Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - King’s Cross St. Pancras Station, dead and alive, University of Westminster, Nigerian, Baker Street station, bodies were littered on the platform, to the ambulance.
Kaboom!!! A deafening explosion went off on the London underground. Bodies and objects went flying in the air. An incoming train screeched to a long noisy halt. Smoke filled the area around the source of the explosion before a blazing fire erupted. The conflagration was spreading with venomous rage. A throng of incoming commuters made a U-turn, stampeding the entrance to King’s Cross St. Pancras Station. Below ground, bodies were littered on the platform like leaves taking a dive from above in preparation for a brutally cold winter. Firemen desperately sought ways to reach the spreading fire below ground, amid the ensuing frenzy.
The police scooted around initially, struggling to control the pandemonium. Gabriel Umunna had been blown against a wall. Somehow, he found himself still breathing but squarely plastered against the wall. For a moment, he could not hear anything but he could see the approaching fire. The heat was getting stronger by the minute. He tried to raise his hand but it felt numb. Helplessly, he stared blankly at the fire. A lady was lying beside him. She seemed dead. There was a pool of blood beside her head. He wanted to reach out and lift her, but again, his body was not cooperative. As the heat closed in, fear crept into his eyes. I am not going to die here, he assured himself. He tried to remember how he got here but his memory had gone blank.
Out of nowhere, a hand grabbed him and lifted him up. “You are going to be alright,” the man said reassuringly. Amid the chaos, his helper was as cool as cucumber. He placed him onto a stretcher and with the help of another paramedic they hoisted up the stairs, moving as fast as they could. Midway to ground floor, he felt a twitch in his arm. He tried to raise it and this time, it responded positively. He moved his leg and it responded as well. “I think I am fine now,” he said to them. “Relax mate, we are taking you to the ambulance,” the paramedics urged him. “Ifeyinwa!” He shouted, out of the blues. His memory had just returned. He remembered standing on the platform with Chinyere waiting for the circle line to Tower Hill. “Where is Chinyere?” He asked them as though they knew everyone at the station. “Who is Chinyere?” They asked him back. By now, the fire was getting worse downstairs. He leapt off the stretcher, swerved to his right and headed back downstairs. Before the paramedics could reach him, he was speeding downstairs, meandering through the mesh of bodies desperately fighting their way to ground level.
“Come back here mate!” They shouted at him but it was too late. He kept pushing downstairs against the traffic of frantic bodies; bruised and unbruised, dead and alive. “Where do you think you are going?” Some survivors yelled at him. “If I were you, I would be heading upwards,” a fireman warned him. “There is no way I am letting you back down there,” another fireman said, grabbing him by his shirt. Like a man possessed by supernatural powers, he broke free from his grip and continued towards the last spot where he remembered standing with Chinyere. “There is no way I am leaving without her,” he shouted as he ran. His heart was beating wildly. He had known Chinyere for the past year. They were both students at the Marylebone Campus of the University of Westminster, near Baker Street.
The first time he ran into Chinyere at the Campus library, he was fully convinced that she was Nigerian. Her mannerism reeked of Naija inside out. “Hey, you be Nigerian abi?” He asked in broken English. She scanned him like a telescope peering at far-away stars in the galaxy. Her demeanor suggested that she was wary of Nigerians. “Why do you ask?” she queried. “Everything about you says you are Nigerian.” “For example?” “Your mannerism, your hairdo, your intonation, your dressing, everything.” She was trying her best to put on an English accent, but she could not fully ditch her underlying thick Igbo accent. “Well, I am not Nigerian.” “You are lying. I can bet my life on that.” “So, who will be our witness? If you lose, I will own you,” she said humorously with a smile. Her smile was warm and welcoming. He could see a reflection of the fluorescent lights bouncing off her glistening dark skin. She wore a pair of black jeans and a red dress. Her bag was red and so were her shoes. He could tell she was particular about her style. “And if you lose, I will own you as well,” he countered. “I did not stake my life, you did.” “So you are staking nothing?” “Let me think about that,” she answered. She placed her right palm over her forehead and stared at the ceiling. After a few seconds, she said, “Okay, I stake my pen.” “Come on, that is not fair.” “Why is that not fair?” “Are you equating me to a pen?” “No, that is not what I am saying. I did not start this betting thing, you did. I am just staking something I know I can easily offer to you, if I lose.”
“Maybe I should not stake my life then.” “It is up to you.” “I am happy to offer my life to you anyway, so I will stick to my initial bet, but I think you should step up your stake a tad bit. How about this; if you lose, you go out on a date with me.” “I think that is fair,” Ayo chipped in. She had been listening to them quietly. She was in the same class as Chinyere, and they had been friends from first year. “I have been trying to find a date for her, but she is too selective. I think your suggestion is fair. If she loses, which I know she will, then she will go on date with you,” she continued. “Do we have a deal?” “That is Ayo’s opinion not mine.” “I agree with Ayo. My name is Gabriel by the way. What is yours?” He stretched forth his hand for a handshake. “Nice to meet you,” Chinyere said shaking his hand. “Pleased to meet you too, but I would like to know your name please,” Gabriel insisted. “Her name is Chinyere. I guess it is only fair that I tell him your name, since you told him mine,” Ayo interjected. “Pleased to meet you Chinyere. And pleased to meet you as well Ayo.” “It is my pleasure,” said Ayo. “So, I guess I have me a date,” Gabriel said smiling. “How do you mean?” Chinyere asked assertively. “Well, Chinyere you are either from Imo, Anambra, Abia, Ebonyi or Delta State. Or even Rivers. You are Nigerian obviously.” “You can’t be sure of that, names can fool you, you know.” “You should stop fighting a lost battle. I know a beautiful restaurant on a pier at Tower Hill. It is a fitting place for a first date for an angel like you.” “And how many girls have you taken there?”
It was Gabriel’s turn to place his hand on his head and stare at the ceiling for answers. After a few seconds he replied; although he pretended to be unsure of his answer, “I don’t’ remember now. Let me think a bit more.” He moved his thumb across his right fingers and then onto his left fingers suggesting that he was conducting a rather difficult census. Chinyere’s eyes got bigger. For a moment, she wondered when he would finally work out how many girls he had taken to this famous restaurant. “I think fifteen, maybe seventeen. Thereabouts.” “You are such a charming and handsome young man. So you want me to be your number sixteen or nineteen abi?” “First of all only Nigerians use that lingo, abi. The fact that you are actually debating this with me means you are conceding defeat, so now that we have that out of the way, I can answer your question. Yes, I would most happily want to make you my next catch, because that is what my parents sent me to this university to do – to take as many girls as possible to a fabulous restaurant in Tower Hill.” Ayo could no longer conceal her laughter. She was more street savvy than Chinyere, who was by far, more demure and reserved. Chinyere realized Gabriel had been kidding when Ayo burst into a raucous laughter. She tried to mask the reassurance that popped up on her face as soon as Ayo began to laugh, but Gabriel had already picked that up. She would not be exhibiting that if she was not interested, he noted to himself with a quiet smirk.
“Okay, I have to get back to my study. I am Nigerian. I will go on a date with you someday.” “Someday could be in the next two years,” Gabriel protested. “I know! Don’t pressure me. I will go when I a comfortable enough to go with you.” “I won’t pressure you princess,” he replied with a dose of flattery. Not even the conservative Chinyere could disguise her delight at the flattery. She smiled almost childishly with a hint of bashfulness, which was well noted by Gabriel. “May I have your number please? If you are going to be comfortable with me, I guess we need to talk and maybe hang out sometime on campus.” Chinyere thought about it. “I have given you far too much in one day. I will give you my number next time.” Princess, how do we have a next time if I can’t reach you. I promise you, I will not call you too often.” “Come on Chinyere, even if the guy was psychic, he couldn’t possibly know where and how to find you on campus without your phone number. We are in the 21st century you know,” Ayo fired at Chinyere with a tinge of sarcasm. She rolled her eyes as she spoke. “Okay, I will give you my number, but don’t rush me like those other Nigerian guys!” She was holding her ear as she spoke to drive home here distaste for pushy guys.
Gabriel saved her number, thanked her effusively and left. He made sure not to call her too often. It was another two and a half weeks after the initial meeting before he rang her up. The tone in her voice suggested that she had been expecting his call. “I hope I am not calling too often?” He asked jokingly. “You are doing well. How are classes?” “All is well, but now that I am talking to you, things are even better.” “Sweet tongue! Typical Naija boy. Na me you wan influence like that?” “Na true wey I talk ooh! When I hear your voice, I dey sleep like a baby for night.” “Tonight you go sleep like grand papa.” “You don’t have to believe me but in my heart, I know what I am feeling.” “You don become TuFace abi?” Gabriel laughed boisterously to her joke. “I saw you on campus today,” Gabriel replied. “Really? Where was that?” I saw you on the fifth floor. I think you were walking into a lecture. I wanted to come over and say hi, but on a second thought, I decided not to do that. You looked splendid. You wore a pair of blue jeans, a white T-shirt and a white pair of flat shoes. And I noticed you had a white bag too. You never cease to match your outfits.” “You are observant. I am impressed. Most guys don’t notice little things like that.” “I am not most guys.” “I don praise you now and your head don begin swell like bread wey dey inside oven.” “My head no swell oh! Seriously, I notice those things. The first day I met you with Ayo you wore a pair of black jeans, a red top, a red bag and a pair of red shoes. I sighted you from a distance sometime last week too, and you donned a pair of black trousers and a light yellow top. Your bag was not yellow, though but your shoes were close enough to yellow.”
“It will do you good if you continue to be attentive. By the way why don’t you stop by to say hi when you see me on campus?” “Well, I don’t want to be like those pushy Naija guys.” “It is okay. You can say hi at least. How am I supposed to get to know you and get comfortable with you if you stay miles away and watch what I am wearing with a pair of binoculars?” “I think you are special. I don’t want to scare you away, so I am happy to take it easy with you.” “Okay, you have passed the first test. Say hi when you see me.” “Okay, I will. Do have a lovely weekend.” “And you too.” “I can see you are beginning to like him,” Ayo said as soon as Chinyere hung up. “Not really, just watching him.” “You never watch any guy reach like this before. Since that Naija boy chase you die, you dey run from all guys especially Naija guys. This is an improvement.” “He seems okay. We’ll see.”
Following their first chat on the phone, Gabriel and Chinyere hung out on Campus. Slowly, she got to know his friends and about his family, and he came to know hers too. Nonetheless, Chinyere would not go on a date with him yet. “I am still looking forward to that date Chiichii. I hope that restaurant will still be there by the time you finally make up your mind. That is, if we are still in London by then.” “When I am ready, we’ll go. I promise you that.” “I don’t want to be pushy, but before long we will be graduating. Just pointing that out.” “I have a lot of class work to do. As soon as I can find time, we’ll go…one of these weekends.” One Thursday afternoon, Gabriel was hanging out with his friends in Peckham and his phone rang. “Princess, this is the first time you have ever called me. Is everything okay?” “When will that your Princess agree to be your girlfriend? Abi na virtual relationship una dey do?” A friend of Gabriel’s teased him. He placed his hand over his phone and stepped away from his friends. “Everything is okay Gabriel. I was wondering if you would like to go on that long awaited date with me this weekend.” He was not expecting it.
His hands shook a little bit with excitement. “Of course I will be most pleased Chiichii.” “Saturday?” She suggested. “Saturday sounds perfect to me. Even if I had something else to do, I would have cancelled it,” he joked. “It is very reassuring to know that you put me first,” she replied, laughing. “After one year? I no even put you first, I put you past first!” He enthused. He returned to his friends and announced to them that Chinyere was finally ready to go on a date with him. “May be after the first date, una go wait another two years for the next one,” Okechukwu, one of Gabriel’s friends from University teased.” E no concern you Okey. Na me wey dey chase her no be you. That girl is special. I don’t care how long it takes to get her to go ana date with me,” Gabriel answered defensively. “But make we face reality Gabriel, one year is enough to have started and ended a relationship, yet you still dey chase this one girl for that long?” said Ekene, another of Gabriel’s friends. “Please let’s discuss something else. I don’t have the time to be arguing the same topic with you guys all evening,” Gabriel replied matter-of-factly in a desperate attempt to steer the discussion away from his enigmatic relationship with Chinyere.
Surprisingly, Chinyere called on Friday to reschedule their date. “I am so sorry Gaby,” she pleaded with him. “Please don’t be angry. I really want to go on this date with you and this time around, it will happen. My sister is stopping over in London this weekend. She just called to tell me. I would like to catch up with her over the weekend before she continues her journey to Nigeria from Los Angeles.” “That is fine by me Princess,” Gabriel answered patiently. “You are one of a kind Gaby. I will make it up to you.” “I will remind you that.” “So, how about Thursday next week? I have no classes.” “Like I said, I would clear my calendar for you any day. Thursday is fine by me Princess.” “So, Thursday it is.”
When he picked her up in front of her hostel, which was a stone’s throw from Baker Street, he was quivering with anticipation. Like a child in a candy shop, backed by the power of his parents’ boundless wallet, he grinned from ear to ear. He was clad in a new pair of immaculate black trousers and a white T-shirt. He wore a pair of bright sneakers with shades of white, black, green and light brown. The sun was out early. He wanted to sit on the Pier with her by River Thames for some time before heading to a coffee shop. Chinyere liked her coffee in the morning, so he had factored that into their activities for the day. They were slated to have lunch at Gabriel’s favorite restaurant in Tower Hill. He had planned everything to the letter. By evening, they were billed for the cinema. He had reeled off his detailed plans to her over the phone at her insistence earlier that morning. “I don’t want surprises yet. I need to know what you have planned for the day,” Chinyere had maintained. With infectious enthusiasm he filled her in.
When she stepped out of her hostel building, Gabriel thought to himself, ‘It was worth the wait.’ Her black jeans accentuated her beautiful physique. She had a blue top and a pair of flat shoes with a blue pattern to it. There was a shade of blue to her purse too. Her rich black braids were in perfect sync with her black jeans. She was smiling as she walked out of the building. “So, I am giving you my whole day Gabriel. Let’s get going.” “And I am giving you my whole life,” he replied with a smile. There were numerous passengers at the Baker Street station, so they took the District Line to King’s Cross St. Pancras, where they planned to catch the Circle line heading eastwards. They were chatting happily on the platform. Chinyere seemed completely at home with Gabriel who was visibly oozing with excitement. There had been a delay on the Circle line by a few minutes. Unexpectedly, Chinyere placed her hand on his shoulder to balance herself. It sent a pleasant sequence of electric waves through Gabriel. Slowly, he moved his left hand and placed it around her waist. She did not resist, to his delight. He held her somewhat a bit tighter and she leaned closer to him. She looked at him smiling, and he reciprocated with a smile. Their eyes were locked with each other. Time seemed to stop. Gabriel was certain the jolting noise he heard was emanating from his chest and not from the engine of an approaching train. Then, everything went blank with a loud, violent blast. Kaboom!!!
STORY CONTINUES... CLICK HERE TO READ EPISODE 2
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