Hi Guys! It’s here. What you’ve all been waiting on… a sneak peek into the world of Birthmarked. I hope it meets and even more, exceeds your expectations. What chapter do you want next… 2,3,7…. your guess is as good as mine. 🙂
Your favourite mystery Author, Marve Micheal
She walked out to the balcony barefoot and half-dressed. The cool breeze rushed against her face and she let out a deep breath. She stood thirty stories above the ground, staring down at the people beneath; she had never been more afraid in her life, not for falling or tipping over, but because she was about to take the biggest leap of her life: she was about to be married. She shifted her gaze from the show-filled ant-sized people that roamed the dark streets to the sky above her. The night had just begun to fade away; the first light of dawn, although thinly spread, was still one of the most beautiful sights. That little spot of light spread through to lengths she could not even see; it was the most remarkable sight. She went back into the room and brought out her canvas, her bag of tube paints and brushes, and a bedside stool. She was glad she brought it with her; she hoped to find time to paint, even with all the wedding planning. She sat on the stool and placed the canvas on her knees and let it fall back against the railings. She stared at it again, until she could see the sun rise slowly and fill up more space in the sky. She brought out her brushes and began; she couldn’t think of anything else that could calm her at this point.
Her hands began to shake as she painted but she continued still, as she stroked the canvas, carefully recreating all that she saw. All kinds of thoughts danced around in her mind, and with every passing minute, her fears crippled her so much that she stopped painting. She began to lose her breath; she felt faint, and the brush in her hand fell to the ground. She dropped the canvas and closed her eyes; all the reasons this day could turn out to be the worst day of her life continued to unravel in her mind. She was sure that she wanted to marry him. She loved him, and she had proved that to herself over and over. She had triumphed in every fight her parents started in their opposition to her marrying a white man; that in itself was enough to make her want to elope, but Jack refused. He was convinced that they could get her parents on their side, win them over, he said.
Her Nigerian roots made her marriage to a white man the most unbearable situation. She was so stressed out she could feel herself almost give in to their endless bickering and snide comments.
It wasn’t too hard to keep fighting for her life with him; he was such a beautiful soul, she thought to herself. He was warm and kind and passionate about everything he did, and most importantly, she trusted him, with everything, with her life, with her family, but somehow not with her darkest secrets or she wouldn’t be here, staring at this half-painted canvas, hoping that her truth would not destroy the life she hoped to have with him.
She tried to rationalise the situation, what telling him would do to him. He loved her, and she knew this, not just because he had said so countless times but because he had been with her when she needed him; even with many opportunities to, he never gave up on her. He was her anchor, constantly reminding her of who she was and what she could be, and when he promised that he was never going to leave her, she believed him. She couldn’t shake the feeling that if he knew the secrets she harboured deep in her heart, he just might change his mind; he might resent her for keeping it and even more for lying to him.
She could feel the ache in her heart, which was sure to be permanent if he left her because she was careless, because of a mistake she didn’t have the courage to undo. Sometimes she would conclude that it was none of his business. But other times she’d lose her breath under her tears, overwhelmed by the secrets that haunted and threatened to ruin her life. She wondered if marrying him would be the worst kind of betrayal to the love he had shown her through the months he had been with her, but being left at the altar, she imagined, would be much worse.
He came into her life just as she needed someone to share her burden; she felt an encumbrance of responsibility that she just could not bear alone. She felt like she had lost everything, and the thought of starting over was a terrifying thing to her at the time.
She left Nigeria, never to return. She left not because she wanted to but because she no longer had a home there; her father had made it so. She was scared then just as she was now, walking into unknown territory, hoping to find a path that led to a happy ending.
She knew this feeling way too well; it was the feeling that made her hands shake and her voice tremble every time she bid her parents goodbye from her grandmother’s stairs. It was also how she felt whenever the matron turned off the lights, and she sobbed into her tear-filled pillow and allowed the stories of the lady in red that lurked in the halls to scare her to sleep. High school was a rather difficult time for her; she just couldn’t quite fit into the boarding system as much as she’d had hoped. Thinking about it now, calling that place a high school just made it seem fancy; it was a grammar school, Isokun Grammar School, Oyo, and there was nothing fancy about it. She smirked.
At the time when she was leaving, she was pretty much on house arrest. Her father forbade her from seeing anyone, ‘They are all the reason you have gotten yourself into this mess,’ he would shout every time she asked to leave the house. She didn’t even get the chance to tell Komi that she would be coming to the United States for what seemed like a permanent move or why. She couldn’t bring herself to talk about it then, now, or ever. Her father had been the most unbearable person; he went on and on and just wouldn’t let her hear her own thoughts. She had tried to stay but her father’s demand for her to leave the country, to leave their home, was absolute. She remembered her mother’s stern advice on everything and anything. She had heard all those before; that was why they sent her to her grandmother, wasn’t it? To be well trained and disciplined and be the perfect daughter that they never seemed to want? She scoffed as the thoughts continued to linger in her mind.
Many months later, the memories of the life she left behind still haunted her. She didn’t do much in the months leading up to when she met him. Actually, she did nothing but draw and paint whenever she managed to drag herself out of bed.
Komi was the most understanding housemate she could have hoped for; she didn’t ask questions she knew had no answers, and she didn’t impose too much on her. She was always too busy; juggling nursing school and night performances at the bar, she didn’t have the time to give Mote anything other than what she wanted: space. Komi was different from most girls she knew, which was why they remained friends even though Komi had left Nigeria a few years earlier to pursue her career in nursing.
Her long legs and dark skin weren’t what made her different. However, she was a beauty, her long thick curly dark hair framed her face, perfectly falling beneath her shoulders, and her small waist gave the illusion of an hourglass shape. All this was good but wasn’t rare when walking the streets of Oyo. The girls were beautiful, the dark, the brown, and the light-skinned all wearing their skin perfectly, but she was different still. Most of these girls had their eyes set on an early home, a picture-perfect family with the whole package in its order: secondary school, husband, children, and that was it. Some went as far as a degree but few went further, especially after getting married and becoming occupied with the husband and kids.
Komi was different; she wanted more and so did Mote. They had very different dreams but dreams all the same. They both wanted more, and this was what had kept them together all these years, their search for more.
Komi managed to convince her to put her paintings on display in the new gallery that her friend had just opened. She didn’t give much room for Mote to decline the offer, and she had already spoken to the owner, whom she had met on one of the nights she performed at the bar. It wasn’t a surprise to Mote that she had met such a wealthy man at the bar; most nights she came home with tales of different men that had offered her more than was safe to accept. She was beautiful, and they always felt the need to remind her every night.
Mote gave in to her tireless requests; she felt like she needed a push. All her pieces were dark and dreary, and she seemed stuck on that pattern. Perhaps if she saw something different, something new, she’d be inspired, she thought to herself.
Whenever she saw a piece of art, she was always so consumed by its beauty. She could stare at a piece for over half an hour just trying to understand the artist. She attempted to understand the piece and imagine what might have been going on in the artists’ mind when they created such blatant aesthetically good pieces. She had been to a few exhibitions since she returned but hadn’t displayed any of her pieces; she’d found that serenity lurked between the walls where art hung.
She was lost in thought, staring at her work hanging on the white wall. It was such a contrast; the canvas was filled with an array of dark colours. She suddenly felt naked; it told too much of what her heart wished to keep secret. She wanted to take it down but the room was already crowded. She felt exposed, like everyone who looked at the painting could see right into her soul. It wasn’t noisy, but she could still hear a lot of chatter. Komi wasn’t too far away; she could hear her giggle and flirt with the owner of the gallery. Mote knew that she would try to convince him to keep her art on the walls for a couple more days. Komi didn’t know the first thing about art, but it didn’t hurt that she knew when to laugh and when to stroke his arm, and with that short blue dress she wore, she was sure she had his attention for the night.
Mote blocked out everything and everyone else in the room; it was as though she stood alone in the white room and all that was left was this painting on the wall. She didn’t see him come up to her, so she was a bit startled when he approached her.
‘You’ve been standing here for a long time,’ he said as he handed her a glass of champagne.
She looked at it as though she wasn’t supposed to but she would. She took the glass from his hand. ‘You’ve been watching me for a long time,’ she replied.
He smiled at her. Komi always told her that she looked unapproachable and stern so she cracked a faint smile; it was especially hard to smile these days, so she stared blankly at him and then back to the painting on the wall.
‘This painting looks sad, whoever did this must have been in a dark place. What do you think?’ he said, stealing glances at her.
‘It is sad, and I was hurting,’ she replied as she placed her empty glass in his hand and walked away from him towards the next painting on the wall.
He followed her still. ‘My name is Jack, and I am an ar—’
‘Artist?’ she said, cutting him off. ‘Very nice, I am an artist, you are an artist, let’s elope to Paris and get married.’
He chuckled. ‘Oh, that’s a bit cliché, and I’m an architect. But we could get married if that’s what you want. Although why Paris, is that where eloping artists get married?’ Smiling, he continued, ‘You would not speak to me, but you’d marry me? You’re an interesting lady.’
She giggled, ‘I’m Mote.’
They spent the rest of the evening together; she tried not to be interested in all he talked about and he tried to break through to her. She found herself saying more than she had thought she would, the whole time with him; the thoughts that had clouded her mind the past months seemed to have temporarily faded away. She felt relief, and with every word that seemed to drive these thoughts further out, she continued to speak until the gallery closed for the night.
He offered to walk her home, and she had briefly considered it, but as they stepped on to the sidewalk, the cold breeze blew stronger, and she started shivering. She did not know where the breeze was coming from or where it was going, but it had done something to her; it came with all that haunted her and left without it. She quickly left him standing on the streets, running in the opposite direction to get a cab home. She could feel him looking at her as she entered the taxi but did not look back; he made her happy that night, and she did not deserve to be happy.
The next time she saw him was at the opening of a museum that he had designed. Since the first night she met him at the gallery night, she had begun going out more, sometimes with Komi and other times alone; this was one of those times.
He had seen her a few minutes before she saw him, so he approached her. He knew she’d want to take off again, so as she turned to leave him again, he reached out to her, held her hand, and pulled her closer. ‘You don’t have to run, not from me.’
She remembered how shocked she was at his move, how she listened to all he had to say that day and every day after that until this moment. She wasn’t quite sure why she stayed, why she looked him up, or why she agreed to have dinner and then breakfast, but she was happy she did. It was ten months since then, and here she was in Paris on the morning of her wedding, trying to keep her those haunting thoughts away, and once again, the cold morning breeze blew across her face, causing her shiver.
There was a knock on the door; she was sure it was her mother. She picked up the painting and tossed it on her bed before walking towards the door.
You’d think it was her mother’s wedding. After months of back and forth, Mote liked to believe that she was genuinely happy. Her mother had often given her not-so-subtle hints that she expected a husband and grandchildren.
She laughed at the thoughts of the kinds of things she knew she would say to Tolu, her younger sister. Although Tolu was much younger and she wouldn’t be thinking of marriage for another five years, she knew that after she had left home, all the pressure would be on her to be better than her older sister was. She tried not to imagine what life was like for Tolu back at home, and she always managed to convince herself that it really couldn’t be that bad; at least she didn’t live with their grandmother.
She knew how angry her father was with all that happened and how strict he would have been with Tolu. Frankly, she was a little surprised he paid for the wedding; she was sure that her mum must have persuaded him to. After all, he had only two daughters. However, this didn’t stop him from complaining that she couldn’t even find a Nigerian man to marry her because she had ruined her reputation back at home. Her mother didn’t seem to care so much, and Mote adored her for that; she just wanted her daughter to be happy, and all Mote wanted was to be happy, so they had been on good terms for most of the planning period.
‘Coming!’ she answered as she reached for the door; she saw her mother smiling with lit-up eyes like little girls’.
‘Ẹ káàárọ̀ mà’ she said, kneeling halfway to the ground.
‘Káàárọ ọmọ-ọ̀ mi, Aṣakẹ’ her mother replied and called out to the dress-up crew from the hallway, ‘Ó yá, ẹ ṣe kíá o, ẹ yá’ra – ẹyá’ra – ẹ tètè ẹ jọ̀ ọ́ ’ to hasten them.
The room filled up quickly with make-up artists, hairstylists, videographers, bridesmaids, Tolu, Anna and Komi; it was a bit of a cluster, each person trying to fit into their clothes and have their faces done, and of course, she needed to be ready as well. She stood in the middle of the room, watching everyone hurry as much as they could without making too much noise. She suddenly felt woozy and light-headed, and before she could call out to her mother, she hit the floor.
As she came around, she saw her mother staring at her with teary eyes; she tried to sit up, but her mother wouldn’t let her. She could hear distant voices, the room filled with panic; she tried to keep her eyes open, but she was weak. Soon it was quiet; her mum cleared out the room and called for her father.
He walked into the room, scared, but that quickly changed to anger when he saw her eyes open and her attempt at getting off the floor. ‘Temi, leave her be. Let her get up and fall again! I don’t know why she is acting like a child, fainting like she has no stamina. Everyone is here for her. She can’t even respect them. Maybe she is pregnant!’ her father said with an annoyed face.
‘Ah-aaah! Baba Tolu? Don’t say that. Why must you always say things like this?’ her mum replied. ‘Ìwà líle rẹ náà ló sún ọmọ déipò yí. Má pa ọmọ-ọ̀ mi fún mi!’ she exclaimed.
He shrugged and headed for the door. ‘Ẹ da omi s’ójú ẹ̀!’ He closed the door with a loud bang. A couple of the men with the camera crew came in after him and carried Mote to the bed.
About half an hour later, she had regained some of her strength, so she tried to sit up again, holding her head with her hands. ‘Maami, call the girls. We must not be late for the service.’
‘You woke up earlier before your father came in, and before passed out again, you said you wanted to tell Jack about what happened. You should have told him the minute he asked to marry you, but you cannot tell him. What if he doesn’t want to marry you anymore? What if he leaves? What will your father say? Now you will go to church and marry this man and hope to God that he never finds out. Otherwise, it will be your undoing,’ her mother said quietly.
Her mum got off the bed and called everyone back into the room, giving her no chance to respond to what she said. They moved Mote to the chair, fixing her hair and make-up, fitting her dress and shoes. She stared blankly at them; they were nothing but blurred images to her. As the empty eyes in Mote’s reflection stared back at her, she knew she couldn’t recognise herself and knew that the more this secret ate at her, the less of herself she would recognise.