#LoveLiteratiContest – ‘Afterwards’ by Ehichioya Fredrick

Love Literati contest - shortlisted submission - elsieisy blog

We were there when Ade found Chekube. It was in the hospital. Aside Ade being tall and blessed with full brows the colour of coffee, he was nothing special. We knew. He knew. And when he told us he loved Chekube, something we knew already, we feigned sparkles in our eyes because they were nothing alike but we would do anything for him to beat this. Her skin was like a beautiful evening while Ade had a skin the colour of dark pee; an ugly yellowish skin. His hair was stuck up in uneven tufts.

It wouldn’t work, we thought but we didn’t tell him; our relationship had been hedged on what he wanted to hear, what made him feel right, what added a layer of excitement to his skin, what added a bounce to his steps. But we were happy, for him at least, because he had so battled with inferiority complex and has absorbed a poisoned sense of himself that given a chance at happiness, he always ran in the opposite direction having had the disappointment of heartbreaks from girls who darted in and out of his life with the swiftness of a frog’s tongue. But now, he spoke in a careful voice that is mixed with happiness and contentment in equal measure, the way one makes tea; equal spoonful of milk and chocolate delicately stirred. And each time he said her name, there was this trigger in his inflection that brought liquid in his eyes as though the name was reserved for goddesses. So we were happy.

‘I am dying Ade,’ Chekube had said one evening after dinner. Her Egusi soup was still rich in colour and, perhaps taste and the Fufu served beside it was also still finely romanced into a round edibility. We finished eating ours, returning a now empty plate that was clean with the prints of greedy fingers. The burning hunger we had felt prevented us from concentrating on her earlier on. Ade made to speak as he inched closer towards her but she held up a finger to hold off words from him, then she levered her head and said, ‘The doctor said I have 3 months.’ Her makeup was streaked and tears had irrigated more than half of it to her clavicle. It was difficult to know how much of her face’s puffiness was due to her tears and how much to her thumb fighting the tears. Ade looked to his left, right, up the ceiling and down as though he was seeking the source of his discomfort. His hands trembled visibly and beads of sweat formed on his forehead, dribbled down the bridge of his nose, bulked at his beards before dripping onto his black shirt. It was as if mourning had begun. Ade roped his hands around her and the sob she had been fighting, suppressing, broke out into anguished wails. Their eyes, even in fatigue, twinkled with love.

We were still there when Ade got married to Chekube. But we weren’t there afterwards. We heard about their beautiful love and we also heard about their miserable deaths; Chekube leaving through cancer and Ade impatiently following her through poison because there is love after death.

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