Signs of the sun going to sleep were starting to mark the horizons. The breeze was cool, but its gentle push did nothing to balance Obibo’s jittery legs and sweaty palms. After more bouts of listening to yet another fable of the security guard’s “war front” experiences, she waved goodnight to him before turning in the direction of her flat. Akpan relished being called “old soldier”, but everyone now knows his story of having fought in the Biafran war, is absolute fabrication.
Obibo spent the next hour pacing up and down. It was hot, stuffy and dark. She battled rowdy mosquitos hell bent on making her ears a podium for their singing competition; and together with mixed sounds from generators, she was sure she would go deaf.
She wondered why Peter won’t pick her calls. First it rang, now it’s going straight to his voicemail. It’s been four days since she last heard from him. ‘What could be wrong’, she pondered. He had told her he would be gone only three days.
She called his friend, Nnamdi but her calls went unanswered. She decided she would ring his sister, Njideka. She scurried around her bedroom with a torchlight looking for Peter’s multi coloured notebook with Njideka’s number, but no luck.
In bed she tossed and turned, unable to sleep. Many thoughts swirled in her head. She had very bad feelings about the whole situation. After all, she had dreamt about Peter leaving her just the night before. In the dream, he was waving goodbye; and then the scene changed to one where her eyes were fixated on a casket. Even though it appeared slammed shut, she had a feeling it was Peter inside. Then she awoke gasping for air, her body drenched in sweat. She ‘tufiakwa’ed’. It scared her – thoughts of losing Peter had not crossed her mind – never.
She remembered the first time she set eyes on him. It was a November evening – love at first sight it was. All she had heard at first was his deep, baritone voice. That was enough to set ‘her butterflies’ loose. It was dark as “NEPA” had struck as usual. Then she saw the flicker of a flame; and a tall, dark figure with what appeared like a well chiselled face emerged. Obibo and her uncle had just moved in – it was a new, twin, two storey build in the suburbs of Ikeja – an area snaking along the edges of Lagos and Ogun [states].
Obibo woke up hot, head ringing and stomach churning. To soothe the queasy feeling, she rubbed her stomach lethargically, but those knots of anxiety were twisting even tighter.
She ran her left hand across her top bed side dresser for her torch light, flicked it on and pointed it at the clock which hung on the opposite wall. It was 03:01 hours precisely, and there was still no trace of any electricity. The mosquitoes were still hard at work. Her worries for Peter took a sudden turn for the worse. She leapt from her bed only to pitch a spot by the window. She pulled back the curtains as though she had heard that unique, smooth sound which always came from Peter’s car engine. A sound that upturned the corners of her mouth into wrinkly smiles and made her drop everything else, just to watch him slowly glide in and pull up in his parking bay.
Thoughts of harm coming to Peter kept jabbing at her mind and the stuffy air surrounding her grew thicker with paranoia. With her back now against the wall, she slid down helplessly, raising both knees mournfully just as her nightie pooled at her feet.
When she awoke again, it was dawn. From the floor she reached for her phone to call Peter; and after about a dozen more failed attempts, she called Nnamdi again.
“ND, ND, have you heard from Peter? Tell me you have please.”
“Bibi, calm down, is everything alright”, sounding almost sleepy.
“No, I have not heard from your friend since…”
“How do you mean since?”
“Yes – he’s been gone five days. Now I can’t reach him,” she said in a panic.
“Oh I am sure he’s alright Bibi.”
“I’m worried. Besides, he should have been back or at the very least, called. He said he would be gone three days.”
“Perhaps, projects overran – these things happen,” said Nnamdi.
“But it is very unlike Peter, he would have said so. ND, I’m really worried.”
“Don’t be, I’m sure he’s alright. I’ll ring him right away – I’ll keep you in the loop.”
She muttered a thank you, hung the line and lazily placed the phone on her bed. She tried to convince herself Nnamdi was right – but she could not think straight, perhaps that dream… Her mind zigzagged, but a conscious, urgent tufiakwa followed swiftly.
Later that day and after a heart pumping roller coaster surge of emotions, Nnamdi showed up at the door. Even though it was dark, he was sporting a pair of dark sunglasses and he would not take them off.
Obibo was nervous because Nnamdi wasn’t saying much or making any sense as to why he was suddenly standing there.
“Has Peter contacted you?” She asked – the curiosity in her voice was palpable.
“What is the matter? Why are you even wearing sunglasses indoors?”
Suspicion and panic raced through the many, tiny cracks that marred her mind. She reached out to Nnamdi and rashly removed his sunglasses. His eyes were bloodshot and he looked like he had been weeping. She didn’t need anyone to tell her now, that all was not well. Has her nightmare become a reality?
Just then, she went into spasms of hysterics, screaming, “God no! God no!” Then she collapsed.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime