THE LAST SMILE by NISSI ADEOLA
The road was wet and muddy as the rain teared down in full velocity. Water leveled the road and no one would have seen a pot-hole on the totally destroyed road. The road was without deep gutter so the road was filled with rain water flood and mud. The environment was chilling to the bones and even the trees shivered from the cold atmosphere.
Raymond had his glass wound up as he drove home in the rain from the club. He had always bragged that cold weather can never have an effect on him but tonight’s weather had gone way over the edge. His car heater was on and his shivering body gradually calmed down. Thinking about it, he became happy that he was able to sneak out of the club without his reckless friends’ acknowledgement for they would have laughed him to scorn.
Careful of pot-holes, he mulled over the events of the last few hours, driving moderately. He had arrived home from work and had met Tinuke unexpectedly at home. Tinuke was his fiancé of about two months and lover for more that three years. After proposing to her two months ago, his immediate line of action had been to formally see her parents for the traditional rites but he held back.
Ever since the engagement band had been slipped into Tinuke’s finger, she had changed drastically, doing things she had never done before. She transformed from a sweet little dove to a nagging peasant who complained about everything that meets the eye ranging from his style of dressing, his choice colour, the friends he kept, and on and on. She started suspecting every move he made and the house was always on fire with her in it but he just could not send her away.
He had deflowered her three years ago when they met and he had been so surprised to meet her a virgin at 23. He had vowed in his heart never to let her go because he saw her as a rare gem as he had never met with a virgin before sexually. His friends had advised him to let her go when she started this new tactic but he just could not bring himself to doing it.
This night, Tinuke had so much worked on his bad side that he ended up asking his friends to take him to the best club they could find; something he hadn’t done in years; but instead of finding happiness, the place just gave him more headache.
Raymond bumped into a pothole and cursed his stray thoughts. Putting the car back on its balance, he raked his fingers through his tiny bits of hair. His eyes caught something by the road side and he suddenly hit the brakes. It was a rather large sack, the true colour could not be determined considering the sheer darkness; but what caught his eye particularly was the mass of hair protruding out of the sack.
His heartbeat accelerated and he sat there in his car at the middle of the road transfixed not knowing whether or not to get involved in whatever this may be. He was never practically scared of anything but he couldn’t understand why this fear was paralyzing him. After seconds which seemed like forever, he decided to check out what was in the bag.
Raymond hadn’t taken five steps when the sack suddenly moved. He froze instantly and his skipping heart started running a hundred meter race. He tried to bring down his fear by blaming the wind for the occurrence but the sack moved again, very softly, and he knew that whatever is inside that sack is responsible for the movements. He discarded his fear and moved towards the sack. He looked around in utmost fear hoping that some of the scenes in Hollywood movies would not manifest; where police men would round up good Samaritans assuming them to be murderers.
The environment was utterly dark and he could not see anything asides bushes. He reached down and pulled down the loose top of the sack and what manifested before him was the face of a human being. His heart almost stopped from fear as his prediction had become reality. Raymond’s breathing was not coordinated at all and he had gone pale.
The face was slightly covered with mud but the entire hair was immersed in it. From the hair, he knew it had to be a girl so he pulled the sack down to the waist line of the body with his shivering hands. He looked up and nearly died of fright when he met the eyes of the girl slightly open and in his direction. He started wondering if she was a spirit or a witch sent to kill him but then he saw how pale she looked and warded off his vague thought. He glimpsed a thick mass of blood on her stomach and winced internally.
She started moving uncomfortably and seemed to be doing that unconsciously. He hurriedly pulled out the sack and threw it into the bush. Without even considering the risk of picking her up, he whisked her into his arms and made for his car. Ever since he saw the helpless girl, he had forgotten all about the rain which did not stop and now, he was soaked to his pants but he could not care less. His eyes riveted from the car to the mud covered girl in his arms and he prayed silently that nothing bad happens to her.
He dropped her at the back seat and ran behind the wheels. Another thought occurred to him and he was out of the car in an instant. He searched the bush frantically until he got the sack and he ran with it to the driver’s side. Dropping the sack carelessly, he hit the road, driving at a deadly rate, not minding the pot-holes. His eyes riveted from the road to the girl. Her already waned strength was at the verge of going out completely and her eyes started closing.
Ray’s heart started doing a summersault, “Please hold on, please. You have to help me to help you. You can’t die on me, please. Hold on…” he said over and over. He saw her struggling to keep her eyes open and he praised her strength. He faced the road squarely again and fired home at top speed.
He searched for hospitals by the side of the road but did not see any; not that he had ever noticed any ever since he plied the road, but he checked anyways. Looking back at the girl, he wondered what hospital would accommodate a mud covered person. He picked up his phone and dialed a number with shaky hands. He checked the time and noticed that it was already past 1am. The phone rang off without answer the first time and he dialed again. He heard a sleepy “hello” and he sighed out.
“Oh… thank God. Doctor T, could you please meet me at home, it is an emergency … yes, please do … thank you so much”, he hung up and dialed his maid’s number. He had totally forgotten about Tinuke, but even if he had remembered, he would not have called her.
“Bose, stay close to the gate and open immediately you hear my horn, ok? …” He dropped the phone and his eyes went to the back seat again and seeing the girl’s eyes closed, the alarm sounded in his head. “Hey, wake up”, he yelled. Her eyes opened slightly and he breathed well again. He faced the road, put the swaying car back on track and raced home without looking back. He started talking to himself and the girl in order to remain sane.
A check point was ahead and his head ached. It was like a movie was being acted with him as one of the casts. He was not finding this role funny at all. The people at the check point were well known to him as he always had something to give them whenever he cruised by.
Bringing down the glass halfway, he peered at the policemen, desperately trying to calm himself. “A really wild night officers”, he said, smiling at the fat one among the three men. Even the smile threatened to crack up his face.
“Oga, I no know say na you o”, the man replied, smiling cunningly. “I can see that you have gone to enjoy yourself. Make we no delay you”.
Raymond grinned, relieved. He was about to move the car when he heard one of the slim guys talk in plain English. “I can see you have helped yourself to a fresh babe. Is she sleeping?”
Raymond’s colour drained. His smile was tight. “She is really drunk. I had to whisk her out of the club. If you would excuse me guys, a man has got to get a quicky once in a while, don’t you think?” The men muttered, moving this way and that, with a fleeting smile on their faces. Ray put his hand in his pocket and brought out what he assumed to be five thousand Naira.
His praises rang out and he was on the road within seconds, speeding like someone in a racing competition. He feared the ridiculous delay would tell on the poor girl. He glanced at the girl at the back and saw her eyes closed. Blood drained from his face. He braved it and mentally told himself that she just passed out. He could only imagine what she must be going through now.
He wondered why he was this agitated about someone whose face he could not even see, through the mass of mud. He got to Macurly Estate within minutes which was like eternity to him, gave instructions to the security men on guard to let the doctor in before speeding off to number 8. Before he got there, he blared the horn and the gate flew open. He drove inside the compound and moved to the entrance of the main house.
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Fred poured the ninth cup of alcoholic wine and downed it within seconds. His thumping heart increased in tempo and his vision became blurry. He smashed the glass cup against the wall and took the bottle to his mouth. He could still not believe what he had done because of jealousy, not that he did it intentionally though. He had seen Lucy hugging a guy beside the road and his blood had boiled furiously till it became thick. Lucy, who had been the only woman he ever loved had never loved him back and every time he confessed his love to her, she always told him to get over her because they could only be friends.
It had been torture maintaining his ‘friendship’ status with her. Seeing her with another man made him terribly furious that he went over to her house and waited for her. Due to her working arrangements, she lived alone in a one room self contain apartment cos of proximity to her office so he waited by the door for her. He did not call her so he had to wait for about one hour at the entrance with each passing second increasing his anger.
She didn’t appear until very late in the night but he stayed there. When Lucy came, she was so surprised to have Fred waiting at her door. She put up a conversation, asking so many questions but he remained mute. He saw the surprise in her face at his mood but did not say anything until she had unlocked the door and they were inside.
“What were you doing with that guy on the road?” he asked, immediately the door closed behind them.
Looking stupefied, she asked, “Which guy?”
“Don’t play dumb with me. I saw you hugging a guy on the road, who is he? I told you I want you, you did not accept and now you are hugging someone else?” he yelled.
“Are you crazy? How dare you trail me around? What business of yours is this? I can see whomever I please and do whatever I want to do, do you understand? What is your problem anyways?” she yelled back.
Fred paced the length of the room and picked up the knife he saw in a tray filled with oranges in the bedside table. He saw fear creep into her eyes but he was no longer himself, all he wanted was to hit someone really hard. He advanced towards her and she moved back until she tripped over something and fell. All her pleadings fell on deaf ears as he brought the knife down on her. Her ear deafening scream restored his senses and he could not believe what he had done.
Even as he drank himself to stupor, he still could not believe he had actually done it. He had killed the love of his life with his bare hands. He finished the bottle, smashed it against the wall and grabbed another bottle. His tears flowed freely and his hands shook terribly but he silently swore to himself that he would find the guy who made him do this, the guy who had the audacity to hug his babe. He would have his revenge, he said silently. “Since I am weeping now, I would make sure he weeps also or my name is not Fred”.
Tinuke locked herself up Raymond’s room. She could not fathom the possibility of sleeping in the guests’ room. The house is big in itself, having the total of five rooms apart from the gym and the laundry room. She had always admired Raymond’s taste and ability to choose the best. She had quarreled with Ray again, although it is no longer a new thing. Her friends had schooled her well on how to ensure her man does not escape.
It had taken her three years of putting up the innocent and sweet face to get the ring on her finger. Her friends had told her that men need a little strong hand. If they feel their woman is very sweet and accepting, they would feel free to indulge themselves with other women outside. Having another woman take her place is definitely something Tinuke Rogers would never accept.
She and Ray had argued extensively on the issue of wedding this evening. Ray had stormed out after close to two hours of heated arguments. She could not see any point in delaying his formal meeting with her parents and he was just procrastinating the issue unnecessarily.
She knew he expected her to be out of the house and back to her own apartment but he had a surprise coming. Whatever the time he comes back, they would continue their argument until she comes out victorious. Trust Tinuke to make a house a living hell, she thought, pleased with herself.
THE LAST SMILE
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