Happy New Year guys!
Let’s kick off the New Year with a new series, shall we?
Who’s with me? 🙂
The stars were out that night but they were barely noticeable. Countless fireworks filled the sky and the lights were beautiful, bright and blinding. Ojiugo placed both hands on the wooden planks that had her balanced on the small boat as she tried to stand up.
“What are you doing?” her companion asked
“I just want to stand and enjoy the lights.”
“Madam, shebi you talk say you no sabi swim o. No try am abeg.”
He had a stern look on his face but Ojiugo ignored it.
Ojiugo stood and spread her arms out like Rose did on the Titanic. She shut her eyes and smiled as the gentle breeze drew light strokes across her face. The boat was moving rather fast and a slight bump would cause her to lose her balance but she did not care.
Wale, the boat owner looked nervous. He turned to the little boy who was seated beside him and asked him to watch the engine while he stood up cautiously.
“Madam, if you wan die, abeg no be for here o. You for go carry another boat na.”
Ojiugo dropped her arms and gently lowered herself back to her seat, a huge grin on her face. She looked above the waters- they were approaching third mainland bridge.
“No vex. I’m sorry.”
The young man shot her another stern look and made his way back to the engine.
Ojiugo took a deep breath. She imagined how many people would be worried about her but she didn’t care. Sometimes, it was good to just go ahead and do whatsoever it was you wanted to do without caring what others thought.
The doctors said she had three months to live. She was going to make every single moment count. And that started with going into the New Year exactly as she wanted. The tumor in her brain was cancerous, had grown really large over a long time and could not be operated upon. There was no way out. It was certain she would not live longer than three months.
Ojiugo sighed and looked up again. It was just about midnight. She thought she saw something at the edge of the bridge but she was not sure. She squinted and tried to get a better view. Ojiugo blinked twice and in the instant that she opened her eyes, she saw someone tumble off the edge of the bridge and come diving head first into the ocean.
“Mum, Belema still isn’t picking her phone.”
Nengi returned her phone to her back pocket of her jeans and turned a blank face to her mother.
“I think she really just wants to be left alone today. Let’s respect that.”
Mrs. Ochoga sighed.
“So she starts her new year by shutting everyone out.”
“Yeah, right. The fact that she’s not talking to us doesn’t mean she’s not talking to anyone else. Relax.”
Nengi snatched the wine glass from her mother’s hand, took a sip and raised the glass to her mother’s face.
“Happy New Year mum!”
Mrs. Ochoga shook her head.
“I never know what I’ll do with you.”
Nengi chuckled and blew her mother a kiss. She left her mother’s bedroom and walked out into the living room where a party was ongoing. She looked at the crowd and smiled proudly. She had single-handedly planned this denim-themed New Year’s party and it was amazing how well it had turned out. Cousins, colleagues, friends, everyone she cared about was there. Oh well, except her elder sister Belema.
She grinned when she thought about her. Belema at that moment was lost somewhere in Calabar with her boyfriend but their mother was clueless. Nengi did not see why Belema could not tell their mother about the trip but if Belema wanted it kept a secret, she did not mind doing that. Belema was her only sister and she was 30.
“Nengus!” someone yelled.
Nengi snapped out of her reverie and walked towards the person who had called her. It was Olanna, a close friend. She hugged her warmly and blew kisses in the air on either side of her cheek.
“Happy new year boo!” Nengi smiled.
“Happy New year love! Come let’s do sekem together jor. These people have been dulling me since!”
Nengi laughed as Olanna dragged her to the dance floor. Together they stood side by side, right hands on their waists, left hands on their chests, and then they moved their bodies in time with the rhythm of the song.
The young people in the room laughed and cheered and soon they were a happy bunch of people all moving in one direction with hands on their waists and chests.
As soon as the song was over, Nengi disappeared into the kitchen to find something to eat. She opened the fridge and eyed it critically. Just as she reached out for a piece of chicken, her phone vibrated in her back pocket. Nengi jumped and hissed. As soon as she saw the caller, she grinned.
“Uncle Seun! I’ve been calling your babe since to wish you guys happy New Year but she’s not picking o.”
The person on the other end of the line sounded confused.
“Wish us happy new year?”
Nengi tucked her phone by her left ear and used her shoulder to support it as she removed a piece of chicken from the fridge.
“Ehn na. How’s Calabar?”
Nengi bit into the chicken. It wasn’t too cold. Nice.
“Calabar? Nengi, what’s going on? I’ve been trying Belema’s number and it hasn’t been going through.”
Nengi stopped chewing
“I can’t reach Belema on phone.”
The chicken in Nengi’s mouth suddenly tasted like chalk. She swallowed and dropped the piece in her hand on the table top.
“Isn’t she with you? She left this morning and said you guys were going to Calabar together.”
“She’s not with me o. We didn’t go to Calabar.”
Nengi’s heart began to race at a speed that would best Usain Bolt.
“Uncle, if this is some New Year joke, stop it o.”
She heard him take in a deep breath before he spoke.
“Where are you?”
“I’m home at the party.”
“Alright. There’s no need to worry. She’s probably upset with me and sulking somewhere.”
Nengi wasn’t buying it. “Upset with you? Did you guys have a fight? And why would she not tell me? When was the last time you spoke to her?”
“Nengi, detective officer, calm down. We spoke this afternoon. See, I’ll just call a few friends and I’ll get back to you. But can you please not panic? Just go back and enjoy the party.”
“Ha. Okay o.”
Nengi heard a click and Seun was off the line. An uneasy feeling crawled up her spine. Something wasn’t right. She looked at the chicken she had bitten into and suddenly, she didn’t have an appetite anymore.
Olanna walked into the kitchen, a wide grin on her face.
“What’s up? Is there still small chops remaining?”
“Yeah, I think so.” Nengi said distractedly. She was trying to figure out where Belema would have gone to without telling her.
“Where’s your mind?”
Nengi looked up hastily
“Your mind o! What’s up?”
Olanna pulled up a stool and sat on it, quite close to Nengi.
Nengi wanted to speak up but she would rather wait for more information than voice her fears.
“Nothing much. I think Belema and Seun had a fight.”
“Awww” Olanna purred. She picked up the Nengi’s chicken and bit into it.
“Those two are so cute. They better resolve it o.”
“Yeah. They better.”
Olanna’s eyes lit up as though she’d suddenly remembered something.
“Ehen! I haven’t gisted you. I finally met my dad o!”
Nengi’s eyes brightened instantly!
A thousand fireworks could not beat the light in Olanna’s eyes.
“Nope! And it was perfect. Nengi, I really love him!”
Nengi hugged Olanna tightly then stepped back and drew a stool close. “
Oya, give me the gist. You just made my new year!”
Ojiugo sat shivering slightly in the boat. Her arms wrapped tightly around herself as she stared at the body of the young woman they had just pulled out of the water. Wale had not wanted to go in and look for the lady who had taken a dive but the moment Ojiugo jumped into the water, he had been forced to do same.
Ojiugo knew how to swim a little but she was certainly not life-guard material. Once Wale spotted the drowning lady and moved in to get her out, Ojiugo made her way out of the water and back into the boat, head pounding like a thousand grenades set off. Wale had stayed several minutes under water before emerging with the body of the lady who he had placed in the boat.
Ojiugo watched him rave, rant and cuss her out in Yoruba but she did not care. There was no way she could have turned a blind eye to what she saw out there. Now he was quiet with a tight frown on his face as they made their way back to Tarkwa Bay where he had picked her up.
Ojiugo shook her head at the irony of it all. There she was on the first day of the New Year struggling for life with barely three months to go and someone who looked so healthy and pretty had jumped off Third Mainland Bridge to take her own life. She hissed and turned her gaze back to the water.