Seun Akinyemi sat in his car and drummed on the steering. This was not how he planned to start the New Year. He ran his left hand through his ‘fro and sighed. Where was Belema?
The last time they had spoken was actually Tuesday night, but he figured that if he said that to Nengi, the young lady would have gone crazy with worry. He tried to think of how the conversation went.
Belema had said she wanted some time to herself. Why, Seun was unable to decipher. That was the problem with women. They left you guessing all the time, you would never be able to tell when you had done something wrong and when you had not. Was she mad at him? Was she hurting?
Seun sighed and turned up the volume of the radio as he started the car. He would just drive around the island enjoy the Christmas lights and décor and hope that Belema would contact him when she was ready.
“So what’s the number of the car sir?”
Seun was not really paying attention to the radio.
…Apapa, 589. It’s just here by the edge of the bridge. No occupant and the bridge is empty.
Seun’s ears shot up. That was Belema’s plate number. He turned the volume up even higher.
Well, we’ve got a report of an empty car by the side of the bridge. Hopefully the occupant is safe wherever they are. If you’re listening and you know that number. Kindly call in…
Seun looked dazed. If someone had walked up to him and slapped him hard, he would not have had a more dazed look on his face.
Why was Belema’s car close to the bridge?! And why was it empty? Was she okay?
Quickly, he turned his key in the ignition and drove off. The roads were free and he maneuvered the car from his house on Berkley street, into King George and then straight on. In ten minutes, he was flying on ThirdMainland Bridge. Flying, because that was the only way to describe the way the car moved along the bridge, in sync with his heart that thumped rather loudly.
Seun and Belema had been best friends for as long as he could remember and he loved her dearly. He did not see himself as being in love with her in the romantic sense of the word but he really cared about her.
So when he noticed that she had fallen in love with him, he did what everyone else expected him to- what felt right to do at the time. He asked her to be his partner. It had seemed like a good idea but as time went on, Seun began to realize that he wanted more. He had a passion for life. He was spontaneous, erratic and exciting but Belema was just safe. Too safe. And much as he loved her. She was beginning to bore him.
The day before New Year’s eve, they’d had a weird conversation where Belema asked for a breakup. She said she wasn’t really feeling the relationship and felt it would make sense if they ended things. Having been on the lookout for a lifeline, Seun had taken it but not too eagerly. There had been no fight or awkwardness between them. She just said she needed some time to herself and asked Seun to try to understand.
Seun knew about the New Year’s eve party that would be thrown at the house and he’d asked Belema if he could come. She said she would let him know in the afternoon of New Year’s eve but up until when he made that call to Nengi, he had not heard from her again.
Seun slowed his car down as he approached the side of the bridge where Belema’s car was parked. Just like the person had mentioned over the radio, the car looked abandoned. Seun parked just behind it and got down, an eerie feeling creeping up his spine. The cold harmattan breeze blew gently over him and he shivered slightly. Whoever it was that made the call was no longer there.
Seun looked inside the car. It was just like Nengi would have left it. Nothing disturbed, nothing out of place. He could smell her Elizabeth Arden perfume like she had only just stepped out of the car. The backseat was empty. He opened the pigeon hole and felt his hand about it absentmindedly. His fingers brushed something and he ran his hands properly over it before pulling the item out. It was Belema’s phone.
Seun stared at the phone, fear maintaining a tight grip on his heart. Something about the entire scenario left him ill at ease. Belema’s car was parked at the edge of the bridge, empty and her phone was in it? He unlocked the phone and went through a long list of missed calls.
A thought nagged steadily at the back of his mind but Seun refused to acknowledge it or even confront it. He reached into the pigeon hole again and scanned through the documents there. Seun sighed. He noticed a small folded piece of paper and opened it. It was a short note written in a clear, neat handwriting he had come to know over the years.
In death, there is no pain, hurt or endless disappointment. That is why I have chosen to go home.
Horror filled Seun’s face as he stared at the note. He dumped it on the seat beside him, jumped out of the car and ran to the edge of the bridge. He gripped the railings tightly and looked into the waters beneath. And then he began to scream.
Ojiugo sat in a white plastic chair at Belema’s bedside. She looked at the lady who was lying peacefully in bed and wondered for the umpteenth time why anyone would want to take their own life. There was so much to experience, so much to live for. How did people get to that point where they just decided to quit?
The door opened softly and a tall, burly man in his forties walked in. Ojiugo looked up.
The man smiled and walked towards her to embrace her. He fully covered Ojiugo’s tiny frame and for a few seconds, Ojiugo was invisible.
“Hey Ugo, how’s it going?”
Ojiugo spread her hands in Belema’s direction. Ikem smiled and went to Belema’s side.
“You know I keep saying the world needs more people like you.”
“Leave that talk biko. I’m not even in the mood.”
Ikem’s smile widened, revealing uneven teeth.
“Ugo, if you had not been out tonight, this lady would have died. Why are you in a mood? You did something heroic.”
Ojiugo rolled her eyes and folded her arms.
“That’s exactly my point. If I wasn’t there. Ikem, the only reason I was out was because I am trying to live. I’m trying so hard to live and make the most of ninety days. Then someone who has another sixty or more years before her would willingly throw it away? Why do people act so foolish?”
“Hey, hey. Easy” Ikem chided.
“I’ve seen a few suicidal people in my life but enough to know that if a person is considering suicide, their lives must be a living hell. Don’t judge.”
Ojiugo pursed her lips and furrowed her brows.
“You look so hot when you squeeze your face like that.”
“Carry your married flirtatious lips elsewhere.”
Ikem examined his patient for a few minutes while Ojiugo looked on nervously.
“She’s going to be fine right?”
“Yeah. Again, good thing you were out there tonight. You’re one crazy, brave woman.”
“Thank you for coming Ikem. People did first aid and stuff at the beach but I was worried when she passed out again. Your hospital was the only place I could think of.”
“It’s cool. She’ll live. I’ll go talk to the lab guys about the tests. It’s important we know if she took any pills or something like that.”
“Is there anyone we can call?”
Ojiugo shook her head.
“I don’t know her. I only know her name is Belema. That was all we could get from her before she passed out again.”
“No worries. Anyways, I think you should start heading home. Made called me. She’s worried about you.”
Ojiugo laughed really hard and then held her head.
“See, leave Made alone. She’s one annoying hen and I’m not ready for her mothering biko. Even Leslie. I think he nearly had a heart attack when I told him. Ikem, these people will send me to heaven a month before it’s time. You need to tell them to stop fussing so much.”
“It’s only because they care dear. You know how much Leslie loves you. This is hard for him.”
“Well, he’s not the one going to seat at the right hand of the father. Must really be tough.”
Ikem laughed again.
“You’re something else. Leslie is actually on his way here. He’ll take you home.”
Ojiugo made a face.
“See? Hotness again!”
Leslie was the kind of guy you would walk past on the road without a second glance. He was average heighted with a skin colour that blended with a Mars chocolate bar. He had high cheekbones, brown eyes that stayed hidden most times behind medicated glasses and a constant aloofness about him.
But if you engaged Leslie in a conversation, you would wonder how someone who looked so random had such a wealth of knowledge and experience. Leslie’s glasses did not help him look serious or professional as glasses were wont to do. It was odd.
Leslie worked as a manager at a bookstore in Lagos island. He had read every single book that ever came into his store and that was the reason for his vast wealth of knowledge. And Leslie was great at conversations. That was the major reason Ojiugo had fallen in love with him. Leslie knew not just how to talk, but how to engage her mind as well. Leslie had fallen in love with the petite troublesome lady who looked totally unassuming yet constantly caused tornadoes.
He had known her for roughly a year and he was utterly crazy about her. Only theirs was a love that came with an expiry date. Leslie looked up as Ojiugo walked into the waiting area of the hospital with her good friend and personal doctor, Ikem following closely behind. He smiled and walked towards her.
“You’ll give me a heart attack one of these days” he said.
Ojiugo grinned as she hugged him
“Then you’ll die a happy man.”
Ikem winked at Leslie.
“I’ll see you both in a bit. Let me talk to my lab guys.”
They both nodded and moved to sit down.
Ojiugo saw the look of concern on Leslie’s face and for a few seconds she felt guilty.
“I’m sorry I had you worried. It’s just, I’ve been playing safe the last few months, I haven’t really felt alive. I needed to go out and do something fun before- you know what.”
Leslie forced a smile and rubbed her arm.
“I get you darling. I really do. Just try to think about the people who care about you. It’s scary when you go off like that without saying anything to anyone and then you switched off your phone.”
“I’m always thinking about you guys, that’s why I never have any fun anymore. Leslie, I’m not going to be here forever. Can I just live out the remaining months? Please?”
Leslie scratched his head, then took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes slowly.
“Ok. We’ll talk more when we get home.”
He looked over his shoulder.
“Where’s Ikem sef? It’s late o. You need to get some sleep.”
Ojiugo turned around as well and almost immediately, Ikem began walking towards them in firm quick steps, a frown on his face. When he got close to them, Ojiugo asked.
“What’s up? You look pissed.”
Ikem brushed his nose just before he spoke.
“The lady you brought in here is 3 weeks pregnant.”