‘Eeiish…. Easy, please’, she winced, pulling her foot from him.
‘Sorry sorry’, he apologised.
Earlier in the day, she had had a little accident involving her foot and the door of a BRT bus. Thankfully, the skin wasn’t broken, so he applied a menthol balm evenly on the area and massaged lightly.
Her hands drew circles, zigzags and straight lines on her bare thighs while he worked, drawing his attention. His eyes flickered up to hers, and he could see the same spark of desire reflected in her eyes.
Holding his gaze, she lifted her hands and linked her palms behind her neck. He swallowed, and began to trail his fingertips up from her ankle.
She reached down and held his hands. ‘You’ll have to wash your hands first’, she said, chuckling.
‘Riiight’, he drawled.
He got up from the floor to wash his hands at the kitchen sink. She followed him, wrapped her arms around his waist, then walked her fingers up to his bare chest, placing one palm over his heart.
‘Thanks for massaging my foot’, she purred, tracing a line from his nipple to his belly button and back. He swallowed hard and dried his hands. Reaching behind him, he pulled her to stand in front of him with her back to the counter, and then lifted her to sit on it. She wrapped her legs around his waist; he spread his palms on her hips. Each drew the other closer with a hot gaze, eyes going from eyes to lips, tongues moistening dry lips repeatedly, his palms gripping her hips more firmly, her legs crossing tighter behind him.
‘Have I told you I love your eyes’? he asked her. Without waiting for an answer, he went on. ‘They are such a pretty brown, so cute. They’re so expressive. I love watching them when I touch you – he massaged her hips lightly – or tell you how and where I’m going to touch you. And they’re so deep…, I feel like if I fell into them and got lost, I would gladly, willingly give up on finding my way out’.
She swallowed. Lifting her hands to his face, she brushed her thumb over his mouth from one corner to the other as she pulled his head closer.
The doorbell rang…
‘Aaarrgghhh’, they groaned at the same time.
‘Are you expecting anyone’? she asked him, eyes on his mouth.
‘No, love’. He rested his forehead on hers, even as the doorbell rang again. ‘Come on, let’s go see who it is’. She jumped off the counter and tugged at the hem of her sleep shirt. He reached for her and they walked hand in hand to the living room. She sat on the arm of the two-seater while he went to the door and asked who was there.
‘Good evening. My name is Benjamin Ikenna’, came the answer.
He glanced back at her and saw her nod, so he opened the door.
She jumped up when she saw the man raise something to her husband’s face, she saw her husband stumble backwards. They filed in, six men in black suits, shirts and ties, and red heart-shaped brooches.
‘Hello, brother’, the man who came in first greeted her husband.
‘Babe, do you know them’? she tugged on her husband’s arm as he stood, seemingly transfixed.
‘Yes’, he answered without looking at her.
‘How? From where? Who are they? Why are they here?’
The man who had spoken earlier spoke again. ‘One of the tenets of the Brotherhood of Hearts is lifetime membership. This you know. The only way to leave is for your heart to stop beating. This, too, you know. You were a dead man the moment you left. We are only here to enforce that death’.
At the mention of death, she moved to stand in front of her husband. ‘What is going on? What are they talking about’? She shook his arm vigorously. ‘Talk to me! What is happening?’ The questions tumbled out like school children at closing time.
He palmed her cheek. ‘I was one of them in uni. I left. I didn’t tell you because I thought it was over. I’m sorry. I love you, I will always love you’.
Hands gripped her shoulders from behind and pulled her from his hold, forcing her onto a chair. Two men forced him onto another chair. A fifth man opened a flat wooden case and lifted a red-handled knife with a thin, long, black blade.
‘I love you, baby. I’m sorry’, he held her gaze and chanted repeatedly as the fifth man walked towards him. She wept and struggled, but she could not escape the hands that pinned her to the chair.
The blade was pointed at her husband’s heart; slowly, steadily, it was pushed in till only the handle was visible.
She screamed into wakefulness. The sharpness of the sound rudely dragged him awake.
He reached for her in the dark and found her shivering. Fumbling around on the table behind him, he grabbed his phone and turned on the flashlight.
‘Shhh… It’s okay. You’re safe, you’re fine’, he crooned in her ear repeatedly. Her arms had goosebumps, so he rubbed them away as he talked. Whatever made her scream must have been really bad, he thought.
When he judged that she was calmer, he asked if she wanted him to turn on the light. ‘Yes, please’, she answered.
He rolled off the bed and quickly did as she wanted, then returned to the bed. She sat up on the bed, back straight, ankles crossed, eyes focused on something she alone could see. He sat, too, and leaned towards her.
‘Nkem’, he called in a low voice, rubbing her knee. ‘Do you want to talk about it’?
Her eyes fell on his hand rubbing her knee, then rose to his face. Her eyes on his, ‘Were you a member of the Brotherhood of Hearts in university?’