The evening looks cheerful as I watch the six of them down shots of whiskey one after another, their laughter drowning in the loud afro-fusion unleashed by the DJ. I look at the glass of apple juice in my hand and sigh. I don’t belong in this place full of strobe lights, lined up shots, beer breaths and pungent body sprays. I had guessed wrong; this place does not remind my deadened spirit of what it’s like to feel alive.
“Yarrow, you are spacing out again, aren’t you?” Lily asks and everyone on our table turns to look at me. “Old habits die hard.” I reply, forcing a sheepish smile through my lips. Everyone laughs except for Steph, whose head is tilted as he stares at me, frown lines creasing his smooth forehead. I smile knowingly. You see, Stephanos has this bad habit of trying to look deep into my soul. I smirk and hold his gaze for a few seconds before raising my glass and winking. A small smile graces his lips and I quickly break eye contact. It is about time I left this little party.
After five minutes of yelling goodbyes, take cares and ‘don’t drink too much’ to my coworkers, I turn to walk out the club and that’s when my eyes meet his cold stare. For the first time in seven years, my heart loses its rhythm. A pat on my back breaks my trance and I waste no time in inspecting him from head to toe.
He has grown taller, his dreadlocks longer and his face more handsome. The white eight-piece suit suits him. I sweep my gaze from his head to toe one more time and for the first time in five years, the smile that graces my lips is as genuine as that which I bore as a child. It is good to know that while in a club, Oleander still looks out of place as much as my existence has felt out of place. I shake my head and walk towards him.
“A place like this Yarrow, really? Seems your tastes and preferences haven’t changed after all these years.” Ole says and grabs my right hand before walking me to the VIP section of the club. “Oh? It looks like YOUR tastes have changed.” I say to him as I pull my hand from his grip and move away from him.
Five minutes pass by as we sit in silence, Ole’s eyes never leaving my face. “I noticed that you didn’t try to run from me. Does this mean that you have completely forgiven yourself? ” He asks, his voice as soft as it was seven years ago when I stood in front of him, my blouse soaked in her blood. I quickly open my eyes and sit upright. “It could be that or it could be because I am so dead inside, I don’t feel anything anymore.” I reply nonchalantly. Ole picks his glass of vodka cocktail, crosses his legs, and takes a sip. “Yarrow, no one blames you for her death. Not me, not mama, not grandma, not even papa, not anymore. ” Suddenly, I feel anger bubbling up in me. “Oleander, Forsythia was your twin sister, the two of you were inseparable. How could you not hate me? ” Ole bursts into laughter. “Yarrow, please stick to calling her Fors. I don’t know why mama had to name us after her favorite flowers. ” I am about to explode again, but Ole keeps talking “Yes, Fors was my twin sister, but she was also your elder sister.” I turn to look at him and the unshed tear in his eyes makes my heart clench in pain replacing all the anger and frustration. “I don’t deserve to be called her sister.” I hear myself whisper and for the first time since Forsythia’s death I allow myself to weep.
Ole pulls me into a hug and I place my head on his shoulder. “I’m sorry.” I whisper. “What for?” He asks softly and I lose it. “For causing her pain and death. For being childish on that day. It was my fault for sneaking into that party. I know those boys were up to no good and Fors was only looking out for me, but I decided to be mean and ungrateful, after all, all I could think of, was how she had ruined the fun. If I hadn’t gotten drunk that night, I wouldn’t have yelled all those mean things to her. I wouldn’t… wouldn’t have grabbed and pulled her while she was driving. We wouldn’t have gotten into that accident. You wouldn’t have had to watch her drift in and out of consciousness for an entire year. Everyone wouldn’t have had to slowly watch as she died. ” There is silence for a few seconds before Ole leans forward to place the glass on the table and lift my head from his shoulder. He looks at the tear and makeup stains on his white suit and then at me. “Yarrow, you’ve dirtied my suit.” He says gently. I sigh. “Ole, you haven’t changed one bit in seven years. I pour my heart out to you, and you reply with a lighthearted comment. ” Ole looks at me, a small wistful smile playing on his lips. “Fors already told me what happened. A few days before she died, she regained consciousness for half a day. You were somewhere out there beating yourself up for the umpteenth time about the accident. She told me to tell you that she was sorry, she should have handled that night better instead of dragging you out like she did in front of everyone.”
I stay silent, fighting the dam of tears, not knowing what to say. Ole picks his glass. Without looking at me, he whispers “You know Yarrow, it’s ok to cry. If you want, you can hide in my chest. I won’t let anyone see how ugly you look when crying.” A small, choked laughter escapes my lips and for the first time, my heart doesn’t feel too heavy to carry.
“I’ll come home.” I hear the words leave my mouth. Ole gives me a side glance, but says nothing. “Of course, not to live, but to visit. At 25, I am too old to move back in with mama and dad, besides, I already bought a house here. So, I’ll just visit Nakuru often. ” Ole chuckles, “Stop, you are doing that thing again.” Silence. “Mama will be happy. Forsythia too would smile if she were here. ” I nod and then it hits me, ever since he turned ten, this is the very first time, Ole has called our sister, Forsythia. “Oleander, Oleander. You just called her Forsythia… FORSYTHIA! ” He flings up his hands. “Aish, for some reason, Fors rather loved her name. Whenever anyone called her Forsythia instead of Fors, she would answer with a wide smile. I figured, once in a while won’t kill my tongue. ” We laugh and I find myself saying, “Ah, true, I remember. It’s why I stuck to calling her Forsythia whenever she was around. ” Ole looks at me, a surprised look on his face. I know, this is the first time, since that day, that I have talked about Forsythia with a smile on my face. Ole raises a brow, a small smile playing on his lips. “Say Yarrow, do you want a whiskey?” I shake my head. “Ever since that day, I can’t stomach any form of alcohol. However, I seem to have a strong liking for white grape juice. ” Without questions, Ole calls for the waitress and orders sparkling white grape cocktail for me. As we wait, I watch him talk animatedly about his next film and my mouth voluntarily cracks into a smile. I have been looking for my redemption in all the wrong places. My only brother is the help that I had been sub-consciously looking for all along.
Now sitting, listening to him talk about everything and nothing, listening to him roast me, the feeling enveloping me is that of true happiness.