Fear no more the frown of the great,
Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke
** ** **
As a child, Felicia feared rodents; their ability to creep in without being noticed and destroy. It was the reason she covered her toes every night for fear that they may come and chew it out. As a teenager, she feared her stepfather; of all suitors who met her mother, it had to be Patrick she agreed to marry. Like that wasn’t enough torture for her, she died a year after the marriage leaving 14 year old Felicia with a drunk Barney who saw pleasure in tears and attributed sorrowful pleas to sweet music. Now as an adult, her fear wasn’t Rodents or Patrick but Cole. Her supposed husband. A final blow from Patrick.
Cole, born into royalty, handsome, wealthy, ambitious and gay was in dire need of a wife and child so he can redeem his family from the shame he had brought upon them by rumours which were spreading concerning his sexuality. He had met Patrick to strike a deal that involved her since no woman in her right senses would agree to the deal which he placed on the table. He knew he stood a better chance of getting what he needed by going to a greedy and selfish man who had a young girl that irritated him under his roof. She was an item of trade between both parties. In exchange for her and Patrick’s silence, Cole agreed to pay in half a million yearly.
It was a big wedding. More like a fake public announcement that Cole was normal. They say the day a woman gets married is marked a memorable day for her. It was indeed a memorable day, it was the day her freedom was transferred from the hands of a drunkard to a mad man in Armani. A man who required a doctor and needle to impregnate his ‘wife’.
** ** **
The almost empty mall eased Felicia as she went about shopping and let her mind wander. Cole had hit her again today. Even though she was pregnant, it did not stop him from proving how manly he can be. She nursed her left cheek one last time as she used her tongue to massage her gums. The taste of blood filled her with rage and self-pity. she often wondered what happiness felt like because all her life, grief had been her shadow. Even a fake smile wasn’t easy to come by these days, it ached like her face was being cracked open. Not even when she went to check out and the cashier commented her glowing skin or when she pushed her trolley to the car and the security tried to be friendly;
‘Ah! Madame, this one na quarter to go o…’ he said, referring to how big her belly was.
‘…Make I help you push your kaya’ he continued as he made to take over the pushing of her trolley but she dodged his hands and gave him a stop sign with her left hand.
The security withdrew immediately without further pressure. Her cold response must have hit him hard. She heard him mumble something like; “Hian! Wetin dey worry this one” as he gave her occasional side glances and walked back to his post.
She didn’t mean to scare the friendly man away, she had just grown so used to keeping a straight face and using her ‘thank yous’ and ‘please’ sparingly.
After offloading the groceries into the car’s booth, she felt a sudden need to pee. She let her left hand fall to her protruding belly as though telling her bladder to be patient. She locked her car and rushed back into the mall to use its restroom.
The restroom was spacious but smelled of something she couldn’t place, wildflowers maybe but it irritated her. She quickly eased herself and went ahead to wash her hand. It was while washing her hands the idea came, she stared into her reflection and noticed how vacant her eyes had become. No emotion. Good, it was what she needed to put an end to her misery. It would mean total freedom for her and business gone sour for both Cole and Patrick.
It was a brilliant idea. What had she been waiting for all these years? she thought as her hands rummaged through her bag for anything sharp. She found a blade and began to slice into her veins immediately. Surprisingly, she felt no pain as expected but joy. She started to giggle as tears flowed out. So this was it, happiness.
At first, she felt she was 4 again. The scent of smoked fish slapped her senses as visions of her Nana with hair so white and flowered gown came alive. She held a fan in her stretched out hand, the same fan she always used to blow the charcoal while she smoked her fish. She seemed to be mumbling some words but they were faint;
Fear no more the heat o’ the sun;
Nor the furious winter’s rages,
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney, sweepers come to dust.
Those words, all too familiar. Words of old… Felicia pondered, squinting her eyes to see clearly as she remembered memorizing the poem in elementary school. The words rushed back to her and she began to recite along;
Fear no more the frown of the great,
Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke:
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.
Was that a smile she saw on Nana’s face? Yes, it was. She began to smile as well. A shy grin at first and it grew wider till she was back at laughing again like a little girl still reciting along.
Fear no more the lightning-flash,
Nor the all-dread thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan;
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.
Nana was drawing closer still stretching her fan towards her. The scent of smoked fish was now intense, almost choking her but in a good way. She began to cough and gasp for air with her hands outstretched and wiggling in the air
No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renowned be thy…
…thy… the last word seemed so hard to let out but say it she must. In between her struggle for air and strength to pronounce the word, she heard someone scream and a loud bang. Warm hands touched her… “Nana” she gasped and breathed her last here but her first in a world where there was no fear.