Star left the church into the light of the day and she quickly wiped the tears off her eyes. Someone somewhere had to know what she needed to know, someone had to be able to help her.
“You look lost,” said a bass voice behind her.
She whipped her head around and saw a bald man with a goatee standing underneath the shade of the statue of Mary in front of the church. He was clad in a black t-shirt and jeans and boots with rough leather, with a strange tattoo running across his arm. He had a moustache that twitched as he talked, and with his dark obsidian eyes, all in all, he looked like a movie villain.
But his eyes, he had the most beautiful angry brown eyes she had ever seen.
“I’m not,” said Star beginning to walk away. “I know where I’m going.”
The man fished out something from his back pocket and read it out. “Tragedy strikes in Surulere,” he read from the bulletin, “as a fatal car accident takes — ”
“Shut up,” Star spat, walking towards him with balled fists. “Shut. Up.”
The man raised his arms in mock fear. “Slow down,” he said, smiling. “I just want to help.” He reached out with his left hand. “My name is Coal.”
Star looked at his hand and then his face. “That’s a stupid name.”
Coal looked at her and then the newspaper. “It says here your name is …Star Nnewi,” said Coal.
“Star.” He repeated.
Star folded her arms and narrowed her eyes. “So, what are you trying to say?”
“Nothing, nothing,” Coal said, waving his hand nonchalantly. “The point I was trying to make earlier is that I think I can be of some help to your…predicament.” He looked at her now, deeply. It was like he could see all her desires and shames. Suddenly, his eyes weren’t beautiful like the sky; they were as dangerous as the storm. “I can help you get what you want.”
“How do you know what I want?” Star asked.
“Young girl plus Mother that just died in terrible car crash standing outside church. It doesn’t take much to figure out what you want. And I can help you do it.”
He put his hands in his pockets as he looked at her, like he was waiting to see what she’d do, what she’d say.
Like he already knew the answer.
Star looked at the man named Coal dressed in all black with ethereal eyes and just knew this was what her mother meant by, ‘Bad gang’.
“No.” Star said, turning to leave. “Thanks.”
“Raising the dead is tricky,” he called behind her. “But it can be done. With the right people.”
Star stopped; her voice low, but she didn’t turn around. “Stop joking,” she said, her fists balled. “This isn’t funny. Just stop and leave me alone.”
Coal walked down the steps to her side. “There is a world bigger than the world you know,” said Coal. “It’s a darker world, a more dangerous one. But if you have a young dashing guide, like me for instance, it can be traversed.” He raised his sleeves up and Star saw a better glimpse of the archaic symbol as it cris-crossed along his arm and as Star stared at the symbol, she could’ve sworn she saw it glow a deep red.
“I can help you,” he told her and then he began to descend the steps.
Star looked at the church one more time, at the statue of Jesus, with his hand on his heart, and she looked at Coal, the man in shadows as he walked down the steps.
And Star followed him.
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