11:39pm, Thur.

Tari eased onto the fast lane. He had a little check in his heart as he recalled the accident from earlier tonight. You see a thing like that and you are reminded of how easy a simple chore like driving yourself home could quickly become a nightmare. Or like the case of June, simply getting in a taxi on your way to work could send you to a hospital for a few hours. And that’s even letting you off easy. Many have stayed months and others have never returned. He took another look at her. She looked OK. The doctors had determined she was OK and had released her to him.

He had gotten her address from her and was heading there now. He had decided to avoid the route that would take them through the scene of the accident and had chosen another, howbeit, longer route.He saw the school up ahead. He knew the school, his boss’ three kids attended here before their mother won their custody and promptly relocated with them to South Africa. He had no clue where the Staff Quarters were. All he’d gotten out of June as they left the hospital was the name of the school and the fact that she stayed in the Staff Quarters. As much as he hatted it, he knew he had to wake her up. He slowed to a crawl then called out her name, she came out of sleep slowly, looked around a bit before settling her gaze on his face. Tari could not help noticing how pretty she looked. “I need you to direct me to your place. The school’s up ahead.” Tari said, pointing at the lit up gates of the school. “Oh! Sure,” June replied. “let’s go in through the main gates.”In a few minutes, they were at her place. June had done pretty well directing him and getting them past the security guards. She was well known and obviously liked. Tari locked the car and followed June to the door of a bungalow. He watched her closely, never getting more than a few steps behind her while they walked. In his hands were her bag and a paper bag of medications given to them at the hospital. June took her bag from him with a smile and retrieved the keys. She opened the door, looked back at him and said “Do you mind if I come get you in a minute?” with a bright smile that made him relax. “Absolutely not.” he replied. He could guess why she’d want to go ahead first – she had at least one room mate. He took a glance at his watch and all hopes of dinner died.

12:04am, Fri.

Tari had a hard time getting his door open while he balanced the items he carried. It was quiet and dropping anything would not only be noisy, it would be a mess he would have to clean up himself. He could not possibly go wake up the cleaner on duty at this hour even though the promise upon his moving in included a 24/7 janitorial service. He knew the guys on night shift slept as much as the occupants they serviced. He didn’t have the patience or fortitude to heat the food, he simply found a spot on his 2-man dinning table that was not already occupied with books and papers and set the meal down. The ladies had insisted he took some food when he had declined an invitation to stay for a meal. “What’s your plan?” June had harassed him and he’d agreed. He needed it anyway.

12:24am, Fri.

“Who’s calling?” June asked Becky who was closer to her phone where it was plugged in. The ladies were seated on the sofa watching the latest of the Game of Thrones episodes that Becky had downloaded earlier. “Mr. Tari,” Becky said with a wink as she passed the phone across to June. She could not help but smile as she answered, “Hello.” “Hi,” came the reply, “I guessed you’d be awake.” he added. “Good guess.” she replied, “Game of Thrones, yeah?” he asked “Correct again.” she said chucking, “Thanks for the meal, it was tasty.” he said, “Oh! I should be thanking you. Was going to call you too.” she replied, “its OK. Have a good night.” he said, “Yeah, thanks. You too.” she replied, “You’re welcome.” he said and hung up. “Real nice guy.” June said passing the phone back to Becky.

1:12pm, Fri.

Becky looked at her phone. She knew the number. It was one she’d deleted months ago, but years of dialling and use had burned it into her memory. Her heart skipped a beat each time these calls came through. She almost answered, caught herself and nearly tossed the phone off her desk. “This could not go on!” she thought. “Haba!” she said out loud attracting looks from around the staff room. She was the most quiet teacher and such an outburst was strange. “What is it?” the C.R.K teacher asked. “Nothing, Ma’am.” Becky quickly replied. The moment she lost the call, she hit her BBM and PINGed June three times in a row. June was never far from her phone, the reply was almost instant “sup?”. “HE’S CALLIN MOI!!!” she typed in a frenzy. This was another reason she loved June. In the 3 months the girls had stayed together, they had shared a lot. Relationships were the bulk of this information exchange. The biggest and most recent issue Becky had then was her ex. It was only natural that shared it with June who had advised her strongly. She had agreed with June and a plan of action had been mapped out. The girls were expecting and fully prepared for this scenario and though Becky knew what to do, she needed June to “be by her side” through this one. “DO NOT PICK UP” came the reply from June as another call came in from the same number. It was Alfred, her ex. The one person who had taken her to many exhilarating highs and equally depressing lows. Again, she let the call drop. “Tht his juju must fail tudai” came a new message from June.Becky smiled. She just had to love June, she had unwittingly made this situation funny. “doesn’t mata if he calls 1000x” June sent, “Kk.” Becky replied, “I have a class in a few minutes sef.” she added. “Abeg leave ur fone in your drawer n go 4 ur class, dear” “Kk, thx” Becky replied and added a smile. June replied with a wink. Moving like it was an explosive device, Becky slowly dropped the phone in her drawer and shut it as another call came in. She got up and got her notes for her last class of the week – the J.S.S. 2 French class. It was a hard class to handle majorly because the kids were mostly already revved up to go home for the weekend. It was simply badly timed. She could not blame them, most times she felt exactly the same way.As she walked, her mind went back to the first time she had met Alfred. It was 14 years ago on her way to holiday coaching. Alfred had seen her in front of her house as she waited for Simi, her neighbour with whom she usually went to lessons, he’d taken stopped taken one long look at her and said “I will marry you!” in such a cool and confident tone. In her 10-year-old girl mind, it was a very inciting statement, “How dare he?” she had thought and proceeded to rain insults on him while calling Simi to come see. Alfred had simply shrugged and walked away. He was barely 11 at the time. As fate would have it, and to Becky’s unending annoyance, Alfred was headed for the same holiday coaching and was in the same class as she was. Oh! She’d hatted him! Everyone else liked him, though.Soon she was labelled ‘Alfred’s wife’ because the boy wouldn’t stop showering her with gifts and attention. Even teachers noticed. He was a bright kid too and never got into any trouble. Simi and others had prevailed on her to attend Alfred’s birthday party a few days before the holidays ended. He had been completely overjoyed to see her because she had blatantly told him all week she was not going to be present. He’d never left her side all through the time she stayed and had introduced her to his mum and sisters. Holidays came to an end and Becky had gone to a Federal Government Girls’ College. Letters started coming from Alfred. Initially they were an irritation. Each time the House Mistress called her name to come for a letter from “Half-red”, she’d be sore embarrassed.The silly boy never failed to write his name on the back of the envelope and sign across the flap like some king or something. Becky caught herself smiling. But soon she began to look forward to his letters. She missed home most times and Alfred was a sure link to home. He wrote more letters to her than all of her folks’ messages, letters and visits combined. Each holiday, Alfred would show up the very next morning after she arrived. She began to see him differently, he was growing into a handsome young man. His voice changed over the years, one she came to identify so well and began to love. There was really no formal asking after his crazy declaration, he had simply assumed the role of her boyfriend. Beyond that, he was her friend, confidant and advisor. Her perfect man.They both got into different Universities. Once again, Alfred stayed in Lagos, having been admitted to study Mechanical Engineering in UNILAG, while she followed her love for languages and got admitted at O.A.U. A month hardly went by without him making the trip to Ife or her finding a reason to travel home. By the third year, they began to have issues frequently. Alfred changed. He picked up excessive drinking and club-hopping rolling with the wrong guys. He also developed a short fuse and could hardly hold on to money. In that year she got pregnant for him twice and had to have abortions. They had a big fight in Lagos, during one of the many ASUU strikes, and he had told her to quit complaining or leave him alone. She broke up with him the next day. It was the first of many.Becky stepped into the class and barely heard the kids’ chorused greeting in French. 14 years, countless fights, 8 breakups, 3 abortions and 2 beatings later, he was back again. She knew what he would say; he would say he wanted her back, he still wants to marry her, he will not give up on their love. She’d heard it all many times. The 3rd abortion was fresh in her mind. The pain. The doctor’s warning. Alfred said he was broke, he said they should keep it, he said he had a business, he said they would get married and hope for things to get better. Exactly a week later, she was visiting with him in Lagos, they had a fight and he beat her. It had been 1 slap to her face, but that was enough. She had kept quiet and wept as he stormed out of his own apartment. That was 5 months ago.For 2 days he didn’t return to the house and she couldn’t reach him on his phones. When she finally got word from his sister that he was fine and at their parent’s place, she had borrowed some money, had a D&C and gotten on a plane back to Abuja. Luckily for her, it was during the holidays and she had not resigned her job like he had suggested. The plan had been for her to quit her job, move in with him, get married and have the baby. At that point she knew she couldn’t carry out the plan. Alfred was too volatile for her. The problem was he was also too charming, he knew how to win her back. He had pulled it off many times. Each time they broke up, after a while – days, weeks or months, he’d start a campaign to win her back. Twice, he had pulled her out of relationships with other men.Becky looked at the kids then gave them the best smile she could muster, most smiled back. “No class today!” she announced. The silence was absolute. “What about assignment?” a voice said, “None either.” she added. The celebration was outrageous. It almost scared her. She shook her head and headed back for the staff room. It seemed each time she was beginning to find a life outside of him, he somehow made his way back into her life. The sky had gotten darker and the wind had picked up speed while dropping temperature; it looked like rain. Becky doubled her pace. She would get her stuff and dash home before the rain. She got into the staff room, headed for her desk and packed up her stuff. Lastly, she retrieved her phone; “17 Missed Calls” flashed on the screen.


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