Cont..SHADOW PART 5

I adjusted in my chair and faced the TV, I watched the images but my mind and thoughts were far away, back to the car she mentioned in the dream. I imagined driving Victoria around town and spending quality time with her. The smile pleased me and I smiled. ‘Why are you smiling like this?’ Mrs. Emmanuel’s voice took me back to life and I smiled more broadly. ‘Nothing much. I think I will be heading home now.’ I answered. ‘Are you not waiting for my husband again, I think he will soon be back.’ ‘No need waiting anymore. I will see him at church tomorrow.’ I said and began to stand. ‘Bro Victor, hope it is not what I said that made you want to leave suddenly sha.’ She questioned. I laughed off the question and didn’t answer nay or yea.

‘I have to cook, wash clothes and attend to some office files this evening.’ I told her with an assuring smile. As I walked to the door, I added, ‘Thank you for the meal. No wonder Emmanuel is looking bright and beautiful all the time. God will provide wife for us too o’. Mrs. Emmanuel laughed and said ‘Amen’. I opened the door, said my goodbyes and walked the short distance home. Thoughts of the dream clouded my reasoning as I walked and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something about the vision. ‘Okay, Lord, can you show this to me too? Can you tell me directly as she said?’ I conversed with my maker as I walked home. I got home, dropped my bag, and as soon as my body touched my mattress, I was fast asleep. When I woke up one hour later, I tried drastically to recall the dream I had while asleep but there was nothing.

I didn’t even know if I dreamt and I really tried to force my memory to produce something. When my memory failed me, I shrugged and gathered my office files to attend to some of my office tasks. I was halfway into my work when I got a call from Emmanuel. ‘How far? I came to your house after work.’ I informed him right after he said ‘Hello’. He explained he had to cover up some works because he didn’t arrive office early. ‘Oh, I’m sorry. You spent a long time in the car park?’ ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I had to take her to the last park at Lagos Road. It took us about one hour to get there because of the traffic.’ I apologized again and I silently thanked God I didn’t accompany them in the morning. My boss had warned each worker in the meeting we held the previous week not to arrive later than five minutes.

‘Thank God you didn’t follow us. You would have arrived so late for work.’ Emmanuel added as if he was reading my thoughts. I asked if there was no trouble from his boss and he said there was none. He was one of the hotshots at his workplace. I patiently waited for him to conclude speaking before I asked about Victoria. ‘So, how was she?’ ‘I dropped her off and gave her my phone number…’ ‘Has she called you?’ I blurted out before he finished. Emmanuel laughed, ‘Bros, relax. Yes, she called me when she got home. She was really grateful for the help.’ ‘Thank God’, I said and thought about the next question carefully before asking it. ‘Did she ask of me or mention me?’ I held the phone tightly to my ear as I waited for the verdict. ‘She thanked two of us together.’

Emmanuel said expertly. ‘So she didn’t mention my own name?’ I tried to hide the hurt in my voice but I failed. I was very surprised she couldn’t even remember me. Emmanuel sensed the change in my tone of voice. ‘Let me send you her phone number so you can call her.’ He said. The first thought that came to my mind was to childishly refuse the number but my senses returned on time. ‘You can send it sha. I’m not sure I will even call her.’ As soon as I said the words, I knew it wasn’t the truth. I was sure I would call her. Emma sent the phone number in a text message as soon as the call ended. It read, ‘Victor, better call her. Act fast before you start to sing Pass me Not oh gentle saviour during crusades.’ I laughed alone in my room when I read the message and I decided I would call her immediately.

I quickly rounded off my work on the office files before me and I dumped the sheets and notes into my bag. I cleared my table, whispered a prayer and then, I dialled the number. It rang out on the first attempt. Heaving and whispering prayers again, I dialled Victoria’s number the second time. This time, she picked. A lot of ladies have a good phone-voice which is not as wonderful in real life, but there are few who sound just as wonderful when you listen to them physically or through the phone. Victoria belonged to the latter. When she picked and said ‘Hello’, I recognized her voice straightaway. It had the same sweetness and was just as beautiful as it was when I’d seen her the previous day.

In fact, I could bet her sounded better than the version I heard when she was worn and tired from the previous hectic day. I gathered myself and smiled as I replied, ‘Hello, Victoria.’ I was about telling her my name and introducing myself once again when she spoke again ‘This is Victor, right?’ I smiled to myself and whispered a contented ‘Yes’. ‘Oh! Thank you very much for yesterday. I can’t thank you enough. God will bless you. My mom spent a large part of our phone call today to pray for you and Mr. Emmanuel.’ I accepted her gratitude and said ‘Amen’ to her prayers. ‘You don’t know how much you really saved me yesterday.’ She said, ‘I don’t even know what I would have done without you.’ ‘Why didn’t you collect my phone number, then?’ I wanted to ask but I just smiled and instead told her I was glad to help. ‘I am happy to be of help. And thank God for the safe journey.’ I said. I glanced at the phone screen and realized two minutes had been spent on gratitude and prayers. We had not even started to talk and my credit was already running out. ‘How is everyone over there?’ I asked. ‘We are all fine. I got here on time.’ Victoria said and her voice sounded more relaxed. ‘I will now be able to attend the Community Development Scheme tomorrow.’ ‘Oh! The CDS. All these Local Government Inspectors don’t joke with it at all.’ ‘Exactly o. They take it serious. I don’t want them to seize allowance or add extra months to my service year.’ I laughed and recalled having the same fear when I did my National Service. ‘Those are just threats o. They can’t really do you anything.’ She laughed, ‘I don’t want to take risks o. Before they go and start the discipline on my own head.’

We both laughed and after a few seconds, I spoke. ‘Well, safe journey, then.’ ‘Thank you very much’, she said. I was about to say my goodbyes and end the call when I heard the statement I had been hoping she say. ‘Is this your phone number?’ She asked. I smiled to myself before answering; ‘Yes’ I waited a bit and then added, ‘It is the one I also use for WhatsApp.’ I happily nodded my head in the silence of my room and I was very pleased with myself. ‘Okay’, she said. ‘I will save the number now. We never know.’ ‘Yeah, we never know.’ I agreed. ‘Alright, later.’ she concluded.

‘Thank you once again.’ ‘Thank you too, and have a good night.’ I replied and cut the call. For the next minute or two, I smiled at my phone in silence and replayed the conversation. Two hours later, I received a message on WhatsApp, ‘Hello, Mr Victor.’ It was sent by Victoria. I rearranged my bed and lied down as I readied myself for a chat I hoped would not be short. The time was already past 7pm, and though I had said ‘Goodnight’, I still opened the messaging App and replied her. ‘Hello, Mrs. Victoria.’ I joked. She didn’t reply just then, but a minute later, when she eventually did, I had to laugh at the message. ‘I am still single o.’ She wrote and I noted the simple statement in my long-term memory. I sent the laughter smiley and told her I wasn’t married too. And thus, we dropped every formality in our chat. Two hours later when she told me her phone battery was going low, I knew I had made a friend. ‘And hopefully a wife’, I thought. ‘Not so fast’, my spirit cautioned. I felt very alive and content when I prepared for bed that evening. Everything seemed a bit more interesting to me and I was very much at peace with the world as I laid my back on my bed.

I read a chapter of the Bible and meditated on the verses for a while. But each message I got seemed to be related to Victoria in one way or the other. I smiled and tried to think about the verses but all the interpretation that came to mind was about love and a beautiful future. I laughed at myself a bit before I closed my Bible for good and prayed. A light wind blew outside my window and my body felt cool and calm. I saw an insect walking on the vertex of my ceiling but I didn’t even bother to end its life that night. Everything seemed perfect to me and a broad smile was still on my face as I slept off. III. Two weeks quickly flew by and Victoria and I were still very much in touch. We chatted through the day and only said our goodbyes when it was night.

And the very next morning, we would resume the same cycle and chat on. Within the first week of constant communication, Victoria and I had become quite familiar with each other and we’d already known more about each other than most outsiders. She read Psychology, the second daughter of a family of four, a Christian to the core and her dream is to set up an orphanage in the near future. Her favourite colour was Purple, her favourite food was beans and she loved Nathaniel Bassey’s song more than anyone I knew. As we got to know each other and she told me about herself and her past, I also laid bare my life before her and told her my background, likes and dislikes. On the third week after we started to chat, I began to feel my heart drawing to her anytime she didn’t come online.

I wanted to convince myself she was ‘just a friend’, but my heart felt some things it had not felt for years. Whenever she came online and sent me a message, my spirit often came alive and my mood became more pleasant. And the more I knew her and felt more for her, the more I felt I would like to see her. On a Wednesday of the third week, I decided to tell her of my wish to see her and observe her response. When I called her that evening, she had just returned from a meeting in her local government of primary assignment. She told me to call her back after thirty minutes after she had freshened up and I happily agreed. One hour passed before I saw her message, ‘Please call me.’ I called her and asked about her day. She told me all about it, without sparing any details and when she was done, asked me about mine. ‘It was fine; you remember the supervisors I said would be visiting this morning?’ I asked, reminding her of our discussion earlier that day. ‘Yes, they didn’t come abi?’ Victoria predicted. I smiled before answering, ‘They didn’t come. They said one of their servers were down.’ I went on to talk about my day and after about ten minutes of call, I eased in my request. ‘Victoria,’ I began, ‘I am forgetting your face small small o, when can we see each other again?’ She laughed heartily, ‘Let us do video chat then.’ ‘That one is not real seeing. I mean face-to-face physically’ I smiled as I spoke. She taunted me a bit before asking, ‘Do you want to see me here during NYSC or back home in Abuja?’ The question caught me unawares since I had not considered the best choice of meeting.

I grimaced for a short moment and paused to think. ‘Ibadan is nearer. Let me come see you before you finish service.’ I finally suggested. She heaved and paused a bit and it made me wonder. ‘What happened?’ I asked. ‘Nothing much.’ ‘Are you sure?’ Her tone had changed and I was becoming more curious. ‘Yes. Let me finish service first, then you can see me back home.’ She said after another short pause. I didn’t want to make conclusions about why she didn’t want me visiting her in Ibadan, so I asked, ‘Why don’t you want me to Ibadan? Are you shy?’ She laughed, ‘Yes, I am.’ ‘Be serious jor. I want to come next week.’ ‘Next week? Just like that? No o.’ her voice grew more serious as she talked.

CONT..PART 6

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