By Amarachi Okpunobi
The day was getting dark and the hands of clock were fast ticking but the customers seemed to be getting bigger. Nkechi could no longer hold her peace as she washed the dishes used for the days sale. She kept wondering why her mum would fail to adhere to all the gospel preached in the church for act of kindness. Just few minutes ago, a dirty little boy who had happened to be a beggar had come to ask for alms and her mum chased him away like he was some kind of no human at all. Nkechi on the other hand empathized with the little boy but at same time wouldn’t dare to help the boy in the midst of her mother otherwise her punishment severe awaits her at home. So, she watched the boy pathetically as he walked away. She wondered if the priest who gave the homily were to be at their shop, what he would have personified her mother to. It was actually Valentine’s Day just like the priest said in the morning and was the Month of love. Love was meant to be showered on one another but the reverse was the case of her mother’s. Mama Nkechi hated to give alms after she heard of many cruel and wicked stories told of beggars who used jars to steal people’s money or even kidnap people too. The little boy couldn’t have touched her heart, Nkechi thought. “The world on her world is too cruel and wicked, so better mind your business if you want to leave long”, she would always say.
It was now getting too dark and Nkechi knew she needed to go home and get freshened up for her own celebration of the Valentine’s Day. Juliet, her friend had told her of the California Bash they would be attending for the day. Almost the whole class would be attending. That would be their last Valentines Day and it was her first and it would be so much exciting. She began to have some ill feeling about going or probably staying back to help her mother finish the sale.
Sooner than later, it was time to go home, by then the food in the coolers were almost finishing. Somehow she became happy; finally they would be done for the day. Nkechi took the coolers home ahead of her mother who stayed back to enjoy cheap market talks from other women who were also selling at the same area. Nkechi had not gone far from the shop when she saw that little begger. The little boy began to look at her and she sympathetically took the little money she had in her pocket and gave him. The little boy appreciated so much that Nkechi became very uneasy and she hurriedly left the scene.
For the bash, Nkechi dressed in a red gown that revealed her countours and the cleavages of her breast. That was the gown Uncle Jerry bought her, last birthday and of course she waited for the right time to put it on and the Valentine Night was the perfect occasion. She definitely wouldn’t be left out in fashion. Thanks Goodness, Mum is not back! The gown revealed her beauty so much that a look at her gets a man swayed. She stood in the mirror for a little while and appreciated her endownments as she thought aloud how beautiful she was. She then put on her heeled shoes that made her look so maleficient like a princess. Her wrist watch glittered in the light like a diamond, then she picked her little purse, one of the coats her mother made for her, then she was good to go. She walked a little distance and flagged down a taxi. By this time, the day was already having its way through the night and she kept wondering in the vehicle what she would be doing if she gets there. She really has not been to a Valentine splash before and was ignorant of the activities that go on in the night. Mum had always told her she was a beautiful lady and as such, shouldn’t be seen roaming in the streets at night. But there she was, fully dressed going for what she probably thought to be a night club. She couldn’t just think of why Mumcy could have permitted her to go for such occasion. Since her father surrendered to the cold hands of asthma and went to the world beyond, her mother became as strict as never before. Permission to attend the splash was just so odd, regardless of the fact she wanted to have adventures and tell stories along with her contemporaries, she never expected her mother to agree with her going for the splash.
“Young lady, this is California Bash”. That was coming from the taxi driver who had with keeness admired the beautiful damsel from his rare mirror. He had haulted the engine for her to alight but she seemed to have traveled to a far away land in thoughts.
“Oh! I’m sorry” Nkechi apologised as she handed him over her fare and alighted from the vehicle. She took a deep breath and began walking magnificently towards the bash.
She began to feel uneasy and her legs started shaking and her mind became startled. The sound of the music was beginning to make her heart faint and her ear drums seemed to be falling off. She was suddenly loosing balance.
Nkaaay! She heard her name in the air and suddenly her friends emerged from the crowd of crowd and they all hailed each other. They admired her outfit and led her to their seats. She sat and watched with interest the dance of young people and the giggles. She wished she could stand to dance with them but hell, no, she was shy to the core. Her friends introduced her to a drink of which she have never tasted before. Initially, she refused to take any of the drinks but with much pressure she resolved and obliged to taking one of them. She couldn’t remember the name, all she knew was that the drink in the bottle was so much unlike the fruit juice she normally take with snacks in school.
Hardly had she known, she gubbled the drink down her throat and more was coming. She knew she was becoming more excited but that was the fun of it; the happiness to be free from the eyes of a strict mother and uncles.
Can I have a dance? A mild male voice asked. She looked up to behold, a handsome young man full of vitality and energy. His hair was well groomed and his complexion was just too good. His teeth shinned in the dark like an immaculate star. His outfit was gorgeous and hell! His buttons were opened exposing his bare hairy chest with compacted stomach.
What she could remember was that she stretched her left hand to the young dude in acceptance for the dance at the cheer of her friends.
On the dance floor, they slowly moved their bodies to the rythym of the music. The DJ knew the right tracks to play at every minute. They kept dancing and smiling to each like some chemistry students who have inhaled N2O, (laughing gas).
The dance floor was beginning to be filled to the brim and the creatures were also beginning not to find space to put their legs upon. Suddenly, a fight ensued between two guys of which one claimed to have been pushed by the other who refused to apologise. Bottles began flying like the birds of the air. Shoes of the ladies became short put and discuss. Nkechi could not withstand the terrifying sight. She picked her heels and hurridly ran home leaving her handsome dude and her friends in the bash. She couldn’t risk dying or getting injured as she was the only girl child of her family. Her mother will definitely have herself killed if anything happened to her.
She was still running when she began to hear gunshots. She became more terrified and her hands filled with sweat under the cold night. Fate became a fickle mistress when she ran into a small stall by the roadside. There, she met the dirty little boy whom she had given an alm in the morning sleeping soundly on the floor. She tried not to wake the little begger but the street child whose eyes were always open in the dark, took grasp of her hand.
And just immediately, she heard a sang that sounded like a birthday song.
She opened her eyes to the reality to behold her mother and brothers as they unanimously chorused, Happy Birthday Princess Nkechinyere! It’s Valentine!!