Remember me (III)- Short story

The story of fate and destiny

Chapter 3

Shattered Pieces

That afternoon, the sunlight conjured the most brilliant of mosaics, reflecting from the glassy black tarmac to the leaves on every tree and from wisp of cloud that barely provided shade. Bright streams of light ignited every gap as it shone. With it came the heat.

The searing heat that accompanied left no one in doubt for something cold to quench and soothe all at once.

When Tara  steered her car into Lawal Adeleke Street, she paused for a moment to reassess her foolery. What exactly was she trying to achieve really? she asked herself.

Only an hour earlier she was basking in the warmth of the sun, with a book in tow, while she listened to the waves thrashing the beachfront.

Now, there she was parked on a street she had gleaned off a note in a mysterious beach bottle she had found washed up on the beach.

She considered her next action carefully as she killed the engine.

Armed with the address and the small photo she had found, she stepped out of the car.

“Number 17, number 17, number 17…” she hummed to remind herself as she scanned the buildings for the house tags. The numbers decreased as she progressed.

“No 29, No 23, No 20, No 17…”

She looked up to see a desolate building that once held regal and majestic splendor in its hay days. Of course the tag had fallen off, but there was no denying that it used to be and still was house number 17.

Tara stood transfixed for a moment wondering how anyone would lack the wisdom to abandon such a grand old place. Yet the house stood in a composed way, as if it had chosen solitude for itself, as if residents were a luxury it could forgo.  

The playground in front of the building had long since been in the company of wildflowers, weeds, and unruly shrubs. Tara stared at the swing that was quite still upon its ropes, as though enjoying a meditative dream. She imagined a ghostly passenger ebbing back and forth on it, forwards, backwards, forwards, backwards – one abandoned by matter, one forgotten in time.

“Focus, focus.”

Snapping out of her reverie she looked around the street for any sort of clue. There really wasn’t anyone she could speak to- at first.

She brought out the small photograph from her side pocket to look at the beautiful woman again, as though to reassure her that she was trying her best. She stared at the facial features of the woman, she looked like a really beautiful lady in her late twenties.

She wondered what she would find and how it was any of her business?

“I am simply the messenger.” shrugging her shoulders as she assured herself. “I am doing the lord’s work.” Then she chuckled.

“Silly me. What was I thinking? Did I suppose that this mysterious bottle and a note was enough reason to abandon my deserved “staycation?””

Resigned, she started the walk back to her car with drooping shoulders.

“What a shame.” she muttered under her breath.

“Are you looking for the owner of that building?” It was the kind of deep voice that you did not dare argue with.

“Sir?”

They say we exchange beauty for wisdom as we age, but this balding old man, oozing an unmistakable grandpa aura, had a look about him. The look of a life well lived, one where love took a front row seat in the challenging times and the good times. Yet his wizened face carried the remnants of a youthful grace as he spoke.

“Young lady, I see that you have come to visit the abandoned house on the street. Are you from the land registry?”

Tara was still staring at the graceful old man wishing she could look as impressionable when she grew to his age.

“How can an old man be this attractive?” She queried silently.

“I am looking for the woman in this picture.”

She handed the photograph she had found only an hour earlier to the man.

In the space, on his face, that should be filled with laughter, keeping his soul aloft – an envelope of horror donned the void. He let out a gasp as recognition dawned on him.

“Where did you get this?” There was an urgency to the question and Tara suddenly felt uneasy.

“I found it by the beach side this afternoon.”

“What else did you find?” It didn’t sound like a question, but an order.

“The address….the address and a coin” She managed to reply as she started to take a step back.

She imagined that the coin was probably intended to draw attention to the bottle as it got tossed in the waves. It was an old 1naira coin, nothing fancy.

Uneasy silence filled the gap between their conversation as she waited for the next question.

“Follow me.” An undeniable order.

Tara was starting to regret this budding misadventure. She should have minded her business and disposed the bottle.

“What mess have I gotten myself into?”

She walked behind him, studying his well combed hair, to the pam slippers on his feet, to the wrinkled shirt that was beginning to be drenched in sweat.

The heat did not exempt her, as beads of sweat broke into long trails across her face.

They walked towards the abandoned building before the old man turned to speak again.

“Watch you step please.”

“Sir, I don’t think it is necessary. I am only…..”

“You have come this far for a reason. Best you go with a closure.” he cuts in.

His English wasn’t only impeccable, but his diction bellied a rich history of formal education.

This was certainly no ordinary man.

“Sit here” He pulled out a dusty bench from behind the shrubs, right in front of the abandoned house.

Tara looked around suspiciously. Everywhere on the street looked calm and unpredictable. As though something could jump at her at any moment.

She heaved a deep breath as her weight found the bench.

“This woman here…” He paused for a few seconds as he stared down at the photo.

“..is…was my dear wife. She has been missing for over two decades. No one has heard from her and we have absolutely no idea if she is alive or……” he couldn’t bring himself to complete the statement. The longer he spoke the more Tara was convinced that his voice had a husky drawl.

Her eyes darted about for a bit, undecided how to respond, she chose silence.

“We were only married for 10years when she disappeared. She did not pick a single personal item from the house at the time.” Tara was convinced that he definitely had a drawl.

She turned to look at his face. She resisted the urge to ask the question that lingered around her lips.

“She left me with our Ann, our daughter who was barely 3years old at the time. Can you believe that?” Tara could only shake her head, slowly.

“We lived here with my parents and some extended family. It was the grandest residence in the whole of Yaba. My father was a renowned politician and we enjoyed all the luxury anyone could ever dream of. I can’t find an explanation for her disappearance.”

“I am so sorry about this.” Tara managed to string the words together.

Then he spoke faster. “I visited all the morgues in Lagos for many years after she went missing. We worked closely with the state security services, the police, everyone you can imagine.”

He paused to take a deep breath as though speaking that fast was akin to running a sprint.

“We found nothing. Not a clue. It was like she simply disappeared from the surface of the earth.”

“Oh dear.” Tara felt the need to touch his arm, but she resisted. “How long ago was this sir?”

“My daughter is 40years next year. I have raised her without the love of my life for the best part of 35years.”

They welcomed the silence as it allowed their thoughts to wander. Tara stared at the street deep enough to imagine the memories of laughter, hugs and the bursting excitement of the good times, before thoughts of sadness enveloped her.

“Do you think she is still alive?”

“I know she isn’t dead, or we would have found her. I still have the same dream from the day she disappeared every year. It’s been infrequent lately. But nothing about the dream has changed.”

“Please pardon my asking, did you get into any disagreement or altercation before she………disapp……went missing?

He only shook his head in response.

Tara checked her wristwatch, she had to get going before she got sucked into the whirlwind of this mysterious stranger and his missing wife.

“What was…is…..her name?” Tara wasn’t quite sure which conjugation was appropriate to manage the emotions of the old man.

“Christiana, Atinuke Dosumu-Coker.”

Tara thought about the name for a moment before she reached out her hand for the photo.

“Can I have the photo back sir?”

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7 thoughts on “Remember me (III)- Short story”

  1. Pingback: Remember me (II)- Short story – Akin Akingbogun

  2. I really do enjoy your use of words. i.e “His diction bellied a rich history of formal education”. That’s really cool. Nice work brother!

  3. ” I’m doing the work of God” really? I almost laugh there. It’s how you put out relatable sceneries and descriptions and one would be like ‘yeah , yeah, so true, exactly, I know the feeling “. Lol…nice piece sir

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