Book
behind her smile
By Mirian Martins
   

About this book


No one knows the secret Miriam hides behind her smile, and she is determined to carry this secret to the grave. When the Prince returns home, her feelings for him flare quickly, and soon, she realizes that there are more important issues than her identity. Years ago, an innocent woman was killed in Ikemba. Little did the people of Ikemba know where this act of injustice would lead them. The threat of annihilation hovers in the air. The village of Ikemba is close to its demise. Series of deaths in the palace leave the village shaken. The only thing that can save Ikemba from the impending doom is the willing sacrifice of two women. But who will give up her life to save her people? Will the Prince accept this sacrifice, even though it means saving his life and losing the only woman he has ever loved? Will Miriam accept the death of the only man she’s ever loved, or will she do the unexpected? ***** “No, please don't kill me,” Miriam screamed. Her feet pounded the ground, kicking dirt backward and she trudged forward, leading her pursuer in hot pursuit. Brandishing a cutlass, her pursuer dashed after her with every ounce of his vigor. The ground trembled underneath his feet. His wrapper around the lower half of his body danced around in the air as his legs flew apart. A white paint formed an eerie trail along his nose bone, and on his clean shaven head were white dots, having the appearance of fireflies. Tattoos snaked around his arms, and beads of cowries hung down his neck, wrists and ankles, jingling rhythmically. Heart thundering, Miriam tore her way through rows of trees. Tears stormed out of her eyes, leaving cold trails down her cheeks. “Please don’t kill me.” “The royal offspring must die,” the man said. An average human would be breathless from running an endless race, but his voice held no trace of exhaustion. “I must kill the offspring. The fulfilment of the prophecy is here!" Miriam panted. Her legs wobbled underneath her. They could not run another lap, and she knew how pointless it was to keep running. Perhaps this was it. Perhaps she was destined to die today, by his hands. Why keep running from the inescapable? She turned around to face the man. Their close proximity made her shiver. Her eyes squeezed shut as he raised his blade in the air. Sucking in a deep breath, she embraced her end. She stood motionless, waiting for the blade to sink into her skin. Footsteps rushed toward her from behind. Before she could register what was happening, someone shoved her sideways. Gasping, she fell on her side. A maddening pain spread across her ribs, forcing a silent scream from her mouth. Something thudded on the ground beside her. Her eyes flew open, only to find her savior writhing on the ground. Grunting, he clutched a gaping hole in his chest. Blood oozed out like water gushing out of a faucet. “Michael!” she screamed till her lungs burned. “No!” She scrambled to his side and knelt beside him. She looked around in search of the man who’d tried to kill them, but he was gone. There was no sign that he’d even been here, save for the damage he had inflicted on Michael. Her frantic hands found Michael’s wound and pressed down on it. “We need to stop the bleeding. Michael, I’ll go get help. Please, stay with me. I’ll go get help. You will be alright. Don’t die on me, please. Don’t you dare leave me behind, I beg you.” She could feel his heartbeat, slow and barely noticeable, but it was still there. She had to save him. If she left now, then there was a greater chance of saving him. She made to stand, but the feel of his trembling palm against her cheek held her back. Michael,” she breathed. Her tears glided to his hand. “Stay with me.” He smiled weakly. “I miss you so much, "Miriam.” “I miss you too,” she said, her voice wobbling out of control. “Please stay with me. I beg you. Don’t do this to me.” “I love you.” he said “I love…” she started, but the words died on her lips as Michael’s hand dropped from her face, thumping lifelessly on the ground. His eyes stayed locked on hers, but they were cold, distant, lifeless . No,” Miriam screamed, shaking her head. She would not accept this. She couldn’t lose him. She gripped his shoulder and shook vigorously, but he stared at her, unblinking. He would never breathe again. Her Michael was gone. “Please stay with me. Michael, you can't leave me just like that. I love you and I miss you so much. Please, I beg you.” *** “Please wake up,” Miriam cried in her sleep. “Miriam!” Esther yelled. She shook Miriam’s arm, but Miriam didn’t budge. Amara and Ella stood around the bed on which Miriam lay, their faces painted with fear. Miriam gripped fistfuls of her bedsheet and rolled on her side, muttering some incoherent words. “Miriam please wake up!" Amara shouted. Miriam bolted upright in bed, a loud scream tearing her lips apart. Her eyes, round as doughnuts, swept around the room. She gazed at her roommates, and then fixated her eyes on the wall. Ooh,” Ella groaned. “These your village people have come again abi?" “Ella stop,” Esther said. “Can’t you see that she had a terrible dream or are you blind?” Esther sank down in the bed beside Miriam and patted her back. Sweat streaked down Miriam’s body, drenching her cotton night gown. She blinked off a bead of sweat strolling into her eyes. “Are you okay?” Esther asked. Unable to find her voice, Miriam could only nod. “Are you sure you’re okay?” Esther asked. “Should I get you water?" “I’m fine,” Miriam muttered. “What did you dream of?” Ella asked. Movement around the door caught Miriam’s eye. She turned toward the door just in time to see a figure walk through it. Hyperventilating, Miriam pointed at the door with a trembling hand. Her eye balls rolled back in her head and she collapsed backward, losing consciousness. “God!” Amara flattened her palm on her chest. “Miriam!” Ella called, moving to touch her. “Miriam, please wake up. Oh God! What are we going to do nah?" Esther touched Miriam’s wrist, feeling her pulse. “Somebody should please send for Chioma.” The words had barely left Esther’s lips when Amara darted out of the room, beating Ella to it. She burst into Chioma’s room. “Chioma,” she called, sweeping her eyes around the room, but no one was in sight. She dashed to the toilet, but it held no sign of Chioma. Amara placed her hands on the back of her head and bounced on the balls of her feet. “Oh God! Oh God! What is this na? Where is she?” She turned toward the door and caught sight of a woman staring at her. The woman, blessed with an uncanny beauty, seemed to be in her mid-twenties. She stood motionless, glaring at Amara with eyes that could kill. Screaming, Amara stepped backward. She glanced around for a way to save herself. Finding nothing, she looked back at the doorway, but the woman was gone. She whirled around, half-expecting to see the woman staring at her from another corner, but no one was in sight. Screaming, she dashed toward the door and bumped into a human wall. “Please don’t hurt me." “What are you doing in my room?” a familiar voice asked. Amara opened the eyes she didn’t realize she’d been closing. She heaved a sigh at the sight of Chioma. Her eyes darted around in search of the woman. Had someone really been there, or had she been hallucinating? “You look like you just saw a ghost,” Chioma observed. “Is everything okay?” Amara shook her head. Pointing at the threshold she said, “There was a woman.” “A woman?” Chioma asked. Amara nodded. Ehen? What happened to the woman?” Although Chioma knew the woman Amara referred to was none other than Nnenna, the ghost hunting the palace, she feigned ignorance. “She was standing right here. But then she just…she disappeared." Chioma touched Amara’s forehead with the back of her hand. “When last did you take malaria medicine? You’ve started seeing things.” “I’m not seeing things,” she said. “Someone was…” She trailed off. What point was there explaining to Chioma? She would only paint herself as a crazy person, and she didn’t want that. Besides, there were more pressing things to do at the moment. “You still haven’t told me what you’re doing here,” Chioma said. “Please come with me,” Amara said. “It’s Miriam.” A panicked look flashed across Chioma’s previously stern face. “What happened to Miriam?” “She…she fainted. I don’t know what happened. She was having a really bad dream, and then—” Chioma sprinted out of the room, making Amara’s words die on her lips. Amara trailed after her. They raced to Miriam’s side of the servant's quarters and found her lying supine on her bed. She had regained consciousness. Ella stood beside her, fanning her vigorously, while Esther sat beside her, grasping her hand. “But Miriam, what is wrong with you?” Amara asked. “Why is it the every night you can’t let anyone sleep in this room, eh?” Miriam rolled on her side and swiped at the tears spilling out of her eyes. She curled into a ball and embraced herself. Amara went on, “Chioma, you better ask Miriam why she can't let us sleep. I’ve had a very hectic day and my eyes are heavy, but I can’t even sleep because of one person.” “I told you guys that her village people have come again,” Ella said. “But you people don't want to believe me.” Chioma and Esther grimaced at Ella, forcing her to swallow back her words. “Okay guys, I get it. I shouldn’t joke around at a time like this, but I had to say something to lighten up the mood.” Miriam snuffled. “I’m so sorry I woke you girls up. I just had a nightmare. That’s all.” “What is the dream all about?” Chioma asked. Miriam closed her eyes, shutting out memories of the dream as they made to surface. “It’s nothing.” “It’s nothing?” Chioma echoed. “Yes,” Miriam said. Amara frowned. “How can you say it’s nothing eh? Every night you have this kind of dream, something bad always happens the next day and you are saying it's nothing? See, you are scaring me o, and it’s not funny one bit.” “Have they come?” Ella asked, bubbling with laughter. “Tell us if they have come o, so that we will know when to run.” “This is not a funny matter,” Chioma said. Miriam opened her eyes and turned to glare at Ella. “Okay girls,” Chioma said. “Since she said she is okay, let's let the sleeping dog lie. And please, listen carefully, all of you. Make sure that no one hears of this incident. Do you understand?" “Yes,” they chorused. “Good,” Chioma said, her gaze lingering on Amara. Without another word, she left for her room. The others retired to their beds, and although sleep eluded them all, they all lay still and shut their eyes. ‘Why is it that we are not allowed to say anything that goes on inside this palace to anyone?’ Amara wondered. ‘But what could be wrong with Miriam, or could Ella be saying the truth when she said that her village people were disturbing her? But Miriam is a nice girl. She has this wonderful smile that is capable of enchanting the world, and she is such a beautiful girl that sometimes I feel envious of her. And the worst is she doesn’t really know how lucky she is. Heavens please save us or we perish with this calamity that is going around in this village.’ Noticed an error in this book? Send a mail to flag@okadabooks.com to report it

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