BLINKERED- Grace Ochigbo
Evening was drawing closer, I was tired and worn out. Hunger was not part of my worries now. It’s sickening enough that Jerry proposed to Lara yesterday night according to her and I already feel very woeful altogether… If only l could tell Jerry why I broke up with him abruptly like that… but none was his fault anyway. I already showed him the way out of my life forefront. It’s too unbearable for me even more now that Ben could do this. He was all mushy, all repentant, all squishy, all everything on me just last night. How would I have known that those actions were merely scenes in a ‘Love movie’ he recently saw and wanted to try out. How could I have imagined it was all a camouflage? Indeed, the leopard can never wash his spotty skin!
I was drained and practically dragged myself as I trudged through the gate, and into Ben’s compound. My whole body watered with sweat and my bag now feels like a rock behind by back. I staggered and almost fell at some points earlier, but I was determined. There is no way on earth I would be able to sleep tonight or have peace of mind, if I don’t confront Ben with all the things Chenny said about him this afternoon..
I drummed angrily at Ben’s door but no response, so I continued knocking even harder. Loud cheerful laughter came out of this very house when I was approaching it, so am very sure Ben was inside. After minutes of persistent thunderous knocks, the door creaked open and Ben came out. He wore only blue knickers, his well developed abs adorned his fair skin as he stood bare-chested before me. His fist was clenched and his eyes burned red hot with wrath initially as if he was ready to punch whoever interrupted whatever he was doing inside, but that countenance later melted down a bit when he saw it was me. I haven’t seen him this bare before so I lost my gait. But then, he stood fixed at the door as though warning me against entering. That was quite strange.
“Hey Tonia, you didn’t tell me you were coming. What happened to you? You look like you have been crying all day?” He asked in a whispering tone. This was quite unusual, I mean Ben would never stand me up outside his house to talk, plus even more now that I looked drenched and drained like this.
I raised my head up to look at him, if my eye carried guns, Ben would be dead instantly with that stare
“So Chenny was the ’emergency’ you left my house last night to attend to, huh, Ben? ” I screamed out angrily as hot tears burned down my cheek. Ben still stood giving me the impression that he didn’t understand what I was saying. This angered me the more
“Chenemi Phillips!” I bent my neck to the right as I screamed at the top of my voice. “…She said you were a horse rider, she said you are a stress remover and you took her to cloud…” Ben rushed over to me and covered my mouth with his palms when my screams were getting too loud.
“Baby, who is that…” A feminine voice came asking from inside the room. I didn’t want to believe my ears. My forehead furrowed and my eyes blazed with consternation. I tightened my lips turning it down at the ends as I stared intently at Ben who was now obviously caught between two balls.
“Nobody dear…” He retorted, my eyebrows hooded and repelled with a scowl so he immediately readjusted his statement . “I-m-e-a-n, it’s nothing serious, don’t worry” he stuttered but loud enough for the lady inside to hear. Ben pulled me away from the entrance quickly to the other side of the house.
“Tonia, what is the problem?” He asked me in a nervous tone, perhaps wishing he could just pull the words off my throat.
I just let my tears fall freely, my body was feeble, I was literally shivering already. I really suck at tolerance, I couldn’t even utter any other word as every compartment of my body raced mercilessly against each other. Ben held my infirm arms with his two hands and shook me lightly
“Tonia, talk to me please. Why are you crying?” He asked truly appearing baffled and impatient at the same time.
‘Is he serious? Why am I crying? Does he even feel he is in a relationship with me, or this was some sort of games and escapades for him? Is he really a player that enjoys breaking the heart of innocent girls? Am I even innocent? I may not be, I suffer from both low self esteem as a result of my disease condition, I know but must he shatter me like this?’ All these questions flooded my mind as I just continued weeping like a baby.
“Baby, you are taking too long out there” came the voice that spoke from inside earlier again. This time she opened the door and stepped out of the room. She paused abruptly in her steps as she saw Ben holding me. She was wearing just a T-shirt I recognised very well was Ben’s. Her hair was really rough, scattered everywhere over her face, her makeup tanned with profuse sweat, she looked like someone that has been in a race for the past uncountable hours. I stood in front of Ben shocked to my bones unable to even roll my eyeballs.
“Ben is she the church girl?” she asked sarcastically as she washed me down with her round bulging eyes.
I didn’t understand her last statement, church girl! Does that have the normal contextual meaning or another meaning peculiar to her and Ben? I could see Ben was very uncomfortable but he still managed to behave as though he was in-charge of the situation.
“Pat, please not now! I’ll join you soon” Ben replied her in a very harsh tone.
I was shocked she obeyed him without any hesitation. She quickly went back into the house after eyeballing me coldly. Ben turned to face me when she was out of our sight,
“Now Tonia, what is wrong? He asked, shaking me more vigorously
I held my bag firmly to my chest and ran off from the compound without saying anything else. Ben did not follow me this time as he would have done normally, he just stood confused for a while, shrugged his shoulders and went back into the house. There is an unfinished business to attend to in there.
“I don’t think I can come inside again Juliet, its already getting late and Arome would be getting worried by now” Abigail Abuh said as she honked for the second time in front of Onuh’s house. The gateman must be sleeping.
Juliet Onuh picked her bag from the back seat and her bottle of water from the water holder in front of the car..
“I guess I will have to take the third place as I said earlier! Or what do you think?” Juliet asked, putting her legs into her shoes.”The site there looks perfect for my cosmetics shop and spa”
“Yea, that area is majorly occupied by our potential target customers, it should be perfect too…” Abigail affirmed nodding her head as she continued with bitter complaints . “I didn’t like the outrageous rent tag on that house though, I mean that shop is too small for two million naira per year”
Juliet took a deep breath..
“That’s true my dear, but what can one do? Everything is quite expensive now and you know location is important for this kind of business. Plus am still new in this town, back there in Lagos, my customers come looking for me anywhere. But hopefully, when am established and customers get used to my services here, I can move my shop home.” Juliet said as she scrubbed the back of her neck tiredly with her right hand. They both practically ransacked the whole of Lokoja town looking for a befitting shop all day. Juliet unbuttoned the jacket of her raspberry suit trouser, she even looked more worn out than Abigail that drove all through.
“OK then, your equipments are ready, will send my technician to the shop by 9am in the morning. Thank God, tomorrow is Saturday, I want you to open your work by Monday” Abigail said firmly
“You know, left for Jake, I should be sleeping at home all day right?” Juliet murmured, “…but I’ll be too bored! I literally had to beg him to let me start my business here too. Don’t you think Monday is too early? I hope I can talk my husband into accepting that” Juliet asked, sounding pathetic
Abigail laughed hard at her tone before responding, “Well! suit yourself, Madame! Just know I’ll come pick you up first thing Monday morning”
“You have to let me get used to driving in this Lokoja o, if not you will continue to be my driver, you saw how I stressed you out today right?” Juliet replied, winking coyly at her friend
“I don’t blame you nau. You better come around and start driving soon. Driving here can be an uphill task, the drivers are quite reckless, I know. Even my husband complains but what should we rather do? We can’t buy expensive cars just for the parking lots now.” Abigail said more seriously this time.
Juliet nodded in the affirmative still rubbing the back of her neck, at least she got the message. She opened the door of the black Toyota Camri and stepped out as her last son, Joseph opened the gate and came to collect her bag
“Olane ma” Joseph greeted Mrs. Abigail in lgala language. They exchanged pleasantries before he proceeded to hug his mum.
“Where is the gateman Joe?” Juliet asked her son
“Dad sent him to go get frozen chicken, he still wouldn’t believe I know anywhere here yet for him to send me but he is wrong” Joseph mumbled as he complained about his father’s overprotective attitude.
Juliet smiled patting his shoulders. It was typical of her husband to be sceptical about almost everything.
“Goodnight Abigail, thanks a lot for today o, my apologies to our husband” She bent over the window to talk, “…And about what we talked about over breakfast this morning, I really meant it. We are the mothers of these children, they will always listen to us you know!” Juliet said excitedly again, giving her friend a playful wink but Abigail only smiled back as she busied a call from an unknown number on her phone for the second time.
Abigail watched Joseph and his mother as they walked hand in hand into the compound. With the kind of body Juliet had, you could take her for her son’s lady or younger sister. Abigail switched on the ignition but jerked as her phone buzzed again, she switched off the car engine to attend to the call before going, ‘Who can this be? Been calling continuously, this must be important’ she thought to herself as she picked up the call
“Hello… Yes… Mrs Abigail Abuh on the line, who am I onto?”
Abigail listened attentively to the caller, her smiles gradually disappeared until her countenance fell
“What?.. Oh My God!… How?… My husband eeeh! Where are you o Where?” She screamed out asking all the questions almost without a break before calming down a bit.. ” OK OK… I’ll be there right away!” She dropped the phone from her trembling hands and her heart beat raced faster than an Arik aircraft. She jittered even as she held her steering. She sat there confused for many minutes before managing to gather herself together and switched on the ignition again, this time with much force. She marched aggressively on her car accelerator and zoomed off on an extremely dangerous high speed.
To be continued.