“And then I knew my heart had led me to
the one I wanted to spend my whole life
Rumors of me living with Sir Aaron had
spread all through the school, and everyone
believed he had ulterior motives, but he
didn’t seem to care. So why would I?
Just as the teacher for last period made her
exit, Raheem advanced to me. “We need to
Nonchalantly, I threw my books in my bag.
“If it’s about the rumors—”
“Screw those rumors,” he said, his voice
loud enough to steal everyone’s attention.
“I just want my Toria back. Is that too much
to ask? You won’t even speak to me.
Farah’s upset. She thinks I hurt you
somehow, when in reality you’re the one
My Toria. He’d called me his Toria. But
I ignored the butterflies in my stomach.
“Please keep your voice down.”
Raheem smirked. “Is that a yes?”
“A yes to what?” I asked.
“Going home together so we can clear
things up,” he said. “You must think ill of
“I can’t go with you,” I said. “Sir Aaron—”
“I’ll go talk to him. I’m sure he’ll be okay
with it.” He turned to leave, but I sprang to
my feet and grabbed his arm.
“Please, don’t,” I said. “I’ve got a phone
now. I’ll give you my number so we can
Without waiting for his response, I picked
up my pen. As though reading my mind, a
grinning Amarachi presented a piece of
paper on which I wrote down my number.
Raheem took it with a smile. “Look how
desperate you are to give me your number.
It’s not like I asked. Gee, thanks.”
Sir Amadi’s voice screeched over the
intercom. “Victoria Brown. Main office.
“Someone’s in poo,” Amarachi said.
“Oh Lord, what have I done now?” I thought
“Let’s go find out,” Raheem said.
“What? No. There’s no way you’re going
“So you think.” Winking at me, he walked
out of the class.
“Someone’s twitterpated,” Amarachi said.
“Keep me updated.”
“Okay.” I waved her goodbye and headed for
the main office, only to find Raheem
waiting for me in the stairway. Wordlessly, I
led the way.
The familiar figures seated opposite Sir
Amadi made me freeze. What did they
want? Had they come to drag me home with
them? Now, I couldn’t be happier Raheem
had followed me. With him around, they
wouldn’t be able to harm me.
“You sent for me, sir,” I said.
Sir Amadi glared at Raheem. “Why is he
“Why?” Raheem asked, seemingly
unaffected. “Hate me that much, good sir?”
Turning to me, he said, “I’ll be in the
“You don’t have to go,” I said. “It’s all fine.
You know everything already anyway. With
you here I know no harm will come my way.
For all I care, they’re murderers. They
killed Bruno. They can do that to even me.”
“That is no way to speak of your family,” Sir
“Family?” I asked. “No, sir! This woman is
no mother of mine, and I certainly don’t
know that girl sitting beside her!”
Cynthia gasped as the words left my lips.
She could never have thought I’d ever speak
about them like this. And surprisingly, I
could never have thought so myself.
Vacating her seat, my stepmother turned to
look at me. Her eyes glistened with tears.
“My daughter. I know you hate me. And I
deserve it. I know I’ve been unfair to you. I
know I never gave you the love you needed,
but please believe me when I say I’m sorry.
I’m so so sorry. I never intended for things
to go this far.”
She hiccupped between sobs. “Bruno’s
death was a mistake. The poisoned bread
was meant for the rats disturbing the
“Mum, please,” Cynthia said. “Stop it.
There was never any rat. It was your plan to
kill him, and you did it, showing no
For once in her life, my supposed sister had
given humanity a chance. I could only stare
in awe. I’d be fooled if I didn’t know the
people before me were skilled actresses.
How long had it taken them to rehearse
their roles? A day? Two?
My stepmother sobbed like a child. “What
was I to do? At a tender age I was attacked
by a vicious dog. That encounter instilled in
me a fear of dogs, and I’ve never been able
to live through it. For this reason, I never
want to be around dogs. They make me
relive that painful moment. Seeing that dog
in our house scared me into thinking it
would hurt one of you. I didn’t want that. I
did what I had to do for my children.”
“Bruno never posed a threat, and you know
that,” I said. It took much effort not to yell.
But I didn’t know for how long I could keep
my emotions in check.
“I’m sorry, my child. I’m so sorry. Please
“Is that all, Mrs. Brown?” I asked. “Have you
come all the way to fill my head with lies?
Do I look like a fool to you? Your crocodile
tears don’t fool me. You should know that
“Stop it!” Sir Amadi yelled. “This is no way
to speak to an elder. I will not condone this.
Not in my office!”
“Forgive me if I strike you as disrespectful,
sir,” I said. “But every ill trait I have, I
learnt it from this woman. Now, Mrs. Brown,
what do you want?”
“Please come home,” she begged. Her
request left me speechless. “Please, I beg
you. Your departure has left a hole in my
heart. I promise to be a better mother. I’ll
let you have the privilege I deprived you of.
I will be your mother. Please, just come
home. I’ll be better, I promise.”
Drawing nearer to me, she glued her palm
to my cheek. “My daughter, life has not
been the same since you left.”
I would be moved into returning with her if I
didn’t know her intentions. Snatching my
face from her evil hold, I put my hands
together to applaud her brilliance. “Bravo,
mum! Just bravo. I’ve been away for eight
days and you never thought of wanting me
back. Why today? Why now? You won’t
speak? Okay, I’ll say it. This morning, my
guardian went to speak to you of his plan to
take custody of me, and he requires you to
give me a monthly pay of thirty-five
thousand naira. And you don’t want that.
You know that it might lead to you facing
the child abuse sentence. You know that
getting me back and forcing the public to
believe you’re a good mother would save
you from facing the sentence. Prove me
“Honey, this has nothing to do with your
The word ‘honey’ contorted my face with
disgust. How dare she call me that, after
everything she’d done to me?
“Did he not come to you with the custody
request?” I asked.
“He did. But…but—”
“There,” I said. “So I am right after all. You
are the same conniving snake you always
have been. Please, don’t try to contact me
again. My guardian wouldn’t like that. Oh,
and in case you’re wondering, he’s a perfect
father figure. And his wife, she’s everything
you’re not. Their children treat me like I’m
a part of their family, and in their company
I don’t even let my mind wander off to
people like you. You can rot in your sea of
riches for all I care. I, Victoria Brown,
refuse to keep being your slave.”
My stepmother fell at my feet. Gripping my
ankles, she said, “My daughter. I’d do
“Can you bring Bruno back to life?” I asked.
Only when she brought him back would I
return to being her loyal dog.
Tears spilling out of her eyes, she shook
her head. “No, you know I do not have the
Seething, I snatched my legs from her grip.
“Then how dare you take his life like he
meant nothing? How dare you, mum?”
“I’m sorry, my child. I’m sorry—”
“Don’t call me that,” I yelled. “You’ve never
called me your daughter or treated me like
one, so do me a favor and stay away from
“You can’t possibly ask me to do that,” she
begged. “Please just give me one chance to
prove myself to you. Return home, please.”
“Come near me again and I will publish a
newspaper article of everything you’ve been
doing to me since dad’s death. Everything,
from your words that cut deep like a two-
edged sword, to the scars you’ve inflicted
on me. And I mean every word I say.”
With that, I stormed out of the office.
Raheem trailed behind me like a bodyguard.
The scene in Sir Amadi’s office played on
and on in my head. I’d never thought the
day would come when I’d speak to my
stepmother with so much bitterness. Father
hadn’t brought me up like this, but what
could I do?
“Your food is getting cold,” Sharon said,
advancing to me.
“I’m not hungry,” I said. “I just need some
“You’ve had two hours to sob,” she said. “It
isn’t your fault you lost control. Don’t
torture yourself so. Please come and eat.”
“Sharonita, there’s a girl at the door,” Vicky
said, standing in the threshold.
“Who is it?” Sharon asked.
Vicky shrugged. “Never seen her. Should I
let her in?”
“Let me go see who’s at the door,” Sharon
said. She walked away, with Vicky trailing
after her. I picked up my phone and found
four missed calls from Stella. I’d expected
one from Raheem, and although I tried to
hide my disappointment, it gnawed at my
soul anyway. If he cared as much as he
made it seem, shouldn’t he have called to
know how I fared?
Vicky skipped into the room. “The girl says
she’s a childhood friend. Should we let her
Childhood friend? I had no childhood
friends. At least, none that I knew of. “Did
she tell you her name?”
“Tonye C.B,” she said.
What did she want? Drying my eyes, I
dashed to the living room to see her. And
there she stood, holding a paper bag. For
some reason, Sharon didn’t seem to like
her. She hadn’t even allowed her step into
“Victoria, do you know this girl?” Sharon
asked. “She claims to be your childhood
friend. I don’t know, but sorry, she doesn’t
look like one you’d associate with. But then
again, I’m probably wrong.”
“She’s a friend,” I said.
Sharon didn’t seem convinced. But she let it
slide. I stared at my guest. She seemed to
have been crying. She’d never fancied her
native name. But today, the name she so
detested had let her see my face. If she’d
introduced herself as Cynthia, Sharon would
have slammed the door in her face.
“Sharon, do we mind if we use the room?” I
“It’s okay,” Sharon said.
I advanced to Cynthia and took her by the
hand. Gasping, she snatched back her hand.
Following her gaze, I found Sir Aaron
staring at us with fire in his eyes.
“Why is she here?” he asked.
My mind went blank. “She—”
“You can throw me out if I create a scene,”
Cynthia said. “Or if I exceed ten minutes.
But I must have a word with my sister.”
Sister. For the first time in seventeen
years, she’d called me sister. And she
meant every letter of it, from the S to the
R. My heart leapt with a hope I hadn’t seen
“Please, sir,” I begged. Surely, whatever
she’d come to say meant a lot.
“Ten minutes,” he said.
Nodding my appreciation, I led Cynthia into
the room and closed the door behind us.
“Why are you here?” I asked.
Teary-eyed, she gave me the bag she’d
brought along. “Your mother probably
wanted you to have this. It contains every
jewelry that belonged to her, including the
ones she used on her wedding day. Although
my mother gave them to me, I know I don’t
deserve them. They’re yours. And then,
there are pictures of her. I’m sure you’d
love to have them. I’m sorry I kept them
away for so long.”
“And then there’s a letter from your mum.
Remember that letter daddy told you about?
He said he was going to give you when you
were older, and then after he died mum kept
it from you?”
“Thanks,” I said. “For the letter.”
“You will never return to us, will you?” she
“Look, if your mum sent you here—” I said.
“I came on my own,” she said. “Vicky, I
never thought a day would come when I’d
miss you. I see you in my dreams, you
know. I can’t believe you walked out of my
life. I thought we were sisters. You just
abandoned me. Life has been hard.”
I rolled my eyes. How stupid did she think I
was? “Only because you have to do the
“Screw those chores,” she said. “I miss
having you at home. But I will not beg you
to come back. It is your choice. If I were in
your shoes, I’d have done this long ago.
You just made me realize how unfair I’ve
been to you all along. We are sisters. And I
feel horrible right now. I see you in class
every day, and you have fun with your
friends, but you don’t even look at me. Am I
that insignificant? I know you’re mad about
Bruno’s death. And I am too. The day it
happened, I cried so hard. Do you know
that? I stayed locked in my room, crying
because an innocent soul was lost and I
hadn’t done anything to stop it. An innocent
life was taken by my own mother. You
probably don’t know this, but before that
incident, things were starting to look up.
And just when I thought I could finally put
aside my bitterness and find out what you
have that drives Raheem, Stella and Sir
Aaron crazy, this happened, pushing you out
of my reach. But like I said, I won’t ask you
to come back. No, you’ve suffered enough
in our house, and I don’t wish that for you.
At least not anymore. Find happiness,
She turned to leave, but I dashed to her
side and wrapped her in an embrace I’d
longed for all my life. Her arms around me
felt like heaven.
“Did you mean every word you said?” I
“Every word.” Disentangling from the hug,
she looked into my eyes. “If life presented
me another chance to have you home with
me, I would stand by you, support you, and
protect you from mum’s hate. We would be
sisters. But is it possible for you to still
want me after everything? I know I have
sinned against God and against man by
treating you the way I did, and asking for
forgiveness is asking too much, but—”
I took her hands in mine. “Shh. You mustn’t
think like that.”
“I have to go now,” she said. “I just had to
come give you what’s yours.”
Without a word of goodbye, she walked
away. I had found my lost long sister. I
would not let her go again.
“Are you alright?” Sharon asked. I hadn’t
noticed her presence.
“I don’t think she is,” Vicky said. “She’s
More stories @ www.chorusman.com
“Did that girl hurt you?” Sharon asked. “If
she did, I swear I’m going after her.”
“I’m alright,” I said. “She didn’t hurt me.”
Vicky sat beside me. She didn’t seem
convinced. “Then why are you crying?”
I smiled at her and ruffled her hair. “I’m not
I emptied the bag Cynthia had given me. It
contained a jewelry box, a letter, and
volumes of pictures of mum and dad. Later,
I would check the pictures, but now, I
needed to read mum’s letter.
“Is that a letter?” Sharon asked.
“It’s from my mum,” I said. “She wrote it
before…before she died.”
“Okay,” she said. “We’ll let you read it in
private. Come, Vicky, she needs to be
They had barely left the room when I
yanked open the glued envelope. A mix of
grief and excitement drove tears to the
brink of my eyes.
‘If you’re reading this, then I didn’t make it.
Reading this letter would send me on a
tearful journey, and would reopen my
wounds, but I ached to read every word of
And I am so sorry, my darling. Can you ever
forgive mummy for leaving you all alone in
such a big world?’
Mum wouldn’t have left if she had a choice.
So, she hadn’t done anything to be forgiven
for. I, on the other hand, had sent her away
with my presence.
‘I cradled you in shaky arms. I watched you
breathe, watched you cry. And despite the
pain ripping me apart, my reason for joy
abounded. I had you. My Victoria. Smart,
intelligent, and beautiful, you are everything
I am and more. I can see you in my mind’s
eye, my Victoria, and I see a charming
young lady. A girl who has the soft heart
and beauty of her mother, and the strength
of her father. I sincerely hope the image I
see of you is what you are.’
My gaze strayed from the letter and fell on
a photo of mum and dad. Mum’s eyes
sparkled with an emotion I could rightly call
love. The photo was taken on their wedding
day, afterall. I stared intently as though I
were watching her picture for the first time.
It enchanted me how we shared similar
features, save for the angelic smile on her
face; a smile that could make the world
stand still in awe. She had a reason for joy;
something I didn’t have.
I couldn’t help the wave of guilt spreading
within me. Had I not been born, she would
still be alive, and happy. But I had to come
along, bringing her life to a premature end.
I gazed at dad, a light skinned man with a
smile that could light up the world. His eyes
brimmed with emotions that matched
mum’s. Life would have been a lot different
if I had grown up with them.
I returned my attention to the letter.
‘How are you, my darling? Does life treat
you well? While I hope it does, because you
deserve the best, I’d be deceiving myself to
believe your life is all smiles and no tears.
Life isn’t a bed of roses. Good times will be
here, and bad times too. But either way, we
always have to find a sliver of hope in the
darkest of times; a sliver of light in the
darkest of places. Where there is none, we
can make ours.’
In the darkest of times I had found my Fairy
Godmother. I wished I could tell mum about
her, my new family and their intention to
free me from my stepmother’s clutches.
‘Baby, I don’t know what situation you’re
currently facing, or will face in time to
come, but always remember that you are
stronger than every thorn. When things get
tough, don’t give up. Don’t let any situation
break you. But forge ahead, and someday
you’ll look back and say ‘wheew, that was a
I wish I were there with you, and we’d
engage in conversations, opening up our
hearts to each other like friends would. I
know there’s a lot you want to share with
Raheem. For a reason I didn’t understand, I
thought of him way too much; way too much
that it started to scare me. I wished mum
was here so I could tell her about this
craziness. I wished I could tell her about my
dreams. Together we’d have found a way to
transform them into reality. Although, to be
honest I barely had any dreams other than a
chance for love.
‘With each new day comes new decisions.
Don’t rush into them, ever. I would tell you
to follow your heart. But it’s not 100% safe
to do so. I did a number of times, and the
places it got me were undesirable. Only
once did following my heart yield good
results. That was when I met him. My rock,
my best friend. And then I knew my heart
had led me to the one I wanted to spend my
whole life with.’
I smiled as an untold love story flashed
through my mind. I wished mum had written
a thing or two about it. If she had written
another letter, I trusted she would have
‘But even still, the heart is a really twisted
ally and will lead you down the wrong path.
So it’s best to use your head to follow your
heart. Since I mentioned your father, it
wouldn’t be fair to not tell you how we met.
But your father will tell it and tell it all, I
promise. It’s a story that deserves to be
developed into a script. I just hope he tells
it all. If he doesn’t, I’ll groan in my grave.’
The word ‘grave’ made me cringe. How did
mum feel so comfortable speaking of the
‘Take care of yourself for me, my dear. And
take care of your father. I will write him a
letter, and if the pain allows me, I will write
you another. If I am unable to, please
forgive me. Know that I just couldn’t.
If I could, I would fight this sickness to be
with you. I would cross seven seas to watch
you grow, hear you call me mummy, smile
with you when you find your first love, and
comfort you when you have your first
heartbreak. But life is no movie, and here I
am, confined to this bed, waiting for the
end to come.
Poor death, it thinks stealing me away has
separated us. It doesn’t know I live in you.
Or do you not see me in your dreams? Do
you not see me in your mind’s eye? Do you
not think of me so much that I’m real
enough to actually be touched?’
I clutched the letter to my chest, and with a
shaky breath, more tears stung my cheeks.
‘Sweetheart, sometimes you blame yourself
for being born. You torture yourself with the
thought that I’m gone because of you. I
know. Please stop. This was meant to
happen. And just so you know, if I was
meant to die for you to live, I’d do it over
and over again, because you are a blessing
to the world, and I’d be selfish to hide you
I would write on and on. No, I would do
more: live on and on (if only). But the pain
forces me to drop my pen.
Stay safe, my darling. And stay strong. I
“I love you too mum.”
Mum’s letter would always be a part of my
life. I would tattoo it in my heart, where it
could never be erased.
Hours later, mum’s words continued to float
above the surface of my mind.
“You should enlarge it and frame it,”
Amarachi said. “That way, you always see it
just before bed, and once you awaken.”
Musing over her words, I let a sad smile
stretch my lips only slightly. I would take
her suggestion. Surely, Sir Aaron wouldn’t
mind helping me convert this vision into
Seeing Nancy and Precious sitting alone
during recess struck me as weird. Cynthia
had never absented herself from lunch. But
today, she had. She’d become a walking
ghost, a shadow of herself. Guilt ate at my
heart each time I tried to analyze this.
“You’re not touching your food,” Flora said.
I bolted to my feet. “I have to go.”
“What?” Amarachi asked. “Where are you—”
I didn’t wait to answer. I dashed to our
classroom and found Cynthia in her seat
with her head resting on the locker.
“Cyn,” I called. Tentatively, she looked up
at me. I gasped at the sight of her teary
eyes. “What’s wrong? Are you alright?”
She broke into tears. “It’s mum. She has a
very high blood pressure and the doctor
says she could have a heart attack. I’m so
scared, Victoria. I don’t want my mum to
die. Without her I’m nothing.”
To be continued