‘We found her body’. Without waiting to hear the rest of his statement and against my volition, the phone drops out of my hands, falling with a loud crash against the ceramic tiles. A body. They found her body.
‘Hello? Hello, miss, are you still there?’
They found a body. That was the only thing that resonates in my mind. That’s what he said and at that moment, he confirmed my biggest fear these past 2 months. She was dead. Gone. Forever. Everyday since she’d gone missing, I’d kept desperate faith in my heart- hoping, praying that she’d turn up one fateful day out of the blues. And now my questions were answered.
Tola was dead, and there was nothing I could have done to stop it.
Without waiting for a response from me, he continues,‘I understand that this may be a tough time for you, but We need you to come down to the station and answer a few questions’. This immediately caught my attention. Didn’t he mean the morgue? To identify her body and confirm it was truly Tola?
‘You were the last person she called the day she disappeared’. That didn’t mean anything. Tola and I talked all the time. She was my favourite person in the world; the person I’d always instantaneously reached out to whenever I was excited, sad, nervous or even when I was merely in a chatty mood.
‘I can’t do that right now. I have so much on my plate at the moment that it’ll be really difficult for me to make out time to come down‘, I was intentionally rambling because I was confused. Was he insinuating that I had something to do with her death?
‘Babe? Who were you talking to just now?’ Zach throws his coat leisurely over the dining table chair, while surreptitiously looking around in a way not to make a big deal out of the fact that he’d overhead me. ‘Were you on the phone?’
‘I was just on the phone with the…’ I can’t utter anything more because I don’t want it to be true. I refuse for it to be true. Instead, I point towards the floor where my phone had initially dropped part way into the earlier conversation.
‘What? Where’s your phone?’ Zach looks around him on the floor and I wonder why he doesn’t notice what I’m pointing at.
‘It’s right in front of you, Zach’.
‘There’s nothing there babe’. Zach retorts, face scrunched in confusion. ‘Are you sure you’re okay?’
‘That’s not even the point right now’, my voice is barely a whisper as I struggle to speak after the remnants of my initial shock begins to wear out. ‘They found her body Zach. She’s dead’.
‘My…my really close friend’. I didn’t know how to describe Tola to Zach now. They had never crossed paths, and weirdly enough, whenever it seemed like they would, she would suddenly disappear and tell me it was because she had social anxiety and was afraid of meeting new people. And it made sense. Tola was never the most outgoing person. Even then, she was my best friend- just because of how weirdly opposite our personalities were. She was cryptic at times, but my best friend all the same.
‘Shit. Damn, I don’t even know how you’re feeling right now. I can only imagine. Did I know her? Have I met her before?’
‘No’, I sigh, smiling in pained memory of Tola. ‘No, but you would have loved her. She was such an incredible person. God I can’t believe she’s dead’.
‘Was she the one you said was missing?’ I could only nod, giving him the go-ahead to continue his unnecessary probing. ‘This was why you’d been acting weird for the past few months, right? Are you okay?’
Ignoring his pressing question I look on ahead and say the only thing currently on my mind. ‘I miss Tola. So so much‘.
Zach glances at me with questions written all over his expression. After a long, hard and uncomfortable minute staring at me, pulling me tightly into his arms, Zach responds, ‘I miss her too’.
His response leaves me confused. After all, he didn’t know who Tola was and had never met her. So how could he miss her?
It’s the same dream every night- me standing over Tola’s dead body, hands covered in a pool of blood that does not appear to be mine. Most likely hers because the dream shows her head brutally split open, blood trickling down into the bed of grass around her. Those dreams place me at the scene of her death and they’re usually more vivid than any other dream I’ve ever had. But I don’t remember seeing her the night she went missing. Frankly speaking, my memory goes blank every time I try to draw up any recollection of that night but I know I can’t let anyone know this, much less the detective that called earlier- it’ll make me appear even guiltier than I’m currently feeling.
‘Zach?’ From the careful sounds the footsteps make, I know it’s him.
‘Hey, yeah it’s me, I didn’t mean to wake you- I just popped in to pick something I’d left the other night before work today’. His voice sounds far off and from my guess, he must be lingering somewhere along the hallway.
‘It’s fine really, I was already awake- nightmares again’. He knew I had nightmares constantly- sometimes he was a direct witness to it, other times, he only encountered the aftermath. But he never knew what they were about- that, I kept to myself.
‘Yeah? About what this time?’
‘I keep seeing her. It’s the same every night for the past 2 months. Me, standing over her dead body with my hands drenched in her blood’.
‘You keep seeing who?’
‘Tola’. Zach stares at me like he doesn’t recognise me anymore, confusion lining the contours of his face. Slowly, he moves towards me, concern and worry dictating each step he takes towards me.
Impatiently rolling my eyes, I respond, ‘Yes, Tola. That’s what I said. I keep seeing her dead body. I think I killed her Zach. I don’t remember anything about the night she went missing, but something tells me I killed Tola–‘ It’s the first time I’d uttered my fears directly. What if it was me? What if my dreams were really trying to force me to face the truth I’d been running away from these past few months?
‘Why do you keep talking in third person, Tola?’
What are you talking about?’ Zach was scaring me. He’d never met Tola before and yet for some odd reason, he just called me Tola. I agree we did have similarities, but he’d never met her before so how could he possibly know?
‘You’re standing HERE, right in front of me, Tola and you’re calmly speaking about yourself in third person. You don’t find that weird at all? I mean is this like a new kink or something? You’d referred to yourself in third person like that the other day and I just let it slide ‘cause you were distraught and everything. But now? Talking about seeing your OWN dead body? Don’t you think that’s taking things too a bit too far, Tola?’
‘What are you talking about? Stop calling me Tola, my name is Seun!! I have a picture of Tola right here, Zachary!’ In a haze of confusion and in a bid to clear the air, I frantically reach for the locket around my neck, which I always make a habit of having on me when I sleep.
Opening it, I desperately thrust it into his palm.
‘It’s all you babe. So let me ask you this again, are you okay?’.
Desperate to understand what he’s saying, I turn slowly to the mirror in the hallway.
Tola stares right back at me. This doesn’t make any sense. Slowly and carefully, I trail my eyes over the pictures splattered all over the apartment, and once again, Tola stares right back at me.
It’s an alternate reality. Tola stares back at me and I stare back at her, wondering why we look so identical, why she’s wearing exactly what I’m wearing, why her motions mimic mine exactly, and importantly, why she’s stuck behind a mirror.
‘Tola?’ I whipser, turning my gaze back to the hallway mirror and inching closer to it to take another look. ‘I don’t understand. I thought you were dead’.
It’s all confusing.
‘Why did you make me think you were dead?!’ I shout, pointing an accusatory finger in her direction. ‘I needed you! You know how much I did and yet you took the cowardly way out and hid from me. What, do I intimidate you that much??’ I continue shouting, tears streaming down my face as I violently wipe them away. In all of this, Tola remains silent. Like the coward I’ve realised her to be, she says nothing.
‘Tola…’ Zach starts, grabbing my arm and turning me towards his direction.
‘Don’t call me that! My. Name. Is. Seun!!!’
‘My name is Seun… it’s Seun’ I continue muttering to my self as I sink down onto the floor and grasp my knees to my chest. ‘I am Seun’.
After a few minutes of silence, I wipe my face and grab my locket which I’d thrown on the floor in my hysteria and calmly stand up. ‘Tola is dead. Seun is here now’.
Not waiting to listen to anything Zach rambles on about, I hum a tune only Tola is familar with and stalk back towards my bedroom.