Love In A Photograph – Grace Ochigbo
The house seemed to have collapsed inwardly on itself somewhat, like a half done food taken down from the fire too soon. The roof appeared to be falling. The windows had a few partially broken glasses left in them now and they seemed not to be quite rectangular anymore. When the winds blew at night, scary creaking sounds were heard like it was a death zone. Outside, long and unkempt grasses grew around. The garage was the only place that still looked good. With metal roofs and few hard planks holding it up.
Here, in this shack, is where he’d found shelter.
He can’t possibly keep running forever. Yes. But he can run for now.
He knew the father of the young lady he married so well. Running was his only guarantee of seeing the light of the next day.
Mr. Samson Itodo was a territorial authority and a famous name in the country. The older man hadn’t been in the least pleased when his daughter brought Linus to the house. The house was one of those ones rich people buy when they get paranoid about having too much money. It’s like a fortress, tall gates with more security gadgets than a military compound. Linus, for the most part, thought they’d only built themselves a beautiful prison. Either way, it was none of his concern. He had only come to meet the father of the girl he loved
It was back at the NYSC orientation camp, Linus and Ajuma met.
“Where are you going?”
Ajuma had jerked back. He saw the shock register on her face before she could hide it. A small smile played on his lips, she guessed he got that reaction a lot. His head cocked to the side, eyes shifting from her to the ground. Ajuma’s heart sopped and she could barely breathe. All she could manage to say was,
“I am tired of the drills.”
“I’m guessing you need a walk?” his voice was soft spoken and mellow sending a warm glow throughout her body. It wasn’t what he said though. His words were like strawberry frosting, sweeter than usual, true,but it was the richness of his tones – luxurious and warm.
“How did you know?” she raised an eyeball playfully. “I desperately need a long walk, but the soldiers…” she lowered her tone. “…I am afraid of the soldiers.”
“I see that in your face.” He motions Ajuma towards a narrow path. “I am friends with all of them, so you are safe.”
“What’s your name?” Ajuma asked when they passed through a small gate she could never have found by herself.
“Linus! Linus Atede.”
“Nice name.” She smiled shyly.
In that one walk, they had a lengthy conversation. Though on different campuses, both studied journalism– Linus in ABU, Zaria, Ajuma at the University of London. The compulsory one year service was a requirement and much more now, a meeting point for two young and sharp minds.
Two weeks later, when camp was nearly over, Ajuma realized something had happened to her. She couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to see Linus again. Everything about their separation pained her to her bones. The same was the case with Linus. They sat under the moonlight in the last couple of days, talking, playing, and laughing without a care in the world. One of those nights, as the darkness slowly drew closer, Linus pulled her nearer him.
“I have something for you.”
Ajuma’s eyes brightened. “Me too.”
They giggled and laughed.
“You go first… you…” they said together as though planned, laughing harder this time.
When Linus caught his breath, he turned to her.
“After men.” She squared her shoulders and he knew there was no getting away.
“Alright.” He said, defeated and spent the next couple of minutes making the minutes count with words and most importantly a treasure he gave to her.
Soon the tables turned and it was Ajuma’sturn. She smiled broadly as she pulled her phone out of the side pockets of the tight jean trouser she’s putting on. Linus stared impatiently as she tapped on the large screen of the iPhone 11 Pro and in few seconds, music filled the air without effort.
“I know this is nothing compared to yours but, here’s me handing out my external heartbeat to you.”
She increased the volume some and brought it nearer their faces.
Linus knew there was something about the vibrationsfrom the song that felt so heavenly, as if it were liquid energy seeping right through his skin.
“Loving can hurt, loving can hurt sometimes
But it’s the only thing that I know
When it gets hard
You know it can get hard sometimes
It is the only that makes us feel alive...”
At this point, he couldn’t help but sing and Ajumajoined in.
“We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Hearts are never broken
Times forever frozen still,”
They closed their eyes now. It felt as if the music was teaching their brain how to flow, how to be peaceful. It’s as if the slowly changing tones touched different parts, a sort of loud message for their minds. It’s as though time stood frozen as they chanted the chorus;
“So you can keep me
Inside the pocket
Of your ripped jeans
Holdin’ me closer
‘Til our eyes meet
You won’t ever be alone
Wait for me to come home.”
Linus held tighter to Ajuma. He had neverheard Ed Sheeran’s Photograph sound so heavenly. He wanted to hold her that way till eternity. Theirs was a story of what falling in love was like. It was a story he never wanted to end. For so long they’d both longed for this, and now they know, they can’t bear to lose it, lose this thing that made them feel so complete. A story they never wanted to end.
That night, Linus knew he would do whatever it took to get the both of them posted to the same place of primary assignment and on a strand of luck, he succeeded. They were posted to a local radio station in the area. It was one of the memorable times in their relationship. They cohosted a program a lot of audience loved – Love lounge. By the end of their service year, the audience listening to the local radio station had gone up in three folds. The management were grateful for them and wished they could stay back but Ajuma needed to return home.
They planned and discussed Linus’ visit to Ajuma’s family house for several weeks. When it finally happened, he struggled with feeling intimidated before the lady’s father. Samson Itodo hadn’t reallybeen impressed by his daughter’s choice. His facial expression made it clear that he expected something better and he didn’t hesitate to sound a note of warning to Linus.
“Young man!” his baritone voice cut through the quiet air. “I have no choice but to accept you ‘cos you’re my baby girl’s choice.” He stared straight into Linus’ eyes and the latter felt uncomfortable in his seat. “I lost her mother five years ago and as you can see, I’m still struggling to live without her.”
Linus wondered if nodding was appropriate. Ajumahad told him everything – the pure bond her father and mother shared, so much so that one would think they’d die the same time otherwise the other would not survive the pain.
“I’ll come for your head if anything, I mean anything, happens to my girl…” he yelled.
Ajuma hurried over to hug her father. “Nothing will happen to me, dad. Believe me. Linus loves me very much.”
The older man’s lips stuttered as he tried to stay calm.
All these just feels like yesterday now as Linus drove out of the garage of the old house. Fourmonths of running for his dear life and he couldn’t place what had exactly happened in his house that afternoon.
He killed Ajuma?
Linus killed Ajuma in cold blood?
He was certain no one knew him in this place at all. Ajuma’s father must have sent people after him even till now. Certainly, he deserved to die too.
Softly splashing water droplets hit the car window as he drove onwards. The skies were overhung with a blanket of grey. Driving on the rocky roads felt tedious, but the rain calmed him. He wished he could be outside so the rain can drown his thoughts, so he could pick another life other than this already battered one. Then like a box speaker was situated directly inside his brain, he heard the blaring sounds from the radio whose transmission had been affected by the waves the earlier.
“We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves…”
He turned frightful eyes to the radio but quickly returned them in order to navigate the bad roads.
“Where our eyes are never closing
Hearts are never broken
Times forever still,”
“Stop!” he screamed at the top of his lungs, using his right hand to search for the power or volume knob. The rain was obstructing his view, and he needed to concentrate on the road, he also needed to put off that piece that was slowly killing his soul.
“So you can keep me
Inside the pocket
Of your ripped jeans…”
The hiss of the tires over the hard sharp stones on the road were lost under the pounding tone of this torturing music. Linus couldn’t take it any longer so he leant over to find the power knob so as to turn the radio off completely. In that instant, he lost the opportunity to evade a figure right there at the side of the road where the car had strayed. He slammed the brake hard but even that didn’t help. It was like falling off a clip just enough time to regret it but not enough time for anyone to help you. Accelerating, hand-braking, braking, nothing worked.
The car rolled over, lights swirled and the noise of the metal being bashed over the stones was almost deafening. The seatbelt tugged at his skin with every lurch. Everywhere looked hazy as he tasted the coppery blood pooling in his mouth, grazing his teeth and soaking his tongue. Buzzing noise filled his ears. He felt trapped for hours, fading and waking and fading and waking. His agony was the only thing keeping him alive. It was the only thing he could feel as his eyes force shut.
To be continued.
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