Kelvin dangled the key before her looking so fly in a sleeveless orange T-shirt on a floral trunk short and a white flip flops. ‘Darling I want you to drive.’
‘Seriously.’ She tilted her head to a side and searched his face. She looking breath taking in a embroidery multicolored beach dress that stopped above her knees with white grin ankle strap sandals.
Kelvin nodded and then she suddenly smiled brightly at thought of being mischievous.
She collected the key, marched to the car and went ahead to open the passenger side.
Kelvin remained where he was and begin to shake his head. ‘We will be switching roles today.’
‘You better go to the other side, let me open the door for you.’ He instructed with an index finger.
‘I drive, my rules.’ Before he could object she ran to him, he ducked and ran to the other side of the car.
For two minutes, she tried to catch him to no avail, when she tried to climb the booth of his car, he stopped running.
‘Kathy please, don’t…don’t climb before you sustain a fracture or dismantle my car, this is not a range rover o!’
She couldn’t helped but burst into laughter at the accent.
Eventually, he got in, she closed the door and rounded the car. She got behind the wheel and drove out of her compound.
‘You are bundle of surprise, it wasn’t up to a month you got your official car before you limited the services of your driver.’ Kelvin said few seconds later.
She didn’t answer immediately as she reduced the speed of the car and waved as the security personnel at the main gate leading out of the estate. She joined the express road and the car sped up.
‘I first learnt how to drive when I was fourteen.’
‘Fourteen! ‘ He exclaimed taken aback.
‘I used those those few weeks to refresh my knowledge and decide if I should take the steering wheel or not.’
He had a thousand and one questions to ask but he had a strong conviction to change the subject. ‘That’s splendid, what kind of movies do you favor? ‘
Katherine couldn’t help but glance at him, she was astonished he had just let that slide. ‘I love comedy, family, drama…’
‘Kathy, you’re staring at it as though you can ride it.’ Kelvin observed.
Katherine blinked back to reality from memory land. She didn’t hear so she couldn’t respond.
‘Or can you ride a horse? ‘ He questioned with a smile, the bridle of the horse was in his hand.
She closed her eyes and momentarily and ran her hand on the horse neck and face. ‘I could try riding it.’
‘A horse is not something you jump on and begin to ride without afore knowledge of it.’ He informed her.
She helped herself on the horse and grabbed the bridle from him and use her legs to set the horse in motion.
It was so abruptly done that when he recovered the horse had covered a reasonable distance.
He glared wide eyed.
They turned and advanced towards him. When she near him, she slowed the horse so that when she swerved close to him and quickly, he jumped back.
‘Oh God.’ He muttered and laughed at himself.
She alighted from the horse and expressed gratitude to the horse for a lovely ride. She handed the bridle to him and put up a straight face. ‘Can I ride a horse now? ‘
‘I don’t know Kathy… in fact, I’m speechless. ‘
She winked at him and he laughed long and hard. ‘Let’s ride together. ‘
They rode together and they took photographs until Kelvin decided to payback.
He made a straight advance towards the sea.
At first she thought he was joking, but when he kept nudging the horse, she clasped a palm over mouth.
‘You better scream if you want to, it might make me change my mind.’ He whispered.
He didn’t finish before she scream.
He made an abrupt turn out of the water and as soon as horse stop, she practically jumped down and slumped on her knees.
He stood beside her and in between stifled laughter said. ‘I’m waiting for you to catch your breath so we can take another ride.’
She stood instantly and marched their shade.
He ran after her. ‘Sweetie, am sorry! ‘
Few minutes later,
He opened the picnic box and set the table with the still hot boiled corn and coconut, his housekeeper had prepared and packed for the occasion. Earlier they had potato salad.
‘I’m sorry dear, please let’s eat.’
She folded her arms beneath her bossoms and sized him with her eyes.
He pulled his chair close. ‘I’ll feed you. Here, drink some water first. ‘
She opened her mouth.
Katherine exhaled. ‘I have never had to tell someone what I am about to tell you.’ She sighed. ‘I am about to answer all of your questions, questions you’ve voiced out, those have seen in your eyes and expressions. I am going to tell you about Katherine Sylvester. Get ready Kel, you about to see the me you never knew exist.’ She reached to take the bottled water.
Kelvin saw her hand tremble.
She stared at him for the longest time and glanced at the ground, the sand and shells, then out at the sky and then at the sea and when she eventually looked back at him. Tears were flowing down her face.
‘Kathy…’ He gasped, she had told him to prepare but this was the least of what he was expecting. He didn’t even know what to expect.
‘Kelvin, my life is a switch of emotions, when something happens and it’s expected of me to jump excited, I might act shocked, when it is expected of me laugh gleefully, I might just give a faint smile and vice versa.’ She began calmly. ‘There are families and there are families.’ She repeated emphatically. ‘I had a family, a special kind, a lovely one …’ She shook her head slowly. ‘The most unique, how bonded were we! My family was an epitome of a normal definition of the word -family, father, mother and child or children. I had a dad, mum and a brother. Permit me to start this way, my father was a petrolchemical engineer and my mother worked for one of the most prominent oil company in Nigeria, my mum owned and ran a guest house. It was majorly know because of it’s restaurant. My mum was a born cook, she was good, in fact good is an understatement. People trooped in and out despite alcoholic drinks not being sold.’ She beamed.
‘My brother is four years older than I am.’ She fetched her hanky and wiped her face. ‘My brother and I were born with a golden spoon.’ Her voice became so clear.
He raised a brow.
‘My parents were wealthy despite that, we children got what we needed not what we wanted nor what every other child had.’
Kelvin nodded, he could relate with that.
‘We were made to understand why. They were parents with top positions that demanded attention and time yet we were always top priority. Nothing interfered with our time. They didn’t hesitate to profess their love for us. Even when we made mistakes, they corrected us in love. My brother and I were trained in best of schools. We had vacations in and out of the country. We celebrated special days, remember my grand birthday party I told you about.’
He nodded in remembrance.
‘In my family I had more I could ever ask for love, care, attention, security and what have you.’ Her tears were back in trickles. She stared into space momentarily.
‘I had more than enough mentors spiritually, educationally, socially and in all aspect of life. I was like a focal point, where my parents stopped, my big brother continued.’ She glanced up at the sky than at Kelvin who had his eyes fixed on her, she heaved.
‘We were more than brother and sister, he was my best friend, we were more than twins, we were so close that he knew when my mentrual period starts and I had cramps, he would place a warm compress on my lower abdomen and do things to cheer me.
We talked about everything. He was the one that me how to ride a horse and how to drive. We had our fights and fun. When we go shopping, no matter how much I like a thing, once he shakes his head, I dropped it. He took me out and when I get back home, my knowledge increases. Neighbors and friends called us KK twins.’ She smiled
Kelvin smiled too.
‘When he travels, I took it upon me to watch his favorite TV programs even when I don’t fancy them just to see the smile on his face when I narrated them to him. We made our sacrifices.’ She beamed and then chuckled. ‘My parents were in charge of my bed time stories but when I outgrew it, he took over. He called it a game and laid down the rules. Every weekend, we went to the library, picked a book and read it, checked out difficult words in the dictionary, jot down what we learnt, exchange what we jotted to read and we were to ask ourselves ten questions respectively.
‘Wow.’ Kelvin said impressed.
‘We were not limited to any field of study.’
‘Your brother is wise.’
‘Yes, so I learnt and knew so much, things I didn’t completely understand then but came to understand later. That knowledge helped me as a secretary, when I worked with your daddy, the wisdom I acquired is what I practice in most of what I do on daily basis. We were young, yet we lived our live maximally like we knew it… it wasn’t going to be for a… ‘ she burst into tears.
He stood and placed his seat beside hers and took both hands in his.
‘Kelvin, it is going to be a long day.’ She exhaled and shivered slightly.
‘I will be right here with you through it all.’ He smiled at her and wiped her face with his palm.
‘My life took a turn when I was fifteen, about to be through with my secondary education. It all began when huge amount of money was stolen from my daddy company. The money vanished as a result of conspiracy. Before then, my dad was bribed by some of his colleagues to join the plot but he declined, because of a declination, he became their enemy. When investigations, they placed him at the forefront. He was arrested, tortured, his bank accounts frozen, most of his assets was seized and they didn’t bother to do a thorough investigation before he was sacked bearing in mind that he would be retiring and all the entitlements .’
‘What! ‘ His brows furrowed into a frown.
‘Kel… ‘ She called softly and held his gaze. ‘That is why I didn’t want you to go ahead to do the mass arrest, I didn’t want the innocent to suffer with guilty. I remembered the ordeal my dad and we all passed through, the psychological implications.
‘I’m glad I obeyed you.’ He squeezed her palm and smiled at her.
‘We had to vacate the house they were living in. Daddy had built a house in the country side and had complimented the ground floor of another in Lagos. We moved there. My mum took up the responbilities of the family gladly. We adjusted real good but dad wouldn’t sit back. He tried to secure a job but he spent the better part of his working years for the company. In spite of the disappointment, he didn’t give up. One day, in the course of his looking for a job, he was involved in a road traffic accident that almost led to the amputation of a leg.’ She heaved. ‘ When he recovered, I could remember been upset and saying -Daddy, I told you should take it easy, look what it has cause all us. Dad, I understand the depression, frustration and everything but you don’t have to take it out all yourself. And then he said to me, honey, you don’t understand. I sat beside him and embraced him. Kelvin… ‘ she called.
‘Yes darling. ‘
It didn’t take me nineteen- months to know my dad had been right. ‘ She sobbed and clasped a palm over her mouth.
‘Darling easy.’ He soothed and pat her palm.
‘O… kay Kel. ‘ She mumbled but couldn’t fight back the tears that were flowing down her cheeks like they were naturally meant to be neither the shakiness in her voice. ‘We lived and our family atmosphere remained. I concluded my final exams in high school and graduated. Two months afterwards, tragedy stuck. ‘ She closed her eyes and blinked severally. ‘Kel, my hands, I can’t see.’
He released her hands and watched as she wiped her tears and blew her nose in a Kleenex. He knew it wouldn’t be long before his tear ducts got active. How was he to know that his curiosity all along would uncheck checked emotions. He fetched a neatly folded handkerchief from his pocket. ‘Here Kathy.’
‘Thanks.’ She collected it. ‘On that gloomy day, my mum got to her guest house just to see… see her investment over the years …her family financial lifeline razed to the ground by fire.’
He shook his head.
‘We were not able to figure out how it came about. It occured in the early hours of morning and the fire claimed everything burnable. No life was lost but my collasped and never got on her feet. She never recovered from the shock even after three days of intensive care. It killed her Kel… it killed the Queen of my very heart, my role model, my lovely mum…’ She sobbed. ‘She was a strong woman but I don’t anyone would stand that, considering all the kind of thoughts that might have rush through her mind.’
Kelvin nodded slowly.
‘We wished that God had kept her because we knew that no matter what, we can still forge ahead. She was buried, we mourned her because of what she meant to us. We loved her dearly.’ She paused and looked to heaven. ‘We appreciated her, we cherished her and there was never, never going to be a replacement of her in our hearts. In the midst of it all, we comfort ourselves and draw closer to one another.’
‘That’s terrible.’ Kelvin stated.
‘Terrible? ‘ She almost scoffed. ‘Hmmm…’ She reserved. ‘I’ve been to this beach about three times before today. First with my primary school, family and the third with my brother and his friends.’ She smiled sadly. ‘My brother took the responsibility baton. My mum car was sold and he used some of the money to purchase a commercial motorcycle. He also took a job. I was scared because he combined his education with job and used his spare time for transportation. I took care of the home front. I desired to assist him even if it is take away the littlest burden off his shoulder but he wouldn’t hear of it… ‘ She pursed her lips, stared into space and her tears flowed. ‘He wouldn’t hear of such, he sat me down and told me something me being beautiful and didn’t want me to be exposed to harsh reality of life. He told he didn’t want to hear of such again since he wasn’t asking for an assistant. I was annoyed and wanted to shake him until he agrees with me. I left his room for mine and cried myself to sleep. Yes, I did not accept, good, he was being protective, Splendid, because he thinks I’m a baby that can’t differentiate her right from left. All thanks to him! ‘
Kelvin chuckled imagining how she must have pouted her lips then. ‘I understand what your brother tried to do, good, you know your onions, you know what you are capable of doing but there is what is called voluntary deed and forceful deed. There is no limitation to what people can do to have their way. You never can tell what they might be thinking of and the set up that might came about. Your brother is more experience, definitely more learned and he was in this world before you came about, so darling he look at things far beyond your view. He knows that…’ He thoughtfully continued after passing. ‘He knows that you are going to give your output innocently and they in quote might give some forceful actions.’
She pouted her lips and narrowed her gaze at him.
‘Don’t look at me like that girlfriend.’ He grinned. ‘let’s see it from your own point of view, you really want to help, you might be helpless when things tighten up. He is going to be very worried about you and that does not help relief stress instead it adds. If I were him after your suggestion and the reluctance you put off, anytime I leave I will lock the door in case you change after I’ve left.’
‘You’re sounding more bossy than my brother. ‘
Kelvin laughed and she smiled.
He had said that to lighten her mood.
‘There was a time I followed him to his university. He wanted to show me around so he asked me to drop my bag with a course mate. By the time we came back, I saw three envelopes with contacts in my bag. I showed them to him, he opened and read their contents, he had an expression of anger initially but then he began to laugh when he handed the letters over and asked me to read them. ‘ She grinned in remembrance. ‘When I was done, he asked me to sit beside him and educated me on guys and relationships.’
Kelvin bobbed his head from side to side smiling.
‘They were love letters written by his course mates and they dropped them in my bag knowing the kind of person he was.’
‘I can only imagine the kind of talk it was. ‘
‘Of course you can, since you have two sisters and I can remember the bully whippers story. ‘
Kelvin rolled into bouts of laughter.
‘Can you imagine two thousand naira was in one of the envelope? ‘
‘That’s some real competition.’ He beamed.
‘My brother used to tell me that I was his Princess and that if he had his way, he would have me beside him always because I was an influence to him and when people see us together and smiled at us, he felt taller and more handsome. He told me that I was his first lady and I glared at him bemused. He knew it was because of his girlfriend. Guess what he told me.’
‘I suck at guessing.’
“You can tell her if you want to,afterall I knew you before I met her.”
‘Wow. I’m surprised you are tall and don’t have a tiny head despite the endearment that was heaped on you.’
She could have jabbed him if she had the strength instead she rolled her reddened eyes. ‘My brother was the best and I loved him fiercely. Hmmm… ‘ She muttered and then heaved. ‘We lived happily though we didn’t have the luxury we were used to. My life took another drastic turn during the month most people call the love month.’ She sipped water and all previous excitement vanished.
‘Yes.’She stretched forth hands to him and he took them. ‘I remember my brother asking if I wanted to go out and I said- yes. I got ready, it’s been a while we indulged ourselves due to our shortcomings. We took permission from our dad and left on his bike. He took me to a couple to places where we had a pretty good time. We went to the library to pick two books as before, though since he got so busy, I went by myself and read alone. On our way back, we got stuck in an unusual traffic…’ She sobbed and tears began to flow down her cheeks. ‘Can I do this? ‘ She whispered in between sobs. Her body shook convulsively and her lips trembled. ‘That was the last outing we had.’
He closed his eyes broken hearted. He felt the sting of tears when he opened his eyes.
‘The place where we were began to tighten, in an attempt to move forward, the front tyre of the bike scratched the lower part of a Jeep mistakenly.’ She bit her lower lips and her grip tightened on Kelvin’s hands.
‘The driver of the Jeep came out and examined the scratch, he was in uniform, I can’t remember which of the force. The traffic had become stand still. My brother and I alighted and began apologizing. He didn’t hear them or it did fuel his anger because he leashed out insults that I never knew existed. At a point, I felt that the insults were just too much for a scratch after all, the vehicle was not made of gold though it was one of the latest Jeep at that time but since my brother was apologizing who am I not to object. Never knowing that there could be no love lost in the human mind for another who he had not met afore time. The man went back into the car and brought out a gun.’
‘Jesus Christ! ‘ He shook his head as though he was in a trance.
‘What will one do if a gun was pointed at one, even if one was right, you resolved to begging. I could still see my brother prostrating on the ground, I remember myself going down on my knees begging.’ She continued with a voice energized by anger. ‘I remember people that had gathered pleading on our behalf. All that went to one man, one human… and yet…’ She swallowed hard and tears flowed down her face.
‘You know most people…’ She wiped her weeping nose with the hanky but it was immediately was replaced. ‘Most people are monsters in human form, they are beast not even fit to live in the jungle because most animals if not all care and most don’t practise cannibalism.’ She released a palm and massaged her forehead. ‘As my brother stood, he pulled the trigger, the bullet hit his fore head and another to his abdomen. He was dead even before he reached the ground.’
Kelvin pulled her into his arms with eyes filled with tears.
‘I flung myself at him so he could kill me too but he pushed me away, I stood to throw myself at him once but froze at the thought of my father, he was going to die of cardiac arrest.
‘I screamed and slumped on my knees and became absent minded of happenings around me as I placed his head and begged him to survive, begged him not to leave because it was going to kill our father. I clung to him and screamed till lost my voice. It took effort for the crowd to separate us.
The man used the gun to distant himself from the crowd who were ready to attack him until the police came and whisked him away but they couldn’t go with his Jeep. Other commercial motorcyclist set the Jeep ablaze. They organised for a vehicle to convey him to the …mortuary but I insisted they took him home.’ She released herself. ‘I never saw my dad cry until that day. That’s how the life of a 400level medical student was cut short, that is how I lost my brother. ‘ She closed her eyes and shut her ears with both palms.
‘Katherine? ‘ He called concerned.
‘It’s all coming to me that moment…just like a flood, am overwhelmed by it. I can hear the bullets, so loud and for a moment, my heart beat stopped. That was how I lost my Kennedy Sylvester, my bestie, my chief bodyguard, my head teacher.’