It was a quiet drive home. Nobody said much, no one really felt like talking. In her mind Priscilla said prayers for safe journey. A habit her mom had taught her.
“Ekpele a na’diro erinne (Prayer is never too much)” her mom was fond of saying in Igbo. She looked at the others and Justin’s expression caught her the most. He seemed lost. Guess he really liked her. His phone rang, he ignored it till it rang out. After a few minutes it rang again. He picked it this time but without even looking at the caller ID he switched it off. Talk about not being in the mood Priscilla thought to herself.
Matthew drove quietly from the airport back home. He loved silence. It was always an opportunity for him to think, process things, plan. This silence was different and he felt uncomfortable. As he drove into the compound he spoke up.
“Okay guys this can’t go on any longer oh” Matthew spoke up.
“We can’t turn into zombies. We will just count the six months and anticipate her return”.
“What if she doesn’t return?” Maryam asked quietly. Priscilla turned to see tears on her face, she was still crying.
“Life is a bitch” Justin said as he stepped out of the car and slamming the door shut he walked towards the gate for what seemed like an evening stroll.
Tokunbo and Maryam walked to their rooms while Priscilla settled in the living room. She switched on the television.
“I guess it is just you and me tonight” Matthew smiled sadly as he sat down beside Priscilla.
“It seems Justin really had feelings for her” Priscilla said as she changed the channel from a Nigerian movie to the comedy channel.
“Yeah. Would have be such a fairy tale if he just upped and followed her, yeah?” Priscilla smiled dreamily, “but trust reality to be a pain”.
There was a knock in the main door.
“That must be Justin, I’ll get it” Priscilla said getting up.
“Hi” Matthew could hear Priscilla sound very uncomfortable.
“Errm, hello. You must be Pris, I’m Teju” Teju extended her hand and Priscilla took it smiling warmly.
“Sorry to bother but is Tokunbo at home? I can’t seem to get through to his line” Teju explained.
“Oh, yes he is” Priscilla said, stepping aside and gesturing into the house she added “please come in and sit, I’ll get him for you”.
Teju walked in and smile as she saw Matthew. They greeted and she sat down. Priscilla turned to go upstairs when another knock came from the front main door.
“One second Priscilla said apologetically to Teju as she turned back.
“Go get Toks, I’ll get the door” Matthew offered.
“Thanks” she said and walked upstairs. Teju sat down and looked around. These people were living the life she thought. She had never been here and was impressed.
“Hey guy what’s up?” She heard Matthew greet whoever was at the door. She turned to see a guy walk in with him.
“I dey” was all Justin said. He noticed her and offered a greeting,
“Hi, I’m ….” Teju started introducing herself but he cut her short.
“You are Teju. I know” he tried to smile. “Nice to meet you. Justin. Would you like a drink?” He noticed nothing was in front of her. She smiled and nodded. He walked into the kitchen to get a drink for himself and for her.
“Pardon my manners we have all had tough day” Matthew apologised.
“Kevwe leaving?” Teju asked.
“Yeah” Matthew answered. Just then Tokunbo and Priscilla walked down.
“Hey” Tokunbo greeted awkwardly as Priscilla sat down beside Matthew.
“Hey” Teju quickly got up to face him. She felt massively uncomfortable as she stared at him. They had met at her place after her last call and for the whole two hours, thirty minutes she could count the number of words they spoke as they ate dinner and watched a movie. He had left without a hug, a kiss. Not even a hand shake.
Tokunbo put his hands in his back pocket jeans looking everywhere else but at Teju. He felt bad about their last meeting but he still felt strongly about what he has said. Now she was here, in the house. Where was Kevwe to break this thick ice he thought.
“You two dumbasses have something good going and you want to throw it away because one is trying to protect the other while the other wants honesty? Like seriously” Justin said from the dinning where he sat nursing his drink. He didn’t look up.
“Well news flash. Get over it” Justin stood up and walked towards them. “Teju this young man is the most honest and loyal person I have met and he will ALWAYS do what he feels will protect you. Love him for that don’t hate” he smiled sadly at her as he walked to sit beside Priscilla.
“Enjoy the time you have, you never know his boss might just send him to Lagos” and with that Justin faced the TV like he hadn’t even said a word. Priscilla put her arm around him.
“I’m sorry” Teju said. Tokunbo hugged her. They smiled at each other. “Could we talk? Like privately?”
“Sure” Tokunbo said and they headed outside. Before Tokunbo had shut the door Maryam ran down the stairs.
“Channels… Change to Channels quickly” she was panting and hysterical. Everyone was alert as Priscilla fumbled with the remote. Tokunbo came back with Teju.
“Maryam what is it?” He asked.
“Ayo just called, he said he saw it on the news. He is so upset. His mom and daughter… Kevwe …..” Maryam said fighting to catch her breath as tears rolled down her cheeks.
“What are you talking about?” Justin was now very worried once he heard Kevwe’s name. Priscilla had finally got the correct channel and they all turned to the television. It was a breaking news alert, At first it was confusing because all the camera showed was alot of thick smoke and a number of people in shiny vest running around. Then the voice of the news caster read-out on the back ground.
“the number of casualties have not be stated but over 75 passengers where said to have been boarded on flight 623 from Abuja to Lagos this evening….”
“Noooooooo!!!!” Maryam wailed out. Everyone was still silent with shock.
“…… Authorities are yet to ascertain the cause of the fire but eye witnesses say one of the engines caught fire just as the plain landed on the tarmac of the …… International Airport in Lagos and exploded…..”
But no one was listening again, Maryam had just fainted.
………. ………. ……….
“Doctor what can you tell us?” Matthew and Justin inquired from the doctor as she sat down on her chair.
“Gentlemen I will advise you calm down as well before I am forced to admit both of you” the doctor said sternly. The two men sat down and kept quiet.
“Better, now the young lady from examination showed signs of dehydration and it would seem she hasn’t eaten all-day. That is what caused the dizziness in addition to whatever shock or surprise she must have got which lead to the fainting”. Matthew exclaimed.
“Calm down sir. We will keep her under observation and give her supplements through a drip. Hopefully she should be okay by tomorrow” the doctor said with a touch of comfort.
“Thanks so much doctor” Justin said patting Matthew on the back.
“You are welcome although it’s my job. Now I will advise you two get something to eat. You lot look terrible” she said smiling at them. They thanked her again and left the office.
“Dude I need to call my aunty” Matthew said to Justin who looked confused
“Maryam’s mum? They don’t take stuff like this in their house lightly”.
“Okay let me go tell the others” Justin said.
“Guy” Matthew called Justin “Try and get them to eat something abeg. I doubt any of us have eaten and you heard the woman”. Justin nodded.
He walked to the ward where Maryam was in and entered her room.
“Justin, Justin any …..” Priscilla rushed to him.
“Babe calm down. First of all Maryam will be fine. She hadn’t eaten all day and was dehydrated. Hence the fainting. So if we don’t want to join her we need to all get something to eat” Justin said looking at the group.
Priscilla looked at Maryam sadly as she laid on the hospital bed and nodded. Teju stood up. She had just arrived at the hospital from the airport.
“I can drive home and pick up some fried rice” she offered.
“Thanks babe” Tokunbo said. She nodded and left.
“Dude your babe get ride and you never bring her come house since?” Justin joked. They needed some laughter in here he thought. Tokunbo smiled
“Guy get serious abeg” he said.
“Man serious scares me right now. Did Teju get anything useful from the airport?” He asked hopefully.
“The bastards won’t say anything. We are not even sure. She said there were two flights by that airline. One at 6:30pm.”
“… Kevwe’s flight” Justin confirmed remembering the time when he bought the ticket online.
“Yeah and another that took off at 7.00pm” Tokunbo said. “Thing now is Teju said people were mixing information about whether it was a delayed flight that they force to fly at that time or a later flight that they pushed up”.
“But that doesn’t make sense them pushing a flight to an earlier time” Priscilla joined in.
“I know right” Justin agreed. Matthew walked in and gestured them to come outside.
“Sorry just thought we might be disturbing her” he said apologetically. They all nodded.
“Just spoke to her elder sister. Her mom is flying down tomorrow morning”.
“Was it necessary?” Tokunbo asked.
“You need to hear the shouting we got when my boss had an accident and they thought it was me. Both Maryam and I got a talking-to. Our family is a bit over protective” he smiled a little embarrassed.
“Anyone got through to Kevwe?” Matthew asked. They all shook their head. “Lets keep trying”.
They all sat down taking turns trying Kevwe’s line. If it didn’t say ‘temporary unavailable’ it would say ‘switched off’ or not even connect. They went at it till Teju came with a food warmer full of rice and meat. They were all hungry and couldn’t hide it despite all what was going on and so dug in. Matthew and Justin stood in front of the TV monitoring the updates.
It was almost 2:00am Tuesday morning, Priscilla had dosed off on Tokunbo’s shoulder. Teju had long gone back home despite much protest, Matthew was sleeping on a chair beside Maryam’s bed. Justin was glued to the TV holding on to every ounce of hope he had although as time passed it dwindled. They had all planned to pull an ‘I am ill and can’t come in today’ for work so nobody really cared.
Just then a phone began to ring. Tokunbo had forgotten his phone on Maryam’s bedside. She started out of her sleep to see she was in the hospital. Tokunbo rushed in to see her picking the phone.
“I’m sorry” he whispered as he took the phone and muted the ringtone not to wake Matthew. She nodded and turned to go back to sleep. He walked out of the room looking at the phone screen, it was a number.
“hello” he spoke into the mouth piece.
“Tokunbo hello it’s Ayomide” Ayomide spoke into the phone.
“hey guy how far?” Tokunbo said.
“Please I can’t seem to get through to Maryam since our last call. I have been worried sick especially with the plane crash” he said. He didn’t sound good at all.
“Mehn she is okay, her phone is switched off. She fainted after we saw the news and is on admission” Tokunbo said cautiously.
“No, no not her too” Ayomide started sobbing.
“Guy calm down she was just dehydrated. She will be fine. Are you okay?” Tokunbo was worried.
“Man my mom was on the plane with my daughter I just got a call to come down to Lagos. I cant loose her, I can’t lose any of them” Ayonide broke down.
“Sorry man, so sorry. I hope they are wrong. Will keep you posted on Maryam”
“Yeah thanks” Ayomide said and hung up. Tokunbo rushed to where Justin was and told him.
“Aww mehn this will kill Maryam. Why is life like this now?” Justin said punching into his fist in anger.
“We can’t tell her. Not now” Justin said to Tokunbo who nodded. Justin’s phone rang. He rushed to pick it up.
The caller ID read KEVWE.
………. ………. ……….
The burial took place in a quiet, beautiful cemetery. It looked expensive. She wasn’t surprised, she would have wanted nothing less. Everyone was in black as it was customary. The car drove passed with the coffins on it and the men brought them out, one after the other.
She held onto his hand. She needed his strength as much as he needed hers. It seemed so real.
Their friends stood behind them, family around them. She had never been to a funeral, she had never lost anyone, she had never felt this emptiness she felt right now. Tears seemed not enough, the pain had taken her to a point of numbness, numbness from the world. She looked around but didn’t really see anyone.
She remembered, remembered how they met, what they went through. She remembers how he described them to her. Why was life so cruel? And death, death with its evil grip.
She watched as Pastor Owunzuka prayed over the bodies. Ayo was laying his mother and daughter, she was laying her best friend. There was no way things would remain the same. As everyone took turns to drop a rose or say a prayer before the bodies she went to her friend’s and stood. She looked in at her friend’s face. It smiled at her. Then her eyes opened and Maryam looked straight into the eyes of her friend……
“Aaaaaaahhhhhh” Maryam screamed out of her dream.
“Ayo, Ayo, where is Ayo?” she asked hysterically looking around. Her eyes fell on her mom.
“Wa ye (who is) Ayo yarinya (girl)?” Her mom asked her with a scowl.