Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - Lagos state government, sunless morning to hail a taxi, the Nigerian government, on his high horse and messed up her rhythm, girls from Accounts Reconciliation, the cacophony of the evening hustle and bustle, She hailed another taxi.
SILENT CRIES - Episode 6
Ijeoma was having the worst possible Monday in the history of Mondays. To begin with, she didn’t hear her alarm ring at 6am and flew out of bed at 6:43 instead.
Rushing to get ready and stepping out of the house within an impressive 35 minutes, she was beginning to have faith that the day could still be salvaged when her car refused to start. Her mallam-cum-makeshift-mechanic insisted he could fix the problem in “pife” (five) minutes.
“Madam, only pife minutes I need,” he declared but Ijeoma had neither the patience nor the mood to wait and angrily stomped out into the sunless morning to hail a taxi.
The rapture or something like it must have occurred that morning – that was the only explanation she could think of for the practically standstill traffic, and she spent many angry minutes uncharacteristically cursing the taxi driver, the other drivers, the Okada riders, the Lagos state government, the Nigerian government, and every other entity she could think of.
Walking into her 9am meeting at 9:26, she fumbled into the nearest empty seat, muttering a breathless “Sorry I’m late. Got caught in traffic.”
“And they say you're professional,” Adaku muttered. “Do you have the report?”
She snapped more loudly. “I’m really sorry,” Ijeoma said, shuffling through the papers she held in her hand. She picked out a couple and asked Bola to pass them down. “Here they are.”
Adaku shot her a withering look before resuming her presentation. Ijeoma could not have been more embarrassed.
It’s this stupid Nnamdi, she thought to herself. She had gone home fuming from the party, thinking she’d made a huge mistake. She didn’t even know what made her kiss him; it wasn’t like her to do so. She was never quite the forward type, but somehow Nnamdi had waltzed in on his high horse and messed up her rhythm.
She hadn’t been able to get much sleep the past few nights, tossing and turning and staring at the pitch-black darkness way into the early morning. Feeling cranky from lack of sleep, she willed herself to disappear in her seat. It didn’t seem like she was doing a very good job because she caught Ayo winking at her. Suddenly she was very annoyed. What was wrong with this man? He'd shown up to a party on her mum's invitation as her boss but then proceeded to get chummy at every chance as if he’d just proposed. Had he no shame or sense of decency? Did he not care about his wife?
“What’s wrong with men these days? It’s like they don’t know what they want.” She didn’t realize she’d hissed out loud until all eyes in the boardroom turned to her.
“Excuse me, did you have a problem with something I said?” Adaku asked, sounding irritated.
“I’m-I’m sorry,” Ijeoma stammered and for lack of a meaningful explanation to give, reorganized her papers and tried to look busy. That was her Monday so far, and it wasn’t even 10 o’clock yet.
Determined to make up for her double strike at the meeting, she decided to skip lunch and use the time to put in some extra work. Ijeoma felt upset with herself for being very careless, and she reminded herself that now was not the time to slack off. The recent spate of terminations all over the banking sector was nothing to joke with, especially now that she was due for confirmation.
Around 12:30, Bola and one of the girls from Accounts Reconciliation stopped by to ask if she would join them for lunch.
“Oh, thanks for the invitation,” Ijeoma smiled, “but I really have to finish all this work.” The other girl excused herself for a phone call, and Bola waited until she was out of sight before saying, “So when are you going to gist me about you and you-know-who at your party on Friday?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Ijeoma laughed nervously, she didn't want to talk about Nnamdi.
“Ahahn don’t form for me joor,” Bola teased. “I heard he was all over you and even gave gifts to your mom.”
Ijeoma stared back at him blankly for a few seconds before realizing she was talking about Ayo. “Oh you mean that one?” she said and then hissed. “I don’t understand why he won’t leave me alone.”
“It’s so obvious he likes you,” Bola said, pausing to add, “He’s really rich you know. And I hear he and his wife haven’t lived together in over a year.”
Ijeoma was about to ask why Bola was sharing this information with her when the other girl returned.
“You guys should enjoy your lunch,” Ijeoma said. “I’ve to return to this portfolio anyway.”
“We’ll talk later sha,” Bola replied and left. Ijeoma turned back to her monitor and thought about the conversation. A nagging feeling at the back of her mind told her trouble was breeding somewhere, but she convinced herself she was being ridiculous and tried to focus on her work.
At 8 pm, she decided to head home. Most of her co-workers had gone by then, so she packed her papers and hurriedly left the building. Stepping outside the gates of the bank, she suddenly realized she hadn’t eaten all day. She stood for a few minutes, the cacophony of the evening hustle and bustle interspersing her angrily growling tummy, until she spotted an empty taxi heading in her direction. She stretched out her hand to flag it down, and without a word, got into the backseat.
The driver turned around to ask where she was going, and Ijeoma gasped as she recognized the disheveled, unkempt stranger as James, her sister’s missing husband.
“James…?” Ijeoma stared, mouth agape and eyes wide in shock.
“Wetin be that?” The driver asked. “You dey ok?”
“Are you not James?” she demanded as shock and all kinds of emotions coursed through her body. He looked exactly the same as her missing brother-in-law.
“That no be me oo. Who be James? Madam you well so?”
“I’m alright. It’s just that…you look like someone I know.” she continued looking at him intently. “My sister’s husband…”
“I say no be me,” said the cab driver in an unflinching tone. “Where you dey go?”
He did look different. Thinner harder, meaner. The voice was also a bit different from James'…or so she thought. It had been almost three years. She really couldn’t remember what James’ voice was like anymore; partly because of the time lapse and partly because she had almost believed he was dead…
Stop it, Ijeoma, and tell the man where you’re headed!
“Lekki Phase 1…” She finally replied.
Scratching his head, the driver said “Oh…Sorry o! I no dey go that way…I don close for today and na Surulere side I dey go.”
Ijeoma pierced him with her gaze but again he remained unmoving. “Madam go now make I fit find another passenger.”
“Oh…ok. I’ll just get another cab.” She jumped out, hunger and tiredness now replaced by angst, memories of the nights when she had to stay with her sister. When Ngozi would cry herself sick; her son sick and her husband missing. Lost in her reverie, Ijeoma almost got knocked down by an Okada rider…
“See, no be me go kpai (kill) you o!” he cursed at her.
“Sorry! Sorry...” said a very confused Ijeoma.
Cursing Okada riders were the least of her problems at that point. Damn! This had to be the day devil came out with his entire clan. A stressful day at work and now a James look-alike! She hailed another taxi. Thankfully, this one was headed her way.
The thought of what happened a few minutes ago just wouldn’t leave her. That driver had definitely put her on the edge. He looked so much like James…but that voice, or maybe that was because of the pidgin he was speaking. She had never heard James speak that before, and the taxi driver seemed very fluent. She cursed her car for not starting. Cursed the mechanic for not fixing whatever the problem was. “Chei! I must be more fatigued than I thought.” She said aloud.
“You say wetin?”
“Abeg, no vex. I was talking to myself” she said, embarrassed. Something about this entire business smacked of lies…or was she paranoid? Yes. She was paranoid alright. And hungry. And fagged out. “Lord help!” she said aloud.
The cab driver obviously worried about the young lady constantly talking to herself said “Take it easy o madam. It is well.”
The first thing she did when she came in was to call her best friend. “The strangest thing happened today o, Tochi!”
“What happened…Ijeoma abeg, hold on, I don’t know what TJ dey call me for now…”
“No wahala…I’m here.” Ijeoma said in between nervous laughter. Who would believe it? She thought to herself. Should she tell her sister?
Tochi was soon back on the line, hissing “Walai! Can you imagine! It’s that rubbish Mutallab boy that TJ called me to come see!”
Ijeoma laughed at her. “Say after me, Mutallab is a mu-mu.”
Tochi hissed again. “Tell me joor, wetin happen today? Has Nnamdi finally called?”
“Please don’t talk to me about Nnamdi!” She had thought about him at work most of her free time but what happened on the way home had pushed him to the back of her mind. And she preferred him to remain there. “You want make I speak with am again?”
Tochi interrupted her thoughts. Ijeoma was mortified. “Have you already call him?”
“I’m sorry Ijeoma, I called him for something to do with Udochukwu, but your name came up.” Ijeoma sighed.
“It’s okay. I’m tired of that guy oo, and no I won’t call him. After kissing him in public, I think the ball is now firmly in his court.”
Tochi agreed. “So wetin you call to tell me?”
“Tochi you won’t believe it…” Just then her doorbell rang. “Tochi, hold on, someone is at the door.” Ijeoma sprang up off the bed and headed back toward the door. It was just as well she had not changed out of her work clothes.
Tochi went on, mischief in her tone “At this time? Or is it him?”
Ijeoma was busy peering through her windows when Tochi blared in her ears “It’s him! Bad child! You were just pulling my legs abi?”
“Tochi please go joor!” Ijeoma said chuckling, one hand unlocking the door. “I’ll call you.” She froze when she saw who rang her bell. He who now stood in front of her, on her doormat that said “WELCOME”.
“Can I come in?”
Ikpo Henry Chigozirim
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