It took place the day Sam Pelima, who was at the age of 75, died. I was alone when I encountered the lady at the door, leading to the house where Mr. Pelima spent his last moments. I wanted to explain that I saw the young woman who came to escort Mr. Pelima to the great beyond but I was afraid no member of the family would believe me. Some of them might even think it was a dream.
Mr. Pelima was agile and he seemed in good health. He never had the history of complaining about his health, though in his mid forties he said he was a heavy drinker and smoked lots of cigarettes too. He had not been sick and he was spoken of as the old young man. I had always respected him and listened to his usual lectures about the good old days. So when the news came that he was ill, I rushed from work and when I arrived, a doctor who attended to him told me I could not see him, due to the nature of his condition.
Mrs. Doris Togba, her 40-year-old sister explained to me later that her brother had for the few days complained of difficulties in breathing and she had called the doctor, and for the last three days, things had not been the same again. Though she told me the doctor told her the situation was not that serious I could still not be allowed to visit my friend. He was like a father to me, and his advice about the rudiments of life had been my guide.
It was in the evening in the middle of August, 2013 and the rains came down heavily without warning. There were not many relatives around and therefore I decided to spend some hours outside the main entrance to the house, a big house with ten rooms. The night had memorable echoes of insects and frogs, and their repeated melodies to their maker seemed remarkable, and at the same time, frightening.
The rains had fallen earlier and the quietness affected the surroundings. My mind raced back and forth, imagining many things. Then I remembered several months ago, one of the unusual periods that my friend told me he was sick, and instructed me to sit by him. The old man did not feel comfortable and began to talk about his life, and then finally, he mentioned Christiana.
I did not know much about her but he told me that she was his sweetheart, who died at the tender age of twenty five, few months after their wedding, many years ago. In the course of time, he met other women but he never forgot the memory of Christiana.
“Life is cruel,” he said with a sense of bitterness as the night wore on, “she was only twenty five when she died. Her hair was pure black and her eyes were dark-brown. We had dreams with a purpose but misfortune did not allow us to share the beautiful life we had envisioned for ourselves together.”
“There is a picture I need you to keep for me,” he said, and pulled a large picture from behind the bed, “If I die I have instructed that it should be handed to you.”
“I should have it?” I said, surprised.
“Before she died,” he went on, “she promised she would be with me and welcome me to the other world.” The old man eyes filled with tears, and I became afraid, for I thought the old man’s was about to die.
“You mean Christiana promised to come to you before you die?” I faltered, unsure of what to ask.
“I know it’s hard for you to understand,” he said, and coughed. “I know she would come when it is time.” Gladly, he recovered few weeks later, and he did not make any mention of Christiana. I was still in deep concentration when the big house’s door creaked open and the doctor came out and nodded in my direction.
"He is much better now,” he told me, “I am hoping that his condition will stabilize and he will be much better in a couple of days or perhaps a week.”
Mrs. Togba, Mr. Pelima's sister, was with him when I went in. She was putting things in order and her attention was somehow focused elsewhere. My friend’s face glimmered with hope when he saw me; I read the smile on his face, which encouraged me about what the doctor had said to me.
I stayed with him for thirty minutes and indicated to his sister that I was leaving, because at the time he was fast asleep. I somehow felt miserable and worried about my friend’s condition but I could not understand why. When I reached outside, darkness covered every ground and the moon made its appearance, throwing its glowing beauty all around. I descended slowly on the steps and was suddenly the shadow of a young woman came across me. She smiled at me and I returned as a compliment. It came to me that I might have known or come across her before but I could not readily remember where we had met. The moonlight’s reflection centered on her and I caught a glimpse of her face, as her two shinning eyes bored through me.
She was tall but her hair was black, shining somewhat strangely as it caught the moonlight. Her face was very lovely and her eyes were large. She was dressed in something white and softly shimmering, and in her hand she held a very large white rose. I wondered where she could have picked the flowers. It was not a Brewerville rose. All Brewerville roses were smaller.
She was a stranger to me, yet I felt I had seen her or someone very like her before. Possibly she was one of Mr. Pelima's many nieces who might have come to Brewerville upon hearing of his illness.
She advanced towards me and I felt an odd chill of fear. Then she smiled as if I had uttered those words to her.
"Don’t be afraid," she said. "I am simply here to keep a promise.”
The words reminded me of something, but I could not recall what it was. The strange fear deepened and I found myself unable to speak.
She came further close to me and for a moment stood by me. I froze and was powerless under her gaze.
“It does not matter the time of my arrival,” she remarked, her voice echoing across the beautiful glow of the moonlight, “it does, however, seem to suggest that my arrival is timely.”
The young woman strolled away from me, and threw her head back with a giggle. My eyes followed her till she disappeared through the open door. Her footsteps echoed behind her, as the concrete floor brought her departure back to me. My heart beat increased and I felt perspiration on my forehead. I pulled a handkerchief from my trousers’ pocked and mopped my face, and deliberately lowered my hand down to my chest. I began to wonder where in the world she had come from. My heart was still heavy when I arrived at home thirty minutes later. The aura of silence that surrounded me filled me with ease but I could not understand what in the world was going on.
It was not until the following day; it was early in the morning that I got the message that my friend Mr. Pelima was dead. I did not waste any more time and rushed to the deceased’s house. Upon arrival, it was clear that my friend was dead. There were distant echoes that seemed to announce the presence of death in the house. The deceased’s sister Mrs. Togba, fighting back tears, invited me into the house and broke the news to me.
“It happened after you left,” she said, “when I returned to his room, it seemed to me that he was asleep, because there was a smile on his face. It was kind of strange and what I thought and still believe he died with happiness in his heart.”
With my mind still on the young woman who I had encountered just before I left, I said, “Did any young woman come to visit him with a rose in her hand last night?”
“No,” she said, “the news about his death has now been sent to the family and they should be coming pretty soon, as well as the funeral home in Sinkor.”
I could no longer ignore my encounter with the young woman, so I said, “A young but beautiful woman passed by me with a flower in her hand last night. She said she was going to visit Mr. Pelima and you are saying no one came to him last night?”
Shaking her head, she said, “No one came to him as I said and I have no reason to say otherwise if any of our relatives or any of his friends came to him last night.”
“What I think,” she added, “it could be some of the ladies that live around her but in real fact I did not see anyone here last night.” I decided to keep my peace.
After the burial Mrs. Togba handed me a picture of Christiana, per the instructions of her brother. I accepted the picture with all my heart and when I glanced at it, my hands began to shake.
“What is happening to you?” Mrs. Togba said, interested in the unusual experience I was going through.
I said, “This is the woman I saw last night.”
She grinned in disbelief.
“You mean the one you said came at the door?”
“Yes,” I said and lowered my head.