Good morning all, Today, I’m posting a short story, deviating from the norm of series briefly. I have been having a series of discussions with Sally ( @moskedapages ) and she challenged me to write a romance story. After a lot of back and forth, I finally sat down and wrote. It was quite long, so I decided to break the story into two parts, for reading convenience. Without further ado, please read, and do leave a line. Thank you.
Have you ever been lonely? Truly known the depths of despair as you go through things alone? No, I am not talking about a life lived in solitude; separated from society whilst you mope. No. I am talking about the loneliness you feel in the midst of friends. That emptiness that swallows you when you smile sweetly, whilst you are encouraging your peers. Now you get it? Good.
Have you ever known inconsolable pain? The grief that aches so bad you struggle to breathe. Pain that ravages your soul, threatening to end the miserable life you live, yet your very existence depends on it, feeds on it? I ask again, have you known that kind of pain?
Life used to be rosy and bright. All sunny and radiant, until certain events occurred and my life spiralled. I’ve struggled for balance ever since. See, I was a good girl, the it girl, then one day, without warning, everything changed. Oh, shoot, I’m getting ahead of myself in this tale, I apologise. Let’s start over.
My name is Afifa Umar, I work as a radio presenter in Lagos. I enjoy what I do very much, too much, that it’s become the very definition of me. Addictive. Here’s what happened: I work one of the crappiest gigs at the station. Talking to myself whilst people sleep and snore in their homes.
Yes, I’m one of those midnight voices you hear on radio. But, like I said, instead of disdaining the job, I actually found that I loved it. Loved to whine, play God and act like I got it all together. I don’t. But my listeners don’t know that – that is if anyone actually listens to me rant. I was living a farcical life and there was no one there that knew, until he happened.
Let me back track a little bit, see, this story is about him – Ferimi, but before him, before his advent, when no one could divine my pain, when I had taught myself to laugh heartily instead of cry, I was with Abdul. Oh, Abdul: my first love, my heartbeat, my life. That was what I always told myself back in the university. Here’s our story: Abdul and I.
I met Abdul in JAMB class. We attended the same tutorial classes at Oshodi. For those of you who know, it’s a large hall that had two storeys built on it. I met Abdul when the proprietor of the tutorial sent me out for not answering the question he asked me correctly. My punishment was that I had to sit outside for ten minutes before reentering the class.
I stomped out, blinded by rage, fighting back the tears that threatened to deflate my puffy eyes. I did not see him coming, he saw me too late. We collided into each other.
‘Watch where you’re going!’ I blurted.
‘Hey, hey!’ He held out his hands as if to calm me. Then slowly, he removed the massive headphones he had on, dropping the hook around his neck, then he held my shoulder. ‘What’s the trouble?’ His concern was genuine.
I couldn’t help it, my pent up frustration deflated. I burst into tears and he held me in his arms, covering me with his body, not caring that I was ruining his perfectly starched shirt. I cried a while, and he held me, like a child. Then gently, he pushed me away from him, studying my eyes to see if I would still cry.
When he was sure the bout was over, he let me go. ‘Here,’ he reached into the bag at his hip and offered me facial wipes. Then he brought out his CD player and stopped the music playing. I wiped the tears off my face, and then I saw him.
He was taller than me by at least four inches, I’m not short, but his height intimidated me. His face was beautiful, with soft feminine features. I could swear then that if make up was applied on him, he would pass as a lady easily. Abdul smiled.
I smiled too.
He was about to say something when the derelict proprietor decided I had spent enough time on the sides. ‘Afifa! Get back in here now!’ I held his gaze, he held my hand and time stood still, as we passed.
Then I let go, and rushed into the class. I reckoned I would see him again after the tutorials that evening. I was wrong.
I didn’t see him again until two weeks had passed. Matter of fact, I didn’t see him, he found me during lunch break.
‘Hey beautiful, you’re a tough woman to track.’ He said as he nudged my shoulder from behind before seating opposite me at the cafeteria.
I turned around to see who had nudged me, then followed the person’s movement as he sat opposite me. My surprise was spontaneous, ‘you!’
‘Yes, me.’ He arched an eyebrow, threw up his hands and smiled. ‘Me. Flesh and blood.’
‘Where have you been? I’ve practically crashed every class looking for you. And you’ve not even bothered to do same. Anyway, thanks for the other day.’ I was smitten.
He leaned forward and held my hand. ‘Believe me when I say, I’ve been unavailable. I just got back into town and you’re the first person I went in search of.’
I was flattered. I grinned. ‘Liar.’
He shrugged, let go of my hand and placed his order. We ate in silence. I became aware of his gaze on me, and though hungry, I had to slow the pace of my food consumption. I noticed that he had really beautiful fingers. Well manicured and all.
When lunch was over, I attempted to pay, he wouldn’t agree. We argued for a bit, then we decided that I should pay for the drinks whilst he paid for our meals. I was somewhat grateful, his bill was higher than mine.
We walked back to the hall together, I was about going into the class when he pulled me back. ‘By the way, my name’s Abdul.’ He smiled and turned the corner going into another class. I stood there wondering what it would be like to be happy like that every day.
Needless to say, I can not for the life of me remember how we started dating. We both aced JAMB, got admitted into Unilag – he was offered admission to study Civil Engineering, I on the other hand got my dream course: Mass Communication. And like that, our lives became intertwined. We were the poster couple.
We did everything together, had the same friends, went to the same mosque on campus and snuck out to be with each other at his aunt’s place in Yaba.
Oh, those were divine days.
Then school ended for me, and our romance got its first reality check, I was posted to Kebbi state. He promised to come visit once I settled in, prepared to come, then his project and finals got in the way of our plans. We IMed when we could, yahoo messenger being the most used then, and we called.
When I got back to Lagos after eleven months away, he was at the motor park waiting for me. Abdul drove me to his aunt’s and like rabid animals, we went at each other. We stayed in the house all day – I had arrived Lagos around nine in the morning. Then he drove me home in the evening.
Days passed and all was well again, I was with the person I loved the most on earth and he desired me more than ever. What more could I ask for? I had started applying for employment before leaving Kebbi and was lucky enough to be contacted by a bank for their recruitment exercise.
Though I wanted to work in a media house, I decided to attend the exercise as I was getting bored doing nothing at home. Abdul on his own part was gearing for his NYSC adventure. We were both ecstatic. Our life as a couple was about to begin, we just needed to wait a couple of years.
Life however had another plan for us. I passed the bank’s test, blazed through the interview sessions only to be stumped during medicals. The doctor who examined my blood sample called me into his office, his face grim. ‘I’m sorry young lady, but I think you should look for another employment. I can’t recommend you to the bank. Not like this.’
I nearly fainted. Like how? My mind was in chaos, I could not think straight. A few minutes passed before I mustered the courage to ask. ‘So I’m HIV positive?’ I was crushed.
‘What, no!’ He laughed hysterically. ‘Goodness me, where did that thought come from? My dear,’ he leaned forward, ‘you’re positive alright, it’s just not HIV/AIDS. You’re pregnant. Congratulations.’
I felt like slapping the smirk off his face, strangulating him, or better yet, hurting him so bad he experienced what I felt in those previous minutes when he sat smugly across the table observing as I fought my inner demons. ‘What!’ It was almost a scream. ‘How’s that possible?’
‘Well, two people come together and make love. It’s a beautiful thing actually, there’s sweat, and lots of groans and hmmmphs. The important things is that…’
‘Thank you very much doctor,’ I cut him short and began to rise.
‘… body fluids are exchanged. It doesn’t necessarily have to be sperm.’ He completed his statement as I opened the door on my way out.
I went in search of Abdul.
I called his mobile phone, but got no response. At first I decided to go home and sleep, when I awoke, I would realise it was just a nightmare. Then a thought occurred to me. Without thinking, I took a cab to Unilag. In the engineering department, I saw a few of his coursemates who told me they hadn’t seen Abdul that day. Then I went to his aunt’s.
I entered the compound, greeted the gateman who only mumbled back. Then I went to the back of the house. Abdul’s space was the BQ. I was about knocking when I heard soft moans. Scandalised, I placed my ear on the door and listened. I wasn’t hearing wrong. The walls gave up the secret they had artfully concealed from me.
I tried the lock gently and found that it was unlocked. I entered the sitting room then tried the lock on the door into the room. Every fibre in my body asked me to turn away and leave. To pretend like I didn’t hear, didn’t feel already betrayed. I pushed the door open and surprised both Abdul and his date.
I stood in the doorway taking it all in, the man whose seed had just cost me a lucrative employment naked with another woman on the bed where he had made love to me the first time ever. I stood there remembering how clumsy we both were, afraid we would be caught or worse still, that I would get pregnant. But the hormones had gotten the better of us and somehow, we had become one. Or so I thought.
The tears streaked down my cheeks like water running from a faucet. I tried to speak but someone had pressed the mute button. Instead of words, the sound that came out amplified my tears. I turned away as Abdul got off the lady he had been having sex with. I ran. Blinded with tears, I ran. It was a miracle that I survived and got home safe.
I refused to eat, would not take his calls, or anybody’s for that matter, Abdul had taught me to love, to soar, made me a woman and his final gift to me was a broken heart. I was crushed.
Naturally, I fell ill, at first my folks thought it was malaria since I hadn’t been eating. Then the doctor broke the sad news. I was pregnant, but had miscarried. I saw my life flash through my eyes then. It was time to die. There was nothing to live for. I was hospitalised for two weeks, in that time, I spoke to two psychologists. They helped, a little. But they could not fully understand the betrayal I felt, the emptiness that enveloped me.
I went home after a month, two weeks in the hospital and another two with my grandma somewhere in Minna. Then I went home. Everything was surreal in my room, it was as though life had finally overtaken me and passed me by once the hubris that was Abdul had been invaded. I checked my phone and saw his break-up message. He had decided he didn’t want to waste a year serving the country. By the time I was reading the text message, he was already in America. I was too numb to cry, I threw the phone at the wall viciously. My mother came rushing into my room at the sound of the crash. She sat with me on the bed, and we wept together. Mother and daughter.
I learned to live again eventually, taking it one day at a time, moving my lips ever so slightly when I was supposed to laugh. My parents were worried, and rightly so. I became a hermit hiding away in my room, until my friend that worked with an advertising agency came to visit. God bless her soul, Jane would not take no for an answer. She had found me the perfect gig at a radio station.
After my initial resistance, she enlisted my family who mandated I give the job a trial. I auditioned and was handed the job on a platter. That was when I saw the light again, hope surged through me. That was the one time I allowed myself to laugh again, after Abdul, until Ferimi.