Life After ~ by Shefi Nelson

She could hear voices. There were too many people in the house. Her grandmother poked her head through the door and smiled. She walked in, picked up a brush and sat by the bed. “Theodosia, you need to get up. We leave in less than two hours and we can’t afford to be late.” With her eyes closed, Thea sat up as her grandmother brushed her long hair. It was naturally made of three glorious colors. The roots were a dense color of black coal, the middle had a russet color and finished off with sunset tips. Thea’s hair was so beautiful; her immediate family would spend hours brushing it in turns.

Today, she cared less about her hair, or what her grandmother would turn it into. She impatiently waited for it to be braided and walked to the bathroom. Her chest was clogged but she dared not cry; at least not today. She shut the door and started to bathe. The water brought tears to her eyes and she quickly turned off the shower, grabbed her purple towel and walked into the room naked. Her grandmother was waiting. Thea was eighteen years and yet, she warmly let go as her grandmother took the towel to wipe her body. They both sat facing each other as Thea raised her feet up to be wiped. Her grandmother started with her little toe and stopped to say, “You know how much your father…” Thea quickly stood up and cut her off. “Grams, please! I’ll take it up from here. You should go!” The old woman slowly made her way to the door and left.

Within seconds, Thea had locked the door and put on her underwear. Tears filled her eyes as she managed to take her dress off the hanger. She had always wanted a little black dress but certainly not for this purpose. She slowly made her way into the dress. For the first time, she felt so girly and yet, everything felt terribly wrong. She started to cry as she looked into the full length mirror. She thought about him and how he would have impulsively complained about the dress being too tight. Her clothes were just the right fit and yet, the opposite was what he always said. She smiled as she imagined him walking around her, looking for a hemline that could be released. She could feel her chest clogging and she struggled to focus on the dress. It was her mother’s Vera Wang. Sleeveless and form-fitting, it ended just above her knees. The top half was made entirely of black lace that went down diagonally from her left shoulder to just above her right breast. The skirt was beautifully plaited with a belt that drastically reduced the girth of her waist.

Thea quickly crossed over to her dresser, as she heard her grandmother call for her to get ready. She brought out her make-up set, held her hair into a perfect bun and started on her tear-stained face. She moisturized her face with a foundation primer to plump up her skin and filled in the fine lines and large pores. She added a sweep of bronzer before adding a bit of powder to prevent her skin from appearing too shinny.

Theodosia never forgot the importance of her eyebrows in making her face pop. She brushed her brows with an old toothbrush and tweezed the strayed hairs. Thea went on to fill in sparse spots with a brow pencil and a soft eyeshadow that matched her brow color. Moving onto her eyes, she thought of mascara with a swipe of powder on her lids to keep the grease at bay and to even out her skin tone. Instead, she applied eyeliner, setting it over the shadow for a heavier look. She set the make-up powder to keep the shadow from melting into her eye crease. She finished up her eyes by curling her long lashes and applying thick black mascara.

He would have gone crazy! They would have argued until she had wiped off the make-up from most parts of her face. He had never really understood the concept of wearing make-up. She could literally hear him going on and on about how make-up was meant for people who were troubled or had something to hide and frankly, she was beyond troubled and had so much bottled up. She picked up her mahogany red lipstick and smeared three and two coats to her lower and upper lips.

Thea applied enough perfume, released her hair, stepped into her surprisingly comfortable black pumps and walked out of the door. Everyone was waiting downstairs. Everyone but him! Her brother held out his hand as she walked up to him. He kissed her cheeks and whispered, “He would have said you looked stunning. You were always his perfect little baby.” She sent everyone laughing as she chuckled and replied, “No Jeremy, he would have said the makeup was way too much and sent me right back to clean up.”

Her mother signalled for them to get going. It had been two weeks and she had already lost so much weight. In the days that followed after the news came, she had begged her mother to eat. She would begin with a small bite and burst out in tears. Thea had given up and was grateful when her grandmother moved in.

The church was a few minutes away and the moment Thea had been dreading came faster than she had hoped. There were family and friends already seated as she entered the church with her mother, brother, sisters and grandmother. They were almost at the front when her brother caught her mother in his arms.  Her mother, seeing his body stretched out in an open coffin, lost the strength in her knees.

Thea stood there as her family passed to their seats. She gathered the courage to look at him. Her father, her entire world was stretched out in that coffin, right in front of her. He never drank, he smoked nothing his entire life and yet, he had battled with lung cancer. The doctors had said he had two and a half years but in six months, her father was no more.

She wanted him to get up and wipe her make-up off. She wanted him to get up and laugh so hard at her silly mannerisms. She wanted him to get up and be alive, and be the father he had always been. She felt her brother’s touch and followed him to her seat. Father Jacob approached the pulpit and started the service. There were tears from everyone but her. That was the whole point of making up. She couldn’t break down, not yet and definitely not here!

They sang for several minutes because that was all he had loved to do. He would sing to them when they were happy, excited, sad or troubled. He had bought her a musical set for her tenth birthday and they had become best friends ever since. She would stay up late waiting for him to walk through the door just so they could sing half the night away. She had loved him all her life. She loved him even more as she sang her heart out.

The Bible passages preceded the tributes and soon, it was her turn to read her tribute. As she walked past the box containing her father to the pulpit, it finally hit her that he was gone. Tears threatened to flow as she held the pulpit for support with one hand and struggled to open the piece of paper with the other hand.  This was it! He was gone! They would have to get through! It was exactly what he would have wanted.

Slowly, Theodosia aligned the sheet and started, “Daddy Dearest…”

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Shefi Nelson
Shefi Nelson, an alumna of Ashesi University College, is a calm, goal-oriented individual who cognizes the power of words and their ability to shape people’s perceptions and outlooks on the world they find themselves in. Shefi made her literary debut in 2015 with the story “Tatale” – published on Flash Fiction Ghana website. Shefi seeks to make a special contribution to the world by breathing life into the simplest string of words to create a connection, and have a lasting impact on her readers. Her hobbies include reading, sewing, writing and managing people.

You may follow the writer on Twitter: @life_as_shefi

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