Behind Her Smile
- Genre: Romance
- Status: Ongoing
- Language: English
- Author: Inkspired Writer
My heart threatened to escape the confines of my chest as it pounded out a rapid rhythm. I stood still in front of the bright red door to Miss Sylvia’s apartment as I fiddled with the white envelope held tightly in my hands. Two reluctant knocks later, I was inside the colourful room filled with rays of sunshine streaming in from the open curtains. Her design scheme perfectly matched her personality, overly bright and enthusiastic but still welcoming.
“You really should keep your curtains closed.” I winced as the sunrays assaulted my eyes.
“And you, my dear, really need to get a bit of sunshine in your life.” She tossed a playful look at me over her shoulder.
“Well, this is enough to last me a lifetime.”
“Have a seat, sweetie.”
I grabbed one of the soft throw pillows as I did so and settled unto the sofa for our session. Very soon, they would be over. However, I was not ready for them to end. Even though Sylvia thought I did not need the therapy sessions anymore. She had been my therapist for a year, and we had a very rough start, but we could tolerate each other better with time. I daresay we became sort of friends.
“Is that it?” She tilted her head towards the envelope in my hands.
“Yeah, it is.” I nodded slowly and handed it over to her.
“Congratulations,” She smiled and did a little bunny hop in her seat. “This is great news.”
“I guess so.” I shrugged.
“Come on, Precious. Gaining admission into the university is what every teenager your age wants to accomplish at this stage of life. Do not waste this opportunity, be grateful.”
“I am,” I sighed. “I just don’t know if I am ready yet.”
“Baby girl, you can’t hold on to the past forever. It is a chance for you to move on. You have waited for a long time to pull yourself back together. You are a smart young girl who deserves a chance to live the life you’ve always dreamed of. It is just the first step. You don’t need to be scared.”
“I already told my parents I have accepted the offer. They are happy.”
“But you are not?”
I was silent for a few moments as I pondered on it.
“I’ll learn to be.”
“That’s good enough, cookie. Remember, if you need anything, call me.”
“I will.” For a few seconds, she stared at me with a smile.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing, it is just that you have changed a lot in the past year. You still don’t talk much, but you have grown more confident in yourself after all this time. So, don’t let anything change that, okay?”
I knew I couldn’t promise anything, not right then. So, all I did was smile back.
A Month Later
My mother and I sang along in harmony to the playlist we had created for the journey from Lagos to Osun state, where I would spend the next few years of my life in the university studying for a BSc in Microbiology. Meanwhile, my dad navigated the dusty roads and asked me for directions every few minutes. The school management sent a map of the university and its surrounding areas with my admission letter. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my navigation skills. Hence, I eventually turned to Google Maps. We set out at noon instead of first thing in the morning as planned because things just loved to go wrong at the last minute. Yeah, that was life in all its unpredictability. Some missing items suddenly reappeared at the last minute to a flat tire that needed repair.
“Turn right at the next junction,” I said from the backseat.
“You’re sure? I barely see a road.”
“The bushes are in the way of everything.” My mom sighed. “The worst thing would be to get lost now.”
“Oh look, there is a road there,” Dad mumbled.
True enough, an untarred road emerged from the forest of tall trees and evergreen shrubs. The end of it disappeared around a cluster of trees as Dad manoeuvred the Honda around the bend.
“What the?” Dad gasped, frantically jerking the steering wheel to the left.
“Watch out!” Mom yelled a second too late.
A dark figure darted out in front of the car out of nowhere. Luckily, Dad’s quick reflex prevented us from running over the person, but the car grazed the side of their body pretty hard, knocking the figure to the ground. Dad immediately stopped the car and glanced back at me.
“Stay in the car and lock the doors,” he said before he got out and walked towards the body. Mom followed right behind him seconds after he left. I stared at them while my hands clutched the door handle, fighting the sudden urge to jump out of the car after my parents.
“I am so sorry. Are you alright?” I heard my dad say. Mom was close behind Dad, her face full of concern. I peered out from the backseat as I strained to see. My gaze shifted to the edge of the tree line, where I saw some shadows retreat. The injured person had their face obscured by a black hoodie. Dad tried to help the person up but got shoved away. The shove had less effect than intended as one hand cradled his side. Droplets of red dripped from between his fingers down to his wrists. Well, that was not a good sign.
“We need to get you some help as soon as possible,” Mom spoke as she stepped closer. “You are bleeding.”
The figure scrambled away from her and weakly limped towards a narrow foot-trodden path. Mom and Dad stared after the disappearing figure in confusion, unsure of what else to do. It was unusual that a person we nearly ran over had refused our help. That was weird. Also, what was he running from, and who were those shadowed figures chasing him?