A story written by INEGBENOISE OSEODION OSAGIE. (07068221839, 08093828575, [email protected])
Her Ladyship assumed bench. Richard fixed at her and imagined the next words her lips would form, words that would either destroy everything, or maybe, arrange everything as it ought to be. She remained silent as though she knew he watched her, waiting to hear her words. She transferred her eyes to him and rested them there. Richard wished he could interpret that.
She removed her eyes from him and gave them to the court. “A verdict has been reached.” She focused on Richard. “Will the defendant now rise.”
Richard rose and tried to look straight at her. He prayed. He prayed like never before.
Her Ladyship began. “On the count of first-degree attempted murder, I find the defendant, Richard Djebah Fayemi, not guilty.”
For the first time since it all began, Richard earnestly smiled. He looked up and spoke. He spoke a thank you. God heard. Yes, God heard. He gave his lawyer a long hug and muttered a thank you. No one could have done it better.
He felt a touch at his shoulder and turned his head. It was the white girl, now white again, carrying a white smile, the kind she carried those times he first talked with her, when she would smile at things he considered serious, like smiling on their talk of balancing Christianity with the world’s definition of it. It was a good thing she wore those smiles; that could be the cause of her now long lips that were so perfect for her face.
“Jail would have been hell,” she muttered in his arms.
“Order, order.” Her Ladyship struck her gavel against her desk, but the noise did not lessen. The police brought out their nightsticks and tried restoring order.
Richard hugged Jide. “You’re the best. Thank you. Thank you so much.” They patted each other’s backs.
Ivie was by him, her scent so calling that it became physical. He smothered her and reached for the tempos of her heart. She was right in his arms, bounded within them, and would be in them again, and again. “Thank you, Ivie,” he whispered. “Can you please wait a while before heading home? I would love a little talk.”
She bobbed her head on his shoulders.
Erneto’s staffs approached and congratulated. They shook, they hugged, they beamed. The soldiers saluted. People kept coming and hugging.
The police led Ezinne out of the courtroom. She followed them diligently. Richard watched her walk through the door and wondered what drove her to her actions. What possessed her to hold a gun, point it to someone and pull the trigger?
Jide offered Richard a ride home, and on Richard’s declination, entered his Toyota and zoomed off. His tyres swept dust into the air, some of them clinging to Richard’s trousers. Dry harmattan dusts that made the nose itch with dryness and crispened the lips.
Ivie stepped out of the courtroom and walked towards Richard, her cornrows binder glittering. She carried a faint smile on her lip’s edge. Faint as it was, it stretched to every bit of her face.
“I’m glad you’re out,” she said on getting to Richard.
“I didn’t get out all by myself.” He held her palm with both of his hands. “How about a walk, and then I hire a taxi to take you home?”
They strolled out of the court premises and got a full dose of the Sahara wind. It blasted on them, whooshing dusts to their shoes.
“The harmattan waited for your freedom,” she said.
He clasped her hand and clasped tighter, felt cracking of her palm in response to the harmattan. “I wonder how I would have passed through all without you.”
“You never would have gone to jail at all if not me.”
He stopped moving and rested a hand on her shoulder, a hand that was now somewhat calloused. She gazed at the sands. “I’m glad I did,” he said. “I don’t regret any bit of it.”
She remained silent, staring at the sands that almost swallowed her tiny legs. “That’s because you’re out. Jail is never enjoyable. You sure hated the mosquitoes, the bad meals, the false accusations.”
“Yes, I hated those, but weighing the gains to the losses, things are not so bad.”
“And what are the gains?” She looked to him.
“This, us, you and me.”
The wind moaned and breathed its dry breath upon them. Her face muddled and halved itself as she lowered her head.
“What is it, Ivie?”
She looked up at him. Her darkened lids pointed straight to him. “I just thank God you’re out of that place.” Those were the only words she said. She was supposed to say more. She was supposed to tell him his feeling was not a one-way thing, but something mutual. They both knew it.
“We can make this work. We’ve already started,” he said. “Let’s just try. I believe that is how it should be.”
“I’m engaged, Richard.”
A huge thunder struck in his brains. He heard the words right, the words her lips formed without any quaver. “Y-You’re engaged?”
“Engaged? When? To who?”
She stared at him, showing no hope of a reply.
Every one of her fingers were bare. Nothing resembled a ring. “You’re lying. You aren’t engaged.”
Her eyes narrowed. “You think I would lie to you? After everything? It’s no lie. I am.”
“Where’s the ring.”
“There’s no ring. There was no time to put on a ring.”
He forced some air into his head if they could cool the heat of his nerves. “Since when?”
“For some time now.”
“So everything at the station was what? A pretence?”
“No, no. I swear. It was no pretence. I—” Her voice cracked and ceased. “I have to go. I’m sorry. I have to go.”
“Is it the victim, Bakare?”
She did no reply, did no nod, no headshake.
“It’s him, right? He is the one.” Richard looked to the sands. “I’ll wait. I’ll wait and wait for you to gain back your senses.” He looked into her. “You don’t belong with him. He is a cri—He’s not for you. You belong with me. I discovered that long ago. It’s you and I, not you and any other man. I pray you realize that sooner.”
The sands flew to her feet. She shook her head and trudged away in the sands, digging in her slender footprints.
To Be Continued….