Star’s father opened the door and Star barrelled past without saying a word.

“Are you hungry?” He asked meekly. “I can call that nice restaurant…”

But had gone to her room without a word.

There was plotting and planning to do. She removed her phone from her pocket, tossing it on the bed as she got into her house clothes.

She checked her watch and saw it would soon be six in the evening, she had texted him on the way as Coal grudgingly dropped her home muttering about not being a taxi driver. He would soon be here, she knew, he was never late.

As if on cue, there were three knocks on the door, no more, no less and Star’s father opened it.

From her room, she heard a curt greeting and opened her door to look at the small bespectacled boy in a polo shirt and shorts looking up at her shaken father through his thick lenses. As Star’s father was thinking of a suitable reply to, “Good evening, sir, how was your day? There’s a stain on your shirt, is that wine? It looks like wine. My mummy says that people who drink before 7pm are chronic alcoholics,” Star ran up to them and dragged the boy to her room. Star’s father moved to say something but paused and thought better of it, deciding that, really, the further Bolu was away from him, the better.

Star slammed the door behind them and looked at him.

She’d known Bolu since she had saved him in primary one from a bully who thought that ‘grotesque,’ while not knowing what the word meant, was somehow an insult, especially when used to describe his mother.

They had been friends ever since.

Star was grinning at him now as he looked in vain for a place to sit in her scattered room and decided to perch carefully on the corner of her bed. Her battered guitar was laid on the floor near her bed. He winced as he sat, but friendship, he had learnt, was about sacrifices. He just hoped her bed was at least clean.

“I’m going to get my mother back,” Star blurted.

Bolu wasn’t one for shock but his eyebrows were up. “Star…” he said carefully, “what do you mean?”

“I mean,” Star said, pacing, “I’m going to get her back — I’m going to bring her back to life.”

Bolu removed his glasses and cleaned them with his shirt. They weren’t dirty — he did this when he was nervous. He did this for a while. “I’m sorry about what happened…” he said quietly as he put his glasses back on.

“Stop.” Star said, anger following her words.

“But you can’t bring people back from the dead,” he continued. “It’s a scientific impossibility.”

Scientific,” Star said pointedly.

Bolu’s eyebrow’s crinkled. “What are you trying to say?”

“Guy,” Star said, pacing faster, “the world is bigger than what we thought, that what anyone thinks. There’s a whole underground world with men that have lights for eyes and witches and….” She looked at Bolu who was staring levelly at her.

“You don’t believe me,” she said, her shoulders sagging.

“I believe that you’ve been through a lot,” he said slowly, “and that you’re still going through a lot.”

“You think I’m lying.” Star said. “You think I’m having some kind of crisis because my mummy — ”

Bolu didn’t answer.

An idea sparked in Star’s mind as she furiously searched her bag for something, fishing it out and showing it to Bolu. “Look,” she said triumphantly, holding the parchment Doreen had given her with the list of all the ingredients for the spell, “the main witch gave this to me, it’s all we need for the spell.”

Bolu stood up, dusted his trousers and moved to give Star a tight hug. She was shocked; Bolu hated physical contact, it made him nervous and twitchy. “You believe me?” She whispered, her hope flooding her words.

Bolu pulled out of the hug and looked at Star with sad eyes. “Star,” he said, “there’s nothing there. Your hands are empty.”

“What?” She said, looking at the parchment right in her hands, “it’s right here, Bolu, just right here.”

Bolu didn’t need to look again, all he did was stare at his friend, his tired and now, slightly unhinged friend.

“I’m not crazy, I swear,” Star said, tears building up. “The witch must have a put a spell on it so I would be the only one that could see it. Bolu, you have to believe me.” Then quietly, “You’re the only one I have left now.”

“You still have your father.”

“I hate him.” Star glared at her door.

“You can’t really mean th — ”

“Bolu,” Star said, coldly. “I hate him. More than anything in the world, I hate him.”

Bolu looked at Star.

Star looked at Bolu.

And an understanding passed between them.

“I’ll just leave,” he said, picking up his bag, and Star didn’t stop him, she only nodded in response, wanting to say words but unable to.

After Bolu left, she spent the remaining time lying on her bed, staring at her phone, her hand going to her bare neck occasionally. Her father called for dinner and she could smell the yam but she ignored him and she ignored the food, willing her stomach to shut up.

It rebelled at being talked to that way and so, being a spirit of diplomacy, she added a firm please.

When the sun had finally retired for the day and the moon shuffled to take its place, even more hours passed before sleep took a tight hold of Star and dragged her into darkness.

RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINGGGGGGGGGGGG

Star gasped as she woke up. She had been dreaming, she wiped moisture from her face. She had also been sweating. What had the dream been about? And what was that annoying sound — she grabbed her phone and answered the call, wiping more sweat from her neck.

“Hello,” she croaked.

“Outside,” a male voice replied. “Ten minutes.” And then he hung up.

Star jumped from her bed, checked herself in the mirror and brought a backpack just in case. She looked at her room one more time before she left and her hand went to her neck, this time she squinted. There was something at the edge of her mind that she couldn’t reach, it was a nagging thought that she felt poking at her brain.

But she dismissed it as quickly as it had come, opening the door to leave only to find her father standing there meekly, his hand raised like he was about to knock.

“I was…” he began. Star quickly dropped her bag on the bed, sitting on it as he talked.

“I…” he said, looking around the room like it would divulge answers. “I made dinner — yam and sauce with boiled eggs,” he finally said. “I know you don’t like it fried,” he added.

Star nodded, not meeting his eyes.

“You should eat,” he said.

Star nodded again.

He gave a nod of his own and Star found her eyes rising to meet him and God… he looked like a mess. His hair was rough and jutted out from odd angles, plus, it looked like he hadn’t shaved in weeks. His clothes were rough and she doubted he had left the house for work in days now that she thought about it. There had been papers piling on the desk in the parlour.

“I’m sorry,” he said in such a quiet voice that Star whipped her head up, unsure if she heard him right.

He looked at her, fiddling with his hands. It was this annoying thing that she did too when she was nervous. “I should have…I should been a better husband,” he said, “and maybe it’s too late for that now but I’m trying to be a better…a better father. I swear it.”

Star said nothing as she just stared at him like he was an alien from another planet.

“I’m so sorry,” he said. He waited at the doorway looking at his daughter but all she did was stare at the broken guitar at the base of the bed.

He waited for another moment and then nodded and left, shutting the door behind him.

Star sat on her bed and stared at the door for a while. She shook it out of her head, grabbed her bag and listened at her door for a few moments just to be sure her father was really in his room, and then she left as quietly as she could and snuck to the front door, opening it with minimum effort and closing it without a thought.

She didn’t care how sorry he said he was or how sorry he felt. For years, her mother had driven her to school with black eyes and black sunglasses, bruises on her cheek and legs, and cuts on her arms. She didn’t care whatever the bastard said.

Apologies wouldn’t bring her mummy back.

She would.

Thank you so much for reading! For free download, click here

Anthony Azekwoh is a Nigerian-based author and artist. He has written five books so far, and is now working on the sequel to his fourth book Ṣàngó, Oya.