This thing called LOVE – GRACE OCHIGBO
The principal raised his head as the door to his office flung open. He kept his eyes glued to the man walking in, until the latter took his seat.
“We are sorry for all that has befallen you, Mr Caleb Oguche. Know that this school empathizes with you and are always here for you whenever you need us.”
Caleb nodded his head in such a way that one would think he didn’t believe the words of the number one person as far as this school was concerned. He nodded anyways.
“I sent for you because there is something very important I need us to discuss.”
Alarm rang in Caleb’s head as a thousand and one thoughts crossed his head already from the principal’s announcement. He’d been very irregular in school for a while now. In fact, he hadn’t stepped a foot in here the whole of the previous week. He’s directly in charge of the final year, SS3 students preparing for school cert and it’s really a show of irresponsibility on his side leaving those students hanging at this delicate time of their academic career.
“The governor approved many of the project proposals we sent to him. It’s a great feat. Needless to say that this is the first time since inception of this noble school that five projects would be approved at once and money made available for immediate action.” The principal, a man in his midlife having lines that looked like permanent creases drawn on his face, sounded unusually excited and Caleb could connect to it.
“That’s really great, sir!”
Caleb felt something fishy. It’s all the handiwork of Angela and he could tell. She was too much of a go-getter to let him leave her quietly without a fight. She must have persuaded the commissioner and the governor to invest more of… virtually all the rehabilitation plans… in this school alone, only for one reason.
“You may be wondering why I called you here so early in the morning?”
Caleb shook his head upwards and downwards indicating a ‘yes’. The other man smiled roguishly.
“Well, the letter from the ministry of education demands that we give a correspondence, who would work closely with one of their directors at the ministry in executing this project.” He stretched a brown envelop towards Caleb who accepted it immediately.
As he pulled out the various documents in the envelop, not having the slightest idea where to start from, he decided to act like the African man he is.
“That’s a great idea, sir.” He paused and continued quickly “About the correspondence, I think I have two persons I can recommend for the job… they are hardworking and trustworthy.” Smartness. Perhaps he may avert the looming danger.
The principal smiled again and cleared his throat. “Well, like you, I have over twelve persons I was going to recommend to the ministry. You are number one of my list though,” Caleb’s face reflexively formed into a frown, but not obvious enough to be noticed by his boss. “…but considering all that’s happening around you at the moment and the fact that you have to be there for the final year students during this period of their school cert, I removed you from the list…” Caleb was about to heave a sigh of relief until… “but my hands are tied in this case.”
Caleb squeezed his front head in a fashion that connotes, ‘what’s tightening your hand, sir?’
The principal got the message on his expression and answered. “Check the envelop… in one of the letters…” Caleb pulled one out. “No.. check…” he stretched his neck closer. “Yes, that one. Check…”
Caleb could literally feel his heart throbbing out as he pulled the letter out completely. He was expecting just one thing and at the same time praying it’s not it. He had an idea the extent to which Angela would go.
‘Oh God, please!’ he literally spilled out of his mouth as he stretched open the letter.
“How are you, beautiful?” The doctor asked, all smiles.
He was accompanied by Victor, who walked behind like a dog with its tail in between his legs. The doctor picked something from the tray in the nurse’s hand. He split Unekwu’s mouth open and put that little instrument in it. Looking sternly at the reading, he returned the instrument to the tray and scribbled some letters in the file in his hand. Unekwu stared squarely, not blinking or shifting. The right side of her face drooped downwards compared to the left. She laid, still looking lifeless, only that her left eye was now completely and widely open, while the right was somewhere between trying to stay open or not.
“You will be fine, alright? Trust me. You will. Don’t worry your head about anything. Relax and rest. Your family and friends are here for you!” the doctor squeezed her left hand softly before walking out, accompanied by the nurse, leaving Victor behind in the room.
Mind you, I’m not talking. I’m actually thinking. That’s all I’ve been able to do since they claimed I had a fatal accident. I don’t know what happened to me. It feels like I went on a journey again, a place where my life in the past were clothes and I pulled it off, exchanging it for something new before returning to this part of the world. I mean, how else would I explain that I’m completely lost in all that’s happening to me? The man that just walked out had introduced himself to me earlier as my doctor, and he said I had been involved in a ghastly motor accident from which I’m just regaining consciousness.
I can’t remember it. The accident, yes! I can’t remember where I was driving to or driving from. All these questions are welling up in my mind, but I don’t just seem to be able to voice the words.
I can’t remember the accident he’s talking about and I wanted to tell him that too, but something seems to be tightening my throat, so much so that words are formed in my head but they don’t want to come out. For example, I wanted to respond to his greetings this morning. I thought I heard myself say the response in my head… in my mind, but I doubt if any word came out.
What is happening to me?
Well, I think I should begin by asking who am I. I don’t know. Can someone tell me, please? Yes. You! please tell me. I’m losing my mind. The right side of my body feels as though it’s not part of my whole body. I can’t do as much as shift or lift it, let alone move it in an attempt to stand or sit.
Is this me, or someone else?)
Victor drew nearer – all the while he felt her eyes on him from the door as he walked behind the doctor. Victor walked over and knelt in front of her bed. He picked up her left hand and she thought she felt a sharp pain course from it into her brain. She wanted to yell, to scream out in pain and tell him to let go, but then, the words were only said in her ‘mind’. Victor placed a peck on the hand and bath it with the tiny tears dripping down his face.
(I don’t know why this person, whoever he is, is crying… doing it on my hand for that matter. I should be the one crying. I don’t know him, neither does he. Why then is he clinging onto my hand? Can someone tell him I’m in pain here? I wouldn’t have bothered if he is holding onto my right hand, right leg, anything on my right generally. That part of me feels disconnected from me, but the part he is holding onto gives me more pain than he would ever imagine.)
“I know this is a trying time for you, Unekwu. But I need you to be strong. Stay alive…” Victor swallowed against the lump in his throat. “…I am here for you. always and forever. I never got the opportunity to say exactly how I feel about you. I was afraid I’ll lose your friendship in a bid to seek something else… something deeper. You seemed very happy when you told me about Caleb.” He swallowed again. “Your happiness was all I wanted, is all I still want, and that’s why I supported you with all my heart. Please, come back to your normal strong self and I swear I won’t keep my real feelings locked up anymore. I love you, Unekwu! I love you not just for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you.”
(Tar! Now I feel like spanking this fellow’s head.
Oh my God!
What feeling is he talking about? I don’t know him. I don’t also think we’ve met before. What sort of love or feeling can emerge between two strangers? Someone should please come and save me from the hands of this scam. Scam? Yes, this is scam and I need an urgent saviour because right now, I’m useless to my own self. Is he actually thinking I can’t hear him or what? I can. I can even make out meanings from his statements, probably because he is saying them slowly. I can pick one or two. His words are beginning to choke me anyway.)
Like an answered prayer, the door pushed open and Pastor Festus and his wife walked in. Victor jerked off Unekwu’s hands immediately, quickly cleaned the tears and made to greet.
“Victor, my boy. Oh! How blessed is my family and Unekwu to have a friend and brother like you!” Pastor Festus commended.
Victor faked a smile. The part of ‘brother’ came across as the popular deadly ‘brother zone’ and Unekwu’s father wasn’t about to keep him there, was he?
What was he even saying?
He’s been kept there already… a long time ago.
He should worry about getting off that zone much more now.
“Did you meet, Caleb?”
Victor quickly shook his head from left to right. “No, daddy. The nurse said he left few minutes before I came.”
“He must have gone to freshen up and perhaps report at the office. Poor boy! It’s not an easy time for him too. It’s his fiancée we are talking about here.” Pastor Festus sounded extremely pathetic with his tone.
Ajifa scowled. Her husband’s newly found attachment to that heartbreaker of a Caleb beats her imagination. There’s no need to fight anyone anyway. Unekwu would be the chief judge on her recovery. All the decisions, as to whether she would return to Caleb or not, depends absolutely on her. Ajifa’s only fear was the fact that Unekwu might lose all her past memories, and that would mean her forgetting the pain, hurt and embarrassment that fiancé of hers had brought upon her. Like the doctor said, it’s possible for the memories to return with time and therapy, but in some cases however, the memories are lost forever.
Now, lost forever?
That possibility is hard to fathom.
Vera tried to ignore as she saw Mr Ken walk in through the entrance. The sight of the man alone infuriated her and for what she cared, cannot stand his presence for half an hour. She fixed the top button of her jacket and even considered pulling a napkin over her chest. No precaution was too much around a certified flirt, if you ask her.
“A minute in the board room please, Miss Williams.”
He slid past her table and headed for the boardroom.
Pride, Vera thought, would kill him one day.
So he cannot talk to me in my cubicle right?
So no one would hear the thrash he’s about to say from that his garbage of a mouth. Vera couldn’t count how many more hisses she had left before she would finally join Mr Ken.
“I’m sorry I took you off your table.” He smiled coyly at her and that infuriated the young lady even more. “You look even more beautiful when you frown.”
“You see, Mr Ken, if you have nothing important to talk about, I guess I should be on my way out of this boardroom. I have some pretty jammed work to attend to on my table.” She turned her back to move.
Mr Ken seemed to be observing something from her rare view for split seconds and finally cautioned himself to stop looking and stop her instead, few inches before she would grab the door knob.
“Patience, young lady!” He plastered a grin on his face as he approached her.
Vera felt her heart thump as Mr Ken approached her. Not for anything special but because she didn’t know what lighter thing she would hit him with if he dared anything stupid right here – anything that won’t kill him on the spot. The earlier some men realise that not every girl can be likened to the newly invented sex dolls in any way, the better for everyone.
“Are you scared? No need to be…” he drew his face even closer hers now, so much so that this time the distance between them was barely enough for air to move freely. “I was thinking these diamond eyes of yours would lit with fire when treated to a good dinner. Queen classics. Not anything you are used to, trust me.”
Vera maintained direct eye contact with him even as she reflexively tried to move backwards, away from his heavy breaths.
“Vera, you are beautiful. Even much more than your friend. I don’t know why it took me so long to see this.”
Vera landed a hot slap on his right cheeks. But for the soundproof walls of the boardroom, the slap was loud enough to be heard at the gate of the bank. Mr Ken quickly grabbed his cheeks, massaging the pain. He involuntarily raised his hands to strike back.
“Yes. Hit me…” Vera charged forward at him. “Hit me. Shameless man. I hope you realise that having a successful career and a high-charging, finest-boy-ranking, omo baba olowo certified bachelor life of flirting with anything in skirts won’t keep you company twenty years from now. You’d better plan to settle down with your God forsaken life. A word is enough for the wise!” she hit his chest, making him stagger backwards, before pulling the door open. She walked out, stamping her feet angrily against the marble floor and slammed the door loudly against his face.
Mr Ken felt like collapsing onto the floor in shame and pain.
Angela giggled excitedly in front of her laptop. She’s on a peach jacket, worn over an orange inner tank top having some tiny silver beads decorating it. Her hair was rolled into a pony tail, in a such a way that perfectly befits her heavy makeup.
“You look beautiful, baby and you sound so excited as well.”
She giggled even more. “Aunty Flora, I don’t know why I didn’t see all the powers I had and I was wasting my tears. I’m grateful for talking to you about it.”
Aunty Flora shrugged. It’s Facebook messenger video call, so Angela could see her as though they were having a face-to-face conversation.
“So what did you end up doing?” she demanded.
Angela winked her eyebrows severally before responding. “Well, I talked to the governor and commissioner to execute most of the proposed projects in the school Caleb teaches and they agreed.” She snapped her hands, clapping them in the process.
She paused on seeing the confusion in her aunt’s face.
“You don’t seem excited for me, aunty.” She feigned a babyish tone now.
“Because I don’t understand what to be excited for. Projects got approved in their school, so what?” she looked perplexed. “Did the state government need you to tell them before they will know that their educational system is in a dilapidated state? Now, let’s even forget about that one. How does government’s projects approval amount to having Caleb’s heart back?”
Angela felt the provocation in her voice. The woman easily gets infuriated whenever she’s given opportunity to talk about governing structures and their failed roles in the educational system in the entire federation of Nigeria. She feels the folks in those exalted positions are either too dumb to know their lawful duties and obligations, or they’re too surrounded by selfish people, among which, her niece was about to become one.
She smiled at that thought. Angela was only young and in love. She wasn’t selfish. She’s just fighting for what, in her own eyes, rightfully belongs to her. Still, being young and in love? Those two qualities are all Zuma rock need to become sandy soil.
“So my dear, tell me what the great plan is now that you have made the government grant his school approval.”
Her sarcasm made Angela laugh heartily.
“The school is supposed to provide a correspondence… in fact, the governor already wrote his desired correspondence, courtesy of yours truly.” She winked and her aunt spread out her full lips in a not-so-convincing smile. “The correspondence from the school would work directly with the correspondence from the governor’s end. These two fellows have a very short ultimatum to deliver all the approved projects.” Angela explained these like some teacher teaching kindergartens
“So they would have to work at any point in time, including all nights, so as to beat deadline?”
“Exactly, aunty.” Angela screamed out. “I’ve always known you to be this smart.”
“And the correspondence from the school is Caleb, while you are the one from the governor’s end?”
“Well said, aunty Flora. Right there, you have it.” Angela could literally feel herself flying in space, crushing over her own brain for planning out such a smart idea. She was still basking in the euphoria of her smartness until her aunt’s next question set her on a long trail of thoughts again.
“What if Caleb chooses to resign instead? Just to avoid the temptation of getting back with you as an aftermath of this project you both have to execute together?”
Her aunt has a point, a strong point at that.
If Caleb resigns, he’s under no obligation to work with her. She won’t have the moral backing to force him to work. That would raise unnecessary alarm. The governor may even get wind of the recent incidences about cancelled marriage and all… the accident. That’s not good. It won’t be good for her if Caleb resigns. Then the school would be left to decide on who should be their correspondence. She’s already pulled so much strings around the governor, it would become too suspicious if she takes the matter to him, perhaps asking him to insist on having Caleb work with her no matter what. It wouldn’t make any sense to anybody. It didn’t even make any sense to her as well.
“I never saw this possibility aunty!” her once cheerful face suddenly turned into a scowl.
She relaxed into her seat with her index finger in her mouth. The woman on the other side of the call wasn’t saying anything, as if she’s leaving her niece to fathom or pull through the possibilities herself.
Angela’s phone beeped and started to ring. She quickly reached for it, and it fell to the ground from the involuntary push on one of the books on her office table. She dashed to get the phone before it would ring out, but unfortunately, it did before she got hold of it. Returning back to her seat to face her laptop, the phone buzzed and started to ring again. She glanced at the screen first. She paused and glanced at it again, as if to be sure of what her eyes saw.
“Aunty… aunty…” she screamed excitedly now. “Well… I think my plans are working already…” she showed the screen of the phone towards the computer and her aunt smiled.
“Hello Mr Caleb Oguche…” Angela said into the receiver with the most formal voice she could ever use.
You don’t make peace with your past by trying to relive it.
To be continued.
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