Published on December 21st, 2012 | by The Alchemist14
” AUSPICIOUS “
Emeka stepped out of the pub for a smoke. It had been a long and treacherously cold day. Christmas was around the corner and as usual, he was nowhere near his target. He recalled the meeting he had earlier at the Nigerian head office and his mood dampened even more. He was tired of always being on the losing team. For someone who had received a world class education at the prestigious Target academy before being posted to Nigeria, Emeka was incredibly proud of his skills. As far as he was concerned, he was as good at his job as his European and American counterparts but his location and the culture of the people ensured he came out looking extremely inept. He took another drag of the cigarette as he formulated a plan in his head. He needed to start working in bulk. This retail stuff was not going to close the gap at all.
Enobong stared at the room full of guests. Christmas at the Obot’s compound was always a time of joy, laughter and most of all, love. Theirs was a polygamous home but one without most of the problems that came with polygamy. Her father had two wives who had a total of fifteen children. While some of her married sisters could not make it down to the village house for the festivities because they had to be with their husband’s families, all of her brothers were present and with them, a ton of their friends. She chuckled as two of her nephews started fighting for the last piece of cake. “We need more cake sis!” whispered Ubong as he passed by on his way to separate his sons. Eno’s smile was quickly replaced by a scowl. She hated the fact they always designated food issues to her. Granted, she was a bit on the big side but so what? Didn’t skinny people also eat? “Ubong I’m tired. Please send Uduak” she replied. “Uduak is dressing some of the kids. You’re the only available person. If you don’t feel like driving, Uwem can always take you” he replied. Uwem, whose face was buried in his phone, looked up when his name was called. He was one of Ubong’s friends whom Eno had known for many years and had a huge crush on. He never seemed to take his face out of his phone to hold a decent conversation and she sometimes wondered why he came at all. “If he is driving, then ok” she replied as she went to her room to get her purse.
Uwem looked at his watch one more time. What on earth was taking her so long? If Uduak or any of the others were the ones taking so long to freshen up or whatever it is ladies do when they take so much time, he’d understand but not when it was Eno wasting his time. He had noticed her school girl crush over the years and he did his best not to encourage it. She was not his type by a mile and even if she had been, he had a huge problem with dating his friend’s sister. If things didn’t work out, there was bound to be a lot of uncomfortable moments. He’d rather just avoid that drama all together. He was about to toot the horn one more time when she came out. He could not understand it but she looked very different; appealing even. He stared speechless for a moment before recollecting himself. What on earth had she done to herself? He was suddenly very attracted to her and it made no sense at all.
Uduak finished dressing the last kid just as Mfon burst into the room. “What is it now?” “Akwaowo and Nduese are fighting over me” she reported excitedly. At twenty, Mfon was the last and prettiest of the Obot girls. Uduak was not surprised that she had drIven a bunch of men to fighting but she was surprised at the men that were fighting over her. She and Akwaowo had been seeing each other in secret and Nduese had a steady girlfriend back in Lagos. “Are you sure?” “Of course I’m sure. It’s not just me. Ubong is professing his love to Ini and Diana-abasi, Ekemini and Ndifreke are on Cynthia’s case. It’s crazy out there mehn! It’s almost as if the men are on heat” she replied. Uduak could not believe what she was hearing. Ubong’s wife was in the next room and most of the other men were either spoken for or in very serious relationships. She immediately rushed out to see what was happening for herself.
This was the third place they had checked and they either seemed to be out of cake or not open at all. Eno was beginning to get very irritated. She did not understand why Ubong had not bought enough cake to begin with. He was in charge of planning this Christmas and as with everything else he did, it was a last minute affair. “I think we should go back home” she said to Uwem who had been staring at her in a very odd way. “Uwem! I think we should go back home” she repeated. “Let’s go to Uyo” he responded. Eno immediately started shaking her head. What on earth was wrong with him? Granted Uyo, the state’s capital, was only forty-five minutes from her village but the thought making the trip just for cake was a bit extreme. Uwem heard the words come out of his mouth before he could think about it. All he knew was that he was not ready to go back to the crowd that was her father’s house. He wanted to spend some time alone with her. “So are you up for a road trip?” he asked rhetorically as he turned the car toward the road that led to the capital. “I’m certain we’ll find cake there” he continued with a grin. Eno felt her heart leap when he smiled at her. One of the reasons she wanted to go home so desperately was because she did not trust herself alone in an enclosed space with him. He did things to her insides that she only read of in romance novels. She sighed as the car sped down the road. What had she gotten herself into?
The trip to Uyo started off on a very silent note. One could literally hear a pin drop for the first fifteen minutes of the journey. A near accident broke the silence as both of them cussed at the offending party. “So many accidents occur on this road at Christmas” commented Uwem as he proceeded to tell her of one he had witnessed the previous year. Once the silence had been broken, there was no stopping them. They talked about growing up, their families, their past relationships, their jobs, their experiences and more importantly, how they felt about themselves. Uwem told her of how he had met his first girlfriend and given her a tulip with a note written on a white card, in monotype corsiva, saying “nice to meet you and merry christmas” and they both laughed at how corny it was. He kissed her in front of the pastry shop and it was everything she imagined it’d feel like and more.
Beep beep beep went the alarm as they all stared at the screen. The cause of their undivided attention was a little village in the southern part of Nigeria called Mkpat Enin. The head office in Nigeria was abuzz with activity as they tried to understand what had just happened. “Who is responsible for this chaos?” asked Tunde, the president of the Nigerian chapter. “That’s Emeka’s region sir” replied one of the aides. “Where is Emeka?” “We can’t seem to get in touch with him Sir”. “Quarantine the area. We need to contain this before it attracts attention. Make sure the crew erases all traces of our presence. They must not remember anything” “Yes sir” replied the aide.
Uwem and Eno got back to the house about six hours after they left. Eno had a dreamy smile on her face as they walked hand in hand into the house. They had gone to the beach after purchasing the cake and time seemed to be irrelevant as they got to know themselves. It felt extremely surreal and she kept pinching herself to make sure she was not dreaming. “Hey guys! We had to go all the way to Uyo to get cake” she shouted from the door. Something seemed very weird about the mood in the house. “Who sent you to get cake?” asked Ubong when he saw her.
Emeka watched as she walked down the aisle. They had only dated for five months when Uwem asked her to marry him. He was the only one who knew they had escaped the quarantine because they were not in the village when it happened. He grinned like a proud father when she said “I do”. Although he had been severely reprimanded for the Christmas mess, he was happy at least something good had come of it. Moments like this made him love his job as cupid.
Merry Christmas guys!!! Wishing you lots of love, laughter and fun this yuletide season and may 2013 be a better year than this one has been. To the next writer, I give a huge screen right in front of the Oxford circus tube station with Chris Brown’s “don’t judge me” playing.