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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog. Hello by Adele, plugged into my MP3 player, Tottenham Court Road, Heathrow international airport, London, British Airways, Lagos, rent.



It was a rare sunny day in London. I walked along Oxford Street; the very epicenter of London’s shopping ‘district’. Sweaty skins brushed against one another as a sea of humanity meandered through the narrow street from shop to shop. As everyone seems to do in London, I had plugged my ears with a pair of ear pieces that were plugged into my MP3 player. Happily, I savored my new favorite song, ‘Hello’ by the elegant and highly talented Adele, as I sauntered through the crowd. There’s such a difference between us. And a million miles. Hello from the other side. I must have called a thousand times. To tell you I’m sorry for everything that I’ve done. But when I call you never seem to be home……But it don't matter it clearly doesn't tear you apart anymore. Adele’s voice rang out beautifully in my ears. Every word of that song seemed to awaken a deluge of emotions in me…emotions I had fought so hard to bury in the abyss of my heart. Then, I looked up and there he was. His right hand was hanging firmly on the shoulders of another girl…not on my shoulders, where it used to rest. His left hand waved passionately in the air as he chatted away with incandescent energy. He must have been telling her a joke because she was laughing hysterically. Perhaps he was telling her a joke he and I once shared…a joke he probably told me sometime in the past. She seemed very happy and that left a sour taste in my mouth.

I felt my intestines contort peevishly. I stopped and stared piercingly at them. Time seemed to stop too. All of a sudden, I felt terribly alone amid a sea of people who seemed to have frozen; held in place by the stabbing pain that raced through me. He leaned over and gave her a peck on the cheek. She had to be his new catch. He exhibited all the behaviors he had showcased towards me when I fell madly in love with him. You could see passion and excitement oozing out of them as they walked gleefully towards Tottenham Court Road.

Two and a half years earlier…
I got off a British Airways airliner at Heathrow international airport, London. All of a sudden, all the excitement of travelling to London for my A levels dissipated. I struggled to get my thoughts across to anyone. My Nigerian accent was heavy, everyone seemed too busy, and I had arrived in winter, leaving me at the mercy of London’s brutal elements. Starting from Heathrow, I could not find my way to the hostel where my parents had made a reservation for me. I got off the train at the wrong station twice. Each time, I ascended the escalators to ground level where I was hit in the face by a dense mass of unbearably cold air. When I finally found the hostel, I locked myself in my tiny room, which was less than half the size of my storeroom in Lagos. I did not feel like seeing anyone or going anywhere the next day…In fact, I did not feel like doing anything for the rest of my life. I was only seventeen years old. I began to suffer panic attacks before I knew it.

My parents encouraged me to hang tough. “You’ll soon get used to it,” they said over and over again. As a result, I stopped complaining to them. After all they had sacrificed to send me to London; it seemed terribly ungrateful of me to whine at every corner. At school, I struggled to understand my instructors’ accents. One of them was from Manchester; another was from Liverpool while another one was from Scotland. They were quite a combination. I’d sit in class gaping blindly at them with absolutely no idea what they were talking about. The feeling was mutual, as they hardly understood a word I said.

I had never failed at anything in my life, so the thought of letting my parents down began to plague my young and inexperienced mind like a predator stalking its prey. I contemplated suicide fleetingly just to end the fear that tormented me on a daily basis. Then, in my first spring in London, I was walking along Oxford Street when I ran into Chijioke. The moment I sighted him, I knew he was Nigerian. The smile on his face was alluringly warm. He was haggling over a pair of jeans at Mad House, a popular men’s clothing shop on Oxford Street. “Come on pay am, Igbo man,” I joked without being invited into the discussion. It was very unlike me to get involved. I am exceptionally shy, so I cannot even explain what made me say that to him. Maybe it was my loneliness. His accent was typically Nigerian…Igbo to be specific, so I guess I was excited to hear see someone who sounded like me.

Pounds hard to earn oh,” he replied jokingly. Our eyes met as he looked up. He wore an innocent smile on his face. He had dimples on his cheeks when he smiled and his baritone voice made me somewhat giddy. “I am Chijioke,” he said stretching his hand for a handshake. “I am Ada,” I replied. “You mind waiting for me to get the best deal I can from this Oyibo man?” he asked. “I would love to walk a beautiful girl like you down the street. It is a busy place that is better enjoyed in the company of another person,” he persuaded. I was already sold, so I answered, “Sure!” He quickly ended his haggling and dashed out of the shop with a pair of jeans in a bag. He probably overpaid in his bid to catch up with me. “I’m a master’s student at University College London,” he said as he hurriedly returned to me. “I am an A levels student at Central London College,” I answered.

We walked along the busy street together. He told me joke after joke about life in London. He mentioned a friend of his who had overstayed his visa in London. “Each time he sees policemen coming in his direction,” Chijioke explained. “His heart sank into his stomach. He would begin to sweat even in the middle of winter, out of the fear that they were coming to arrest him. He nearly broke his leg once hiding from policemen who did not even know he existed,” he remarked. He was so easy to talk to and I need a companion as much as I craved oxygen. He took me to a KFC outlet at the intersection between Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road. Everything happened so fast. By the time he was walking me back to my hostel; his arm rested on my shoulder. For once since my arrival in London, I felt safe…happy and wanted again.

We began to see each other on a daily basis. Soon I began to leave my clothes in his room. He shared a flat with another Nigerian guy in East London. I literally gave myself to him without reservation. I was clingy at times. I could not breathe without Chijioke. He became the anchor upon which my young and confused life depended. He was equally attached to me; or so he led me to believe. I had never been with a man. He was my first and I was determined to make our burgeoning relationship work. Going back to my sad and lonely days was not an option.

“I am having a problem,” Chijioke told me one afternoon. “What is it honey?” I asked eager to crush anything that dared bother the love of my life. “I am low on cash. I need some money to pay my rent for the coming month,” he said. A look of relief strolled across my face. “I thought you had a serious problem, my love,” I replied. I knew how much his rent was, so without further questioning, I offered him money to cover his rent for the next six months. I told my parents a lie to get extra money from them. They were willing to offer me more having seen my new-found joy in London. Little did they know that it was all about a young man who was twice my age.

‘Why don’t I move in with you?” I asked Chijioke one night. We were wrapped in each other’s arms. He pondered my question for a moment. This is a no-brainer, I thought. He should jump at the opportunity. I did all the house work for him and I contributed more money to his life than he could count. “It makes no sense paying rent at the hostel when we could stay together and save,” I said in an effort to clarify my reason for the suggestion. “Yes darling. Of course that is fine by me,” he said. There was a hint of reluctance to his voice, but I brushed it aside. He quickly attacked my lips with his in a passionate kiss that quickly burned that thought off my inexperienced brain.

I happily moved in with Chijioke. I did all his cooking after buying all the stuff I needed for the cooking with my money. I cleaned the house and did his laundry. I paid the rent too. There was nothing I would not do for him. One day he returned from work with a frown on his face. He had just graduated from his master’s program and with new laws in the country, he was required to return to Nigeria. “I don’t know what to do!” He said tensely. I sat beside him and stoked his back. I could not think of another way to soothe his frayed nerves. “Marrying a British girl is the only way out, I guess,” he said. “Marrying one for real?” I asked. I was alarmed. I could not bear to have another woman come near my hero and lover, how much more marry him. “Not like that,” he said. “I won’t have anything to do with her. It is meant to be an arrangement. I will pay her for the arrangement. As soon as I get my residency, then we’ll dissolve the marriage,” he explained.

He sounded very sure of what he was saying. I did not like the idea. The mere thought that he would be someone else’s husband made my stomach churn in pain. He could tell that I did not like the idea. I stopped stroking him as I pondered his proposition. “So, it would not affect your relationship with me?” I asked. My voice oozed concern and worry. “Of course not. You will never even see her with me. Once she is paid, everyone goes their separate ways. If I don’t do it, I’d end up in Nigeria soon.” As soon as he said that, the reality sunk in. I would rather have him in London than in Nigeria; at least for the time being while I was still there. Chijioke asked for help to finance the project. According to Chijioke, the girl in question had asked for ten thousand Pounds - a hefty chunk of money.

I rallied the best I could and offered him six thousand Pounds. On the day of the phony wedding, I saw the girl for the first time. I did not like her at all. She was a tall and beautiful white British girl born and raised in East London. She was rough – from the way she talked, you could tell. She chewed gum as though she had a score to settle with gum. Her jaws clamped upon the gum with a loud and annoying sound. She was vulgar too, swearing without restraint. I watched the entire proceedings in court praying that this whole sham would soon be over. I hated it when she placed her arms around Chijioke. My eyes shot silent unseen bullets at her. Moments after the wedding, Imogen – that’s her name – began to puff cigarette smokes out of her lungs, mouth and nostrils like an old coal-fired train engine galloping through English countryside.

A month after the arranged marriage, Chijioke filed some documentations with the home office towards his visa. He looked happy again, which made me happy. Soon, Imogen began to frequent his apartment. “Why was she here today,” I demanded. “And she was here yesterday too,” I pointed out to Chijioke. “Are you sleeping with her?” “No! Stop talking like that. You know I would never do that to you,” Chijioke reassured me. Imogen is a drug addict – cocaine. She wants more money from me to support her addiction; else, she’d tell the home office that the marriage is fake. If that happens, they will put me in jail and when I come out, they’d ship me home,” he explained. “I don’t like her. I didn’t like her from the moment I set my eyes on her,” I said hastily.


The above story was narrated by Ijeoma Mba (actual name withheld) and was edited by editorial team. Ijeoma loves to read stories, writes a few herself and is a fan of


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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog. Hello by Adele, plugged into my MP3 player, Tottenham Court Road, Heathrow international airport, London, British Airways, Lagos, rent. An African Literary Blog
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