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Shadows of the Past

The night was dark, still and cold. There was a crackling thunderstorm which made the bulbs blink for a second. Samantha stood in the kitchen, washing the dishes and muttering unclear words to herself. The twenty-eight-year-old young lady seemed to be in a horrible mood, like a volcano about to blow up.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the front door, she dropped the white ceramic plate with red flowery imprints which she was carefully washing, back into the sink and stormed to the front door.

“I wonder what took her so long. I’ll definitely give her a piece of my mind tonight,” she said to herself.

She inserted the key immediately into the keyhole, gave it a twist and flung the door wide open.

“Young lady, where have you…” Samantha’s voice was trailed off as she saw who was standing on her porch; her eyes widened in shock. An all black on black figure sauntered from the shadows pointing a gun at her. He had a black bandanna over his face which concealed half of his face, covering his mouth and nose, leaving his eyes and forehead exposed. Her lips quivered. She felt chilled with fear.

“Madam oya! Put your hand for your head and turn around sharp sharp!” the intruder yelled at her in a gruff voice that terrified her even more.

His eyes were somewhat slanted, shadowed and melancholic. He had a flaky facial skin, lumpy and vein-scattered forehead. Samantha’s eyes were fixated on the scar that was on the corner of his face. She sucked in her breath and prayed silently.

“If you look me again ehn, I go pluck that your big eyes give you chop. You dey craze? You think say na every time you go de do things dey go free abi?”

His threatening words made her recover the use of her brain. She placed her shaky hands above her head and turned around immediately. He shoved his gun inside the back pocket of his blue jean trouser and grabbed her from behind. Seizing her hands behind her with his left hand, he kicked the front door shut as he made his way into the apartment. Samantha struggled to let herself loose from his grip while he pushed her further into the apartment, away from the front door. With one hand free, she snatched a pen lying idly on the floor and stabbed the intruder on the wrist with it. She ran towards the front door crying for help.

“Damn it!” he winced in pain.

He took out his gun immediately and shot at her. The bullet flew in the air and landed on Samantha’s right arm. Her blood splattered on the cold tiles as she fell.

There was a huge bang on the front door, the intruder made his way into the kitchen and escaped through the kitchen window.

Samantha let out rounds of heavy breaths. It was as if a candle had been blown out in a moonless night. Her vision blurred and she passed out.

*******

Mrs. Samantha Okeke struggled to open her sleep-crusted and weary eyes. She found herself lying on a hospital bed with drugs and needles by the side of her bed. The last thing she remembered was seeing shadowy figures dashing into her apartment from the front door, she didn’t know who her saviours were.

Her head ached as she tried to recall what had happened; she sucked in air through her nostrils and let the air out almost immediately. She had never liked the ‘horrifying smells’ of hospitals. When she was a child, she would always struggle with her mum before getting injected with needles. She called it ‘torture’. One time, little Samantha had ran home from the hospital without telling her mum, she left her mum with a group of nurses searching for her around the hospital for hours. The search only came to an end when Samantha’s dad, Mr. Francis Nweke, called her mum to inform her that Samantha was already at home. Her mum being a typical Nigerian mum, had flogged the hell out of her that day in anger.

She looked at the window and saw the rays of sunlight that had let itself in—it was blinding. The furious sun caused her headache and despair. She tried to sit up but felt a deep-seated pain in her joints, the pain spliced her back and pulled her back into bed. The edge of her eye caught the figure of her husband, Austin, standing outside. He seemed somewhat uneasy. His perfectly symmetrical face had turned pale and gloomy. In her eyes, he seemed to have lost some weight overnight. He scratched at his bumpy face which seemed to have suddenly worn out with impatience.

A fair-complexioned nurse walked into the room. The young nurse had a skin as smooth as ice cube. She was frail and slender with feathery gentleness in her movement. She walked piquantly as someone who must have participated in a beauty pageantry. Her breasts bobbed up and down as she walked.

“Good morning ma’m. You look better today. I’ll inform the doctor”, she said, flashing a smile. The dimples in her right cheek winked as she spoke. Her voice dripped with honey and warmth.

Mrs. Samantha Okeke tried to force a vacant smile amidst the crippling aches she felt in her joints. She didn’t want to show any form of weakness so as not to spend another day in the hospital. She had already spent two days lying unconsciously in her bed.

“I feel totally better now. When will I be discharged?”

“Soon ma’m. Let me get the doctor,” the nurse replied as she picked up the tray of drugs and needles that lay on the cupboard beside her bed and walked out with fluidity and grace in her straight back. As soon as she left, Austin made his way into her room. Breathing heavily, he rushed to her bedside and sat at the edge of her bed. Holding her hand tight in his. His face looked wearied from standing and his eyes were sunken in fatigue.

“How are you my dear? Let me take a look at your right arm. What happened exactly?” He spoke in a phlem-filled voice, holding Samantha’s arm and scanning through it as if it held some sort of evidence as to what had happened that night.

“I’m fine now honey,” she spoke with lowness in her tone. Her eyes were watery with tears.

“I thought I had lost you.” He bent over and kissed her on the forehead, holding her tight his arms. Calmness stood in the room as they basked in each other’s warmth. He suddenly loosened his arms around her and stood up staring into her eyes.

“Where was your cousin when all this was happening ? Why did no one call the police?” His voice and eyes were riddled with anger.

“I sent her on an errand that night. I guess something must have held her from returning early.”

“Do you want us to report this issue at the police station?”

“No! No! We can’t.”

Austin’s eyesbrows shot up, he couldn’t mask the mirror of shock in his face.

“Why my dear? Why can’t we?”

“You know why. I can’t go to the police station, making statements and naming names. I can’t dig up the past.” She turned over, staring at the white-painted wall that stood in front of her. Her face became pale and ashen as she got lost in thoughts. Her secrets seemed to have suddenly come to torment her, but she wasn’t ready to give up the life which she has built with Austin. She shut her eyes tight and let her mind take her to the past which she had tried to erase from her memory.

*******

It was on a rainy Saturday night, her closest friend, Gina had stopped by at her place unannounced. She was totally drenched. Behind her stood a charming young man. Samantha felt her breath go out of her at the sight of the young man; she wondered how so much handsomeness decided to reside in one person. He was a tall, slim and muscular gentleman with brown skin. He was a few inches taller than her, his eyes were dark and captivating which made Samantha weak at her knees. The man standing behind Gina was the perfect man of her dreams. He stepped forward and took out his hand to shake Samantha’s.

“Hi, I’m Austin…”

“And he’s my boyfriend. So you can stop staring now,” Gina added teasingly.

“Don’t be silly! I was only trying to figure out who he was,” Samantha retorted, trying to defend herself. They both laughed and walked into Samantha’s apartment while Austin followed steadily behind them.

“I’m sorry we stopped by at this hour. We couldn’t go home because of the rain and heavy traffic. Your place was the only place I could think of. Can we just spend the night here? We’ll leave first thing tomorrow morning.”

“It’s alright Gina. You know my place is also your place.” Samantha walked over to her bedside and handed Gina a neatly folded towel and two white t-shirts from her drawer.

“Maybe Austin can make use of the bathroom when you are done.”

“Nah. We’ll make use of it together,” she winked at Samantha and beckoned on Austin to go with her into the bathroom. Gina drew him closer and wrapped his arms around her waist as they both walked towards the bathroom giggling like kids. Samantha felt brittled with envy, she felt a pang of jealousy inside her stomach.

“I guess I should leave you two love birds to enjoy your time together. I’ll be sleeping in Vivian’s room tonight. I’ll see you guys in the morning.”

Gina stopped halfway into the bathroom, her eyes glistened as would a child’s at the sight of a new toy when she heard Samantha’s words. She was happy her friend knew the ‘girls-code’.

“That’s really thoughtful of you hon. We’ll see you in the morning,” she flashed Samatha a smile and pulled Austin into the bathroom.

That night, Samantha was restless. Sleep deserted her, she wanted Austin for herself. To her, he was different from all the men she had met. The thought of waking up every morning with Austin next to her as hers alone, gave Samantha a heady thrill. She swore to have him all to herself by hook or by crook.

Few weeks later, she succeeded in seducing Austin as the young man had let his penis lead him. On the day Gina was meant to wed Austin, Samantha lured Austin into having sex with her in his hotel room; which she taped and threatened to leak the video if he doesn’t call off the wedding and marry her instead. Austin who was scared of losing everything he had worked for, called off the wedding and married Samantha a month after the incident. Samantha could vividly remember the face of Gina, cursing and swearing that she would get back at her by any means for stealing her man. She tightened her eyes and droplets of tears escaped from them. She brushed the tears off with her right index finger.

“Good day madam, how are you feeling?”
The voice of the doctor that walked into her room returned her back to consciousness.

“I’m much better now doc. When will I be discharged?”

“I can see you look much better now. You’ll definitely be discharged this evening. You seem to be in a hurry to leave. I guess you can’t wait to be in your husband’s arms,” he said, winking at Austin who was quietly seated beside his wife.

The doctor took out a sheet of paper from his file, scribbled something on it and placed it at the bottom of Samantha’s bed.

“Endeavour to get these drugs before you leave,” he added with a smile pasted on his face as he quietly walked out.

That evening, Austin drove Samantha home from the hospital, he drove inordinately fast. Samantha sat beside him, hands clasped in her laps and eyes fixated on the road—staring at nothing. There was silence in the car as they drove. The silence stretched out between them, it lasted too long for Samantha’s comfort.

“I haven’t seen Lilian, is she okay?”

“Who?”

“My cousin, Lilian, I haven’t seen her since the incident. Where is she? Is she okay?”

“Yeah, she’s fine. I called her earlier to inform her that we’ll be back this evening. She must be tidying up the house.”

They got to their apartment at exactly eight-thirty that evening, it was a long and silent drive. Austin lugged the bags from the trunk of his car and walked into the apartment. Samantha slowly walked behind him. The thought of going into the apartment were she was almost killed sent chills down her spine. She was crippled by fear.

As she made to climb upstairs to her bedroom, she heard voices coming from Lilian’s bedroom. Samantha’s interest quickened, she stood transfixed at the door. She drew closer to the door and peered through the keyhole.

“You couldn’t even carry out an ordinary task that I gave you. I thought you said you were good at this?” Lilian queried the caller as she paced around her bedroom.

Samantha wondered who was on the phone and why her cousin spoke with anger in her voice. Lilian’s words made her nerves to stand on end. The door gave out a squeaky sound as she twisted the doorknob and flung it open. As soon as she walked in, Lilian ended the call. She searched her cousin’s blank face for an expression but found none.

“Welcome aunty. I didn’t hear you come in.”

“I didn’t see you at the hospital. Why?”

“I dropped by this afternoon, but you were asleep. Uncle Austin told me not to disturb you.”

“It’s all right. Who was on the phone?”

“No one you know of. It’s just a friend of mine in school. Aunty Sammie, are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. You should really stop calling me ‘aunty’, call me by my name. I’m just five years older than you.”

“Yes ma!”

They both laughed hard as Lilian placed her hand on her forehead and gave her a salute, like a police woman who just received an order from her superior.

“I’ll see you in the morning.”

She walked out of Lilian’s bedroom and ambled upstairs to hers to retire for the night. Earlier when she stood in front of Lilian’s bedroom, she had harboured the thought that her cousin had something to do with the attempted murder on her, but after her short converation with Lilian, she dismissed the thought. She crawled into her bed and snuggled her pillow. Samantha was suddenly scared of the night, she usually woke up about the same time as the break-in with her heart beating off her chest.

********

The next day, Samantha decided to go for shopping in order to get the horrifying incident that happened to her off her mind. Dr. Mike had advised her that going out for fresh air would do her a lot of good. After shopping, she rolled her cart to the counter where she was attended to by a dark-complexioned young lady who seemed to have a permanent smile pasted on her face. She took her grocery bags and headed down the street to where she had parked her white Toyota Camry with dark tinted glasses.

As soon as she got into the car and shut the doors, a figure appeared from the back seat holding a gun to her head. She made a quick turn to unlock the door but her assailant grasped her neck from behind; he tightened his grip until she was choking. Samantha felt the life in her gradually leaving her; warm urine trickled down her legs.

“I’m your biggest nightmare. I saw you that night. I’ll torment you until you go insane,” he spoke with startling bloodshot eyes. He loosened his grip on her and fled into the streets. Samantha didn’t see the visage of her attacker because it was masked, but she was able to see his monstrous eyes through the rear-view mirror, they were like that of the devil himself. She backed out the car from the parking lot with trembling hands and drove off sweating and panting. It was as if her nostrils were too narrow for the air that had to be let in and out.

As soon as she got to her apartment, she ran into it as if she was being chased by a ghost, she slammed the door and bolted it immediately with trembling hands. She took a sharp intake of breath, tears immediately brimmed in her eyes, she tried to contain her tears but couldn’t.

The apartment had suddenly become dark. The young lady moved languorously to her wine cellar and took out a bottle of scotch; her hand shook as she grabbed it and poured it into a glass, she took a sip out of the glass and placed it back down. A tear fell from her eye and she angrily brushed it away with her right hand. She clasped the glass of scotch, moved closer to the window and glanced out the window. Her fore head puckered, she seemed to be staring into space. She immediately emptied the glass at a gulp, winced slightly and suddenly became pale.

Fear began to lurk within her, she planted her hands on her hips and began to pace the room. It seemed like her head was twirling.
She moved closer to her sofa and sunk into it, bowing her head in shame,. She shut her eyes so tight that hot tears escaped from them; she let the tears flow freely.

Her frustration reached a pinnacle, she gripped the edge of the sofa, drew a deep steady breath and gave out a loud cry. She wiped her face with her right fore finger and looked at the black smear from her runny mascara as if it held solutions to her problems.

Her thoughts ran wild. All the things she had not allowed herself to think about; that she had flattened to a thin sheet and tucked away for over a year were all coming back to her in a flash. She felt the juggling of anxieties within her as she sat with her head in her hands. Her mind traveled back to how she had slowly and painfully taken the life of her ex boyfriend, Kingsley. She began to recall in detail how it had all happened.

Kingsley had found out about her secret love affair with Austin, he threatened to take her life, Austin’s and his if she doesn’t end her relationship with Austin and come back to him. A week after he issued his threat, Samantha invited him over to her place, in the pretence that she wanted to work things out and get back together with him. She also invited Austin over to her place, in the deception that she wanted to put an end to their relationship. Both men had arrived at her apartment with positive expectations.

She took out a bottle of wine, poured it into two wine glasses and handed them over to the gentlemen with an angelic smile plastered on her face. After emptying his wine glass at a gulp, Kingsley began to choke; gasping for air. His eyes turned red like a volcano about to erupt. With his eyes swimming in tears and blood dripping down his nose, he jerked until life completely left him. When it dawned on Austin that the young man’s drink had been spiked, he took out his cellphone to call the police on her, but her threatening words stopped him. She had threatened Austin that if she goes down, that he’ll definitely go down with her as her accomplice because she had video taped the whole incident.

In the middle of that night, they carried the body out and shoved it into the trunk of Samantha’s car. They drove to the mainland bridge, threw the body off the bridge and sped off.

She wondered if someone had seen them that night. The thought of Gina coming back to have her revenge also plagued her. Her conscience nagged her at the thought of it all.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the heavy thread of heel steps of her cousin walking into the apartment; they were like logs of wood landing on her head; like ripples on a frozen stream. Lilian was dressed in a skimpy red dress that revealed a large portion of her body, she was cradling a bottle of scotch clutched to her chest. The fermentation on her breath filled the still air.

Samantha’s frustration reached its peak with the sight of Lilian staggering into her house in the middle of the night.

“You can’t just go out and come back into my house whenever you want, drunk and dressed up like a prostitute. Go get a place of your own, or better still, a husband!” she spoke in a tone laced with anger.

Lilian was devastated by her words, she quietly staggered into her bedroom and slammed the door. Samantha felt a drop of guilt inside of her, she knew her words were hurtful but to her, that was the least of her worries. She wished she could understand the pain and emptiness, the constant ache inside of her.

As she sluggishly bent over to picked up her purse from the sofa, she heard the front door crack open and her husband walked in. He wore a sleek dark suit which clung to his body; the body which she has fallen crazily in love with. Her love for the man who stood in front of her had ballooned over the months. He had an expression on his face which unsettled her. The silence that hovered around them became unbearable for her.

“Honey, are you alright? Did anything happen at the office?” Her voice sounded small and weak, with tears crowding in her eyes.

She had had enough of horrible experiences for the day. The glower on Austin’s face gave her the willies. He slowly walked past her with a non descriptive face, climbing up the stairs to their bedroom with angry welts on his back. She walked behind him, increasing her pace to keep up with him.

“Austin we need to talk.”

“About what?”

“About us, Austin. About me especially. I’ve done a lot of things that I regret. I think it’s time for me to make peace with my conscience. We need to go to the police station. I need your help. Some people are after my life,” she replied in a shaky voice, with tears trickling down from her eyes.

Austin’s gaze traveled slowly over her; he wondered how the devil who had ruined his life was kneeling and begging for help.

“So even the devil feels remorse? You came into my life and ruined everything. You are my greatest nightmare!”

His words reduced her to tears, it felt like the crashing sound of the sea inside of her.

“Well it’s too late to seek redemption now. Watching you go through pain in the past few days is the best memory that I’ll forever cherish. I’ve been the person behind your misery,” Austin continued, “my tolerance of your wickedness and insanity has expired!”

On hearing his words, Samantha’s mind flashed back to how he had rushed into her room in the hospital, asking about her right arm. It dawned on her that it had all been his handwork. The threats on her life were all planned out by him.

“I should have known. I was so dumb! It was all you.” Her voice was shaky and filled with fear. She began to panic, taking inordinate backward steps away from her husband.

“Yeah, you’ve always been dumb. By the way, don’t forget to say hi to Kingsley for me.” He pulled out a gun from the drawer, pointing it at her, but then put it aside as if he was joking. He raked his hand through his hair and paced about the room. Samantha was trembling so badly that it took effort just for her to move. He pulled the gun the second time, and this time he wasn’t joking; he shot at her in the back as she frantically reached for the door. Samantha ran with the bullet wound down the stairs calling for help. Her blood trailed her as she ran into Lilian’s bedroom.

“Lilian please help me, Austin wants to kill me,” she pleaded before falling backward.
Lilian drew closer to her, grabbed her by the hair and pulled her up. She had a spiteful smile glued to her face. She picked up a knife from underneath her bed and thrust it into Samantha’s chest, giving it a twist.

“I’ve always wanted to do this. You’re not the only one who wants Austin. I want him too, I’ve always wanted him.” She released her grip on Samantha who fell with a thud, crawling towards the door as Lilian watched. Austin barged into the room in anger.

“You are even more stubborn than I thought,” he spoke with impatience in his voice. He pulled out his gun and shot her in the head. The sight of her blood all over the house irritated him.

“You know what to do with that. Make sure she reunites with her ex. I’ll tidy things up here,” he said to Lilian, pointing at Samantha’s body lying lifeless on the cold floor.

In the middle of the night, Lilian shoved the body into boot of Samantha’s car and drove off to the bridge. There, a shadowy figure appeared from the eerie dark night. Lilian peered into the dark to see who it was. She rummaged through her bag and took out a flashlight; flashing it in the direction of the figure.

“Austin? What are you doing here?”

“I’m done with desperate women like you!”
He drew closer to her and pushed her off the bridge. Contentment was written all over his face as he watched her drown. He hurriedly got into his car and drove off.

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