x0
Author: Sherrie Cronin

Chapter 10
AUGUST 2009

72

Lola had long since thrown out any idea of discussing anything of importance with Dr. Walker. She'd been vague about her appointments with him to Alex, mostly because she did not want Alex to worry, and partly because she was embarrassed by her whole overreaction to the canoe accident. She knew that Summer shared her West Texas disdain for all problems psychological, so she hadn't even considered bringing this issue up there. Oddly, she might once have told Teddie, just because Teddie had always seemed so much older than she should have, but obviously this was no time to enter such an odd variable into their struggling mother/daughter relationship. Talking to Ariel made more sense, but Lola was certain that Ariel would have no patience with either Dr. Walker or with Lola's being on medication. So reluctantly, she took the phone out to the porch and called the remaining family member, her resident expert on neuroscience.

"Hey Mom. What's up?" It was late but Lola was sure Zane stayed up on weeknights far later than she did.

"Job still grunt work but a new kind?" she asked.

"Yeah … " It was said in such a way as to imply that glamour had pretty much disappeared from the whole world.

"What do you know about prescribing atypical antipsychotics to enhance the effect of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors?" She thought she might as well get right to the point.

"Sheeshh," he said. "I think that is a pretty drastic measure. Surely no one is recommending that for you, are they?"

"Actually yes. My psychologist thinks I'll get an ‘uplift’ over my current meds, but I'm not even sure I needed to be on these things in the first place, much less uplifted. If I'd given the whole thing a little more time I think I'd have been just fine."Lola tried to keep her tone light, not wanted to give Zane cause for worry.

"Well, you were trying to take care of yourself, and he is trying to also. Let me poke around and see what I can learn. Can you stall a bit?"

"'Easily," she laughed. "If I am not paying him for an office visit at that particular moment then I am not a priority," she said.

"Well, he sees a lot of patients, mom. He can't be thinking about all of you every second."

"I know," Lola felt bad for her flippancy. Zane, of course, identified with these folks, hoped to work with them and make his living researching ways for them to be more effective.

"Get back to me when you can sweetheart," she said. "I won't take more or less of anything until I hear from you. I promise. And thanks a million." She really was grateful for his help.

"Hey, no problem. It will actually be good to a have a reason to ask a few questions at work and poke around into something interesting for a change." She felt his cloud of boredom lift just a little.

That's nice, she thought as she hung up. Maybe she had managed to help him out a bit as well.

 

Djimon and Mairo had sex less often after Nwanyi arrived. There was simply less time spent together, especially on weekends, and they were preoccupied with their own issues. Mairo was focused on her ill mother, whose health continued to decline, and on isolating the children and servants from Nwanyi and Djimon as best she could. She also sensed Djimon's growing preoccupation with his role, and it made her pull back emotionally and physically.

Djimon, a practical man, had never had a problem with providing himself with sexual release when needed, considering it a sensible alternative to more dangerous or inconvenient choices. So he took longer and more enjoyable showers, but as he did he became concerned about the change in the sorts of mental images which took over in the last few seconds before the final release. To his frustration, those images were the one part of his brain over which he seemed to be able to exercise absolutely no control.

Every so often, Djimon believed, a man needed more than he himself could provide, and so he contrived to see that he and Mairo were both in bed earlier than normal, with the rest of the house tucked in for the night.

Lovemaking began as it used to, but as Djimon's passion grew he found himself behaving differently. First he held down Mairo's leg with his knee. She wriggled it free. Then he bent one arm behind her head, twisting it into a mildly uncomfortable angle. "What the hell are you doing?" she hissed. He let go.

It was a good question however. What the hell was he doing?

Djimon had a degree in psychology, one he had gotten most specifically for the purpose of finding and training a human weapon to carry out the plan he and his group had begun to devise years ago. He knew quite a bit about human nature and so knew that he was not a sexual sadist in the clinical sense. He did not have, and never had had, a desire to kill anything. No torturing of small animals, or of his younger sisters, in his youth. Furthermore, he had no desire to maim or inflict permanent damage on anyone. No mental images of slicing or burning flesh drifted into his fantasies. But during the last few months he seemed to have developed a taste for, what? Dominating his sexual partner, making her physically uncomfortable until he chose to stop doing so? Maybe even a taste for making her fear him and obey him? Was this not just considered deviant sex? Even acceptable in some circles?

Now he was faced with the uncomfortable question of whether that desire had always been there, tucked away deeply as inappropriate in his world, or whether it was more like a massively addictive drug—cocaine or heroine—which he never would have found himself craving if he had not tried it to begin with.

 Mairo appeared to have no corresponding desires, at least that she acknowledged, which would allow him to indulge his newly discovered urges. True, he could encourage a little voluntary exploration on her part, or force it, but Djimon understood quite clearly that while Mairo was, by both culture and law, his to do with as he pleased, in reality women had their own ways of fighting back when pushed. And right now the plan was much too important for him to introduce such an unpredictable variable as a resentful wife.

So Djimon muttered apologies into the clearly miffed Mairo's ear, adding a bit of uncharacteristically flowery profession of his love for her. While it didn't work totally, Mairo went back to being cooperative, if not passionate, and Djimon vowed inwardly to behave towards her with physical gentleness in the future. Cause no problems for the greater plan, he reminded himself sternly.

Besides, luckily enough there were plenty of women out there who could be paid to do what they voluntarily would not. He would seek out such, he consoled himself, just as soon as his schedule permitted. Then he had to wonder if it would be as much fun, paying a woman to tolerate what Nwanyi had no choice but to accept. He decided that it might be, if the woman clearly hated every minute of it.

 

 

Ikenna had not been over to see Somadina for a week, and he was never home when she came by. Somadina was anxious to know if Olumiji had tried to contact her with her father's cell phone and was sensing with certainty that she was being avoided. To her, that justified overriding the courtesy of not seeking out her father's feelings without his knowledge. Since her abilities had begun to return earlier in the year, she had found that if she let her mind wander to her father naturally, she would begin to pick up information.

She felt him in his back yard, working in his garden. She thought about running over to catch him in person, but it seemed that his emotions were strong right now and not good. Guilt? Remorse? Worry? Worry about Nwanyi, yes. Worry about what Somadina would think? Yes, and not good. Helplessness. What else could he have done? He was doing the best he could. Somadina could feel the strong sense of rationalization all humans feel within themselves when they have made a questionable decision. I had no choice. No choice was a good one. I am doing the best I can. And so on.

Somadina took another approach. She left her thoughts to wander to one of her father's wives instead. They were both people she seldom bothered with one way or another, but Ikenna's frame of mind gave her the distinct feeling that the answer to what was going on might lie there.

She found exuberant happiness. A sense of planning for the future. She saw Obialo (oh bee AH low), the oldest of her half-brothers, dressed smartly in, what, a uniform? A school uniform from a very fine secondary school. One that would almost certainly guarantee  the boy a promising future. His mother was so proud.

Somadina was happy for Obialo. He was not a bad kid, even if not overly bright. Although she had not had the opportunity to attend secondary school herself, she recognized that more schooling was a good path. Thinking she knew the answer, she let her mind drift to her father's other wife.

Indeed, the woman was also caught up in planning for the future. Half-brother Udo (oo DOH)  had gotten into the same school? It looked like it. But the school must be in another part of Nigeria, for Udo's mom was filled less with pride and more with sadness that her boy would not be around. She wanted him to have the bright future and felt guilty about not wanting him to leave. She knew it was probably the very best possible use of the bride price which Ikenna had been holding on to in the foolish hope that he might find Nwanyi and undo the deal he had done. That certainly did not look like it was going to happen. Best to just let Nwanyi go, poor soul that she was.

It appeared that Ikenna had been convinced by his wives that a private detective would only take his money, waste it, and produce no results. If one combined the bride price with the private detective money saved so far then Ikenna could have not one but two sons attending a fine school, and maybe someday they would be doctors or government officials or something important. There was no better, no smarter investment in the future.

Whew. Somadina shook her head with the overload. Thanks to this wife, who transmitted well with a clarity Somadina seldom encountered, she had a pretty clear picture of the situation. Yes, her father was avoiding her. Yes, he had good reason to do so. Yes, he was going to once again be as useless in solving this situation with Nwanyi as he had always been. Somadina felt sadness as, once and for all, she wrote off her father and his assistance. It looked like he could not help being who he was, a man as obsessed with his male lineage as his own father had been.

Which made Somadina happy that her two half-brothers were being sent away at fourteen years old. They seemed like decent enough kids now, and maybe, living away from home like this, they would have the opportunity to develop ideas and opinions which were more modern. So at least the money was being used for something good.

Furthermore, the wives did have a point. Somadina would have spent the money saved so far and more on a private detective who produced results.  However,  the chances of being cheated, or even of just a well-meaning detective finding nothing, were quite high. And the odds of negotiating a refund of the bride price in exchange for Nwanyi's return were, Somadina suspected, almost nil. It was going to take something considerably more unusual to locate Nwanyi. Fortunately, it looked like considerably more unusual resources were the only kind that Somadina was going to have at her disposal.

 

Djimon was nothing if not a careful planner, but he prided himself on being able to occasionally improvise with Nwanyi. He was tired and likely coming down with a head cold one Thursday night when he saw her cringe at the sight of a spider. She hated spiders? Perfect. He sent a baffled Ibrahim out the next day to get him a jar with several live, healthy ones. This weekend he would be able to use his wits more than his tired body.

After giving it some careful thought he decided to force her to sit motionless while he let out the spiders slowly, one by one, onto her bare breasts. If she flinched or made a sound then more time would be added. This sort of mental discipline would be good for her. This was, after all, training. She managed a shaky, clammy obedience until one of the delightful little creatures had the sense of humor to place her right nipple right between its tiny legs. Djimon had to laugh aloud. He'd never know whether it was the spider's touch or the laughter which was too much for her, because at that point she brushed them off shrieking at him and began crying and babbling about how she could not take it any more.

He did not have the energy to deal with her that night, so he just locked the door behind him and went to bed, leaving her sitting on the floor crying with the spiders still crawling around her room. He fell asleep easily, happy in his knowledge that tomorrow she'd have to damn well take anything he wanted her to take.

 

Three weeks later, Lola still had not picked up the prescription for the atypical antipsychotic medication which was to be used in an off-label fashion to supplement her current antidepressant medication, which was supposed to be helping her cope with the post-traumatic anxiety which she was no longer experiencing. So the pharmacy called and left an automated reminder for her to pick up her medication. She hung up halfway through it and on a whim opted for the green 25 mg tablet that morning instead of the blue 50 mg tablet she had dutifully been taking. She had saved the lower dose tablets in an admittedly childish rebellion against being specifically told by Dr. Walker not to do so. Now she decided she would begin her own personal program of tapering off of the medication. Tuesday and Wednesday she went with the lower dosage again, and Thursday morning she decided to declare herself medication free. The main risks, according to a quick google search, were a return of the original symptoms which she figured at the very worst was no big deal, or a sudden onset of the same side effects she might have experienced when first going on the medication, which she figured she could just plain get through.

Thursday at work Lola was restless and had trouble concentrating. She was also starting to feel like she had gone over everything in her data multiple times and was hitting diminishing returns. When was her company going to secure a damn drilling rig already? She decided to take an extended lunch break to research more about Nigeria on the internet. By the time she got home she was wound up more tightly than she realized and she ambushed Alex in the kitchen with the results of her lunchtime information hunt.

"How many barrels of oil do you think was spilled by the Exxon Valdez in 1989?” she demanded.

"Lola dear, I have no idea. A lot. Too many." He was chopping garlic carefully into tiny pieces. But Lola would not be brushed off.

"Somewhere over two hundred and fifty thousand barrels of oil."

"And that's horrible," he agreed. "Wish I could have stopped it."

"That's not my point. Don't patronize me, Alex. Do you know that there were at least three spills in the Niger Delta before that were all larger? How many of them did you hear about? Three major spills. And another incident that killed more than a thousand people. And in fact did you know that between 1975 and 1995 over two billion barrels of oil were spilled in the Niger Delta, ten times what was spilled by the Valdez? Ten times. And that for over three quarters of it, there was no recovery or cleanup efforts made whatsoever? Where was everybody? Fish died and crops were ruined and nobody did a damn thing."

"I get it, Lola. The plight of Africa doesn't get half the attention here that problems from other parts of the world get. It sucks."

"Damn right it sucks. Do you understand that Nigeria is the eighth largest country in the world? How come over two million people were starved to death in Biafra and I never even really heard about it?"

"Lola, calm down. It's not that you aren't right dear. You are. It's just that yelling at me isn't going to do a thing to make it better."

She started a harsh retort, and then stopped. What was the matter with her? Alex was on her side. She took a deep breath and just let him hold her for a minute.

Then when she went to change out of her work clothes, he shook his head. She was a strange one, his wife. Oddly idealistic, fiery in her opinions, and where others tended to put up walls to protect themselves from what was different, she had the unusual tendency to link herself to other people's traits and troubles. Go figure. He knew that the phrase was probably outdated and politically incorrect, but it still described the situation. After eight months of working for an African company, his Lola had managed to "go native" while sitting at a desk in Houston.

 

By Friday morning, Lola had gone from feeling restless to feeling physically disoriented, and by Saturday she could not help but notice that she was downright dizzy. Sort of like an inner ear infection. Saturday night she passed on the wine when she and Alex went out to dinner and passed on the cappuccino and the dessert as well. “Your body is a temple?" Alex had kidded her.

"No," she laughed. Then she had the distinct, strong impression that he really hoped she was not dieting again because when she did it always made him feel guilty about eating, and he hated that he could not enjoy a meal as much.

She looked at him. "I didn't know you hated it when I went on a diet."

He looked at her. "I didn't say I did."

They stared at each other for a long moment before the waiter brought the check.

Lola was glad that she and Alex had made love before they went out to dinner. It meant that once they got home he would head off to bed alone with no expectations, and, with Ariel now back at school and Teddie spending the night at a girlfriend’s, she could get back on the computer and go to the x0 website where she had left off weeks ago.

She wondered why she had been so reluctant to return to it up until now. Granted, the time before school started was always a busy one at their house. And maybe she was scared someone in the family would discover her. She hated doing anything she felt she had to hide, and admittedly the proposed prescription for an antipsychotic had given her pause for a moment. Maybe the whole thing was just too weird, and it didn't seem real. The net result was that weeks had flown by while she pretended that part of her life was not happening. She probably needed to contact Maurice again.

She logged on nervously, and was greeted with a soft “welcome back” message that made her feel glad she had returned. Maybe tonight the website would have some answers for her.

Q: What kinds of information gets communicated telepathically?

 

A: Telepathy does not work well to communicate complex ideas or complicated information. You cannot feel a math equation or a telephone number, or even feel a red circle versus a blue square, which is why most early ESP experiments were doomed to fail.

 

Q: So what is easy to communicate?

 

A: Besides raw emotions such as fear, anger, and joy, telepathy communicates well with imagery, humor, and puns, much as the subconscious does with dreams. For example, a receiver may get an image of a man walking his dog, holding a bag overflowing with dog poop. The transmitter understands the man pictured is lying about something, or, in other words, that the man is full of shit. This particular type of telepathic communication is helped if the two subjects involved share common idiomatic expressions.  It can require skill to interpret the images received.

 

Q: Do telepaths receive information equally well from all people?

 

A: No. Just as you find it easier to catch some people's words, and maybe more importantly, some people's intended meaning, so do individual telepaths find that some people transmit to them more clearly. We call this being on a common wavelength. Also, if a telepath is emotionally close to another and has a long history with them, such as a spouse or sibling, it is safe to assume that thoughts may be read much more clearly

.

Q: Don't telepaths get overwhelmed by input?

 

A: Yes, they usually do at first. The onset of true telepathy requires acclimation on the part of the telepath, who has to learn to filter incoming information appropriately. In general, being a telepath is very much like learning to walk on a ship at sea. At first it can be difficult and even disorientating, but one usually adjusts and learns to tap into information only as needed and wanted.

 

Like walking on a ship at sea. Lola realized that seasick was a very good description for how she felt at the moment. And the thing with Alex about dieting had been weird. Was she having a physical reaction to getting off of the medication? Or, by chance, was she turning into a full-fledged telepath like Jumoke had thought she would? She decided to read one more entry, then put her woozy head to sleep. She would find a way to finish reading the website in small doses over the next few days so she could absorb the material calmly and easily.

Q: Can a telepath read an animal’s mind?

Maybe not the pertinent subject she had hoped for, but …

A: All animals with enough brain function transmit information, but, unlike humans, it appears that all animals are also receivers. Because telepathy is such a non-verbal activity, some think that our development of advanced speech stunted telepathic reception in humans while it remained as a skill in the rest of the animal kingdom. This means that yes, your dog or cat or horse really does know how you are feeling. However, how well your pet understands the meaning of your emotions depends on the intelligence of the species and the specific animal involved, and how much your pet cares about your emotions depends on its particular personality. One of the more interesting facts to us is that almost every pet owner agrees that pets know how their people feel, and no one seems to find this at all surprising.

 

At this point Lola paused to give a long, hard look at the sleeping cat. The cat opened his eyes slowly, and looked back at her in a bored sort of way, as though to marvel at the oddities that caused humans to be excited.

 

Sunday morning Somadina sat drinking tea in her tiny kitchen, thinking about how she had to find a way to get into town and get back on the internet to learn more about x0 and to check for messages from Olumiji. She heard Azuka playing with their son Kwemto in the next room, and in a comfortable, diffuse way she could feel the happy emotions emanating from both of them. It had been almost three weeks, she realized, since Azuka had asked her for a simple answer. Not a maybe. Not a kind of. Not a list of qualifications or exceptions or explanations. If she had to just say yes or no, no was certainly easier.

Somadina had often heard the African proverb "If  you want to travel fast, travel alone.  If you want to travel far, travel with others."  She had always preferred to travel fast, she guessed, knowing that life was simpler and she was happier on her own.  She had viewed the obligatory husband as a nuisance her culture would force her to tolerate, and she had always resigned herself to putting up with the inevitable without ever embracing it.

For just a moment, Somadina let herself consider that maybe it was a better idea in the long term to be able to travel far.  To choose of her own accord to travel with another. For just a moment, she tried on the idea of saying a simple "yes".  And meaning it.

 

The second time Nwanyi decided to run away it was mostly the spiders that caused it. And the fact that Friday generally meant that both Djimon and Mairo would be at the mosque for weekly prayers at noon, with only the less concerned servants left to watch her. Friday also meant that later in the day Mairo would leave with the children, after sending the servants home for the weekend, and Nwanyi just absolutely could not imagine that she could face another weekend with Djimon, who had actually walked away from her, locking her in the room with the spiders.

 So on Friday morning, August 20, when the family seemed particularly caught up in going to the mosque for some reason, and even bringing the children as well, Nwanyi formulated a quick plan for escape. The new cook almost never left her kitchen, and Nwanyi had long since noticed that when the cook was not there the kitchen door was now kept bolted shut with a key that the cook kept around her neck. The housekeeper stayed towards the back of the house as well, but today was unusual because both the cook and the housekeeper had been given permission to attend Friday services at the mosque too.

So the first part of Nwanyi's plan became to simply wait for a quiet moment after they all left and then to just walk out the front door herself. Because she was never allowed anywhere in the front of the house, she suspected that Djimon and Mairo had not gone to the trouble of keeping it bolted with a key, as that would have been so inconvenient for them. So with her heart pounding in her chest, she walked softly and quickly through the front of the house, and tried the knob. It opened. She stepped out, closed the door behind her. Her heart was racing. She exhaled.

The street was much as she remembered it from months ago, flowering and well kept with modern nice, homes that should have been filled, one would think, with modern, nice people. But one never knew.

The next part of Nwanyi's plan, though simple, was at least a little better thought-out than last time, when she had absolutely no idea what to do. This time she would walk calmly but quickly to a corner, get on another street where she could not be seen from the house, and then run as fast as she could as far as she could. She knew from overheard conversation that this neighborhood was largely filled with Hausa and Fulani families and that in their culture women seldom left their homes. Children and servants were both unlikely to speak to or help a stranger. She would be noticed from windows and remarked upon by those not at the mosque, but likely left alone. When she had gotten as far as she felt she could go, she would go to a front door, bang on it and ask for help. Unless she could get to a part of town with shops, which would be even better because then she could beg for help from a storekeeper or from several of them until she found a soul kind enough to help.

She had started to walk fast towards the intersection of the nearest small street, when, with despair, she heard heavy foot steps behind her. She started to run without taking the time to turn around. The foot steps got louder and closer and she had not made it quite to the corner before a set of large arms circled her from behind, and she tripped forward with Ibrahim, the gardener, tripping on top of her. He pulled himself off but held fast to one of her wrists.

"Please." She looked directly at him. "Please. What's it to you? Just let me go."

The man looked genuinely sad. "I wish I could. I do. But I have been told very clearly that part of my job is to watch the front of the house, and to make sure you do not ever do this. If they come home and you are gone, I will be fired. Or probably worse. I have eight children. I am so sorry."

He was a foot taller, and almost twice her weight. He twisted her arm firmly behind her back and walked her back to the house. Nwanyi thought that never in her life had she been so sad.

Ibrahim remembered what had happened to the first cook all too well. And even though the cook had not understood the mistake she had made, he did. So once he was back at the house, he sadly used gardening twine to tie Nwanyi's hands behind her back, taking care not to make the ropes too tight. He then ordered her into a simple wooden chair in the room and, allowing her to sit in a comfortable position, he tied her bound wrists to the chair as well. But no tea. No sympathy. He would keep his job, thank you. As he walked out of the room, he prayed silently to be forgiven, and promised to look harder for safe ways to help this unfortunate child.

Nwanyi waited far longer for the family to return home than she expected. Finally she heard Ibrahim and Djimon talking as they walked towards her room. "I did not know what else to do with her sir but to tie her up. I hope I did not overstep my bounds." Djimon looked in at her.

"No, no you did just fine. Just perfect." And to think he had been concerned about Ibrahim's loyalty. He made a mental note to instruct the cook to send a large piece of meat home with the gardener for him and his eight children to enjoy once the sun was down and this first day of fasting was over.

After the gardener left, Djimon came back in and looked at her. "Well, well. My second wife has decided to become rebellious, has she? And to think that because this is the first day of Ramadan I was considering leaving you alone tonight and reading the Qur'an instead. Then you go and do this, which cannot be left unpunished. My spiritual growth will just have to wait now, won't it?"

Nwanyi thought to herself that Djimon looked very pleased about the turn of events.

 

Lola often went to the grocery store on Monday evenings on the way home from work, particularly during football season when she could count on a good many of her fellow Texans of both genders to be glued to their television sets. But even though she was not coming home from work this particular Monday, having spent most of yesterday and today in bed with what she described to her family and employer as flu symptoms, she was anxious to get out of the house now that she was starting to feel a little stronger. Better yet, the Minnesota Vikings were playing the Houston Texans in a pre-season game, which meant that the vast majority of her potential fellow shoppers would be glued to ESPN come eight o’clock.

Once she got to the store, her sense of disorientation began to give way to something else.  At first, as she made her way through produce,  it felt like a stronger nausea, and she considered heading back home.  But by the time she had made it to the bottled drinks aisle, it wasn't really queasiness but more of a driving sensation, a pulse inside of her.  In canned goods, it felt like a strength growing into a strange sort of clarity.

She paused at the dairy case to consider. It was the people around her.  She was getting information from them as surely as if they were each speaking to her.  Which none of them were.  And with each little piece of input that she allowed herself to receive, the vertigo was dissipating. Her feet felt more solid and her head was becoming clear. She just relaxed and let the feelings flow into her.

By the time she had made it to frozen foods,  every person in the store had a song to sing. A story to tell. The vague and sometimes annoying feelings she had picked up from folks in the past were gone, and Lola felt like a person with horrible vision who had just been given a pair of good glasses or a person with very poor hearing who suddenly was wearing the best of hearing aids.

 It was true that most of what was coming at her was boring. His feet hurt. She was annoyed with her child. He was annoyed he had to work today. Right. He was missing the football game. Lola laughed. People were preoccupied, tired, worried, looking forward to some later event, thinking about sex, and one guy in aisle seven was thinking seriously about beating the shit out of someone at work tomorrow. Lola, knowing that most thoughts don't result in actions, decided that without more evidence of intent she should just leave people be. And she did. She could. She practiced. Tone up the intensity. Tone down the intensity. That worked. She could do it.

Not all the thoughts were admirable, but amid the petty and the complaining Lola had to admit that there was an underlying hum of just wanting to love and be loved. To be left in peace. To have a little fun. To have worries solved and some joy at the end of the day. She figured she shared the grocery store that day with forty or so other souls, and she could honestly wish each one well and move on.  It was all going to be okay.

She smiled instinctively at the checkout clerk as she finished, and felt the girl's blip of joy at the smile. That was surprising. Lola's smile, an unconscious reflex she often found annoying because it was so habitual, apparently sometimes brought other folks a bit of happiness. Interesting.

And then, just as she was leaving, some lady in produce started singing to herself. Wouldn't you know it, Lola laughed. She had lost twenty dollars once betting that there was a Pink Floyd song called the "Dark Side of the Moon." There isn't, of course, just a 1973 album with that name, and a perfectly wonderful song called “Brain Damage” which talks about a lunatic inside the singer's head and mentions the dark side of moon.

As Lola listened to the eerie lyrics, they were, she decided , a little too on the mark. Probably time to get home and take a break. As she headed out of the store, she couldn't help singing along.

Driving home, she gave some thought to her next obvious problem. It looked like Jumoke had been right. Thanks to some combination of the Igbo woman and the canoe incident, she had become a telepath. Why had it taken so long? Maybe for the last couple of months the PTSD, or maybe the medication, or maybe both, had suppressed her symptoms. No, abilities, she told herself. This is not a disease. You have abilities, not symptoms.

At any rate, if this was now the way she was, should she tell Alex? Her children? Her sister? In one sense it seemed only fair, but in another she doubted she'd be believed, no matter how much they loved and trusted her. That was until she demonstrated the truth of what she was saying, which now that she thought about it could be harder than she thought. She could not do card tricks. Tell me what I'm thinking. What she could do was pick up the real driving emotion they were feeling at the time and if she was lucky it looked like she could pick up a few facts related to that emotion as well. Which meant that she would probably just pick up disbelief. And worry. And maybe a little fear because whether she was telepathic or not, the fact that she thought she was meant there was something to be concerned about one way or another. Pointing out the presence of these emotions was hardly going to constitute compelling evidence to any of the fine folks in her immediate circle.

So what was the hurry? First, she should probably learn more about this and how it affected her and her life. The lyrics to Brain Damage kept playing in her head. It was true. Having people think that one is crazy seldom ends well.

Thanks Pink Floyd, Lola thought. At some point, the right point, she would at the very least let Alex know what was going on.

 

Ikenna knocked harshly in Somadina's door. It had been over three weeks since he spoke with his daughter. He stood with the gruff defensiveness of a man who knows that he is in the wrong.  He held the cell phone in his hand like it was a dead rodent, a problem to be disposed of.

"Yes. Come in father," Somadina called from inside.

"How'd you know … never mind." He walked in muttering. "You have a message from that Yoruba man that came to visit you weeks ago. Olumiji."

"Oh, I had been wondering when he'd contact me," Somadina said pleasantly. "What does he have to say?" Because Ikenna did not read terribly well,  he just handed the phone to her.

"Please tell your daughter Somadina that I am sorry I did not revert to her sooner, but I have been unable to find any information which could be helpful. I have been trying to be of help and will keep doing so. Please ask her to call me at this number or text back if she needs anything else and let her know that I will be in touch again.  Sooner this time I promise."

"Is he trying to find Nwanyi?" her father asked.

"Yes," Somadina merely said.

"You know about my sons going to school, don't you?" her father asked.

"Yes," Somadina said again.

Her father sighed. "How? You used to do that as a little girl. It scared people sometimes. I was so thankful that you seemed to outgrow it."

"Well it came back," Somadina said. "Maybe because I needed it. Clearly I have serious work to do to find my sister, and I will not be having a private detective or even a computer-adept brother to help me, now will I?" She paused, knowing that if she kept talking she would say words inappropriate for any daughter to say to a father. So she sat in silence.

"It was a hard choice," Ikenna finally said.

"Was it?" She could not suppress the tone of sarcasm quickly enough, and when he heard the sting behind the words she saw a bit of anger grow in her father's eyes as well. He would not be addressed this way no matter how wrong he was.

"Somadina. These are two very fine young men. They will both do well, have a future beyond what I, what their mothers, what this village could ever give them. Or of course I could instead try to rescue a daughter who has never cared much for me, just to appease another daughter who seems to care even less. For what? For the one to come back to this village and hate me even more? And that is the best possible outcome, because it is even more likely that I will waste all my money and then I do not have the daughter back, I do not have the affection of the other daughter, and I still do not have a way to provide a better future for my sons. Be as angry as you like. I am tired of your anger, I am casting my lot with my future and doing what makes the most sense for my sons. Someday they will help provide, not just for me and their mothers, but maybe even for you and your children. Do not question my wisdom so. It is not your place."

And with that an angry Ikenna stood to leave.

"I truly do wish my brothers well," Somadina managed to say. "I have told their mothers I wish to help prepare the farewell feast before they leave this week. I bear them no ill will."

"No. Just me," Ikenna muttered as he walked out of the front door.

 

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