The last smile Episode 18 & 19

Lucy woke up with a start and looked out of the window. It was alre-ady getting bright outside so she lifted herself from the be-d. She had never missed any Sunday service and she didn’t plan on starting now. She left for the bathroom to take her bath. She should be able to get one church around the corner.
The previous day had been fun, so much fun. Raymond hadn’t exaggerated his sister’s lively and accommod@t!ngspirit. Vicky just finished her masters in the United States and she was back to stay. Lucy wondered why people come back to this frustrating country after schooling abroad when there was obviously nothing in sto-re for them here in Nigeria. She had later shrugged it off, knowing that those who studied abroad had more chances at getting a good job, compared with those who attended our local institutions. She found that ironic because it ought to be the other way. Everything in Nigeria is abnormal. Before Vicky arrived, Ray had taken her shopping for some nice clothes. She had argued and complained about being a burden but Ray would have none of it. He had made sure she got all the clothes that caught her fancy even though she tried minimizing it. After they had purchased everything he had left her at the counter and returned with a very lovely go-wn. She had wondered how she missed that go-wn. It was so beautiful. Even without testing it, she knew it would be perfect.
As she dressed up, she heard a knock on the door. “plea-se, come in”.
Vicky entered the room with a smile. “Good morning Vic” Lucy greeted. She had imagined that they would be within the same age br@cket. “Did you sleep well in Nigeria?”
Vicky laughed. “Obviously” she said in her foreign as-s£nt. “I don’t nee-d to be told that you woke up well. Are you going somewhere?”
“Today is Sunday, I am going to church” Luciana replied, a bit surprised that the question was even asked.
“Oh… You are the church type” she said with a sm-irk. “Well, I st©pped going to church years back”.
“I see…” Lucy murmured solemly. The glint she saw in Vic’s eyes showed that she would have little or no luck if she tried convincing her. “Why?” she asked
“Several reasons”
“Give me one” Lucy challenged.
“I am a lesbian”
Lucy froze on the sp©t with her back Vicky. She knew that the best way to deal with people like that is not by accusing them or by ma-king them feel like the world’s biggest sinner. She wondered if Ray knew this then knew that he would know. She had noticed the way he watched the two of them discuss, like he was trying to prevent something. She swallowed.
“Is that why you refused to go to church?”
Vicky was stunned. “You are not surprised?”
Lucy turned with a smile. “Surprised about what? That you said you are a lesbian? I was surprised. Who told you?”
“Nob©dy had to; I knew. Everyone made me feel miserable, like I was the most evil thing that ever walked the planet”.
Lucy smiled. She had finished her dressing. She did not have a bible, so she just carried the small bag that Ray bought for her. She moved to Vicky and hvgged her. “You’ll be fine. Take your time.” She moved back and smiled at her before she started towards the door. Vicky was stonned. No Christian had ever done that to her. “I would get Ray to follow me to church” Lucy said at the door.
Vicky smiled wi-dely. “Goodluck with that”
Lucy frowned but bid farewell and headed towards Raymond’s room.
Fred l@yon the couch of his house feeling tired. He had spent too much at that bar and was feeling very miserable and tired. His account was now a skeleton of its former state. He pu-ll-ed out a cigarette and lit it. He was just learning to smoke; he nee-ded to clear his head and the smoke was doing that for him. He heard a knock on the door and bec@m£ startled. He jumped up and stood like a stick.
Chris stood at the door, expecting the door to be opened from inside but he remembered the last encounter he had and knew that it would not be opened anytime soon if he did not talk.
“Fred” he called. “Open up, it is Chris”
Fred breathed a free air and opened the door. He was both relieved and scared of Chris’ visit. He did not know if this would be a good or bad visit, considering the way he treated him weeks back.
“Chris… I am so happy that you are here. I am sorry for what happened the last time. I know…” he st©pped and looked at Chris for the first time. He was glaring at him.
Chris nee-ded no other confirmation; the shaky state he was and the previous encounter told him that he had actually commited the crime. He shook his head, ma-king Fred feel cold dre-ad.
Chris put his hand inside his pocket and took out a picture. “Do you know her”
Fred almost entered the ground as he skrie-ked.
Luciana stood bemused at the entrance of Raymond’s room. She still could not comprehend what she had heard in the room. Vicky? How could Vicky be a lesbian? She shook her head and swallowed.
She knocked the door gently but heard a sleepy response. She opened the door gently and entered. Immediately she entered, she blamed herself. Raymond was looking so manly and georgeous as he sle-pt, shi-tless on the be-d. Her f!ngersde-sired to t©uçh him and she felt anger in her spine. How can a man make her swoon? She wondered.
Ray noticed the way Lucy looked at him but he hid it, pretending to be slee-ping. He swallowed as he took in her appearance. When he took out that go-wn, he never imagined that she would look so stunning. She had almost no make – up done but she looked more beautiful that all the women he had seen in his life.
Lucy shook herself and tried to pu-ll herself together. “Good morning sir” she said loudly, trying to wake Raymond.
Raymond smiled softly as he opened his eyes. “You are a wonderful sight to wake up to sugar; you look breathtaking”. Ray traced her b©dy with his appreciative eyes.
Luciana breathed carefully as she tried to take out the image of her shi-tless che-st from her mind. “Why don’t you get in the bathroom, get dressed and let’s go to church”
“Church?” he asked, bemused.
“Yes, church. You told me you are a Christian, right? Today is Sunday.”
“I don’t attend churches” he said and l@yon the be-d.
Lucy opened her mouth. “Why not?”
“No reason” he murmured.
“Well, I don’t know anywhere in this place. I might as well get lost, you know. Or maybe, I would just go home from there, and if the murderer sees me? well…”
“keep Quiet” he yelled softly. “Go and wait for me” he said softly and Lucy chuckled as she left the room.
Teju returned from church with a happy mood. She had loved the service immensely, right from the very beginning. She felt that the reason why she was so happy was the fact that she knew where her best friend was. She heard a knock and, knowing the person at the door, she went to open the door.
“Welcome darling” she said, stressing the darling. She tried to hvg him but he was cold towards her. Tunde moved inside without responding to her greeting. She frowned. “Honey? Baby, what is wrong?” she asked moving close to him as she sat on the chair beside him.
“Teju” he called and she knew that everything was wrong. He ha-rd ly called her by her name.
“Teju, I believe we are mature enough to be able to talk to each0ther like adults”. He started.
“Tunde, we have been talking like adults ever since we met. What is the problem?” she was confused.
He shook slightly. “Teju, I don’t think we can continue with this relationsh!p. I have seen another girl that I am in love with. We should maturely go out separate ways”.
Teju opened her mouth.
“Why did you do that?” Lucy asked as she joined Raymond in the car.
Ray started the car. “Do what?”
“Stay in the car? You could have followed me inside the church instead of sitting outside here like a b©dyguard. What did God do to offend your family”?
Lucy kept quiet after that. She hadn’t even spent three days and she was alre-ady overstepping her bounds. The drive home was quiet after that. She missed her people a lot and she wished she was home alre-ady. She nee-ded to hear her parents’ voice, to be sure they are ok. She thought about Deolu and her heart pricked. She nee-ded to leave the house. She nee-ded her people and sanity back. Ever since the previous day when she had called Teju in the pres£nce of Raymond, she had felt very uncomfortable with him, especially whenever he stood close. She sighed softly when she thought of her predic@m£nt. She was living with total strangers; they both don’t want to have anything to do with God and one of them is a lesbian. She sighed again, thinking about the many things she might find out about this family if she stayed for some time.
Raymond watched Lucy, noticing her distant state. He wondered why her mood should bother him. Shrugging off her quietness, he focused on the road as he pondered on the thoughts that had plagued him. Why was he developing strange feelings for this lady who was obviously engaged to someone else? She hadn’t even spent three complete days and he had become so attached to her. He remembered the past evening and his heart skipped a beat, he had to hold the steering ti-ghter. The de-sire to k!ssher had almost overwhelmed him. Ever since then, he had ensured that he did not move close to her. He only nee-ded space in his life now and not anyother woman to complicate his life the more. The earlier Lucy left the house, the better.
Teju sat frozen as she stared with a confused expression on her face. Tunde did not have the boldness to look into her eyes as he said everything he had rehearsed.
“Teju” he called softly but she did not even blink. “I can’t do this anymore. You claim to love me but you don’t want to give me what should rightfully belong to me. I have a right to t©uçh your b©dy; it is p@rt of the benefits I should derive from being your man, but you are not giving me. I have found a lady who is willing to go all the way with me. she does not hide anything from me, least of all her b©dy”. He concluded.
Teju looked at the clown she called her fiancé and wanted to strangulate him. She had tried all she could to be the best woman in his life. She could have sworn that she had spent the past two years of their relationsh!pma-king his life a happy one. She couldn’t have been more wrong because all he could think about was S-x. S-x? How could she have been so stupid? She remembered all those times he had almost f0rç£d her into his be-d; she should have been wiser then. She swallowed as tears c@m£ to her eyes. She blinked away the tears; he does not deserve it.
Slowly, she took a de-ep breath as stood up and went to the door. She opened the door, wi-de enough to contain two people at once. Only then did she open her mouth. “Leave” she said quietly.
Tunde swallowed. “Teju, I am sorry. I just…”
“Get out” she mouthed.
He stood up slowly and approached her. “Baby, calm-”
“GET OUT” she yelled and Tunde vanished in a flash. She slammed the door f0rç£fully and coll@psed on the floor as she cried herself out.
Chris nee-ded no other confirmation. He got every answer he nee-ded from Fred’s reaction. He could never in a hundred years, imagine that Fred had the capacity to take a life but the reality was staring at him like a horror movie.
“Don’t you dare give me that melodrama, you this miserable monster. I don’t even know who you are anymore” he yelled at a shivring Fred. He gr@bb£d Fred by the collar of his shi-t and pu-ll-ed him up like a bloody criminal. “Where the hell is the girl? Where did you keep her?” he yelled.
Fred shook like someone who just emerged from a cold room. “She… she’s… she’s dead” he stammered.
“JESUS” Chris screamed, leaving Fred immediately. “Oh my God! This can’t be happening. I can’t believe this”
Fred held his feet. “plea-se Chris, you have to help me. plea-se…”
Chris kicked him away. “Blood of Jesus! So, you are a bloody murderer?” he pointed his f!nger with a strange look on his face.
“NO” Fred shook his head vigorously. “I did not want to do it. It was accidental. plea-se believe me brother”
“Brother?” he laughed. “No. I am not your brother and can never be. You killed a girl; not just a girl; the fiancée of Mr Adeolu. You could not even pick any other person? Wow”
Fred cried as Chris said those things. “plea-se”. Chris shook his head, pushed Fred out of the way and rushed out of the house like someone who was being pursued, leaving Fred wailing.
Lucy walked with Vicky towards the back of the house to check the flowers. She carried the watering can in order to water them. They both discussed their love for flowers as they went about watering the flowers. The beautiful colours of the various flowers plea-sed Lucy immensely and she said so. She sighted the two buildings at the back of the house and called Vicky’s attention.
“What are those buildings for?” she asked casually.
“Oh… the first one is the gym and the second one is where Raymond paints” she ch!pped as she sampled the flowers.
“Paints? He paints?” Lucy asked bemused as her eyes wi-de-ned.
Vicky turned to look at Lucy like she had lost her mind. “Don’t tell me you don’t know”
Lucy shook her head. “He never mentioned it”
“Even at that, he is a very famous artist”
Lucy had never really fancied paintings because it never really freeked her but as she thought about it, a name struck her. ‘James Ray’. How had she missed that? Teju never st©pped talking about his paintings but she never even took interest. “James Ray?”
“That’s him” she smiled. “I am surprised you missed that. Although he has not painted anything for a long time now” she ch!pped.
Lucy frowned. “Why?”
Vicky shrugged and walked on, leaving Lucy with her thoughts.
Lucy turned round to see Ray standing just a few steps from her. “When were you planning on telling me that you are a renowned artist?” she asked, stepping farther away from him.
“I never would have told you. I am no longer an artist and I actually loved the fact that I finally met someone who was not drooling over me because of my fame”. he replied walking away.
Lucy followed. “I am not drooling over you at all”.
Ray laughed. “I noticed”
Deolu exited the bathroom and dried himself with a towel. he wore a singlet and bo-xers and sat on the be-d. Staying in a h0tel had little or no effect on his account but he wished he was home alre-ady. The knowledge that Fred was lur-k-ing somewhere in the state made him feel better about leaving Lagos for work but he still felt miserable. He knew that even without being pres£nt, he could pu-ll all the strings he nee-ded to pu-ll in order to secure Fred’s arrest. He nee-ded to finish this deal, go back to Lagos and look for his love. He had the distinctive feeling that Lucy was in Lagos and he would find her, even if it was the last thing he did.
He had received a call from Lucy’s dad and he had told him about his progress in Abuja. He had been happy but the sadness of his missing daughter was evident in his voice. Deolu dialed Teju’s line and it rang severally but she did not pick up. He was beginning to get worried. He had called her severally but she didn’t pick up. He composed a message asking about her welfare and telling her how far he had gone then he l@yon the be-d to sleep. Worry did not afford him the luxury of a wonderful sleep.
Twenty minutes later, he dialed Teju’s number again and she picked, much to his relief.
“Hello Teju, thank God.” he sighed. The response he got from her frightened him. Her voice had never been that low and depressed. “What is the matter T? Are you alright?”
“I am fine” she responded still in that sober manner.
“You are not fine” Deolu said, sitting up. “What happened to you? Did you hear from Lucy? Did something happen?”
“Everything is fine, don’t worry. I got your message and I would work on it and give you feedback.”
“Teju, you are scaring me. You know what? Since you would not tell me what the matter is, I would leave this place for Lagos tomorrow morning.” he said as he stood up.
“No” she replied sharply. “You nee-d to be there Dee”
“No. I should not have come in the first place. I can do everything in Lagos. I am coming over”. Before Teju could respond, he hung up and started packing his things. Teju called severally but he did not pick, knowing she would just try to convince him.