Excerpt Of "twilight At Terracotta Indigo" By Umari Ayim

"Twilight at Terracotta Indigo" is a suspense novel set in Lagos, Nigeria. It decribes the life of an amnesia victim who is faced with the possibilty of never finding her past. Unable to trust the man who claims to be her husband, and surprised by the revelations of her diary, she must depend on herself to find the answers to the questions surrounding her amnesia...


FEBRUARY 18th 2010

Prologue

Marlene woke up with a start, beads of perspiration on her forehead. "A nightmare," she whispered to herself. A loud pounding began in her head, and she massaged her temple with her forefinger and middle finger trying to remember exactly what her dream was about. Feeling disoriented, she switched on the bedside lamp, and began to push the quilt aside to swing her legs to the lush carpet rug when a rich baritone voice froze her in her tracks.

"Are you okay baby?"

Marlene's eyes widened in shock as a head materialized from the sheets. She swallowed her scream and shoved the sheets aside. Her eyes still on the intruder, she landed with a thud in an ungainly heap on the floor.

"Whoa!" the man exclaimed. "Easy there now sweetie," he said, chuckling softly, humour filling his sleep softened eyes. Marlene untangled her legs from underneath her, quickly drawing herself to her feet. She could hear the blood rushing to her head. She backed away from the bed till she stood a good distance away.

Daring to take her eyes off the man on the bed, she looked down at herself. Her nipples pushed hard against the fabric of the sheer lace lingerie she was wearing. Quickly she folded her arms protectively over her breasts, trying to shield them from the stranger's gaze. She felt very exposed standing before him. What am I doing almost naked in bed with a man I don't know, a half naked one at that? The man on the bed frowned quizzically at her.

"Are you okay baby?" He asked again, sitting up. Marlene stared at him. His face was captivating with eyebrows that rose in high arcs above heavily lashed eyes. His aquiline nose was a strong dominant feature of his face, and his lips, an inviting deep cut bow. A faint line of hair trailed his almost square jaw, and thin sideburns stopped halfway on both sides of his face. Marlene's bewildered gaze followed the sheets as it slid down to expose finely chiselled chest and biceps she would have admired on a normal day if she did not feel panic pressing down on her chest as she tried to breathe.

"Who are you?" She asked, her voice barely a squeak.

One of his perfect eyebrows shot up at her question. "Who am I?" he repeated in an incredulous tone. Then, a brooding expression fell over his face as he looked at her.

Her eyes which turned upwards at the corners were tinged with the redness of sleep, and her nostrils flared with the gust of air that fought its way out of wide sensuous lips parted in surprise. Her hair net tilted ominously to the side, an annoying fixture that was taking eternity getting used to. He preferred her to leave her head bare at night, but in recent days she had developed a sudden taste for the black hair net she used to wrap her thick long hair to bed.

The look on her face was paradoxical to her appearance and he almost laughed aloud but thought better of it. Seeing her standing five feet five inches in all her glory, and looking cornered in the tempting slip of a nightdress that left nothing to the imagination did something to humour him. He did not know what to make of the drama unfolding before his eyes.

After a long pause, he answered. "Your husband."

The gasp from Marlene's lips was audible. "My, my hus…," she stuttered, staring at him aghast as the rest of the sentence froze on her lips and she lifted up her left hand to see a gleaming gold wedding band sitting contently on her fourth finger. She looked back at the man, and to the ring again, confusion on her face. Her breath came out in short gasps as her mind searched for any clue to the identity of this man claiming to be her husband. To her shock, she found none.

The man on the bed rose in a fluid motion and the sheets fell completely away, revealing his nakedness. He appeared tall and must have stood at over six feet. Still struggling to catch her breath, Marlene held out her hand.

"No, no, please stay away," she said, backing away with a stricken look. Who is this man, and why am I finding it hard to remember? A fragment of her brain screamed.

"Oh no," she whispered this time as he advanced slowly upon her, oblivious to the effect of his nudity on her. "Please stop," she begged. She wanted to scream from the sheer masculinity of him.

"Why are you naked?" she croaked, her hand flying to her neck in a protective gesture. He paused, a sardonic smile on his face even though his eyes appeared slightly troubled.

"I was hoping you were tired of asking the same question every other night."

Marlene stared at him blankly, lack of comprehension on her face. He took another step towards her and she jerked backwards on reflex, banging her head sharply on the edge of a shelf she didn't know was on the wall behind her. The impact jarred her and she almost lost her footing

"Ouch!" She moaned, massaging the sore spot. The man stopped in his tracks, and she eyed him warily, her hand still working behind her head. Now he stood in front of her, feet apart and arms folded across his chest without the slightest hint of consciousness.

"I am going to the bathroom, and you are in my way," he said, frowning quizzically. "Marlene, is this a joke?" he asked after a long pause, and this time concern etched deeply on his face. "I think this is getting weird".

I think you need to put some clothes on, Marlene thought, still rubbing her head, her eyes unwittingly drawn to his manhood. Embarrassed, she raised her eyes back to his face and saw his eyes darken with desire. Her breathing quickened at the change in him and she wanted to find somewhere to hide. This must be a dream, she thought again, still rubbing her head.

"It's been a while for the both of us you know…," his eyes caressed her lush ripe breasts. "Your business seems to be getting in the way of our marriage, and I think it is time to address your frequent trips outside Lagos. Those trips rob me of my God given right."

Marlene did not know if the gleam in his eyes meant he was mocking her, or it meant something more ominous. He seemed to be choosing his words carefully like a well rehearsed speech. She wondered why her body tightened in response to him when she didn't even know him.

She made a very obvious effort to keep her eyes on the safe spot around his collarbone. She couldn't trust him despite the wedding ring on her finger. His eyes devoured her chest, and she fought the urge to bow over to keep her breasts from being ogled shamelessly by the man. It just seemed hard to accept that this sexy stranger was her husband.

"You mean I sleep with you?" she asked him stupidly. The man laughed. She heard bitterness in his mirth.

"Well, you used to. For four months," he said, holding four fingers up. "You have managed to cling to your side of the bed. It seems like we are having marital problems."

Marlene blinked. "Marital problems?" she asked, feeling like a parrot, but helpless on how to react to the situation before her.

"At first, I thought you were cheating on me, but I could not prove my suspicions."

Marlene looked at him in puzzlement. "I was cheating on….," she was about to add you but stopped on time. She was still not sure she understood what he was talking about.

"Please put some clothes on," she said, sweeping her hand at his direction as his eyes attempted to pierce through her. For a moment, Marlene was afraid he was going to ignore her suggestion, but with a resigned "ok" and a shrug of his broad shoulders, he walked past her towards a slightly open door to her left.

Marlene spun on her heel, watching him walk with lazy long strides through the door. Putting a wide distance between them, she followed behind him almost on tip toe. At the door, she pressed slim hands on both sides of the door frame and peered into the room. She found herself staring at a dressing room, and gaped at the ceiling to floor mirrors that caught his reflection from either side of the walls. Shoe boxes lined a six tiered shelf, and further from it, handbags of different shapes sat idly on an adjoining shelf. Opposite the colourful array of bags were rows of clothes that covered the other section of the room. The man was before what appeared to be some kind of closet, slipping on a pair of boxer shorts. She turned away before he saw her, and took some steps back to her former position.

Marlene looked around the bedroom, wrinkling her nose in a frown at the colour of the room. The stark white walls were too sterile for her taste. A lone massive black and white picture frame hung above the bed she stood up from few minutes ago. It tilted almost facedown, framing the four poster bed. Bending her head a little to the side, she saw a couple snuggled under sheets and facing each other with passion filled eyes. It took a second to realize that she was looking at herself and the man in the other room.

"Our first anniversary picture." A voice said from behind her and she jumped. "Your idea actually," the man said again as she turned to see him standing behind her.

"So I'd have something to remind me of what I am missing when you are not around." Marlene put one foot behind her and stepped backwards as he paused. "Your very words," he finished, snapping the waistband of his shorts against his skin with finality.

Marlene rubbed her right arm with her left hand to dispel the gathering goose bumps. There was a flash in his eyes but a shuttered expression fell over them the next minute before she could understand it. She didn't miss the regret in his voice, but her guard stood like an impenetrable wall and she observed him from underneath silky lashes, her emotions jumbled together in one undecipherable mass. She still found it difficult to believe that she was married to the man standing before her. Ok, I just found out that I am married to a gorgeous stranger, what more surprises now God? Just then, an ear-splitting wail rent the air. Marlene jerked in surprise.

"What was that?" she asked, her eyes scanning the room frantically for the source of the noise. She looked past a black oak vanity set where different cosmetics and perfumes were arranged on a table beside a wide circular mirror, an exquisite ivory painted reading table with a heavy looking book on it, the wide black television screen hanging on the wall like an ominous spider and the flat split air conditioning unit silently churning out frosty air until her bewildered expression settled again on the man. A slow and mournful wail began.

"There," He pointed to a small white box attached to the wall beside the vanity mirror. "Have you forgotten the baby monitor?" he asked with a low chuckle. "You have grown so attached to the baby, I am almost jealous of him". There was a solemn smile on his face at the end of his words, but Marlene stared at him blankly, unable to connect what she was hearing with reality. The baby's crying reached an alarming crescendo. I have a baby too she realized, her knees almost buckling under the weight of the knowledge. At last she found her voice.

"Can you take me to him?"

The man's eyes narrowed. "Marlene, you have me worried now." Deep creases ran across his forehead. "It makes me uneasy to hear you refer to Dare that way."

He searched her face as if for clues before walking past her out of the room. Marlene followed behind, feeling an unspeakable dread as she did. Please God help me make sense of what is happening to me.

They turned into a carpeted hallway and the man made a turn to the left. She was quick behind him, her bare feet sinking into the luxury of the lush black rug. Soon he stopped before an open doorway, standing aside to let her pass. She walked into a baby nursery with small steps.

The room was big and spacious, and unlike the rest of the house, it was painted in warm yellow tones. The green curtains with butterfly designs that hung over the two wide windows complemented the green rug that covered the floor. Beside the window, a high four compartment shelf held white towels at the top, a small diaper bag, two feeding bottles bags and teddy bears of different colours with their glassy eyes and permanent smiles in the lower compartments.

A yellow crib stood in the middle of the room, a toy mobile hanging low over it. In a corner of the room was a contoured diaper changing table, its harnesses hanging loosely. A small green bassinet held stuffed toys and rattles beside a cushioned comfortable looking rocking chair with a small breastfeeding pillow thrown on it. Boxes containing more toys were stacked together at another corner of the room with a small baby stroller beside them. At the far end of the room, she spied through the crack of an open door, the white background of a bathroom and a cart holding baby oils, lotions and powder.

Something propelled her forward, and she inched closer until she stood over the crib. A beautiful baby that could not have been more than five months old was on his back in a deep blue sleep suit. His face, a smaller picture of the man behind her was crunched up in infant fury, pursed lips ready to let out another wail. Instinctively, she leaned over, forgetting the man in the room.

"Hush now," she whispered softly, caressing his smooth soft cheek. At the sound of her voice, the baby stopped crying, gazing up at her with clear white eyes. He had kicked the soft quilt that covered him aside and his little feet still kicked sporadically in the air. He began to make cooing sounds, looking expectantly at her. Her response was automatic. She picked him up from the crib and held him gingerly against her chest.

A choking sob of complaint again filled the room when the baby's searching lips encountered the lace of her night dress, and Marlene looked up at the man feeling nervous. There was an unreadable expression on his face as he watched her. She looked back again at the bundle in her arms, wondering if she should ask the man for some privacy.

She could tell from the way he looked at her that he wasn't prepared to leave her alone with the baby. Thinning her lips in determination, she walked to the rocker, lifted up the breastfeeding pillow there and lowered herself gently into the chair. For a moment, she felt awkward with the man watching so closely. She willed him away as she supported the baby's head with the pillow, but he refused to budge, leaning on the doorframe now. The baby continued to cry, pressing his face against her chest as he strained impatiently in her arms.

Marlene closed her eyes, and shrugged the thin straps of her nightgown off her right shoulder. She opened them again when she felt the cool air against her skin and concentrated this time on the baby in her arms.

At the sight of her breasts, the baby flashed a wide toothless smile, adoration in his eyes. Suddenly Marlene didn't care anymore about the man watching her every move. She lifted the baby's small head to her exposed breast and he latched on to her nipple, sucking greedily. He is so beautiful, Marlene traced the outline of his soft cheek with her finger. The baby caught her eyes and paused at his sucking to give her another bright smile. She tried to smile back. I own this baby, she thought again in wonder and dismay. She could feel the man's eyes on her. How am I going to cope with recognizing other people? She could not even remember who she was or the family that seemed to be her own. Several minutes passed. The man at the door shifted on his feet.

"Marlene?"

Mustering courage, she raised her head, tears gleaming in her eyes. I don't know anything about you or this child.

"What is your name?" She asked softly, her voice breaking.

"You know, I could have sworn this was a joke," the man said, pushing himself away from the door frame. She shook her head, not trusting herself to speak. He sighed, looking briefly at the ceiling and back at her again.

"Femi."

"Femi," she said, fighting back tears. "I am sorry, but I don't know who I am."

CHAPTER 1

The living room was quiet. Gentle breeze parted the white chiffon curtains and they floated glibly, unaware of the deathly stillness of the room they decorated. The living room was painted white. The patterned area rug on the floor was a mix of black and white and provided a sharp contrast against the black wood panelling of the floor. Black leather sofas with their contoured arm rests were arranged around the area rug, creating a path along the perimeter of the room A winding staircase made of solid black wood like that of the floor stood at the east end of the room close to the white kitchen door with its gold handle. A glass dining table surrounded by black dining chairs also sat a few inches away from the kitchen door. Despite the daylight streaming through the curtains, the room was lit by powerful recessed lights in the ceiling.

The three adults looked everywhere but at each other. The baby slept harnessed in a small blue swinger with toy bars beside Marlene, and the soft melodies from the swinger that sent him to sleep lifted into the room like a slow dirge. His nanny, a middle aged woman with small scars cutting deeply into the soft skin of her cheeks, sat on one of the chairs of the dining table and tapped her fingers lightly on the table, thoughtfulness in her eyes. Dressed in a big red shirt and loose black pants that swallowed her portly frame, she wore long braids held back by a ruffle at the base of her neck while a few others fell across one side of her face as she bent over the table.

At the early hours of that morning when she resumed her duties from the two bedroom boys' quarters separated from the main house by a fence, the cook had called her aside and told her about the situation in the big house in hushed tones. Now, she could see for herself that Marlene was indeed a different person. When she had gone to the nursery to check on the baby thirty minutes earlier, she met an unusually quiet Marlene sitting in the rocking chair, the baby sleeping in her arms. She handed the baby over for his bath without a word, and the nanny was surprised not to hear the usual barrage of instructions she was baptized with every morning. At that time she had found it odd that Marlene was having trouble maintaining eye contact with her as she told her that the baby was running out of diapers.

The woman looked at Marlene every now and then to confirm that her mind was not playing tricks on her. She recalled how Marlene had appeared a little dazed the previous evening when she met her at the door at the close of the day's duties. But she answered my greeting last night and even sat with the baby just where she is sitting now! She gave a small firm nod, finally convinced that the morning was indeed turning out strange.

Marlene sat at the edge of the black leather sofa, feeling odd and out of sorts. She could feel the curious stare of the nanny who was trying hard to be less obvious. She sighed inwardly, wondering how much of curious stares like the one she was getting she could put up with. She looked sideways at the baby and watched him in awe. He is so perfect!

His head was covered with a warm woollen cap, his mouth opened slightly in sleep, and his fists curled tightly by his side. She looked up. The man she woke up with that morning was staring at her strangely. Looking away, she focused on the baby again, sighing unhappily and dreading the possibility of living with a family and staff she could not remember.

"I called the family doctor. He will be here soon," the man said, and Marlene looked up again at him. Femi! Femi! She chanted his name over and over in her mind, trying to get used to it. Two minutes ago, she had asked for his name the third time that morning. She was determined not to forget it again.

"Ok," she murmured quietly, fingering the hem of the toffee brown dress she wore with nervous fingers. She had chosen it from hundreds of others that spread out in elegance in the walk in closet of the dressing room. She did not know why the dress with its high neckline and cream satin ruffles running down from the neckline and tapering at the midriff area was her preferred choice for that strange morning. Suddenly, she had a squeezing feeling of claustrophobia.

"I need to take a walk outside," she said to no one in particular. Femi made to leave his seat. "Alone," she insisted with a set jaw, and he sank back into the chair with a resigned look. She strode out of the room with her head held high, feeling anything but confident.

Soft whispers of the early morning breeze caressed her face when she pulled the door open and stepped into the wide patio of the house. She closed her eyes momentarily, pulling in a lungful of fresh air. Opening them again, she took tentative steps down the stone steps of the house, her eyes on the well-trimmed shrubbery flanking the cobbled driveway. Four cars parked to her right in an outdoor garage, and she looked at them briefly without stopping. I am married to a rich man, she thought without any feeling of excitement. Soon she stopped at one of the shrubs to touch a lone leaf that stood apart from the levelled shrub. Tiny leaves clung to her palm when she lifted the palm, and she studied her hand with a frown, her mind drifting. On instinct, she looked back at the house. Femi stood at the window of the living room watching her. She turned away and walked quickly down the driveway.

Hurrying further, she followed the path as it curved to the left and found herself at the back of the house. She stopped in her tracks at the sight of a swimming pool, a small garden with a bench, swing, and a slide sitting side by side a surprisingly large expanse of land. A barbed wire fence demarcated this area from the rest of the compound but there was a small gate between the end of the barb wire fence and the walled fence of the compound. A Mimosa tree stood near the small garden, spreading out its branches upwards like hands making a petition. The path before it branched out in a long Y, one path leading round the back of the house and the other to the gate of the poolside. She followed the one to poolside and passed an open shed with a barbecue stand and plastic chairs piled high on top of each other. She pushed the gate open. It made a quiet squeaking sound but opened easily. Three loungers were beside the pool, their bright strips of colours clashing wonderfully with the setting. She walked a few steps and sat on one of the loungers. Bringing her legs up to the lounger, she hugged them to her chest. The pool water reflected the sky above, and was almost still, except for a few ripples caused by a few flying insects and the constantly moving breeze. She watched the water as she began to replay the events of a few hours ago when she woke up to find out that she had a family and life she could not remember.

"Assuming I have not been kidnapped by this family, and the husband and baby belong to me. Then what happened?" she asked herself, twisting the wedding band on her finger. She looked down at the ring, and then held it up against the late morning sun. It shone brightly, its yellow so vivid that she dropped her hand back into her lap. Hugging her knees again, she began to rock back and forth in desolation. What am I going to do? She asked herself, agonising over her predicament. Feeling no respite despite the beautiful scenery before her, she stood up and left the pool area.

Back at the point where the other lane snaked behind the house, she stopped in contemplation over her decision to go back to the house as she remembered the curious eyes of the nanny and Femi's own intense looks. With a shake of her head she decided against it and walked on the path ahead, her eyes on the garden. Coming to an abrupt stop where the path opened into the driveway, she saw the shrub she touched when she started her journey.

Impulsively, she looked upwards. She froze at the sight of two men at the window directly above her. They watched her calmly as she searched her brain in panic for their identities. She soon recognized the handsome compelling face of Femi, but the bald middle aged man with glasses that gave him an owlish appearance was a stranger she had never seen before. She hurried away from the path, turning to the front of the house.

Free from the piercing eyes of the men, she leaned on the wall of the house, one hand over her heart as it beat erratically. Who was that man with Femi? She wiped away the sweat that formed on her forehead from the effort of searching her memory. Going back to the house was out of question now, and there was no way she could make it to the pool without passing under the scrutiny of the men who watched her from the window a few minutes ago. With a deep sigh, she walked back past the front of the house again.

As she rounded past the front of the house, she saw a man come out of the small building by the big black gate of the compound. She looked down, quickening her steps till she was standing in front of the gate of the pool. It was when she sat back again in the same lounger she vacated a few minutes ago that she felt her heart rate decelerate considerably. Everywhere she turned it was as if people were sprouting all over the place.

An hour later, the rumble in her stomach forced her to find her way back to the house. As she climbed the steps, she noticed that only two cars remained in the garage. In the living room, the nanny sat at the glass dining table reading what appeared to be a magazine. She sat straighter at Marlene's entry.

"Welcome back ma."

"Thank you," Marlene said, feeling awkward at being called madam. She looked at the woman briefly again, trying to memorize her face and her role in the house. She was having a hard time trying to keep up with people's names and faces.

"I took the baby to his room," the nanny said as if she read her mind. "Oh…," Marlene said, feeling relieved at the woman's intervention. She is the baby's nanny! She sat down rigidly on the sofa beside the swinger and watched the television that had been turned on to CNN. The screen was lit with the image of a news correspondent reporting and pointing behind her to a background of twisted broken buildings with equally twisted iron rods. Burnt entrails of cars were strewn across a street, and a crowd of turbaned men talking and gesticulating wildly stood with wailing women wringing their hands at the camera. She barely registered what she was seeing as her mind constantly drifted aimlessly away from the present.

"Your husband has gone to work. He will be back in the evening" the nanny said, suddenly appearing beside her. She felt strange at the reminder that she shared a bond with a man she didn't know. She pulled herself away from her thoughts and twisted in her seat to face the woman. "Is there anyone else living in this house?"

The woman shook her head vigorously, sending her braids flying in her face. "Nobody else lives in the house apart from you, your husband, and Auntie Carol," she said, counting on her fingers. "Auntie Carol is the cook, and she stays downstairs in that room," she added helpfully, pointing to a door under the staircase.

Marlene faced the television again. "Thank you," she told the woman. Her stomach gave a loud growl and she winced. Coming back into the house with its unwelcome realities had made her forget the gnawing hunger in her stomach. The nanny's voice cut into her consciousness again. "Should I tell the cook to bring you breakfast?"

Marlene sighed unhappily. She still had to eat no matter how unreal her life seemed that morning. Tearing her eyes reluctantly from the television screen, she fixed them on the woman standing beside her like a statute.

"Yes," she said, suddenly yearning for some privacy. Standing up slowly, she started towards the staircase to the privacy of her bedroom.

"Should Aunty Carol bring the food upstairs?" the nanny asked as she walked away.

"Yes, thank you."

Marlene ate the small meal of steaming white rice, sweet corn and fish stew delivered by the cook, a plain looking woman with bowed shoulders. A warm maternal smile shone on the woman's face when the eyes that seemed glued to her feet half of the time lifted to regard Marlene in surprise when she thanked her for the food. She asked with an anxious smile if the nanny could bring the baby upstairs to her, and Marlene nodded automatically with little thought to the woman's words.

Evening came swiftly. With a knock on the bedroom door, the nanny arrived to take Dare for his evening bath. With the baby gone and nothing else to distract her, Marlene spent ten minutes walking around the room like a zombie. Just as she was throwing herself on the bed in frustration at the loneliness that preyed on her sanity, she saw the book on the ivory table for the second time since her amnesia. Standing up from the bed again, she picked up the weighty book and took it back to the bed. It was a hardcover novel with a picture of a pensive looking white man in uniform wearing a beret. Shake hands with the devil, the title said with chilling resonance. She opened the page to where the book divider was and stared at it like a magic object. This was the last page I read before today she thought, running her fingers across at the page as if it could bring back her memories. She was putting the book aside three hours later when the bedroom door opened to admit a tired looking Femi,

"Hi," he said, sitting on the bed. Marlene swallowed, feeling tongue tied and self conscious as she looked at him with unsure eyes. Unaffected by her lack of response, he shrugged his suit jacket off.

"I need to take a shower," he said casually, standing up and strolling into the bathroom. Marlene stared mindlessly at the dark, silent television on the wall, trying not to listen to the sounds of him in the bathroom.

He came back into the room with a towel on his waist not long after and Marlene looked away, reluctant to encourage further attraction to a man she barely knew. He moved between the bedroom and the dressing room as he transferred freshly laundered towels back to the bathroom. Finally the bed dipped and she bravely lifted her head to look at him. She lowered it quickly at the sight of his nudity. Not again! She thought dismally, shrinking away to safety.

He looked over at her. "Goodnight."

"Goodnight," she said stiffly, pushing her weight off the bed and walking to the bathroom. She closed the bathroom door and leaned on it, her mind still on the overpowering presence of the man on the other side of the door. Curling her toes, she looked around the bathroom as the coolness of the marble floor seeped into her bones.

There was a shower stall to her right side while a huge bathtub was built closer to the end of the bathroom. The toilet with its seat cover in soft pastel colours sat across the bathtub. An abundance of fluffy white and pink towels hung on a row of towel bars beside her while two soft shower rugs matching the pastel of the toilet seat were placed beside the shower stall and the bathtub.

With slumped shoulders, she approached the vanity sink. Standing before it, she placed her hands on the marble counter top of the sink and looked into the mirror above it. On each side of the sink, two shallow bowls held aromatic candles and small bottles of oil. A good number of soaps, both liquid and in bar form, body lotions, hand lotions, deodorants, bath salts, facial wipes, and hygiene related products were displayed meticulously on the countertop. She picked up the toothbrush she used that morning from the plastic tooth brush holder and squeezed white toothpaste on it.

Finished with brushing her teeth minutes later, she stared at herself in the mirror, trying to imagine how a whole portion of her life could be erased without any explanation. She wondered if it was safe to trust Femi, and yet she knew that her options were limited. She tried to imagine living with a blank memory for the rest of her life and shuddered. I wish I can wake up and find out that I was in a bad dream! She realized that her nightmare was real when her feet began to ache from standing, and she left the solitude of the bathroom for bed.

Femi's arm was flung carelessly across his eyes when she tiptoed back into the room. Thankfully, this time the covers were secured around his body. She climbed into bed, eyeing him warily. She was not sure what to expect from him. Dragging the rest of the covers up to her chin, she closed her eyes and waited for sleep. She tensed every time she felt a small movement from the other side of the bed, her quivering eyelids betraying her wakefulness. Only when she heard Femi snoring softly did she feel herself relax. Free from the threat of his alertness, she tried to rake up some memory in the darkness of the room for any clue of the life that was her own, but the walls around her mind simply refused to budge. Eventually, she walked into the familiar arms of sleep, spent and disillusioned from her exercise.



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