“But the next time you ever say a thing like
that again, I will make you bathe in your own
Days crawled past. But my grief remained.
Nothing could take away the rawness I felt
inside, as though it happened only
yesterday. Barely twenty four hours after it
happened, news spread that my stepmother
had taken Cynthia’s body from the morgue
and had buried her in secret.
My indifference to the news had caused
people to rumor pointless things about me.
Most people believed I didn’t care about my
family, and had abandoned my grieving
stepmother at a time she needed me the
Although no one else would admit this, I was
a curse. Everyone I loved and deeply
cherished got hurt. They didn’t just get hurt,
It was hard to believe my sister would never
come back. Each day, I’d awaken, hoping
the tragedy was all a dream, and she would
return. I’d fool myself for a moment too
long, only to explode into grief when I
realized she would never come back. I
would never get to see her again.
I lay in the bed I shared with Sharon,
refusing to eat or drink. I’d been torturing
myself ever since the day of Cynthia’s
death. I’d spent six days locked up in my
I was a plague, and for this, I isolated
myself from everyone who seemed to care.
I didn’t want their comfort, nor love,
because I’d love them in return, and then
they would leave me someday. I was
destined to be alone.
Even when a swarm of comforters came
over, I saw nothing but an empty room. And
when they sought to console me with
colorful words, I heard nothing but the silent
scream of grief.
I rolled over and buried my face in a tear-
soaked pillow. A silent scream tore through
my quivering lips. I’d never felt so alone in
my life. Not even when father died. Because,
back then, I had my stepmother and…
The sound of footsteps approaching told me
to prepare for company. I wiped my tears
with the back of my hand.
“Have you been crying again?” Vicky asked.
I faked a smile and raised myself to sit. “I’m
“Mummy says it’s not good to cry too
much,” she said. “It doesn’t change
anything. What’s happened has happened.
But that’s just what she says.”
“And what do you say?” I asked.
“If you don’t cry, you’ll just be trapping in all
the pain,” she said. I could tell it was a
quote from somewhere. Or could a seven
year old be this wise already? “Do you know
what I did when I lost Tommy?”
Her question knocked me off balance.
Tommy? Had she lost a brother?
“I cried,” she said.
Although I didn’t know who Tommy was, I
could relate to her grief. “I’m sorry about
“I got over him,” she said. “Mum got me a
And then it clicked. Tommy. A teddy bear
almost as tall as her.
“When you lose something, it comes back in
Stunned by the point she’d just made, I
gaped at her. It amazed me how she had
already befriended logic at such young age.
I wished I could share her positivity.
“This isn’t Fiction,” I said. “This is real life, a
city of broken dreams.”
She scratched her neck. “What?”
“Don’t mind me,” I said.
“Breakfast is ready,” she said. “Everyone’s
at the table. We’re waiting for you to join
For days now, they’d been trying to get me
to blend into their family, just like I had
before. But why would I want to ruin their
day with my cursed presence. Ill fate
followed me wherever I went, hurting the
people that mattered to me.
Vicky stood at akimbo. “I won’t take no for
“Please, just tell them I’m not hungry.”
Although I hadn’t eaten for a whole day, the
lump of grief in my stomach made it
impossible to think of food.
“Maybe you’re not hungry, but I am
starving.” She tugged at my arm. “Please?
They said if I don’t come back with you,
then they won’t let me eat. Please, please.
How could these people blackmail me into
eating? Would they really starve Vicky if I
didn’t show up? Her stomach rumbled,
speeding up my decision making process.
“Let’s go eat,” I said.
Hopping her way to the dining, she led the
way. She slid onto her seat, completing the
perfect family picture. A dark cloud made to
settle over me as my thoughts lingered on
how happy and complete they looked.
I eyed the empty seat beside Bolaji. He’d
returned home yesterday and had come to
say a quick hello. Tentatively, I advanced to
the seat and lowered myself onto it.
“Good morning,” I muttered to everyone
without looking at them.
“Good morning,” they chorused.
I stared at the meal set before me. Bread,
omelet and tea. One way or another, I would
have to stuff them inside my mouth.
Half-way into my meal, I could still feel
multiple pairs of eyes boring into me from
every angle. Although I fixated my gaze on
my plate, I could tell the look in their eyes;
the painfully soft look as though they were
staring at a dying animal.
Their eyes burned into me as I sipped my
tea. It seemed as though they’d all stopped
eating, for I could only hear the sound of my
Sir Aaron cleared his throat. “Victoria.” Only
after I’d raised my face to look at him did he
continue. “I understand the past few days
My eyes misted over, forcing me to look
away. Did they not know that talking about
my loss only made it worse?
“I’m fine,” I said. I hoped my voice didn’t
betray me. Once again, I dragged my gaze
to meet Sir Aaron’s. His eyes told me he
could see right through me.
“You’ve been in that room for days,” he
said. “Any more of this and you’ll break.
Which is why I want us to go out. Maybe
have a stroll, or go shopping.”
“I don’t want to go shopping,” I said.
“Then a stroll it is,” he said.
“Actually, sir, what I mean is I already have
plans for today. Raheem and I are going
out. He also thinks it’s best to step out for
an hour or two.”
Mrs. Aaron’s lips stretched into a smile. “I
don’t know if I’ve said this before, but I
really admire that kid. He’s always here for
her. I can’t thank him enough.”
I hated to lie to them. But if I told them the
truth, they wouldn’t let me go where I was
headed. At least not alone. I’d forgotten
mum’s letter underneath my pillow at home.
And I had to go retrieve it from the witch’s
Subtly, I tapped my foot underneath the
table as I awaited my ringing phone.
And then, it rang.
Pulling away from the table, I pulled my
phone out of my pocket. “It’s Raheem.”
I hastened toward the room and turned off
the alarm I’d set just before coming for
breakfast. I returned to the dining only after
a minute had sailed past. “I have to go. He
says to meet him up.”
I turned toward the exit, hoping to escape
before someone hauled a question at me.
More stories @ www.chorusman.com
But I wasn’t fast enough to avoid Bolaji’s
question. “Why would he ask you to meet up
somewhere? Does he have a problem with
“What?” I asked. I’d thought situations like
this were only reserved for people who had
elder brothers. Or had I accidentally gotten
“I just thought in your condition he would
come pick you up,” the elder-brother figure
said. “Or isn’t that how it’s done, dad?”
I didn’t give Sir Aaron a chance to speak.
“I’m sure Raheem has his reasons. I have to
Without another word, I made my escape.
With each step I took toward my destination,
I sank deep into a sea of thoughts holding
memories of Cynthia. Although it hurt to
think of her, I could only be grateful I had
I remembered us standing before my
stepmother. She’d been furious about
someone dumping her phone in water. Back
then, dad still lived. He’d stood around the
corner, observing the scene. He’d had us
raise our hands for extended periods, hoping
we told the truth.
“For the last time, I ask,” my stepmother
said. “Who did this?”
“It’s not me,” Cynthia said.
But it was her. I’d watched it happen. I’d
seen the phone slip out of her grasp and
into the kitchen sink. She’d begged me not
to tell anyone. She’d promised to tell them
Torn between speaking the truth and lying
to save my sister, I swallowed my words.
Her punishment would surely double if I told
the truth. Mum and dad would be upset
she’d lied to them even after they’d taught
her the importance honesty.
Cynthia glared at me. “I thought you
promised you’d tell the truth. You’re the one
who did it. Why do you keep lying even after
I caught you red handed?”
The day had ended with me being punished
for a crime I hadn’t committed. Cynthia, on
the other hand, had been commended for
speaking the truth. At barely even six, she’d
already mastered the art of manipulation.
Every other day, she’d done many more
unacceptable things, and the blame always
rested on my shoulder like a pet raven.
Ruining my life had become her hobby. But
in the midst of it all, my love for her had
I blinked away the tears threatening to make
me the center of attention. I wouldn’t
shame myself this way. Who was I fooling,
though? I’d already become the center of
attention. Everyone stared at me like I had
something on my face. A number of them
even approached me, offering their
condolences. They wore the best sad faces
in their individual emotional markets. Were
they all on a mission to see me dissolve into
tears in the middle of the road?
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
“God knows best.”
The so-called comforters hurled a fusillade
of grief-alleviating comments at me, making
my life more pathetic than it already was. I
clenched my teeth and nodded, occasionally
muttering “Thanks,” and “Okay.”
Relief washed over me as I arrived at the
gate of the place I once called home. At
least the condolence session had come to
an end. Three figures stepped out through
the gate, succeeding my relief with
Why were they here? Last time I checked,
we weren’t friends. So what were they doing
here? Unless of course they’d come to see
the murderer who lived within the four walls
of the house.
Pulling away from Nancy and Precious,
Confidence stepped toward me and threw
her arms around me. I stood like a robot, my
arms never straying towards her. She’d
never liked me, so why this?
“I’m sorry about what happened,” she said.
She broke the unwelcome hug and looked
into my eyes. For the first time, I saw a non-
slutty side of her.
“It’s okay,” I said.
“We came to see your mum,” she said. “We
found the gate open. But we’ve been
knocking at the door for over an hour.
Maybe she isn’t home.”
That self conscious witch had left the gate
open? Weird. She never did that.
“I’m just so sorry about what happened,”
Confidence said. “It’s a huge shock for all
“Thanks for stopping by,” I said. In other
words, I meant ‘get lost.’ I was better off
without their pretentious sympathy.
“Will you be in school on Monday?” she
I shrugged. Arms folded, I trained my eyes
on Nancy and Precious. They never went
anywhere without Cyn. But today, here they
were, very well alive, while my sister was
gone. How could life be so unfair, picking on
me whenever it pleased?
“Sorry about what happened,” Nancy
I averted my eyes to my feet. “I really have
to go rest now.”
“Okay,” Nancy said. Waving me goodbye,
she took a few steps away, with Precious
close behind her.
Confidence placed a soothing hand on my
shoulder. “Be strong. Okay? I know this isn’t
easy, but you just have to be strong. I can
understand how you—”
“Have you ever lost someone in death?” I
She shook her head. “No. But—”
I shrugged off her hand. “Then you don’t
know how I feel. Do you…”
Nancy and Precious seemed to be in a
serious conversation. I strained my ears to
“Wow,” Precious said. “She should really
sign up for drama club. See the way she
acts like she’s really hurt, when really she
never liked Cynthia.”
“Can you just shut up for once?” Nancy said.
“Why? You know it’s true. Right now she’s
so happy that this happened. It’s no secret
that she never liked her.”
Nancy froze when she caught me glaring at
them. It took a moment for Precious to
follow suit. Now I knew why the two of them
had come. They wanted something to talk
about. And although they’d found nothing,
they would not return empty handed. I
would give them something to talk about.
Adrenaline surged through me, heating up
my blood. My heart beat impossibly fast, like
a time bomb just about to detonate. Letting
my emotions enslave me, I hurled myself at
the object of my rage, knocking her into the
wall behind her. She grunted and made to
tear away from the wall, but I grabbed her
neck and pinned her to the wall.
My hand trembled with untamed emotions
as my fingers stretched like tendrils, halfway
encircling her neck, leaving her without air.
“You want something to talk about? Well,
here is one.”
I could hear Confidence and Nancy
screaming for me to stop. I could feel them
gripping my hand, trying to peel it away from
Precious’ neck. But with their efforts, my
hand tightened instinctively, crushing what I
hoped was her windpipe. The veins in my
neck and arms bulged dangerously, but I
didn’t loosen my grasp.
Ragged gasps slid through the tightness of
her throat. Silent screams tore through her.
Veins stretched across her forehead. Her
arms and legs flailed about as she
scratched, kicked and clawed like a wildcat.
But like a worm to a bird, they caused me
no harm. If anything, they only amused me.
“No…air,” she gasped, her eyes bulging. Her
hands fell to her sides in surrender.
“Victoria, please stop,” Nancy sobbed.
“Please I beg you, just let it go.”
“Thank God you’re here!” Confidence said to
someone. “Stop her, please.”
I heard footsteps as the supposed hero
walked toward me.
“Where is your self control, Victoria Brown?”
Raheem? What was he doing here?
I let my grip on Precious’ neck loosen. She
sagged to her knees, coughing her life out.
She s—-d in lungfuls of air as though she’d
been drowning. Her hands flew to her neck
in an attempt to provide soothing relief.
“Look at me,” I said. My feet connected with
her kneecap. She yelped in pain. Seething, I
gripped her face and dragged her gaze to
meet mine. “You got lucky today. But the
next time you ever say a thing like that
again, I will make you bathe in your own
I shoved her head backward and stormed
through the gate. I plucked a bunch of keys
from my pocket and unlocked the door.
Swinging open, the door crashed into the
wall. I slowed down my stride as memories
Cynthia and I had just returned from school.
She’d slammed the door so hard, I feared
the house would collapse.
“Who’s trying to break down the house?” my
stepmother yelled, her footsteps rushing
Cynthia gaped at the trail of dirt left by the
soles of her shoes. Smirking, she crouched
and took off her shoes. Her smile broadened
as she stood up, dumping the shoes in my
“You came in with your shoes,” she said.
“You messed up the floor. You banged the
A lone tear glided down my cheek. Sniffing
away the memories, I stepped into my room
and rolled away my pillow. I sighed with
relief as I found mum’s letter in one piece.
Retrieving the letter, I made my exit.
I stood only a few steps away from the
room that once belonged to Cyn. I could
feel a maddening sensation in my chest, as
though an invisible force pressed down on it.
Eyes watering, I sauntered to the door and
wrapped my fingers around the knob. In my
mind’s eye, I could see a five year old me
doing the same. I’d stepped into the room,
only to find an English textbook rocketing
toward me. I’d tried to duck, but it struck my
“Why are you here?” Cyn yelled from where
she was sat on her bed. “Have you come to
“Can I play…with…you?” I asked.
She slapped her knees in frustration. “No.
Shooo! Just go away! I am not your friend!”
“But…but…we are sisters. And sisters are
friends.” I advanced to her and made to sit
She sprang to her feet. “Just leave me
alone! I am not your sister!” She snatched
her Barbie doll from the bed. “Come,
Teary eyed, I’d watched her storm out of
sight. I’d spent the next few days drowning
in a pool of my own tears. I’d spent every
moment of my life wondering why my sister
could never accept me.
Her bed, made and empty, made me
reminisce over the other times she’d spent
the night away from home. More than once,
she’d returned drunk, throwing up all over
the floor. I had sighed and murmured while I
cleaned up the mess. I’d always groaned
about the irresponsible girl she’d become.
But today, I’d give anything to have her here
again, all drunk.
The emptiness of her room made it all too
real. She would never come back. Cupping
my face in my hands, I dropped to my
knees. With gasps, tears and hiccups, I let
out my pain.
I’d only had a few moments to grieve when
Raheem advanced to me. He crouched
beside me and took my hands in his.
“I can’t believe she’s gone,” I half-
He made to speak, but I rose to my feet,
cutting him off with my swiftness. I didn’t
want sympathy. It would only devastate me
more than I already was.
“I need to get water.” Swiping at my eyes, I
left for the kitchen.
Walking through the passageway flooded my
mind with memories. I blinked them away. I
had to stay strong. Only then would I live
Who said I wanted to keep living anyway?
Why keep living when everything had been
take away from me?
Yanking open the fridge, I grabbed a bottle
of water. I undid the lid and made to drink,
but once again, memories overcame me.
Once, I’d drunk directly from the bottle, only
to earn a bone-breaking slap to my throat.
I’d barely recovered from the shock when
my stepmother’s palm slammed into my
face. Gripping me so I couldn’t escape,
she’d pounded me into a sore heap.
Jaws clenched, I flung the bottle of water in
the sink and marched toward the witch’s
room. Although she was the last person I
wanted to see, I knew her grieving self
would be so thrilling a sight.
I threw open the door and stormed into the
room. I froze at the sight before me. I
wanted to tear my eyes away, but control of
my senses eluded me. Devoid of any
emotions, I could only stare at it like it were
a log of wood.
My stepmother lay supine on the floor, and
beside her laid a gun she’d at one time been
holding. Tendrils of hair spilled around her
face. Save for the blood smearing the floor
around her head, and the unnaturalness with
which her head jerked to the left, her
casually closed eyes could have fooled me
into believing she was only asleep.
Judging from the smell of iron and wet
earth filling my nostrils, she hadn’t been in
this position for too long. If only I’d come
sooner, perhaps this could have been
prevented. Or perhaps it would have been
me in this position. I shuddered at the
thought of just how close I’d been to eternal
Emotions shot through me with a fierceness
I hadn’t seen coming. My heart thumped
hard against my chest as reality dawned on
“No!” I cried out, dashing to her side. I fell
to my knees and clutched her limp arms,
shaking them with all the strength I could
summon. “No! Please no! You can’t do this!
You can’t leave me. Not now! You have to
stay alive and share with me in my grief.”
I shook harder, but she didn’t budge. This
day, death had finally succeeded in taking
away the last member of my family.
My heartbeat pulsated. Tons of questions
flitted across my mind. Hot tears tortured
It wasn’t her death that triggered the tears.
For all I cared, the body before me worth no
more than a log of wood. But I just couldn’t
get past the fact that she’d found a shortcut
out of her grief and guilt, leaving me alone
in my devastation. How could life be so
cruel to let this happen?
How could life go easy on a person who
deserved a fate worse than death?
To be continued