Click here to read the previous chapter; Behind Her Smile – Chapter One, Behind Her Smile – Chapter Two, Behind Her Smile-Chapter Three, Behind Her Smile – Chapter Four, Behind Her Smile – Chapter Five, Behind Her Smile – Chapter Six
It was a Monday evening and I was in the library again, engrossed in the book I’d found earlier. There was so much to discover but it felt like there was too little time. I’d gone online to do some research about Orion but there wasn’t much information about them on the internet, definitely not as much as was written in that journal. Whoever had compiled those articles had intimate knowledge of the cult. I’d brought a notepad with me to jot down some important information that I thought could be useful. So that night, when the library guard was getting ready to change shifts, I returned the book and left the library. It was a quarter past 7pm when I made my way towards the hostel and I tried to be extra careful to avoid bumping into anyone I particularly didn’t want to see.
“My Precious,” A voice whispered from behind me.
I froze in my tracks and slowly turned around to see the one person I dreaded the most.
“Leo, what’re you doing here?” I hated the tremor in my voice. It showed that I was still scared of him after all these years.
“What’re you talking about?” He smirked as his gaze roamed over my body. “I’m a student here, just like you.”
I opened my mouth to speak but no words would come, so I turned around and tried to walk away. He grabbed my arm and yanked me back so hard I thought my arm would pull out of its socket.
“Let go of me.” I snapped.
“What if I don’t want to?”
“Why won’t you let me be?” I yelled. “Why can’t you just act like we never met?”
“Where’s the fun in that?” He chuckled. “It’s been years Precious, do you still hate me?”
His eyes seemed to grow sober for a moment as he watched me carefully. I laughed bitterly and made sure he heard each word I spoke next.
“I don’t just hate you Leo,” I smiled without humour. “I loathe you.”
His eyes grew stormy and his grip on my tightened.
“You’re hurting me Leo.” I said through clenched teeth. “But then why would you care? You’ve done much worse.”
“I could’ve done a lot worse to you, do you know that?” He shook me by the shoulders as if he wanted his point to hit home. “I spared your life that night. You could’ve been dead by now.”
“You don’t get it, do you?” I whispered. “I’m already dead inside. You did that.”
“So, you would rather have died that night?” He looked shocked.
“It was your fault. You should’ve finished me off like the others.”
“I thought I was doing you a favour.” He said.
“You raped me in front of your so-called friends and left me to live with the regret for the rest of my life all for your own selfish reasons. Till today, I wonder what I did to deserve that from you or what was so important that you had to use me like that in order to get it.”
His eyes shut momentarily and he let go of me as he took a step back.
“It’s none of your business.”
We turned when we heard footsteps approach us.
“Is everything alright, boss?” A tall, buff guy said when he reached us.
“Sure,” Leo said. “I’ll meet you back at the hostel, Victor.”
I stared at the guy as I tried to remember where I’d seen him before. That was when it occurred to me. He was there on the night of the raid, the one who Zach had thrown the amulet to in some sort of communication. I grew cold when I realised that he was definitely a member of Orion and if he called Leo boss, could it mean…
“You know, don’t you?” Leo said as he looked at me.
I tried hard to mask my expression.
“What’re you talking about?”
“I’m good at reading people and your face tells it all.”
“Then what exactly did you read?”
“Orion,” He said. “You know I’m a part of it.”
“I need to leave now.” I took a shaky step back only for his voice to stop me.
“Are you scared of me?” His voice was teasing.
“Like I said, I need to go now.”
“Of course, go ahead and run away.”
I stopped and turned around as anger burned within me.
“I’m not scared of you, Leo.” I said even though I shook with fear.
“Like I said Precious, your face tells it all. I know you’re scared of me. Now, run away like you always do.”
I wanted to scream at him and call him names. I wanted to slap his proud face and let him know that I didn’t fear him anymore but in that moment, I was a coward. I sighed and turned around. Just like he predicted, I ran away.
“My life is so messed up.”
“No it’s not Anna.” I said for the third time that evening.
“No, you’re not.”
“Well, I’m going to die.”
“Everyone dies eventually.”
“Not like this, they don’t!”
I was mentally and physically exhausted after the confrontation with Leo only to come back to find Anna kneeling in a corner and staring at an object before her. I freaked out when I saw that it was a knife that she was staring at.
“What do you plan to do with that?” I’d asked when I entered the room.
“What do you think?” She’d asked without looking at me.
“You’ve got to be kidding me Anna.” I gasped. “Are you out of your mind?”
“I think I’m perfectly sane.” She has replied in that lifeless tone. “I need to get rid of this problem once and for all.”
“So your wise plan is to make yourself die faster?” I yelled.
“Do you have to be so loud?” She hissed.
“Yes, if that’s the only way I can penetrate through that thick skull of yours.”
“Well, what do you want me to do?”
“For a start, I’d like for you not to kill yourself.”
“I’m going to die anyway.” She muttered under her breath.
“I heard that.” I said through clenched teeth.
“Listen, you have no idea what I’m going through.”
“How can you be so sure?” I blurted out before I could control myself.
“What do you mean?” She narrowed her eyes at me.
“All I’m saying is that you’re not the only one who has experienced something so devastating that you want to give up on life. Besides, the last time I checked, there were people living with the virus and they didn’t drop dead as soon as they got it.”
Anna was silent for a while before she spoke.
“So, what do I do now?”
Her voice was like that of a little girl and at that moment, I felt like I was responsible for someone else other than myself.
“We’ll go back to the hospital, let them run a few more tests just for confirmation. You never know what they might find.”
I took the knife as far away as possible and kept an eye on her for the rest of the evening until she fell asleep. When I was sure she was in no danger of harming herself, I picked up my phone and opened my browser. I stared at the blinking cursor before I typed in the words ‘How to care for a person with HIV’ into the search engine. As soon as the results came out, I spent the next hour reading on the possibility of Anna’s next test results coming out negative and what steps I could take to live with and care for someone who has the virus.
“Welcome back,” The doctor said as we took our seats. “How’re you feeling today?”
The question was directed at Anna but she didn’t answer.
Anna cast me a dry look which I ignored. She’d asked me to come with her for the consultation and I’d agreed.
“What can I do for you today?”
I explained about how we wanted Anna’s test to be retaken just for confirmation.
“That’s not a problem. In some cases, a rapid test for HIV may be positive but when a second test is taken for confirmation, it may be negative. We’ll run the tests and you’ll come back in a few days.”
I glanced at Anna and she nodded.
“Thank you.” I said.
I waited while she took the tests and when she came out, her face seemed drained of blood.
“All we have to do is wait.” I encouraged.
“What if they come out positive a second time?” She whispered. “I’ll be well and truly dead.”
“Have you considered what if they don’t come out positive?” I said. “They might be negative. I’ve been
reading about this stuff and all what the doctor said is true. You might not have the virus after all.”
“Alright, fine.” Anna sighed.
I noticed that despite her low voice, her eyes held a bit of hope and I desperately didn’t want to see that hope vanish. Later that night, I prayed. I prayed for Anna, for myself, for everything that seemed to be going wrong and I prayed that I’d have the strength to endure it this time.
Anna was a nervous wreck and it was glaringly obvious.
“Can you sit still for a moment?” Nafisa whispered to her after while we looked for seats in the hall.
When we finally found some, I noticed that we could see where the lecturers were seated from where we were. Mr Essien’s eyes darted around and when he saw us, his face tightened and his mouth twisted slightly as he frowned. Anna’s breath hitched and her eyes looked everywhere else but at him. Discreetly, I grabbed her hand and squeezed to reassure her. She glanced at me and smiled briefly before looking straight ahead at the podium.
Representatives from Google were invited to hold a Google Mapping event in which students would help put the university and its environments on the map. Mostly Computer Science students were to participate but Microbiology students would also participate in the field trip. Some of our lecturers decided to use it as an opportunity to encourage the students to study the flora and fauna in the local environment but frankly, a huge percentage of us were just glad to be out of school for even a short period of time and have a couple of days lecture-free. Once we had signed up and given the relevant details, we were asked to prepare to leave school the following day.
“Finally, there’s something to look forward to.” Anna said as we made our way out of the hall.
“I know right.” I smiled.
“You guys are so lucky. Why don’t Political Science students go on field trips?” Nafisa sighed while Ada rolled her eyes.
Anna and I laughed at them but my laughter came to an abrupt end when I bumped shoulders with someone on the way out. I looked up into a pair of eyes that were painfully familiar.
“Hey, be careful.” He said as he grabbed my shoulders to steady me.
I shrugged out of his hold and pulled away like I’d stepped on hot coals.
“What’s up with your weird behaviour around Leo?” Nafisa asked as she glanced back at him.
“It’s nothing.” I mumbled.
“No, it’s not. He keeps staring at you for some reason and your face always tells how much he bothers you.”
I fought the urge to look back and kept walking instead. I made a mental note to try to control my facial expressions more often.
“Just forget about it.” I said as I increased my pace.
I was glad that they decided to drop it like I’d requested. That night I packed for the three days we would spend off campus and fell asleep almost immediately afterwards. I had the most disturbing dreams in which I saw flashes of the near-accident we’d had when I first came to Victoria University. When I woke up, I wondered if it had been a sort of omen to the challenges I’d faced so far or if it was a warning of things yet to come.