SILENT CRIES - Episode 1

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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - rush hour traffic, a headless chicken, infrequent marriage badgering calls, overdraft facility he wanted on his account, randomly picked blind dates, charming, intelligent and well-spoken, armed robbery, Sam Smith will work wonders, slim and medium complexioned.

Ijeoma got back from work that day sweating heavily and knew she was going to be very late for her date. It had been a hot and humid day and she had been caught in the rush hour traffic returning home from the office. She now rushed about her apartment like a headless chicken putting her stuff together for the date when her phone rang.

“Hello?” she panted, struggling into a deep purple skirt.

“Hello, my daughter is that you?”

It was her mum's voice.

“Yes mum, it's me.” she replied with a bitten off, “Who else could be answering my phone?” under her breath.

“I just heard from your sister. Her son is in crisis again and they are at the hospital.”

Her heart sank and the wind was knocked out of her sails. She had thought this was one of those her mum's infrequent marriage badgering calls. The sister her mum mentioned was her elder sister who had a 6 years old asthmatic son. He had often got this sort of crises during this period, but it had seemed to subside in the past year. However, this was the second within the same month that year.

“Mum, I have to go out this evening and I’m already running late. I'll call her when I get back and give you feedback later okay?”

“That's fine, talk to you later dear. Take care of yourself and be careful.”

“Yes mum,” she replied as she pressed the end button. She wanted to continue getting ready but the ‘be careful’ from her mum got her thinking of the stormy events at the office that day.

She had just returned from seeing one of her clients about an overdraft facility he wanted on his account, and was walking back to her office when her manager beckoned her into her office.

 Adaku gestured to a seat.

“Good morning, Ijeoma. Please shut the door - this won't take long.”

Ijeoma sat down, wondering what was up; she got on reasonably well with her, so she couldn't figure out why she sounded unusually curt. Her apprehension mounted as Adaku went on to talk about the unprofessionalism she said she had observed in Ijeoma's work, and how she preferred to let her know about it first rather than writing a query.

 Ijeoma was quite shocked; she tried to ask her to be more specific, but Adaku cut her off, saying that she had said everything she wanted to say. Ijeoma responded by emphatically stating that Adaku was being unfair in not giving her a fair hearing, and things went rapidly downhill from there. The encounter left her really rattled, she was certain that there was more in it than met the eye.

“Best not to think too much about it”, she muttered to herself. After all, there was this date to look forward to. Her friend, Tochi had been pestering her forever to go out with this friend of her brother's. She wasn't exactly filled with confidence; the last person that Tochi had recommended had not turned out very well. She’d almost refused, but Tochi pleaded that this guy was really good. The truth was she doubted that Tochi even knew the kind of person she wanted. Ijeoma sighed as she put finishing touches to her makeup and prepared to step out of her flat. Tochi had managed to persuade her this time, but only after she swore never, ever to trouble her with her randomly picked blind dates if this didn't work out.

She had also agreed because of the impression she had got when her date called to set up the time and venue. He had sounded charming, intelligent and well-spoken - definitely no red flags. He seemed a bit reticent to give more information about himself, though. All she knew was that his name was Nnamdi, and he ‘ran an engineering business’. Well, at the very worst, it sounded like she might have a more interesting time going out than staying in, even if nothing happened.

The skies were already darkening when she stepped out of the cab in front of the restaurant that they'd agreed to meet in. She looked around, wondering if he might be waiting outside, but she didn't see anyone who looked like they might be him. Maybe I'll have more luck inside, she thought as she walked in. Again, she scanned the dark interior.

“Is he late?” she wondered aloud. She hoped not; one of her pet peeves was people who disrespected others by not keeping to time.

“No, he's not. In fact, he's been watching you since you entered, and he's quite impressed by what he's seen.” She heard a voice say in the same deep baritone she had heard on the phone. She turned round, startled, and saw someone who looked to be in his early thirties, of average height, a bit slim and medium complexioned. He smiled at her and continued, “Sorry for the unusual introduction... I shouldn’t have chosen a table out of sight, but I usually find the view outside the window provides interesting things to talk about. I don't think that will apply this evening, my eyes will be taken up with a much more beautiful spectacle.”

She smiled back. “Thank you, Nnamdi - that's a very nice compliment.”

He led her to her table, and they ordered their entrees straightaway. The evening passed pleasantly; she told him all about herself, her schooling, how she got a job at First Bank, what she would really like to do if she had the money, places she would like to travel to, her views on the different places she had been to, and so on. Nnamdi seemed genuinely interested and impressed by her ideas and her views; the more she talked, the more he wanted to know. She was definitely enjoying herself.

Ijeoma leaned back and smiled at him. “You sound like a very interesting person. I'd like to hear more of your views on the world; you've not talked a lot about yourself.”

Nnamdi smiled. “What business does the moon have in the sky when the sun is out shining? My life these days is not that interesting; you'll agree that we've both enjoyed ourselves listening to you talk.”

“But what if we could enjoy ourselves even more by listening to you talk? Ngwa... spill the beans!”

He made an expansive gesture. “Okay, what do you want to know?”
She grinned back mischievously. “Tell me your deepest, darkest secret.”

Nnamdi appeared to think for a while. Then he leaned closer to her and whispered, “I used to be an armed robber.”

Ijeoma stared at him. Then she laughed. “Be serious now.”

“I am being serious.”

She shook her head. He had to be joking - who would come out openly and say such a thing? Even armed robbers wouldn't do so. “So assuming you're telling the truth - why did you go into armed robbery?”

“For the same reason most other people do - lack of opportunity elsewhere, and a friend drew me into it with the promise of making a lot of money from it. The honest truth is that back then, I felt that I had to do what I had to do. I saw people as objects rather than as human beings with feelings, so I didn't feel bad about doing what I did. But that was then.”

“I don't understand how you can be so open about your past.”

Nnamdi smiled, and made the same expansive gesture as before. “Well, you wanted to know my deepest, darkest secret... there's a saying, 'beware of what you ask for, because you may get it'.”

They continued talking, but the earlier pleasant mood of the evening for her had definitely soured. After a few more minutes, she stood up and announced that she had to go.

“What a pity. I feel that we were really enjoying ourselves. I came with my car; I can drive you home if you don’t mind.”

“No, thanks.” He insisted, but she was firm. She did assent for him to wait with her while she hailed a taxi, but responded to his chat in monosyllables. Eventually, a cab turned up, and as she got in, he gave her his number and said that he would like them to meet again sometime.

“Let’s see how it goes,” she murmured. As the taxi sped off toward her flat, she reminded herself to call her sister and update her mother. Tochi would have to answer about Nnamdi later.


6 a.m., and the cock had barely finished crowing as Ijeoma walked into the bank premises. ‘Click-click-click’ as her heels hit the concrete. Truth was, Ijeoma was nervous about meeting with her boss, Adaku again, which was why she was at the office early to take a closer look at her work. She had no idea what she could have done. Adaku had called her ‘unprofessional’. Why? She couldn’t think of a reason. Since she started at this bank, she has consciously been professional about everything.

 She hurried to her desk in the common office and began shuffling through files and to-do lists, making sure she had left no stones unturned. As she began to work, she turned on some music to keep her company. She had another hour or so to herself before the first set of bankers would begin to arrive.

The crooning voice of Sam Smith will work wonders to calm her nerves. “Somehow I know that it’ll all turn out. You'll make me work so we can work to work it out, and promise you kid, I'll give so much more than I get, mmmm...I just haven't met you yet...” she sang to herself, bobbing her head to the music.

“Well I have certainly met you,” a voice said behind her.

 Startled, she dropped the file she was holding.

 “Oh I didn’t mean to startle you.” It was the bank manager, her boss’ boss, Ayo.

“It’s no problem sir. I wasn’t expecting anyone to be here. I’ll just turn the music off.” She replied. She was a little uncomfortable being in the same room with him.

“Ah, but I didn’t ask you to turn it off.”

 “No, it’s ok. I will turn it off. I have to run to the basement anyways.”

“Why are you avoiding me, eh Ijeoma?”

“Ah! No it’s nothing sir.” She got up to put the files away. As she walked by him, he grabbed her by the waist and held her close to him.

“I don’t bite,” he whispered in her ears.


Written by:
Ikpo Henry Chigozirim

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SILENT CRIES - Episode 1
Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - rush hour traffic, a headless chicken, infrequent marriage badgering calls, overdraft facility he wanted on his account, randomly picked blind dates, charming, intelligent and well-spoken, armed robbery, Sam Smith will work wonders, slim and medium complexioned. An African Literary Blog
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