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Toyin Onabowu

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Member Since: Jul, 2007

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Double Jeopardy
By Toyin Onabowu
Friday, July 06, 2007

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Life can go from great to nightmarish as Alicia discovers when she arrives at work one morning, only to be brought to book for the unaccountable.

The sunlight caresses my cheek until I surface from a Radox-enhanced sleep, feeling like a lottery winner; only without the luxury of millions stashed away. I slip on my Armani suit, truss up my spitfire red hair, a spritz of Estee Lauder behind the ears, and off I stroll to my day.

‘Girlfriend, you are the business.’ My secretary hands me a smile and a latte. ‘Got a date tonight?’

I don’t have to say a word. The look on my face beams life is just great !

‘Your nine o’clock is waiting in your office.’

I frown. ‘I don’t remember any appointments this morning?’

‘It’s in the diary.’

That’s my first inkling that something is amiss, because I remember checking - my diary was free till noon. Never mind – life could not be better. I grab a couple of files and saunter into my large and airy office - a blue and lavender haven of serenity.

'I'm Alicia,' I greet the stranger with a smile, which slips off my perfectly made up face when he turns round from studying the picture of the diving whale on the wall. He is not here for a chat about interior decorating. This man, his smiling face like a stone cracked in the middle, is here to make a difference to my life; I can feel it in my internals.

'Welcome,' his voice sounds like thunder rumbles, which ordinarily, would appeal to my feminine senses, but instead, jars on my rising hackles. 'I have been waiting a while to see you.'

'And you are?' The words come out as a croak.

'My name is Akuza, Akuza O'Debredren. Always a pleasure.' His frightening excuse for a smile parts his thin lips. Something in me recoils at the thought of contact, and I slide my folders into view, obstructing his proffered hand. Aware of his impact on me, he bares his teeth even more.

'What can I do for you?' I ask, sidling round my desk, aiming for as much distance as possible.

'I have a warrant for your arrest, ' he says, suddenly businesslike, 'on charges of murder, theft, and adultery.'

I stop breathing for a second. 'Please tell me this is a joke.' My eyes slide over to the calendar, but it is not April the first and his expression is far from jocular. 'You must have the wrong Alicia Simms. I have never done any of those things!' My normally smooth and serene voice sounds like a cat in heat.

He produces a large book, I could swear to you, out of nowhere. 'No mistake. I've got the displeasure of calling you before the court of Heaven.'

And, I kid you not, my office is transformed into Judge Brennan’s chambers at the Old Bailey - I know this because I once did a short stint there as a court clerk.

I collapse into my seat, scanning the high-ceilinged room for cameras, while trying to dislodge the wedge in my throat. ‘For the information of whoever sent you on this errand, I don’t like practical jokes.’ I attempt to stand, intending to show him the door – but my feet are glued under my desk.

He slips on one of those black, thick-rimmed, oval glasses, cranes his neck and reads: 'Alicia Simms!' His booming voice pounds at my head. 'On July 1st 1978, you told your mother you were not responsible for the missing cookie from the jar. March 16 1979, you kissed one Dwaine Alpaca under the Shines Infant School oak tree. On September 9th 1985 you stole a pack of cigarettes from Patel and Sons.'

My brain wrestles to digest what he is saying, convinced though I am that he is talking out of his hindquarters. I try to argue that I was six in 1978; and who is Dwaine? But he does not stop reciting a list of what he labels murder – like when I called Mary Margaret an airhead; making the other girls laugh. Or telling Caleb he was an idiot for crying because I shredded Mr Cuddles. He was only four, and I should have known better; but everyone calls their sibling names when they’re angry, which I was - with Mom at the time. I was twelve; girls are spiteful at that age.

'You are being called to account for sins of the heart,' Akuza is saying to me, an eternity later, by which time I’m shivering. Especially as he ends with the fact that I fired Louis yesterday for buying me the wrong bagel, right after I silently wolf-whistled that married handsome contractor, telling myself it didn't matter because he didn't hear me.

'What say you?' Akuza asks me, with all the kindness of a grizzly bear.

I do not know how to respond. I read Matthew 5 the other day, and Jesus' words return to me now - thoughts and internal acts contravene the Ten Commandments. I had thought them a little stern. He was asking for perfection from someone who could just about cope with life.

A respectable-looking man in a wig rises to his feet. 'My Lord, I represent the accused,' he says, in tones that pour oil on my troubled heart. 'She may have committed these offences, but I must ask that you find her not guilty.'

A gasp escapes my lips. Not Guilty? He should be negotiating a lenient sentence - I am guiltier than Jack the Ripper!

'Your Lordship, this trial would be unlawful, as the death sentence has already been passed and carried out.'

He projects a video recording on the courtroom wall. It's my Lord Jesus Christ on the cross; paying the price for my sins. I was born again last night, you see; I asked God to forgive my sins after I heard a preacher talk of the need to repent on the radio.

He did! And I am free

Toyin Onabowu © 2006

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Reviewed by Tommie Lyn 7/16/2007
A powerful, insightful story with wonderful imagery. I look forward to seeing more from this author.

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