The Last Smile – Episode 23
By Adeola Nissi
Luciana jumped inside the house and slammed the door before they attracted the neighbors. She removed the shawl she had used in covering her face and dropped it carelessly on the floor. Her heart beat wildly as she stared at her parents. They both looked lean and fagged from excessive worry.
Tears slipped Bewaji’s eyes as she stared at her daughter. “Lucy” she whispered. “Lucy, is that you?” Tears streamed down her face uncontrollably. She held Ken’s shirt with her eyes glued to Lucy, “Am I dreaming Ken?”
Lucy’s father was as dumbstruck as Lucy who also stood with her eyes glistening with tears.
“Mum” she managed to say and rushed into her mother’s arms. “It is me mum” she shook. “It is Luciana”.
Bewaji held her daughter as she sobbed. “My baby… my baby is back” she murmured as she clung to Lucy. “Oh my God!” Bewaji pulled back, kissed Luciana’s face and forehead several times and pulled her back into her embrace. She held on to her like a lifeline as she murmured everything that came to her head.
“It is OK mum. You are going to make me cry” But she was already crying. Seeing her parents overwhelmed her beyond her expectations. She pulled back and turned to her dad. He stood with a loving smile on his face. His swimming eyes nearly undid her as she ran into his hands.
“Oh daddy” she cried.
“I have missed you my girl” he said, controlled now but with emotions that shook her. He brushed his fingers through her hair, like he was trying to memorize or recall the texture. “You almost sent us to an early grave with worry pumpkin, don’t ever do this again” His tone was very light.
Lucy pulled back slightly. “I won’t dad, I am sorry” she hugged her dad again. She had missed him terribly.
“C’mon ken, don’t scold my baby now. She just arrived” Bewaji said, holding both of them. Now, she felt complete.
Everyone turned and Lucy saw the maid. “Oh Dana, come and give me a hug. I have missed you”
Dana rushed into Lucy’s arms and held her like a vise. When they pulled apart, Dana fidgeted slightly. “Aunty, I was very worried about you o. I prayed everyday that you would come back safely” she said, looking at her fingers.
Lucy smiled. “And the prayers are answered.” She felt truly blessed to have people who love her around her.
“Yes, she was so worried. We all were. I almost died” Bewaji smiled and held her daughter’s hand with the fear that she might vanish again.
“Come and sit down pumpkin, you must be really tired” Ken said as they moved to the room. “Tell me everything. I want to hear every detail of what actually happened.”
“It is a long story. Dad, can you please call Teju and Deolu. I need to put them out of this trauma, and even though I really would like to make my presence public, I feel it might be risky. Please don’t tell them that I am here dad. They might get over-excited, especially Deolu, and we don’t want that”.
“Right away” he said, grabbing his phone.
Bewaji was busy inspecting Luciana’s body for marks and the like. She pulled her into her arms and held on to her.
Teju packed a few things inside her extra large hand bag. It is not a myth that the handbag of a lady could very well take in everything that she needs for a week. Teju would be travelling to Abuja the following day. She had decided that going to Abuja would be very effective, instead of Deolu because she would be able to use her expertise as a lawyer to attend to matters. She had previously thought of following the DPO secretly in order to get Fred’s whereabouts but later decided that the method would not be effective. The DPO might suspect something and their plans would be blown to the wind. Chris might not even go there at all or early enough. Blackmail seemed the best tool to use in a case like this. She knew just the right words to use in order to get results.
Teju heard her phone ring and picked it up from the bed. She was not surprised that it was Lucy’s dad. They communicated frequently, especially since the disappearance of Lucy. She just wished she could tell them that their daughter was alright.
“Good afternoon sir” she said immediately she answered the call.
“Hello dear, how are you today?” Mr. Jones replied in the receiver.
“I am fine sir” She noted certain calmness in his voice with surprise and happiness.
“That is good. Can you come over to the house? There is something we would like to show you”
“Something?” Teju became very curious.
“Yes. It is a bit urgent”
He did not sound urgent; Teju mused but shrugged it off. She just hoped it had to do with Lucy’s case. “Yes sir. I would be there in a jiffy”.
It had been long since Deolu sat in his office but even as he sat there, his heart and brain was far away. He was terribly worried about Lucy. Just that morning, he had called so many hospitals again, just as he did every day to make enquiries but as usual, it proved abortive. A friend of his had commented that the guy might have thrown her into the lagoon but had rejected it vehemently, nearly beating up his friend in the process. Times spent with Teju had eased his pain. He realized that whenever he was with Teju, he worried less. She seemed to take away his problems and pains with her lawyer attitudes. He still could not pinpoint why he felt she was in pains. Something had changed about her. She was not as lively as before, even though you would barely notice the changes if you were not careful enough. She had always remained positive and optimistic about Lucy’s return, using the stubborn attitude of being a lawyer to her advantage. She was not ready to accept defeat and he liked that about her. That trait was also very visible in Lucy although, gentler. They were truly birds of a feather.
Deolu’s phone rang, saving him from his thoughts. He smiled when he saw the caller.
“How are you son?” Mr. Jones responded over the phone.
“I am fine sir. Hope you are feeling better sir”
“Yes. Glory to God. I wonder if you can come over to my house now; there is something I would like to show you”
Deolu was happy that something was taking him out of his office. He hadn’t done any meaningful thing there. “Right away sir…”
Ray had never been so helpless in his life. His life felt empty and it scared him. He felt like something had left him. He felt his life was just as empty as his house was. He changed from one channel of the television to the other but nothing came close to appealing to his senses. Just some time ago, he was telling himself that it would be best if she left and now that that thought had come to a reality, he felt miserable. ‘Be careful what you wish for, you just might have it’. That sentence echoed in his brain as he walked helplessly towards the refrigerator for a pack of juice. He cared less if there was food because he had no appetite at all.
As he drank Chivita, he stared at the television screen, seeing only the pictures in his head. He wondered where Lucy was, if she was safe, if she was hungry. He stood and paced. He felt miserably helpless and he could not understand why he felt that way. She was just his guest, nothing more. He had helped in saving her life but he did not see himself as a super star that was able to save a damsel in distress, he felt lucky instead that he had been able to do something for her. God had used him for her; He could as well have used someone else. God? He could not believe he had thought of God using him. He swallowed when the content of the letter replayed itself in his head. He dropped his glass and went out of the house to discuss with his gateman. He was very glad then that he had employed a gateman.
Lucy tried not to engage the thoughts that were trying to cloud her head. She was very happy to be home but she felt something was wrong. She felt incomplete. It was just a silent feeling which she easily overlooked as she laughed and smiled to everything that was being said. Her parents were fussing over her and she felt like a one year old again. The knock at the door interrupted their reunion and Luciana’s heart skipped wildly. She wondered which one of the two had arrived. Dana was a bit reluctant to leave Lucy’s side but she did anyways.
The voice Luciana heard made her smile widely and she was up instantly. Teju moved into the sitting room and it took a while before her brain could take in what she was seeing. She froze for some seconds as she gaped at Lucy who stood grinning.
“Lucy… Ahhhhh” she screamed as they both ran into each other’s arms. Lucy’s parents were laughing at the scene. Teju moved slightly away and started inspecting Lucy’s body as if she was checking if her body parts were complete. “Oh Lucy” she hugged her again.
“T.J… I have missed your troublesome self o” Lucy said and laughed as she blinked back the tears that came to her eyes.
“Yes. You must miss me. I have also missed the coconut rice you always cook for me” they both laughed. Teju was trying to control herself and not cry like a baby. She had missed her best friend.
As the two friends fussed over each other, they were so engulfed in their excitement that they did not hear the knock on the door. When the door opened, Lucy turned and froze when she stared at Deolu.
Deolu stood at the entrance as his eyes took in the image before him. Even when he came to fully acknowledge the fact that he was not dreaming, he still could not move a muscle. All the times that he had imagined Lucy’s return, he had imagined carrying her, kissing her until his lips ached and so many things but he never imagined that he would just stand at the entrance and stare. Life seemed to have departed his legs and he could not move them.
Lucy walked slowly towards him, feeling a quiet panic within her. Raymond flashed through her mind and she pushed away the image. She stood right in front of Deolu and watched him swallow forcefully. “Lucy” he called as if he wanted to be double sure that he was not seeing things. She answered by moving into his arms.
“Oh God” he breathed as he wrapped his arms around her. His hands shook as he held on to her like his life depended on it. He breathed in the scent of her hair as he held her. “My love… oh my love” he murmured. “Life has been miserable since you vanished.”
“I am sorry for putting you through all these” she said, still in his arms. Deolu pulled her back and kissed her forehead, her cheeks and lips. Ken coughed audibly as he fisted his arms. Deolu held on to Lucy without letting her go and Bewaji put her hand on her husband’s shoulder to calm him.
“Why don’t we move this love scene to the sitting room” Bewaji said, moving towards the couple.
Several minutes after, everyone was seated in the sitting room. Lucy sat at the middle of Teju and Deolu and he held her to him with her head resting on his shoulders. With everyone being attentive, she narrated everything that happened, although carefully edited. She told them how Fred had stabbed her because of jealousy and had dumped her thinking that she was dead. How she had been rescued by Raymond and admitted in the hospital where she spent over three weeks. How she had spent some days in Raymond’s house in order to fully recuperate.
Ken was already pacing when she finished. “That filthy son of the devil” he swore. Bewaji was almost in tears at the thought of what her daughter had gone through and she said that she would like to meet Raymond. “That guy is our saving grace” she said. Deolu was furious, just like Ken. Teju just sat and stared, calculating like the lawyer she was.
Lucy’s stomach grumbled and she remembered that she had not eaten anything. She had skipped breakfast at Ray’s place when there was no one to eat with. “Please can I get something to eat? I am starving” she complained. Everyone swung to action like she was the first lady. She wanted to go to the kitchen herself but she was denied.
Food was presented in no time and she dug into the food. Everyone watched her as she ate, knowing that her being alive was a miracle. Watching her eat brought pleasure to them all.
…To be continued
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