The air in the room was chilly but I found myself bathed in sweat as I woke up.
Mo was sitting up beside me; my scream must have woken him.
I was shaking.
“Baby.” He whispered, holding his arms out to me.
I went to him because I needed someone to hold me.
“Ssshhh.” He said softly. “It’s okay. It was only a dream.”
It was then I realised I was crying. The tears kept pouring down my face and I couldn’t stop them.
The pain of my loss was like a hard fist in my chest; it suddenly seemed so vivid.
“I want her back.” I whimpered. “The pain is too much.”
“I know. I know.” His voice shook slightly.
Whoever had said time heals all wounds had lied. Some wounds never healed. They remained fresh for as long as you lived.
Sometime, within the early hours of the morning; I drifted off to sleep, snuggled in my husband’s arms.
When I woke up she was still asleep; her tear-stained face sporting a frown and suddenly I wished I could take her pain away.
This pain…our pain was too much to bear. Shirley was gone and she’d taken a huge part of us with her. I found myself wondering if we would ever recover from this.
“She wanted…to become a lawyer.”
I stirred. Kemi was talking in her sleep again, I thought. She’d been doing that a lot lately.
“I’m awake.” She spoke again, as if she’d read my mind.
She lay against my chest, her arms thrown across me.
“I thought she wanted to be a professional photographer?” I asked.
“She kept…changing her mind.” A pause. “I think she wanted to be both of us.”
My wife had studied law in college, a degree she’d ceased to use the moment she became a mother.
“She adored you.” I said sadly.
“She worshipped you. She always talked about how handsome Daddy was.”
Despite my mood, I cracked a smile.
“She…never got to go to Nigeria.” Kemi said. “She never knew her roots. We kept promising and promising…”
Who knew she was going to be taken away from us so soon? I asked myself.
“Mummy wanted her to spend last summer there. She’d have loved Abuja.” She said.
Kemi’s parents resided in Abuja. I was silent. I knew she needed to let this out.
“She was the most beautiful child I’ve ever seen.” She continued. “We used to joke about where she’d gotten her looks.”
I remembered that. We’d ask Shirley who she thought she looked like and she’d say: “Daddy, of course.” depending on her mood.
“She had your eyes…and legs.” I tweaked her nose gently. “She’d have been a very beautiful independent woman.”
“We’ll never know, would we?” The sadness was echoed in her words. She snuggled closer to me and I knew she was trying hard not to cry. “I’m a mess. A terrible, emotional mess.”
“You’re not. It’s natural to miss her.”
She snuck a look at me. “You’re such a wonderful man. Without you, I don’t know what I’d have done with myself.”
And just like that the events of the previous night came rushing back to me. No, I’m not a wonderful man. I wanted to say. I’m a cheat, a coward and a liar.
“I love you and I trust you. I’m sorry about last night. I threw a stupid tantrum when I saw that Ruby girl…”
I silenced her with a mild kiss, which led to a deeper one.
God, I love this woman. Help me keep her.
It was the silent prayer I made as we got entangled in the sheets; making love slowly and somewhat sadly.
I still can’t figure out how sex drains pain.
How could we have sex while mourning our daughter? I marvelled as I dove into Kemi’s ample chest; but then again…maybe it’s how God made us.
It was almost eleven a.m. when I finally got out of bed. Kemi had dozed off after a round of particularly delicious and painstaking sex. I on the other hand couldn’t sleep, because I had a lot on my mind and I also had to get to work.
The good thing about being a professional a photographer is that my time is quite flexible. I’m bound by no one’s rule except mine. The most important thing is to get the job done before the deadline.
Quietly, I had my bath and got dressed. I had one important stop to make before I got to the office. I needed to put an end to this craziness once.
I left Kemi a note, kissed her goodbye and went on my way.
I’d been to Ruby’s house twice to do my job; she’d insisted that she wanted her pictures taken there. I should have smelt a rat then. But I’d been too blind to notice. All I’d been interested in was signing her up for the agency.
My second visit though had been very eventful. It was the visit that got me in trouble, I should say. It was that second visit that I had messed up.
I let the events of that day replay itself in my head:
I had arrived early at the house ready to work. After ringing the doorbell twice, she finally opened the door.
She was ensconced in a pink fur coat which stopped just above her ankle. Her brown hair hung around her shoulders. She wasn’t wearing much make-up which I thought made her look girlish.
I wanted to start taking the pictures immediately. She looked just right.
“Hi.” She smiled at me. “Thanks for coming on such short notice.”
She stood aside to let me in and her arm brushed against mine as I passed by. Did I notice that then? Frankly, yes, I did. Somehow I’d known I was treading dangerous ground but I’d deliberately refused to stop. I was pushing myself to see how far I could go.
“Would you like a drink?” She asked , leading me inside the large Victorian house. The house reflected her taste. I’m a man, so I’m not into decorations…but I had a feeling that Kemi would be impressed if she saw the interior décor.
“No, thank you. I’d like us to get to work as soon as possible.” I said, unhitching my camera bag. “Do you have a room where I can get the right light?”
“I’m not sure.” She gave me a demure smile. “Come upstairs, let me show you.”