I remember the first time I visited Ese at her house. I was terrified. She had said that her mother would be at home and I was more than keen to make the best possible first impression. It had weighed me down for the two days before that and as I stepped out of the car into the compound, I could feel a tremor making it’s way up and down my forearm.
Ese noticed it.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. She has no reason not to like you. You’re perfect.” She kissed my cheek. But her eyes didn’t agree with her words. They seemed wary of something. It scared me more.
We walked into the house which could only be accurately described as a mansion, it dwarfed any house I’d ever seen. She led me until we got to the dining room which was probably bigger than any room in my house. It had a freaking crystal chandelier and everything. I was shook.
Ese tapped a panel on the wall and a faint ding echoed. Immediately, lunch was served on many platters.
“You’ll get used to it.” She chuckled as she saw the look of incredulity on my face.
“I honestly don’t think I will.”
We began to eat and began to talk and just when I started to feel comfortable, her mother walked in. She was a stately woman that held her chin up so high that it literally forced her to look down on everyone. She seemed to glide across the floor, barely making a sound with her footsteps but confident in the fact that she held all the attention in the room.
“You must be Dominic,” She purred(no, really it sounded like how a cat from ancient Egypt would have sounded knowing it was being worshipped), “a pleasure to meet you”. She extended one hand, palm down in a flourish and I caught in mine. I’d never kissed the back of anyone’s hand but it felt like it would be out-of-place if I didn’t.
When I looked up, I caught the look in her eye. It was heavy with disapproval, lasting half a second to be replaced by a graceful curve of the corners of her lips which became a smile. I was struck.
“Let me leave you two to continue your…lunch.”
In the pause, her eyes flitted to Ese and I spotted the disapproval in them one more time before she glided out of the room.
“She likes you.” Ese whispered.
“Could have fooled me.” I replied. I wasn’t seeing what Ese saw. “Hey. Point me to the bathroom please.”
She pointed to the passage through the door on the left of the room.
“Through there, second door on your right.”
I nodded and headed out trying to understand why I was so wrong in Ese’s mother’s eyes.
Before I realised it, I’d lost track of where I was. I tried to backtrack but the corridor didn’t lead me back to the dining room. My hand went to my pocket before I remembered my phone was on the dining table.
I was lost.
Then I heard footsteps. Tiny pat-pats on the marble. I followed their sound around a corner and was face-to-face with a little girl.
“Hello.” She said in a tinny voice.
“Hi.” I replied, squatting down on my hunches to get to her eye-level. She giggled. It sounded like baby wind chimes.
“Are you lost?”
“I could show you the way.”
“Thank you. That would be very kind of you, miss…”
“Delilah. My name was Delilah.”
I stretched out a hand to shake her.
“Well isn’t that just the most beautiful name I-”
My sentence was cut short by a yell. I turned back to see Ese sprinting down the corridor towards us. Her face was like fire.
“Get away from him!” She yelled. A vein stuck out on her forehead, splitting it into two furious pieces of face.
She jumped in the little space between us, livid. I was confused.
“She was just trying to help,” I said “I got lost and-”
“Stay out of this, Dom” she interrupted through gritted teeth.
Delilah looked downcast, as was natural. I still didn’t understand why Ese was yelling. I just watched as Delilah turned and walked out of my line of vision.
“Sorry that you had to see that Dom.”
“I don’t under-”
“We have to leave now.”
Before I could speak again, she linked her arm in mine and walked me down the same corridor I’d walked before, only this time we came out into the dining room.
It had been three weeks since I’d been to Ese’s house and normalcy had slowly returned to our relationship but like a true representative of clueless men everywhere, I decided it was time to ask about Delilah.
We sat in a booth beside the window of a coffeeshop, sipping hot poor tasting coffee and laughing ourselves for wanting to drink coffee when I brought it up.
Her face grew dark like like a pregnant storm cloud. She brought her cup to her lips and refused to look up at me.
I should have taken that as that. I really should.
“You know it’s weird you don’t want to tell me, right?”
“There is no Delilah.” She hissed between her teeth.
“That’s strange ’cause I could have sworn I had a conversation with a little girl at your house.” I prodded.
“There is no Delilah.”
“Who is she? Is she your sister?”
“THERE IS NO DELILAH!”
I wasn’t ready for that. My lips sealed and I tried to avoid the eyes that were inevitably looking at us.
“Stop asking me about her.” She hissed and stormed out of the coffeeshop.
So there was a Delilah. I wasn’t just seeing things. Several things rushed into my head at once, none of them coherent enough to out to words, but a part of me became very worried about the little girl.
I decided to follow Ese home, first to apologize and then to find out what the deal was with Delilah. I couldn’t let it rest. We had used her car to come here, the same car that was now speeding out of the parking lot in the direction of Ese’s house. I sighed and and withdrew my phone from my pocket so I could order an Uber.
The Uber dropped me off at the gate to the mansion and drove away. I rang the bell hoping to God that the security men recognised me, I knew that Ese would not pick my calls at that moment. They did.
The house still held its spell over me. My mind hadn’t yet adjusted to its sheer size. I could at least remember the way to the dining room so I decided to go there and start my search for Ese. I texted her that I was in her dining room not really expecting a reply, at least not yet. I figured I would have to wait a bit for her to cool off.
As I waited, I remembered Delilah. My curiosity grabbed me again and made me seek to know what was going on.
Door on the left, down the corridor.
Before I left, I thought I heard shouting. It sounded like Ese’s voice, it still sounded angry. I sighed. I was really screwed. Before that though…
I made my way down the corridor and made the same turn I made the last time I was there and like clockwork, I ran into Delilah.
“Hey there.” I smiled.
Her face lit up and broke into a wide grin. I noticed she had very green eyes. They seemed to hold their own light.
“Hello mister.” She said and gave a small wave.
“Hey, are you Ese’s sister? You’re quite a touchy subject to her.”
“Come. Follow me to my room and I’ll show you.” She said, her voice the literal definition of innocence. I thought what’s the worst that could happen? and followed her down the corridor to a door that seemed not to have been used in years, the edges held little cobwebs and the handle looked a little rusted. It was completely at odds with the rest of the house.
At this point, I was convinced that the little girl was being maltreated. It just seemed strange and the way Ese talked (or rather did not talk) about her…
Delilah turned the handle and the door creaked open inwards. She stepped in and motioned for me to follow her. I did.
The room was dark, lit only by candles positioned at the four corners of the room. Beyond strange. At one of the corners, a small table stood with pictures placed in a semicircle on top. A sheaf of papers was placed in the middle of the semicircle.
Delilah stood to one side of the table and motioned for me to go closer. I did. My phone buzzed in my pocket signaling a received text message. I hoped it was Ese. She’d have to give me a moment to check this out first.
I picked up the first picture and immediately recognised three of the four people in it. There was a man, a woman who I recognised as Ese’s mother, she was younger in the picture, a little girl who bore a resemblance to Ese, and Delilah. My brow furrowed as I tried to make sense of it. It wasn’t possible. She was the same in the picture as the girl standing beside me, down to the age range and smile. Only her eyes were brown in the picture.
My phone buzzed again. And again. And three more times before I decided to answer it. As I pulled it from my pocket, my eyes scanned the other pictures and I could see the same girl that looked exactly like Delilah in all of them. Only with brown eyes.
My eyes fell to my phone as it opened. And I saw Ese’s texts.
“Where are you?”
“Get out of there!”
“There is no Delilah!”
Still confused, I put the phone down to my side and began to stand up. Then my eyes fell on the sheaf of papers. The one on top was an obituary notice from a newspaper. Delilah’s picture was printed on one side of the page, on the other, it read:
“Delilah Onome Akpojotor. Lived July 29th 1993 – December 11th 2004”
That was 13 years ago.
My heart skipped several beats as the realisation hit me.
I turned to run but standing at the doorway was Delilah. I could literally feel an aura emanating from her. And her eyes, in the dimly lit room in that house, I could swear her eyes glowed a bright green.