Previously on Almost a bride.
The loud bang woke her from her sleep, apparently she had been dozing on the wheels when she hit the car in front of her. The black Ford explorer in front of her had parked and the driver, a middle aged broad chested man wearing a pair of sun shades, came down and walked to the back of the car to see the damage that had been done. The rear light of the car had been shattered and there were pieces of it on the floor. Ihuoma was still seated in her car. People were starting to gather and the drama that was about to unfold was already playing in her head.
“What’s the meaning of this? What’s all this? Can’t you see? You don’t know how to drive?”, Ihuoma could hear him shout as he walked briskly towards her car. Ihuoma decided to come down and beg. She wasn’t in the right frame of mind to speak big english and prove anything. She knew she was in the wrong; the damage had been done and now, she had to rectify it.
“I’m very sorry about this… I wasn’t looking. I know you are angry please calm down, I’m terribly sorry about it.”
The man stood in front of her and said nothing. Ihuoma had hoped he would shout at her or at least justify her begging with some words but he said nothing. After seconds of starring hard at her, he finally eased the moment.
“It’s okay, there’s no problem. You should be careful next time. Don’t bother about it”
“No please, let me bother. It’s my fault. Can I have your card so I can call you tomorrow? I’ll call my mechanic so he can fit”
He gave her his card and went back to his car, careful enough not to step on pieces of shattered glass around the car. The crowd looked unsatisfied, they had expected more. With disappointment boldly written on their faces, they dispersed. The car was still parked. Ihuoma looked at the car and she could see him staring into the rear view mirror of his car, looking directly at her. She made her way to her car ignoring the dent on the hood of it. She sat in the car waiting for the man to drive off as she could not afford to blow her car horn at a man that she had offended. After a few minutes of awkwardness, he drove off. Ihuoma drove behind him like a snail until he was out of sight.
At home, Ihuoma couldn’t sleep. She had stayed awake the whole week reading for her exams, ended up sleeping on the wheels and getting involved in an accident, all for nothing. The sleep that was the sole cause of the accident was now nowhere to be found. She picked up her handbag to retrieve the card of the victim from the accident and dialed his number. She cleared her throat as the caller tune sang in her ears.
“Hello Mr Obinna Ugochukwu, good evening.”
“Yes, good evening. Who am I speaking with?”
“I’m Ihuoma, the lady that hit your car this afternoon,” she felt like a sinner confessing to a priest.
“Oh, the lady that wanted to kill me this afternoon. Good to finally place a name to the face.”
“I want to apologize again, I’m terribly sorry. I would like to fix it tomorrow at my mechanics place so I want to know what time you would be available.”
“I’ll be free around evening time, 4pm or 5pm is fine”
“Ok, I’ll send you a text with the address of the place. Thank you”
“Alright then, see you tomorrow.”
His response was flaccid. He didn’t seem angry at her and she wasn’t quite sure of what to make of it. All she knew was that by the end of the morrow, her doubts would be clear.
She was able to leave the hospital the next day by 3:30 pm after giving the excuse of an emergency at home. She got to the mechanics workshop about 45 minutes later and she found her victim calmly seated and gisting with the mechanic about football. She comported herself; ran her hand through her hair, arranged her pleated skirt and walked up to him confidently. As she opened her mouth to greet him, he stopped her;
“You invited me out and you came late for our date, is it fair?” He asked without a smirk on his face.
Ihuoma didn’t know when she burst out laughing. She was not expecting it. She smiled at him and apologized for coming late.
“It’s fine.” He replied smiling at her. You look tired, how was work?”
“Fine thanks.” She replied immediately. She wasn’t one for small talks but here she was smiling at a stranger. She felt like she was obliged to answer all his questions, it was the least she could do after bashing his car. The 3 hours they spent at the workshop had them discussing everything worth discussing under the sun. One topic paved way for the other and the mechanics beckon to her signaled the end of the series of discussions.
“Your car is ready Mr Ugochukwu, I apologize again for all the inconveniences.”
“Stop apologizing, I understand. Thank you” he replied as he brought out his wallet and counted wads of naira notes to pay the mechanic.
“How much is everything Mr Idris?”
“No no no…I’m not going to let you do that. I am paying for it. The accident was my fault; let me pay for it please.” Ihuoma said, making effort to restrain his hand.
“No, I insist. It’s my car let me pay for it” he replied. They kept going back and forth until he finally changed the tone of the argument.
“I’ll allow you to pay for the repair if you agree to do lunch with me next week.” He said with a vague expression. Ihuoma reluctantly agreed to have lunch with him. She was adamant about paying for the damage because she didn’t want anybody chasing her with car keys in her dreams. For her, it would be an opportunity to end all ties with him and move on with her life.
She arrived at Cold Stone creamy inn, a few minutes before 2pm for her lunch date with Obinna. She made sure she arrived before time so she wouldn’t have to apologize for being late; she was starting to sound like a broken record for apologizing so much. Obinna arrived right on time and they placed their orders. They talked at length about the accident, work and life in general. He was the Chief Financial officer of Milton’s oil and gas with no wife and child. He was engaged to be married a few years back but his fiancée died a month to their wedding and it left him devastated. He didn’t have the heart to go in search of love again. He didn’t mention how she died and Ihuoma was not about to reopen a wound that had healed with time.
“It’s okay, love will find you someday” Ihuoma reassured him. She had been in that boat for a long while so she could understand his fear.
After lunch that day, Obinna’s number became one of the most dialed numbers on her phone. He made it a duty to call her everyday and she reciprocated the kind gesture. All she wanted was a platonic friendship with him but as the calls became frequent, even at odd hours, she allowed nature to take its course. Seven weeks after she bashed his car, Obinna asked her to be his friend and she agreed, after all, that’s all they were. He called her every hour of the day from when she rose for the day till when she bade him goodnight on the phone. He was always angry whenever she missed his call so she made sure she answered when he called. He always wanted to know where she was and what she was doing. She saw nothing wrong in it; after all most girls would give an arm to have a caring and doting man around them. People had different ways of expressing love, this she had learnt from her past relationships. As months went by, she got used to his jealousy and always found a way to tease him about it. She got used to massaging his ego whenever he was angry and she believed it would ease off with time.
One Wednesday afternoon after a busy morning at the hospital, she managed to look at her phone and she saw 7 missed calls from Obinna. She tried calling him back but his number was unavailable so she decided to call him later in the day. As she rounded off the cases for the day, the doctor on night duty, Dr Paul, called her to say he was held up somewhere, that she should cover for him till he could make it to the hospital. Ihuoma had no choice than to cover for him, it was something he had done for her a number of times. Dr Paul resumed duty at the hospital 5 hours later and Ihuoma tired as she was, decided to stop by at Obinna’s house before heading home. She hadn’t spoken to him all day and she really needed to see him. She got to his house and he opened the door for her fuming.
He welcomed her with series of questions, “Where have you been since? I’ve been calling you and you didn’t pick. What were you doing Ihuoma?! Why didn’t you return my calls?” The questions kept running into each other and she didn’t have the opportunity to answer him.
“Obi, I’m sorry.” She chipped in, “I was working at the hospital.”
“Lies! You were at the hospital and you are coming here by 10:45 pm, almost midnight! Who were you with? You were with another man right? What does he have that I don’t eh? What?”
“Calm down Obi, I wasn’t with anybody. Dr Paul is the one on night call so I had to wait for him to get to the hospital. He was running late. He came in at 10:00 O’clock.” She waved him off as she walked towards the couch.
He followed her and continued shouting, “So that’s his name. Is it because he’s a doctor?” He was near her now; he was only a breadth away. “You are now sleeping around with your colleagues eh? Is that what you do now? Answer me!”
When his hand landed on her face, she felt a tingling sensation in her ears right before she fell on the floor. She was so dazed that she didn’t see the second slap coming. She knew his hand was approaching her face but she blacked out before he hit her again. Obinna saw that she wasn’t moving but he kept shaking her body, hoping she would wake up. Scared that he had killed her like he killed his fiancée, he carried her to the hospital and waited for the doctor to confirm that she was awake before he went in to see her. As soon as Ihuoma saw him at the door, she screamed and shouted at the doctor to send him away. The doctor did her bidding and she asked him to call Anini to tell her that she was at the hospital.
Anini, Lala and Dona arrived at the hospital less than an hour later and they all rushed to her bedside.
“What happened to you? Who did this?” Lala asked.
Ihuoma narrated the whole scenario to them and even laughed as she told the story. She couldn’t explain how she had reduced herself to such a level.
“The way that slap came eh, I never hexperred it.” she laughed as she tried to hide the tears forming in her eyes.
“Seriously, I don’t think marriage is for everybody. Why should only I, Ihuoma Nwabuogaranya have to go through all this just to find love? Why is it that only players, insecure people and woman batterers find me attractive? Why?! Is it fair? Why me?”
Lala was quick to wipe the tears off Ihuoma’s face before they reached the corner of her lips. They gathered around her and hugged her tightly. Ihuoma felt blessed. She didn’t have the best of times in dealing with men, but she was glad she had her girls with her always.
To be continued…