BLINKERED- GRACE OCHIGBO
“You did what?!” Jerry roared with uncontrollable fury.
Raising his eyebrows, he tried not to react as hot, searing rage throbbed painfully at his temples. His eyes rimmed with so much anger that he could feel large drums of adrenaline pumping through his vein. His face was like volcano filled with burning lava. His once calm demeanour suddenly exploded into wild fits of anger. The temperature in the room seems to rise as his balled fist started to turn white at his knuckles.
“I am sorry Jerry. I didn’t think it will come to this, I didn’t even think it at all, please am very sorry…” Lara pleaded. She was truly sober. Her conscience has been pricking her since she last spoke with Grace.
“I knew it! I thought as much… kai! I just knew something had happened,” Jerry stuttered through clenched teeth as the mounting exasperation already tightened his throat “…Haba! Lara, we are more than this, how could you do this to me? How?” He asked. The tone of his voice plunged into a low and grumpy tone as he cracked his knuckles. Mtchewww… he drew a long hiss
“I couldn’t bear the look on your face the last time she broke your heart. It almost shattered you Jerry, and even almost made you totally antisocial. I couldn’t bear it. I felt your pain because I know how much you love her. So I decided to have my revenge. I decided to pull a little stunt on her and what I did in class was the only thing I could come up with” Lara explained still begging
Jerry hit his leg angrily against the bed. His blood shot eyes scared the wits out of Lara,
“So of all the things your head should consider, it’s claiming to be engaged to me you could come up with? What were you thinking Lara? Am really disappointed in you” Jerry yelled again as he looked out through the window, wanting to calm his temper.
He could be a perfect gentleman until this part of him is activated. He has little self-control over his anger. Lara walked over to his side and knelt down. He felt the impulse to hold her up while she attempted kneeling but he strongly refrained himself.
“I was foolish Jerry! I accept. I shouldn’t have done that for any reason, I know. And that is why am asking for your forgiveness.” She said pathetically with sincere remorse.
Jerry was still fusing. Nothing has gotten him this mad in the past couple of years… except maybe his mother’s acts at times.
“Lara, you’ve successfully blown off any chance of me being with Tonia with this your drama. Did you ever consider that too?” Jerry asked more calmly looking down at Lara. She quickly got up and held his hands
“I am truly sorry Jerry, I truly am,”
Jerry yanked his hands off hers.
“It’s OK Lara. I guess you should just leave my room now, please…”
He said, trying not to be harsh. Lara was dazed; she could barely believe her ears. ‘Tonia has completely eaten into this man’s brain. What kind of man will have such deep emotions for only one lady’ She marvelled within herself.
“Didn’t you hear me? Lara! I said leave! And I mean this minute.”
Jerry threw caution to the winds and screamed at the top of his voice before he could stop himself. Lara staggered backwards immediately in fear as she grabbed her handbag from the bed and headed towards the door. Jerry’s sinister glare almost made her miss a step.
She tip-toed backwards to the door and held the knob.
“I am sorry for hurting you this much Jerry and am also sorry for whatever pain I have caused your Tonia too. Believe me when I say I didn’t mean to go that far. If her sickness was as a result of the little display about proposal I did in class on Friday, then take it from me, she still cares about you. If my act could turn on her ‘jealous side’ then surely she still very much loves you. Don’t give up on her yet Jerry; you clearly have a very big chance with her.” She concluded and walked out slamming the door hard.
Jerry took a deep breath and sighed, nodding his head in disappointment
The floor was littered with bottles of alcohol. Obviously Ben has been drinking and has refused to be consoled by his main guys Akoji and Paul, for the first time ever. He had been battling with depression ever since Tonia’s message came into his phone. Her number always reported switched off at any of the times he called. Truly, every player, no matter how brave, has his/her weakest points. That point where everything hooks them in the neck and they get entangled in their own web.
“I need you to pull yourself together man! Since when did you become a weakling?” Akoji yelled at the drunken Ben who scattered his legs everywhere in the room.
“She must have come to confront me that afternoon about Chenny and unfortunately, she met Pat here. Damn it!!” Ben said as he pulled hard on his goatee.
“Ehen! For what do you care Boss, just man up and stop behaving like a chicken bitten in the rain all of a sudden” Paul retorted from where he sat on the table at the left corner of the room.
“That girl, her friend Grace, must have told her about my relationship with Omasirichi. Tonia texted me that it was over, I guess am defenceless now after all.” He said in bitterness, cursing his luck.
Akoji and Paul laughed hard at the sober demeanour of Ben. They didn’t know what suddenly came over their friend that made him act this helpless. But whatever it was, it must be very serious indeed.
Akoji tapped Ben immediately an idea popped up in his mind
“16th September!” He screamed
Ben looked at him bewildered; he didn’t know the significance of the date to their current discussion
“Yes that’s a day of the month and fortunately, it’s this very beautiful Friday morning on this side of the globe if my memory still serves me well…” Ben replied with sarcasm still unable to place his mind around what Akoji was saying.
“You have forgotten? You told me 16th September was Tonia’s birthday” Akoji said out loud.
Ben quickly sat up. How could he have forgotten all these? He (or they) had lots of plans for this particular day, how come he forgot about it altogether?
“Today is Tonia’s birthday!” Ben reaffirmed, managing to smile.
He had no idea yet but that reminder alone made him feel a lot better…
“You know what I think, Boss?” Paul started “I think it’s your chance at making up for your misdeeds. Anybody would be in the best of moods on their birthdays and if you are still the Ben I know, the freshest and talented-in-speech guy I know, then you will definitely find a way of dragging yourself back into her”
Ben pondered quietly on what Paul just said. It did made sense. Though Paul wasn’t an active member in the school’s students’ political world, he was an undercover bomb waiting to explode.’ Well, that may be an overt description but he is the brain box behind the activities that take place in the presidency and Ben respects his senses a lot.
“I will have to see Tonia today, on her celebration day. I don’t even mind kneeling before people to apologise.” Ben said almost inaudibly.
He got up immediately and ran over to his table scattering all the books on it before he finally found what he was looking for and picked up the white paper
“Oh no!” He said in disappointment as he stared at the paper. The duo went over to him to see what was in the paper
“Ha! 300level students have exams today, and worst is that there is an afternoon paper spanning into 4pm. Ha! She would be too exhausted to hearken to my pleas even though it’s her birthday” Ben said as he threw the exam timetable on the table and fell dejectedly into a chair.
“Ouch! That’s a really bad one” Paul said in frustration too. He seemed to have run out of ideas this time.
Akoji stood for a while in the fashion of the ‘last man standing’. His forefinger rested on his lips as his mind figured out a lot of things. He is that type of person that doesn’t easily give up on anything because he believes there is a way out of every situation. He cleared his throat, opened his eyes wide and stared at Ben and Paul who looked at him with eyes begging for rescue solutions.
“I have an idea…” Akoji said boldly
Ben and Paul leaned forward from their chairs. That phrase came to them like a life-saver boat and they were so anxious to hear the idea already.
“What?” They both chorused with nervousness.
When your birthday falls on a day you have to write an examination on your most dreaded course ehn? You’ll wish for nothing worse. If only I had the power to readjust our exam timetable, I’ll quickly swap MCB 302-Bacterial Physiology and metabolism with MCB 312-Bacterial genetics, that MCB 302 course drives me real crazy. Not that it’s hard but the note is damn bulky. I won’t deny this one. I mean am a die-hard celebration person, so much so that I even celebrate my Phone’s anniversary. Imagine! It’s funny but so you see there is nothing too little or too big for me to celebrate, one can now imagine when it’s my birthday.
Mum and dad called me for quite a long while to pray for me and give their wishes the early hours of today. I had to also talk with my siblings. And trust this exam; I was too engrossed with last minute preps that I haven’t gone on any of the social media platforms since morning. I know a lot of wishes would be begging for my response there by now. I really had special plans for this year’s birthday. First with Jerry, and much recently with Ben but events beyond my control has overtaken those plans.
I dragged my legs tiredly out of the exam hall at about 4:28pm. The course was not so easy for me as usual but I can’t let that totally ruin my big day. I quickly walked past those guys that will still be giving answers to questions and judging themselves after exams. I don’t have that time. Not that I don’t do that anyway, am not just in the mood for that now. I kept wishing in my mind that someone would just surprise me and make my twenty-third birthday memorable at least.
I saw the students’ union bus parked somewhere close to my departmental building as I hurried down the stair case. I was absent-minded, wondering what it was doing there that I didn’t notice a little balloon under my leg. Fear gripped me as the balloon burst when I unknowingly marched it. I almost missed my steps as I practically jumped down the stairs.
“Ta-da!!!!!” I heard from behind and jerked back in serious fear.
Why is everything scaring me today? I didn’t notice that three of my male course mates were hiding under the staircase when I passed. They came out throwing more of those little balloons at me.
I giggled as they screamed “Happy Birthday Tonia”. I was astonished because if anyone in the class knew my birthday, it’s definitely not any of these three guys I rarely even greet. I speedily ran out of the building, as they chased me with bottles of water towards the road, in search of a saviour but I halted when I saw him standing before me.
“You!” I asked, pointing with shrugged shoulders at the same time demanding an explanation with my eyes from my three course mates that chased me here.
“Yes Tonia,” One began explaining “Oga bought all the balloons and asked us to wait for you under the staircase and we are so sorry we were so lost in exams that we didn’t even remember your birthday”
The remaining two laughed and chorused…”Once again, Happy birthday Tonia”
They moved in his direction and shook hands with him “Goodnight Boss.”
He kept smiling proudly while they all took a ‘bow of loyalty’ as they always call it and walked away leaving the two of us in the almost empty faculty environment. I was about being a bit thrilled by this Ben-sponsored display but even if I needed a special birthday treat now, definitely not from Ben.
“We had special plans for your birthday Tee; please let’s not allow the recent rifts between us blow everything away.” Ben spoke out for the first time this evening.
I scoffed loudly. His guts, instead of amusing me as usual, irritated me even more now. How dare this guy be so full of himself in front of me? He can’t even show any sign of remorse or what?
“You must be very stupid Ben to think that I am stupid, to think that you can cajole me into doing your biddings, to think that you can walk in and out of anyone’s life anytime you dim fit. You must really be that stupid…” I blurted out angrily as enraged words seared my heart.
You really need to take a sneak peep into my head right now and see how much you will get burnt. It’s like there is a blast furnace firmly balanced in there, heating the anger and heightening the utter disdain and concentrated resentment I have for Ben right now. I walked past him and headed towards the main road proper. Ben was taken aback for a moment. Sure he never envisaged me talking back at him rudely, maybe because I have never been this rude before yet he hastily followed after me
“Please let me make it up to you Tonia, I know I have messed up big time, but please allow me to right my wrongs…” He said in a quiet tone this time.
I didn’t even look in his direction. To me, his presence beside me right now was ruining my birthday already. I stretched my neck to see far down the sparsely filled street in search of a motorbike, I needed to get away from this annoying being in the next possible minute before I lose it.
“Tee, please, let’s still have the date we planned to have on your birthday, I really want to make it up to you, please” Ben continued pleading but I paid him no attention.
Just then a car exactly like Toyosi’s pulled up in front of me. Even though I didn’t check the plate number of her car when she dropped me off at the library, am quite certain it was the same car I entered yesterday afternoon. Everything was same except that the person in here right now is a different person.
“I figured you will need a ride” Tosin said, smiling mischievously at me as he wound down the window.
It looked like an exit way to get rid of Ben so I hurriedly hopped in without asking Tosin any questions and without giving any further response to Ben who stood fixed to the ground like a pillar. He continued watching us, unable to talk as Tosin started driving away slowly.
“Nonsense! He thinks he can be boss over people’s lives.” I cursed within me and relaxed into my seat. Only then did I realise that I just accepted a ride from the man I considered the most troublesome fellow without even questioning him. It must have dazed him too, am sure.
“So what were you doing around my faculty?” I asked, turning over to him with my red shot eyes. One may never be able to correctly estimate the degree of bitterness I have for Ben lately.
“I just felt I should take you somewhere special for your birthday.” Was the simple response Tosin gave without showing any expression whatsoever on his face.
I was shocked, he couldn’t have known my birthday, and I never told him
“Somewhere special? Where? By the way, how did you know today was my birthday?” I asked all at the same time with bewilderment written all over my face.
He glanced in my direction flashing his white set of well-arranged dentition at me before facing his front almost immediately and accelerated the car without responding to me.
To be continued.