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I had that nightmare again.
I look out from my window and it is dawn. The sky is glowing red just like in my nightmare. I have not been able to sleep back since I woke up around three am. I don’t know why I had that dream again. I hope it doesn’t suggest doom. I always had it in my early years after I woke up in the hospital with no memory of the past. Tony’s mother was the matron on call that night. She had come to the pediatric unit to check her patient’s baby. I don’t know what she saw in me that made her adopt me but I will always be grateful because I don’t know where I would be without her. I draw my knees to my chest to ward off the cold. Or maybe to fight off the unexplained fear the dream induced in me. I stare as the sun moves up. It is such a beautiful sight. It’s a pity it looks like my nightmare, like fire balls. I don’t quite understand it. I know I’m the one in the dream. Holding the lantern. I could be six or thereabout. I don’t know… Then, all of a sudden, an enormous ball of fire appears before me, all consuming. I’m terrified and stuck there. Then, I hear a voice. Go back, Princess! It says, in agony.
It’s just as well that Tony decided to leave yesternight. I have to get a painting to a customer in badagry by 9am. So, I have to leave before 6am to beat the rush hour. I go to Melvina’s room to check her. She is asleep on the comforter. If she wasn’t snoring soundly, I would think she was awake because her eyes are partially open. I already dropped the money for the foodstuff yesterday night. A cock cuckoos somewhere. I smile fondly at her as she turns in her sleep. I go to my room and turn on the shower. I glance at my window to confirm it is curtained off from the outside world. I exhale as I let the water sluice down my body. I’m thinking we will change our apartment when the rent is due. I jump out of the shower as soon as I’m done and dry myself with the towel in the bathroom. I let it drop as I walk to my wardrobe. I fling it open and flip through my clothes. I don’t know why I pretend to go through them. Not like they are diverse. I scratch my neck as I try to compare the two routes I know to badagry. My tattoo still hurts pretty badly after two years but it is worth it. It covers my neck to my fingers which I’m using to flip through my clothes, unseeingly. I never got around to shopping. With the way things are going, I don’t think I will do it anytime soon. I throw on a brown maxi gown with straps and grab my leopard skin backpack. I walk to a corner of my room and grab the painting beside the easel.
I pull up in front of the house and get down to open the gate. Then, I get back into the car and drive in. I don’t know why I can’t seem to shake this dread in my gut. I find the key where Melvina kept it for me and unlock the door to our apartment. Everywhere seem eerily silent to me. I drag my easel to my favourite spot and start to paint something. I don’t know what it is yet but I just keep applying strokes of paint on the white sheet. I’m deep into it when my phone rings out.
“Sister Uzoduwa.” Melvina’s voice comes through.
“Yes, dear?” I ask.
“Are you home yet?” She asks.
“Sure.” I reply.
“Oh, okay. Did you find the key?” She asks.
“I did.” I reply.
“Things are expensive here oh.” She complains.
“Just buy what you can buy.” I admonish.
“Okay. Have you started painting that girl’s room?” She asks.
“I haven’t.” I reply. I can’t leave this work I’m doing. I feel it holds a key to my past. I think I’m losing it again. I feel it slipping away. “Listen, I have to go Melvina.”
“Okay.” She says and disconnects.
I drop the phone on the floor beside the easel and resume painting but for the life of me, I can’t concentrate. Melvina!!! Hugh! I pick up my phone in annoyance and switch it off then fling it somewhere. I don’t need distractions. This is my life. I pick up my paint brush again and start painting again but my mind isn’t controlling my hand anymore. I’m now conscious of what I’m painting. I feel it evolving into something intentional. I drop the paint brush in disgust. I lay down for a minute but I can’t sleep. I riffle through my bedside drawer for my iPod Classic and plug my earphones in. I tune it to the loudest and let the waves of music wash over me. Normally, I would drift off but not today. Today, I’m alert and jumpy. I sigh and resolutely stand up from the bed. I walk to the kitchen and I find bread and some stew. I down it and swallow tepid water. I grab my buckets of paints from my spareroom-turned-store and shuffle to my neighbors’. I glance briefly at the cute guy’s window and wonder briefly- very briefly- what he would look like naked. Very briefly.
I knock gently on their door and wait patiently for someone to get it. I look up again at the window as I see a slight movement but don’t see him. Maybe it’s just breeze. It’s funny how my heart starts to thump at just the thought of seeing him.
“Hey, Uzoduwa! I see you are ready to start.” Mr Kenneth says, stating the obvious. I roll my eyes. Inwardly, of course.
“Good afternoon, sir.” I say rather timidly. I’m not a people person. You would never hear me say a word in the company of so many people.
“Come in.” He invites and smiles at me. “Let me help you get these.” He says as he grabs some stuff from me.
He shows me to the room.
“Where is aunty?” I ask as I drop my stuff in a corner.
“She went out with the child. A friend’s birthday party.” He explains.
“Okay. I will just start working.” I say and gesture to the stuff I dropped a few seconds ago.
“Okay. I will just get out of your hair.” He says and walks off.
I idly glance around the room and try to imagine the mind of a six year old. I come up blank. I sigh, plug in my earphones and turn up the volume to the loudest. I really need it. I’m quarter into a wall when I feel rather than hear someone come up behind me. I’m about to turn when I feel someone’s hands on my breasts. I feel bile rise up to my throat as I try to turn and yank the person’s hands off.
“Wait now.” The person says. Ken???
I can’t even get word past the ball of nausea in my throat. I shove hard at him but he doesn’t budge. I start to breathe laboriously as he forcefully turns me and pushes me to the floor. “It’s not like you have never done this before.” He says as he climbs on top of me. You see, that is the thing. I have never. Tony and I wanted to wait. Okay, I wanted to wait and he respected it.
“I just want to have a taste.” He says as he rips my panties and shoves his penis in me.
Hot tears fall from my eyes into my ears.
I. N. T. E. R. M. I. S. S. I. O N.