“Detective. Detective. Look. He’s awake.” 

Was that Nelly? Edward made to open his eyes but only one agreed to the motion. The other – the left one – was shut swollen. The right one didn’t fully open, it was only half open and he could feel that there were things (he could not tell what those things were) around it. He heard more voices around him. He could only grasp at what they were saying, the rest of the words remained slurred to his ears. At least both his ears were alright, although he could feel that something was wrapped around them all with his head. A bandage. He tried to talk but could only make a sound, not any words.

Heaviness on his body. The bandages, the clothes (whatever they were), the stack of blankets, the pain, the drips. He tried to lift himself up. 

“No, no, don’t move,” Nelly’s voice. “You’ll hurt yourself, cuz.” He groaned back to stillness. 

“The doctor is on his way,” Nelly’s face filled his one eye vision. “So, glad you woke up. We were all worried about you.” 

Then another person whom Edward was seeing for the first time looked down at him and lit a small torch to his eye. The doctor smiled and said, “wakey, wakey. You can hear us,can you?”

Edward didn’t know how to respond yes. He couldn’t move his head. He was a statue in all these bandages. Or were they casts? He could move his lips but not in the pace he wanted, and it seemed his voice itself needed some recuperation. Only when he moved his lips did he feel how dry his mouth was.

The torch in his eye switched off, the doctor popped his head away from his half view. He was back at staring at the ceiling. 

The doctor’s voice at the side: “Yes, he has woken up. Only one eye open. However, there’s still a lot of work to do and I’m afraid he cannot produce any words. He Hasn’t yet recovered his ability to speak.”

A long exhale. It spoke of nothing but disappointment. Another man’s face looked down at him. This one was dark and hairy, looked sad. It must be the one who let out that sigh. It was the Detective. He backed his face away. 

“Alright, doc. Let me know when he’s fit to talk. The kid’s statement might be very crucial.” 

“Of course, Detective. I shall give you a call.” 

Edward began to hear another voice although he couldn’t make out what it was saying. 

More talking. Different voices. The next face in his sight elevated his mood. Ashanti smiled down at him. He made a try of returning the smile, he didn’t know whether he pulled it off or not. It was then that he wished to find his way of talking again, get a chance to say a few things. His chest was not only heavy with all the clothes, blankets and bandages. 

Would she still reject him even on the hospital bed? He quickly discarded the thought of telling her once it settled in that his love profession would be nothing but emotional blackmail. He wouldn’t want her to date him out of pity. But still, he felt alive, and he felt that her presence and sound, and that lovely smile of hers, might cure him from all of this; he might recover quicker than what the Doctors expected. 

Ashanti looked down at him again. Edward was clouded with a feeling of breathlessness. How he wanted to speak, or at least move and show her how happy he was that she has come. 

The only things he could move were the lips and the right eye. No voice.

His frequent visitors would be mom and dad, a few friends from campus, his favorite lecturer, J.L Seroke whom his relationship with was beyond varsity work, and cousin Nelly and Ashanti. The latter two told him that they are keeping his flat safe for him and the key is with them. They also told him that his wallet and phone are missing.

Obviously he knew Disario and Iris took them, possibly that short man with a brown moustache was included in the share as well. He also knew that all three would never show their faces at that building again. Until the dust settles maybe. 

Mom and dad suggested to him that once he recovers he ought to leave the city and go back home. They’d reported to the university and applied for an online course he’dcomplete the studies at home. “I fear the next ordeal you might go through in this city, Ed. Hope you understand. Plus, we really miss you. As for Paul? Ha! Wait till you see how big he’s gotten. He sends his regards. He’ll come and see you next week, I’m sure,” Zondi, his father said. 

Then his mom Jacobeth would end the visit with a prayer. Edwards side table was filled with Get-well-soon cards. Nelly would often read them to him. Almost every night Edward would dream about Iris and Ashanti. One dream he has a threesome with the two of them on Iris’ bed, but Disario barges in and shoots him dead in the head. The other dream: he and Ashanti are at the altar. Nelly is among the 

bridesmaids. After the vows, the pastor asks the people is there anyone who wishes for 

these two not to marry. “Speak now or forever hold your peace.” 

There is quietness among the people as they all turn to look at each other. Until Iris stands 

up at the back and screams, “I object!”

Another dream where he takes Iris home to introduce her to mom and dad as his girlfriend 

but his dad, Zondi, quickly notices her as the prostitute he once slept with months before. 

But obviously, she doesn’t recognize him because she’d met with too many customers. 

He pulls Edward to the side, whisper-shouts in his ear: “son, how could you bring her here? How could you bring us a hooker!? Out of all women out there!”

“Dad, how– how’d you know she’s a hooker?” 

So many dreams with different scenarios.

Edward awoke from one of these strange dreams one night panting. That dream it was him in a polygamous marriage with Iris and Ashanti but they both divorce him and go live with Disario. What the hell is with these dreams? He screamed in his head. And why still dream about Iris after what happened? 

There was another uncanny thing that night. The smell of the air. Strawberry. Not any kind of strawberry, but the kind of strawberry smell that took him back to that room in Hill brow; Iris’ room. He questioned the stability of his nose. There was something wrong. 

His mind playing tricks on him? But the brain and the nose were far and different. He sniffed and sniffed. That smell. Strawberry.