was getting irritated by the moment. All around me, I saw different vials with God knows what inside them. There were assorted roots and leaves scattered about. By the foot of the counter where the girl stood, there was a large brown drum which contained a substance with a smell unknown to science.

As I was about to tell Mark that I was fed up with the whole idea and to turn back towards the car, the woman came out carrying a small pot with smoke coming out of it. She had palm fronds nestled between her lips, so she motioned to us. Grudgingly, I followed Mark as he went to her, dipped his thumb into the smoldering pot. When he brought it out, his thumb was smeared with a silvery substance which he rubbed on his forehead in the shape of a crescent moon.

Following his actions, I did the same thing. Funny enough, the substance in the pot was not hot neither did it have any smell. Then using my back, as both the woman and Mark did, I crept inside the inner sanctum.

The first thing that caught my eye was the woman seated across the other end of a long mahogany table, better suited for modern offices rather than places such as this. She was young! I had thought she would be an old, smelly woman (or man), but seeing such a young woman who was breathtakingly beautiful gave me a huge shock. She waved me to a chair beside the one Mark sat on.

I sat, and stared at her, making no attempt to hide my surprise at her or my admiration of her beauty. She had a long oval face, with strong jaws and thin cheeks. Her eyes were old, like those of an octogenarian. She had a long, angular nose with wide nostrils, as if she wanted all the oxygen for herself. And her mouth… sensual, as though one kiss from her could cloud any man’s mind. Also she tied a white satin material around her body up to her firm, beautifully shaped breasts.

“If you’re done staring at me, maybe we can commence?” she said, ad she fixed me with a cold, hard stare. Mark snickered, the idiot. Thank God I was dark, I would have turned tomato red.

“Yes, let’s start,” I said.

“Bring forth your hands, palms up.”

I did as she instructed, and immediately her hands touched mine, I felt a electric jolt which started from the tips of my fingers and ended in my spine. As she studied my palms, her face darkened and her lips creased in something akin to worry. Shortly, she said, almost in form of a lamentation:

A decade of longing
Ten years of waiting
Your heart has been set on a sight
On someone who has the might
To give solace to your soul
But alas, your stars are locked
Out of her heart.”

I didn’t like the direction this was going. Her words had struck a very sensitive chord in me, so when she asked me if I understood her words, I thought about lying. But in the end, I replied her that I knew what she was saying.

“You’re talking about someone I’d rather not remember,” I murmured.

“She is both your destiny and your doom; both your victory and your peril. The choice lies within your hands. The stars are locked against your union with her, but you—only you can unlock the stars.”

“How do I do that?” I asked.

“Her heart is in peril, for as at this very moment, she is about to make a decision that would change your destinies forever,” she said, as she took a piece of cloth from a drawer in the table.

She laid it on the table, sprinkled a blue liquid on it and lo and behold, I saw her! She was in a restaurant obviously waiting for someone.

“She awaits the man who would make her his, and should he succeed, their union would mean your death.”

“My death? How?”

“The child of their union would kill you. I can help you delay the man but only if you are willing to let go of the hurt you bear, to love her again,” she declared.

Let go? How easy it sounded. To forget the hurt she had caused me? But what I replied was, “Yes, I am willing.”

“Then go to the Lovely Heights Diner. That’s where she is.”

Without a second thought, or seeking permission from Mark, I grabbed his car keys and rushed out of the room into his car. I revved the engine and sped towards the all-top-familiar diner.

I pumped the accelerator and weaved through the traffic like a maniac. My mind went back to how it all started, to how I got to where I was today.

~~~~~

I knew her right from my first year in college. She was the most beautiful creature to have ever walked this earth. She wasn’t tall, a mere five feet. But she had the grace of a giant. And I fell in love with her. It was my first time of being in love, so I was confused about how to go about it. A friend advised me to let her know my feelings.

I did so and she was furious; to her, I was just her friend and nothing more. She further threatened to cut off all communication with me should I persist in pestering her. I didn’t want to lose her, so I agreed.

But it was hard. For the six years we were in the university, I was in love with someone who didn’t love me. I wanted to stop loving her, believe me, I tried my best to do so, but it was futile. The more I drew away from her, the more an invisible force drew me to her.

Then things changed. All of a sudden, she became more open to me, telling me of her relationship problems. Her boyfriend then was cheating on her. And seeing that as my cue, I brought up my feelings for her again. I was prepared to lose her friendship as I told her I still loved her. But she just smiled at me and said it was all right, that she understood. Could you believe it? I was ecstatic.

I then became her provider. I spent lavishly on her, thinking that she mirrored my feelings. Not until she gave me her invitation card to her wedding! Truth be told, that was the only time I ever contemplated suicide in my life. What else did I need to live for?

That was towards the end of our stay in school. Then I lost contact with her, hoping to finally get over her. Four years later, I bumped into her at a friend’s engagement party. What were the chances of that? We got talking and I discovered that she later didn’t marry the man she had wanted to marry. He had walked out on her on the wedding day.

We grew close again, but apparently, she had gotten over everything that had ever happened in school. While I was still lovesick. But I was now afraid of her, hurt and scared of how she had treated me in the past. I couldn’t let myself get hurt again.

~~~~~

And now I was pulling up in front of the restaurant to do exactly what I had vowed not to do again. Tell me I’m stupid, please. As I got down, I saw her through the open window of the diner. As always, she was looking resplendent in a sleeveless tight-fitting yellow gown. I opened the door of the diner and an uncontrollable impulse warns me to forget everything and bolt. But I walked in.

She looked up and on seeing me, her eyes dimmed in disappointment. You still have a chance, Sam, get out of here. But I approached her and said,

“Is this seat taken?”

“Well, it should,” she replied. “But you can sit. The owner obviously doesn’t want to claim it.”

As I sat down, my heart thumped with so much force that I felt it would explode. Mustering some amount of courage, I started speaking at the same time as she. We paused and I said,

“Complete what you wanted to say.”

“Nothing much. I just wanted to know why you came here.”

It was now or never! I opened my mouth and spilled out my heart to her. I told her of my feelings right from our university days up to that moment and beyond, into infinity. And later, I asked her:

“Sandra, the whole universe cannot contain the love I have for you. And if it would please you, do me the honour of being my wife.”

I had stopped at a popular jewelry store on my way here and had purchased the diamond ring I now held in front of her. She was dumbfounded, and looked wide-eyed at me for a full ten seconds before saying:

“Oh yes, Sam. I will be your wife, both now and beyond into infinity.”

As I slid the ring onto her finger, shouts emanated from both outside and inside the diner. I looked outside and saw Mark and—you won’t believe this—the fortune-teller! They were standing there laughing and hugging. The fortune-teller was sniffing into a handkerchief.

They came in, and I asked how they got there. Mark informed me that they trailed me. Then came the big shock.

“Sam, meet my best friend Stacy,” Sandra said, pointing to the fortune-teller.

“Your best—how is that possible?

“We knew that you were still in love with Sandra, and evidently, Sandra had fallen in love with you. So we decided to catalyse the whole process,” Mark said, barely stifling a grin.

“But I saw through the cloth—”

“A common trick,” said Stacy. “It was a video taken here.”

I never believed in all those hogwash. But this time, I was glad I was deceived. As I kissed Sandra, all I thought was that in the end, the stars were unlocked.

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