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Port Harcourt, Nigeria : “You have suffered enough my son,” Gabriel’s mother, Sarah said. “...

Port Harcourt, Nigeria: “You have suffered enough my son,” Gabriel’s mother, Sarah said. “You should come downstairs. There is someone here to see you.” “I don’t want to see anyone mom,” he snarled. “Gaby, I think you want to see this person,” she replied politely maintaining her calm. Gabriel was sitting on the bed with his head in his hand. His face was covered by a thicket of facial hair. He had not shaved in over two weeks. He had about a week more to return to London or lose his job, and he was not even bothered about it. The will to live had completely deserted him. He looked up at his mother. She too had been mourning Chinyere, but she looked different today. Her somber demeanor had gone. Gabriel wondered if she had already forgotten Chinyere. The frown on his face deepened as he pondered that. Then she stepped up to the door. Like a ghost, her figure appeared between the door frames. Sarah’s face glowed with a dazzling smile as she gazed upon her. Gabriel looked at her mother and then at the figure at the door. 

He wanted to talk but his lips were sealed shut. His hands shook, while his heart quivered audibly. He languidly rose to his feet. He could hear the creaking of his knees. He was certain that the person standing at the door was Chinyere’s ghost but he was willing to take his chances. Even in death, Chinyere still loves me, so her ghost will not harm me; he rationalized as he shuffled towards her. She could no longer wait. She dropped her purse with no care in the world and dashed toward him. He had barely eaten in weeks. He was feeble and emaciated. She rammed into him, knocking him over. Together they crashed in to the bed. “What is going on?” He asked. He was utterly bemused. “Are you real Chiichii?” “Yes Gaby. I am so sorry. I will explain everything.” “I am so glad. I can’t believe this. Is this really happening?” Sarah left the room and shut the door behind her. 
Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria: Ayo lay on the couch while her therapist sat behind the couch; removed from her view. “I can no longer live with this burden,” Ayo said. “That is why you are here,” answered her therapist. “Go ahead and let it all out.” She went ahead and narrated her crush on Gabriel and the fact that she did not know Chinyere was aware of it but decided not to say anything until her dying moment. “I have been battling the guilt that I let my best friend down,” Ayo said. “On the other hand, I did not seduce Gabriel or something. I vigorously wrestled with my feelings and to a very reasonable extent, I kept them under wraps. That notwithstanding, I have been ravaged by guilt for two weeks now since my friend passed away.” “Have you spoken to her boyfriend?” 

“I spoke to him at the funeral and shortly afterwards. We consoled each other and that was it.” “What do you feel for him now?” “I really don’t know. I have refused to allow myself into those territories since Chinyere passed away. I could not do that. I had a fleeting desire to jump into Gabriel’s arms in his time of grief and possibly have my way with him, but I smothered that feeling as quickly as possible.” “So you have no intention of trying to date this guy?” “Not at all. I can’t bring myself to do that.” “Deep down, are you sure you are over him.” She paused for a moment to ponder the question. Then, she took a deep breath and answered, “Yes,” matter-of-factly. “I can’t seem to understand why you feel guilty Ayo. I am sure you see Chinyere’s eyes in her dying moment piercing through you. To find out that she knew all along and never mentioned it can unnerve anyone. But if we are objective, we see that you never acted on your feelings. You cannot control what you feel…at least not all of it; nor where and when, but you have the ultimate responsibility to reign in your feelings and appetites,” the therapist explained.

She was a tall bespectacled lady of British and Nigerian extraction. Her father was Yoruba and her mother English. She visited Nigeria nearly every year with her parents and in one of those trips, she met a guy from Warri and over time their relationship blossomed. She fell in love with the country too, so after graduating from the University of Northampton in the UK, she sought to ‘dualise’ her nationality. As soon as her Nigerian citizenship went through, she packed her things and moved to Lagos. She and Ochuko, a banker got married two years later. “I think you have to accept the fact that you did not bring the feeling upon yourself. The important thing is that you refused to act on them Ayo, even after Chinyere’s death. You should be proud of yourself.” “Should I?” “Yes you should.” “And you don’t think Chinyere is looking down on me with fury from above?” “I don’t know much about what happens on the other side after death Ayo, but I like to think that she can see your heart from that end. She knows your heart is pure and you know the same too. Let go of the guilt that has been holding you back. You have done well. Be proud of yourself and stick to those principles. They will take you far in life.” “Thanks Helen. I feel so relieved to hear that. I have been thinking of myself as a demon.” “You should not…not anymore”

Port Harcourt, Nigeria: He wolfed down a full plate of pounded yam with bitter leaf soup. For the first time in weeks, he had the appetite to eat. Chinyere, her sister Ekwutosi and Gabriel’s parents were all at the table. Like a newly born, they nursed him. Whatever he asked for, he got. After eating, he asked, “Now I want to know what just happened here. So dad and mom, you were not a party to this whole thing?” “We had no idea of it at all. We were suspicious of Chinyere’s parents at the funeral though, when they insisted that they did not want the coffin to be opened at all. We wanted to question them, but with the amount of grief we believed they were going through, we opted not to,” Answered Gabriel Sr. “And the fat that it was such a small and low-key funeral was such a surprise to me. We all knew Chinyere was…or shall I say we all know Chinyere is full of life and has a lot of friends. It did worry us that the funeral was almost secretive,” Gabriel’s mother added. “Dad was so unhappy about the whole thing, but as always, he respected Chinyere’s plan,” Ekwutosi explained. “I guess I have fully refueled now. Honey, could you please tell us how you and your family managed to pull this off,” Gabriel asked Chinyere, now convinced that it was not her ghost. She smiled, apologized for the pain they all had to go through and began to narrate.

Tralee, Republic of Ireland (Four weeks earlier): In futility, both pilots battled to gain control of the plummeting airplane. Miraculously, they managed to steer it into Irish air space. The air traffic controller told that there was an air strip in the small town Tralee. When they reached Tralee, they had little control of the airplane. Eventually, they crash-landed on the air strip. The airplane broke up after a mighty collision with ground. One wing broke completely off and dangled aimlessly in the wind. Objects were forcefully sent into motion including human bodies. Tightly strapped onto her seat, Chinyere prayed, “God I will never let you down if you save my life again. Please save us. Save us please!” Her eyes were shot when she heard the impact. Her seat bounced around and an object from the storage compartment above fell off and struck her in the head. She saw bodies taking unintended flights off the broken windows and newly carved exits through the body of the airplane. She thought she had died. There was no way she had survived. Her legs hurt a little, but beyond that, she did not feel much pain. She saw paramedics scurrying frantically towards the plane. It reminded her of the blast in London and the attempts on her life. “If I am still alive, God please I am tired of all these. I can take no more.” She said a quick prayer.

As the firefighters cut though rubbles, she unstrapped herself and looked around for anyone who might still be breathing. She found a woman with numerous objects resting heavily on her. Underneath her was a child of about two years old. The woman had used her body to shield her daughter. They both seemed to be breathing. She moved the objects until she had enough room to peel them free. She moved them to a seeming safe spot and assured the woman that paramedics were on the way. Looking down the fuselage, she saw a man on the other end doing the same thing. He too had survived. They both worked anxiously to help whoever they could. Soon, there was another person and then, another. Paramedics finally made their way into the plane and began to take the living away. “Mam, I am sorry you have to leave now. Leave this to the experts. You have done enough. Come with us,” they urged her. There were about twenty people who came out of the plane with no serious injuries, and Chinyere was one of them. Amid the chaos, they took her to the hospital. “This is a miracle. You have no internal injuries and no broken bones from what the scans show. I can’t believe it. We will send you to the hotel and airline officials will contact you shortly,” A young male doctor explained to her.

In the midst of the melee, she realized that she could have been dead; gone forever. God must have a reason for sparing my life over and over again, she thought to herself. In that moment, she realized that she loved her family and Gabriel very much. I have not been true to myself. I know Ayo has interest in Gabriel and I have allowed it to persist. I need to make sure that the people in my life are the ones I can call on any time, any day, she rationalized. Besides, the receptionist at Gabriel’s office had told her while she was in Nigeria that Ayo had come to visit Gabriel and that the two of them went out to lunch. It put a lot of doubt in her head, especially about Ayo. “Doctor please can I ask you a big and unusual favor?” “Fire away,” the doctor replied. She asked the doctor if he would be kind enough to fix her up as though she had assorted injuries. “I am sorry to put you in this position, but I need to know that the two closest friends of mine are true friends indeed. Make me look like I am nearing death. I am sure they will both be here in a day or two. When they come, you can have a nurse give me injection that would knock me out as though I were dying. You can have my friend and my boyfriend leave the room, and then you can go to them and pronounce me dead.” “You have a vivid imagination young woman,” the doctor teased.

“Do you really have to do this?” “Yes. It may be impulsive, but I have had a close brush with death so many times. I need to make certain that I am truly making the most of my second chance…with the right people in my life.” “I will see what I can do,” the doctor said and left.” When he returned, he had a plan in place. Chinyere called her parents to explain her actions. They did not like the idea but she pressed hard enough for them to give in to her pressure. “The coffin was filled with stones covered with clothes,” Chinyere explained. I am genuinely sorry honey. She asked of Gabriel. “I understand you and Ayo have not even met up since the hoax called my funeral. I am very sorry. When I heard she came to see you at the office while I was away and that you too went out to lunch, I guess everything took a whole new meaning to me.” 

“I will never cheat on you Chiichii. I knew Ayo and even Zainab harbored feelings of some sort for me, but I would never do a thing like that. I think you should know that Ayo would not either. Zainab was the one that made a serious attempt actually while you were away.” He went on to describe the encounter with Zainab. “I trust you even more now sweetheart. I am sorry for putting you through all that pain,” Chinyere apologized yet again. “Now let’s go and get you shaved. You look like a bush man.” “Before we do that I have to say something. Chinyere, please will you marry me? I don’t have a ring to offer you right now; largely because you left me no choice with everything that happened in the last month. But every square centimeter of my heart belongs to you. In my grief, life felt meaningless without you. You can say yes right now, and we will be on track to a life together, to part no more in this life. We need each other so much; there is no point in waiting. Please will you marry me?”

He dropped to the ground on his knees. “Yes Gaby…Yes. I couldn’t live without you. Yes, I am thrilled at the prospect of living the rest of my life with you. I promise to make you a good and loving wife. Yes, I will marry you!” Her eyes were shining brightly with excitement and utter fulfillment. His parents watched with relief. Tiny specks of tears dotted around Sarah’s eyes, while Gabriel Sr. beamed with expansive smiles, that he could eat a banana sideways. Ekwutosi rained down buckets of tear. “Now let’s go and get you shaved sweetheart,” Chinyere said throwing her hand around Gabriel’s neck. “That sounds like a good idea,” Sarah added. Gabriel lifted her off her feet and carried her upstairs. She closed her eyes, thankful to be back in his arms. 


This story was written by:

Victor Chinoo

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