The test

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn

**PART ONE**

35 year old Richard waited patiently at the gate of Apo Legislative quarters in his new crutch, properly tuckeunder his left armpit, his partly peeled work bag hung loosely down his right shoulder. He was waiting for Isioma- the new girl who recently moved to the Estate. She would be driving out at any moment and hopefully offer him a ride like she had done twice before. He needed that lift to the junction, but more than anything, he needed to sit by her for those ten minutes it took to get to his destination. 

Beautiful Isioma!” He thought aloud. “This one will be my final bus stop”. He had watched her keenly in admiration for the past two months she had been there. Her apartment was a few blocks away from his and he made sure to observe her movements as much as his time allowed him toHe noticed how shnever kept late nightsalways coming home before nightfall. Saturday mornings were her jogging days, he would watch her from his window as she ran past in her leggings and crop top. He couldn’t wait to find out more about her, today was going to be the beginning.

He glanced at his old leather wrist watch, it was almost 7:55 am, it took him fifteen minutes to get from the Estate to Wuze 2 where his office was located. But he didn’t mind being late. For Isioma’s sake, he would be late over and over again.

A horn at his back caused him to whirl aroundhopping on his crutch, it was Isioma’s black Toyota Corolla. She smiled and waved at the gateman from the car, the delighted boy hopped to the gate and pulled the black iron apartShe drove forward, stepped on her brake then held out One thousand naira note to the boy. Buy something for yourself” she said, handing it to him.

“Ah aunty! God will bless you!! Ah!!” The delighted boy cheered happily, jumping up and down in appreciation.

She even has a kind heart, Richard nodded to himself. She has to be my wife!

Isioma drove out of the gate, slowed down by Richard and wound down her left side window. “Good morning!” She flashevery white set of gap tooth.

Richard smiled back, waving his free right hand.

Come on in” she invited.

He limped forward and pulled the car door open, he tussled with the crutch and finally got into the car, settling down with a sighIsioma watched him in pity. He shut the door and smiled at her, signaling his readiness to move. She shifted the gear into drive and set the car in motion.

“What happened?” Concern was written all over her faceThe last times she gave him a lift, his legs were fine.

Accident. I was in this taxi over the weekend, it just swerved off the road__” he gesticulated with his hand.

“My God!” She exclaimed, her brows pulled down in shock, she alternated her eyes quickly betweethe road and Richard before settling them back on the road “That must have been horrible”

“It was” he nodded with a smile, an effort to make light of the situation.

I’m sorry” she said, pushing the turn signal lever down with her left hand.

Yeah, me too”

She drove to the side of the road, slowed down then brought the car to a halt. She looked over at Richard who was already picking up his crutch to leave. “I wish I could take you to your destination__”

“Oh no no! Our ways are not the same besides,” he glanced down at his wrist watch. “It’s past 8 a.m, we’re both late as it is”

“Okay. Just, take care okay?

He made to step down from the car then stopped. He turned back around to stare at her heart shaped well powdered face. “Can we…can I take you out for lunch sometime?”

Oh!” She hadn’t expected him to say that. She roamed her eyes over his washed out white shirt, down to his faded black trousers and injured leg, before settling on his bearded face. He was handsome no doubt but obviously broke. She didn’t think she wanted to be with another broke man, only because the last one she dated, cheated on her as soon as he made his first million and hnever stopped cheating until she couldn’t take it anymore, should she be once beaten, twice shy?

“So?” He broke into her thoughts. “Will you? Please”

She twisted her red matted lips to the side in contemplation. “Okay” she finally agreed. 

“Yes!” A happy Richard fist pumped, causing Isioma to smile.

She reached into her purse and withdrew a business card, she held it out to him and he took it. “Events manager huh?” He said, staring keenly at the little leaf shaped card.

Yeah. So um, I don’t mean to be rude but, it’s almost nine o’clock”

“Oh!” He had completely lost track of time. What is wrong with me?! Feeling a bit flushed, he hurriedly collected his crutch and clumsily got out of the car.

**PART TWO**

Konikoni bukka was one of the most local bukka‘s in Apo. Isioma had only heard of it. She never imagined she would go there for any reason but here she was, sitting across an unbothered and even smiling Richard. She tried to rest her hands on the plastic table but the dirty dishes and remnants of eba and egusi smeared on some parts of the table top, probably by people who had been there before them, made her uncomfortable.

“Madam, come clear your table o” Richard called out to the woman in charge as he read Isioma’s expression.

“Ah! Aunty, Oga, sorry o” A fat dark skinned elderly woman apologized as she gallivanted to their table. She noisily collected the plates, wiping her hands over the spilled soup that had been sitting uncleaned.

Isioma instantly lost her appetite. She didn’t mind small restaurants, but she minded dirtiness. Shlooked at Richard who seemed unusually calm. How can he be so calm?

“So!,” The elderly woman heaved a sigh from the little walk she had done earlier. She stood upright with a broad smile, spread across her black thick lips, “Na wetin una go chop?”

Give me garri with ogbonno” Richard said.

The elderly woman and Richard turned their gaze to Isioma, ready to hear her choice.

“Oh no!” She rejected, waving her hands in the air, “I’m fine”

You’re sure?” Richard pressed.

Oh yeah! Very sure” I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life.

“Okay, Mummy just bring my own”

“Okay, bottle water abi pure water?”

“Bottle ma”

“Everything go be 600 naira”. They had to know before she brought the food.

“No problem ma”

The woman turned around and headed towards the kitchen which was some distance away.

“Are you okay?” He asked Isioma, squinting his brown beautiful eyes.

“Yeah.” She didn’t want to complain but the environment was irritating her.

“Let’s get out of here” he said, as if reading her thoughts.

“What?!”

You’re not comfortable, let’s go”

But, you already ordered”

It’s fine, let’s go” He reached out for his crutch, tucked it under his armpit and pulled his weight off the bench.

Isioma got to her feet and began tlead the way out of the zinc roofed brick building.

“Wait here” he said to her. He turned around and hopped towards the direction the elderly womahad earlier emerged from. He met her strolling out her kitchen. “Ah ahn! Wetin happen?” she was confused.

Nothing, we wan go”

She looked past him and noticed Isioma standing by her car in the distance. “Ah ahn!” She frowned, disapproving.

I’m so sorry” He dipped his hand into his pocket and placed clean mints of two thousand naira notes on the tray she was carrying.

“Yei! ” The woman exclaimed, pleasantly surprised.

Richard smiled and turned back around towards Isioma.

Thank you!!!!” she yelled after him.

“Why is she thanking you?” Isioma asked as he limped to her side.

I just paid for the food that’s all”

That’s why she is jubilating like that? For six hundred naira?”

He smiled, then shrugged. “She’s grateful”

Strange. Wellso, where are we headed now?”

“I don’t know, this was all I could afford. Wait,” He withdrew his techno phone from his trouser pocket“Let me call my friend, he might allow us to use his house, Then looked up abruptl“Just to talk that’s all” he emphasized.

But she wasn‘t going to allow him make that callshe didn’t think they should spend their first date behind closed doors, so she reached out her hand and placed it over his phone screen stopping himher fingers brushed against his, he slowly looked up from his phone to her beautiful face and for a second, she couldn’t move her hand.

Their gaze held each other, then, she abruptly shook her head out of her hypnosiswithdrawing her hand instantly.

“You don’t want me to call him? He asked, almost in whisper.

“No. I mean yes. I know somewhere we can go” she stuttered, not sure if it was still a good idea, not after that thing she just felt when their fingers touched.

Not this soon. 

What is wrong with me! She beat herself up.

I’m so sorry about everything, why don’t we just do this another time?”

Oh thank God! She needed to leave before she did something stupid with this tall dark handsome man on crutches.

“Sure, call me” She turned around and walked briskly towards her carleaving Richard smiling to himself

He felt that thing too.

**PART THREE**

Isioma heaved a sigh of relief as she clicked the mouse against the send icon. That would be the last mail of the day, she had been sending and replying to emails all afternoon. She relaxed her tired back into her black executive chair, spinning herself to the side. Her Samsung cellphone went off ringing. She stretched forward and picked it up from the table, it was Richard.

“Hello?” She answered.

How would you like to go to the beach this weekend?”

She chortled. “There are no beaches in Abuja”

“But there is Jabi lake, and I can afford that? She could imagine him shrugging as he said that

She laughed in amusement. “You’re shameless”

“I know. So, five pm, Saturday?”

“5.pm Saturday”

“Okay..

“Okay She chuckled. He was something!

“Okay. Bye for now” he said and hung up.

She threw her head back in the chair and for some reason, carried owith her smile.

—-

“Hello?” Isioma spoke into her handsetpulling the duvet further up her chest.

“Babes, you never sleep? it’s almost 11.pm” her best friend responded at the other end. “I was already dozing sef.” She hissed. “What’s up?”

“I met someone__”

Ah ahnn! That’s niceee! And he’s keeping you up already?” Her best friend blushed, then added in a serious tone, “I hope this one is not as broke as your ex o”

Isioma giggled, she had expected her friend to say that. like him sha

“No problem na, as long as he has money. Does he have money?

Why does money have to determine anything?”

“It does oah! it does. The way you are sounding, I’m beginning to suspect you sef

Isioma chuckled. “Well, he is on crutches, for now and he doesn’t have money like that..…”

“Ah! Isi_ii…..”

“But I like him!” She defended quickly. “We went out to this bukka and as we were leaving, he was about to make a call when our fingers touched. Babes!! I felt something I haven’t really felt before, it was magic, the kind you see in these Telenovelas

“See the way you are even sounding excited

Isioma laughed out loud this timeadjusting the strap of her peach nightgown over her left shoulder“I am! We are going out again and I know he’s going to ask me out.

Hmn, Isi, you dey try o, me I can’t date any broke guy o, not in this Abuja. You dey try. Just be careful sha. Let me know how it goes okay?

I will she smiled, appreciative of her friend’s care. Goodnight dear

Okay. Sleep tight babes.

**PART FOUR**

Richard watched the steady waves of the river from his mat under the tree. The evening sun was beginning to setilluminating it’s orange rays across the sleeping water. It was 5:30 pm but people were still riding horses around the sandy lake. A family of ducks paddled on the lefside of the water as two white people pulled their canoes to the shores.

“This is beautiful”

Richard spun around to see a pear-shaped Isioma standing over him with her hands planted on her hips.

“Hey!” He smiled up at her. “How long have you been standing there for?”

She shrugged, lowering herself unto the mat. “A few minutes?” She smiled holding his gaze.

That gap tooth again!

“You look good” He said, running his eyes over her blue three-quarter jeans and white crop top.

She cocked her head to the side, raising her brows in doubt. “I’m not even dressed”

“Still, you look good” His eyes glittered with his stare and cheesy smile.

Isioma smiled back at him, then turned her gaze to the water. “So, Jabi lake huh? Not bad

Oh yeah?”

Yeah. It’s beautifulIt’s my first time

Oh! I didn’t know that”

Oh, yeah it is” she chuckled nodding in emphasis. “But thanks to google maps, she clicked her fingers together. “It brought me right here”.

Richard watched her in admiration, she was just adorable!

“I brought snacks” He said, reaching into the basket that had been sitting beside him, right next to his crutches. He pulled out two packs of cranberry juice and two wraps of shawarma. “There are chocolates too” He said, handing out a wrap of shawarma and a pack of juice to a grinning Isioma. “I’m just gonna keep that for dessert

Isioma laughed out loud, understanding his humor. You’re silly”

He nodded and bit into the warm Sharwarma.

She took a bite herself. “Hmmmnnn, soo good” she chewed with a closed mouth.

He smiled at her, feeling glad that she liked it. They ate in silence, listening to the birds chip on the trees above them. This was simple yet so nice, Isioma liked it. She looked over at him through the corners of her eyes, liking the way his dark bearded jaw moved as he chewed. His good leg folded up to his chest while his bandaged leg lay straight on the mat. His small eyes squinted as he watched the activities across from them.

This man, she liked him.

How’s the leg?” She asked, taking a sip from her juice.

He turned to her. It’s fine, I guess”

“How long would you carry this crutch?”

The doctor said seven months maximum”

Eiya” she felt sorry for him. Is it hard?”

He shrugged, wiggling his nose. “I get by”

She could tell he was only being modest. “Do you have people at home who help you around?

“Well, I stay with my elder brother  At this age? she quickly shoved the thought aside. “His wife and himself have two small children and servants so I don’t have to do much by myself

She nodded understandablytook another bite into her half eaten shawarma. Richard put his final piece into his mouth and dusted his hands off. He took a long gulp from his juice then shifted his body in the mat to face Isioma. She turned around too, facing him, their legs barely touching as they stretched out beside each other.

“Isioma,” His eyes looked serious, yet there was a tenderness in them, almost like a plea. “This is probably old fashioned but I want us to be together. Now I know I don’t have much to offer,” he gesticulated his hands up and down his body. “But I’ll love you, completely, and I’ll get better, financially, I’m working on it, I won’t teach in a school forever”

“What school do you teach in?”

“Regina Secondary School, it’s a private school

She nodded, it wasn’t exactly what she wanted but she felt something with him – that vibe, that connection, she was not going to fight it. She would look past his present state in a hope for better days.

He had been holding his breath, waiting for her to say something.

It’s fine Richard..”

“Oh thank God!” He breathed out in relief.

It’s fine” she repeated.

He looked totally pleased. “So, let me reintroduce myself.” He held out his hand to her for a shake, “Hello girlfriend

Isioma giggled. She took his hand into hers, “Hello boyfriend.”

**PART FIVE**

It was different, being with him, a good kind of different. She still dropped him by the junction and they still went to Jabi lake, it was their spotWhen they weren’t working or texting each other back and forth, he spent time at her apartment.

He didn’t have all the money to give her, but he gave her peace, love and undiluted attention and that, made Isioma happy. It had been four months of simple joy.

She grew to love him. But, he had loved her for a longer time.

—-

He held her in his arms, in her bed, watching an episode of Power TV series on her flat screen television hung against the wall.

“Babe” she called, rubbing her palm over his arm which rested across her midriff. “WheI’m I going to visit you?” She turned her head to look at his face. “Don’t you find it strange that I haven‘t been inside your house?

No don’t” He defended. it’s my brother’s place, with his wife and kids”

But you are thirty-five, you’re grown! You should be able to do whatever it is you want”

Yeah but not in another man’s house”

“Then accept the money I’m offering,” He lifted his hand off her body, shifting away. He didn’t like what she was saying. “I know you don’t want to but you need to get your own place” she pressured. “You shouldn’t be living with them not now, it will limit youit is limiting you, us”

He dragged a hand through his hair exhaustedly. They had talked about this before, he really did not want to talk about it anymore. She was going to ruin his plans if she kept pushing the way she was doing. “Babe give me time, I’ve told you before, just give me some time

Isioma stared at him in silence. She wanted to respect his wishes but at the same timehis wishes didn’t make much sense to her. If she could not even meet his Brother, what hope was there for them at all. Is this a short-term thing for you?” She needed to know. Do you just want to be with me and move unto the next when you’re done?”

He turned his head abruptly to behold her teary eyes, he felappalled. “Why would you even think that?” He had never entertained the thought of simply using her. As it was, he was the liability amongst the two of them and he was grateful for her devotion. She was passing every test.

She shrugged her left shoulder quietly. He could see the tears lingering at the corners of her eyes, ready to cascade.

“Come here” he motioned his hand, beckoning her closer.

She coyishly moved to him, snuggling next to him, she dropped an arm on his bare chest and wrapped her leg around his good leg.

He reached down and placed a kiss in her curly long hair. “This isn’t short term, I have never even thought about it being short term. Give me till November..”

That’s two months away” she muttered, objecting.

I know, but I need that time. You’ll meet them then, I promise” He kissed her hair again. “Okay?”

She nodded against his chest. “Okay

And so she waited, two months it was going to be.

 

**PART SIX**

Like a child who cannot wait for Christmas morning, Isioma counted down the days. She was excited to finally be meeting at least a member of his family. They had kept their romance outside the fence of his home even though it was only a few blocks from hers. It was a norm for men to take their women home and not the other way round, yet, when they weren’t working which they did five days in a week, they were spending their weekends at her house which was most of the time since Richard could not afford to take her on many dates.

As the days counted to November, Isioma‘s elation grew. she was apprehensive too, she wondered if his family would like her. She wanted to make a good impression. She wanted them to like her. So, she picked out an ankara gown from her collection and ironed it straight. She changed her thirty inches long weave to a shoulder length weave and choose some flats to go with her attire, she didn’t want to appear too artificial.

A knock at her door that morning got her springing joyfully to the door. It had been long time coming. She pulled the door open and her smile melted into a frown as she saw a young man standing at her doorstep instead of Richard. 

Good morning” the young man greeted.

“Goo_d mor_ning” she dragged her words, disarrayed.

She eyed past thyoung mandarting her eyes around in search of Richard.

“Oga said I should come and bring you

Now she was more confused. “Which Oga?” She frowned.

“Oga Richard”

She paused her lips, holding the young man’s stare in perplexion. She wondered why he would refer to Richard as his Oga, then it dawned on her that he had already informed her that his brother had servants under him.

“Oh!” She breathed out in realisation. You’re one of the servants at his brother‘s house” she pointed at him, ignoring the confused frown that crept over the man’s face. Let’s go, or wait, let me get my phone” She whisked back into the house, grabbed her cellphone and emerged right out. The young man stepped aside as she locked her front door, then he led the way.

They passed three houses and turned into the corner of the fourth. Richard had only pointed this house to her from afar. She lifted her eyes to the stone-coated roof of the huge building, the houses in the Estate were the same, but this was a personal house. The boy opened the gate and let them into a neatly interlocked compound, two beautiful cars sat in the distance under the ash carport. Isioma ran her eyes over the tall duplex building, admiring it’neatly screeded walls. She marvelled at the paint combinations, Ivory+white and aqua.

This was beautiful!

If it looked this beautiful on the outside then she wondered what the interior would look like. She didn’t have to imagine for long as the boy pushed the steel door open, revealing a spacious, autumn maple, well furnished sitting room.

“Wow!” She couldn’t help but marvel, stepping unto the tiled floorShe strolled into the room, roaming her eyes over the large space. She took in the beautiful decor at the same time, enjoying the feel of the air-conditioning blowing over her fair skin.

I’ll be right back Ma” the boy slightly bowed and excused himself. She nodded absent-minded,  her eyes were lifted towards the faux antler chandelier hanging down the ceiling.

She strolled to the window and begun to run her fingers over the heavy red silk curtain, admiringly.

“You like what you see?” Richard’s voice startled her, she whirled around to see him standing at the feet of the stairs, his arms held behind him. 

Isioma froze, holding his gaze with her widened eyes.

He had no crutches supporting him, no bandages, he was standing on his owtwo feetgrinning. 

His blue t-shirt was ironed, and new! His cream trouser was so well pressed that it shone bright under the recessed ceiling lights reflecting over him.

Words failed her. She watched in bewilderment as he took one step in  front of the other, casually strolling towards her. 

He was walking, on his own!

She wanted to move, but, she could not.

He stopped in front of her and took her cold hands into his, his perfume filling up her senses. 

He never wore perfume, only deodorants.

She watched as his mouth moved, he was saying something but she was too dumbfounded to hear himAnd then, like from a distance, she heard him say. “This is my house..”

She instantly pulled away from his hold, she was fully alert now. “What?!” Her eyebrows rose a notch.

“This is my house” he repeated, the smile gone from his lips and in its place, a plea in his eyes. He had expected this to be funny, her to be pleasantly surprised, not this unpleasant look she carried on her makeup-free face.

“I don’t understand” she was muttering, begging for an explanation.

He took step sideways and stretched his hand towards the shape leather sofa. “Let’s sit down”

“No” she frowned. “We are standing right here”

This wasn’t going as expected. “Okay” He stepped back in front of her. “I lied. She didn’t flinch this time. She held his brown eyes with her gaze, listeningHe hated that pained look on her face. I’m not poor and I’m not a school teacher, I am a Bank ManagerIt’s been hard finding someone who isn’t coming for the money. I want to settle down, build a family but with someone who would love me and not what I have. So I disguised myself to you because from the first day I saw you, I knew I wanted to be with you, but I needed you to love me for me…”

So, ” Her throat felt parched. There is no brotherliving with his wife and children?” Her voice was calm and specific.

“Not here, no”

She looked down at his right legremembering how she always threaded carefully around it. “That accident,” She asked head bent. “It was a lie too?” 

He didn’t answer. She lifted her head to his face, nearing tears.

Yes” he whispered.

How about us? All you said to me, was any of it even true?_ or it was just another lie__”

He pleadingly cupped her palm to his chest. “No, it wasn’t. Everything we shared was true.

“How do I know you are not lying now?”

I’m not, I swear, I just wanted true love_”

She held his gaze, tightening her lips together. She was disappointed and angry. Fresh tears formed in her eyes and she blinked them out and down her cheeks. “You deceived me”

“I thought you’d be happy, aren’t you happy that I’m not actually broke?” He was still holding her hand to his chest.

“But that’s not the point. You lied. You lived a lie for six months. Six whole months!! You made me believe things that weren’t true. You deceived me!”

“Baby please, please understand”

She shook her head, slowly withdrawing her hand down to her sides.can’t do this anymore

“Ah! Babe don’t say that..” He pleaded “Baby, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like this” He begged after her as she trudged towards the door.

Babe” he reached for her hand, she glared at him, causing him to fearfully let go of her hand. He continued to plead from where he stood as he watched the woman he loved open the door and shut it after herself.

-THE END-.

WRITTEN BY OGBUGOH TERUNDU JOY.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.