One More Time

One More Time

One moment, I am driving, we are laughing and Charles reaches out to kiss me. And the next moment, it happens. There is first a forceful hit. I feel a sensation, then a sharp pain in my head.

I can’t move and I am trying to ignore the pain shredding through my body. But the screaming happening in my head is too loud to focus on anything else. I am screaming for Charles. Pain, fear and anguish fills me. It takes over everything. Charles isn’t in the passenger seat. Instead there’s a hole in the windshield. I imagine Charles fitting through it. Tears cascade down my face, but the fluid feels thicker. I think there’s blood on my face too.

***

I gasped as I shot up on the bed, sweat and tears dewing my body and face. Charles was immediately up by my side, holding me close to him.

“Shh, it’s just a dream, babe,” he whispered while I panted, still struggling for breath.

“It’s just a dream,” I repeated after him.

He guided me back down on the bed and held me for a long moment, until he fell asleep. Then I pulled away from him and slipped off the bed to the bathroom. I slipped a pill into my mouth and felt it slide down my throat. I inhaled and exhaled as I looked at my reflection. The man who looked back at me seemed tired. I reached up and touched the scar on my forehead. The man in the mirror touched his too. The scar from a year ago. I pinched the bridge of my nose and grimaced from the headache I was having. Then I walked to the shower and attempted to wash the weariness from my bones.

Moments later, Charles walked in and wrapped his arms around my waist. I sighed. He always knew how to make everything feel better. He kissed my neck, and I shuddered from both the feeling of the kiss and the cold water running down our naked bodies. Then he turned me around so we were looking at each other. He kissed me then, passionately. Anytime we kissed, it always felt like my lips had been made just for him. We stopped kissing and I rested my forehead against his.

“I love you, Nero,” he said.

“I love you too.”

He turned off the water and started cleaning the moisture from my body. I smiled at his caring. He looked at me and laughed.

“What?” he asked, his thick eyebrows rising, one above the other, and his teeth catching his lower lip between them.

“Nothing. I’m just smiling,” I answered before kissing him again.

We left the bathroom and walked back into the bedroom. Through the curtains, I could see the wink of dawn.

“Was it the same dream?” he asked, even though it didn’t sound like a question.

“Yes,” I said quietly.

“You need to see someone, Nero – a psychiatrist. To help you let go of this guilt. I’m fine. We’re fine.”

“We escaped a terrible fate, Charles. Don’t you see that? I can’t bear the thought of losing you!” I almost shouted.

“It happened, babe. And there’s nothing you can do to change that, but to let it go and move forward.” He walked over to me and cupped my face in his small hands. He looked sad. I kissed one of his palms. “Babe, you need to let this go, please.”

“Alright. I will talk to my mum and ask her to help me find a psychiatrist. Is that okay?” I implored. “Just don’t be sad.”

He smiled and nodded.

I began moving about the room, getting ready for my day.

“I’m still going to see Ese for lunch later. Are you sure you can’t make it?” I smiled, missing Ese. I had slowly lost touch with most of our friends since the accident.

Charles shook his head. “I can’t. I’ve got a really full day. But please say hi to her for me.”

By the time I finished getting dressed, the day had brightened outside. I kissed Charles, our kiss lingering as I battled the panic I felt every day since the accident: the fear that leaving the house, leaving him, was like saying goodbye, was like losing him.

“Remember, you’re fine,” he said to me, before sending me out of the apartment.

My day picked up during lunch as I watched Ese walk into the restaurant. She paused as she got in, looked around and saw me. There was at first a hesitation to her reaction when she saw me, like she wasn’t sure what to expect from me. But then I beamed at her and waved her over to our table and she beamed back, hurrying across the room to me. We hugged and exchanged air kisses.

“Oh my god, I have missed you!” my best friend said with a gush of relief and happiness. “How have you been?”

“I’m fantastic. The new house is great,” I answered honestly.

“That’s good,” she said. There was sadness still evident in her voice.

“Come on. None of that. We’re celebrating.” I gestured to the waiter. He came over and was soon pouring drinks into wine glasses for us. “I haven’t seen you in like forever,” I said to Ese when he had gone. “How long has it been – a year, six months?”

“A year? Six months?” Ese looked startled. “Nero, we were together three months ago.” She dropped her glass gently on the table, her brow forming a groove of concern. “We found your new place together.”

“What nonsense are you saying?” I said with a short laugh. “Charles and I found the apartment.”

“Darling…” she began, her eyes immediately getting glassy with tears.

“Don’t do that, Ese,” I admonished lightly. “We are here to catch up and be merry. Charles says I should learn to let go of the accident and that’s what I’m trying to do with you. And that won’t happen if you’re going to get all teary on me. honestly, Charles should’ve been here. He’d laugh silly over your drama.”

“Where is Charles?” she asked, her lips trembling as she fought back her misery.

“He’s at home. Got a busy day today. He’s finishing up a script for a movie.”

“Let’s go and see him then,” she said.

“You sure?” I glanced at my watch. “I thought you said you had a hectic day.”

She waved a dismissive hand. “It’s alright. Everything I have to do after lunch can always be moved around.”

The drive to my place was uncomfortable. I tried to keep up the conversation, but Ese was a reluctant participant. When she wasn’t giving unenthusiastic responses, she was looking at me with an unfathomable expression in her eyes. I tried to ignore the pull of her sadness and chattered on about the life Charles and I were trying to get back to post-accident.

“Baby!” I called as we get into the house. Turning to Ese, I said with a smirk, “He’s going to tease you for crying, you know?”

Ese doesn’t respond. There’s an odd expression of fear on her face.

Charles stepped out from the gloom of the corridor into the living room.

“There you are, baby,” I said cheerily. My cheeriness however wavered when he didn’t respond. Instead, he looked at me with an eerie quietness. “Babe…?”

I heard the catch of a sob and turned to see Ese trying to stifle her sobbing. She was being very unsuccessful with that. Her eyes had welled up with tears that were falling unrestrained down her face.

“Why are you crying for chrissakes?” I snapped, feeling irritated. “You said you wanted to see Charles. Well, there he is.”

Ese walked up to me and took my hand. I stiffened at her touch.

“What is the matter with you?”

“Charles isn’t here, Nero. Look at me,” she said insistently as I turned to where Charles was standing. “Nero –”

“What is she saying?” I said to Charles, my eyes pleading with him. “say something, baby. Tell her! what is she saying – what are you saying!” I turned a wrathful look on Ese. “Are you blind? Look at him! He’s right there.”

“No, I’m not, baby.” Charles’s words snapped my head back around to face him. “I’m not here, Nero.”

“What? Of course, you’re here.” I laugh incredulously.

“Nero, it’s okay…” Ese was saying.

Why was she talking like this? Why was Charles talking like this? Did they not see how crazy they were sounding?

“Nero, it’s okay…” Ese said. “Just think, my darling. Think about that day. Think about the accident. Can you remember?”

What was this nonsense! Of course, I could remember. After the accident, Charles and I are rushed to the hospital. I’d been conscious long enough to learn that Charles’s injuries hadn’t been as grave as I’d imagined they’d be, for someone who’d bene thrown through the windshield upon the impact our car made with a truck. Then I lost consciousness and according to everyone, I’d slipped into a coma. I remembered waking up and seeing everyone and Charles come to visit me. Mum and Dad took me back home and Charles visited me there. After months of being treated like I would up and shatter any minute, I got better and asked Charles to find a new place with me. I’d only seen close family until then, when we got a new apartment three months ago. I shut most of my friends out, wanting to spend some time alone with the love of my life. Charles had been insistent I spend some time with family too. I didn’t want to but I’d do anything for him.

I was saying all these to Ese, and as I spoke each word, she kept shaking her head.

“No, Nero!” she sobbed. “Most of that never happened. They couldn’t have because Charles is dead. While you slipped into the coma, he died. I’m sorry, Nero, but Charles died.”

My shock at her words pushed me into panic. Charles was no longer standing there by the door connecting the parlour to the corridor. I pushed her aside and fled after him.

“Charles! Baby! Charles!” I shouted for him.

He didn’t answer.

I ran about the house, feeling crazed. “Charles, where are you! Come out, goddamnit!” Back in the parlour, I could hear Ese’s sobs. She was lying. Charles was alive. He had to be. We had spent all this time together. I just needed to show Ese proof of his existence. I ran to the closet to find his things, but I found only my clothes. I got out my phone and flipped through my gallery, searching for the pictures we’d taken this past year. But all I found were pictures of me alone. There was even one of me and Ese standing in front of the apartment the day we finally rented it for me. All the pictures were of me alone. Not with Charles. Alone.

“No…” I choked out.

“Oh Nero…” Ese had walked into the bedroom. She moved toward me. “The doctors said you hit your head really hard. You often called out his name while you were recovering, oftentimes talking to yourself. I thought it was just grief. And then it stopped. We all assumed you were better, and that was why your parents were okay with you finding your own place.”

I stared crazily at her, wanting to yell at her, to call her a liar. To tell her to stop. But Charles’s words to me this morning cut into my consciousness.

It happened, babe. And there’s nothing you can do to change that, but to let it go and move forward.

A new weight dropped upon me and I crumbled, dropping down to the bed with tears beginning to well up in my eyes. “He’s d-d-dead…” I choked out, unable to believe I was even saying those words in connection with the love of my life. “He’s dead…! Oh my god, he is dead…” My memory was piecing itself together like a puzzle, crushing me with the weight of that night, that accident. “He’s dead and I killed him.”

“No!” Ese forbade. “You didn’t kill him, Nero. The truck hit you. The car spun out of control. There was nothing you could do.”

There’s nothing you can do to change that, but to let it go and move forward.

New grief fell upon me but it felt familiar as I finally began to remember. All the memories of getting better at my parents’ house weren’t real. Grief had consumed me in those months, ravaging my insides even as my physical injuries healed. Until I woke up one morning with a positive attitude and the idea of getting a new apartment. My mum was so pleased by the development that she convinced my father it was a good move to let me start over on my own.

But I wasn’t healed. I really couldn’t bear the thought of losing him. So, I’d simply wished things were different – and they became different.

But things were what they were. Charles was dead. So why even now, was he standing behind Ese? watching us. Sadness clouding his eyes, love in his smile as our eyes meet.

I have to be here, to make sure you let it go and move on, his voice resonated in my head.

However, as the tears flowed down my cheeks, as the reality cascaded over me, all I wanted to do in that moment, all I ever wanted to do, was to reach out and be held in his arms, just one more time.

Written by Abrams

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6 Comments

  1. Mandy
    December 11, 07:54 Reply

    This is the saddest thing I’ve read. I mean, after reading the other ghost story, this one tops that one in the tearjerker factor. Actually felt teary toward that ending. You never know Nero’s pain until you lose someone you believed is the love of your life.
    ☹️🙁😖😞

  2. Jeancabrez
    December 11, 08:48 Reply

    This is powerful and really achieved it’s aim of moving a reader to tears. The love and care in the first part, is too adorable and yet heartbreaking to imagine someone lost it. Wehdone, Jisie Ike!

  3. AduResa
    December 11, 09:47 Reply

    Damn! There I was thinking Morrison wrote this, nice one Abrams. So touching.

  4. J
    December 11, 10:05 Reply

    I don’t cry to Nigerian gay love stories, because I know that they’re fiction, so unreal 😂😂😂 Nero and Charles plus Ese kwaa

  5. Tristan
    December 11, 12:57 Reply

    Aduresa, exactly my thoughts. It was like D.A Morrison’s. Who is cutting onions?

  6. Nero
    December 15, 13:56 Reply

    This is what love looks like … 🥰

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