So here’s what went down last week on Beautiful Sinners:

It has been six months since Kevin’s close friend, Samuel, died. And Kevin is anything but fine. He quit his job at Highland and he’s pushing everyone, including his boyfriend, Kuddus, away.

News of Demoniker’s affair with Chief Ryan Bassey has gotten out and there’s all sorts of fracas looking to explode from the scandal.

And finally, remember Amara – the bride who dumped her groom at the altar? Well, we’re about to find out why she pulled that very crazy stunt.

*

Amarachi Peters had always been a daddy’s girl as far back as she could remember, even before she lost her mother. That was why she easily succumbed to her father’s aspiration of her becoming a lawyer, giving up her dream to be a professional artist, and graduating from law school into her father’s practice. She quickly graduated up the ranks of the firm’s chain of command, proving herself very invaluable to Mazi Peters.

And in her private moments, when she wasn’t being the dutiful daughter or loyal subordinate, Amara took up her pencils and pads, and crayoned faces and shapes, sketches she always kept away from the eyes of her father, drawings that made her wonder with some wistfulness at the life she might have had if she’d had the courage to remain true to herself.

But she couldn’t complain. Her life was full and beautiful and rich. And she had the most beautiful man for a boyfriend. Everything was just the way it should be.

Until she began seeing the person she wasn’t supposed to see.

The first time she saw her was at the dinner party her father and his friend and impending partner, Aliu Musa had thrown to celebrate the merging of their two firms. Dr. Musa was also the father of Amara’s boyfriend, Kareem. Both their families had been warmly acquainted with each other for years, even though Amara and Kareem had only begun dating about six months ago.

Amara had been up at the podium giving a speech, aware without any sense of immodesty that she had the attention of everyone in the room due to the striking figure she cut with her beauty and immaculate attire.

“My father once told me two heads were better than one,” she addressed the gathering of successful men and their trophy wives and entitled offspring. “I was a kid then, and naturally, I assumed my father was talking about actual two heads, like some kind of dragon.”

There was a mild outburst of laughter at that.

“Like I said, in my defense, I was twelve. But then, he explained to me that sometimes it may look like you can only get things done right if you do it yourself. And that’s true. But a time always comes when you’ll need someone, someone other than yourself to finish the journey with you. And he was right. In his life, that person was my late mother, God bless her soul…”

As she was talking, her eyes were traveling over the heads turned to her. And then she faltered when she spotted a woman standing at the back of the small hall. The woman was staring at her, as the entire room was. But her stare was different; it caused a frisson to skitter up Amara’s spine as she leaned forward a bit and squinted at her, to get a better look at her.

Then she blinked, and when she looked again, the woman was gone. Realizing then that she had stopped talking, and the room was looking on with some bewilderment, she cleared her throat and hastily continued, “And in going through all the struggles of losing the love of his life, my father had me. We had each other.” She looked in the direction of the gray-haired man who was seated a short distance from the dais. He beamed at her and she beamed back.

“And when my father saw in his great friend, Dr. Musa, the opportunity of another someone, I knew without any doubt that a partnership such as this was going to be the next best thing since his with my mother passed on.”

Some people clapped at this, while others nodded approvingly.

“I won’t lie,” Amara continued when there was silence again, “when my dad first told me he had news, I just assumed he was retiring. I mean, they don tey for this business nau!”

Laughter invaded the room again.

“But when he went on to announce that he was merging with another firm, and then he mentioned that it was with Exertion Chambers, I was extremely pleased. I was…”

She faltered again when she turned her head to the right and her eyes widened with no small amount of shock when she saw the woman sidling through the seated guests slowly toward the dais. It was her mother. Amara swept a quick glance at the people seated around the woman moving toward her. And none of them seemed aware of her presence.

Can’t you see her?! she wanted to scream at them.

And then, when she looked again, her mother was gone. She blinked and looked around the room. She was nowhere. She drew in a shaky breath, heard someone mutter, “Is she okay?” before returning to her speech. “Where was I?” she said with a breathless laugh. She flailed mentally for a second, before giving up remembering what she’d been saying and simply continuing, “As a business and as a people, Peters and Associates and Exertion Chambers belong together. And so…” She lifted her flute of champagne, a move that was copied by the rest of the room. “Let us toast to the men who knew of this vision of togetherness before the rest of the world, and the world who is about to know the beauty of us working together, and many years of us being fruitful together. Cheers!”

***

Amara stepped down from the stage to the merriment of guests clinking glasses and reveling in the promise of greater things to come from the merger. Kareem stood to welcome her back to their table. Their fathers and Kareem’s mother were engaged in a boisterous talk with a couple of guests who had drifted to their table.

“Babe, are you okay?” he asked as he pulled her chair back for her. “You kind of zoned out there for a minute.”

“I’m fine,” she answered as she got seated. “I just thought I saw my…”

And then she stopped. She wasn’t even sure what she saw, or if she saw anything for that matter. How then could she tell Kareem about it and not seem crazy?

“Your what?

“Nothing,” she said. “It’s nothing.”

And it was nothing, she told herself firmly as she smiled brightly when her father turned to congratulate her on her speech. All she needed was some rest after the several weeks of wheeling and dealing for this merger to happen.

She would be fine.

***

But she wasn’t fine.

And it wasn’t ‘nothing’.

It was something. Her mother – who she began seeing a lot more in the following days. The sightings were always fleeting. The apparition never stayed for too long. Usually, all Amara had to do was blink, and her mother would be gone. She felt like she was going crazy. She couldn’t tell anyone about it. And so, the pressure of what she termed her hallucinations began to mount, causing her to crack one afternoon during a board meeting, when her mother ghosted past before her and she erupted with a scream: “What do you want from me!”

Then the apparition was gone, and she was left staring with mortification at the startled faces of the people in the conference room.

Feeling flush with embarrassment, she’d gotten to her feet and, as she gathered her things, muttered something about stress, before hastening out of the room. Tears of frustration stung her eyes as she fled from the meeting.

The burden of her hallucinations began to tell on her relationship with Kareem. She began to feel alone, separate even from her father. Kareem must have sensed her withdrawal and attributed it to her restlessness over the lack of definition of their future. And so, Amara got to hear from her best friend, Connie, about Kareem taking her ring-shopping. Clearly her boyfriend was gearing up to propose. He’d sworn Connie to secrecy, but Connie had never been successful at keeping anything from Amara.

And then, Kareem had asked her over to his place for dinner. Amara instantly knew this was going to be the night he’d propose, and as she parked her car inside his compound, she still wasn’t sure how she felt about marrying him.

And then she got to the front door and gasped with shock when she saw her mother standing a few feet away next to the well tended shrubbery lining the walls of the house.

“Please…” she pleaded, staring at the ghostly figure. “Not today…”

You’re making a mistake.

She blinked and the apparition was gone. She’d been startled because that was the first time her mother was speaking to her since the hallucinations began.

Kareem must have seen her approach the house from a window, because he opened the door then.

“Hey, baby,” he beamed at her.

Several moments later, halfway through dinner, he leaned toward her from his side of the table and turned an open small, velvet-lined box inside which sparkled a ring with a huge signet of diamonds to her.

“Marry me,” he’d said.

He couldn’t even get down on his knees for you.

The hoarse voice turned Amara’s attention to the figure standing several feet behind Kareem. She began to tremble as her mother glared at her.

I told you.

“What!” The word burst out of her, directed accusingly at her mother, but slamming into Kareem with a force that made him rear backward.

“Babe…” he said with widened eyes.

Her mother vanished. And Amara said hastily, “Yes. I meant to say yes. I’ll marry you.”

Kareem looked perplexed for a moment, before smiling and reaching to pull her into a hug and a kiss. Then he slipped the ring into her finger. The leaden occupation of the ring on Amara’s finger filled her with dread, certainly not what she’d expect a newly betrothed woman to feel.

***

All through the period of the engagement, throughout the hectic period of planning her wedding and rearranging her life to be better suited for her impending matrimony, her mother never once came to her. At first, she was tentatively relieved. And then she began to nurse the hope that the hallucinations were gone.

And then at her wedding, as the officiating priest asked her very solemnly, “Do you, Amarachi Peters, take this man, Kareem Musa, as your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold…” she returned, right there at the back of the chapel.

And that was when Amara knew she couldn’t possibly marry Kareem.

***

Amara watched as her father’s breathed in and out, the machines he was hooked up to beeping intermittently and emphasizing how fragile he was. She remembered thinking him so aged on the morning of her disastrous wedding two days ago. It was Monday now, and she’d been keeping vigil over her father ever since he was admitted on Saturday morning following his heart attack in the chapel.

The man hadn’t opened his eyes since his admittance. He was sleeping now. But Amara could feel his disappointment seeping at her from his pores. She could not believe how badly she’d failed her father, embarrassing him in the worst possible way any daughter could. She couldn’t even imagine what the Musas now thought of her. She hadn’t set eyes on either of them since Saturday. Aliu Musa, the father-in-law she was now never to have, had conveyed to her that he could only visit his friend without her around. She’d accommodated his request. The man clearly could not stand her at the moment. She hadn’t heard from Kareem.

Sighing, she tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. She was aware she must look a tired mess. She hadn’t been particular about her appearance since her father got into the hospital. This morning, before she’d left the house, she’d pulled her hair back into a ponytail and thrown on a tank top and denim trousers. She hadn’t bothered with any makeup. She didn’t care about all that. She just needed her father to awaken so she could tell him how much she loved him.

“Knock, knock,” someone called out quietly from the half-open doorway.

She looked up at the sound of the familiar voice as an immaculately-dressed, plump-figured young woman wearing a sleek chignon and a concerned look on her cherubic face stepped into the room.

“Hey, Connie,” she said softly.

“Hey you.” Her best friend stopped and gaped at her. “It is you, right” – she gestured at her – “behind that ghastly hairdo and that blouse that looks like it hasn’t seen the underside of an iron since it was washed.”

Amara smiled wanly. “It’s nice to see you too, Connie.”

“Oh, the pleasure is all yours, honey,” Connie retorted. She turned to the bed and released a small sigh. “How is he?”

“Stable, the doctors say,” Amara said, reaching out a hand to gently grasp her father’s on the bed.

“I’m sure he’ll be fine –”

“He hasn’t opened his eyes since…since, you know…”

“I’m sure it doesn’t imply anything fatal,” Connie reassured. “Have faith in the doctors.”

Amara nodded.

“What about you?” Connie inquired. “How are you managing?”

“I’m okay. I don’t know. I’ve been unraveling.”

Connie drifted closer to her. “Is it something you’d like to talk about? Because that runaway bride stunt you pulled was just…atypical of you.”

Amara nodded again. Every fibre of her being wanted to tell her friend about all she had been going through. But she was afraid of putting in words the craziness she’d experiencing, afraid she’d somehow certify her insanity if she put it in words. “I can’t explain it to myself, let alone talk about it with you.”

Fleeting hurt eclipsed Connie’s face. Best friend privileges clearly didn’t extend to what Amara was currently going through.

“I’m here though, whenever you’re ready.”

“I know. Thanks.”

Just then, the door opened and the two women turned around to behold Kareem on the threshold. Amara felt her heart constrict with guilt as she took in the well-dressed handsome figure. Where Connie hadn’t succeeded, her ex-fiancé managed in making her feel like a shambled mess.

“Hello,” she said in a low voice.

“Hi.” He looked at her, his expression placid.

“Good afternoon, Kareem,” Connie said.

“Good afternoon, Connie,” Kareem greeted back.

A microsecond of awkwardness tensed between them, before Connie said, “I’ll just – um, go out there and get me something to drink. Babe, do you need anything?”

Amara shook her head.

“Okay then.” And Connie was gone.

Kareem advanced into the room and Amara noticed then that he’d come bearing sustenance. There was a basket in his hand, which looked like it was stocked with whatever provisions her father might need for his stay in the hospital.

He placed the basket on the small table in the room and leaned against it, placing his derriere partly on the top. He stayed silent. And Amara bit her lip as she struggled for something to say to the man she’d jilted at the altar.

“I’m sorry,” she finally husked.

Kareem didn’t respond for a moment. When he finally did, his voice held understanding. “I know.”

Upon hearing this, Amara broke down, feeling release break out from her for the first time since her wedding morning. Tears fell from her eyes and her body heaved with the force of her crying. She wasn’t aware that Kareem had moved until she felt his arms coming around her, enveloping her with his warmth.

“I’m so, so sorry…” she managed to say in between sobs as she clung to him.

“He knows that too,” Kareem assured her softly, intuiting into her guilt. “It’s all going to be okay.”

A few moments passed as Amara expended her crying jag. And then, bleary-eyed with tears, she looked up, and over Kareem’s shoulder, she saw her again. Her mother was right there in the room, staring solemnly at her.

A fresh sob burst from Amara and she turned to Kareem and said wretchedly, “No, it’s not. It’s not going to be okay, Kareem. Something’s wrong. And I need help!”

Her ex-fiancé drew back a bit and gazed down at the fear and confusion swirling in the eyes of the woman he’d nearly wedded.

Written by The Reverend

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