The story begins its slow descent to its conclusion. Hope y’all are ready for this…
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What is the true measure of a man?
He knew it was not the sum of all his wealth and troves, neither was it the number of cars and wives and children he had.
What was it then? On what scales do you place a man to ascertain his true measure?
Is it the result of his achievements over time weighed against his failures? Or maybe it is his ability to rise to his feet after defeat.
Is it his willingness to stand resolute and unyielding in the face of overwhelming adversity, pushing himself to the edge of his limits? Or maybe it is his ability to adapt and preserve his life weighed against the unfavourable conditions he finds himself.
There is more to the measure of a man than what he owns and where he has been; Shedrach was sure of this. What he needed now was a sure way to weigh his life against the life of another who was largely unrelated to him, merely connected by the slightest of coincidences.
“All I did was ask her for a lift…” Shedrach was beside himself with guilt and fear and worry, he knew his mere acceptance of the offer would spell the death of another whom he was sure only dropped him off in christian faith. Now the lady’s life hung in the balance.
“Please… don’t do this…” Shedrach pleaded into his Infinix Hot 6, hoping his psychopath of a fiancé would listen to the voice of reason.
He thought back to times when she still seemed sane, when she would light up his world and brighten his day; back when she was still his ‘Lola Bunny’ and she called him ‘Wolfie’. Those days were behind them now.
She had seen to that.
It started with the a steady increase in her JQ (Jealousy Quotient) which caused her to suspect every girl in his life, and that was swiftly followed by subtle threats that were – at that time – cloaked in vague sentences and weak declarations; funny how he used to find it cute.
Now, after three grievously wounded ladies and one still in a coma, Shedrach knew better than to expect reason from his ‘significant other’. There was simply nothing cute about her jealousy; it was, from a conservative point of view, lethal!
“Why don’t you just break up with her?” Kunle, his best bud had asked over six times. Shedrach only ever smiled at the question.
If she could go as far as to cut the break lines in another woman’s vehicle on a mere haunch of his suspected infidelity, causing him to avoid all and all contact with women under the age of sixty; what was he to expect from her if he decided to break things off with her?
“Your choice Wolfie…” Agnes’ cooed into his ears through his phone, her disembodied voice was as sultry and inviting as ever, evoking some primal passions in him once again; this damned psychopath of a woman always knew how to push his buttons…
“Hey baby!” Jane called as she walked into Tobe’s space, breaking his train of genius.
There were many reasons why Tobe hated being around people;
- He hated people because most of them had an odd scent (chemical or body odour or halitosis) and he hated the fact that he had to smell that.
- He hated seeing people with overly bright expressions. He could not understand why anyone would be that happy for more than five minutes at a time. Nothing in the world could possible give that kind of euphoria; not drugs, not sex and definitely not love.
- He hated being around people with overly sad expressions. Again, he could not understand how they felt it was okay for the world to see their sullen expressions. Everybody has a battle to fight, a mountain to climb. Some even had dragons to slay. Keep your gloom to yourself please!
- He could not stand the noise that accompanied living beings. They always had a way to announce their presence. An unwelcome greeting, an unsolicited conversation, the banging and creaking of doors in their wake, and of course, the loud music they all seemed to enjoy.
Human beings are, at best, a source of distraction and at worse, a nuisance.
He had, on more than one occasion, gotten into intense altercations with Ekene because the latter had barged into his bubble of silence and interrupted the stringent process of the careful percolation of words to form sentences that are collected in paragraphs at a time.
He had placed a “DO NOT DISTURB!” sign outside his door, all the good that did him. Neither Ekene nor the beautiful Jane, who now stood at the threshold of his open door with a radiant smile on her face, bothered to read the sign.
“Hey babe…” Tobe sighed his resignation as he closed his laptop. Her presence in his room signified the end of his work day. She gave him a few moments to put his affairs in order before she dived into his arms, smiling happily even as she kissed him as hungrily as a thirsty man would suck on a water bottle to slake his thirst.
“I’ve missed you babe!”
“We spoke this morning…” He said with a smile that curled into his trademark lopsided grin. “And we did that lengthy video call last night…” he added quickly before she could make any arguments.
“I’ll have you know… mhhhm!” She protested his attempt to silence her with his lips by mashing her lips against his in protest; flogging her tongue against his moistly flickering licker to break free from his succulent binds. She was enjoying his brand of bondage, but she would not be so silly as to tell him that.
“But…” She said the instant she came up for air, to which he sealed her lips again, causing her to giggle as she continued her protest.
“But…” She said after all the tongue twisting was done, “I have not seen you since the day before”.
“I know…” He smiled at her words, “I missed you too”
In the three months since the bathroom accident, they both realised they could not function effectively as contributing members of the society whenever they were within sight of each other.
His writing, which was all he did for a living, came to crashing to a halt once she walked into the room. Worse, his style of writing which was filled with gloom and doom and death and the dreary shades of human existence transmogrified into something filled with light and hope and love. Even though that was peppered with elements of his fascination with the morbid, it was still a great shift in the nature of his work.
Jane, who worked as a reviewer for Facebook and Twitter, missed daily targets whenever she tried to work from his space. His scent and presence filled her head whenever he was near, making it impossible to concentrate on anything else but the thump-thumping in her chest, the incessant fluttering in her belly and the slippery squish of her wetness when she squirmed in place.
They both agreed that they needed a system where they could both function as adults and still meet their needs for the presence of the other; as such they came up with a 2:1 plan.
Spend two days together and one day apart; each allowed the other to finish all the other needed to do (chores un-included) before 2pm; at which point, each stopped being a single unit and became a duo; I and We are interchanged in a seamless fashion that was as awe-inducing as it was scary… this was, of course, Ekene’s opinion. Neither Tobe nor Jane bothered with his opinion.
“I have something for you” Tobe said as he pulled open a drawer on his writing desk, retrieving a black parcel with a black ribbon bow knotted over it.
“Baby!” Jane squealed in delight.
It was moments like this that she thanked her stars that he had stopped her from embracing that truck months ago, albeit unintentionally.
This ailing writer, who had many disturbing mind disorders, treated her like she was the only thing that mattered in the world. He took his time to treat her like the queen she had never seen in herself, he made deliberate attempts to make her smile and he ensured that she knew exactly how he felt at any given point.
This gave her a reason to live in spite of the worsening state of her medical condition.
He loved to get her little practical gifts that were only useful to her, and occasionally, himself; one time he got her a bottle of scentless bath gel, he claimed he wanted to appreciate her natural scent. At another time, he packaged a few of his shirts and undershorts in a box and gifted it to her so she would not have to raid his dresser for what to wear.
Now in the black gift box with black ribbons tied into a bow on it which Jane opened with all the giddiness of a little girl on Christmas day, sat a matching pair of ‘Yin-Yang’ lockets that separated into black inverted-comma and a white apostrophe and united to form a perfect circle.
“This…” She began as she retrieved the pair of lockets, “A His and Hers locket?”
Jane looked up from the trinkets in her hands to Tobe’s face which was laced with no small amount of nervous uncertainty. An uncertainty she could not understand. He had called her ‘his ray of sunshine’ for almost as long as they had been together and she was fairly certain what he meant by the gift.
“It’s beautiful babe… thank you” She said with a small smile as she examined the trinkets in a questing manner, seeking a way into the locket space where she was sure the other half of his gift was hidden. She was sure the hidden gift was the ‘why’ behind his nervous uncertainty.
“Press the dot on the surface to release the catch”, he said as he took the empty black box from her.
She followed his instructions and pressed the black dot on the white half of yin-yang locket, it clicked open to reveal a tiny picture of Tobe’s smiling face held in place with small clips and a small sachet of white pill in the other compartment.
“What is this?!” She asked as she quickly popped open the black trinket to see her picture with a similar white pill staring back at her.
“That…” He began as coolly as he could, irrespective of the beads of sweat that was beginning to percolate on his brows, “Is a 300mg dose of Potassium Cyanide”.
His face twisted as he waited for her to explode in anger and disappointment but she merely looked at him like he had spoken in a language as dead and extinct as Sumerian.
“You have no idea what Potassium Cyanide does, do you?”
“Not a clue!” She fired back with a straight face.
“Well… this is a highly toxic pill”, he began, “It’s something you take when you are sure you want to clock out of this life”.
He paused to examine her expression as she turned her gaze back to the pills hidden in the trinkets in her hands. He could feel the quickening in her breath and the slight shudder that ran through her frame.
“Done the right way, this pill will lead to a swift and mostly painless death. It is the same thing CIA and other spy organisations give to their agents”.
“And you are giving this to me because?” She asked after a few moments of silence.
Jane raised her head to look into Tobe’s sunken eyes as fear and understanding crept into hers which slowly turned misty. She finally understood his uncertainty, his nervousness. She finally saw through the gravity of his gift and the brevity of his life expectancy.
“I got these long ago”, he explained “Long before I met you. I was only waiting till I finished the book I’m working on right now. I was gonna take one of those once I was done”.
He took her hands in his, fighting the tears and fear that grew in his heart, he kissed her fingers and continued his explanation.
“I wanted you to have one… in case something happens to me before I finish the story. You should leave your family something to grieve over… and I did not like the idea of you involving anyone else in your exit strategy”.
While his last sentence brought her plans of hugging a fast moving truck – which was how they met three months ago (see What Could Have Been II), she could not stop the growing feeling in her heart that something was wrong; a new problem that she was yet unaware of had sprung up. She could see his efforts to school his face to hide the fear that was prevalent in his eyes. He was trying to spare her the burden of this new fear.
“You went to the hospital… yesterday?”
His only reply was a humble nod of the head.
“And your heart is not getting any better… is it?”
He quietly shook his head; he could not get himself to speak, to put words together, to piece them into cogent sentences. He merely communicated like only a mute can.
She felt a sharp prick in her chest as she, once again, felt the gravity of his heart condition. She wrapped hands around his torso holding him close enough to drag him into her if it were physically possible. She loved him more than anything she had ever loved and she wanted nothing more than to build a life and a home with him; and yet they were both starring down death’s barrel.
“I’ll stay with you for as long as we both draw breath…” Her words were a quiet declaration, a defiant acclamation that dared her looming demise to keep her from loving him with every fibre of her being.
“So you kinda like me, huh?” He teased as he broke their hug, lifting her chin with a finger to kiss one teary eye after the other.
“Nah!” She said, laughing at his expected expression of faux-pain, “I love you”.
He gave a small laugh, leaving a small kiss on her brow as he stroked her face with the same careful adoration a mother would stroke her baby’s.
“What’s not to love?!”
“You cocky bastard!” She scowled at his sarcastic reply.
“You love my cocky…” Tobe grinned as he pulled her up and against his chest, filling his hands with her generously curvaceous derriere, lifting just enough that she could feel the length of his tumescence beneath his denim trousers against her slowly heating furnace.
“Mhmmmm…” Jane cooed in appreciation of his hardened heat, wrapping her arms around his neck as lost herself in the passion he ignited in her. She let his soft, warm hands undress her and lay her on his bed as she fell away from the realms of the rational and embraced the irrational pleasure he birthed in her. Lusty wantonness soared unchecked at the tip of his fingers and flick of his tongue as she let her worries and fears fall away like the dead weights they were.
So what if they were not long for the living?
So what if they had a limited number of days to be together?
What does it matter if she may never live to bear his children, and call him husband?
None of that mattered to her at the moment. She had him and he had her. She had his heart and his love and his undying affection. She chose to concentrate on what she had at the moment, which was the blessing of having found true love in a world riddled with hate and deceit.
He was her reason for being alive at the moment, thus she vowed to live for him and give him a reason to wake up every day.
“Baaaby!!!” Jane crooned as Tobe worked her body expertly bringing her to the brink of ecstasy within minutes of their hitting the bed.
“JESUS H. CHRIST!!!” Ekene’s angry voice thundered just outside Tobe’s open door, “Close the damn door gaddemnit!!!”
To be continued…