The Final Smile
By Adeola Nissi
Fred opened the door to Chris office and entered slowly. He had the distinctive feeling that he would get thrown out if he went in all confident. When Chris’ glare welcomed him, he swallowed.
“Why not hear me out first before you nail me to the cross” Fred said in a pleading manner.
“Jesus was not given that opportunity, why should you be given” Chris responded with a permanent glare.
“Jesus was nailed unjustly, would you do the same to me?”
Chris looked at him. “You have five minutes to convince me. You better start now because I won’t give you a second more”.
Fred sat instantly. “It was an accident Chris. I went to her house to confess my love for her, just as I told you but when I got there and bared my heart to her, she laughed at me. She said that she could never have anything to do with me, that she would never date a loser when Deolu was there. I saw a knife close by and I took it just to scare her since she would not stop talking but she tripped over something on the floor and because I was not far behind, I also tripped and the knife I was holding stabbed her. I swear it was not intentional. Please believe me” Fred shook.
Chris looked doubtful. “Are you sure of what you are saying?”
“Yes Chris. That is how it happened. When she… when she died, I had to erm… dump her somewhere. I was so scared, please help me”
Chris Chuks stared at Fred who just sat, shivering on the chair opposite him. He had a feeling that what Fred had just said was only a shadow of the real truth. Although, seeing the way Fred shivered, he was compelled to believe him.
“Well, I have not told anyone anything and have been lying to Mr Adeolu for close to two weeks now. I was not able to implicate your sorry ass. You need to leave that house. I have a good place where you can hide for the mean time; hiding in that house is very predictable and they would easily find you there”
“Thank you brother. I knew I could count on you” Fred said with a lot of appreciation in his voice.
Chris swallowed. He was putting his job and neck on the line for Fred. He could be charged for treason. He relaxed and closed his eyes hoping that this issue does not backfire.
Lucy sat chatting with Raymond in the sitting room. He had arrived earlier than usual and Lucy was happy because Vicky had gone to spend a few days with her friend. Being in that massive house all alone would have been terrifying, especially since the house was not hers. As they discussed, she thought of how to put down what she had in mind.
“Ray” she called.
Raymond turned to face her suddenly. “This is the first time you called me by my name; I love the sound of it. You should call me that often.” He grinned.
Lucy blushed and looked down. “Erm… I … erm”
Ray frowned. “What is it sugar? Is something wrong?”
“No… erm… what I want to say… I mean, ask is if you could show me some of your art works”
“I don’t mean to pry but Teju had talked endlessly about your artworks but I was never interested. Your paintings are very popular even though I never took the time to check them out. I would love to have a look, even if it is just a few” she finished.
Ray was quiet, too quiet. He swallowed as he stared into space.
“If it is a problem, please don’t bother. It is nothing” she quickly added.
Ray stood up and went to his bedroom. Lucy felt bad and miserable. She must have done and said everything wrong. The paintings must bring bad memories. Several thoughts went through her head as she sat frozen to her seat.
Raymond appeared minutes later with a key in his hand. He marched out and muttered ‘follow me’. She did not want to follow him like this; with him being upset.
“If you are not OK with it, it is fine. You don’t have to.” She murmured as she followed him. He did not respond. When they got to the door, he opened it slowly and stood at the entrance.
“Go inside. Everything you need is there.” He said and moved out of the way.
Lucy stared at him with concern. “If you would not go with me then I won’t go at all. You can’t run away from the past, you just have to accept the past”.
Ray swallowed. “I am not going inside” he dropped icily.
Lucy winced as she saw the pain in his eyes. “I am not going too. Please lock the door. I was never interested in art in the first place”.
Ray looked at her. He wanted to make her believe that art was a wonderful thing but he was scared of going into the room. He opened the door wider and started entering. Lucy breathed and followed. Her eyes widened as she stared at the numerous frames hung on the wall, all around the room and the ones on the floor. She had never seen anything so beautiful and colourful. Everything her eyes met was simply outstanding. She touched some of them, tracing them with her finger. She noticed they were dusty but knew that it was expected if the place had been under lock for some time. She saw a painting of a woman who was seated with her baby on her lap. The look of love in the woman’s eyes was so evident and real, she could feel it. Her eyes watered as she remembered her mother at home. “This is beautiful; everything is beautiful” she murmured as she blinked. Ray smiled but did not say anything.
Lucy looked around and every frame called her but one of them struck her and her heart skipped. She walked like a robot to the painting. When she got there, she could not touch it, she just looked. She was dumbstruck as she stared at the most amazing painting she had seen. It was a painting of a man and a woman. The woman had pain in her eyes as she stared at the man. The pain in the eyes of the man was not as intense but there was also love in both eyes. There was someone in the shadow. The face and form of the person was not clear but there was someone there; she knew it. The person stood with his back to them. The painting told a story of two lovers who had gone through a trying time but still loved eachother. She imagined that the person in the shadow was against their union. The couple looked vaguely familiar. She turned and looked at Raymond and got her answer.
“Are these your parents?” she asked.
He swallowed. “Yes” he mouthed. He wanted to run out of the room. That painting was his favorite. His eyes watered as he anticipated the next question she would ask.
“Where are they?” she asked as she looked at the painting again. He was quiet. She turned and saw him struggling for composure. She became scared and worried.
“They are dead”. He turned and left the room. She stood rooted to the ground. Dead? Was this the nightmare? Was that why he stopped painting? She wondered. She stared ahead and saw something like an uncompleted work. It was as if he started and could not continue. She could not even decipher what the painting looked like.
She ran out of the room to go after Ray but saw him match into the gym. She sighed as she closed the door of the room. She wondered if she should go after him or just let him go. She chose the former and headed towards the gym.
Deolu had called the police officer but never got good news from him. He became frustrated and remembered another police officer in Abuja. He wondered how he had skipped that. He took out his phone and dialed.
When Lucy entered the gym, she saw Raymond on the treadmill, running endlessly. It was like trying to run away from something. Lucy’s heart ached as she saw this. He was in pain but was too arrogant to admit it to anyone. She went to sit somewhere close where he could see her easily but he did not see her. He did not seem to know she was there. It was like he was in another world where all he could see were ghosts of the past.
Ray ran and ran and with each step he took, he ran faster. The more he ran, the more those images flashed through his mind. He was going crazy; maybe he was already crazy. He had thought he would be able to handle it. It had been almost four years since the incident occurred and he still could not forget. The images were still as fresh as yesterday. When he entered the room, he had thought that seeing those drawings would not affect him. They hadn’t until Lucy drew his attention to that picture. That was what broke the confidence he had. Everything came rushing back: the departure of their parents and the circumstances that led to it, the news of the crash, their trip to the accident scene, the burnt people, the faces of his dead and burnt parents… Raymond screamed and jumped out of the treadmill.
Lucy ran to meet him as he shook uncontrollably. She wondered what demon had possessed her to ask for his paintings. She was scared. Scared for him, scared for herself. “Please take it easy Ray. Please…” she lamented, her eyes already wet with tears. Ray’s shirt was already soaked in his sweat and he did not seem to be able to stop his shivering body.
“They died Lucy… They died horribly… The plane crashed… They got burnt… My parents…” he continued to say and a cold shiver went down Lucy’s spine. A plane crash! “I saw them Lucy…” tears dropped from his eyes. “I saw all of them. I saw their burnt bodies… they were roasted Lucy… Oh God… roasted… like animals” he held her head and looked into her eyes, trying to make her understand. “My loving parents died horribly. What did my parents do to deserve that? They served God and ensured that we did too. Why were they in that plane” more tears dropped from his eyes and Lucy just kept on crying. She had never seen that much pain before. She was lost on what to do. Ray could not drive away the images. He wanted to forget. He just wanted to forget. Lucy stood up tip-toes on the first impulse that came to her head and kssed him deeply.
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