LOVE In A Photograph – Grace Ochigbo
Ezinne killed the engine of her car as soon as she parked it beside the two other cars in the parking lot. Pulling the box of cake nearer, she picked it and stepped out of the car. Their prayers had been answered and it called for celebration, Ajuma’s text message said it all.
“Zeezy, answers to prayer points one and two deliveredat the same time, isn’t God faithful?”
Ezinne had called Ajuma back immediately and the latter was in tears… tears of joy. She narrated how the long awaited promotion finally arrived and the tests results that were sent to her.
“It’s positive, Zeezy!” Ezinne can still hear Ajuma’sresounding voice as she approached the duplex her friend shared with her husband.
She had met Ajuma in a somewhat unusual manner. Ezinne’s aged grandmother had died and the family thought the obituary should be aired in a reputable national television. It was in the process of making the arrangements with Channels’ TV that she met Ajuma. The lady was so nice to her, so much so that she came all the way to Akwa from Abuja for the laying in state. Not long, they later realized they were both dedicated members of the full gospel business men’s fellowship though at different locations. One thing led to another until, in no time, they became soul sisters much more than friends.
Ajuma had been pretty reserved in the beginning of their friendship and Ezinne never pushed her. She knew Ajuma carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. She also knew it might take a whileto say it all but would definitely recognize what noble friends they had become to each other one day.
“He thinks I am the problem.” Ajuma broke lose one evening at her house to Ezinne’s utter amazement.
“What problem?” Ezinne asked, concerned.
Ajuma had taken in a deep breath, cupping her chin in between her palms and staring into the thin air. It was so hard to talk about her family. Ezinne understood that and for the umpteenth time, she hadn’t pushed.
“It’s okay if you don’t want to share yet, A-jay!”
“Linus wants children. He’s always been about having children right from our dating days. And now, fiveyears in and yet no child, he thinks I have a problem.”
“But anyone could be the cause of infertility in marriage.”
“He doesn’t understand that. Sometimes, he accuses me of haven lived a terrible life in the past.”
Ezinne found that rather disgusting but she told herself that the problem wasn’t shared for her to compound it.
“Do you believe in Prayers?” she asked, staring straight into Ajuma’s face.
They’d become prayer partners ever since. There was barely anything that happened to Ajuma that Ezinne didn’t know, didn’t pray over. As the months went by, the delay in conceiving a child threatened the peace of their home and it grew worse by the day. A time came when Linus’ occasional late nights fast became a habit. He spent three nights straight outside his home sometimes. He returned home drunk most nights and beats his wife up a lot.
Ezinne had been the only source of encouragement to Ajuma. That was why she left her office immediately after confirming the text message from her friend. She dashed to a famous bake shop, picked Ajuma’s all-time favourite cake and headed for 3rd Avenue in a hurry. The roads were very free so there was no stress getting here in record time.
Ezinne grabbed the box of cake tightly as it almost fell off her hand. She was with her thoughts and didn’t see Linus until he bumped into her. Or, more appropriately,they bumped into each other.
“Good day, Linus.” Her face contorted into a smile as her eyes took in the entire frame of the man standing in front of her. Black sweat shirts on black jeans and boots. A black face cap covering most part of his facealmost making him unrecognizable and black sunglasses covered his eyes.
“Hi Zeezy!” Linus voice was shaky. Fear travelled in his veins but never made it to his facial muscles or skin. His complexion remained dark and thick. He let out an understated sigh and turned to leave when Ezinne’s voice stopped him in his tracks.
“Ehm… A-jay invited me for the family dinner in celebration of her promotion and…” she paused as her eyes met blood stain on his wrist.
“Oh yes. Oh yes.” Linus’ eyes darted from side to side before turning and walking hastily towards the parking lot.
There was a family dinner?
And a promotion?
Ajuma had mentioned having some good news to share with him before the unfortunate saga over debit alerts covered it up. Like a feather tossed in the wind, hejumped behind the wheels and zoomed off almost immediately.
Ezinne focused on Linus all the way to his car and now that he’s speeding off the estate, her curiosity built like a cat fixated upon its prey. She turned to look at the big house and how unusual she felt about what’d just happened. She knew something wasn’t right as she pressed the doorbell for the first time and no response. She paused and wiped some perspiration off her forehead. Pressing the doorbell again, once, twice, she found a clean spot to drop the box of cake in her hand before pulling out her phone.
Her mind kept replaying the scene on the runway.
Why did he have blood stains and was in so much haste?
She dialed Ajuma’s number and heard it ring out loud from just behind the entrance door. With all the strength left in her, she pushed the door open.
Her brain stuttered for a moment and her eyes took in more light than she expected. Every part of her went on pause while her thought was catching up. After a wash of cold, she stepped from the doorway, feeling every hair on her skin rise as fear gripped her.
There, right there, in the pool of her own blood lay Ajuma’s lifeless body.
Samson Itodo felt the need to move almost without end; if his limbs were moving the anxiety was gone, or at least he could submerge it for a while. The anxiety is like being hooked up to a wired fence – not enough voltage to kill but sufficient to keep things uncomfortable.
The police had called him forty-five minutes ago.
“Reporter Ajuma Itodo’s father?”
“Yes?” he responded impatiently.
“I am afraid, I don’t have good news. We are at your daughter’s residence and would love you to join us at the hospital immediately.”
Ajuma was just being wheeled into the emergency when he arrived. All efforts to get through to her failed. It was while he vented his anger that he saw a familiar face. Ajuma had brought her by the house sometime.
“What happened to your friend?” he confronted as soon as he got close to Ezinne.
Ezinne had sorrowful tears in her eyes as she narrated from the point she got to the house, particularly emphasizing Linus’ weird behavior.
“I called the police immediately I got in the house and met her body lying in cold blood, sir.”
Samson was sore afraid. He forced his legs to stay put on one of the metal seats in the waiting room. He needed to be a man at this point, he said to himself, glancing at Ezinne who was in so much anguish.
“I had always warned my daughter against that riffraff. Not so?” he asked no one in particular. “She never listens to me. Never! Now he’s killed her and taken off.”
They say love and sorrow were the twins. Love comes first, then the sorrow.
The door to the waiting room creaked lightly.
“Yes!” Samson got up with the alacrity of a soldier and approached the doctor closely followed by Ezinne.
A doctor was finally here to address them. The man had a face like some guy you’d ask for directions in the street, it was that non-threatening, Ezinne supposed.
“May we talk in my office, please?”
He moved back, walking on the adjoining hallway. His movement was unhurried and deliberate. Samson willed himself to meet up with the pace of the doctor as he turned into the fifth room on the left hand side.
“I need you to sign some documents…” a reassuring look sat on his eyes. He told them how critical the situation was and that the team of surgeons were already in doing their best.
“The situation was further complicated by the pregnancy.”
“Pregnancy?” Samson jerked up, motioning questioning eyes to Ezinne who nodded in the affirmative. She had missed that during her narration.
“Your daughter is 10weeks pregnant, sir. Just in case the pregnancy poses more threats, the surgeon may be left with no other choice than to terminate it to save the life of the mother.”
A lone tear rolled down Samson Itodo’s cheek as he rested his back against the seat. His daughter would give anything to keep that pregnancy. It’s been what she’d waited and prayed earnestly for over the years. Now, it’s the pregnancy against her life. Slowly, his mind wandered away until he couldn’t hear whatever the doctor was saying anymore. Linus had better disappear forever because dying would be morehonourable for the lad than living when he gets a hold on him.
To be continued.
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