So here’s what went down last week on BEAUTIFUL SINNERS. So Amara is still seeing her dead mother at the most unexpected places. She comes close to telling her ex-husband-to-be, Kareem, everything about her hallucinations when he visits with her at the hospital. Speaking of the hospital, Amara’s father, Mazi Peters has recovered from his stroke, and his first order of business is to ensure that his daughter, who is his second-in-command, doesn’t step in to hold down the fort while he’s recuperating. Tsk, tsk! We don’t like him for this. No, not at all!

Demoniker’s affair with Ryan Bassey has become public knowledge, and Demoniker is not letting herself get browbeaten by the scandal. Instead, she’s telling the public off for the double standard of expecting an apology from just her and not also from the man she had the affair with.

And after watching Demoniker’s interview, Josh punches his antagonistic father in the face and says, “I QUIT!”

Talk about drama.

And now, it’s one week later.

*

Amy, you can’t keep sulking like this. At some point, you have to get out of your funk and function with the rest of the world, Kareem chided gently through the voicemail he’d left his ex-fiancée on the phone when she didn’t answer his call yesterday night.

Yes, what your dad did was not a good thing, but it doesn’t mean you have to grind your entire life and responsibilities to a halt because an old man’s petty decision. Otherwise you’d be proving him right that you’re not mature enough to handle such a big responsibility –

Amara hit the delete button and Kareem’s voice disappeared into the unshapen heap of cyber garbage. She dropped the phone on the bathroom cabinet and proceeded to rinse her mouth now she was done with brushing her teeth. There were other messages waiting, more people undoubtedly wanting to know when she was going to come out of her self-imposed exile. It’d been a week, and she could imagine most of these people, especially those who worked with her, were more interested in what titbit they could finagle from her to feed the local gossip that had started churning when the news that she wasn’t going to step into her father’s shoes, however temporarily, came out.

I did. I forgive you, my darling. But my feelings have nothing to do with my decision not to consider you as my replacement. The fact remains that you ran away from responsibility. I can’t have that in the person taking my place in business.

The knowledge of her father’s passing her over still stung and her expression tightened as she slid out of her dressing robe and moved into the shower stall. She turned on the shower and adjusted the knobs until a powerful jet of mildly hot water was beating down on her head and down her body. She stood there under the spray, trembling as her mind was assaulted by a whorl of emotions, the surge so convoluted that she couldn’t sift through them or protect her mind from the onslaught, even if she wanted to.

When tears bit at the back of her eyes, she blinked rapidly. I will not cry, she told herself silently. I will not cry! My life may be falling apart, but I will not cry.

When she was done with her bath, she stepped toward the bathroom mirror and wiped her hand across the surface to clear the bath mist away. The instant sight of the ghostly figure reflected behind her gave her a start and she whirled around.

But her mother wasn’t behind her. However when she turned back to the mirror, there she was, right behind her. She turned again and saw no one. Her mother had clearly chosen to taunt her from the reflective depths of the mirror.

“What do you want?” Amara said in a husky low tone to the wraithlike reflection. Her voice rose steadily as she continued, “What do you want from me! Can’t you just leave me alone!”

The tears rushed to her eyes again, blurring her vision. She lifted a hand to her face and wiped them away. She looked back into the mirror and her mother was gone. Amara released a trembly sigh and hunched over the bathroom hand basin as her body began to shake with dry, heaving sobs.

***

“Junior, will you stop hitting your brother!” a woman admonished shrilly ahead of Amara as she turned around an aisle in the supermarket, pushing her cartful of purchases in front of her.

“But mummy –”

“Shut up! You rascals should behave otherwise I’ll tell your daddy and he’ll cane you!”

Amara was brought up short as she recognized the voice seconds before she saw the owner. The woman was svelte, so slenderly-built that her generous bosom stood out disproportionately with her frame. Her hair was sleeked back into a careful chignon to reveal her sharp profile and her mascaraed eyes had begun to turn in Amara’s direction before she suddenly realized she didn’t want to be seen by the woman.

“Shit!” she hissed as she involuntarily jerked backward, hitting her back against the shelf of toiletries that stood behind her.

The impact rattled the well placed bottles of antiperspirants on the shelf and some of them tipped forward and dropped with a startling din on the parquet floor. A few faces turned and Amara felt her face heat up with mortification as she dropped to her haunches and began picking up the bottles that had mercifully not smashed apart.

“Amarachi?”

She stiffened at the sound of her name and her eyes fluttered shut.

“Amarachi, is that you? Oh my God, it’s you!”

She opened her eyes and rose to her feet, pasting a smile on her face as she turned to confront the sight of her former classmate from the university approach her, one hand clasped over a five-year-old boy’s hand and the other hand towing her shopping cart forward; another boy, a sullen-faced six-year-old followed after them.

“Susan, hey,” she said with weak exuberance.

“Oh wow,” Susan said as she stopped before her and reached her hands forward.

Amara allowed herself to be pulled into the hug, endured the thrust of the silicon hardness of Susan’s augmented breasts, before pulling back from her.

“How have you been?” As she asked the question, the woman’s eyes were skimming over Amara, deciding for herself how she was as she took in her plain T-shirt and denim-clad appearance, pulled-back hair and unmade-up face. “You look…good,” Susan remarked.

“So do you,” Amara said, observing how elegantly put-together Susan was from the crown of her sleek chignon to the soles of well-shod feet. Back in school, Susan was one of those girls who’d never let the world see her in any form that was less than perfect.

“How long has it been?”

“Not long enough,” Amara muttered.

“Huh?”

“I said not since final year,” she said audibly.

“Oh yes!” Susan gushed. “Those days in Unilag, men, those were the days. Now look at us, the quintessential woman, living the life.”

“And with two boys in tow for you,” Amara said as she swept a quick look over her former classmate’s brood.

Susan let out a gusty laugh. “Oh yes. I don’t know if you heard, but Jeremy and I got married right after NYSC orientation camp. In fact, I barely spent any time in the camp, so busy was I planning our wedding.”

“Congratulations,” Amara said, remembering the reedy-framed rich brat Susan had been dating in the two final years of their university days. “I remember how you’ve always wanted marriage and a family. Looks like you got it all.”

“I heard you were also going to get married,” Susan said, her eyes suddenly sharpening with interest. She inched closer to Amara, who took a step back. “I read on Linda Ikeji’s blog that you ditched your fiancé at the altar. My God, Amy, what happened?”

A hot prickly familiar sensation began to spread down from Amara’s head. Her breathing hitched and her eyes widened, seeking any other vision that wasn’t the ravening look that had taken over the other woman’s features. But Susan’s face was omnipresent, filling up her line of sight. Her breathing came faster and she shut her eyes with a whimper.

“Amara…?” Susan’s voice came to her in a bewildered question. “Amara, what’s wrong?”

Her eyes snapped open, and she gasped when she saw her mother leaning toward her, her otherworldly hand reaching out to touch her. She felt a gust of eerily cold draft waft over her body at the nearness of the ghost.

Amara let out a choked shriek and shrank back from her.

“Amy…” her mother called.

“Get away from me!” she shrilled.

“Amara, what are you –”

“I said get away from me!” And she lunged forward, grabbing at her mother, not pausing to give thought to the contact she made with such an ethereal being.

Her hands sank into flesh and the momentum of her attack caused the two figures to topple to the ground, with Amara landing on top of her mother.

“Leave me alone! Why won’t you leave me alone!” she began screaming as she lashed out with her fists at her mother’s face. “Just leave me alone! Leave me alone!”

Her mother made no move to deflect her blows. Instead, she lay there, smirking in the face of her fury.

And then, all of a sudden, Amara felt strong hands grasp at her arms and heave her. She struggled against the constraints, clawing at them, furious with these people who were getting in the way of her venting. She was screaming.

And then she heard other sounds; the wail of children, the loud admonitions of other shoppers, and–

“Get her away from me! Crazy bitch! What did I ever do to you! You are crazy!”

She stopped struggling and a haze appeared to fall from her eyes as she turned to stare at the very dishevelled Susan who was ranting as she was helped to her feet by a security man. Her hair was messy, her face had sustained a few bruises and she looked shaken with both fear and anger.

Realization dawned on Amarachi. “Oh my God, Susan…”

“You crazy bitch!” Susan screamed at her as she reached for her wailing children. Her eyes shot daggers at Amara. “You are crazy! I never want to see you again –”

“Susan, I’m sorry…I didn’t know –” She took a step forward.

“Get away from me!” Susan shrieked, recoiling as some of the other people that had crowded around them moved protectively between the two women.

Faces upon which were expressions of displeasure were turned to Amara. Protestations rose around her.

“This woman, nawa for you o…”

“See the way you just attacked an innocent person…”

 “It’s like you escaped from a mental institution…”

“Mental gini? Look at her – she looks like a criminal sef…”

“Security, you people should hand her to the police please…”

Amara could feel herself still reeling when a determined hand grasped her arm and began to tow her away from the wrath of the shoppers to the backroom, where she’d await her fate.

***

The door to the store manager’s office where she’d been remanded for the past several minutes was jerked open. Amara looked up to see Kareem’s stern face appear behind the stout figure of the manager.

“There she is,” the man who wore the tag that identified him as Yusuf said as he gestured to his detainee.

“Oh God! Kareem!” Amara breathed as she rose to her feet.

Kareem had pushed past the manager to meet her halfway, welcoming her into his arms and holding her close as she began to tremble with renewed sobs. He looked at Yusuf over her head and said gravely, “Could you give us a few minutes, sir?”

“Of course,” the manager said, and promptly exited the room.

Kareem waited a few moments, before gently pushing Amara back from his body. Her eyes were huge and reddened with spent crying as she looked back at him.

“Susan…” she croaked.

“You mean the woman you attacked?” At her nod, he said, “I’ve spoken to her. I managed to talk her out of her intention to press charges.”

“I don’t know what came over me. She was just there, talking to me, and then I wasn’t thinking, and then I saw my mother again, and I just freaked out. Before I knew it –”

“You were beating up your former classmate in front of her children in a shopping mall,” Kareem completed.

“It wasn’t intentional, Kareem,” Amara exclaimed wretchedly.

“I know,” Kareem agreed. “And that’s what makes it worse. You’re lucky Susan was not so taken with the idea of pressing charges because she actually believes you are crazy. However, we’ll be taking care of her hospital bill when she goes to get checked out.”

“I am not crazy, Kareem…” Amara protested weakly. Even her voice held no conviction as she stared miserably at the man in front of her. “I don’t know… Maybe I am. Maybe I’m gradually losing my sanity…”

“Stop it, Amara,” Kareem said in a stern tone. “You are right, you are not crazy. But you need help. I don’t know why you clamped up when you started telling me about seeing your mother the other day at the hospital. But it’s clear this is a very worrisome issue. And you can’t handle it on your own. You need professional help.”

Amara began shaking her head.

“Just think about it,” Kareem continued gravely. “You could have killed somebody today.”

Amara was brought up short by the words. She stared up at him again and her eyes began filling up. “I could have…” she whispered in a trembly voice.

“But you didn’t. And now you have a chance to trust somebody else to help you.”

Amara burrowed herself inside Kareem’s arms again and began sobbing anew. Her voice was muffled as she continued saying, “I’m sorry… I’m so sorry…”

Kareem hands held the back of her head, gently stroking her hair as he soothed, “It’s okay! It’ll be okay. You’re going to get help and everything will be fine.”

Written by The Reverend

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