“Life is but a tale of choices and effects”
His body had washed up along the shores in Elegushi. Eyewitnesses commented on how badly decomposed he was; saying they couldn’t look at the body for too long, but somehow still managed to get some photos in the hope of selling it to entertainment bloggers for quick cash. Her Michael was dead and some people thought it a means to make money. Lola really couldn’t complain as it was those reports that had helped her and his family finally find him after being missing for 2 weeks, 5 days and some hours.
She had been holed up in her room where she spent most of her time since Michael’s disappearance, when Tutu, his younger sister had frantically ran into her room alerting the family about the body on the shores of Elegushi. Lola had abandoned the rest of her house that had become too crowded with well-meaning visitors that came in and out to encourage the family and pray with them. Initially, she had pulled herself up and even entertained some visitors but after a while, she got tired of the charade and had refused to come out of her room. Thankfully, Tutu and Deji, took over the responsibilities without any discourse. She had lied to her kids that their father was out of the country for work; seeing as that occurred regularly and they were away at boarding school, it just seemed easier than having to deal with their worry and anxiety, plus, they had exams coming up soon, so she needed them to concentrate. She didn’t know how to tell them that their father had gone to work like any regular day but had failed come back.
“Any news is better than no news”
“Lola! Lola! Jesus! Father, help us…” Tutu continued frantically as she ran into the room. For a second, Lola’s heart stopped beating. She knew that reality had just hit, he was dead. Tutu’s shout had drawn the attention of everyone, including the visitors, in the house, who didn’t care for boundaries anymore but raced up the stairs to find out if finally there was news. “Any news is better than no news”, she had heard one of them, her auntie by marriage say a few days ago to her father-in-law. “At least, if he is gone, we can know and bury him”. Lola just sat up on the bed with tears rolling down her eyes; she didn’t even try to calm Tutu or hurry her up to say what had her so worked up, she just kept on crying silently, she knew!
Deji didn’t bother too. Tutu had always been a drama queen, who even cried over losing a nail and despite the severity of the situation; it would have taken forever to get any information out of her. He just grabbed the tablet out of her hands to see what it was; Linda Ikeji’s blog had just reported an exclusive that a man’s body had been found on the shores of the Lagoon in Elegushi. Deji looked at Lola, with sadness in his eyes and turned to the family, who were waiting to know what was going on. “They found a body in Elegushi”, “we don’t know that it is Michael”, he quickly added as his auntie and other visitors lit up the house in an uproar. “I will go there now to find out”, he declared.
“I will come with you”, Michael’s father said.
“No dad! I need you here in case anyone comes with information”. It was obvious he too was worried that the body may be Michael and he didn’t want him there for that. Everyone who was not a member of the family assumed that Deji was family too and in many ways, he was. He had practically grown up in same home with Michael after a chance meeting as kids. His mother had died at childbirth, his father; a pilot was never around long enough to raise him and was relieved to have Michael’s family step in very often. Michael and Deji had done everything together; same schools, family vacations etc. Michael’s mom also died during the birth of Tutu when he was about 10years old and strangely, that common tragedy brought them closer, helping Michael’s father navigate the loss and raise Tutu. Lola and Deji had met during their graduate studies in London and had been best friends for a long time. He had even introduced her to husband, during Michael’s visit to London.
“I am going with you”, Lola declared. He looked at her, knowing her so well and recognising the determined look on her face, didn’t bother to argue. Michael had taken off his wedding ring the night before his disappearance and had forgotten to put it back on. For some reason, Lola walked to her jewellery case, picked up the ring and slipped it into her pocket. They went by the police station where they had filed the missing person’s report, alerting the police officers of the news and got some escorts with them to Elegushi.
Lola was quiet throughout the drive and although it was non-peak hours, it felt like it took them 10 hours to get there. She kept her hand in her pocket, fingering Michael’s ring and as much as she wanted it to be over, prayed that it wasn’t him. She had always been cynical about love, that is, until she had met Michael. He was determined to break her defences and after a while, accepting his calls stopped being out of obligation to Deji, to really wanting to talk to him. They were married under 2 years after their first meeting and Dani, their daughter was born barely 6 months later. For the first three years, they had lived in 4 different countries because of the nature of Michael’s job and although it was hard on her with a baby and all, they were deliriously happy. When she got pregnant with Caleb, she had put her foot on the ground and insisted she wasn’t going to uproot her life and relocate just because Michael and his company felt like it. They had finally agreed to settle in Lagos, allowing Michael take work trips by himself.
Lola turned to look at Deji, he had finally taken her advice and allowed his beards grow out; he looked older and wiser. He was so different from Michael that sometimes she wondered what had attracted them to each other. Michael was always the life of the party; adventurous and she could tell that their daughter, Dani was just like him. He was a smooth talker too and could convince you that red was black, if you weren’t careful. She guessed that was why he did so well in marketing and rose quickly to become a global icon with his oil and gas firm. Everyone wanted him in their boardroom and on their side. Deji, on the other hand, was reserved and technical, very patient and reasonable. Well, she guessed they balanced each other out. Michael had taught Deji how to have fun and Deji had kept them both out of trouble. He never relocated back home from London, but the disappearance of Michael had brought him home on the first available flight and he had been around since then.
“They are still here”, one of the policeman said, jolting her back to reality. They had arrived at the bank of the lagoon and the police officers on the scene were still in the process of trying to move the body away.
Ha! Nigeria! She thought; people had already plastered pictures everywhere. God knows how long that body had been left lying there before they finally were about to move it. In fact, it was their visit to the police station in Lekki that had alerted them of the body at the embankment. She could see the form from where she stood; they hadn’t even bothered to cover it up. Deji discussed with the police officers, who told him about the state of the body and that it was going to be difficult to identify whoever it was.
She could hear her heart pounding and she tightened her hand around Michael’s band in her pocket. It wasn’t big enough, she grabbed Deji’s hand and he held on tight.
“I know my husband”, Lola interrupted.
“If that is my husband, I can identify him”, she insisted.
The policemen looked at her with pity in their eyes. Barely, 5.2”, she wasn’t a big person and the strain of the last month had not done much for her weight, so she was sure she looked fragile.
“Madam, are you sure you want to see the body? It is in a bad state o!” One of them asked her.
“I know my husband”, she said again and I can identify him”.
The policeman turned to Deji; almost 6.2”, he towered over the policeman. “Let her see him”, he said. If it were a normal day, she would have gone into a debate with him about speaking for her as if she needed his permission but it wasn’t a normal day, so today and for the whole month, she had been grateful for his strength.
Less than thirty steps away, they walked towards the body and she felt like she was walking towards a firing squad. Bile grew in her throat as they got closer, but she could not turn back, so she kept moving. It was sunny and windy and she could hear the waves of the water but today, it wasn’t calming. She could hear her heart pounding and she tightened her hand around Michael’s band in her pocket. It wasn’t big enough, she grabbed Deji’s hand and he held on tight.
They got to the body and she understood what the policemen meant by him being unrecognizable. His body related a story of a tug of war with the waters and its habitants. He had lost some of the battles but thankfully, had won most. She noticed the thin gold chain on his neck and immediately drew a breath. She didn’t know it was loud enough that the police officers and Deji heard and were worried she would pass out. Her eyes filled up quickly again.
“Lola, tell me!” Deji shook her. She hadn’t heard him the first few times he had called her name.
She slowly found her voice, “That chain on his neck, I gave it him on Valentine’s day”, she said quietly. She didn’t know how it had survived the ordeal, but somehow it did.
“Madam, are you sure, the policeman asked gently.
Deji looked up at him with annoyance in his eyes and said, “if she said it, then she is sure”.
“His birthmark”, Lola murmured. “Check his birthmark”.
Deji didn’t have to ask what she meant. Michael had an unusual birthmark on his thigh, more like a mole. Lola had always loved it and she jokingly called it “Lola’s brand” but it had always bothered Michael. Under the pretence of worrying it was going to become a medical problem, he had seen a doctor a couple of years back about having it removed but after a couple of consults, a friendly advice from the doctor and fear of the surgical procedure, he changed his mind.
“He has a birthmark, a mole on his lower thigh”, Deji said to the officer. One of the officers immediately walked to the medical personnel there, who returned with a pair of scissor to cut open the fragmented piece of clothing covering his thigh. He cut it open and there it was, the mole, protected under the clothing. Lola wailed!
“Take her away, take her away”, the policeman barked at Deji. With tears in his eyes, he led Lola away, deposited her in the front seat of the car and quickly went back to see to his friend and talk to the police officers.
The body was finally moved into an ambulance with everyone ready to leave to go file the necessary papers to have it transferred to the family. Lola jumped out of the car and moved towards the ambulance.
“Madam, where are you going? One of the police officers seeing her, asked.
“I need to see him one more time”, she answered. She quickly moved to the ambulance before anyone could stop her.
“Can I have a moment please”, she said to the medical personnel. He hesitated.
“He is my husband”, she insisted.
“Okay madam”. He nodded and moved away.
She climbed in and took his hands. She brought out the ring from her pocket and tried to slip it back on his finger, but it was too blotted. She slipped it into his pinky instead, bent down closer to his covered body and whispered; “am so sorry babe, am so so sorry. I know you know it was an accident. I didn’t mean to kill you. Please forgive me, but now I have to do what is best for the kids, our kids and your family too.” She held his hand for a second more, placed it under the cloth and walked away.