By J .N. Kariuki

“You’re not supposed to be here,” Edu reminded her wearily as he sipped his beer. His bleary eyes remained fixed on the Indian Ocean. Its usually deep blue waters were a churning grey as a storm cloud in the horizon fast approached the mainland.

Well, you’re not supposed to be here either…working day and all, Sera replied as she strolled up to him. 

He chose to say nothing.  He had been hoping he’d get away from her for just a couple of hours, have a few beers and some much needed shut eye. The irony of it all was not lost on him. There was a time when he would have happily chopped off his arm to spend more time with her.

You do know what they say about day drinking, don’t you?

“You want one?” he offered.

She pouted. Now you’re just being mean.

“Sorry,” he said, running a hand over his clean shaven head. He still hated upsetting Sera even when she was being infuriating-which was often. “I’m just a little tired.”

She flopped down next to him. You’ve been saying that a lot lately.

“That I’m tired?”

That you’re sorry.

“I know.”

Sera’s gaze shifted towards the newspaper which he was using as a place mat for his cans.

POLICE QUESTION PROMINENT TV NEWS PRODUCER. The headline screamed.

Poor guy.

Edu grimaced, taking a swig from his Tusker can. Poor guy indeed, he thought to himself. As far as he was concerned, Jared was a pompous ass and being rattled by the cops would do his character some much needed good.

I get it; you never liked him. But they’re unfairly giving him a hard time when the killer never left the building, she glanced up at him. You’ll get away with it you know. No one knows you existed in my world.

“Ahhh, the perks of secret love,” he drawled bitterly. “What we had, was it ever real?”

Of course it was.

“And yet when it came down to making a choice, you chose him,” he pointed out.

She bit her lower lip; something Sera did when nervous or anxious.

I didn’t. I said I wasn’t ready to let him go just yet. I thought you’d understand where I was coming from.

“Are you serious?” he asked furiously. “From the moment we met, you kept telling me you’re just waiting for the right time to break up with him. I stayed because I knew you’d do it soon.”

Sera sighed. You always had to be so serious about everything.

He blinked at her in disbelief.

“Jared and I are in business together and he’s like part of our family. I’ll have to break it off carefully,”  She’d said.

They had been quite a pair, he mused. To the world, Edu was the reclusive owner of a successful start up company. The nice guy who lived a floor above her: always the designated driver, always polite to the neighbours, the help and always in the background. As for Sera…well, Sera was something else entirely.

She was a beauty; with her smooth dusky skin, lithe frame and dark eyes full of mischief and mirth. But it was more than that. Sera was full of so much energy and excitement it radiated off  her, lighting up any room she walked into…the life of any given party. The second Edu met her, he knew he wanted to be close to her and revel in the magic that was her presence. So for one year they secretly dated. For one year he experienced an intense, extravagant love tinged with a longing that gnawed at his soul.

Then last Saturday night, they had their worst fight ever. He had been waiting in her apartment when she walked in late. They were to have take out Ethiopian dinner then watch a movie at her place. Sera forgot this and went to a party with Jared. She tried to sweet talk Edu into accepting her apology and letting it go, but he’d had enough. They had an ugly exchange of words. Then came his ultimatum, her final stand and him demanding to know why she was being such a selfish bitch. By the time the dust finally settled, Sera was dead.

The memories were loud and jagged. Some, he had trouble accepting as real: the feel of his fingers around her neck, the panicked look in her eyes, Sera’s thrashing body as her nails clawed desperately at his hands. Then there was the terrible stillness, the lifeless eyes, him mechanically picking her up, laying her out on her bed, arranging her body just so and gently tucking  in her comfort blanket around  her curled up body as though Sera was only sleeping. But worst of all, was the sickening horror and self loathing he felt after he stole back to his apartment.

He mentally shook himself and the memories slithered away. It was then he noticed that a beach boy had stopped several feet away and was gaping at him.

Give him your winning smile, dear.

Edu waved. “Vipi boss,” he called cheerfully.

The beach boy shook his head and hurried off.

I think you scared him off.

“Am I going mad?” he whispered.

What do you think?

He leaned against the palm tree’s trunk and closed his eyes.  He was tired and his thoughts were like broken pieces of a mirror caught up in a whirlwind. She was just in his head, he chanted to himself. And if he could get a good night’s rest-

Just ‘cause it’s in your head doesn’t make it unreal you know.

The first time -after her death- Sera paid him a visit, Edu had woken up with a start from a nightmare only to find her seated cross legged at the foot of his bed watching him. Her appearance was solid, nothing like Casper the friendly ghost. She was like the real, in-the-flesh Sera except she now had a hoarse voice, purplish bruise marks around her neck and was eternally wearing the same little black dress she wore that night.

Edu had never believed in ghosts. Nana, his mother’s elderly house help, had tried to make him a believer as a child with her fantastical tales of the spooks that lived and thrived in Mombasa. He had instead found the stories hilariously entertaining and begged her for more much to her chagrin.

A part of him had been terrified by Sera’s appearance but another part-that secret part he did not want to acknowledge- had been grateful he now had the chance to ask her for forgiveness and show her how truly sorry he was.

Then her visits became frequent and with each visit, Edu was left more jaded, hollow and desolate within. Even more disconcerting was the encroaching shadow he sensed swirling and wrapping itself around his mind…distorting…needling…cooing…

 “What’s on your mind?” he asked, taking in her wistful face.

I was just getting started…so many places to go to…so many things to be… and it was going to be epic.

“I know.”

Now…I’m here…stuck.

Edu sensed a vicious edge to her words. Odd, as Sera had never been an angry person. Then again, Sera had admitted to him a couple of nights ago that she was alone on the other side. She did not know why this was so, but it scared her to be in such an unfamiliar place alone. So she came to him for company. He had never known Sera to be easily scared, lonely or that honest either.

“I’m sorry.”

You’ve really got to stop saying that.

“I know.”

Don’t feel so bad, she paused smiling. At least you and I get to be together forever just like you wanted.

“I wish I could take it back.”

What? You killing me?

“My falling in love with you. That’s when it all went to hell,” he said with sudden absolute clarity.

You can’t mean that. We were good together weren’t we?

His voice tightened.  “That’s the thing, Sera. I’m trying really hard to remember the last time we were last happy together. But I can’t remember.”

 I didn’t mean to hurt you. Please believe that.

She abruptly got up, skipped towards the shore and twirled, closing her eyes as a gust of wind blew in.

Sera paused and held out her hand. Come. Let’s go for a swim.

He frowned.  “The water’s too rough. Besides, you know I’m not that good a swimmer.”

I know. You’ll be fine though.

“I will drown.”

Don’t be such a buzz kill.

“You go on and enjoy your crazy swim, Sera.”

Tell you what, we go for a quick swim and I’ll finally let you sleep.

Edu considered. The tide made him uneasy and yet the thought of his head hitting a pillow and peacefully drifting off was sheer bliss.

“Promise?”

She flashed him a wicked grin. Hand over heart, my dear.

“OK,” he said as he unsteadily got up to his feet. “Just for a few minutes,” he whispered as he followed her into the raging ocean.

  • Abby

    First thought..why aren’t her words enclosed within speechmarks?
    Love how the story unwinds.a lovely piece.

  • j.rigid

    beautiful story. Very inventive about the speech-marks thingy…i like!