Niyola wasn’t the target from the beginning. She had never been. Her only fault was the uncanny fate of having a close resemblance to another and now, she was paying for it. Niyola gasped as she felt her side and retracted her hand only to see that blood, crimson red, covered her hand. She tried to speak, call anyone’s attention for help but all that achieved was blood spurting from her mouth. By the roadside where she stood, she dropped to her knees and swayed before she felt her body give out and all went dark in her world.

Three days earlier…

“Girl, una get swallow with egusi soup?” a man who appeared to be in his forties and was clad in dusty trousers and a loose-fitting shirt asked.

“Yes sir, it’s available.” Niyola looked over his gangly frame for a second before turning to another customer—a regular—who was a hulk of a man and his voice boomed at her for the usual. She managed a relaxed smile, far from what she truly felt, and started on the orders. The men stepped forward to collect the trays laden with their orders when she was done and found seats to settle so as to munch.

The afternoon flew and the evening following it flew by and next Niyola knew, they were seeing the last customer go. Niyola, her sister and their father sighed in collective relief.

“Why are you girls joining me to sigh? It’s not proper; you are fresh blood, running a restaurant should not be hard at all for you. In my generation, we had it tough but you see your young generation, everything comes easy for you. You didn’t have to go to the farm every day during planting season and work from sun up to sun down just so you can fill your bellies. You are both graduates and now job seekers, so you have worked here for the time being. Many are not that lucky. Don’t you think so?” Her father, Timothy prompted in a lilted tone. Niyola and Bisola, her twin sister—who was not quite identical to her but seemed so at first—exchanged meaningful glances and stalked off to start closing up leaving their father calling after them and wondering aloud at how young girls of their generation have no home training.

The girls—Niyola and Bisola— laid on their separate beds, which was positioned side by side in the same bedroom, after they’ve had their baths when they returned home. Niyola expelled a heavy breath.

“What is it? What’s going on in your mind right now?” Bisola spoke in a low tone in the dark but loud enough for Niyola to hear.

“This and that; it’s just that there’s so much out there that I am able and qualified to do, it pisses me off to no end that with first-class honors in economics, all I am reduced to is playing a waitress in dad’s restaurant. I wish I could simply go somewhere far far away.” Niyola mused.

“I feel you. And before you say anything, I know I am not like you. We are different; you are the brainiac and the put-together one while I am the one who is riding the wave called life going whichever way that seems to fit.” She inhaled sharply.

“Bisola, I wasn’t about to say anything and don’t sound so resigned. I have seen your artworks. Girl, you are so good and I adore what you do, you will make something, no, more than something with those gifted hands of yours.” Niyola urged.

“Maybe. I don’t know why I applied to study history in the first place. It was fascinating but not for me. I should have followed my heart and studied fine and applied arts. Now, I spend my extra hours trying to learn more about art. Quite an irony, don’t you think?”

“There’s nothing ironic about anything you’ve said. Life happens and it’s all up to us to take the mess and work something beautiful out of it.”

“Now you sound corny. Go to bed, you have that job to be confirmed for tomorrow. Don’t you?”

“I do. I don’t even know if I want in on a job that will keep me from everyone and everything most of the time.”

“You are being unnecessarily sentimental and ahead of yourself. Go do the job first and after, we will see. Sound good?”

“It isn’t bad. One more thing before we sleep, how is Lorenzo?” Bisola’s sheets rustled in response. “Fine, I won’t ask. I get the message.”

It was moments later before Bisola spoke again. “Niyola, are you awake?”

Niyola grunted in reply. “I was finally falling asleep. Now, I am awake once more. What’s up? Any big cat you want to let out the bag?” Niyola chuckled.

“I don’t know how it is that you think you cracked a joke and you laugh at the joke all by yourself. You are amazing in many ways, big sis.”

Niyola’s voice tightened, “How is it that you call me big sis only after you’ve insulted me and when there’s a responsibility to shy from?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about.” Bisola threw casually at her.

“Is that so? You wouldn’t mind if I refresh your memory then. Remember our graduation from secondary school where you wore the golden off-shoulder gown even after I told you what the color code was? You blamed me when you were told off and called me big sis back then. All our friends were surprised because you never ever acknowledge me as the older twin. Ever, unless there’s trouble afoot or you want to make a mockery of me.”

“You sound angry,” Bisola said in a small voice.

“Hold on. There was that one time though when we were fifteen that we went to ShopRite. I had paid for the pizza and went to the convenience only to return and was told that I have taken it. I asked you and you denied knowing anything about it. Do you remember?”

“I do. That incident was so strange. What was worse was that as I stepped out to look for my friend there was this girl that approached me claiming she had been waiting for me so that we leave. I was temporarily confused until she looked at me hard enough and started to apologize profusely. My resemblance to whoever she thought I was must have been strong.”

“We lost our pizza that day but we gained free tickets to see that movie. Do you think that was still all a part of us resembling whoever they thought we were?”

“Most definitely. Part of me wishes we met her that day. How cool would it have been, don’t you think?” Bisola rued.

“Forget about all that.” Niyola started after moments of quiet and reminiscing on both their parts. “So, what were you going to say?”

“Oh, that.” She paused for moments. Then, it became all too apparent to them how still and dark the night was. There was no wind whipping at the leaves of the trees surrounding their home and there was no light from the moon casting shadows at anything. All appeared unmoving as if in position for an attack. Bisola cleared her throat mildly as if to dispel the lingering spirits if there were any. “About Lorenzo, he got himself in a bad spot and we ended things.”

“We or you?”

“Me.” Bisola conceded.

“And he just let you go?”

“Not quite. But I am never getting back with him ever again. He has obsessive tendencies and I don’t want him near me.”

“Good. Um, did he… did he ever hit you?”

Bisola grimaced in the dark. “It didn’t get to that.”

“I am glad. Good night Bisola.” Her sheets rustled as she turned to her side on the bed.


Meanwhile, outside, parked two houses away from the girls’ home was a dark blue Mercedes. A muscular man with a shaved head, a mustache and a goatee slumbered but was roused awake by his vibrating phone which he put to his ear at once.

“How’s it looking there?” a husky baritone inquired over the phone.

“There’s nothing new boss.” The muscular man flexed his shoulders in fluid up and down motion. He sighed in effect.

“Keep watching, I am certain that the third one will show up soon.”

“Pardon me sir but I doubt that. There’s nothing here sir.”

“That will be for me to decide. Do your job.” He muttered harshly and cut the line. The muscular man grumbled under his breath. He had not wanted to take this job at first. It was unlike anything he had ever done before now but he had to. After all, his brother’s wedding was coming up. He had to be ready.

Niyola stared up at the giantess who was to be her director. She slowly felt the sides of her mouth lift up in a close-lipped smile. The woman raised an eyebrow and ushered her into her office. She settled behind a mahogany desk and urged Niyola to settle in the seat opposite.

“You are attractive,” the woman started and Niyola’s eyes widened for a second and she slowly nodded. “You are also familiar too. Tell me, have you been to old Carolina before?”

“What is that? A hotel? I haven’t been there before madam.”

“Hmm, if what you say is true, then you must either have a twin or a look-alike.”

“I have a twin sister. We are fairly identical.” Niyola announced.

“Perhaps it’s her. Anyways, I am excited to have you onboard in this department and I look forward to the skills that your certificate attests of.”

“I will work hard madam.”

The cool evening breeze lifted a tendril off Niyola’s hair and onto her forehead as she walked home. She had not expected that her first day of work would be so flooded with activities—there was a team meeting and ideas were being tossed to and fro amongst the team members. Everyone had an idea backed up with a thorough presentation laden with facts and references. When everybody dispersed, it was to do more work and study more on the subject matter and then to prepare a report by the end of the day. She was not exempted. At the end of work, her teammates had wanted to take her out with them to have some fun but she had excused herself and promised to go another time. She didn’t understand how they could still be so energetic after a long day.

As she walked, she turned to her right and noticed a 2010 model Audi sedan slowing beside her. The window to the driver seat was lowered and a man with a crew cut and neatly trimmed beards stuck his head out. Niyola thought he was passably attractive.

“Good evening miss. Do you live around this area and even if you don’t, I could give you a ride to your home? Don’t be alarmed, I am Davis and I mean no harm.” He flashed a smile at her revealing a cute gap tooth and a neat set of teeth.

Feeling reassured and somewhat flattered, Niyola agreed to the ride and like a gentleman, he alighted from the car and held the door open for Niyola to enter. Niyola swooned. Chivalry was welcome in her book for sure. Davis tried to make small conversation as he expertly veered his car back on the road, Niyola followed his lead.

“Tell me something, have you ever met anyone who strongly resembled you any time before now to the point that you are identical?” Davis asked.

Niyola wondered why this kept coming up lately. It made her uneasy. “No. Why are you asking? Have you had any such experience?” She tossed cavalierly.

He smiled broadly. “Once.”

“No joke.”

“Yes. That was when we traveled for a family vacation in Jamaica. I was amazed when we came face to face. We mirrored each other. It felt… unreal.” A smile played at his lips.

“Are you friends up until today,” Niyola asked somewhat softly.

“We are. In fact, we’ve been like brothers ever since. The wonders of this earth are too great indeed.”

“Oh, please take a left at the next junction and another right three houses after.” Niyola guided.

Soon, Davis brought the car to a halt in front of her home. She smiled at him in appreciation.

“I don’t suppose you are curious about her, are you?” Davis asked. Niyola searched her head for a bit and chuckled.

“The girl who looks like me, you mean?” He nodded. Niyola tilted her head to an angle and mused. “I am curious. Do you know her?”

“Yes. She is my distant cousin who just happens to be in town. Want to meet her tomorrow?”

“I think I’d like to,” was Niyola’s murmur. They exchanged phone numbers and waved each other goodbye.

That night, after supper, Niyola approached her father on the sofa where he was sprawled nodding off even as the television was on and tuned to the news channel. At the gentle kneading of his shoulders, her father woke up and sat up. Seeing her, he turned down the volume of the television and asked her to sit.

“Daddy, when mommy gave birth to us, were we just two or was there another sister?” She hit the hammer on the nail.

“That’s a strange question you ask my daughter. You and your sister are all your late mother and I have in the way of children. Only ooh.”

And she believed him. Her father had been her only parent since she and her sister were twelve when their mother died of cancer. He never said so in words but his actions spoke greatly of his love for his daughters. Niyola didn’t speak to Bisola about Davis and all connected incidences. She would but later.

Work came to an end too soon for Niyola. She couldn’t shake off the foreboding that crept up on her. Too soon, she found herself in Davis’ car. Too soon, she was urged into the VIP section of a Michelin’s star restaurant. Too soon, she was face to face with a stunning reflection of herself. She struggled to breathe and started coughing. A glass of water was put into her hand right away.

“You must be so shocked. I am Zara Meade and finally, we meet.” Zara regarded Niyola cooled as an expression Niyola couldn’t quite place glinted in her eyes as she sipped a glass of wine.

Zara was everything Niyola was not—confident, beautiful, polished, graceful and versatile. She spoke of events as though reliving them and had a dramatic yet mysterious quality to her. Niyola had so many questions to ask and Zara promised she’d answer everything on one condition only—that they meet again. To ensure this, Zara took Niyola to the lady’s room and insisted they swap clothes for the fun of it; they could give it back at their next meeting. They both were wearing their natural hair and Zara insisted they style their hair the same. And so it was that when they stepped out of the lady’s room, they had completely seemed to swap roles.

A chauffeur was to drive Niyola home but near her street, he pleaded a bad stomach, that he needed to get to a pharmacy and a restroom and dropped her by the roadside. As Niyola turned to walk, a muscular man with a face cap bumped against her and quickly sidestepped making away. Niyola wondered at his strange character only to suddenly feel pain in her abdomen. She reached for the side and withdrew her hand to see blood. As darkness claimed her, Niyola slowly put the pieces together as she knew it to be. The feeling of foreboding. She had been approached on purpose and made to replace another but for what reason, she did not know. Some reason that it was possible she’d never find out. A single tear escaped Niyola’s left eye as she passed out. She wanted to live. She prayed for a miracle.

Weeks later, Niyola’s eyes fluttered open in a hospital ward. She took in a lungful of air. 

April 17, 2020 20:30

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RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

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