From behind the painting Zainab pulled out another folder, black in colour, throwing it to Namdi before making her way back to her seat far from him.
"Why don't you open the folder. You want to know who she was right. I'm sure you have your guesses."
The curly hair along Namdi's arms stood on end, her words sending an uncomfortable sensation up his spine. The folder remained closed.
"So how did you kill her, Namdi?"
"Did you seduce her first so she let down her guard? Did she beg for her life? Tell me the details, Namdi. What expression did she have as her life ebbed away?"
"It's enough Zainab."
His mind began to clear, mouth turning down, countenance darkening.
"But is it? Open the folder Namdi, learn who the bitch is. Learn the truth of who you can't forget even in death."
"And whose truth is that?"
Zainab didn't answer, her gaze falling on the pendant in front of her, parts of the silver chain coloured red. Zainab made no move towards the pendant, her gaze filling with disgust.
"She is your sister, isn't she. A Shagari..."
"That thing is no sister of mine."
A vein bulged on his temple, indents appearing where he held the folder.
"Was this even about the affair? I loved you, Zainab. Killed for you. For a lie?"
"Loved? Loved? Past tense Namdi? The bastard managed to steal your heart from me, even in death. If I'm to suffer this pain I will not do it alone."
"Don't call her that, Zainab."
"I shouldn't call her what? Bastard? Maybe whore is more appropriate? But is she not a bastard? Isn't her mother not a whore who seduced my father to give birth to a whore who... who... who..."
A sound escaped her lips, half laugh, half shriek, head tilting to the rafters above.
"Tell me the truth Zainab! Was it because of the affair or that the father you trusted so much had a love child?"
"Does it matter Namdi? Can it not be both? But there is more Namdi. Open the folder."
"I need to know why you... Every time I look at my hand all I see is red."
"She haunts you. Is she alone?"
"Tell me! I have to know. No, I need to know. When did you want her dead? Why?"
Silence was her answer to his outburst, face hidden from view by soft hands, hair spilling over her face. Namdi's hand tensed to reach out in comfort, a reflex he suppressed, instead sweeping the dishes to the floor, their contents splashing on the white wall to his left.
"Tell me Zainab! Was it when you found out about the affair... or was it a sin even more unforgivable."
"More unforgivable? Namdi, my father betrayed my mother. You betrayed me. Both of you swept up by two generations."
"What more can you do to me Zainab, you've already drawn more than a pound of flesh, painted my hands red."
"We'll see. Open the folder Namdi. Leaving it closed will not change what has already been written."
"Zainab there is nothing in this world that can cause me any more sorrow, any more heartbreak than what I have..."
His words petered out, shivers running through his body. In his hands an open folder, the contents laid bare and digested by a Namdi whose eyes were misting red the more he read. Every rational part of his mind shut down one after the other till all one could find was a single thought and emotion. It pumped through every vessel, filled every fiber of his being, taking life, granting him with a strength he should not possess. It rendered in him a transformation from man. Reading turned his world upside down for he had ended the life of not one but two souls.
Her laughter rose as she saw the madness mixed with pain blossom in him, behind her the storm raged on. Namdi rose, his face contorted, knuckles cracking. With a hand he upended the table, sending it crashing to the floor, crushing the dishes, burying the pendant, creating a straight path to Zainab.
"Come Namdi! You have killed your whore. You have killed your unborn child. The best things come in threes."
Each step he took was heavy, slow and deliberate. She matched them with light footfalls, feathers on a flat plane. There was no fear in her eyes as she watched him become more beast than man while the distance closed.
"It's not like the cancer would have allowed her live long enough to give birth. You did her a favour."
An inhuman roar tore through his throat, teeth biting down, his lip caught in its path, blood splashing, the pain bringing some clarity to his rabid mind.
"I wonder what the whore would have named it. If it's a girl, would be best to skip all pretense and give the name that we all know it will grow up to be."
They had both covered half the distance, to their right, the threatening drop hanging at head level.
"I could have lived with the knowledge of my mother being right about my father, about him having a love child, even with you having an affair."
In his eyes Zainab could see her death but she did not cringe, only closing her lashed lids and waiting for his hands to fatally wrap around her once more.
"What I couldn't bear was her giving you what I could not."
His hands gripped her, but her neck remained bare. Namdi pulled her into his embrace. Eyes opening she couldn't hide the confusion as she stared at the closed door to the dining room. Namdi could only look at what hung on the white wall as he held Zainab. A fountain of blood splashed against the painting, adding to the bitter red, filling the air around them with a spicy scent. The ground rushed to him as he fell, receiving him with its unyielding nature.
Filled with complicated emotions she could not hold back, Zainab bound to his side, lifting his head onto her lap, a trickle of blood flowing from the corner of his mouth.
In Namdi's eyes was a far away look coupled with memories of Bisi. A racking cough brought up a mouthful of blood and spicy wine. All her talk about choosing 'us' now took a whole new meaning, her words that didn't make sense became clear. Actions as simple as an unconscious hand to the flat of her stomach. How he could have been so blind he would never get a chance to know. He struggled to turn to face the woman whose thighs his head lay.
"She couldn't bear to live any longer knowing the baby would die within her."
"What does that have to do with you Namdi!"
"A bottle of wine and a single cup..."
Each word a struggle, delivered with spasms racking his body.
"I'm sorry Zainab, if I had been decisive, strong willed, we wouldn't be..."
"Hush Namdi, you can apologise later. Let me go call..."
"No! Stay. Please. Whatever she put in the wine... There won't be enough time..."
Her eyes misted but no tears fell, her features stricken with shock as she held him; stroking his limp curly hair. Namdi laughed, the sound weak, a motion causing more blood to flow in reverse.
"Our... fates... fates... truly... are...are... are... written..."
Another mouthful came up, splattering the walls as much as her. She did not reach to wipe it away, her dress showing no change in shade even as it absorbed the vital liquid.
"Namdi, please, please don't go"
Outside, the storm ceased to hear her whisper, a calm returning to the beaten land still blanketed with darkness. Above a sea of stars his mother beckoned, the sound of a doorbell unimportant to his closing eyes; his last view of the world a grief stricken Zainab.
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