In Final Girl, Season 3 by Preye Godwin

a charcoal-coloured acura circles the glittery black sky purposively, leaving purple dust in its wake. adonye graham sloshes about in the driver’s seat like a mass of jelly, his bald head rocking back and forth, stringy arms waving around. no music can be heard on this night, but he can feel it cursing in his veins; the songs of his ancestors, a chorus of lamentations and praises clashing into each other like blood and oil. 

where the steering wheel should be sits the ring of his mother. and his grandmother. and his great grandmother and all who came before her and her and her and him. his hands, skin torn around the knuckles, dance along the slippery golden band. he throws his head back against the headrest, roaring with a laughter that reverberates through his entire body, releasing the pain from his past, the pasts of those he had loved, the pasts of those he had guarded, the pasts of those he had destroyed. 

adonye graham is one of many. a droplet in an open sea of spirits. a soldier ant in a steadfast army. a spec of dust with cause and design. he had a reason. he had a role to play, and he had played it to completion. his eyes now are sunken down to his stomach. his nose and ears have been seared off. his mouth is all that remains, a parting that stretches and smiles and moans lyrics only he knows. 

a sudden ghostly presence glows through the windows and he jerks forward, groaning softly. she’s watching, again. he wondered sometimes if any of this made sense to her. he wished he had gotten more time to teach her how to carry this burden, how to twist this curse into a companion she could tolerate throughout her years on the physical plane. but it was too late now. he could only watch from up here, pray she would eventually find her way. she had always been the different one. the other. like him. and although his spirit has not confirmed it yet, he knows for sure that she will overcome. 

the ghostly violet luminescence dulls slowly, until the sky is flushed into a pitch black again. the shimmering dust from before is gone. not a single star remains. the ancestors no longer rejoice; their once-grand bellows have dipped to a jittery, unorthodox murmur amongst themselves. adonye graham is exhausted. his boneless neck slacks against the car seat like a damp sock. it is time to give it one last try. 

with what he bitterly regards as the last of his strength, he lifts a blistered hand to his face and presses two fingers deep into his empty eyeball sockets. there is nothing left of him to feel any pain. he is no longer of this world, no longer in debt to this realm of the flesh. slowly, he twists the fingers out, then reaches forward for the ring wheel. 

the setting, forged from the finest Zamfara gold, glimmers softly but unwaveringly, boasting of a kindly bloodline, and the prongs cradle the centre stone, a large tourmaline, with unparalleled grace. the stone bursts with hues oscillating between blushes of pink and sharp crimson, radiating a kaleidoscopic brilliance that envelopes the withering spirit of adonye graham, forcing his pulse to steadiness. 

there is something left to do, still. four years later. 


“Why you dey always dress like man?” 

The voice, coming from behind, grates against AJ’s ears, somehow managing to intensify the ache pulsing in her temples. The voice is low, croaky and unfamiliar, but AJ knows the question is for her. She turns around slowly, then bends her neck to face a lean elderly man with a slight hunch in his back. He eyes her gingerly with a furrow in his silver brows. AJ follows his eyes, peering down at her flowery dress shirt, ripped jean shorts and converse. 

She looks back at him, suddenly recognizing him as one of her father’s old friends from church in secondary school. Lazarus. She remembers his name because she and her brother snickered together every time he was called to give his testimony during Sunday services. 

AJ smiles dryly. “Mr. Lazarus. Thank you for coming today.” 

“No problem, sweetheart,” he says, returning her smile. His teeth are yellow, dirty and scattered in his mouth like broken piano chords. AJ tries not to let her grin falter at the sight. “It is my pleasure, and duty, coming to these memorials. Your father was always a good man to me. I know that he is resting easy.” 

AJ nods, trying her best to look genuine despite the doubt swelling in her chest. “Thank you, sir. Amen, sir.” 

Mr. Lazarus waves a wrinkly hand in the air as a sign of departure and finally shuffles past. AJ heaves a deep, shaky sigh, pressing two fingers to the side of her head as she scans the crowded living room. The same atmosphere of solemnity and quiet bitterness that drove AJ away two hours ago pervades the air, the hum of hushed, grieving conversations blending with the soft voice of Simi in the background. She’s glad she got to pick the music, at least; Mumsi was thinking of playing Chioma Jesus for the entire 6-hour ceremony. 

She’s by the small chops table now, laughing at something with someone AJ doesn’t recognize as she spoons samosas and puff puffs onto her paper plate. Even though she’s probably faking it, it’s nice to see her smiling. Mumsi hated hosting these memorials, but Grandma was insistent that whatever happened in the last year of Mumsi and Dad’s marriage was none of the family’s business, which meant upholding a certain image every year on the anniversary of Adonye Graham’s death. 

Finally, the person AJ has been looking for emerges from the throng, clad in a starchy white dress shirt, black pants and a blazer that’s at least two sizes too big. Sotonye saunters towards her, nodding at a few guests as he passes them. He smiles bashfully when they lock eyes, and stretches his arms out for a hug. The last time AJ saw her twin brother, he was shivering violently on his bathroom floor, draped over the toilet bowl and reeling from the combined effects of a bad breakup and withdrawals from god knows what drugs. His demeanour now carries something teetering close to renewed strength, and AJ knows before she has to ask that he is doing better. He wasn’t lying on the phone. 

She falls into his embrace, wrapping her arms around his back and resting her chin in the crook of his shoulder. They’ve always been the same height, since they were little, and she prays it stays that way forever. 

“Where were you?” Sotonye asks as they break apart. His tie is crooked. 

“Your tie is crooked,” AJ says. He fumbles with it awkwardly, and looks back at her. It’s even more crooked now, but she stifles her smile and answers his question. “I went to sleep upstairs. Migraine.” 

“No you left me here to deal with all these small old people,” Sotonye glances cautiously in their mother’s direction before adding, in a lower voice, “And Mumsi.”
AJ chuckles and turns to grab a paper plate from the table beside them. “You weren’t even here when I left. Meaning I had to deal with Mumsi and the small old people for like, almost four hours. So.” 

“Abeg,” Sotonye mutters, rolling his eyes. He looks down at the plate she has and perks up suddenly. “Are the small chops good?” 

“No,” AJ lies. Over his shoulder, she catches Mr. Lazarus’ eye unexpectedly, and he offers her an uncomfortable smile that tells her he’s been staring. She forces a smile back and turns to her brother. “Do I look like a boy? Like am I dressed like one right now?” 

Sotonye cocks his head to the side. “Well…you’re not dressed like a girl…”

“Is it obvious?” 

They stare at each other for a split second. They both know what it is. 

“No,” Sotonye says finally. He swipes her plate from her hands. “You’re dressed casual. Don’t worry everyone here’s too old to have a gaydar.” 

Before AJ can respond, he walks off towards the small chops table, and she watches as he gives their mum a side hug and reaches for the last spring roll in the basket. Bastard. 

She scans the room once more, and considers going back upstairs to her childhood bedroom, but she doesn’t want to fall asleep again, and risk having that dream again. The same dream she’s been having for the last four years: her father driving his car along a constellation of stars, howling with laughter, joyful in a way he never was when he was down here with them. She rubs her head again, resentful mostly of the piercing migraine that always greeted her whenever she woke up from these father-feature dreams. Defeated, she trudges to the only free seat in the living room, a small wooden stool by one of the TV speakers. She awkwardly lowers herself onto it and pulls out her phone, ready to scroll mindlessly through Instagram in hopes of distracting herself. 

AJ had never understood the meaning behind the dream, especially because no one ever really uncovered the mystery behind her father’s death in the first place. The Bonny Police Department had given up after weeks of investigating and searching. Nothing was adding up. On the night of June 22 2019, hours before the twins’ 17th birthday, Adonye Graham drove his grey, decade-old Acura from the apartment he was renting with his new fiancee, to his old marital home, where his soon-to-be ex-wife, Amanda Graham still lived with their two children. The twins had been out that night, partying with classmates, heavily intoxicated and completely unaware of the tragedy that was about to take place and forever taint their once-happily celebrated day of birth. 

Adonye and Amanda had gotten into a heated argument over him wanting their wedding ring back, and in a huff she finally yielded. He left in his Acura, but never made it back to his apartment, or fiancee. The car was found weeks later, submerged in one of the freshwater swamps near the nature park, but his body was nowhere to be found. And it never was found. The one thing that was retrieved, by some sort of miracle, was the ring, a Graham family heirloom that had been passed down for generations. 

The story surrounding Adonye Graham’s death was forgotten almost as quickly as it hit the streets of Bonny Island, and soon the new gossip was the next divorce or rumour circling about someone from church. Strange things happened on this island all the time, and this certainly wouldn’t be the last. Despite its picturesque beauty and wonder, the island held secrets that whispered through the air like untamed ghosts. AJ swore she could feel it herself sometimes, the darkness that coiled as above and so below. The darkness had finally come for Adonye Graham it seemed. Besides, as most people believed, he might have had it coming. 

Amanda’s family, the Oforishes, may have been meek, but they were powerful, some islanders even said, in the spirit world. Surely they wouldn’t let their daughter be disrespected without consequences. However, the youngest Oforishe was estranged from her family, and had warned her children never to listen to such devilish stories about her blood, despite them disowning her. 

So, AJ never paid the rumours any mind, and had decided years ago that her father’s body was simply never found for more realistic reasons. Perhaps it had been stuck, hidden beneath a rock, and had waned and integrated into the murky waters of the swamp. 

Following the incident, AJ’s assigned counsellor had asked her once if she cared about never knowing what happened to her father. In response, she stared at him vacantly until he stuttered out a different question. Something about how her mother was faring during these difficult times. 

“Stalking the ex-girlfriend?”

AJ looks up sharply, nearly giving herself whiplash. Sotonye stands in front of her, chewing on a piece of samosa and eyeing her in amusement. His blazer and tie are off, and the first few buttons of his shirt are open now to reveal deep, sweaty collarbones. 

“Are you mad?” AJ whispers irritably, looking around to see if anyone is in earshot. She looks back at him. His forehead gleams. “And are you drunk?” 

“Tipsy,” Sotonye corrects with a wink. “Mumsi gave me small wine.” 

“Mumsi doesn’t know the state you were in two months ago,” AJ quips. 

He frowns at her, then squats, shifting to sit on the carpet near her. They stay there for a moment in silence, looking out at the strangers mingling in their childhood home. It’s a little past 5pm now, and most people still haven’t left, to AJ’s dismay. All she wants to do is curl up in the living room with all the lights off and watch her collection of heartbreaking sapphic romance films with a tub of ice cream and a tin of shortbread. It was her favourite thing to do whenever she had to come back home from university in Canada, almost like rewarding herself by indulging in what had always been forbidden under the roof she had grown up in. Once, two years ago during AJ’s summer here, Mumsi had stumbled into one of her secret late-night movie nights, flicking the lights on innocently and blinking at her wide-eyed daughter in befuddlement. Luckily, AJ had managed to wipe her tear-soaked cheeks and switch off the TV in record time, her heart pounding heavily in her chest as she claimed she had been watching a tragic documentary about abortions in the olden days. 

She’d been sent to her room without any further questions, but AJ had lain, sleepless in bed that night til morning, her heart still thrashing around in her ribcage. She had thrown up three times by the time the first rays of sunlight began peeking through her curtains, anxious her mother would waltz in, dusting the furniture and singing her daily hymns, to find the words I WATCH WOMEN LOVE EACH OTHER, AND ONE DAY I WANT ONE TO LOVE ME etched into the skin on her only daughter’s forehead. 

“You didn’t answer my question,” Sotonye pipes up, nudging AJ’s thigh gently. “Were you stalking the ex-Mrs?” 

AJ narrows her eyes at him and shakes her head. “No. She blocked me everywhere.” 

“Jesus Christ, AJ,” he raises his eyebrows. “What the fuck did you do, seriously? She seemed nice.” 

“You met her once.” 

“And look how well I speak of her character!” Sotonye shakes his head in a duh manner. “And like. She was older but she was like, you know, cool. Hip–”

Okay, stop talking about her like a fucking hag,” AJ interjects, unlocking her phone to indicate the conversation ending. “She hates me, I deserve it, end of story. Enough about Itohan now, thank you.” 

Sotonye mimics her last sentence in an obnoxious, uppity voice under his breath, but she ignores him, turning to her phone screen. As she does so, a notification from Instagram buzzes in, and she taps it without thinking. A message request. 

rofi.gigi.manuels: Hey Bunni!

AJ freezes. She hasn’t seen this username, she hasn’t been called this nickname, she hasn’t felt this fervid fire licking at the crevices of her heart, in nearly four years. She grips an absentminded Sotonye by the arm and meets his perplexed glare with an expression he can only read as hopeful yet afraid. 

“Rofiat just texted me.” 


I’ve been in Bonny for a bit and just heard you’re around as well. Was wondering if you’d like to meet and catch up. Maybe get some ice cream, for old time’s sake. 

AJ keeps replaying this message in her head, the message her ex-best friend sent after AJ had responded to the overly-familiar Hey Bunni! with a curt Hi Rofiat. People were so bold, AJ thought. She would never think to attempt waltzing into someone’s life with such faux warmness after abandoning them without reason, breaking their heart with radio silence. But this was Rofiat. This was Gigi. The girl who subtly elbowed her the first day of primary school and whispered “Bunny,” when it was AJ’s turn to answer what animal she felt like and her mind had suddenly gone completely blank. The girl who went on to call her Bunni with an i for the rest of the school year, and then for the rest of their years growing together. The girl who had once told AJ that wherever she went, she would follow. Rofiat was Gigi because she chose Giraffe, and AJ was Bunni because Rofiat chose Bunny when she couldn’t herself. 

Rofiat Manuels was the first girl AJ ever loved, and the last, no matter how much AJ had tried to change that. She was the Great Love, the one AJ feared she would always be drawn back to, the type she had read and cried about in her hidden lesbian novels and poems. 

And now AJ was going against everything she and Sotonye had discussed last night about moving on and opening up to new love and self-respect and closing old chapters, and she had snuck out of the house at noon, while he was still passed out, exhausted from staying up playing video games, to meet Rofiat at the place they once called their spot. 

It wasn’t a grand oak tree with their names carved into the wood or a quiet river where they once dipped their toes in together. It was the old bakery at the shopping centre, which was always out of freshly baked bread, but somehow always had all sorts of ice cream flavours available to serve. 

It was right next to the hair salon, and a memory AJ often returned to was her and Rofiat making their braids together every last Saturday of the month, and getting money from their mothers to buy ice cream from the bakery while the hairdressers were on their break. Rofiat liked to get something different every week, but AJ always got the same thing; a plain french vanilla cone. 

Even now, she gets a small cup of french vanilla, after pretending to study the menu carefully for several minutes upon her arrival. The woman at the register smiles exasperatedly but doesn’t complain. 

AJ checks her phone for the time while her ice cream is being served. It’s 12:56. They had agreed to meet half past noon. As she pays for her treat and walks out of the bakery, AJ entertains the fear that she’s getting stood up. She imagines licking her ice cream alone on one of the white benches lining the outside of the shopping centre, and Sotonye laughing at her with that annoying high-pitched chortle she knew all too well, reminding her that he had foreseen this exact scenario playing out. 

Just as AJ starts seriously considering heading back home, her gaze lands on a young woman emerging from the main grocery store’s automatic doors. She’s wearing a black slip dress over a magenta graphic tee, and knee-length cowboy boots. In her left hand is a brown paper bag from the store, and a large polka-dotted tote bag hangs from her right shoulder. Her eyes meet AJ’s and soften instantly. Rofiat

AJ’s legs are moving before she can instruct them to, marching ardently towards what her system still regards, painfully, as a version of home. A version she thought she could never return to, but here they are, on AJ’s 21st birthday, suddenly in the same place at the same time for the first time in years. 

Once they’re right in front of each other, Rofiat closes the distance first, pulling AJ into a tight hug. “Happy birthday,” she says as she pulls back, her smile taking up half her face. She extends the hand holding the paper bag. “I got this for you. I didn’t expect you to want to meet today so I just kind of got you a lil card and a plushie.” 

AJ blinks back, willing herself to speak but not quite forming the words properly. Rofiat used to be popular in secondary school for her long, thick hair. She never had to add attachment to her braids, and her classmates bombarded her with compliments whenever she had her afro out. With time the length of her hair became an unhealthy fixation for Rofiat, and AJ had once witnessed her break down completely because her cornrows were no longer bra-length. Now, years later, all her hair is shaved off, and Rofiat sports a neat, bright ginger buzz cut. Despite the extreme transformation, the haircut surprisingly suits her small, heart-shaped face, emphasizing her flat forehead and animated eyes. 

“Thank you,” AJ says finally, her voice coming out slightly strangled. She collects the bag from Rofiat and motions towards the nearest exit. “You wanna sit out on the benches?” 

Rofiat nods, and they walk the small distance in silence, AJ spooning her now-almost-melted ice cream into her mouth nervously. 

Once they are seated, Rofiat turns, planting her hands on AJ’s knees. “Reaching out to you is the bravest thing I’ve done in the last 4 years.” 

AJ blinks, her heart drumming dangerously, and Rofiat is looking back at her, abashed but eyes stirring with a certain longing that AJ recognizes reluctantly. It was the same longing look she had given lovers like Itohan over the years; the gaze you fixed your lover under in a pathetic search for their mercy, willing them not just to forgive but to forget every sin you ever committed against them. 

AJ shifts her gaze and exhales slowly, urging herself to stay cool. Perhaps even crack a joke. She turns back to Rofiat and smiles weakly. “You must be a bigger coward than I remember then.” 

Rofiat smiles too, timidly, like she isn’t sure she’s allowed to. “Maybe.” She pauses and twists her mouth into a knot thoughtfully before adding, “Maybe if I wasn’t I would’ve told you how I really felt even back then.”

An alarm goes off in AJ’s head. “How you really felt about what?”

“About what we were,” Rofiat says, her eyes fixed on the grass curling at their feet. AJ watches her intently, trying to keep her expression neutral despite the sudden heat at the base of her neck and the tightness that had seized her chest. Rofiat kept talking, her eyes still lowered to the ground. “Like we never even talked about boys we liked or anything. It was just me and you. Looking back I see now how obvious it was…how my mum figured it out…”

Mrs. Manuels’ face comes to mind. High cheekbones and prominent crow’s feet, her eyes sharp and penetrating, always monitoring AJ’s proximity to her child. Judging, knowing, disapproving. She had always known, even before either of the girls knew what they meant to each other. The alarms in AJ’s head build over each other, reaching a crescendo that forces her to rise from the bench abruptly. 

Rofiat’s head snaps up and their eyes meet for a split second. “AJ–”

But she’s speed-walking away before Rofiat can complete her sentence, clutching the paper bag to her stomach. Behind, Rofiat starts to follow, then stops in wordless defeat, letting her go. 

The sidewalk stretches endlessly before AJ as she charges down the familiar path home, the blurred vision from her tears not diminishing her speed. She doesn’t acknowledge any of the passersby but with every step she takes, heavy with humiliation, she feels their shared mockery pressing in on her. How foolish of her to think she had kept this secret alone all this time. 


Back home, Sotonye is waiting in the living room, arms folded, feet tapping the carpet impatiently, but he immediately drops the act when she bursts through the door tearfully, heading straight for her room. He stays there with her for the next two hours, sitting awkwardly at the edge of the bed while she sobs into her pillow. At AJ’s final sniffle, Sotonye shifts forward and rests his head on her thighs, crushing her knees. 

“Am I crushing your knees?” he asks. 


They lay there in silence for a while until AJ whispers, “We’re 21. Legal babies.” 

“So they’re saying.” 

She smiles before she can stop herself. Downstairs, Mumsi is still running around in the kitchen, whipping up pots of jollof rice and fried rice and coconut rice in time for the birthday dinner she had planned. AJ feels bad that she’s so preoccupied again after slaving away just two days ago preparing the food for the memorial, but she knows Mumsi doesn’t mind. She enjoyed cooking for them whenever they were home, stuffing them with all sorts of delicacies. 

“What happened?” Sotonye gently asks, adjusting to move his head onto the mattress. 

AJ sighs, sitting up to pick the paper bag Rofiat gave her from her bedside table. “Her mum knew. Always did. And Rofiat knew too. And she was too. I think.” She opens the bag and clenches her jaw at the sight of a small, sage green bunny plush toy. Its glass eyes bore into AJ’s soul. Bunni, Rofiat’s voice echoes in her head. 

“Wait,” Sotonye sits up too. “Was, gay?”

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” AJ groans, smacking the plushie against her forehead. “I just. I feel so…” So unbalanced. So guilty. So naked. Naked. That was the word. Without her consent, an identity she barely had a say in forming had been barred open for everyone to see, and she had been clueless the entire time. Like Adam and Eve, the scales had now fallen from her eyes, and the truth bathed her in sizzling hot shame. 

A knock on the door causes AJ and Sotonye to exchange befuddled glances. Mumsi wasn’t a knocker. Their confusion is extinguished a second later when the door swings open and Grandma hobbles in, beaming at them. Her smile wavers when she notices AJ’s tear-soaked face. 

Eni tari,” she gasps, squeezing herself between the twins on the bed and nearly decapitating Sotonye as she drags AJ into her bosom. “What’s the matter nau? On your birthday like this? Oya, who am I cursing?” 

Grandma mouths “get out” to Sotonye and he frowns but promptly does as she says. She looks down at her granddaughter squished into her blouse. “Is it your father? I noticed you left the party for a while yesterday.”

AJ winces at the use of the word ‘party’ in place of ‘memorial reception’ but doesn’t dare correct her. Grandma has tried several times to get her to talk about her father since the day he was buried, but every attempt had failed. In truth, AJ had already decided she wasn’t going to talk to anyone about it ever. Not even Sotonye – with him, they spoke without speaking. Understood without probing. But Grandma was the last person AJ would ever choose to open up to about it. 

What would she say? That she didn’t understand how to separate the innocent adoration she had for him when she was little from the crushing disappointment she had felt and clinged to when she learned he was just another emotionally abusive straight man? That the shame she felt for still wishing him to love her for who she was and who she loved, despite how much she hated him, was harrowing beyond belief? 

Finally free from her grandmother’s embrace, AJ struggles to lift the corners of her mouth into a smile. “Just headache, Mama. Don’t worry.” 

A shadow of uncertainty crosses Grandma’s face, but she doesn’t voice it. Instead, she reaches into the folds of her wrapper for a small purse. “In this purse, I keep all the jewellery I got from my own mother. It was from this purse I gave your father that ring to marry your mother.”

She opens it and fishes out an ivory bracelet from a sea of gold and silver and colourful beads. The bracelet seemed to come alive in the centre of Grandma’s dark calloused palm, featuring intricately carved ivory links, each adorned with bold, geometric arcane symbols etched with precision. Each symbol seemed to hold some significance, a secret that had been passed down through the ages, a silent bhasha of connection to the very first ancestors, the very first roots that sprung from the name Graham. 

“This bracelet – ikoro,” Grandma starts, in a low voice, “is not just for ornamentation. This is a vessel of memories. Of prayers and blessings. Of spirits.” She holds the bracelet with both hands and tugs on it forcefully. “The spirits hold them together. Spirits of people you’ve seen in family portraits and photo albums in the village house. I’m sure you’re familiar with the things people say about your mother’s family.” 

AJ nods slowly, her eyes narrowed. Grandma had always been a strange woman, and AJ couldn’t remember the last time she had said something that didn’t confuse her, but she wasn’t entirely confused now. Some part of her, resting deep within the crevices of her psyche, pregnant from the shadows of her worst fears and insecurities, knew where this was going. 

“A lot of it is bogus nonsense, trust me. But there is much truth to the rumours,” Grandma takes AJ’s hand and rubs a thumb over it. “Both your parents belonged to spiritual clans; it is what drew them to each other, perhaps. Amanda cut ties with the spirits years ago; she didn’t want it interfering with her newfound family. But Adonye? He broke their promise to cut all ties, and passed down his edjo to you.”

Edjo. AJ had only heard that word uttered aloud in whispers and hushed murmurs, amongst other islanders when she and Sotonye walked by, laden with poison, contempt and a lot of the time, she sensed, a hint of fear. 

AJ peers into the purse and spots the ring. Her parents’ wedding ring. She lets go of their clasped hands and takes it out. Finally, she dares to ask the question that has plagued her mind for years, even more than the missing body. “How did this ring survive? Why did it survive?”

“Because this is him,” Grandma answers simply, like it should be obvious. 

AJ looks at the ring, then back at her. “This–”

“Is your father,” Grandma finishes for her. “And, well. A couple other people. But my Adonye is inside this stone.”

“No, he’s in the sky apparently,” AJ mumbles, twisting the ring around in her fingers. “I’ve had the same dream since that night, Mama. He’s in the Acura, and him and the Acura are in the sky. I’ve gotten tired of trying to understand it.” 

Grandma’s entire mien changes in response to AJ’s confession. The lines in her forehead deepen, crimping into each other as she frowns. “His consciousness is stuck there. In the skies. It’s his punishment, from both clans – to ascend to the skies but never to the heavens. Better than the mortals but a peasant before the ancestors at home.”

“Your family punished him too?” 

“Yes.” A pained look crosses Grandma’s face. “Indeed he had disrespected the Oforishes asking for the ring back, and the broken promise hadn’t been forgotten.”

AJ lets this information fall over her shoulders like a heavy cloak. She wasn’t just having dreams; she had been seeing into the spiritual realm, into her father’s tragic fate. He was frozen in time. She could see it all now, the rest of her life, laying so clearly before her. She would grow old, gather wounds, swallow her shame, love out loud, explore the divine…and he would still , up there, racing with the stars. 

“Your urhievwe…your destiny…is to release, and to watch over,” Grandma gently places the ikoro in AJ’s lap and grabs her hands again. “Your clan is aseje, meaning everywhere. When you go back home – that is, when you die – your spirit will be found anywhere it is sought after by those you share blood with. You will guide them with whatever troubles they bring to you, but you cannot go home, Adonye, without releasing.”

Grandma was almost leaning right into AJ now, widened eyes capturing hers with an intensity that bordered on desperation, a voiceless plea. “So whatever shadows, whatever skeletons you have…whatever you have killed inside yourself, you must resurrect. Repression kills the spirit and I see it stunting yours.”

AJ stomach churns violently. There were few things she could think of about herself that she’d felt the need to release. One thing, really. The thing that clashed in her head like symbols whenever she caught herself doodling breastless self-portraits. The thing held her back from ever being able to love Itohan. Really love her, in the ways she craved and needed. The thing that drove her away from the girl she’d spent half her life loving, even after learning she’d always felt the same way. If AJ’s mind could be carved open, the name of the thing would hang, dauntless in the air for everyone to see. 


Hours later, she can still feel the ghosts of it, buzzing beneath her skin as her family members crowd around her and Sotonye, singing and cheering in celebration of their new age. AJ is suddenly aware of the ikoro resting heavily on her wrist, almost weighing her down, reminding her that it possessed the power to crush whatever indignity that remained following her prayers with Grandma. Together, they had called on the aseje clan spirits together, using AJ’s ordinary bed as a makeshift altar. They had asked for peace, guidance, clarity and most importantly, an end to the migraines if the visions had to continue. 

The spirits had granted all their requests, promising to cleanse AJ’s unconscious mind with more pleasant visions into the future, perhaps even ones regarding her. 

Now, feeling the last of the poison that had once haunted her dissipate, AJ quietly excuses herself from the festivities, finding the same stool from the day before. Settling down awkwardly, she opens Instagram on her phone, and types a simple message. 

Her fingers hover over the keyboard for a full minute before hitting send. 

aj_graham888: hi gigi. 


a charcoal-coloured acura circles the glittery black sky purposively, leaving purple dust in its wake. adonye graham jr. swirls around in the driver’s seat surrounded by a glistening cascade of white dust dancing around the interior of the car, each precious particle that expresses facets of her newly transformed being twirling with an otherworldly fluidity. the aseje clan above have long accepted her, and now they hum their home-coming song as a collective, welcoming their daughter back to the skies where she first gained her urhievwe. 

black inverted triangles are drawn onto her forehead and arms, and the line carved down the centre of her nose bleeds, blood streaming down her face but not mixing with the white chalk that coats her entire body. the hems of the white patterned wrapper she is attired in floats around her, pirouetting with the restless dust. she sings along, timidly at first, but the more the ancestors’ spirits jostle about against her, crooning in celebration, the louder she sings, belting out lyrics she never had to learn, lyrics that have been building in her blood from the second she was born into the world. 

on her right hand sits the grandmother’s ring. its once humble glow has intensified into a hard glint now, like it has been informed along with the spirits that a new member is joining the fold, and offers its own form of acceptance and commemoration. where the steering wheel should be sits her grandmother’s ikoro, ivory pure and shiny against the dark dashboard, preparing to helm them even further above, towards the heavens.

adonye graham jr. is one of many. a droplet in an open sea of spirits. a soldier ant in a steadfast army. a spec of dust with cause and design. she had a reason. she had a role to play, and she had played it to completion. she had accepted herself as she was, and shame no longer claimed a seat at her table.