It was a bright sunny afternoon and the sea breeze was warm on the skin. And Joan Diogo was the happiest woman on earth. Ikedi, her fiancé had gotten the promotion he had been waiting for at the bank and she had won two hundred and fifty thousand naira in a game show. They were celebrating at a private beach in Lagos. She tugged at the top of her skimpy yellow bikini and smiled at Ikedi. The blue mat they were lying on sank into the sand as they leaned into each other to kiss.
‘I really need to lose weight sweetheart,’ Ikedi kissed her forehead. ‘Even the beach can barely tolerate me.’
Joan laughed and patted on his bulging stomach. At thirty two, Ikedi Desmond was a very successful banker and a handsome one too.
‘You can start exercising if you want to but you look okay to me honey.’
‘You’re only saying that because you love me Joan. I hope the love I see in your eyes remains there when I become as big as a buffalo.’
‘You really don’t have to worry about that,’ Joan stroked her cheek tenderly. ‘I will still love you anyway.’
Ikedi kissed her again, ‘Let’s go to the water baby. As usual, you’d swim and I’d watch with admiration.’
‘Okay, let’s do just that.’
Joan was surprised that Ikedi asked her to swim. He didn’t like her swimming in beaches. The very first time she had done that, they had quarrelled intensely. He thought it was dangerous but she assured him that she was a pro.
Joan was half Nigerian, half Mexican. Her five foot six inches frame was curvaceous. Her long brown hair caressed her shoulders. She was a very beautiful woman. She laughed as she and Ikedi walked down the beach to the sea hand in hand.
‘You gotta lose some weight to be able to swim though,’ she said and laughed before she walked into the salty water. ‘I really wish you could swim sweetheart.’
‘I don’t have to know how to swim do I? But I know you prefer some things to swimming,’ he winked suggestively
‘Naughty beautiful man,’ she smiled
Ikedi blew her a kiss, ‘Swim sweetheart and I would be right here admiring you. And waiting for you.’
Joan walked further in until the waves were splashing on her waist then she plunged in. Swimming was her hobby and she loved it passionately. She had won a lot of swimming competitions in her secondary school and university days. She swam further in for a while and decided to turn back. Although Ikedi was very supportive of her hobby, he didn’t particularly like it when she made some dangerous moves She came up for air and waved at Ikedi who seemed to be very far away. Ikedi smiled and waved back.
Just then, something violently dragged her by the ankles into the depths of the sea.
The need to cough was what woke Joan up. She sat up and coughed up water and some sand. She discovered she was lying on a bed. A large bed with lots of little white pillows. The satin bedspread caressed her skin. She was wearing a white dress. She looked down at the floor and wondered why it was a tad too shiny. She wondered where she was. This wasn’t the bedroom she and Ikedi shared and it was too beautiful to be a hospital ward.
She put her feet on the ground and suddenly felt cold. Her legs were ankle deep in water. There were lighted candles of different shapes and colours floating in it. The white walls were covered with beautifully carved mirrors. It was like nothing she had ever seen. Joan was too terrified to shout.
‘All I want is him,’ she heard a throaty female voice whisper softly. ‘Just give him to me.’
An exquisitely dressed woman materialised from nowhere. She looked regal in her bejewelled purple dress. Her beauty was almost inconceivable. A tiara shone on the head full of black long curls. Her complexion reminded one of polished ivory. She could have been a picture. But she walked towards the bed.
‘All I want is him,’ the perfect pink lips moved. ‘Just give him to me.’
Joan was still sitting on the bed and was scared stiff. She opened her mouth to talk but no sound came out.
‘Give him to me Joan. You don’t have any choice,’ This time, her voice was strong and commanding.
‘What are you…? Who are you and where on earth am I?’ Joan blurted out. Hot tears was trickling down her cheeks.
The woman who was now standing before her brought forth her hand and opened her palm and flowers and butterflies filled the room and disappeared after a few seconds.
‘I am Mirana, the queen of this sea. I can give you whatever you want and whoever you want to be Joan. Just give me Ikedi.’
‘I don’t get it. What is happening? And why are you telling me to give you my fiancé?’
‘I am alone here,’ Mirana sighed sadly. ‘I need a companion.’
‘Oh! you need a companion,’ the jealous rage that was rising in her seemed to melt the fear away. ‘You want my Ikedi for a companion. Well, Mirana, choose some other companion. nobody is taking Ikedi away from me.’
‘Theresa made a pact with my mother Joan. There are things you don’t know about and can’t control. This is beyond you Joan.’
‘Just like this is a nightmare. I must be dreaming.’
Mirana smiled, ‘You know you’re not dreaming Joan’
‘Who is Theresa?’ Joan stood up and tried to walk but was too weak to move her legs so she sat back on the bed and pulled her legs out of the water on to the bed. Her feet to her surprise, was dry.
‘Theresa is Ikedi’s mother.’
‘Ikedi’s mother died years ago.’
‘She served my mother faithfully before she died. She gave all she had to the sea. That included her son.’
‘Ikedi’s mother faithfully served a sea nymph?’ Joan shook her head in disbelief. ‘She was a devout catholic.’
‘She had her secrets. Everybody does.’
‘So now you want to claim your property,’ Joan laughed and threw one of the pillows at a red triangular candle but the pillow disappeared before it could touch it.
‘Take him then. After all, you are a powerful sea-nymph. Just go ahead and do your magic and take him.’
Mirana pointed at the bed and the pillow Joan threw appeared on it. ‘I need you to do something for me.’
‘Enough of your talk sea queen. I want out of this place now. Ikedi would be worried sick about me.’ Joan didn’t know where she found the courage to say that. But she knew she was angry. Very angry.
‘Before I release you, you’d have to swear to bring Ikedi to me.’
‘No. I will not do anything for you,’ Joan shouted angrily.
‘Then you’d remain my prisoner until you change your mind. All you have to do is to bring him to the sea and make him walk into it.’ Mirana’s voice betrayed the frustration she felt. As she walked away, iron gates came from nowhere and stood at the four corners of the room.
‘Let me out!’ Joan cried and shook the iron bars.
‘Any attempt to escape and you’ll drown. You are in enchanted palace at the bottom of the sea.’
At the wave of a hand, Mirana disappeared.
Joan’s had met Ikedi three years before at a dinner party organised by a successful film director. She had been trying to avoid her boss, a chronic womanizer who had his eye on her. In a desperate bid to avoid being alone with him, she started a conversation with the handsome and big gentleman. They started dating two weeks after that day. Ikedi was the best thing that happened to her. After her boss sacked her, Ikedi paid all her bills and after two years, he proposed to her and asked her to move in with him. She wondered if Ikedi knew that his mother was a sea-nymph worshipper and that she had given him to the seas before she died. She didn’t want to lose him but she didn’t know how to bring herself out of the situation. But she knew that she had to tell him, and to do that, she had to see him.
‘Mirana!’ she shouted. ‘I’ll bring Ikedi to you.’
Mirana appeared with the speed of light. A turtle decorated with precious gems lay by her side.
‘You changed your mind,’ she sounded glad though her actions were remote. ‘That’s wonderful. Just bring him to the sea and lead him into it until he is ankle deep in the water and he’s home.
All Joan wanted to do was blow her head off with a shot gun.
When Joan entered the living room where Ikedi was sorting letters, he didn’t notice her. She noticed that he had lost weight. Why, she had only been gone for a day? Two? She looked down at the sun dress she was wearing. It was dry now. She found herself at the same beach she was with Ikedi on that fateful day. She had been on a mat and a beautiful purse that had some money was beside her. So was a nice pair of shoes. The pink sun dress was a bit wet. She looked around and found that only a few people were at the beach. She had picked the purse and took a bus downtown to the house where she and Ikedi lived in.
She walked towards him, ‘Sweetheart,’ she whispered.
Ikedi slowly turned towards her direction and gasped, ‘Jo, is that really you?’
‘Yes. It is me darling,’ Joan cried.
Ikedi froze. He couldn’t believe Joan was the one in the room a few footsteps away from him. He just stared at her. Was she a ghost?
‘Honey, I am alive. It’s me. Please don’t be afraid baby,’ Joan cried
Ikedi held her in a bear hug and frantically kissed her hair and face. ‘They told me you were dead but I knew you weren’t. Even after ten months, I was still hoping you’d come to me. Oh honey! What on earth happened to you? Have you seen anyone? Your family? What happened? You drowned Joan! It was in the news. Divers looked for you for days. This is a miracle,’ he held her tight like he was afraid that she would disappear.
Joan was shocked, ‘Did you say ten months Ikedi? I thought I had gone for just a couple of days.’
‘It’s been ten months and two days but I’ve got you now and that’s all that matters.’
‘Did you know?’ Joan asked suddenly slowly disengaging herself from his embrace.
Ikedi stared blankly at her. ‘Did I know what honey?’
‘Don’t play games with me Ikedi. Answer me!’
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
‘Isn’t that why you don’t ever swim?’ Joan continued heatedly. ‘You knew who your mother was and what she did.’
‘Now don’t bring my mother….’
‘She worshipped a sea creature and now she wants you because your mum wrote a will and babe, you are one of the properties going to sea nymph. She kept me prisoner till I agreed to bring you to her. The pretty lady wants a companion.
Ikedi hit a balled fist on the table, ‘I aint going to nobody.’
‘I don’t care what my dear mother did, it was just bad business,’ he sighed and looked around as if looking for answers. ‘I didn’t know until after her death Joan. I’d gone to the old house to look around and you know…. I loved her Joan. I went into her bedroom, touched her clothes and packed some valued pictures of she and I in a box. I saw a box in the wardrobe and it contained strange objects; mermaids carved in wood and marble, oddly shaped coloured candles and a black book. I couldn’t believe it. She believed she was protecting me. She didn’t know the implication of what she did.’
‘You should have told me Ikedi.’
‘How would you have felt Joan? I’m so sorry you got involved in this. Please forgive me. I don’t even know what to do right now.’
‘Well, you could choose between being with the sea-nymph and being with me,’ Joan sat on one of the chairs and looked up at him. His dark hair and overgrown and he was spotting a beard. He looked deeply troubled.
How can you even say that? Even as a joke? I don’t want any other but you Joan,’ Ikedi sat beside her and held her hand. ‘These months without you had been hell so I don’t even want to imagine a lifetime without you.’
‘So what are we going to do?’
‘Nothing sweetheart. We’ll just continue to live our normal lives. I will talk to my parish priest anyway but I am not afraid of her’
‘She does magic Ikedi. We just can’t ignore her.’
‘Yes we can and we will.’
‘Oh! Ikedi,’ Joan hugged him and sobbed bitterly. She made me promise to bring you to her. she wouldn’t have let me go if I hadn’t’
‘Don’t worry my love. I will speak to Father Maxwell as soon as possible. Nothing would happen to me or you okay?’
Joan nodded. Her father was a Muslim and her mum had a Christian background though she never took young Joan to church. She grew up having no strong religious affiliation. She just hoped everything would be okay.
Exactly two years after that day, a popular beach in Lagos overflowed and flooded the town beside it. A bank on the island had its ground floor totally flooded by the sea. Ikedi had just got of a meeting with the board of the directors of the bank and was on his way out when the sea hit the streets. No one saw him again after that day.