MAGICAL MONDAYS WITH KREATE

CHAPTER VI

Sumbo 
***
 
The dream again! The first time it happened, I reckoned it was an incident; a normal dream. The second time it occurred I figured it was a coincidence. But in the space of one week I have had the same dream four times in a row. There had to be a pattern. The shocking thing about these episodes was that there were no subtractions or additions, no editing. There had to be a message behind it. But what was it? For one I didn’t know the characters in the dream. After a while of fruitless search for answers, I decided to let the running hamster in my head rest. Other things needed doing. There was a gift to be purchased and a day to look forward to. Mrs. Padraig was having a birthday party this afternoon. The invitation had been delivered by baseball cap Adrien two days ago. The invitation was a plus-one, and I knew just the person to accompany me.
We were expected to dress casually for the occasion.  Akin had agreed the instant I extended the invitation. He hadn’t decided on a course of action about his marital situation yet. He was still heartbroken but his personality was much improved now. Since that day we spent all nights together, and he would return to his hotel at about 11pm. Whenever he relapsed into depression, I always managed to bring him out of it. He had offered to accompany me to the store where I would buy the gift. I had invited him over for a late breakfast before we head out. I checked the alarm clock and it read 7:15am so he should be here in another three hours.
It was Saturday hence I had my routine cleaning task to accomplish before he arrived. It was time to get out of bed. 
I was dusting the sofa, swaying my hips in appreciation to a favorite Nigerian song playing on my laptop when the doorbell rang. I checked the wall clock. It was too early to be Akin. I ambled to the translucent glass door, turned the door knob and pulled it open. It wasn’t Akin, but Temilade, Akin’s wife. How did she get my address? 
We were about the same height but her hair was low-cropped and her eye balls were a noticeably bigger. She wore a light brown leather jacket on a dark green turtle neck and her black pair of jeans matched her black (with a white base) pair of sneakers. For a separated woman, she did not look distraught. Not by a Little stretch.
I’d like to speak to my husband,’ she demanded without a guise of amiability.
No hello, no hi, and she was already making demands. I reckoned her concept of courteous behavior was nonexistent. I wanted to tell her to take a hike or at least give her a little piece of my mind but I decided she was not worth the trouble. I wouldn’t let a tramp stamp ruin my day. ‘He is not here,’ I replied in a calm voice.
Suddenly she raised her voice and began pounding my door, ‘Akin I know you are in that house. Come out here and be a man!’ Her eyes looked slightly maniacal; heaving breasts, right hand on hips while a foot tapped the floor in consistent rhythm. I felt the curious eyes of passersby.
I was taken aback but only for a moment. ‘Hey lady, I have tolerated enough of this irrational display of yours. It is people like you that perpetuate stereotypes about Nigerian women. Please leave before I call the police’. My voice was still surprisingly calm as anger had begun boiling in me.
‘I know he is in there!’ she said, but her legs were retreating down the stairs. ‘Leave my husband alone, husband snatcher!’ She clapped her hands then left.
Smart choice, crazy woman, I thought. I smiled, beside myself. It’s been a long time since I had heard the word husband snatcher and it was in a Nigerian stand-up comedy I watched on the internet. Poor Akin had had to deal with this fur ball of irrationality. I shut the door and returned to the kitchen. 
 
In another two hours, Akin and I emerged from the book store I had just purchased a gift for Mrs. Padraig. The shopping mall was unusually crowded even for a Saturday; it had to be because of the in-flock of tourists peculiar to the season. Troops of teenagers were entering and exiting clothing stores, chatting animatedly. I found myself wishing for the young and naïve days. Akin’s arm was around my neck; I turned my head to look at him and I met a happy face. He grinned at me and dusted something off my forehead with a finger. He could act like a sweet gentleman if he wanted to. It was a shame I was about to ruin the moment right about now. 
‘So your wife came by the house this morning,’ I said, as we approached the exit of the mall.
I expected him to stop in his tracks but he didn’t; his smile left though. ‘Well, that took longer than expected. She abhors being ignored so frankly I’m surprised she’s been able to last that long. Well, we are not going to let her put a damper on a day like this, are we? Let’s go get our taxi.’ His grin was back.
 
Akin had gotten all the information he needed about Mrs. Padraig before we got there, but they were mostly useless to him; for one, he had no care for artworks. So, he decided to stick with being himself. I believed his personality was enough to get him into the good graces of our host. His arm was locked to mine as we walked up to the black buzzer thing by the iron-wrought gate of Edna’s property. I didn’t have the combination for access but I figured there would be a button and a voice receiver. I was right. I pushed the button and a voice responded in a matter of minutes. It belonged to Adrien. The gate let us in. 
Although this was my second entry into the estate, I still found myself in awe of everything, and I could tell from the bemused look on Akin’s face as he scanned the premises that he was too.  
‘Wow! This is definitely something,’ he said. 
‘You need to see the garden,’ I said.
As we approached the edifice, I could hear soft music playing.  Adrien came out of the building before we reached the main door; he was all smiles. Unsurprisingly, a grey face cap rested on his head, complementing his blue casual long-sleeved shirt and jeans. 
Welcome, Miss Sumbo,’ he greeted and stretched out his hand. I took his hand and smiled. ‘Adrien, you can cut out the miss bit.
‘Sure.’ he replied.
‘This is Akin my close friend -and plus one tonight,’ I said, gesturing towards Akin by my side.
Akin was the first to provide his hand. ‘How do you do Adrien?’
‘Very well, thank you.’ Adrien, replied shaking the offered hand. ‘How do–  Suddenly something buzzed on the wrist of the outstretched hand. He pulled back the sleeve of his shirt, revealing a watch-like device strapped to his hairy wrist. He clicked a button and a voice spoke out to him.
Name please,’ he said into the receiver. The person at the other end responded.
Come in.’ Adrien’s attention shifted back to Akin, ‘Sorry about that, I do hope to get to know you better as the party progresses, provided I have the time of course.’
‘I will look forward to it,’ Akin smiled. 
‘Please do go in. The sound of the music will point you in the right direction.’
‘See you later Adrien,’ I said. Akin and I went through the main door. 
 
The door opened into a long passage that one wouldn’t have expected from the exterior of the building. It smelt of real lavender. As we followed the tune of the inviting melody, I noticed picture frames on both sides of the white walls separated by irregular distance. The only face I recognized in each of them was Mrs. Padraig, although the young boy in some of them looked a lot like her.
There was another prominent man that appeared in the photographs. I presumed he was her husband. As we drew closer to our destination, everybody in the picture grew older. At some point, the man photograph stopped featuring. I deduced it must have been the point when he became deceased. The last portrait had only Mrs. Padraig and a tall handsome young man dressed in a naval uniform. We reached a blue door with two black handles. The sound of the music was
considerably higher now.
Expect a sound blast,’ Akin said, and pulled the doors.
No sound blast happened. Of course, the volume was slightly increased but it would definitely not pass for a sound blast. There were only a dozen or so people illuminated by bright white light in the large space that met my eyes. I had expected a lot more in a house party hosted by someone of Mrs. Padraig’s status. Perhaps we were early and more people were on their way. Or perhaps the host had few friends. Everyone was casually dressed except for the attendants in their white shirts and black trousers who carried trays containing filled glasses of white and red wines. There was a musical band of two females on a raised platform at the right corner of the building; one was playing the violin and the other a piano. The guests were in groups of twos and threes.
The room appeared built to resemble a ball room. There were two crystal chandeliers on the ceiling, a zigzag staircase on the left wing leading to a balconied floor with a square design. I observed there were a few doors on the upper floor, all shut, with no regularity to the intervals of their locations. And as expected, a few paintings hung on a few odd corners. My eyes wandered to the floor: the blue and white tiles on the floor had a square design that made me wonder where it begun and where it ended.  
A grey uniformed lady with red shoes approached us and asked if we had any gifts for the celebrant. I handed her the parcel in my hand; she received it with a professional smile and left.
After collecting our gift, the least she could have done was offer us some drinks,’ Akin said, and hailed a nearby steward carrying a tray of wine. He chose a glass of white wine but I went for the red. Just then a familiar voice played to my ears.
‘So how do you see the place?’
I spurn around at the voice and discovered it was our host in a casual blue and white floral gown. I couldn’t help wondering if she had a thing for floral designed fabrics. The white pearls on her neck sat exquisitely on the dress and matched the clear confident smile that held her lips.
‘Hello Mrs. Padraig –’ I greeted and she raised an eyebrow. ‘Edna. It is going to take a while of getting used to. Cultural habits die hard.’
‘I know,’ she said before turning her attention to Akin, extending her hand. ‘And who is this lovely young man?’
‘Akin Badejo,’ Akin took the hand with a hearty grin, ‘Her close friend and colleague’.
‘A pleasure meeting you,’ Miss Padraig said. She turned to her left and called out: ‘Beatrice.’
A brunette that appeared in her twenties excused herself from an aged couple and reached us in a few graceful strides. She wore a pink tee shirt, a pair of blue three-quarter denim shorts and a pair of black sandals. Her skin was tanned like she had just been on some vacation to a hot island. She was beautiful too.
‘Yes Aunt,’ Beatrice greeted the host and then turned to Akin and I, flaunting a perfect set of white teeth, unusual for the many English ladies I had met. She seemed to be sizing Akin up appreciatively. Edna did the introductions, and handshakes followed suit; Akin’s own lasting a little bit longer. I didn’t know who held on but the person seemed to ignore the golden ring lodged comfortably on his marital finger.
Edna’s eyes were on me ‘Beatrice dear, keep Akin’s company while I steal Sumbo away for some minutes, will you?’ She turned to Akin with a smile. ‘You don’t mind do you?’ Akin’s grin was disarming. ‘Not at all. Beatrice looks quite harmless.’ He gave Beatrice a quizzical look. ‘You won’t hurt me now, would you?’
We all laughed.
 
Edna led the way up the staircase. She turned the knob of the first door we approached. It opened to a large room that was something of a little art gallery. A considerable amount of artworks – paintings and sculptures – lay in locations, in a style that resembled a wide semi-circle. Some of the polished wooden sculptures gleamed from the sunlight that penetrated through two large windows. In the middle of the arc of art, lay a rectangular grey sofa and a round brown table in front of it. On the table was a large sky blue book that looked like an album. She ushered me towards the sofa.
‘Have a seat.’ Edna said, as she sank into a side of the sofa. ‘That’s my family’s album. Do take a look at it, if you would.’
With a smile, I picked up the book. It was quite heavy. I ran my fingers through the spiral patterns edged on the front cover before opening it. The photo on the first page was a smaller version of one of the pictures that lined the corridor to the ballroom. 
 ‘That’s Clive my late husband and our only son Gerald.’
‘He is in the military, your son.’ 
 ‘Yeah, he is doing peace-keeping job of some description at some place where there is a lot of sand and blood. Always been patriotic, that Gerald. Nothing like his father who shied away from anything that had a trace of -’ 
I looked up from the picture to Edna who now had an all too familiar entranced look. The garden incident was repeating itself. Although unnerved by this scary creepiness, something strong at a corner of my mind told me she was alright and that whatever this was, it would pass. 
In a matter of seconds, it did. Edna smiled, took a soft deep breath, and relaxed into the sofa. ‘I had hoped that that wouldn’t happen. It is out of my control, you see. I hope I didn’t scare you?’ I lied. ‘More like startled. I should have called for help but I had this strong feeling that you were in a trance.’
‘You did the right thing my lovely. I actually brought you here to offer some explanation about
the first episode in the garden,’
she said.
Curiosity wanted some explanation alright, but courtesy made me say: ‘You don’t have to.’
Her smile remained constant all through like a Barbie doll, only hers’ had life in it. ‘I want to my dear. Besides, you are in the centre of it all.’
Now this was absurd, I thought. I looked into Edna’s eye to catch any glimpse of humour. There was none. She was as serious as can be.
Besides, she didn’t strike me as the sort of lady who played pranks on people. I began to feel a bit disconcerted but I held my calm.
I didn’t utter a word. What do you say in response to that? 
‘I must sound like a complete nutter, I know, but it will all make sense by the time I’m done.’ She placed a hand on my shoulder then continued: ‘You are not the first. I have these specific flashes or flash episodes about people -about their future.’ She hesitated.
The thought of my granny warning my mum not to take a certain flight suddenly crossed my mind. Perhaps Edna wasn’t loosing it after all.
I listened intently to her. 
‘Have you been having any vivid recurring dreams, lately?’ She asked.
Amazement coursed through my veins like a race car. How in God’s name did she know about
my dreams? I stared at her but didn’t reply.
Her smile and eyes took on the form of one a mother would give a child who was just about to discover the wisdom of her mother’s years. Then she continued: ‘There were an ice cream truck, a dog, a kid, a lady, and a man who played lawn tennis?’ she asked.
Now she had me under her spell. My mouth dropped slightly open while my eyes held hers. I was now certain that this was no joke. 
I believed in the mysterious and the supernatural, but having access to the VIP seat of one that involved yours truly was a bit too surreal. I shifted uncomfortably on the sofa. It was hard to be calm, but I really didn’t care about appearances now, even with the luxurious Edna Padraig sitting in front of me. I opened my mouth to speak but nothing came out.
‘When did this prophesy start?’ I finally managed to ask.
The word Prophesy must have amused her as she chuckled. The effect it had on her wasn’t mutual. ‘It started some weeks before I met you. I had no idea where to find you but I knew we would meet
somehow. It has always been like that.’
‘Always?’ I said. Her hand smoothened her dress but her eyes never left mine.  ‘Nine people so far.’
‘With these people, what have these flashes been about?’ 
‘Love, Fame, Career,’ she paused then let out a quiet sigh, ‘and death’.
The question popped into my mind and proceeded from my mouth before I could give it any consideration. ‘And what is mine about?’ 
The way she retained my gaze was impressive. ‘To be honest, I can’t say for sure. Yours is a bit peculiar in that it leaves a fair amount of suspense. You see, with the other clients, what happens in the flash is clear – like a marriage proposal, for instance. Or being laid into a coffin.  The best I can assume, in your case, is that love might be on your tarot cards, metaphorically speaking. You were definitely attracted to the bloke.’
Me? I didn’t understand. The lady in my dream definitely wasn’t me; perhaps the only resemblance were the eyes and nose. ‘The lady in that dream wasn’t me.’ 
Hmm.’ Edna’s brows furrowed in thought. ‘That’s not unusual. Dreams are symbolic sometimes. They are dreams, after all.’  
The possibility that true love would come knocking at my door felt thrilling.
Somehow, the thought of how those helpless clients with morbid futures felt, perched on my mind. ‘So those with death in their dreams – can their destiny be altered?’ I asked.
No. I’m afraid not.’ She replied.
‘So what is the point then?’ I asked, dismayed. ‘Knowing you or a loved one is going to die and not being able to do anything about it.
‘These dreams happen for two reasons that I know of. One is to motivate the subject not to give up hope. This usually happens to people who have tried and searched numerous times for things that kept eluding them. Love and fame are good examples. The dreams assure them that those goals would be attained. The second reason is that the dreams happen to prepare the person in question for a bad event: the loss of someone close or one’s own life. It gives them the opportunity to make amends. The two cases I have had in the past happened to individuals that had dysfunctional relationships with family or friends.’ 
‘But why these people? What makes them so special? What makes me better than anyone else?’
‘I don’t know.
Finding the answer to that question is like trying to fathom why some people die while others get to live or why unwise people rule and intelligent others serve. Who understands the rationale behind Fate’s decisions?’
The answer to her rhetorical question was obvious. My head was hurting now but I wanted to know something else. ‘How did you find me?’ I asked in strained tone.
‘I didn’t find you, my dear,’ she said, her trademark smile unwavering, ‘That would have been impossible since I had no name, no location, only a picture. Fate has always had a way of bringing subjects to me; your case wasn’t any different.’
The use of the term subject felt inappropriate. It sounded like we were lab rats in some scientist’s experiment. But then, were we not? The thought of the antique store guy glancing at me came to mind. ‘Was that why Michael kept giving me those random funny looks while we were in his gallery?’ I inquired. 
Edna shook her head steadily. ‘No. He knows nothing about my gift. He thought you had an uncanny resemblance to someone he had seen somewhere, but he couldn’t remember. That was why he kept casting glances at you hoping it would jog back the memory. It didn’t though.’ 
I nodded and as if by cue, someone rapped on the door. Edna’s attention turned to where the sound emanated from, and said: ‘You may come in.’
It was Beatrice, the brunette that we left with Akin. She did not enter but remained on the threshold. ‘The Bigelows would like to see you before taking their leave’
‘Oh dear, we must have spent quite a while up here.’ Edna said. She turned to look at me. ‘Sumbo,
shall we continue this chat later?
’ Her voice sounded casual as if the last hour had been dedicated to idle gossip.
‘By all means,’ I replied.  I was glad the conversation had ended for the day. My head was reeling from processing all the information.
 
KREATE
Kreate is a budding Nigerian writer with a flair for fiction. Writing for him began sometime in secondary school where he dabbled in poetry and plays. He has authored two self-published short novels. He is a banker and lives in Surulere. Read more interesting pieces at KREATEATALE