It was a pretty dark and cool night. Jacob had finally arrived in Soma. His head however felt anything but cool. He had thought very deeply about whether Susan was Petrina or Petrina was Susan. He did not even know what difference it made. He was simply confused. Much as he wanted to convince himself that it was just a mere coincidence, it was very easy to add things up and realise that there was some relationship between the missing lady and the lady he had fallen in love with. He tongue felt dry. He did not feel hungry although he had hardly eaten anything the whole day. His head felt so heavy that it seemed as though it would fall off any moment soon. He struggled to hold back his tears but he was already crying in his heart. He was devastated! Falling in love with someone who was not who she said she was seemed like he had fallen in love with a ghost. He sighed. He told himself to calm down until he finally confirmed all that was happening from Susan. He did not even know how he was going to bring up the topic.
He finally reached their apartment. There was Susan fanning the coal pot, obviously preparing supper as is she usually did around that time.
“Good evening.” He muttered when he got to her.
“Hey there, Jacob! For once, I actually kind of missed you!” She laughed. “Any goodies from the city?”
His heart skipped a bit at her cheerful greeting. He thought about his earlier intention to let her know how he felt about her. Her present tone would have made it so easy. But that was before he saw the notice in the papers and his world had suddenly turned upside down.
“Just some provisions.” He muttered again, handing her one of the bags he was carrying. “I’m going to my room.”
“Your room? Why, that is unusual of you! Wouldn’t you come and tell me those lovely stories of yours as I cook? Besides, I’m preparing your favourite dish: Yam and palava sauce.”
“Never mind, I’m not hungry.”
“Not hungry?!” she suddenly gave him a concerned look. His heart jumped again when her caring eyes met his. “Are you okay?”
She dropped the fan, got up and stood beside him.
“I just need to get to my room, okay.”
“No, Jacob. Tell me something.”
He shook his head. “My room would be just fine for me.”
She held his hand gently, “Oh, Jacob, I’ve never seen you like this. What is wrong?”
“Petrina, please, just leave me to…”
He stopped mid-sentence. He looked up at her. The brightness in her eyes had suddenly disappeared. It had been replaced with shock and anxiety. There were beads of sweat forming on her forward. Her hands which were still holding his were now cold.
“Wait, what did I just call you?”
She shook her head.
“So it’s true then?”
“What is true?” she asked as she stiffened up.
“Susan or Petrina, which one is your real identity?”
“Who is Petrina?” she tried to ask innocently but he sensed how shaky her voice had become.
“Who is Petrina? Probably you!”
“Why are you suddenly calling me Petrina? I’m Susan, okay. You are home now. Forget about whatever happened in town.”
He looked straight into her eye and lowered his voice. “Please tell me the truth. Please do.”
“What truth? I’m confused.” She turned her face away from him.
He placed his hand gently on her cheek and turned her head back to face him. “ You’ve been a pretty good actress in the last month or so but your act is failing you tonight. It’s obvious you know something about what I am saying.”
“No, I don’t,” she said, raising her voice and yanking her hand away from his.
He shook his head and took the newspaper, opening it to the page with the notice.
“There.” He said, handing her the paper.
He studied her carefully as she read the notice. He observed that she turned even paler and was shaking even more. She took longer than she should have to read the notice. She was probably trying to absorb it fully.
“What has that notice got to do with me?” her voice was very defensive.
“Stop calling me by that name!” She yelled. “Do you think I am the person in the notice? Why should you think so? Do I look like someone who can run away from home?”
“No you don’t. Which is why I want you to explain to me why you did, Petrina.”
She glared at him at the mention of the name and began walking off. He held her hand.
“You can’t walk off this time. If I have to call you Susan to calm you down, fair enough, I would. But please tell me the truth today.”
“What truth, Jacob? What truth?” she now sounded like she was about to cry.
“The truth that you have hidden in your heart. You can run your whole life, but you can never run away from the truth.”
Is the truth about to come out?