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Khalid swallowed. His throat was dry. He was numb with shock. They stared at each other for a while and Aisha spoke eventually.
“I think we should find somewhere to seat and talk.”
Seye’s smile disappeared and her face was an unreadable mask
“It’s been such a long time Kay, you and I should actually find a place to talk. I’ll be waiting outside”
She threw Aisha a casual glance that told her she was excluded from the conversation and walked out.
Bystanders looked about in surprise but none of them said anything. Khalid still had not recovered from the shock. Aisha took his hand and led him to a seat. His mum mysteriously appeared beside them.
“What’s wrong with you? You look pale.”
“I just saw Seye.” He managed to speak but the words felt weird in his mouth. Like he didn’t own them. Like he didn’t even own his voice.
“What do you mean you saw Seye? Which Seye?”
His mum had on a look that made him feel as though he was crazy. Aisha still held his hand.
“She’s alive. She was here. She’s waiting outside.”
His mother shook her head.
“So what happened? She died and resurrected? Why didn’t we know that?”
Khalid didn’t respond. He got up and walked towards the exit. His mother watched him leave and shook her head.
“That son of mine has been through so much.”
Aisha looked at her, unsure what to say. The woman was a tad bit intimidating. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, arms still folded across her chest but didn’t say anything.
“Sit down my dear. Let’s wait and see what this girl is up to.”
“You’ve done pretty well for yourself. That’s great.”
Khalid looked at her and shook his head. She was too calm and relaxed like they were regular friends who ran into each other once in a while. It felt surreal being so close to her, leaning on the railing in the corridor of the hallway.
“What exactly happened to you Seye? I was told you died.”
“Yeah, I died but I resurrected, call me Jesus.”
Her tone was careless, flippant. Her words were casual, indifferent. He was unnerved. This was not the Seye he knew.
“What do you mean by that? I was broken by the news of your death. I was depressed. I spent a year in therapy all because I thought you were dead. So can you please explain to me, what the hell happened to you?!”
“See this one. You’re a twitter overlord, famous public speaker, bright economist, so the whole world should come crumbling at your feet? Why are you raising your voice?”
Her smile mocked him. Her eyes dared him to give a smart remark, to make a comment that would sting but he knew he couldn’t do that. Instead he willed himself to calm down and he lowered his voice.
“What happened to you?”
“What happened to me? Do you really care? You were so eager to accept my death story Kay. So much for the purported love we shared. You raped me, got me pregnant and left me for dead. My death was convenient for you now wasn’t it?”
Khalid was not about to be blackmailed emotionally. He willed himself to think straight and focus. He cast his mind back to six years ago. He had felt terrible guilt. The news of her death had done nothing to make him feel relief. How could she have thought that?
“Seye, I made a mistake. A grave one. And I regretted it till this moment. I always thought about reaching out to you while I was in Malaysia but I could never bring myself to do it. And before I knew it, news reaching me said you were dead. I was broken. I was going crazy. I tried to reach out to your brother but he shut me out. I sank into depression. I wanted to die myself. You have no idea what I went through at that point.-“
“Shut it Kay! Just shut it! I have no idea what you went through? Are you kidding me? What exactly did you go through Kay? Tell me! Were you raped? Were you betrayed by the first person you loved? Were you abandoned by that same person and left to face the consequences of their action alone?”
Her eyes glazed but she didn’t look like she was going to be overcome by tears. There was no break in her rant. She just continued
“I was lost! I could not understand how a guy who claimed he loved me would rape me. I trusted you. I was just a kid Kay. A child! A mere 14 year old! I was young and innocent and I trusted you! The fact that you were leaving me for Malaysia was heartbreak enough and then you had to rape me?
How on earth can you live with yourself? How did that make sense to you? How did it add up in your head? ‘oh I love her, so let me rape her as proof of my love for her’ really? Was that it?! And you stand here and talk to me about pain. I should have placed a curse on you then maybe, just maybe you would know what pain is.
So don’t you dare stand there and tell me about pain Kay because you have absolutely no idea what pain is! And don’t you dare talk to me about going through anything because compared to the hell you put me through, you’ve had an easy sailing in life!”
Her breathing was heavy and her eyes were red, but still there were no tears on her cheeks. Khalid was subdued.
She laughed. Her laughter was scary because it held no mirth.
“Look at this one. You’re sorry? For what?”
Khalid sighed. This was going to be difficult.
“I’m sorry I tried to justify myself now. I’m sorry I took advantage of you six years ago. I took some really bad advice which I could have ignored and I got drunk and I had sex with you-“
“You raped me Kay, there was nothing consensual about it.”
“Okay. I raped you. And I regretted it immediately it happened. I went to Malaysia and I couldn’t get you out of my head. And then I heard about your death and I was broken because I felt I would never get the chance to beg for your forgiveness. I honestly tried to reach out to Bode but he blanked me out. I don’t think he ever forgave me. I finally visited Nigeria two years later and my mum had moved to Abuja. I went to PH in search of your family but was told they had moved. Some said to Ibadan, others said to Lagos but no one seemed certain so although I wanted to look to for them, I did not know how to go about it.
I’m not justifying what I did. Not in any way and I’m not compelling you to forgive me. You don’t owe me anything. But I’m really sorry. This thing has stayed with me for so long and I can’t seem to be able to rid myself of it. I’m sorry. I really am and I pray you can forgive me.”
Her eyes softened a little and her breathing returned to normal
“You went back to PH to look for us? Nobody told us that.”
“Honestly, I did. I went to your old house and the people there said you moved. I tried school mates and those ones were really not helpful. They blamed me for your death and didn’t want to offer any help at all.”
She took in a deep breath and proceeded to bite her nails.
Khalid smiled nervously
“You haven’t stopped doing that?”
She eyed him
“We’re not old friends playing catch up Kay, don’t try to get chummy with me.”
His smile disappeared and his sober look returned.
“I’m really sorry Seye. I messed up big time and I doubt I’ll ever be able to fix it.”
She smiled a sad smile and when she spoke, her voice seemed to come from a very far place. The look on her face told him she was no longer with him. She had travelled back in time.
“You can’t fix it. I almost died doing the procedure. Of course it was a quack doctor. It was horrible and scary. I got home and started bleeding. It was the most frightening experience ever. Bode came into the room and saw me in a really bad state. He went out to get my mum and by the time they returned, I had passed out. They rushed me to the hospital and I was admitted for a week.
My dad wanted to disown me. Everyone was both sad and mad at the same time. My dad was the one who started the death story. I’m not even sure how. But at the end of my stay in the hospital, I was sent to my grandmother’s place at Ogbomosho. It was Bode who told me that everyone heard that I was dead. It didn’t make sense to me but it was the least of my worries. I actually felt dead, like my life was really over.
Bode got admission at Ife and soon after that, my family moved to Ibadan. Things were tough for me but you don’t need to know all the details. Bottom line, I somehow managed to make it through. I’m in my final year at University of Abuja. I’m studying French. We moved to Abuja again early this year so that pretty much sums it up.”
They looked at each other in silence for a while and Khalid was unsure what to say. He was however surprised when she spoke up.
“You look good though. You’ve really done quite well for yourself.”
Her honest compliment made him uneasy,
“Thanks, I guess.”
“Relax Kay, I just needed to vent. You seemed like you wanted to go all self-righteous so I had to check that. I forgave you a long time ago. I’d be hurting myself if I didn’t.”
“I’m really sorry Seye.”
“If you say I’m sorry one more time, I’ll throw you over the railing.”
They both laughed. She stretched out her arms and he walked into them and hugged her warmly.
“You have no idea what you’ve done for me.”
She smiled as she released him.
“You’re lucky. If you had met me in the first three years when I was still struggling to put my life together, I would have killed you. I went through some serious counselling, I just had to let go of all the hurt, anger and bitterness but it certainly wasn’t a walk in the park.”
“I can’t begin to imagine. But if you’re studying French, why are you here? This event was solely for Economics students and people in Econ-related fields.”
She laughed again.
“I’ve actually not been in Abuja for months now because of the strike but I came back two days ago and I saw someone tweet about the event so I decided to come check it out.”
“Wow. Do you follow me on twitter?”
“Nope! I check out your TL once in a while but that’s it. I don’t even use twitter that much.”
“So how did you know the term “overlord?”
“What do you take my for? An ignoramus? Please shift.”
They both laughed and in a minute, he was serious.
“So, what’s up with you? Other than school, are you seeing someone?”
Seye laughed and shook her head
“Is that your business?”
“Sorry. Just curious.”
“You’re engaged. My relationship status would mean nothing to you. But in case you’re worrying, no, I don’t hate guys. I’ve met a few nice ones after you.”
Her comment stung but he did nothing to counter it. She was right. He had not been nice.
“Well, I’m glad I met you. I’ve got to run. Be safe.”
She began to walk rapidly away but he went after her.
“Can I get your number?”
“Don’t push your luck Kay. My chapter in your life is closed. If we ever run into each other again, it’ll be nice but other than that, forget it. We run different circles now. Adios!”
She waved her fingers and was gone in seconds.
Aisha cuddled up with Khalid on the couch in her living room. Her heartbeat increased as she thought of all that had happened that day. Khalid had come clean now. There were no secrets on his part but she had not told him about Bode. Bode had called her four times today and she had not taken the call each time. She had not replied his pings either. He seemed really desperate to see her but she was not going to be able to especially seeing how things had turned out.
She felt Khalid stroke her hair absent-mindedly as they watched Tinsel but her mind was hardly on the show. She heard a knock on the door and got up to go answer it.
She was completely taken aback. Her voice was a nervous whisper when she spoke
“Bode, what are you doing here?”
“You and I need to talk.”
“Errm, now’s not such a good time. Why didn’t you say you were coming over?”
“You weren’t taking my calls or replying my messages. Let me come in.”
“Now is really not a good time. My fiancé is around.”
“On the contrary, I think it’s a perfect time.”
He edged his way in through door before Aisha could stop him and he walked right to the couch where Khalid was sitting and stood in front of him.
“Hello old friend…”