Anyone looking at the woman in the dock would immediately know that she was oblivious of what was going on around her. She stared blankly at the wall.
Her name was Nana Clifford, a Nigerian with American citizenship and she was on trial for manslaughter in the state of California. Only six weeks ago she had been a bride with a happy future.
No one could guess the thoughts going through Nana’s head. As she sat beside her lawyer, she cast her mind back to six weeks ago.
“Do you, Nana Johnson take William Clifford as your lawfully wedded husband?” The Priest asked.
She had looked up at him and her heart burst with joy, he stood there…regal and handsome in his suit. Looking every inch the powerful man he was. She revered him. It didn’t matter if her twelve years older than her, what mattered was that he loved her.
It still seemed like a dream to her. Nana had never been the girl with the magazine cover features. On the contrary she had those plain good looks…nothing spectacular. So, it had been a mystery why William chose her.
“Yes. I do.” She said a gleeful smile on her face.
She glanced at her mother and for once, didn’t feel any jealousy or animosity towards her. Nana and her mother Silvia had never seen eye to eye. Nana knew this was partly her fault. She had always been jealous of her mum. Sylvia had the sexy good looks Nana craved; in other words Nana was a plain Jane whenever she stood beside her mother.
Sylvia had never been married; she’d told Nana that her birth was unplanned yet beautiful. The man who had impregnated her had absconded, leaving Sylvia to fend for herself and a baby while attending college. Nana had never known her father, and her mum had done a pretty good job of raising her.
Back in the courtroom Nana sat and watched while her lawyer defended her. There was nothing to defend. She wanted to say.
She had done it. She had committed a crime; although she couldn’t remember how. She wasn’t even sure she wanted to live anymore.
Her eyes searched behind and caught her mothers’ and she felt the rush of hatred. How could that woman have birthed her? This devilish scheming woman? Even where she sat, Sylvia looked stunning as usual. Her dark skin glossy and smooth; looking every inch like the respectable woman she wasn’t.
I wish I never knew you! Nana wanted to scream. I hate you!
Sylvia’s eyes locked with her daughter’s and she quickly turned away. She couldn’t bear the intense hatred she saw reflected in them. She had seen that same look in her eyes the day Nana had killed him. She still shivered at the thought of it.
She had been having nightmares for six weeks now. She hardly slept; she had to apply her cream to erase the sleep bags under her eyes. She sneaked a peek at her daughter. When had she become this hateful young person? Sylvia felt the tears welling in her eyes. Yes, she had made some terrible mistakes but she still loved Nana intensely. She wished for an opportunity to tell her daughter so. To hold her in her arms again like she did all those nights many years ago when Nana fell sick.
I’m so sorry baby. She wanted to say.
Suddenly she wished she could turn back the hands of the clock to one year ago; before she met him.
She had just finished from a photo shoot at the studio. As usual she looked breath taking. At forty she looked amazing and was still called for the occasional modelling jobs. She hardly needed them; after all she had done quite well for herself. She had enough saved to take care of herself and Nana for many more years, and boy…it felt good. Considering that she had left Nigeria more than twenty years ago, she was now rolling in money. And she loved it.
He bumped into her as she stepped outside the door. She was impressed at their first meeting. He had a magnetic personality. His smile could light up a starry night. His body was like that of a Greek god. Needless to say, the attraction was instant. He was William Clifford, owner of a chain of hotels and very rich. Only problem was he was seven years younger, although he lied about it on their first meeting.
Three weeks after they met they were inseparable. She couldn’t tell if it was love or lust…but whatever it was, she loved it. Their relationship was kept a secret from Nana because Sylvia had a feeling she wouldn’t approve. Theirs was a whirlwind romance that ended six short months later because William had to leave for England.
Nana shifted in her seat. She was tired of hearing her lawyer claim she was insane. When he had informed her that he would try to plead insanity as a defence, she had not known this was what he meant. Everything had happened in a blur. All she could think about was him. The man who rocked her world. The man she had killed.
“I can’t live without you.” She whispered in his ear, after lovemaking on their wedding night. He had been superb and gentle with her. Oh, how she loved him!
He kissed her nose and said. “Neither can I, babe.”
Why me? She wanted to ask. Why plain old me?
As if he read her mind he said; “You’re amazing.”
“How’s your mum?” He asked, climbing down from the bed.
She frowned at the mention of her mum. She recalled how she had vehemently refused to give her consent to the wedding.
“Ummm…she’s okay. I think. I’ll check on her after our honey moon.” She replied.
“I’m sure she misses you already.” He said.
Nana almost snorted. Her mum lived in a world of her own. A forty year old model was usually unheard of. It was no big secret that Nana didn’t approve. To Nana, being a journalist was more respectable.
A month after the wedding, Nana was scheduled for an impromptu trip to Hawaii to do a story there. She was reluctant to leave her newly wed husband but he insisted; not wanting to keep her from work.
Sylvia cringed as she listened to the lawyer make his argument, she didn’t like the fact that they were insisting that Nana was crazy. She wasn’t! She was just in love. If only they knew…
She let her mind wander again…
Everything had gone downhill when William returned from England. He began talking of settling down and finding the right woman. He had wanted to pick up from where they left off, ready to take the relationship to another level. She refused. She was done, she told him.
“Move on.” She advised. An advice she was yet to take herself…she couldn’t stop thinking about him. She feared her feelings for him were growing.
They parted ways then. Three months later, they met again. In her living room; being introduced as her future son-in-law. It had been an awkward moment for them both. He had just proposed to her daughter and Nana had said yes.
At the risk of looking bad, Sylvia refused to give her consent. She wished Nana could understand that she wasn’t being selfish; instead she was looking out for her best interest.
Nana was stubborn as usual and threw tantrums claiming that her mother was just jealous because she had done something Sylvia had not been able to do. Bag a respectable man and get married.
In the end Nana had won. In order to let peace reign…Sylvia agreed to the union.
She didn’t tell Nana that her husband-to-be was making passes at her mother again. Using words like; “Fate wants us together. We belong to each other. Say you’ll marry me and I’ll leave her.”
Sylvia had vowed to kill him if he did that that to Nana. Deep down, she knew she still had feelings for him.
The wedding went smoothly and soon Sylvia could breathe easy until things took another turn…
It was time. Her lawyer called her to the stand. It was time to give her testimony; to say what she could say. As she took the stand; the images of what had happened that night began replaying in her head.
She had arrived two days earlier than planned and drove home in anticipation of seeing William. The front door was unlocked, so she entered quietly intending to surprise him.
She heard noises in the kitchen and smiled to herself. So he was making dinner. How sweet! Better time to surprise him. She tiptoed into the kitchen. And stopped dead in her tracks.
It took two minutes to register what she was seeing and even then her brain refused to accept it. Her husband and mother entwined and nuzzling each other like teenagers.
Nana didn’t know what came over her, but by the time they registered her presence…it was too late. She had grabbed a knife from the counter and was rushing at them.
That was all she remembered. The next thing she knew they cops were taking her away in handcuffs, her mother stood in the doorway crying and William lay in a pool of his own blood.
They said she stabbed him to death. So why hadn’t she done the same to her mother? She kept asking herself.
She was aware of the eyes on her. She had finished her testimony. The prosecutor approached her and Nana braced herself.
Sylvia sobbed quietly as her daughter spoke. She looked so young and vulnerable that Sylvia wanted to comfort her.
Oh how she wished she could take back everything that had happened. How she wished she hadn’t given in to William’s seductions. Why hadn’t she listened to common sense? How would shelive with her betrayal and the thought of her daughter rotting in some prison?
The prosecutor had been lenient with her. But his questions had made her more determined than ever to do what she needed to do. She hadn’t been lying when she told William she couldn’t live without him.
She still loved him. But why had he betrayed her? She looked back and saw her mother crying. Why was she crying? Nana wondered. She was the cause of it all.
Twenty minutes later, the court adjourned for the jury to decide if she was guilty.
Nana eyed the guard with the gun and she knew that now was the right time to act. She had no desire to live any more.