We first met during a book launch which led to the rest. For reasons I couldn’t place a finger on, I felt we had known all my life. But in reality, my grandma had warned me about a nonnative, intriguing demeanor, which finally, will turn out to be a facade, that mysterious aura, and that fierce, passionate look in those eyes of his.
The long-awaited day finally arrived. Christmas Eve. The day I would see the stranger again. And there I stood across the park, my right hand tucked within my beige jacket and the other casually holding my coffee cup as I sipped it slowly.
My phone chimed, and I felt my heart flutter as I looked down at my screen, a part of me wanting to answer and another panicking at the thought of doing so. Bewildered by the thoughts racing within me, the coffee cup slipped from my hand and spilled on my jacket.
I grunted and placed my cell phone underneath my ear as I fumbled for my handkerchief to wipe the stain off my cloth.
“Hello” I said, my voice as husky as ever, to me though.
“You look beautiful, as always.”
My eyes frantically wandered around the park momentarily, and I said, “How is that so? I look super casual. And you can’t see me.”
“Casual and stunning. Bob says so, and I trust him.”
“You like hide-and-seek then?”
He said in a low tone, “Very.”
“But I don’t.” the words escaped from my mouth, and I quickly placed my hand over my mouth, wishing I could take back my words and undo what I had just done.
‘You dumb girl. Wasn’t it obvious he was trying to flirt with you? Why are you like this? Can’t you read the signs for once?’ I soliloquized briefly.
“That’s all right though. “He paused then said, “I’m seated in the black minivan behind you.”
I remained motionless for a minute and walked towards the vehicle. A man in a black tuxedo alighted from the driver’s seat and opened the back door, a gesture for me to enter. When the door had been shut behind me, I gripped the side of the door handle nervously.
He inhaled sharply, “It is you. Your scent is mesmerizing and yet subtle.” I blushed at his remark and let out an awkward smile, glad he could not see me though.
“Can we walk?” he asked and looked in my direction.
He craned his neck, “On what?”
“If you take off your glasses.”
He feigned a smile, “Do you think I do not have eyeballs?”
I chuckled, “I know you do. Besides, I’ve seen them before.”
He rose his hands in surrender, “Fine.”
We alighted from the vehicle, and he took his dark shades off and his gaze rested on me, radiant blue-green eyes so intense and beautiful glistening under the moonlight.
“I got you a Christmas present. I had it customized” he brought a parcel and gave it to me.
I unwrapped the small red box and in it was a diamond-shaped crimson necklace with my name indented round at the base.”It’s lovely, but I never told you my name. And you never mentioned yours.”
Without uttering a word, he held his walking stick in one hand and stretched out the other towards me, “Can you hold my hand as we walk?”
I locked his fingers with mine and led the way, “How did you lose your sight? Hope I’m not being too straightforward.”
He chuckled and I felt his grip on my frail, slender fingers tighten, “You’re always straightforward. And honestly, I admire that.”
He sighed, “I had brain damage when I was eight that led to hemianopsia. Partial blindness coupled with Stargardt, courtesy of my mum. It worsened over the years, and my parents tried all they could, but eventually, I completely lost my sight three years ago.”
“I’m so sorry.”
He took his other hand in mine and there we stood in the middle of the park facing each other. My heart accelerated abruptly, and the air seemed constricted in my chest and lungs. His hands closed over mine, briefly, surprisingly as he leaned towards me. I grew uneasy. He placed his warm hand on my cheek and I felt a tingle run down my spine. I shut my eyes and moaned as his hand ran through my thighs.
Lost in the euphoria of the moment which felt surreal, it came to a halt at the sound of a gunshot. I opened my eyes and saw him on the floor, blood erupting from his chest. I gasped and looked around the park terrified. My hands quivering and my heart thumping so fast. I bit my lip, tears salty on my lips, and knelt beside him.
“Mister” I wept.
There was no response, not even the barest flutter of his lashes, and my vision was blurred because of my tears, and I blinked furiously to enhance my sight, determined to see him breathing, living, alive. My vision cleared. He was so still. But surely he breathed?
I was petrified, more dread, more fright seized me.
I held an arm over his mouth, my hand shaking uncontrollably, determined to feel his warm, moist breath on my flesh.
And I felt nothing.
Desperately, I ripped open his shirt and applied pressure to the severed area to stop blood from rushing out of his chest. I laid my ear to his chest, and there was no movement, no rise or fall of his rib cage and there was no heartbeat, nothing.
He was dead. It was a Christmas Eve that went wrong.
© Uju Omeh