Dial is on again…
So I froze.
I stood in the doorway with my gun hanging down by my side, and I just stared at him.
On the television Tom the cat was peering around a corner, holding a black bomb with a lit fuse, waiting for Jerry to pass by. And Jerry the mouse was standing right behind Tom, and tying Tom’s tail into a hole in the bomb. Jerry, mission accomplished, poked Tom in the ribs, and then he began to flee.
Tom turned, saw his tail in the bomb, then the bomb exploded, turning the cat’s body black.
Nana Bosomba laughed hard at this, and then he turned his head and looked at me with very cold eyes. He was laughing, but his eyes were very cold.
“Why are you standing there naked, Mr. Biko?” he asked through his giggles. “Please, go and put something on. That thing with the bushy white hair on top looks hideous.”
Yet I could not move. I still stood there and looked at him, and then I felt movement behind me and turned.
Dede, looking very beautiful, was once more in the fluffy white bathrobe, and she was holding my robe out to me. She looked past me and saw her brother, and I saw the sudden look of concern on her face.
“Here, darling, let me help you put this on,” she said, and I nodded numbly.
I sighed despairingly and put the gun back on safe mode, then I put it down slowly on a flower-pot stand to my right.
Next, I slipped on the robe, belted it, and waited.
Dede slid her hand through mine, and then she walked forward, dragging me along until we stood in front of Nana Bosomba like two naughty children which, in a bizarre sort of way, we indeed were.
Dede, apart from looking worried, also looked puzzled as she bent and touched her older brother’s foot, but she didn’t let go of my hand.
“Welcome, dearest brother,” she said with a strained smile. “We weren’t expecting you this early.”
The television went off with a snap, and almost immediately all the lights in the living area came on without the man moving so much as muscle, and not for the first time my heart thudded with fear in my chest.
“I was expecting to see him, only him, sister!” he said softly, and the laughter was no longer on his face.
“You seem displeased, my brother,” Dede said in a humbled voice. “If I had displeased you, in any way, I am sorry. But whatever you’re seeing, there’s an explanation.”
He leaned back and regarded his sister with very dark eyes.
“Aha!” he said softly. “An explanation, right? By all means let me hear of this explanation! Let me understand how this amazing miracle happened, my sister!”
Dede let my hand go at that moment, and then she slowly knelt down in front of her brother and placed her hands on his knees, and when she spoke her voice was earnest and filled with passion.
“I gave myself to him willingly, my brother,” she said. “It was not out of respect for Akos, or you. Yes, I have known him just recently, and this is basically our second meeting, but something beautiful happened between us, something wonderful. And I have decided to spend my life with him.”
Nana Bosomba nodded.
“So, in two days, you fell in love with him,” he stated quietly.
Dede gripped his hands and leaned forward earnestly.
“Maybe not complete love, my brother, not the deep paralyzing love my dear Akos felt for him, but something that can turn to real love! We are happy together, we were so in tune together last night! Please, my brother, this is what I want! Do you remember the first time I fell in love and you refused to give me your blessing, and the man I loved died?”
Nana Bosomba snatched his hands from hers and spoke in a voice that was filled with passion, and for the first time he didn’t sound calm at all.
“I didn’t give you my blessing because I saw death following that boy you were going to marry!” he said harshly. “His uncle had used him for a money ritual! I had nothing to do with his death, my dearest sister! I love you! And I wanted only the best for you, but for many years you have blamed me for the death of that man! He was destined to die on his wedding day, to bring more money to his greedy uncle!”
Dede uttered a strangled cry and sat back on her haunches, tears coming to her eyes immediately, and her lips trembled.
“Oh!” she whispered tremulously. “Uncle Teye? He did that to my Ogum?”
“Yes, he did!” Nana Bosomba said, and this time his voice was calm again. “Oh, I tried so hard to reverse that curse on the boy, for your sake, but it couldn’t be done, because that was the appointed time for him to die, my dear. The Great Almighty God above had decided that was the time for him to die, and there was nothing an ordinary man like me could do about it!”
“B-but I do-don’t under-understand!” Dede murmured, broken now. “If Uncle Teye used my fiancé’s death as ritual, why then is Uncle Teye a blind cripple now?”
“Need you ask, my dear sister, need you ask?” Nana Bosomba said gently, fondly, and reached out to caress Dede’s cheek. “I struck him blind, and I crippled him, and I made him impotent, so that all the money he got from the death of your darling, he couldn’t enjoy it! I did it, because I saw your pain, my darling!”
Dede fell on her brother’s thighs, and she wept silently as he consoled her, and I stood watching, feeling helpless and absolutely left out.
After a while she got up from the floor and sat down beside him, and then she patted the space beside her and reached for my hand.
“Sit down, Yao, please,” she said, and drew me forward, and I sat down beside her, then she turned her tear-streaked face to her brother. “I never understood you, but thank you for always being there for us. I’ve never looked at another man since Ogum died, but last night, after so many years, I gave myself to this man. I believe he and I can be happy, and I need your blessings.”
Nana Bosomba smiled sadly, and then he began to speak calmly in a different language which I suspected was the Krobo dialect. I didn’t know what he was saying, but I felt Dede tensing beside me, and I felt the little shiver of horror that blasted through her.
She pushed away from her brother suddenly and stared at him with horror.
“No, no, no!” she whispered, shaking her head. “You lie! He wouldn’t do that! I won’t believe that!”
Nana Bosomba smiled sadly at her, and then he looked at me with a knowing little smile.
“Women, huh?” he said calmly. “Always mistaking lust for love.”
I pointed a finger at him, suddenly getting angry.
“Is that what you told her, that what I feel for her is lust?” I asked in a tight voice.
“Yes, Mr. Biko,” Nana Bosomba said quietly. “I just pointed out to her that you had your way with my daughter, and although my dear daughter is dead, it is still not right for my sister to be involved with you. I also told her that you have put her name on your list of conquered women, and she doesn’t believe me. She doesn’t believe that she is just another number to you, another defiled woman for you to gloat over on your computer list! Ha…women!”
I felt the pain then.
It was a sharp, terrible pain that ripped through me, scaring me by its intensity. It was not physical, but it was a deep-rooted emotional pain. I realized, quite too late, that yes, I had put Dede’s name on my list!
In the frenzy of this man’s appearance, I had not even remembered it! If I had, I would’ve deleted it immediately! Looking at Dede now, in the light of the approaching morning, I knew suddenly that I did a horrible thing putting her on the Dial List.
She turned halfway toward me now and put a hand on my shoulder. Her eyes were on my face as she spoke, and I could see the tears in her eyes.
“Tell me it is not true, Yao,” she said softly, her heart breaking. “Please, tell me that what happened between us meant something to you, and that you did not put me on that list…whatever it is!”
And I looked at her, this extraordinarily beautiful woman who had slammed into my life and managed to affect me in a way I had never been affected before! This woman who had chosen to stand by me, who had cooked for me, laughed with me, braided my hair, and made such sweet love to me.
And suddenly I knew deep down in my heart, that her respect was the last thing I wanted to lose. I needed her to trust in me, and to believe in me. I needed her to go the distance with me, to be my friend, above all else.
The fear of losing her, and the agony she would definitely feel if she knew I had hurt her, all bunched up into my throat as I forced out the lie.
“No, Dede, my darling, I’ll never do that to you,” I whispered tremulously as I stared at her, refusing to look at the smiling old man across from her. “I’ll never hurt you like that! I didn’t put your name on any list. Truth is, I have deleted that list from my computer.”
She exhaled slowly, leaned forward and threw her arms around my neck, and she whispered against my ear.
“Oh, Yao, thank you, my love!”
“So, you’re calling me a liar now, Mr. Biko?” Nana Bosomba asked calmly, and I could see the dark embers in the depths of his eyes. “You have the audacity, the effrontery and the disrespect to call me a liar right to my face, Mr. Biko?”
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