Temptation: the Story, Part 4

This is the fourth installment of this story . . .

Here’s a link to the first part Temptation: the Story →

And here’s one to the second part Temptation: the Story, Part Two →

And for the third part Temptation: the Story, Part Three →

PART FOUR BEGINS HERE . . .

What she said to me rang continuously in my head for the next few seconds. I have a fiancé. I could not understand it. It couldn’t be true. It was impossible. I glanced at my watch, it was just past seven pm. The serene, pleasant environment in the restaurant contrasted acutely with the discord that tore at the strings of my heart. I returned my gaze to her very beautiful eyes. Jessica looked even more stunning today. An awkward silence had blanketed us and she just stared at me . . . her eyes searching mine for a reply, any reply at all. The silence wasn’t uncomfortable, though. . . Nothing about Jessica was uncomfortable. The eventful circumstances on the night of the day that I met her meant the bond we shared was as good as eternal. Since that night, she had been awarded a very special spot in my heart. No one, no action, nothing at all could cause her to lose that spot. Even this bomb of a revelation. As I carefully pondered the next words to say, my mind cast back to that night . . . the fateful night when Nneka’s life hung in the balance . . .

That night, I had finally begun to shiver when we pulled into the driveway at Helix Medical Centre. Before I could make a move, the tall, fair driver was already carrying Nneka out and hurrying her motionless body towards the emergency section, closely followed by a concerned-looking Jessica. I felt light-headed as I clambered out of the car to follow them into the hospital. I had narrated the bizarre tale to the two relative strangers who had come to my rescue as the driver sped towards the hospital. I glanced at Nneka and she looked peaceful . .  a far cry from the emotions that were running through my mind as I, as best as I could in my condition, explained the events of the night. When I was done with my story, Jessica told me she was almost asleep when she heard Chizzie pick my call earlier . Apparently, she and the driver, who I discovered was her brother, had just come into town for a bit to see some of their friends and they were spending the night at Chizzie’s rather than at a hotel because Chizzie vehemently refused to allow them sleep anywhere else. Classic Chizzie , I thought, as the small salon car sped through the endless network of roads in GRA.

‘Immediately Chizzie told me about your situation, I woke my brother who was sleeping in the living room and with a basic description from Chizzie, we were able to find you’ Jessica had said.

I was grateful, but the prevailing emotion was surprise.  I was surprised that someone was willing to brave the night in a land that was relatively new to him or her to help an individual he or she barely knew. Jessica was truly a wonderful person. After a while, the doctor came out to inform us that Nneka wasn’t dead, but that she had some medical condition. He mentioned some things about a genetic collagen deficiency which led to temporary muscle paralysis probably triggered by a stressful situation. He went on to say some other things I couldn’t process or remember. All I recalled with clarity was the overwhelming sense of relief that flooded me the moment I heard him say ‘She’s not dead’. The doctor advised we left her there for a while so he could study the peculiarity of her case and suggest the best way forward. Soon after, myself, Jessica and her brother left. Before they dropped me off at my house, we first took a detour to Nneka’s place where we secured her property and my car.

The next morning, before heading to work, I got an auto-mechanic and took him to Nneka’s place to look at my car. It turned out that it was a minor problem with the battery terminals which he fixed very easily. I opened Nneka’s room, cleaned the pool of blood on the blue-tiled floor and pocketed the sheet of paper where Jessica had written down her number the day before. I took a few clothes and other basic necessities from her packed bags, then locked up and left for Helix Medical Centre. I was very happy to see Nneka awake though still less vivacious than normal. Her skin was a bit pale especially her face which appeared almost ghostly white. Against my better judgment to let her rest, and as a result of her insistence, I told her everything that went down the day before. She was very surprised that ‘this Jessica'(as she put it) was so willing to help and looked at me funnily when I said Jessica was a lovely person. She wanted to say some more but I urged her to rest and regain her strength. Soon after, her drugs kicked in and she fell asleep. I left her sleeping and went to work.

My mind returned to the present. Jessica had a fiancé. How? Why? How come she hadn’t mentioned it?  We had grown really close in the last two months so it must have been a really difficult task to keep such big news under wraps. Over those months, I called her at least once every two days. On occasion, I would call as much as thrice a day. She was so easy to discuss with, her voice so soft and soothing.  We would talk for hours at times; laughing, sharing funny stories and just allowing our imaginations run wild as we laughed and discussed the unpredictability of the future. While I did the majority of the calling, she always texted me. She would send all types of texts from the short ‘Hey, Wats up?’s to the long poetic messages about how she valued our friendship. I had grown to really care about her without actually seeing her in the course of those months. Now I was with her, it was unbelievable how palpable the chemistry between us was. She had just come into town the day before and I insisted we hung out the next day. She obliged and I brought her to my favorite restaurant- Sky High. I didn’t spend too long on chit chat. Immediately we had ordered a meal, I poured out my heart to her, telling her how I never felt the way I felt about her with anyone else, telling her how badly I wanted her to be mine, telling her how often I thought about her and how I couldn’t keep those thoughts to myself anymore. She looked at me and the expression on her face was one I had never seen before. A sullen, solemn look had settled in where excitement and exuberance once shone proudly as she said;

‘I have a fiancé’

I was shocked. My brain refused to process the message my ears were passing across. I opened my mouth to say something . . . anything . . . but I couldn’t form the words. After what felt like forever, I eventually asked;

‘Where is he now?’

She looked down at the table and replied;

‘Offshore’

And after a short pause added ‘He works on a rig offshore’.

‘Okay’ I said.

It was all I could say. The rest of the night went on uneventfully. I dropped her off at Chizzie’s house later on and went home. I undressed, showered, got into my pajamas and lay on my  bed with the lights off, air condition at 16 degrees, everywhere very quiet. I replayed Jessica’s words in my head again and again. I have a fiancé. I could not understand why she hadn’t told me about it earlier, why she didn’t see such a crucial detail as important, why she would lead me on, knowing fully well how close we were growing to one another. As I lay there lost in thought, a shrill sound pierced my fortress of solitude and self reflection. I opened my eyes to see my phone ringing. The caller ID read ‘Jessica’. I let it ring till it disconnected. It rang a few more times but I ignored each. Then after about ten minutes, I heard a different tone, a shorter one, it was a message. As I reached to see the contents of the message, the phone began to ring again. This time, it was a call from Nneka. She told me she had something to tell me which was very important and that she was coming over to see me. I couldn’t say no to Nneka, she was one of a few true friends I still had.

Over the last two months, I had spent a significant amount of time with Nneka. I had informed her office of her health issues, visited her at the hospital everyday till she was discharged and paid her regular visits since she was discharged to find out how she was doing. The doctor had recommended drugs and a strict fat-free diet to help her get back to full fitness – two things she really hated. Owing to this, I felt compelled to visit her regularly to encourage her to stick to the doctor’s orders and to cheer her up. However, I couldn’t fathom why she would be coming to visit me this night. It was strange. She sounded pretty terse on the phone and I was really concerned. I glanced at the big circular clock in my bedroom, it had just crossed 8:30pm. I looked at  my phone and saw that the message was from Jessica. I opened it and saw a very long message. It read;

‘Hey, dear. How are you? I’m really sorry for not telling you about my fiancé. We’ve been engaged for about three months but I don’t love him. I only accepted his proposal because we’ve been dating since I was in high school. The truth is I was really scared of pushing you away and that’s why I never mentioned him. You’ve made me so happy these last two months and made me feel things I haven’t felt about anyone. Please dear, I’m in a very tight situation, give me a little time to work this out. I love you’.

What the hell? I read the message again and still couldn’t believe what I read. ‘Give me a little time to work this out, I love you’ she had written. What did this mean? The last part of the message stirred something in me. I read that part again and couldn’t help smiling sheepishly. Jessica loves me . .Then, I heard a soft knock on my front door. I glanced out the window to confirm it was Nneka and it was. She seemed deep in thought. I gently unlocked and opened the door and welcomed her in. I wasn’t at all ready for what happened next.

As I closed the door and turned to face my visitor, I saw Nneka standing directly in front of me. Before I could say anything, she leaned up and kissed me full on the lips. I pulled away, surprised. Nneka who was like a sister to me had just kissed me in a completely un-sisterly way. I looked into her eyes and saw a fire I had never seen there before. She looked me dead in the eyes and with the confidence I always admired her for, said;

‘I’ve wanted to do that for so long . . . ‘

She paused for a moment, looked around the room, then looked back at me. Her next words would change my life forever. She said;

‘I’ve also wanted to say this for a while . . . I love you’

TO BE CONTINUED . . .

By Gareth Glover . . . a pseudonym

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Temptation : the Story, Part 3

This is the third installment of this story . . .

Here’s a link to the first part – Temptation: the Story →

And here’s one to the second part – Temptation: the Story, Part Two →

PART THREE BEGINS HERE. . .

Terror gripped me as goose pimples appeared all over my body and my heart rate accelerated exponentially. There on the floor was Nneka, normally vivacious but now just lying there, still as the sea with blood dripping down the side of her mouth.

Nneka!!!!!! I screamed again.

Still no reply, no twitch, no signal of recognition, whatsoever. I rushed to her unmoving body. Years of seeing movies dictated that the first thing to do in these situations was to check for a pulse. I immediately grabbed her right arm and tried to see if I’d spot the pulse.  I couldn’t feel anything probably because I didn’t exactly know what to look out for and had no prior experience looking for one. My fear increased even further as I thought of what to do next. It then occurred to me that I should have paid more attention during those first aid classes we were given when we were much younger. . .  ‘I would definitely have to go for one of such after this encounter’ I thought to myself. Once more, based on a solid background in watching movies, I decided that mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was probably the best line of action but the blood was beginning to form a small pool on the floor beside her so I was a tad disheartened to try it. My brain was blank, I couldn’t think straight as I stood up to consider the next best line of action.

‘What on earth could have happened between me leaving the room and now that could have caused her to black out completely?’ I asked myself, as it occurred to me that pouring some water on her face might do the trick. I rushed into her bathroom to get the water I needed. I sped in, slipped on the wet floor, felt my head strike something dense, saw blackness gradually cover my eyes and passed out . . .

After what seemed like forever, I opened my eyes to utter darkness as I immediately discovered that I was lying on cold, wet tiles. ‘Where on earth was I’?. Then, everything flooded back.

‘Oh my God!’ I muttered to myself as I struggled to get back to my feet.

The back of my head was throbbing painfully. I reached behind to feel if there was an open wound there. There was none, just excruciating pain. I looked at my watch in the darkness, the two glowing watch hands indicated the time was 10:12 pm. ‘Thank God’ I thought to myself, hoping it was still the same day. It was apparent that there had been a power outage sometime during my black-out as the formerly well-lighted bathroom was now as dark as a dungeon. I brought out my phone and switched on its torchlight as I groggily stumbled into the bedroom. Nneka was still on the floor but wasn’t bleeding anymore. The pool of blood beside her wasn’t much bigger than I remembered so I assumed she had not bled to death. I grabbed her petite body and lifted her onto my shoulders. I carried her to my car, opened the back door and laid her carefully on the seat. I ran to the gate, opened it then ran back to my car. I got into the driver’s side, stuck the key in and turned. The car sputtered a for bit then went off. I tried again and got the same reply. ‘What the hell is going on today?!!’ I cursed angrily.

I turned and turned the ignition but like a mule, the car stubbornly refused to start. By now, it was almost 10:30pm and everywhere was quiet. ‘Nneka isn’t going to die like this’ I said to myself while my ever logical side wondered if there was a better way to die. I ran to the next house and banged incessantly on the door while shouting ‘Help, it’s an emergency’. There was no reply. It was then I realized the room was locked from the outside and recalled Nneka mentioning her neighbour travelling during her call earlier in the day. It was G.R.A, so I was almost sure there were no taxis still moving around at that time yet I ran out to see if I could find any. The closest main road was a ten minute run from there and my head was still pounding. I was definite that I would faint if I even considered running that distance in my condition. After five fruitless minutes of waving at every passing car(which subsequently accelerated on seeing a supposedly mad man aggressively waving at them) while shouting for help, I brought out my phone and started scrolling furiously through the contacts. I tried the emergency numbers I was given at an office security briefing but they were all ‘unavailable at the moment’. I tried to remember friends who lived around that area who could come to my help as fast as possible. Mexy’s name popped in first. Right from our school days, I knew him to be a light sleeper so I was positive he’d wake up easily even if he had slept. I called him immediately and true to form, he picked on the first ring sounding as alive as ever.

‘What’s up?’ He asked.

‘I need your help, man. Abeg, drive down to 23 Eligbam Close for G.R.A now, It’s an emergency, I need to take someone to the hospital’ I hurriedly said.

‘Sorry, man but I’m out of town. Work wahala o. Call Ayo na, he should be able to help’.

I hung up and dialed Ayo’s number but unfortunately, it was switched off. I continued to scroll through the numbers on my phone as I soldiered through the pain back to Nneka’s apartment. Then, it hit me. Chizzie lived very close to this place as well. I never really enjoyed her company but I was in no position to choose. I called her and she picked on the third ring. From her voice, it was apparent that she had been sleeping for a while.

‘Hey, what’s up? why are you calling so late?’ She asked calmly.

‘I’m sorry to disturb but I desperately need your help. A friend of mine needs to get to a hospital now and my car is messing up badly. Please, could you drive down to 23 Eligbam Close as soon as possible to come pick us up. Please, I really need you to’. I pled with her.

‘I’m really sleepy o, plus I took cough medicine earlier this night so I don’t think I can drive in this condition’ She said before adding;

‘But I’ll call someone to come there as -‘ the other end of the line went dead off all of a sudden.

I looked at my phone and the screen was dark. I pressed a few buttons but nothing happened. The battery was dead.

‘SH*T!!!!!!!!’ I cursed angrily.’ What the f*ck did I do to get myself into all this?’ I pondered, as I stepped into the still open gate. I got to the car and Nneka’s lifeless body was in the same state I left it – it was still as still as death. I looked at my watch, it read 10:53pm. The pain coming from the back of my head was becoming more intense so I rested on the side of the car. Numerous memories of Nneka flooded my head – from the day we met to the day we drove seven hours to Osun for a mutual friend’s wedding. Nneka was certainly one of the few true friends I had. She was caring, intelligent and, as I told her so many times, ‘she understood me’. For so long, I thought about asking her out. The timing was never right and as we grew closer, such feelings gradually morphed into something else and I began to see her like a sister. Nevertheless, now ‘my sister’ lay in my car and for all I knew, she could already be dead. The word ‘dead’ lingered in my head. The closest person I had lost before now was my grandmother and I was still a kid then. My mum had told me my granny had gone to heaven and in my childish innocence, I actually thought she’d come back one day. Losing Nneka would tear a big hole in my heart. I was too sure of that.

As I rested my groggy head, I waited in more hope than anticipation that whoever Chizzie was sending would come while I was still conscious. Then I heard something, I raised my head to look at the source of the sound and I saw car headlights. I prayed the car would turn in and it did. As it turned in, the lights blinded me temporarily. As my eyes slowly adjusted to the light, I realized it was a small salon car. The car ground to a halt beside me and the driver’s and passenger’s doors popped open almost at the same time. Two figures emerged and ran over quickly to where I was. The pain and light had clouded my already overloaded senses and meant I couldn’t be certain who the two people were. However, from the little I could make out, it was clear the driver was male and the passenger female. I motioned the driver towards Nneka and he immediately started attempting to carry her out. The female figure ran straight to me and asked;

‘Are you okay?’

I recognized the voice instantly. It was unmistakable. It was the most soothing voice I had ever heard. It was the voice of Jessica.

TO BE CONTINUED . . .

By Gareth Glover . . .  A pseudonym

Narrow Escape : An NYSC Experience

The first night I spent in the prison where the Federal Government banished me, it immediately dawned on me  that it was going to be a very lonely year. The prison was a picturesque little village in the backwaters of Osun State with fluctuating mobile network and thick forests that stretched as far as the eye could see. I hadn’t committed any crime, I was just  one of the millions of Nigerian  youths sentenced by the  government to spend a year in the wilderness for committing the grievous offense of graduating from the university.

The remoteness of the location, the horrible network and the dilapidated condition of the school where I was supposed to teach weighed heavily on my mind but these factors weren’t what convinced me that it’d be a lonely year, it was something much different. Earlier in the evening, I’d taken a stroll through the town and while I stayed at the side of the road  to avoid the livestock that walked like the road belonged to them and picked my steps carefully to avoid the pile of faeces that decorated the road, I  took the opportunity to get a sneak preview of the calibre of human resources the village had to offer . . . (Okay, I was checking out the chicks) and I  was very disappointed. A few friends who had completed their own prison sentences had gleefully informed me that babes in the more remote corners of Nigeria couldn’t take their eyes off the ‘Corpers‘ as we were affectionately called. All they needed was to see a man in khaki and you were free to plunder their treasure chests (pun intended). So, I had been understandably eager to view what the town had to offer with the intention of collecting my share of the spoils (don’t judge me) but what I saw made me shake my head in self-pity. Girls wearing wrappers with the classic ‘Simbi’ hairstyle were not what I had seen in my  fantasy. However, those were all I could see. To make matters worse, they spoke the sort of English that would send my sainted primary school English teacher screaming in horror. I decided there and then that I’d rather join a seminary than ‘touch’ any of these girls. Of course, we all know how easy it is to make these sweeping declarations.

Now that’s enough background. Time for the nitty-gritty

For every rule, there is an exception and the exception in this case came in the form of a female named Morounkeji. Keji was a gorgeous, articulate…….. okay, that’s a lie. She was just average and her English was a bullet-ridden mess but at least she made an effort to speak English and she’d spent some time living in Ibadan. In addition, she was a hair-dresser so wasn’t carrying that ‘Simbi’ hairstyle which I hate so much. What I’m trying to say is that, compared to other girls in the village, Keji was a queen. So, I struck up a friendship with her(totally platonic o! I swear!). It wasn’t long before she got comfortable with me and got into the habit of coming to my room to chill and watch movies on my laptop. I read nothing into it until one cold, rainy Friday night when things took a crazy turn.

Ghen  Ghen . . . . *dramatic theme music playing*

I was watching a movie on my laptop with Keji on that fateful Friday evening when heavy rain came out of nowhere. My roommate was hanging out  in my neighbour’s room  so Keji and I were alone in the room. Normally, whenever Keji comes over, I leave the door open because she’s a ‘good girl’ and we lived in a small gossip-infested village. I’d rather not have those villagers use my name to sweeten their gossip chewing gum. But due to the heavy rain that day, I had to close the door. Immediately I closed the door and returned to continue the movie, I got a huge surprise. In those few seconds it took me to close the door and come back to Keji’s side, she had transformed into a totally different person. She literally pounced on me. I’m not going to sit here and lie that I hadn’t thought about getting my hands on Keji (Of course, I’m not gay, folks);  but so far, I’d done nothing to encourage her and I planned to keep my hands to myself no matter how many times I was tempted to make a move (honestly… cross my heart).

But today, that resolution went down the toilet. Immediately she pounced on me, I gave a few half-hearted protests (you know na, I had to *winks*) but she just kept coming so I did what any normal red-blooded male would do. I took control. Before you could say ‘Aragbesola’, hands were moving feverishly, buttons were being popped and zips were being drawn. It suddenly slipped through my foggy mind that my roommate was in the next room and he could walk in at any moment. I mentioned my concerns to Keji and she waved them away with the words “Tony is a ‘soji’ guy na . . . he’s not disturb us” (yes, those were her exact words). Anyway, to my hormone-impaired mind, her words sounded like wisdom from the very lips of Socrates himself and I promptly forgot about my roommate and went back to the infinitely more interesting job at hand.

The groping resumed and the mood was building again but the benevolent one who watches over innocents and stupid youths was not asleep that day because just as ‘the sh*t was about to get real’, the doorknob turned and we both froze. My roommate had come back because he left his phone in the room. As I got up and opened the door, Tony took in the disheveled state of the bed, the half-naked girl under the sheets and put two and two together. He smiled at her, looked at me with a smile  and said in Igbo . . . “okwa e ma na nwa ahu di ime?” which loosely translates as “you know that this girl is pregnant, right?”

I was shell-shocked.

I gathered Keji’s clothes off the floor, handed them to her . . . And walked as far away from the room as my legs could carry me.

Epilogue

Apparently, Keji was pregnant but she wasn’t a hundred percent sure who the father was . . . she kept passing the responsibility between two guys in the area (good girl, abi?). I have no doubt that if I had ‘explored her frontiers’, I would have been a major player rather than a spectator in the drama that ensued when it finally became public knowledge that she was pregnant. I still don’t know how my roommate found out so early about her pregnancy, but I’ll be forever grateful to him for helping me dodge that bullet.

Needless to say, I stayed away from those village girls for the rest of the service year.

By Nonso ‘El Noni’ Udeh . . . Whew! That was close!

Follow him on Twitter @el_noni