A story written by INEGBENOISE OSEODION OSAGIE. (07068221839, 08093828575, [email protected])
The hospital did not put on the generator, and the outside light entering the room gradually dimmed. Ivie tried managing the shimmers from the windows, but the rainy weather and dim clouds did no favour. She needed the light to finish her gouache, and needed Richard to watch her work as she painted so his boredom could lessen. He had been pressing his phone buttons since the rains began and had not yet said his reason for visiting—to take her. The doctor had discussed it with her several times and had clearly stated she had no choice. It was the most crucial stage of her recovery, he had said. If not for nothing, do it for the man. It was worth a try. It was worth a risk.
She snuck a look to Richard whose fingers were glued to his cell phone. He would probably wait for the rains to cease before he leaves—or before they leave. But be it a good thing or not, the rains should stop. She needed the subsequent light to help in her gouache painting and the blustering overworked her ears.
The bulb lightened and tripped off instantly. That distracted Richard from his phone, and led his eyes to her work. “Can you see what you’re doing?”
“I can manage.” She stopped applying paint and cleaned her hand with a rag.
“How long do those take to dry?”
“Days?” He placed his phone on the chair.
He walked to her and positioned at her side, fixed at the marshland painting. The paint’s odour did not allow her catch any scent of him. “You love landscapes and things of nature. Your paintings say so.”
“They are the easiest to paint while sitting on a bed.”
His fingers created thin marks on the painting’s edges as they circled it. “Does this really kill your urges?”
She knew that would be the next question and had not prepared an answer for it. It was one of those many questions without answers. He wanted the truth. It was very much written on him. But sometimes the truth wasn’t needed. “Yes it does,” she said. Sometimes one needed to feel like an achiever, and if the truth would not cause that, then it should be thrown off. What mattered was not if she had found what killed her urge or if the urge could even be killed. What mattered was him feeling like an achiever and know his time and money were worthwhile.
He caressed her work, grazing its edges with his thumb. She wondered what could be happening inside him. Art usually stirred up something inside someone; she wondered what is being stirred up inside him.
“Come spend some time in my house,” he said, as though it was what supposed to be done. “I know you have a place, a home, and something doing, but this is necessary. It wouldn’t go on for long. Possibly, after a month, you would go back to your normal schedule, but this is something you have to do for your recovery. I have abundant rooms.”
“The doctor and I discussed it,” she said.
“And what did you decide?”
He cared as though he was entitled to, and did not bother hiding it. It could be nothing but his philanthropic nature. Nothing but that. She shifted gaze back to him. He wanted to hear a yes, needed to hear a yes. “I’m still on treatment, so I do what the doctor says.”
“Good choice. In the next few months, your illness is sure to leave.” He looked at the windows, at the rains that made no promises to stop. Refocusing on the painting, he thumbed a portion of it, and some of the paint glued to his thumb. “The paint will take long to dry.”
“Where do you live?” she asked.
“Lander Close, GRA.”
She remained mute, trying to form her next words. “Thank you, Richard.” There was a reason to say that, even if she was without what kills the devil in her, even if it was not yet in her hands.
“Should we leave now? We’ll dodge the rains to my car.”
The choice of leaving with him or not yet divided her head and would have sure torn it apart had the doctor not decided for her. What would she have chosen if she were to? She carried the painting to a corner of the room and slanted it at the bottom.
“Aren’t you taking the painting along?”
“I’m leaving it here.” She made for the drawer, drew it open, and arranged the few things in her bag.
“You brought few clothes.”
“I stay indoors almost all day.”
She slung the bag over her shoulder and they left the room to the already darkened outside. Her feet could not manage the pavements enough to escape the drops and splashes.
More splashes met them as they ran into the downpour, heading for the parking lot, where she met a full dose of the rain, and even more as they rushed into the car.
It was hard to swallow, but there she was, next to him, on the road to his house, in wet clothes.
They rode without having to drag the car through floods. The few potholes did not hoard the waters, but allowed a fairly smooth flow into the drainages. The natives keened on duplexes, and maybe they had deliberately cut off the trees, but certainly the grasses.
“My house is few drives away. It’s an estate. The government always makes sure it’s in good condition,” he said, after a prolonged quiet and bobbed head to a “13th avenue” signboard that had its arrow pointed to the right.
At the avenue, the rains made huge blusters as they poured from the high roofs to the cemented ground. Few bungalows hid between the fenced storey buildings. There were still no trees. Fragments of velvety lawns were sprinkled on some front yards, especially the scarce bungalows’. He stopped at the front of a duplex, and a gateman opened the gate. Sunflowers lived in a mini garden at the heart of the compound, opening their yellow heads to the falling waters.
They stepped out of the car, and the rain’s blustering increased. A jeep and another car like the Honda sat on the tiled ground, but he drove only the Honda. Was he living with someone else?
They left the bags in the boot so the rain wouldn’t touch them and trailed the veranda until they got to the door. He pressed the doorbell and a voice came forth, a non-masculine voice. The door squeaked and opened. A woman. He never mentioned he had a woman. The woman’s eyes brightened and reverted to normal. She welcomed Richard and turned to Ivie. “And who do we have here?” She asked with same tone used in welcoming Richard.
Ivie greeted with the best smile she could achieve.
“She’s the one I was telling you about,” Richard said.
“Welcome to the house.” She smiled and offered a hand, which Ivie received.
The scent that raided the hospital ward when Richard visited filled the large sitting room. Photographs dominated the walls. No paintings. A framed photograph of him was hung at the wall’s top, side to the woman’s. They were like couples—beautiful couples. He once said he did not have a wife. The wordings still rang clear in her head. Ivie twisted head for a short look of the woman. Her coffee skin glittered, the parts her embroidered caftan couldn’t cover. Her weave-on seemed to be the most fitting cover for her head, the way it flowed down her back like the ripples of a calm ocean.
The woman shifted a curtain and they walked out of the sitting room. “What’s the name?” Her smile showed a stretch of her upper teeth.
The spiral stairs wound like those of the psychiatric hospital. The woman did not lead up the stairs.
“I’m Ezinne,” she said. “Richard told me you’re suffering from a disorder. What’s its state?”
“There are some improvements.”
“Good to hear.” She pushed open a room door. “You can stay here.”
“Thanks. Nice place.”
“I should go give Rick something to eat. Call me when you need anything.” She walked away.
Scents of new leathers and electronic sets welcomed Ivie into the room, and the tiled floor absorbed the whole heat from the arches of her soles. The mattress, hard as one no skin had ever touched.
Closing eyes became easy. She closed eyes and gave her whole self to the bed.
To Be Continued….