She picks up immediately with a frantic hello – like she had been expecting my call. Hearing her voice floods me with an indescribable joy; I know immediately that I am doing the right thing. I tell her it’s me and she starts crying again. She tells me that she is sorry, that she doesn’t know what came over her, that I was gone for so long without any word and she just lost it, that it is all her fault, that she is sorry again and that she loves me.
I shush her, tell her it is okay and that I forgive her. She asks me if I am sure and I can hear the doubt in her voice. I tell her that she won’t understand but that yes, I am sure. That I am coming home so we can talk it through and make up. She wants me to swear to her that I am speaking the truth and I smile. Bella knows I detest swearing but to reassure her, I do. I swear to her with my balls, an old joke of ours.
That cracks her up and I can’t describe the sheer joy of hearing that loud, sweet laughter again. I hold the phone tight against my ear and listen to my wife babble happily with a silly smile on my face. I am sure I have done the right thing. I only have to get home so I can hold her in my arms once again. But she isn’t finished yet. She tells me she’s going to make me my favorite meal. I tell her not to bother, only to get dressed and pack up because we will go on an impromptu vacation. She squeals in delight, says she loves me, and then asks what I want her to wear. I say anything, preferably nothing. She laughs again, calls me naughty and asks what I want packed. I tell her she knows best. She laughs again and says okay. I tell her I’ll see her in a jiffy and that I love her to pieces. She sounds tearful as she says that she loves me more. We make ‘kiss’ sounds and say later.
Signaling the call girl to hold on again – while her pout grew longer – I quickly tap in Osaze, my assistant’s number. I am due for some time off as compensation for all those months in Okirika but I am expected to report to the office for debriefing before that. I tell Osaze to smoothen things out for me because I won’t be coming. I can always be reached by phone, mail or fax so it shouldn’t be much of a problem. Osaze is not just my assistant, he is also a friend. So when he asks where I am going, I smile and say honeymoon part II. He laughs, asks me to extend his love to the madam then clicks off. I still have the Bella-induced goofy smile on my face when I finally put down the phone. The change I leave with the call girl is obviously worth all of her pouts because as I turn to leave, her sosong’o, sir is a little too loud.
I walk towards my car while fishing for my keys in my pocket. I can see Bella waiting up for me, her brown hair flowing freely unto her back, her eyes ever so brown and compelling, that wicked dimple dipping and taunting…I hear a blast of vehicle horns, people shouting and a split second later, I feel a solid impact in my right side. I feel weightless as I fly through space. Then I feel nothing.
She is seated at the dresser mirror with her back to me, running a comb through her luxurious brown hair. From the flush on her skin, I can see that she just came out of the shower. I meet her eyes in the mirror and she smiles at me. I smile back. She gets up and turns around; I open my arms to hold her in. She walks up to me…then right on through me! Startled, I turn and watch her walk to the wardrobe. She rummages in it for a while and comes up with the blue dress. It is the dress I bought her on the day of our one-year anniversary. She had worn it to dinner and afterwards, we had come home and done off with it. She knows how much I love the sight of her in it. The smile is still pasted on her face as she rubs the silky material against her cheek, and then lays it out with ever so much care on the bed. She straightens and looks at me again still smiling. She walks to me and once again, I stretch out my arms…but she walks through me again!
I turn around as she resumes her seat in front of the dresser mirror. I call her name but she doesn’t show any sign of hearing. She just has that goofy smile on her face and keeps running her comb through her hair, having it turn out in the long tumbling sheen I like to see it in. I call her again, “Bella!” but she can’t hear me. I reach out to touch her but just before I make contact, her phone rings on the bed where she placed it. At the sound of the ringing phone, her eyes light up with pure delight. Carelessly abandoning the comb, she scrambles off the seat and runs to the bed…again THROUGH me!
She picks the phone and says babe in a singsong voice, a full-blossomed grin plastered on her face. Who the hell is she calling babe, I’m right here!
Her expression changes. The grin immediately clears off, replaced by a pensive look. She says yes, this is she. The seconds go by and the pensive expression on her face transforms to what I can only describe as horror. Those brown eyes I know so well widen in pure terror; slowly, she shakes her head from side to side all the while saying No, no, no. Then the tears pool in her eyes and I can take it no longer.
I reach out to take the phone from her so I can teach whoever it is distressing my wife, some home truths. But I can’t move. I try again, but I don’t budge. Then as if on a roller-coaster, I feel myself sliding backwards. I struggle but this force is strong, so strong that it hardly seems physical. And it drags me farther and farther away from Bella. I can see that the phone has dropped out of her hand, the tears are pouring in torrents and she crumbles to the floor.
NO!!! I try again, fighting with all the strength in me but I can’t win. I give up, and give in to ‘it’ as well as the truth that is beginning to dawn on me. I’m sorry, Bella, I am not strong enough.
As I am dragged farther away, the crumpled image of my wife gets smaller and smaller, dimmer and dimmer. And my heart cracks wider and wider. I call out to her again and again…Bella! Bella!! Isabella!!!