On a Saturday morning five days later, the Johnsons were in the sitting room, watching a cartoon program when they heard the chime of their door bell. Sandra jumped down immediately from the seat before her father could even make a move and ran to the door. She always did that whenever there was a visitor. On such times she would want to be the one to open the door and welcome the visitor. What kind of joy she derived from doing that her father couldn’t tell and often wondered.
But when Sandra opened the door she became rigid. The enthusiasm she always felt whenever she opened the door for a visitor involuntarily died at that instant.
Standing on the porch and staring down at her was a petite young lady, a complete stranger dressed casually in a knee-length, ash-coloured suit. The fake impression of an average height was pulled off successfully by means of a sleek, black stiletto shoes under her feet. On her left elbow hung a big and well stuffed black handbag and, Sandra wondered what could be inside it. She was fair-skinned and her hair was stylishly cut low, thus exposing more of her sharp facial features. She looked beautiful but to Sandra she looked nothing more than a cartoon. Girls wore long hair not short ones like the boys? Sandra thought. An irreconcilable feeling of unsafety shadowed her soul the moment she made eye contact with the stranger.
“Hi,” Sandra heard the stranger say. Despite the stranger’s sweet voice it was grating to Sandra’s ears, like whenever her father attempted to sing to her.
“Daddy!” Sandra called and glared at the stranger who had an annoying smile on her face. Stop smiling! Sandra almost shouted at her.
Her father joined her at the door and Sandra scrutinized his face as he smiled at the stranger.
“You’re Miss Catherine I believe,” he greeted. “What took you so long? I’ve been waiting for you.” He looked at his wristwatch.
“I’m sorry sir. It’s the traffic. I hope my lateness didn’t affect anything.”
“Not yet. Come on in.”
“Thank you.” Catherine stepped into the house.
Mr. Johnson looked down at Sandra who was surprisingly quiet and distant, and knew all wasn’t well. He was supposed to be at a business meeting that would last till God knew when by now, and he couldn’t take Sandra along with him. His intention was to leave her with Catherine as soon as she arrived. He was even dressed and ready to leave immediately. Gazing down on his daughter’s solemn face now he knew he wasn’t going to leave without a fight.
“Catherine meet Sandra. Sandra this is Catherine. She will be your nanny,” he said holding his daughter’s shoulder.
“Hello Sandra,” Catherin said, smiling down at Sandra who ignored her and turned to her father.
“What’s a nanny?”
“Ehm… someone that will be taking care of you when I’m not around.”
“I don’t want any nanny!” Sandra blurted out.
“Don’t be rude girl. Come on greet our visitor.” He ordered her.
Sandra reluctantly obeyed and offered a weak “hi.”
“That’s better,” her father said and squatted in front of her. “Catherine will take good care of you honey. She’s a good person.” He eyed Catherine who stood helplessly watching the both of them.
“I don’t need a nanny daddy,” Sandra said adamantly and looked like she was on the verge of crying.
“Yes you do.”
“Honey I have to go to work. If I don’t go I won’t be able to pay your school fees. And I don’t want you to stay alone when I leave. That is why Catherine is here, to look after you till I come back,” he tried to explain to her as simple as he could, but it was more that. He had no aptitude of how to raise a kid alone and he was too selfish to let his sister handle it. He wanted her raised under his roof at all cost. He wouldn’t have her raised anywhere else. And again he employed Catherine to address the issue of his inability to cook their meals. It wasn’t proper at all that they had to eat their meals in restaurants. His daughter at least deserved a decent meal at home and he was told Catherine was the best cook the company had.
“Take me with you,” his daughter pleaded.
“I can’t. I will be in a meeting all day. You’ll stay with her ok.”
“I want mummy!” Sandra started crying.
Not again? Her father thought. He didn’t have time for this right now. She would have to endure somehow till he got back? He stood up, facing Catherine and said to her, “Catherine please take good care of her, I’ll be back as soon as I can. She hasn’t eaten anything yet. See if you can cook something for her. I believe everything you need is in the kitchen.”
“Yes sir. You don’t have to worry about her. She’s in capable hands,” Catherine assured him.
He turned to his daughter. “I’ll be back very soon honey and I’ll get you a box of chocolate when I come back.”
“No. I want to go with you!” Sandra shouted.
He ignored her plea and ran out of the house.
Catherine closed the door and then took a good look round the sitting room. It was plush and a bit unkempt which told her there was lots of work to do, even though she was only a nanny and not a house help. And Sandra noticed she had the same annoying smile on her face.
“Come on Sandra let me fix something for you to eat ok,” she tried to be friendly.
“I don’t want your food,” Sandra shouted at her and sprinted off to her room.
“Whatever suits you then, but as for me I’m starving,” Catherine muttered and wandered off to look for the kitchen.
Things were actually moving smoothly since the arrival of Catherine. The adjustments had been great. Sandra’s attitude towards Catherine had also improved. She was no longer intolerant of Catherine’s presence in the house. Though the discomfiture she felt sometimes whenever she was around Catherine never went away. And they were no longer eating outside which was a huge relief for Mr. Johnson. Catherine didn’t live with them, and each day before she left in the evening she would cook their dinner. He only needed to warm it whenever they were ready to eat and that he could do very easily.
The early morning routines still remained the same though. He would bath his daughter and drop her off at school on his way to work as usual. Catherine would then pick her up from school and look after her till he got back. He would have simply employed Catherine to live with them and take care of those chores while he focused his attention on his work, but he chose not to. He still wanted a major role to play in the upbringing of her daughter. And he was quite comfortable with it that way…
At least to the Johnsons things were still moving smoothly, until unknown to them Catherine began implementing her devious plan. She’d been nurturing and hatching a plan on how to murder Sandra even before she was employed. And after two weeks of her employment she secretly began to execute this plan. But somehow every trap she’d set so far for some reason unknown to her failed. Several times she had poisoned the chocolate Sandra’s father bought for her, only for Sandra to suddenly decide she didn’t want the chocolate at those particular times. How could Sandra who wouldn’t live for a second without eating chocolate suddenly reject it whenever she poisoned it? Catherine had often pondered. There had to be a force working against her? But she was certain there wasn’t: Sandra’s guardian was powerless during the day. So why had she failed to kill this little brat up till now? Was there something she possessed she didn’t know of?
Catherine was already getting frustrated when she decided to go the extreme. The power tussle was exclusively between her and the naïve Sandra. No one else was supposed to be dragged into it. But considering her inexplicably failed attempts on Sandra’s life, she would have to use Sandra’s father. And the thought of that laded her heart with guilt.
Sometimes Catherine thought long and hard about giving up on the whole murder thing. After all Sandra was just a kid? And there was no moral justification for trying to kill a kid, let alone her sister? But she’d regrettably taken an oath that she was bound to fulfill.
Killing Sandra at night was impossible. And she couldn’t risk exposure; otherwise she would have done that whenever she was alone with Sandra. Using Sandra’s father was her last resort. He was a good man and such fate shouldn’t befall him? Catherine pitied him. But then this was war and she was meant to fight with any weapon she could lay her hands on, even if it was against her wish to do so. One thing stood in her way though: she couldn’t use him unless he was marked by her.
As Catherine sat in the sitting room, anxiously waiting for Mr. Johnson’s return, she rehearsed the lie she fabricated she was going to tell him when he got back. She needed to sleep here tonight. Just one night would be enough to get him marked and she would have to do that before 12 midnight.
Copyright © 666BC-3666AD by Nwaokafor Ablyguy.