“I couldn’t help reading over your shoulder.”
Ene stopped typing and turned around, incensed. Her rising temper suddenly banked, as her eyes fell on the person who had spoken. The young, handsome man was smiling apologetically, hands half-raised in placation. Her gaze ran over his perfectly sculpted features, and she raised an inquiring eyebrow as she faced him completely.
The stranger looked around the mostly empty cyber cafe, and pushed his swivel chair away from his own system and a bit closer to hers. “I’m sorry. You know this whole night browsing thing can get tiring,” he said. “Plus the network was acting up and I was waiting for it to correct itself when I noticed you were typing an e-mail. I’m cursed with, well…preternatural vision. So…I kinda saw what you were composing there. Pretty heavy stuff.”
Ene turned and shifted the mouse beside her computer quickly, minimizing the page she had left open with one click. Turning back to face the handsome stranger, she crossed her arms defensively and stared at him. “It’s a private message, you know. You’re admitting to being very rude.”
He flashed a set of sparkling white dazzlers. “Again, I apologize. I just couldn’t resist. It’s almost like you summoned me to your pretty side.”
Ene, mesmerized by the smile, mulled over his apparent flirting. “Well, what did you read?”
Well-manicured hands crossed over his chest. “Ah! Heartbreak! You, my dear, have broken your sister’s heart.”
She sighed, cringing in self-pity, and feeling a sudden inexplicable need to defend herself before this nosy, hot stranger. “I’m not a bad person. I didn’t mean to hurt her. I love my sister.”
“Of course you do.”
“It’s just…these things happen. Sibling rivalry…” She sighed, looking out the dark windows, at the traffic whizzing by silently below. “It can grow ugly. Go too far sometimes. It was the dev –”
“Yes,” the handsome fellow interrupted coolly. “It was the devil. A bit melodramatic, don’t you think? Too many Nollywood hours in the mix, eh?”
“Well,” Ene replied, a bit taken aback by his mocking tone, “it’s just an expression, you know.”
“Hmm…” He nodded agreeably. “Yeah, well. That makes it ok, I guess. Except, it doesn’t.”
He leaned back and let his eyes travel over her lithe body boldly. “Yep, yep. Gotta blame it on something, right? Alcohol… The rain… The devil… People just never accept the blame, do they? Nope. Too honest an option.”
Ene drew back, affronted and suddenly repelled by his seemingly perfect visage. “You don’t know me, mister. Don’t call me a liar until you know for sure.” She hissed and turned back to her system, angry at herself for falling prey to another pretty face. It had always been her biggest weakness. It had pushed her to envious acts, because her sister’s intended was so handsome and apparently unaffected by her greater charms. Despite that, she had taken revenge. She had –
“…lied!” the man’s voice impossibly completed her thought. “You bore false witness against your sister’s fiancé! And she found out eventually!”
Ene froze, mid-tap. “What?! How…I didn’t type that in the letter! Who are…?!” Bolting from her seat, she turned around, confused.
The young man was smiling. And still talking. “People. People. People. Always looking for a fall guy. ‘It’s the devil.’ ‘It’s the devil.’ Fair enough!”
Ene took a step back, and felt the keyboard pressing against her lower back. The temperature in the already-chilly room dropped a notch, and the whirring sounds of the computers’ processors slowly faded out. Her ears buzzed and the fine hairs on the back of her neck rose, as something primitive shuddered, deep in her subconscious.
With a resigned sigh, the not-so-young man rose to his feet, among the silent, whitely-staring screens, then grinned and bowed dramatically, before saying, “Speak of the devil…”
Written by Emem Alexandra Akpan-Nya