I avoided Boma for the rest of the week and focused squarely on my studies. Even though we had frequent chats on WhatsApp, I ensured that I didn’t take his calls or give him any reason to get intimate with me.
I also avoided going to the cafeteria to meet the others as usual. I literally isolated myself from everyone.
On a certain Friday after lectures and papers, I was preparing lunch in the kitchen when Mimi suddenly barged in from nowhere.
“Have you heard?” She asked excitedly.
“You haven’t heard?”
“Mimi, if you have anything to say, say it now. I’m not in the mood.”
“Like seriously, you haven’t heard?”
“Heard what nau? Stop pestering me abeg.”
“Today is Jovita’s birthday bash,” she said.
“Yeah. She even gave me invitation cards specially designed for us. Here’s yours,” she handed me the envelope. I scrutinized it and saw my name boldly written on it, along with Jovita’s signature.
“What does she need all this for?” I asked with my gaze still fixed on the card.
“There’s going to be security, very tight one. Just in case anything goes wrong,” she said.
I took down the pot and dished the meal accordingly. Mimi refused to eat, saying she’d take her lunch, dinner and if possible, her breakfast also at the bash. I didn’t argue with her. I just laughed.
Later in the day after I had taken a nap, I woke up to see Mimi all dressed up already. She was applying her make-up and alternatively wearing earrings. From her dress to her bag and her shoes, everything matched.
“All this for a birthday?” I asked as she jolted in shock. She turned around and held her chest.
“You scared me!”
“How long have you been awake?”
“Just now,” I answered and stood up. In less than an hour, I was done preparing. I had a simple gown that stretched slightly below my knees, and I tilted my hair backwards with a hair band and applied light make-up.
“You look like a village woman.” Mimi taunted me playfully.
“Thank you.” I said.
We left the house by seven and took a cab to the venue. It was an astounding hotel large enough to contain any event. I personally didn’t fancy hotels or the likes of it, but merely stepping into this one, I felt glued to its majestic features.
“Are you sure it’s the same Jovita we know that hosted this bash?” I asked Mimi. She smiled and nodded.
“You don’t believe she can?”
“Not that I don’t believe. Just that I didn’t know she was this influential,” I said.
We made our way to the hall and met most friends and colleagues along the way. Three hefty bouncers stood by the entrance for clearance. We showed them our invitation cards and went in.
Almost immediately, someone screamed from nowhere and hugged me from behind. It was Oluchi! Mimi and Jovita also shared pleasantries and hugged.
“I didn’t think you’d come,” Oluchi said.
“Me neither,” Jovita added.
“Happy birthday!” I and Mimi chorused together as we clutched her in a warm embrace. She literally had to wriggle out of our grasp before we could let her go.
Moments later, the party got heated up. The DJ mixed tracks from the old school Jackson 5 tunes and other classics firstly, before gradually switching into African jam. The crowd went haywire! Everyone lost control.
Alcohol was in surplus as well as other delicacies and snacks to grub on. Mimi, Oluchi and Jovita had diverted into the crowd and left me behind. I was all alone.
Being partly oblivious of my surrounding, I was keenly engrossed to a certain game that I hadn’t noticed someone tapped me twice. Not until the third touch did I notice someone actually stood in front of me.
“Hey pretty,” he said in a husky baritone voice that made me look up at him. What I expected wasn’t what I saw. He was short, dark and bald headed.
“You wouldn’t mind if I joined you, would you?”
In sympathy to his condition, I diligently agreed and he sat. He was the cocky type. He instantly ventured into silly, pointless and fatuous issues to tactfully subdue me to his advances, but I made it stale.
Frustration soon kicked in at a point that he had to give an excuse to ease himself and then left. I knew he wasn’t coming back, so I focused again on my game.
“Is this how lonely you usually are?” That familiar voice beckoned to me. I didn’t have to look up to know who he was. His perfume already made me figure it out.
I still had my focus glued to the game when he sat close to me, collected the phone and slid it into his pocket. I looked up to him with a frown.
“What was that for?”
“To gain your attention.”
“You have my attention now, can I have it back?”
“No,” he nodded. “Unless you heed to my option.”
“Dance with me.”
It sounded funny, but I seemingly had no choice than to heed to his demand. He stood up, positioned me steadily and held my hand as we scrammed slowly to the dance floor.
I felt timid and shy at first, but with time, I felt relaxed. Boma’s countenance gave me this soothing assurance that made me calm.
He held my waist and I held his shoulders as we moved slowly to the soft blues. Our eyes were tangled and fixed. Our bodies moved to the rhythm.
All of a sudden, someone ran up to us and dragged Boma violently. He spun him around and jabbed him down with a kick. Quickly, two other guys joined in from nowhere and ganged him up.
They threw blows, hits and kicks on every part of his body. They kept hitting him mercilessly as I stood there and watched in horror.
Boma’s grunts were audible as he received the impact of each hit. He whimped and groaned out, trying his best to subdue them and keep to his stand but failed at every attempt. He was overpowered.
They kept hitting, kicking and beating him until, suddenly, out of nowhere, a bottle of beer landed on one of them’s head. He staggered down immediately and fell flat. The other two tried turning back, but unluckily for them, two other bottles swung on their heads each. They both fell down flat!
Simon, Kingsley and three other guys showed up. The music had stopped playing now and everyone’s attention focused on the scene. Some even ran out of the hall in fright of danger.
Kingsley helped Boma to his feet while the other three guys aided Simon to raise up the rogues and hold them down to prevent them from running. Boma’s face was dripping blood as well as he had other scratch and bruises on him. He looked weak.
“Take them out,” Simon ordered as the other three guys along with Kingsley manhandled them roughly to the door. I could spot Oluchi, Mimi and Jovita at a far end of the hall, watching intensely.
“What were you thinking?” Simon asked in a harsh voice, directing the question to Boma. He said nothing.
“Weren’t you warned not to come here?” He asked again. Yet, Boma remained motionless. After Simon looked around and saw that all eyes were on them, he hissed and walked over to the DJ stand, whispered something to him and right then, the music played again.
He then walked back and whispered into Boma’s ears and left without a word. All the while, I stood there watching with shock by all that just happened. It was an unexpected dilemma.
Boma’s stare caught mine as he turned to face me. His nose was bleeding badly as well as his cheek swelled. He slowly made his way towards where I stood, dipped his hand into his pocket, pulled out my phone and handed it to me. I noticed that a part of the screen was cracked.
Just then, Oluchi, Mimi and Jovita scrammed towards where we stood with fear and anxiety obvious from their faces.
“Is he okay?” Oluchi asked, referring to nobody in particular.
“I don’t think he is,” Mimi interrupted. “He’s bleeding!”
“Are you alright?” Jovita cut in, referring to Boma directly. Their eyes were all focused on him.
“I’m fine,” he said softly. His voice was mild; it sounded shaky… and weak, too.
To avoid further questioning, he turned back and began heading towards the exit door. We called him repeatedly but he didn’t answer. He kept walking till he got to the door and stepped out.
Seeing that we had no choice left, we ran after him. Luckily for us, he was just about leaving the main hotel gate when we caught up with him.
“Boma!” I called out to him. He stopped and turned back upon having heard my voice. I then walked over to him, held his hand and walked him back to where the girls stood.
“Can you spare us a moment?”
They understood and obliged instantly. Without hesitating, they returned to the hall and left us alone. I spotted two chairs at a vacant spot and led Boma there. We sat down and I asked him to take off his shirt, which he did.
A bucket and a tap were nearby, so I filled it up to an extent and dipped my scarf into it. I then tugged it slightly, folded it and damped it carefully upon Boma’s skin. He flinched a bit from the pain at first but gradually got used to it.
Throughout the time I cleaned the cuts and bruises, we didn’t talk or say anything to each other rather than make a few eye contact. I finally rounded up and asked him to put on his shirt back.
“Thank you,” he said.
A brief silence ensued between us without words coming out for a moment, until I finally sought to ease the silence.
“How are you feeling?”
“Much better,” he said.
“Boma, can I ask you something?”
He nodded in approval.
“Who were those guys?”
“I don’t know.”
“Then why did they assault you?”
“I don’t know.”
I felt he wasn’t in his best mood to have that kind of conversation or answer any questions either, so I peacefully let him be. I continued damping the wounds softly until my eyes caught something strange. It was a tattoo that had a skull image on it, along with a symbol by its side, right below his arm.
He noticed me staring and veiled it with his sleeve, without looking at me. I knew he was hiding something. I always knew, but I decided to play it cool.
I kept damping the wounds until, yet again, my eyes caught something else. It was a ring this time. The same, exact type of ring I had seen on Kingsley and Simon.
“Boma, where do you think they might’ve taken those guys to?”
“I don’t know.”
I kept mute for a while. He sounded insincere. I decided to push on.
“And what was Simon’s reason for telling you not to come here?”
“Fifi, I don’t know. Give me a break please,” he raved all of a sudden, almost yelling out.
“I just hope it’s not what I’m thinking.”
“What are you thinking?” He asked, seizing me up with a cocky look. I heaved a sigh and stared deep into his eyes, warming up for the big question.
“Are you a cult member, Boma?”