ALMOST A BRIDE: Episode 8

Previously on Almost a bride.

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Ihuoma looked away from the big medical textbooks that lay on her table. That region of her room has become her favorite place to be since the preparation for her primaries-the residency examination, began in earnest. She had registered earlier in the year and the exam was slated for September. She choose the Lagos venue, National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria examination center, Ijanikin. She had always known that she would be a pediatrician since her junior posting in medical school when she discovered her undying love for children. She didn’t like seeing them weak and helpless and so, she was ready to do everything possible to become one including staying late at night and waking up very early for work the next day. She had made sure she got her leave during the exam period to help her prepare well. She no longer saw the girls often and they understood. She converted all her setbacks into strength to prepare for her exam, “If I can’t get a man, at least I should pass an exam” that became her motto whenever she was tired of reading.

As the day drew nigh, she stopped cooking and started eating junk food. It reminded her of professional examination period in medical school; once they had one more incourse assessment left for each course, preparation was in full gear. Students had personal spaces in the reading room, library or class because no matter the time you got there, you would always meet people there either sleeping or awake. She would never forget her part 2 written exam, which ran for a week; she only managed to get one hour of sleep throughout that week. It was one of the scariest exams in school and students did all it took to stay awake and read. To her, medical school was an experience that could  never fully be explained; you do not leave the same person that you were when you gained admission.

“This too shall pass” she said one morning as she looked into the mirror staring at her eye bags, flat cheeks and the loose gown hanging on her frame. She was certain Dare Art Alade sang his hit song for  her;  “You’re not the girl I used to know, you’re a shadow of yourself” she sang as she searched for her car keys amongst the books on her table. The drive to Shoprite, Surulere, was smooth and she finally got a space to park after driving round for twenty minutes. She got into the busy mall and brought out her shopping list from her black bucket bag. She matched her blue dansiki gown with black sandals and she had tied her hair in her brown silk scarf. Ihuoma and scarfs had become two peas in a pod since she had not had time to go to the saloon to make her hair. She bought toiletries, biscuits, fruits and provisions and was on her way home. She got home and made Coco pops. As she settled in to devour her cereal and resume her reading, her phone rang. It was Dona.

“Hello Oma” she said in her soprano voice.

“Dona, how are you”

“I’m fine, how’s preparation for your exam”

“Very well, making progress.”

She asked if Ihuoma had eaten and was unsatisfied when she told her she had Cocopops. She asked what Oma would like to eat.

“I just feel like eating pizza all of a sudden”, she answered.

Her doorbell rang about one hour later it was the delivery man, she collected the pizza and had it for dinner. Later, she sent Dona a thank you text.

On the morning of the examination, Ihuoma woke up by 4:30 am to prepare for her journey. She wore her black gown and cover shoe which was her default dressing for any exam. By 5:15 am, she was driving to Ijanikin, praying and playing Christian songs, she practically held a service in her car. Her ringtone interrupted her service.

“Hello mum”

“Nne, good morning o. Today is your exam okwa ya?”

“Yes mum.”

“Make us proud o, I didn’t raise a dumb child. God will see you through, inugo?”

“Yes ma, thank you mum.” She said as the line dropped.

This was the first time since she left school four years ago; her mum had called her without asking her about when she was bringing her man home.

When Ihuoma got to the venue, she was sure there were more than a thousand heads present, both old and young in groups discussing past questions. They announced the commencement of entry into the hall and were asked to seat according to their exam number. 

The examiners distributed the exam questions and shouted, “Write your name behind the scantron sheet, enter your registration number and shade appropriately”, they wouldn’t stop screaming. Thirty minutes into the exam, Ihuoma raised her head for the first time. The young man seated next to her was chewing his pen vigorously, Ihuoma literally  saw the cover of the pen turn white from it’s original blue colour. A lady in front was staring at the ceiling like there were answers secretly inscribed on it, Ihuoma had to look twice to be sure she wasn’t missing out on something. An old man had his white shirt soaked in sweat, frequently using his already soaked handkerchief to wipe his dripping face inspite of the air-conditioning in the hall. 

The two-hour exam finally ended and she felt relief flow through her body, it was time to sleep! She greeted a few of her colleagues who had attended the same school with her and was on her way out of the venue disregarding the usual post exam discussion on which answers were right or wrong. Ihuoma heard a lady’s voice.

“No, that’s not the correct answer, I’m very sure. Infact, a senior colleague told me so before we entered the hall or was it in my textbook? I can’t remember”, she turned to look. It was the same lady that was searching for answers on the ceiling.

Ihuoma could barely keep awake during the drive home. As she approached Fadeyi bus-stop, she heard a loud bang…

To be continued…

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