This thing called LOVE – GRACE OCHIGBO
Ajifa handed the little tray of juice to her husband who helped set it down on the side stool. He closed his bible and stared at his wife who’s giggling heartily over whatever the person was saying on the other side of the phone. He knew it could only be one person but didn’t want to comment… he wasn’t even ready to talk to her. It was Ajifa that talked him into accepting that Unekwu be released to go stay with her aunty – his younger sister. They really never had this good rapport because of what, in his own words, he would describe as ‘Helen’s worldly lifestyle’. He had no choice at the moment though. Unekwu needed a new environment and the most preferable place to send her to was Ile-ife.
“Sunshine, your sister is not going to kill me.” Ajifa jeered, still giggling.
“No one can kill a child of God!”
Ajifa smirked. Sometimes, her husband’s boring attitude and how he cannot even relate with a harmless joke baffled her. Whatever, she thought.
“Well, she thinks I’m responsible for all the pain Unekwu is going through. She said we didn’t scrutinize the person our daughter wanted to marry so well.”
Pastor Festus let out a not-so-convincing smile, as though he would be charged for smiling a little broader. “What does Helen know about scrutiny, by the way?”
Ajifa frowned this time and just decided to stop talking.
Obviously her husband wasn’t in the right mood after all. She stretched her legs and relaxed better into the chair, picking her own cup of juice while at it. The coldness from the glass worked wonders in her system as soon as it dropped down her gut. She glanced with the side of her eyes to see her husband writing something profusely on his jotter. No one, not even her, can come near that jotter and she’s not bothered. He’s probably preparing a sermon for midweek service.
The phone rang. Once. Twice. They both jerked. It’s Pastor Festus’ and he picked it up immediately.
“Yes. Pastor Dr Festus Ikani on the line. May I know who I’m onto please?”
Ajifa worried for the proud voice with which her husband spoke, or was that some sort of formality as well? She was barely midway in her thoughts when he trembled beside her, scaring the living daylight out of her.
“What? Holy Jesus! What happened?”
At this point, Ajifa was staring at him as though he had maggot crawling off his ears. Her eyes were so glazed, it could have flavoured a dozen doughnut.
“I will be there.” He dropped the call and got on his feet.
Ajifa got up too and literally begged with her eyes that he said something at least.
Whatever it was, it’s better known than left to her imagination.
Caleb was running out of patience seeing the sluggish way the girl was walking up to him. He probably shouldn’t have come here after all. He should be able to mean his word when he said something – like, Abby, I’m not going to see you again. Here is he, waiting up at her call, barely a day after that seemingly strong resolve.
“You sounded urgent over the phone.” Caleb threw out bluntly while his face was directed to another side.
Abigail had no expression whatsoever on her face which made the matter even worse for Caleb in his head. He’s sort of developed this soft spot for the young lady in front of him over time that sometimes he’d catch himself acting stupid – he’s literally stupidly indecisive whenever he’s around her.
“Are you going to talk to me or you just called me here to ‘see my face’? Look Abby, all these pranks of yours are not going to work, not now, not anymore. I hope you understand that when I’m done, I’m done?”
Abigail nodded tiredly while placing her bag on the branch of the tree closest to her reach. She stared into thin air, like she’s searching for a letter in the atmosphere.
Caleb’s temper increased by the minute. “You see, I don’t have time for all these attitudes. Whenever you get yourself coordinated and arranged, please send a message, a mail… whatever.” He trudged away angrily
“Unekwu came by the Arts center today.”
That, like a remote, gradually reduced Caleb’s movement till he came to a total halt. He turned to face her slowly like a lover would his crush in a south Korean movie. Only that this situation was real life and here’s not a lover-crush timeout.
“And I’m sorry…” Abigail continued
Caleb hurried over to her and held onto her shoulders. His eyes were red, so red they could stain a black linen.
“You are sorry about what, Abby?” he shook her vigorously.
She swallowed. Pain stinging at her throat.
Caleb tossed her an impatient glance.
“You see, Caleb… I … I … didn’t…” she barely said this before tears clouded her voice.
“Where are you going at this time, Vera? Your father is almost here”
Mrs Williams hurried after her not-stopping daughter as the latter already pressed down the remote in her hand and the car was blinking.
“Mum, tell dad it’s rather very important and urgent. I have to go!” she switched on the car.
“Can you at least tell me what happened?”
“I’m not sure, mum! It’s Unekwu. I’ll find out and explain better when I get back.” Saying this, she stepped on the accelerator and zoomed out of the compound.
All these mess her only daughter’s life had become meddled in, she can only pray that nothing harms her in the end of it all.
Eneojo felt a bang to the left side of his temples, like someone deliberately threw a baseball across the room to hit him – his head being the sole target. He sat more upright on the padded chair, perhaps blood wasn’t flowing well enough, he thought. His IPhone tablet was on the table in front of him and at first, he suspected it was the internet connection that seized, but checking the site from which he was downloading documents, he knew that wasn’t the case. He felt the bang again, this time to the right side of his temples. Suddenly, he felt his eyes grow dim and his ears began to wheeze with nasty and uncoordinated sounds he couldn’t make any meaning out of.
What’s happening? He seemed to ask himself.
He’s probably tired, haven been working all morning, and it’s like his brain was telling him something. But no. That wasn’t the case. This wasn’t a sign of tiredness. He’d just had breakfast, and until two minutes ago, he had the energy of three horses put together. The mild headache wasn’t relenting and he closed the screen of his tablet before bringing his head to rest on the table.
He was barely done with that when it crossed his mind. Yes. He could remember. Several years ago, when Unekwu was still doing her first degree. He’d tried to call her or reach anyone close to her all through that night to no avail. It wasn’t until morning before he realised what had happened. His only sister – only sibling for that matter, had been attacked in their lodge by armed robbers, about the same time he had this same feeling, this strange all-of-a-sudden headache. Thankfully, she wasn’t hurt at all, except for her computer and phones that were ceased by the robbers. Pretty much what they came to rob the lodge for, no doubt.
Eneojo quickly rose up his head as though alarm sounded through it. He had premonitions of danger and cold fear gripped him immediately.
He glanced at the wall clock.
It must be around 6pm in Nigeria.
Something was definitely wrong. He had no proofs, but he could tell. When it came to his sister, his instincts never failed him. That’s the only time he gets dizzy on the go, right?
Unekwu must be in danger again, and he was also far away… again.
What to do? He thought as he got up and paced his not-so-large single room.
He would call his parents and ask them to make sure Unekwu doesn’t go anywhere again tonight. The danger would be better handled if in the house than anywhere else.
With this, he picked his phone.
Victor stared at his cell phone after making the calls he hoped should be the last. He didn’t know what to think or how to act. He had followed after Unekwu in a taxi as soon as she drove out of the parking lot of the arts centre. He wished he had found a way to stop her, calm her, take her off the steering. But no! He had ordered the taxi man to speed and if possible overtake the car that was meandering far in front of them as though whoever drove it was drunk or totally uncoordinated. His eyeballs had followed through, every turn, every deviation from the road. Every close attempt at hitting the side railings. He had noticed the okada man that was slashed to the other side of the road while Unekwu’s car zoomed past and his heart skipped several beats in rapid successions. It was as though his eyes drove the car in her stead. He didn’t even sit into the padded chairs in that taxi. He was so scared for whatever might be the outcome of this recklessness.
Alas! He saw it all… everything, but painfully couldn’t do anything.
A few minutes later, something quite expected had happened. The car just now was about a hundred meters in front of the taxi Victor was in when it suddenly started spinning round and round. It was like a scene from an action movie. He could see the car already hit one of the big Dangote trailers, loaded to the brim with cements. Unekwu had hit her head down the car steering and was bleeding heavily. Her car also had been damaged badly for hitting a trailer. There were broken pieces of glasses flying out of the car.
It was only early evening as the sun was starting slowly dipping down the dark line of horizon. As Victor drew closer, blood oozed out of a motionless and lifeless body. The stationary structure which seemed like a statue lay flat on the rough tarred road. There were no signs of life in her and her fragile heart appeared to have stopped functioning, yet her eyes were filled with pain, Victor thought. The strong stench of fresh blood seeped into one’s nose, signalling that an accident just happened. Thick, concentrated and chilli like fresh blood mixed with the pouring rainwater to form a pit of horrifying picture.
For several minutes, Victor appeared to have lost track of his position in space. The siren of the ambulance whizzed down the road as paramedics alighted. One put his perfectly calm and still hand beside the sharp and pointy nose of the young woman and he shook his head in dismay. Serious looking police officers were seen taking down notes as they questioned some on-lookers. Unekwu was placed on a stretcher as strong and paramedics with visible and bulging muscles lifted her up into the ambulance with ease.
The ambulance already started and was about moving when Victor got himself back and jumped into it.
Chenemi stood behind the small crowd that had formed around the accident scene. She watched as Victor jumped in the ambulance and caught herself unconsciously wishing she was the one involved in the accident. Anything that would draw his attention towards her. Curious onlookers crowded around the scene while some inquired from the people who got there earlier. Some placed their palms together and turned their lips at the sides, forming letter U. Others – Chenemi supposed were students – were busy taking photos and opening their social media apps almost immediately. Some, she was sure were doing live video of the situation on Instagram. She shook her head, first in utter disgust for some people’s inhumane reaction to situations and secondly for her roles in dragging the poor young lady to this situation.
If they ever had any chance whatsoever, with this, Victor was never going to look in her way again. The thought of that alone tore throw her chest and she swallowed painfully. Thinking back now, she realised she had gone overboard. She should never have done what she did to Unekwu at the arts centre. She should never.
It’s too late to cry when the head is cut off.
Pastor Festus and his wife came into the hospital compound timely enough to watch the lifeless body of their daughter wheeled in a stretcher and straight into the emergency room. Fresh blood spilled through the whole distance the stretcher had travelled and it decorated the tiled floor like a large red and white checker box. They hurried after the team of health professionals that surrounded the wheel.
Severally, Ajifa tried to reach out and touch her daughter but the paramedics would beat off her hand gently. Pastor Festus held her back while she’s threatening to run around, shouting, screaming and wailing. The clergy gentleman couldn’t even wipe at the lone tear dropping off his face. His right hand held tightly onto his wife. She could be extremely out of control when emotionally shattered, this he knew.
The door to the emergency room opened and the stretcher was wheeled into it. Ajifa was almost entering when the door slammed against her face. It was a miracle it didn’t hit her. Pastor Festus pulled her into his arms as she poured the basins of tears rolling down her cheeks on his T-shirt.
“They’ve killed my daughter o. Ha… sunshine… where do I start from? What have I done wrong? What? Ojo mi!” she’s yelling, jumping, thumping and holding onto the edges of her wrapper that might remove any moment from now.
“Calm down, Ajifa. She is in the surgery room.” as though he didn’t trust his own statement, he whispered a prayer underneath his breath.
Victor watched from the other side of the room. He couldn’t even do as much as draw closer the pastor and his wife. He prayed, for his sanity’s sake, that Unekwu survives this, else he might as well live with the tan and guilt all his life and even in death… his thoughts.
Vera rushed into the reception and towards Unekwu’s parents. She couldn’t have seen Victor because he was sited somewhere the door would normally cover from obvious view when opened.
“Daddy, mummy!” Vera called from her distance. “What happened to Unee? Heard it’s accident. What happened to her? Where is she?”
“Haa… my daughter o. God. God. God.” Ajifa continued to wail inconsolably as she grabbed onto Vera’s legs, digging all fingers in it. She was trying not to roll over on the floor. Trying really hard. The doctors were not even coming out, no one was saying anything. God! She exhaled heavily and her breaths seemed to shorten by her next statement.
“Victor!” Pastor Festus practically whispered the name of the young man in front of him. He’s left off holding his wife. She needed a partner to wail with, and he wasn’t particularly one. Good thing Vera was here.
“You see what I’m saying?”
Being used to this phrase from the older man, Victor only nodded his head in the affirmative even when he’s not ‘seeing’ what the man was ‘saying’.
Pastor Festus typed something away on his phone before placing it against his left ear. Victor felt a prompting and spilled his thoughts in words,
“Who are you calling, sir?”
Pastor Festus seemed to be debating the question as he scratched his chin absentmindedly. “That riffraff of a boy must pay for all the havoc he’s caused my family in the one week. He must!”
Victor shifted from one foot to another waiting to see if he would add something else. He didn’t.
Not good, he thought.
“The DPO’s number should stay reachable at times like this.” Pastor Festus barked in frustration, almost throwing the cell phone away.
Weirdly, the news about the number being unreachable felt relieving for Victor. It’s true Caleb had been the cause of the overall downturn for the Ikani’s but he… Chenemi just added her own fair share – just this evening. And that was why Unekwu ran into a speeding trailer, right?
The men quickly turned as the door to the emergency room opened, presenting a handsome looking doctor whose ward coat was stained with thick blood. Victor could imagine what’s left in Unekwu’s body with the so much blood she’s lost already.
The doctor’s approach shadowed over them. Ajifa was even more than ready to shake him for answers. She had waited an hour of silence and growing dread for anything on her only daughter. But when the man hesitated and the lines on his face deepens, they froze in their tracks. Yet, Pastor Festus heard himself ask, “Is she…” Then the words sunk down into his chest as the painful shake of his head.
The gross silence that followed choked his breath from his lungs. Ajifa pounded the hard wall beside them. Vera held tightly onto her, hands wrapping round her waist this time. She hissed a breath through clenched teeth. But strength left her, even as she attempted to stand. Her throat held back something between a sob and a shout. Since the doctor was finding it too difficult to express himself, she had to see her. She had to see her daughter. Vera tried to hold onto her but she wriggled herself from her firm grip. Through the blur of motion and colour, she made for the door to the emergency room.
Pastor Festus grabbed the doctor’s collar as he attempted to follow after his wife. He clenched his teeth tightly and at this point, Victor knew better than to draw any closer.
“What happened to my daughter?”
His thundering voice literally shook the foundations of the room they were in.
Sometimes we love,
Sometimes we lose,
Sometimes we lose to love.
To be continued next Wednesday.
This bonus is specially in honour of my sweet mum who turned 50 today. Please, you can join celebrate her by texting or calling 08067323032. Just say, you are Grace’s friend.