It was a day to Valentine, and all the students were in high spirit, because it fell on a weekend; a great opportunity for a long visit to their boyfriends, husbands, friends or just family members. Some anticipated on what they would get on that day but, seated far away from the crowd, at the far end of the class, hidden behind thick lenses was Uju.
Everything began after the last lecture, when someone announced that the result for the last exams had been published. They all ran, and among those was Uju. Uju was an Island in class: her mentality was like no other, but her classmates were fine, so far as she didn’t get in their way. She was only seen on campus with her boyfriend, Emeka or her roommates heading to TDB.
She had her own car, but nobody knew anything about her family. As Uju got to the board with the rest, she made sure she stood far away from them, while she searched for her name on the board, and when she got to registration number: 434, she could not believe her eyes, and she started all over again till she got to her number for the tenth time:
She screamed in her mind. Before the others could see her leave, she had already reversedher car and headed off campus.
Uju brought her car very close to Emeka’s door. She didn’t even know how she bypassed all the heavy trucks on UNIZIK express way, but she knew she had come to her safe haven. Uju got out of the car, ran to Emeka’s door, and with one push, the door flew open. Uju was accosted with the greatest earthquake in her life: there, Emeka was, butt-naked with Linda, her bunk mate, friend and reading partner. It was as though time stood still. She met Emeka’s pleadingeyes, and Linda hid under the sheet.
“Ujunwa, please I can explain.”
He tried to get up, and remembered that he was naked and un-shamefully hard, he sat back. Uju ran back to her car, and the tires screeched her onto the express way; she headed for her father’s home town.
Uju didn’t want to go home. She had been in a difficult feud with her father for years. He sends allowance, but she hates his guts and makes it too obvious to him, not leaving out her step mother whom her father was sleeping with up until her mother’s ghastly motor accident. Uju accused Aunt Betty for her mother’s death, but nothing was made out of it.
She resented her grandmother for asking her mother to go back to her husband when she came to tell her of her son’s affair with her best friend. The tears ran down her face as she spedpass Awkuzu, the toll gate, then diverted into the old road that led to Ifite.
The old lady, now in her eighties was a retired teacher, she was a little bit too hard on Uju, while growing up, but she still remained her favourite. She didn’t know what she saw in her, but as a young girl, Uju’s strong will marveled her. That was why she didn’t ask her why she was home, even as Uju went straight into the room without a greeting, Nnenne knew there was trouble.
A knock disrupted her warring spirit; she looked up and it was Nnenne, coming in with something like an old album. As a little child, Uju remembered that each morning they came to greet Nnenne, you will find her cleaning a set of frames she kept on a table, and these were placed very close to her bed. Each picture was that of her late husband.
One day, Uju came; she met her talking to the picture: she implored him to come and take her along with him. When Nnenne came close, Uju got, and made space for her. It was already dusk and she had come in with an mpanaka. She took her place, drew Uju close, placed the album on her laps, smiled then began:
“I loved your grandfather and each day, I wish I had him with me more than anything. Look! Here when we took our first picture. This was before the civil war. We had come from the cinemas after he proposed to me.”
She gave out a heavy chuckle, which was filled with regret. Uju leaned-in closer as she talked. The album was a collection of many little sweet moments their time together: each picture told a story.
“Here, we went to Greece for a teacher’s training. Oh! Look! It is your father, during his christening”
Uju looked away.
“Here, when he bought me my first car…. And that was the last gift he gave me before he went to away.”
She gave a long labored pause.
“Look! Here he is in his army uniform. He sent this to me after three months with a letter. I will show you tomorrow morning. The next letter I got was that he was knocked out by a bullet from the enemies.”
The old lady broke down in beats of sobs. After sometimes, she got up, and went back to her room. Uju placed her head on her pillow, and that night, for the first time, she thought about her father.
The phone rang. It was morning. A text message had come in so early. It was her father, wishing her the best Valentine ever. Uju got up and ran to Nnenne’s room, she knocked but Nnnenne did not answer, she opened the door, a lamp was burning by the side. She took it up, went to Nnenne’s bed, she brought the lamp to the old woman’s smiling face. Uju placed her hand on her arm, it was stiff-cold. Uju drew back, made her way out of the room, and as she faced the peaceful singsongs of the birds on the mango tree, she knew that Nnenne had gone to meet her many little sweet moments.
Written by Oluoma Udemezue.
Udemezue, Oluoma loves to read and write, you can catch her on email@example.com, oluomaudemezue on Instagram, and @Udemezueoluoma on Twitter.