She opened the door of her apartment block and was immediately assaulted by the sultry summer smells of flowers, barbeques and the scent of grass that had been caressed by sunlight since the early hours of the morning.
The sunlight dappled the pavement underneath her, the shaded areas the shadows of the leaves from the trees above, whose mahogany branches combined with the rich green leaves, pink blossoms and the glistening beams of sunlight, created a picture so stunning, the sight of it would have taken anyone’s breath away.
But she saw none of it…smelt none of it…for her focus was firmly fixed on the tragedies of her past, an unwelcome and unresisted ghost that had lain like a cloak over her for the past three years. Such was the clinginess of this company, it was hard for her to remember if she had ever lived life without this oppressive companion seemingly inching closer and closer to her every year to strangle every last breath of life that she had to breathe, till she and the ghost became synonymous. One. But yet she still lived. She still breathed. She was still here. But not because she wanted to be.
It had been three years, three years since her whole world was violently torn apart, her dreams stripped away in a tornado of pain and grief, leaving desolation, destruction and emptiness behind.
Three years ago she and her boyfriend had been on their way back home from a restaurant, having celebrated two of life’s greatest moments. They had both surprised each other that day. He with his proposal manifested in the form of a 0.8 carat diamond engagement ring with their names engraved inside, and she with the news afterwards that it was apt that he should have decided to propose today as in 6 months they would be expecting the ultimate consummation of their love; a child. That day they had laughed and cried tears of joy like never before, and as they walked home with hands held together, the warmth of love, security and the promises of a beautiful future ahead of them, swelled in their breasts till they thought they would explode with happiness. They both remarked to each other that surely fate had looked down and smiled upon them. Indeed their apparent joy was so evident, that those who saw them that night would remember it for many years to come, as the purest picture of love and adoration they had ever seen in their lives and would remember the ripples of delight they felt at having been privileged enough to witness it.
They were five doors away. Five doors away from the house that they shared, when darkness irreverently fractured their lives, splintering hopes, dreams and a love into tiny irretrievable pieces in an ambush of horror.
Not everyone shares in another’s joys, and in some instances, public displays of bliss can invoke in the most wicked hearts an envy and a jealousy which left unrestrained manifests in the most evil ways. Unbeknown to the couple, their celebrations in the restaurant had caught the eye of three youths who happened to be walking by the window at that point. Such were the deprivation of their hearts and current situation – they were restless and eager for an opportunity of mischief – that the jubilation on the couple’s face was enough for one to suggest that they should be their next target. We could wipe the smiles off their faces, just for a laugh, one said. Yes, I guess it would be funny, said another. The third was quiet. However, the moment the expensive ring was presented to the woman was enough to convince all three that they had found their target for the night. The couple walked the short distance from the restaurant to their house, unaware in the midst of their bliss, of the dangers that trailed them close behind, waiting for the right moment to pounce.
It was dark. It was late. There was nobody else on the street. It all happened so quickly. In a flash, one of the youths grabbed the neck of the man from behind, and another grabbed the woman and held his hand over her mouth to prevent her from screaming. The third youth stood in front of the restrained coupled with a large knife in his hand. His hands were shaking. He told them that if they co-operated, they would not get hurt. The youth holding the man proceeded to punch and kick him in the stomach, rendering him half motionless on the floor. He grabbed the mans wallet & every valuable he could find, all the while the youth with the knife stood still, his hand shaking, pointing it at the man. Next was the woman’s turn. Before he released his hand from her mouth the youth holding her told her that if she so much as made a sound, the youth holding the knife would stab her. She knew what she was protecting. She co-operated. As she silently wept, she was stripped off her wallet and her valuables too.
They thought it was over. They didn’t dare to inwardly breathe a sigh of relief yet, but they thought that the robbers were done. They were wrong.
The youth who had robbed the woman held up her left hand. Her new engagement ring glinted in the moonlight. He told her to take it off. This was too much for her fiancé and in a sudden surge of strength he leapt up punched the youth over him to the ground and leapt upon the youth robbing his fiancé. There was a struggle. The third youth got involved. His hand shook. The knife disappeared. The next time he saw his hand that had held the knife, it was covered in bloody scratch marks. The knife dripped crimson with blood. His hand was steady. He looked up at the paralysed faces before him. He dropped the knife. He ran. His friends ran. The man felt tired, he closed his eyes.
He never opened them again.
Even though the knife had been left behind and her fiancé had managed to get some of one of the robber’s DNA under his nails when he scratched them, as there was no match for the DNA on the national database meaning the offender had never been arrested before, no witnesses of the attack aside from herself, and she could barely describe the attackers as it had been so dark, the police had few leads to follow. No arrests were made. The robbers were never caught.
The stress took its toll, till the one living piece she had left of her fiancé was robbed of her too. The baby died. She felt like she had nothing left to live for. Such was the haze of darkness that enveloped her for the next three years encroaching more and more upon her sensibilities, and her ability to live a basic life. She hadn’t worked since the attack; fear, grief, and depression thwarting every attempt to get her life back on track; most of these attempts instigated by others who feared her eventual demise. Such was the spirit in which she had woken up this morning, but today she had made a decision. Today she was finally going to deal with it.
She made her way to the bridge which lay over a local river. She looked over the edge and studied the rainbow of colours dancing off the ripples in the water. She felt the warmth of the sun on her neck. She closed her eyes.
She felt the air get cool and sensed a change in light. She opened her eyes. The sun had been swallowed up by some clouds and now when she looked down into the water, all she could see was grey. She thought it was an apt reflection of her state of mind; a ceaseless, never-ending undulation of bleak thoughts and emotions. The river understands, she thought. For the first time since the murder, she felt an affinity with something that was like two opposite ends of a magnet. It would comfort me, it would protect me, it would sooth me, it would take me to where I want to go, she thought. She hoisted herself onto the ledge of the bridge and sat down. Her legs swung over the edge. She lifted her arms up and let the warm breeze caress her cheek. She leaned forward. She felt like she was flying….
Thanks to Jummy Obe and Femi Taiwo for proof reading