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“Don’t you think it is probably time for you to…,” Ayo stalled. “To do what?”  Chinyere asked. Ayo looked at Zainab as if to obtain permission to go ahead. She nodded her head gently. “To quit your relationship with Gabriel.” Stunned, Chinyere stared at both of them. Obviously, they had discussed this between themselves. “You actually think it is fair for me to leave Gabriel now and walk away? After all he did to save my life?” “What he did for you is amazing and we will all remember that forever but…,” “But what?” Chinyere cut her short. “And you too Zainab, you are obviously of the same opinion. I saw the way you nodded to Ayo. I am disappointed in the both of you.” “But you are not happy any more. The relationship is more of a strain than a relationship,” Zainab offered. 

“Who said I am not happy?” “You have been depressed, maybe almost about Gabriel’s…you know.” “Go ahead and say it. You mean how he looks? With all those gullies and patches on his face. You think I am unsatisfied with my relationship with him, simply because of those? You two don’t know me at all then. Yes, I would love to see some things change because they would make him happier; make him feel good about himself, but the basis of my love for Gabriel transcends how he looks. Have you ever been on the cusp of death and someone comes and saves you when they could have walked away, and it would have been justified?” She paused and stared at the two of them for an answer, but neither of them had anything to say. “What I feel for Gabriel is raw, undiluted love, affection, gratitude, friendship. Those are emotions you cannot put a prize on, especially these days. I am sorry, I have to leave now. I am disappointed that I cannot rely on you two in a time like this. Things may be tough, but I am not the type to walk out when things are tough and declare my complete love when all is well. Bye!!!” 
She stormed out. On the bus, she could not hold back the tears. Anger; unrestrained rage ravaged her mind. As soon as she got home, she went into the bathroom, had a hot shower and brought out her laptop. She was determined to find a solution to raise money for Gabriel’s surgery. Gabriel had gone out with Okechukwu. He had enrolled back in University too, to complete his program. It allowed his mind to be engaged so he did not have to think too much about his situation. By the time he returned, there was a gleaming smile on Chinyere’s face. “I know that smile,” he said. “What do you know of it?” It says you have solved a problem or found a way to do something that has been bugging you.” “That is just one of the many reasons why I adore you. You know me like a book.” 

“So what invention did you make today?” “I was able to set up a go-fund-me account online to raise money for your surgery. While I was riding home on the bus today, I heard these two girls talking passionately about it, so I have been working on it since I got back. Have a look.” She shifted the laptop toward him. He perused the pages carefully. “Sorry I did not ask you permission before putting your pictures and story online honey, but I did not think you’d mind.” “Of course I mind,” he said with a smile. She leaned over and kissed him. “Thanks for always being very understanding.” “And thanks for always looking out for me.” “You are welcome honey,” she replied. “This is serious. People are already donating.” “Yes! Can you believe it? Some of them remember your story from the blast, so to find out that you have been cast aside stirs enough righteous indignation in them to act.” “You might unto something here.” “I pray so.”

The next morning Chinyere went straight to the computer to check how the account was doing. “Can you believe it Gaby?” “What?” “We have raised three thousand pounds already! Everyone who remembers your story is going bunkers as to why you should have to wait to get your surgery.” “Did you say three thousand?” “Exactly.” That afternoon, they went out for lunch together, before Gabriel was to leave for the library. Chinyere brought her laptop with her. Every few minutes, she peeked at the account. “Honey look!” She said with exhilaration. “What is it?” 

“Someone has left a message for us on the account and it reads, ‘Dear Chinyere and Gabriel. I am incensed to hear of your situation. I remember watching your story years ago on TV after the blast. I can’t believe you have been left to yourselves like this. Please could you tell me how much your surgery is supposed to cost? I lost someone really close to me in the attack, and I hope I can use this opportunity to make their spirit proud and to make something good out of a bad situation. I look forward to hearing from you soon. Matt’. They looked at each other with surprise. “Is he kidding or something?” “How am I supposed to know?” “Answer his message and let’s see what he is up to.” Quickly, she typed a reply stating that the surgery would cost in excess of one hundred and ninety thousand pounds. Gabriel left for the library to do some assignments while Chinyere returned home. She had recently been offered a job at one of the leading boutiques in London, in their marketing department. She was excited to start in a week’s time. She went home and ironed her clothes methodically, hoping to look her best on her first day at work.

“Hi dad,” Gabriel said into his phone’s mouthpiece. “Hello Gaby, how are you doing today?” “Fine. How about mom?” “She is fine as well. I called to let you know that I had a chat with Chinyere’s parents this week, and jointly, we think we can raise about eighty five thousand pounds for your surgery in the US. We are wondering if there is a way that the specialist could conduct the surgery, and over the next six months, we can pay up.” “That is wonderful dad. Thanks to you, mom and Chinyere’s parents. I am really grateful. Although I have to say that I would feel very bad impoverishing you and mom. You have already done so much for me. I think I have to think this through before I even consider accepting it from you and Chinyere’s folks.” “We are not even negotiating with you Gaby. This is what parents do - they take care of their children. I will never rest easy until your surgery is done, so there is no point telling me you won’t accept it unless you want your mother to die of heart attack.” “Let me give you an answer in two days’ time dad.” “Call the surgeon’s office and find out the information. That is the answer I am expecting from you in two days’ time.”

“Honey is that you?” Chinyere shouted when he heard Gabriel fiddling with the door. “Yes it is me.” “I did not want to call you while you were in the library. That man, Matt he said he wants to pay for you whole surgery. He left his number. He wants us to call him tomorrow.” “I can’t believe this. I hope this is not a hoax.” “He sounds very genuine.” Chinyere could barely sleep all night. First thing in the morning, she asked if they could call Matt. “Let’s call him after we return from church,” Gabriel suggested. “Sounds great. I am too excited!” As soon as they returned from church, Gabriel dialed Chief Constable Daniel Briggs first. He explained the situation to him. “Do you have this person’s number?” “Yes we do sir.” “Good. Send it to me as soon as we are done talking. If he is who he claims he is, we will be able to confirm that. Don’t call him yet until I get back to you.” Gabriel sent him the number and they waited. “You know out of excitement I would have just dialed the guy right away,” Chinyere pointed out. “I like the fact that you are very thorough,” she continued. “You do so many other things much better than myself honey.” “Like what?” She asked.

“I tend to leave the reading room messy, but whenever I return from the university, the room is clean again, without me doing anything about it. You make the best egusi soup. You are always looking out for me. You buy me things that I forget to get for myself. With you, I know my life is organized. Thanks a lot honey.” “You are very sweet Gaby.” Gabriel’s phone rang and he answered. “Gabriel, we have run the number you gave me on our system quickly. It belongs to a Mr. Mathew Shaft, a multimillionaire who splits his time between London and Paris. I happen to know him a little bit. He lost a niece in the bombing.” “So we should feel free to call him?” “Absolutely. If anything looks suspicious after calling him, please do not hesitate to call me personally.”  “Thanks Mr. Briggs.” “My pleasure.” Gabriel dialed the number and put his phone on speaker. A boisterous voice answered on the other end. “Hello, this is Matt Shaft.” “Mr. Mathew Shaft, my name is Gabriel Umunna. I am here with my girlfriend Chinyere…” “I have been expecting your call Gabriel and Chinyere. I hope I pronounced Chinyere correctly?” He interjected. “Close enough. I don’t really mind,” Chinyere replied. “I am shocked that you have had to go through all this. How about we all meet next weekend. There is a show I am attending at the Royal Albert Hall about 7:00PM on Saturday. Can we meet about 9:30 in front of the hall?” “That sounds great to me,” Gabriel replied. “Great then. See you on Saturday.”

Gabriel could not take any chances. He contacted Briggs and asked for armed police security nonetheless. Two policemen were with them and two others in plain clothes hovered the area. Mr. Shaft was a tall and talkative Englishman. He hugged them as soon as he saw them. “This is my wife Marilyn.” “Pleased to meet you Marilyn,” Gabriel and Chinyere echoed. “Pleased to meet you too,” she replied.  They explained the onslaught of attacks they had faced in the past, hence the reason for the police. Shaft perfectly understood. They had dinner in a restaurant nearby. Afterwards, Mr. Shaft dug a cheque out of his suit case and handed it to Gabriel. “Very few people would have done what you did. I want to make sure that you are fine and fully happy soon enough. Make plans for your surgery right away. That is a cheque for two hundred and fifty thousand pounds.” Gabriel held the cheque with his mouth hanging open and his hand shaking. Chinyere burst into tears. She got up, walked over to Shaft and his wife and threw her arms around them. “Thank you so much! God bless you! I can’t believe this.” “I am in shock really,” Gabriel said. 

He too got up and hugged them. Tears rained down like a torrential downpour. “I would like to have you two over sometime,” Marilyn said. “We’d love that very much,” Chinyere replied. “You should thank Marilyn really not me. She was the one that spotted your online campaign and brought it to my attention. She knows how I suffered over losing my niece in that senseless attack.” “Thank you!” They both said to Marilyn, who could not stop crying. Chinyere was still standing in-between Mat and Marilyn. She could not let go of them. After several hours, he sent his driver to drop them at home. Gabriel was in tears - tears of joy throughout the night and Chinyere could not hold back her tears either. Despite the time difference, they called their parents; whose calls they had avoided all week, and broke the news to them. Gabriel’s mother went from crying to dancing, and then crying again. Chinyere’s mother cried herself to sleep. When Chinyere and Gabriel finally went to bed about 4:00AM in the morning, their joy was complete. Wrapped in each other’s arms, they snored happily away!

This story was written by:

Victor Chinoo

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