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Poster source: Eight months later Gabriel darted out of the office and flew down the stairs. “Hi Ayo, what bring...

Poster source:

Eight months later
Gabriel darted out of the office and flew down the stairs. “Hi Ayo, what brings you to the office?” Ayo had texted to say she was downstairs at Gabriel’s office. He had made a swift recovery from the surgery, finally graduated and got a very good job with a leading advertising agency on London. Life was good! “I was in the area, so I wanted to say hi to you,” Ayo replied. “Oh, that is very thoughtful of you. I would not want to keep you but if you are not in a hurry in about twenty five minutes, we can walk to a restaurant around the corner and have lunch together.” “Very kind of you. I would not want to drag you out of your way,” she replied. “No! It is fine by me. I was going to have lunch anyways. You stopped by, so let me show my appreciation.” “Okay, if you insist.” “I will be sitting over there.” “I will be right back Ayo. ”He went back to the office upstairs and tidied up his work. Shortly afterwards, he was back on the ground floor and they walked to a Korean restaurant where they both ordered beef Teriyaki. They sat back and chatted while they guzzled down their meal. There were very few signs to indicate that Gabriel had been in a fire. He came out of the surgery looking and feeling brand new. He was happy with the face that started back at him when he stared into the mirror. Chinyere was thoroughly delighted too. 

“So when is Chinyere returning?” Ayo asked. “I think she still has thirteen more days in Nigeria. Her cousin who is wedding is very close to her. Besides, she wanted to use this opportunity to see some other relatives in Kaduna and in Lagos.” “I wish I could be home myself. It has been quite a while now.” “How long actually?” “Going on four years now.” “That is getting long Ayo. Any plans to go soon?” “No. I don’t have a proper job you know. With my cashier job at that small grocery store, there is only how much one can do with my meager salary.” “So if you had some extra cash, would you go home?” “Of course.” “What if I gave you seven hundred pounds? Would that get you home?” Ayo paused for a moment to ponder the tantalizing offer. “You don’t have to do that Gabriel.” “No I have to. You were there for Chiichii and I during the accident. It is the least we can do, at least until you can land a decent job.” “Let me think about it Gabriel.” “You have just three days to give me an answer. If you say no, I will come to your house and drop it in your mail box.” She smiled and said, “I will give you an answer soon.” She left while Gabriel returned to work.

“Hello,” Zainab said. “Hi Zainy. It is me Ayo.” “Why you dey hide your number now?” “Oh sorry, I was calling here and there for jobs earlier today so I hid my number. I forgot to diable that afterwards.” “Wetin dey happen? Have you had any luck?” “I wish I did. I am calling for something else though. Please don’t share this with anyone. It is such a big secret.” You are talking in parables. Wetin be that?” “I…I…Zainy, promise me you’d never tell anyone.” “I promise! Haba!” “I think… I…I think I have a crush on Gabriel.” There was a deafening silence over the line. “What do you mean Ayo?” Zainab asked finally “It is not as if I am going to act on it. I just wanted to mention it to someone. I have liked the guy from the first day he met Chinyere. I was there you know. He is my best friend’s boyfriend, so I am not likely to ever act on it, but I thought sharing it with someone would lighten the burden. Of course, I cannot mention this to Chinyere. She would not understand.” 

“You told me you saw him two days ago. Are you telling me this now because you saw him and those feelings came up again or something?” “I guess. Or maybe I went there because I needed to see him. I used to visit them quite often, but since Chinyere travelled, I barely see him, so I wanted to just see him, but I felt bad afterwards. Chinyere is my dear friend. I have to smother tis evil feeling.” “I don’t think you should be seeing him alone so you don’t give away your feelings.” “I guess so. This is the worst feeling I have ever had. I hate myself sometimes for feeling the way I do about him, but I don’t really control my own feelings.” “Well, you have done well. Try to avoid seeing him alone okay? Things happen. Our feelings are really unpredictable.”

“Hi Gaby, how are you doing?” “I am great thanks. How about you?” “I am doing fine thanks,” Zainab answered. “I wanted to see if you might need some help at home since Chinyere is away,” she continued. Gabriel had just returned from work. “Come in Zainy,” he offered. She was clad in a tight-fitting jean, which highlighted every of her curves. “I am doing well actually, but it is very kind of you to come and check on me.” “What are friends for?” She asked rhetorically. They watched TV together and chatted most of the evening. 

When Gabriel went to the kitchen to fix dinner, Zainab quickly joined him in the kitchen. He and Chinyere no longer stayed together. They had different apartments, but Chinyere was always at Gabriel’s when she was in town. She had picked out everything for decorating Gabriel’s kitchen. Zainab could see Chinyere’s touches shining through every corner of the kitchen. Every opportunity she had, she brushed herself against Gabriel as she helped him thaw some egusi soup and prepare pounded yam. It did not take long for Gabriel to start wondering what her mission was. When she got home that night, she texted Gabriel to say she had reached home safely. “It was nice to see you Gabby. I was wondering if you would like to hang out at Hyde Park this weekend.” “No thanks. I have to run into the office on Saturday, so I can’t make it,” he texted back. Now he was sure that Zainab was up to something.

“Hi honey, how are you?” “I am doing great, and you?” Gabriel answered with the phone glued to his ear. Chinyere was calling from Mur’tala Mohammed International airport in Lagos on her way back to London. “I can’t wait to see you later.” “Me neither. I have been dying to see you. It was fun being home, but I have had enough of it. I need you beside me now.” “Then hurry up and get back to London.” “On my way!!!” She bellowed into the mouthpiece. Soon, they boarded the airplane. She fell asleep as soon as the flight was airborne, and woke up to an absolute chaos. Passengers were shouting frantically. The pilot had just announced that they were losing control of the engines. One engine had gone down and the other one was malfunctioning. Shaken, she began to pray like many other passengers. The plane was off the coast of Ireland. The pilots tried to steer it to land, but they only managed to crash –land the plane just as after they had entered Ireland. She closed her eyes as the plane made a forceful contact with land, breaking apart instantly. Everything went blank from there.

Gabriel checked the time and rang her again, but there was no answer. Her phone was sill off. He turned on the TV and the scenes on the screen left him in tears. He quickly called Heathrow airport and confirmed that it was the same plane Chinyere had boarded. He sank back into the couch and collapsed. When he came around, he had no idea how long he had been wiped out. He quickly placed another call to British Air Ways. They told him that only few people had survived the crash, and that the survivors were barely hanging onto life. He thought of boarding a plane to Ireland that night, but he was encouraged by the airline to wait until the next morning. He did not sleep a wink that night. The next morning, Ayo who had heard of the crash was at Gabriel’s. They both hushed to the station where they took a train to Scotland. From there, they boarded a helicopter to Northern Ireland from where they then drove to the Republic of Ireland.  Chinyere was hanging onto life by a hair’s breadth when they were finally allowed to see her. She was wired up in every conceivable place and hooked onto life support. They had both took time off work to stay with her in the hospital. Three days later, she managed to open her eyes.

She looked at Gabriel and smiled. He walked over to her and placed his mouth beside her ear. “I will always be here for you honey. You are going to make it.” She said something, but he did not hear her very well. He placed his ear over her mouth and she said, “I am fine. I am doing fine. Just take care of yourself. You two, take care of yourselves. I will see you on the other side.” “Don’t say that honey. You are going to be fine,” he protested. She smiled at him, managed to raise a finger, and signaled Ayo to come closer. She did, placing her ear next to her mouth. Gabriel watched closely with tears streaming down his face. “Take care of him. I know you two will do well without me. You like him don’t you? Promise me you will take care of him like I would.” Fear, confusion, guilt and anxiety wafted through Ayo. She was not ready to lose her best friend. Most of all, she realized that Chinyere had noticed how he looked at Gabriel all the while. “Promise me that,” Chinyere insisted. “I…I can’t Chiichii. You are going nowhere without me.” “Ayo, you must take care of him,” she insisted. Suddenly, she went limp. “No!!! Ayo shouted. Gabriel held her limp body to himself, shouting to the nurses and doctors to come and revive her.

A short while later, Chinyere was declared dead! Gabriel could not eat for days. Ayo lost nearly a fifth of her body weight. The anguish stemming from Chinyere’s death left her family, friends and most of all Gabriel in utter devastation. Two weeks later, she was laid to rest in Nigeria. Gabriel was not sure whether to return to London or remain in Nigeria after the funeral. He was lost; completely confused. His life lost its direction the moment Chinyere died. Ayo returned to Lagos to be with her family. She had the intention of job-hunting in Lagos for a while, but she did not have the motivation to start. Every now and again, tears would suddenly begin to stream down her face. She had never had a friend as close as Chinyere. She wondered how Chinyere’s spirit would look down on her. She knew all the while that I liked Gabriel, but she said nothing. I guess she trusted that I would do nothing terrible behind her back. God bless, tell me she was not mad at me when she died. A million thoughts ran amok in her mind. In Port Harcourt, Gabriel locked himself up in his room, refusing to talk to anybody.

This story was written by:

Victor Chinoo

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