Last night I dreamt of my neighbour’s horse. It’s not a real horse, just a little ceramic model perched on top of the gate, watching everything and everyone.
It appeared like a real horse in the dream and it spoke to me. It told me that the time I was waiting for had come, I had no idea what it meant.
When I woke up, I chuckled at my ability to extend my wild imagination into my dreams. I made it a point to say hello to the horse on my way to work.
I fulfilled my promise and had a nice conversation with the horse. Just when I was starting to question my own sanity, I heard voices and sure enough, a group of school children walked past me.
They were all talking and laughing about things that children that age laughed about, all of them except one. Oh, she walked with them and talked and laughed but her eyes, her eyes told me that the talking and the laughing were lies.
I couldn’t have seen them for more than a minute because they walked briskly past me but I will never forget her eyes; they penetrated my soul, challenging me, accusing me, and, try as much as I can, I cannot ignore them.
I know those eyes because I was once that girl. I go to work but find it hard to concentrate, I keep thinking about her accusing eyes.
The next morning I wake up feeling grumpy, I slept fitfully and I wake up feeling restless. My dear sweet Dad makes me coffee and asks me why I’m jumpy and I give him a noncommittal response. I thank him for breakfast and head out to work. The horse has nothing for me and I wait for a few minutes then chicken out and decide to leave before the children pass by the house again.
That afternoon would change the course of my life. At work, my colleagues misinterpret my sour mood as sickness and send me home promptly. I was glad to leave, I wasnt getting anything done anyway.
Immediately I turn to our street, the horse draws my attention, and directly underneath it is the little girl. I watch as my neighbor opens his gate for her to enter.
My street is a very quiet street and everyone keeps to themselves. Dad and I have been living here for over thirty years. Ever since my mum passed away 10 years ago, we’ve pretty much kept to ourselves.
My dad is a retired paediatrician and he only leaves the house when he goes to church or goes to the hospital. Sometimes he visits Father John, his oldest friend who lives on the next street. Perhaps he goes to other places. I do not know, as I always leave for work very early and don’t come home until late at night and even work most weekends.
Father John accuses me of missing Mass a lot, and I know he tells my Dad that’s why I am not married. I pretend I don’t know and tell him to say a prayer for me.
We’ve had pretty much the same neighbours all my life but the one living in the house with the horse statue is relatively new. He moved in a year ago after the family that used to live there relocated or something, my Dad would know.
I park near the street entrance wondering why what I’d just seen gives me pause. The girl was clutching her school bag with a downcast look, almost looking like a lamb led off to slaughter.
I am puzzled, why is she at my neighbour’s house at 4pm on a Thursday afternoon? I know he is a middle-aged man that lives alone. In fact, when he moved in, my father made a joke about setting us up. We both laughed it off awkwardly. That was one of my few interactions with him.
Then I remember that he is a music producer or something and I see his flyers advertising piano lessons for children. That might explain it but it still doesn’t give any reason for her scared look so I let curiosity get the better of me.
Five years ago, that very house almost burned down completely because someone left a gas cooker on and they were all out. The family that lived there previously gave my Dad and I an extra key in case a similar incident ever occurred again.
I remember collecting it with reluctance then but now it would come in handy! I look for the key amongst my bunch of keys and almost exclaim with joy when I find it. Then I walk to the gate hoping that the man hasn’t changed the lock, he hasn’t.
I creep into the compound, careful not to let the gate make a sound as I close it after me. I hear piano music immediately and almost turn back, cursing my impulsiveness.
Then the music stops for some seconds then starts again. It sounds really good and I wonder who is playing it: him or her. I move closer to the house and creep beneath a window. It gives me a view of the front door and some part of the living room but I can’t see him or her or even the piano.
I move around the side until l find what looks like an appropriate window but I will have to hide in the shrubs of a very thorny plant. Then I notice his back door is open.
Luck is on my side again and I enter uneventfully. The piano music is still playing and as I creep closer, I start to hear his voice.
It is soft, gentle, assuring, but when I take in the whole scene, I can’t fathom what I am seeing with my eyes.
She is seated playing the piano, while he stands beside her, with his erect penis in her mouth. He has his eyes closed while he gyrates slowly. My friends tease me and all because I haven’t been with a man but even I recognise the look on his face as one of ecstasy.
I must have gasped out loud because his eyes open immediately and he makes a mad dash for me but I panic in my escape and not knowing if I should dash in or out and by a lucky accident, he runs face first into a door and falls unconscious.
Immediately, I start panicking and my mind begins to race with possible scenarios. I don’t practice criminal law but I know I have some liability here and if he happens to die, this is manslaughter at least and that means jail time.
For some reason I look up and see that she still sits there, calmly, unmoving, silently. Isn’t she scared?
Her look would have unnerved me but the image of the horse rises in my mind and then I know what to do. I search around his house until I find a rope then I tie one end around his neck and tie the other to his ceiling fan above the piano. We both watch as his body dangles until it becomes limp and lifeless. Then I clear the piano and make it seem like they haven’t had a lesson and she has just walked in to find him like that.
I tell her my plan and she gives no indication that she will back up my story other than a nod, but time is running out, so I decide to trust her. I tell her to scream and she does. After some minutes, I call my Dad and Father John, then go outside to crack open the gate ajar so it seems like I ran in because I heard her scream.
In no time, the whole street is assembled and someone calls the police. All the women feel for the girl and say it is lucky that I came home so early. I hear one say I dodged a bullet by not marrying him. My Dad and I accept condolences on his behalf, because apparently neighbours are like family, then he ushers me away to our house.
I never even get to say goodbye to the girl. A neighbour who knows the girl’s mother calls her and she promptly comes over and whisks her daughter away from the crowd, thanking me in passing as they hurry away while I give my report to the policemen that came.
Once the policemen leave, my dad runs a hot bath for me. I am so lucky to have him; ever since my mother died, it has been only him and I together and he never hesitates to show how much he loves me.
The face I’m looking at as I brush my teeth in the mirror is not mine! There is a certain flush in my cheeks and my eyes look alert even though I feel drained inside. Then the horse comes again, I frown, haven’t I fulfilled my purpose? He is dead, isn’t he.
Then everything I buried comes to life and I remember.
I remember how much my parents loved me. I remember that I have always been Daddy’s girl and I remember the day I became Daddy’s woman.
Like I said, my father never hesitates to show his love for me. He is always doting on me and buying me such wonderful presents that make me love him back in return.
I remember that night when I was six, and my mother had gone on a trip and my dad and I came home after spending a fun day at the amusement park.
He asked if I wanted to shower together and I said yes. We always had fun playing with water in the bathroom. Mummy didn’t like it because of all the water we wasted but mummy wasn’t around, so we did it that night.
Then he asked if I would like to sleep in the big bed in their room. Oh, I was so excited that night, I loved sleeping in between mummy and Daddy whenever I had bad dreams but I had never slept with only Daddy on the big bed, that meant more room for us to play.
He said it would hurt me a little like an injection, that it was something that only daughters who really loved their Daddies would do and I loved my Daddy, so I did.
I saw it, it was pointy just like an injection, but it hurt me and I cried. I cried and I cried, he kept telling me that he loved me, he did it because he loved me.
When mummy came back, I didn’t tell her; Daddy said it was a secret and besides, mummy was not fun like Daddy, mummy will beat me if she hears that I have been playing rough with Daddy and Daddy bought me lots of ice-cream and toys.
So it started:
When my tummy started hurting me, he took me to his hospital where he treated me and when I got better, back to injections.
I took Daddy’s injections until I got to about 13 years old; the same age that girls are supposed to be developing an interest in boys. Try as much as I did, the interest never came and I am a 40-year old woman who has never been with a man, other than her father.
I don’t know when I repressed the memory but I think I know why. How could I reconcile a man who loved me treating me like that.
I finish brushing and I head down to the kitchen to prepare dinner, my hands trembling as they sliced tomatoes and diced carrots.
They don’t tremble when I measure out the rat poison, they don’t tremble when I mix it with his tea, they don’t tremble when I put his dinner on the tray and take it to his room. He is 77 now and on a lot of medications, he rarely leaves his bed unless he has to. We chat about everything from the weather to work as he eats and I keep wondering why he doesn’t bring up the neighbour’s death.
And then suddenly it hits me, he knew! Somehow he knew what the neighbour was and he knows that I had something to do with his death. He asks me why I’m still waiting after he finishes and I say I don’t want to be alone and he nods solemnly and shuts his eyes to go to sleep.
Then they pop open and he looks at me pleadingly
“Arike, you know that i have always loved you no matter what, what did you put in my tea?”.
And I answer, “Nothing daddy, only injections to show how much I love you”
Then the spasms start.
Bisola was so worried when Mummy Tobi called her that afternoon to tell that Sola had witnessed a suicide. That poor poor man!
When Father John originally suggested that Sola take piano lessons, she was been sceptical, but it seemed like a unique skill and she was so busy with her shop, so she allowed Sola take the lessons.
Over the past year, Sola had become sullen but she felt that was because of her aversion to the strict training. She had almost pulled her out of the lessons but when Sola played the piano during last month’s Christmas carol, her heart filled with pride.
Now her already reclusive daughter had witnessed a death, who knows what kind of damage that could do to a young girl!
She would find to her surprise that Sola would become happier as the days went by. If she was under any distress, she didn’t show it, even when she heard the news of that poor lady that found her losing her father. He was an old man and he died in his sleep, the best way for one to go.