Saturday, June 20, 2015

Preview: Twenty-One Days Post #8

CHAPTER SEVEN: Day three

Thursday, 7th August 2014

Oluomachukwu woke up before the Wake-Up call as her alarm sounded in her ear. She turned it off immediately and headed straight for the bathroom. There was a mirror along the corridor that led to the baths, and she stopped to look at herself. She was looking different. Camp activities from the past two days had been overly tedious and so time consuming that she didn’t have the time to look presentable, to relax and to have a few drinks. Not that she was an excessive drinker, but once in a while she liked to sit back and have a few glasses of wine or anything that had alcohol in it. When the whole stress was over and she was finally settled in, she was going to get into the fun of the camp and enjoy her stay.

After taking her bath, Oluomachukwu walked back to her room, passing by a lot of girls on the corridor and in other rooms, talking and laughing happily. A lot of people were excited about the Opening Ceremony. There had been rehearsals for the key players of the parade — a parade commander: a Corps member who was going to command and lead all the other Corps members; some flag bearers; band players, who were going to drum and play some musical instruments all through the marching and presentation; two flag girls who were each to hold a flag up by both sides of the podium where the invited dignitaries were going to give speeches; and ten Corps members from each platoon who were to stand in front of their respective platoons for the general salute to the Governor of Lagos State.

Before Corps members went to line up in formation on the parade ground, it had been chaotic — chaotic because the swearing-in kit didn’t fit everyone. If at all they fitted anyone, it would have been only two percent of the Corps members, and not even every item fit. Maybe the white shirt and the belt would fit, but nothing else. The rest were either too big or too small. Some didn’t try on theirs the day before. Corps members were also expected to put on their NYSC caps for the rehearsal and the ceremony, and hang their badges over their neck in a transparent badge holder that could have been provided by the NYSC, but hawkers sold it for 100 naira. Some Corps members had to even buy extras due to its poor quality.

The evening before, there had been a rush to the tailors who were situated at the back of mami market. Male and female alike, with oversized khaki pants that could fit at least three fat people at once, trooped there after rehearsals to get their kit mended. The ones who had smaller sizes either exchanged with others or asked for the hems to be loosened and redone with a smaller margin to allow more space to fit their legs. Some ordered new kits to be sewn from scratch if the first two options weren’t feasible.

Some of Oluomachukwu’s roommates had gone to get their kit fitted and were asked to come back the following morning to collect them. The only problem was that the tailors had said that to almost every Corps member in the camp, so they only hoped that the kits were going to be ready in the morning.

Fitting the kit didn’t cost anything less than 1,000 naira, and some Corps members felt that the NYSC coordinators had sewed oversized kits on purpose. It was also believed that the NYSC official team had something to gain from the tailors. After Oluomachukwu had tried her kit, she concurred to the belief. She initially didn’t want to get hers fitted, because she thought she looked okay in it and also because she had heard that people had to leave their kit with tailors until the next day. And if the tailor ended up not coming to the camp the next morning, it was going to be a very big problem.

Ogo had also wanted to go to the tailor, but changed her mind for reasons only known to her. After rehearsals, Oluomachukwu came back to the room and tried on her baggy khaki pants again, then decided she was going to fix it. She managed to convince Ogo to go and get hers fitted as well. And luckily for them, they found tailors who could mend their kits the same evening, within thirty minutes, and also at a reduced price of 900 or 800 naira, depending on their bargaining power. Oluomachukwu paid 800 naira and Ogo paid 900 naira. So all they had to do was get measured, wait and watch the kit get mended, try it on, then pay and leave if it was okay. It was mostly okay for those who waited.

The only mistake Oluomachukwu and Ogo made was to mend their khaki jackets, because it wasn’t part of the dress code on the Swearing-in day. They got to find out when they went back to the room and heard people talking about it. If they had known, they wouldn’t have spent that much money for what they didn’t need. Oluomachukwu would have bought herself a waist pouch of good quality, but she had only 700 naira extra cash on her after paying the tailor. The cost of the pouch ranged from 500 naira to 1,500 naira, and that was exactly how the quality ranged. Oluomachukwu was able to get one for 700 naira. She had money in her box in the room, but she didn’t want to go upstairs and come back down again. Ogo also didn’t have extra cash on her. The pouch wasn’t that excellent, but it looked like it was going to last all through the remaining days in the camp.


*
Oluomachukwu entered the room and started getting dressed, looking very smart, stylish and sexy. For a brief moment she thought of joining one of the armed forces, just to always put on a uniform. She looked around and heard people lamenting. Some girls, including Ijeoma, had gone to the camp market to look for the tailors that had their kit, but none of them had arrived, so it wasn’t sure they were going to be ready in time for the ceremony.

Oluomachukwu wasn’t in the same platoon as any of the girls she knew in the room, so she didn’t waste any time with them. The dreaded sound of the bugle blasted around the camp annoyingly, which was supposed to be a warning call that everyone should report to the parade ground for final rehearsals before the arrival of the guests. Oluomachukwu wore her badge over her neck, put her phone in her pocket — since she also learnt that morning that the waist pouch wasn’t part of the dress code, so no one was allowed to use it for the ceremony — and ran out of the room.

*
The ceremony was seriously delayed for almost two hours because it was raining. It rained as if the country hadn’t seen rain in years. Corps members were supposed to report to the parade ground by 8:00am, then rehearse until 9:00am when the dignitaries were expected to arrive. Oluomachukwu couldn’t wait to see them and everyone anticipated the arrival of the Lagos State Governor. Every time a car drove in, all attention was focused on it, until the car drove by or out with no one alighting from it. It felt as though it was the main motivation of the ceremony. Everyone wanted to see him, even from a distance. Some people had even gone to the parade ground quite early so that they would see him before other people did, as if there was a prize to be won.

Corps members stood under the canopies as the rain poured, preventing them from going to the parade ground to rehearse. Oluomachukwu knew that the extra rehearsal was needed because the day before, her platoon members were seriously flopping when it was time to raise their caps and give three hearty cheers to the Governor.

The soldiers called the cap ‘headrest.’ At least, that was what Oluomachukwu heard.

A girl had been picked to represent the platoon and command the team. While she did, some other girls kept laughing at her, so a soldier assigned to the platoon asked the laughing girls to recite the command. Even after the soldier repeated the command to them, over and over again, one of the girls said, “Remove head-dress.” Another girl said, “Remove head-gear.” Oluomachukwu wasn’t sure how the girl had heard ‘head-gear’ from ‘headrest.’ The last girl, who was still giggling, stupidly said, “Remove head-dresser.” They, of course, got serious scolding and insults from the soldier. The soldier even questioned the degree certificates they had gotten and doubted the fact that they were truly graduates. Oluomachukwu hoped that the rain would stop so that they would rehearse a little more.

The rain continued to pour, and not wanting to get out of the excitement and good mood they felt earlier, some Corps members started taking photos of themselves and others. With the way they posed and smiled, one would have thought that they were having an excellent time in the camp.   Oluomachukwu looked around the canopy; it was mostly her platoon members that were there. Some of them grumbled and hoped that the rain wouldn’t stop so that the ceremony wouldn’t hold, or that the dignitaries wouldn’t show up and they wouldn’t have to perform the little they had rehearsed. Many people still hadn’t mastered taking off their caps to give three hearty cheers to the Governor. They needed to rehearse some more.

Oluomachukwu turned to her side and heard one girl complaining about how small her cap was. She had braided her hair up like she was a genie and it protruded like a fist on her head, so the hair couldn’t fit into the cap. She hung it over the fist-like top knot of her hairdo and always had to hold it so that the wind wouldn’t blow it off.   Oluomachukwu was happy she hadn’t made any fancy hairstyle that would have embarrassed her in the camp.

Unfortunately for many of the complaining Corps members, the rain stopped and the sunshine that followed was hot enough to make one believe that the dry season had already come. Corps members were then asked to stand in line, but didn’t have the time to rehearse before the dignitaries were to arrive. Before long, the Governor’s entourage was seen coming in from the gate and everyone started to murmur, smiles gradually spreading across their cheeks.

The female MC, the same woman who made the camp announcements, and whose name Oluomachukwu still did not know, shushed everyone and told them that Corps members never applauded for any reason — if someone made a very moving speech, no applaud; if a dignitary was introduced, still no applaud. Some Corps members almost clapped, in fact, some did, when the representative of the Chief Judge and that of the Commissioner of Police were introduced. The MC yelled and reminded everyone not to, and they immediately stopped clapping.

The ceremony started off with both the National and NYSC Anthems, then an introductory speech by the Lagos State Coordinator and afterwards, the Chairman of the Lagos State NYSC governing Board. The flag bearers, each representing one platoon then marched in, supported by beautiful drumming by the band. Six of them held six sides of a large flag so that it was flat in the air, and four others marched behind them. The same flag bearers were meant to go before the dignitaries when it was time for the oath to be read. No one had wanted to take that position, either because they were afraid to fail or scared that they might forget their role.

One of the girls holding the flag almost fainted, and no one knew if she was really feeling dizzy or if she had suddenly grown cold feet. A soldier immediately went to carry her away, and another Corps member, who hadn’t rehearsed for the role replaced her, but it wasn’t a disaster.

After all the marching, drumming and general salute from Corps members, the representative of the Chief Judge came forward and read the Oath of Allegiance, and with their right arms raised up, the prospective Corps members repeated each line of the one-page Oath. At the end, they were officially sworn in as Corps members, with their right arms aching, as if they had just worked on farms, from holding them up in the air. Many sighed as they put their hands down. The representative then went off the podium for the Governor to take the stage and address the Corps members.

Everyone stood on their toes to see the Governor as he walked towards his reserved seat. The only problem was that it wasn’t the Governor. Just like the Chief Judge and the Commissioner of Police, the Governor had sent in his own representative. Corps members hissed when they saw the stranger climb up the podium to address them.

As he started speaking, a plane flew by, lower than all the other cargo planes that flew in on a regular basis. Since Oluomachukwu entered the camp, at least fifteen planes had flown over the parade ground. But this one was so low that it felt like it was aiming to land on the parade ground. Everyone looked towards the sky, staring intently at the plane until it passed and flew towards the international airport to land. The MC redirected everyone’s attention to the Governor’s representative, whom nobody wanted to continue listening to.

He said he had brought along the speech he was to give, which had been prepared by the Governor himself, but nobody believed the Governor would write anything that unexciting. And as if nature had heard the silent cries in the hearts of the Corps members, a fleet of five birds hovered above the parade ground; one left droppings that landed on the representative’s forehead when he looked up to see what everyone on the parade ground was looking at.

Instead of waiting for someone to bring him a napkin or even using his own handkerchief, the man used his hand to wipe the poop off and it wasn’t done properly. Then instead of only one person, three people went up to the podium to assist him — one with toilet paper, another with soap and water and the third person, just in case. Oluomachukwu wondered how they had been mobilised in only a matter of seconds, especially with soap and water.

As all four of them stood uncomfortably on the small stage, Oluomachukwu feared that it would shake out of balance, that the canopy would cave in and all the water on it would pour on them and also on the paper that had the speech, then the representative wouldn’t have any speech to read. That didn’t happen. However, the microphone stopped working and another was immediately taken to him. After a little while, the man stopped reading from the paper and continued the speech with an unexplicable ease. It felt like he had either memorised it or it was indeed his own speech.

When the speech was over, he declared the 2014 Batch B Orientation course open and Corps members gave three hearty cheers to him as they had been trained to do. Both the National and the NYSC anthems were sung again, and it marked the end of the Opening Ceremony. Dignitaries and guests proceeded to leave the parade ground in the reversed order they came and had been introduced.

After the event, the Camp Director mentioned that Platoon Two was going to be on duty and take on the various duties that had been assigned to Platoon One the previous day. Everyone was then permitted to leave the parade ground after the dignitaries left.

Corps members stood at different angles of the parade ground, posing for selfies and group photograps by camp photographers lingered around like predators. Some Corps members were using their phones to take their pictures, while others were taking pictures of the crowd.

Oluomachukwu took a few photos with her phone and some with the soldiers assigned to her platoon flanking her like bodyguards, after which she exchanged numbers with them and left to look around. She later went back to the room and came down later with her waist pouch.

While Corps members were scattered around the camp, the Camp Director made an announcement a few minutes later for Corps members to reassemble on the parade ground. Impulsively, they all started to grumble, but when she stated that it was to receive the sum of 1,500 naira, which was meant for their travel allowance into Lagos State, they ran immediately and got in line.

Camp officials were setting up under the canopies with cardboard papers stapled at the top of different sections of the canopy. Numbers were written on it for collection of the allowance. It wasn’t going to be by platoon numbers, but by ranges of the four-digit State code — from codes 0001 to 0500; 0501 to 1000; 1001 to 1500, and so on. In addition to the State code number, locally-trained Nigerian students were asked to present their university ID cards to collect the allowance, while the foreign-trained ones were asked to bring along their international passports.

Oluomachukwu already had hers in her waist pouch, so she stood in the line that corresponded to her State code number.

As she waited in line, she looked around, searching for anyone she knew, from her room or platoon, she didn’t see anyone, not even Ekene that was supposed to be in her platoon and in the same code range as she was. She then did a head count of her roommates to try and figure out where they might be. Ijeoma was always in the room reading one book or the other. Ogo spent long hours on the phone and used up to four power banks to charge her phone every day. Fadeke was almost invisible. She hardly spent time in the room and heaven only knew where she was. But whenever she came back, she would bring along plenty of things to eat... things that looked like they had been bought by guys or men. Sometimes, she would share them with some of her roommates, and other times, she wouldn’t. Eternity was always reading her Bible and Oghene always lay in bed lamenting on how she could not suffer. Oluomachukwu jumped out of her thoughts when someone tapped her shoulder from behind. She turned her head around and saw a girl.

“Hi, Oluoma,” the girl said.   Oluomachukwu turned around completely, feeling awkward, because she didn’t know who the girl was, how the girl knew her name and if she was supposed to know who the girl was.

“Hey,” Oluomachukwu replied, not sure if she should continue talking with her or turn around and continue on the line.

The girl looked at Oluomachukwu’s hand and pointed at her international passport. “So you are a foreign-trained student?”

Oluomachukwu nodded. She had done a very good job hiding that fact from the general public. “I schooled in the UK... in the University of Essex. What about you?”

“I’m from the University of Liverpool.”

“Oh, really?” Oluomachukwu felt somewhat relieved to see someone she could relate to. And not wanting their conversation to be any more awkward, she asked, “Sorry, what’s your name?”

The girl laughed.

“What’s funny?” Oluomachukwu asked.

“So we are in the same platoon and in the same room, and you don’t know my name?”

Oluomachukwu felt too awkward. She wondered why she hadn’t just waited until much later to collect the travel allowance — that way she wouldn’t have met the girl and been in that rather weird situation.

“I’m sorry, I always leave early to the parade ground and stay at the back. Plus I hardly ever relate to everyone in the room. There are twenty-six of us in the room, so it is difficult to keep up with everyone.”

“I stay just opposite your bed on the lower bunk,” the girl replied. “I just observe people and their characters in the room. Plus we are actually twenty-seven in the room.”

Oluomachukwu raised an eyebrow. “Twenty-seven?”

“Yes,” she replied. “The girls by my side are annoying, plus they already have a squatter. They are three on the bunk, not two. The third one came from the second floor and has been in our room since the first day, squatting. They must really think they are in Uni-Lag... I mean the University of Lagos, and they are always on my bed. It’s irritating.”

Oluomachukwu laughed. “I haven’t even noticed them yet, and I know what Uni-Lag is.”

“Me, I have noticed them well. Plus they are serial ‘phone chargers,’ just like the girls by your own side. I haven’t charged my phone since I arrived and there’s a socket by my head.” She overemphasised on the ‘head.’

Oluomachukwu looked in front of her to check if the line had started moving. It hadn’t. The camp officials were yet to start attending to Corps members. She turned back to look at the nameless girl. “So how have you been managing?”

“I have been going to the camp market to charge my phone for a fee, and it’s depending on how many phones you have and how long you want to charge them for.”

“Interesting,” Oluomachukwu said. “I don’t think I would spend a kobo charging my phone when there’s a socket by my head and a lot of phones charging on my bed. I’d rather destroy the socket and no one else would use it.”

The girl laughed. “Anyway, I’m Nkiru. And I’m glad to have found another foreign student in the room.” She smiled.

 “What about Ogo?” Oluomachukwu asked. “The girl on the bunk by my left side?”

“That one who forgets her American accent at times? That’s if I can even call the thing an American accent.”   Oluomachukwu laughed.

“She’s from a school in the North, but wants people to believe that she went to an American university.” Before Oluomachukwu could comment on that, Nkiru added, “When I went to collect my international passport from the room, she was bringing out her national student ID card and I stole a glimpse of it.”

“Hmm.” Oluomachukwu sighed. She then realised that the queue had started moving when one guy asked her if he could cut the line and stay in front of her, as she wasn’t ready to move. She let the guy stay in front of her because she wasn’t in a hurry. After a few minutes, the guy turned back and spoke to her.

“Excuse me.”

Oluomachukwu looked at him.

“You look familiar,” he said. “Did you go to Ife?”

Oluomachukwu didn’t know what that meant, but she knew she didn’t go there. “No.”

“What of Uni-Lag?” he asked. “Did you go to Uni-Lag?”

Oluomachukwu knew what that was. “No, I didn’t.”

“Okay, it’s Uni-Ben then?”

Oluomachukwu shook her head, and not wanting the guy to keep naming all the schools in Nigeria, she said, “I didn’t school in Nigeria.”

“Oh,” he simply said. “My name is John. I’m in the platoon next to yours.”

“Okay,” Oluomachukwu replied. “Nice to meet you, I’m Oluoma.”

“Can I please have your number?”

Oluomachukwu thought about it briefly. “I don’t know my number.”

“Okay, take mine and call me then.” Without waiting for an answer from her, he started calling out his number. So she brought out her phone and took the number down, then promised to call him when she bought some airtime on her phone. He then smiled and turned around.

Oluomachukwu looked back at Nkiru. “As we were saying.”

“Don’t mind the guy that just spoke to you right now,” Nkiru whispered.

Instinctively, Oluomachukwu turned back and looked at him, then turned back to look at Nkiru. “Why?”

“Because he has been going round camp and doing the same thing to everyone, asking them for their numbers at the end, hoping that someone will fall for him.”

“How do you know?”

“Because he did the same thing with me just yesterday, but I’m sure he can’t remember that he did.” Oluomachukwu laughed, but kept the information safely in a part of her brain to use later, if needed.

***

After Oluomachukwu had collected her money, she walked towards the camp market to buy airtime for her phone. She wanted to call her parents and tell them that everything was going well, then maybe call Okechukwu and know how he was doing, but she wasn’t going to call Kayode or Nnanna, or even speak with any of them if they tried to call her.

When she got to the camp market, she was accosted by almost all the recharge card sellers at the entrance of the place and other random sellers, asking her to buy one thing or another. She tried to squirm herself out.

“Please, leave me alone,” she said. “I don’t want to buy anything. I don’t have money.” She rejected the statement in her mind, saying that she had money in the name of Jesus Christ, she then said an ‘Amen.’ It was a Nigerian culture that her mother and aunties had thought her.

One man, who Oluomachukwu wasn’t sure what he sold, yelled, “Didn’t they just give you 1,500 naira now? Or haven’t you collected your own yet?”

Oluomachukwu looked at him, wondering how he knew about the money, but that wasn’t her main concern. “So even if I collect my money today, does that mean I should use it all up today?”   Another woman selling white socks and handkerchiefs replied, “But they will still share another 1,000 naira very soon, so you will still have money.”

Oluomachukwu looked at the woman, but before she could say anything, another woman spoke.   “Your allawee of 19,800 naira will also be ready before the end of camp, so you’ll still have enough. Or you want to carry it back home?”

Oluomachukwu was surprised at how the camp market sellers were so informed. They probably knew a lot more than most of the Corps members. She would have thought that the NYSC Board gave all the money while in the camp so that Corps members could spend it in camp, and then the officials would have a cut from it. But it was just a thought. In reality, it was obvious that the market sellers had been there, year in, year out, and even knew more than most camp officials, who were newly appointed.

“Okay, so when exactly will they give us the money?” Oluomachukwu asked.

“Third week,” one person yelled.

“Even before,” another one said. “If you people cry for it.”

Oluomachukwu nodded and forced herself out of the crowd. She then went to the person she initially wanted to go to; a skinny woman who sold recharge cards. The other sellers who had gathered around her, hissed and ran off to look for other preys when they realised that they were not going to get a piece of Oluomachukwu’s money.

As she bought a recharge card of 1,000 naira and was scratching the black strip on it, a woman came up from behind to ask for a recharge card as well. It was when the same woman asked for it a second time that it seemed like she was addressing Oluomachukwu, and not the recharge card seller. Oluomachukwu turned around and looked at the person, a young-looking woman or rather, a girl, light in complexion, almost bleaching, with short hair.

“Excuse me,” the girl said again. “Are you going to pay for my own recharge card?”

Oluomachukwu looked back, then turned back to the girl again. “Why? Didn’t you get your own 1,500 naira?”

The young-looking, almost bleaching girl looked closely at Oluomachukwu, but didn’t reply. Just then, a gush of wind swept through the camp market and rattled both Oluomachukwu’s badge and that of the girl begging her for airtime. Her badge showed ‘camp official’ as it dangled around her neck. Between the other lady, the one that had one eye, who had been posing as an NYSC camp official and collecting 200 naira to arrange files, it was uncertain who was who in the camp. Either way, Oluomachukwu decided to show the camp official due respect.

“Ma, I’m sorry, I thought you were a corper.”

The girl scoffed and looked away, but it was obvious that she still wanted the airtime, because she hung around there and even offered to help Oluomachukwu read out the numbers on the recharge card while she typed it in. Oluomachukwu also worried that the girl would steal the recharge code, but she remained calm.

After Oluomachukwu loaded the airtime, she pulled out the remaining 500 naira and reluctantly handed it over to the seller when someone snatched the money out of her hand.

Oluomachukwu turned around and saw Nkiru. “What are you doing?” she asked.

Nkiru pulled her aside, then whispered, “I overheard you with that girl and you were going to buy her airtime, weren’t you?”

Oluomachukwu nodded. And all the while, the camp official stood there, looking away as if she was hiding her face or looking for other people to ask for airtime.

“Sister, are you still buying from me?” the seller asked, and Oluomachukwu shook her head, indicating “No.”

At least, until she had heard more from Nkiru.

“Well,” Nkiru started. “She asked me to buy her fruits earlier today, and I did.”

“Really?” Oluomachukwu asked.

“Yes. Just as she did with you, she came over to the woman over there that sells pawpaw and watermelon.” Nkiru pointed to a woman not too far from where they stood who was trying to stop flies from perching on the watermelon she was cutting. “And after I bought mine, she asked me to pay for hers. I only did it because I thought she was a corper who couldn’t afford it. But when she left, the fruit seller told me to be careful of her, and some other corpers also told me the same thing.”

Oluomachukwu turned and looked at the camp official with looks that could kill, but she was gone. She looked around her, and Nkiru did the same, but the camp official was nowhere to be found. Oluomachukwu felt that she had probably gone to look for another willing prey to beg or bug.

As Oluomachukwu and Nkiru stood there chatting, a black car drove into the camp and down the road that separated the volleyball court from the camp market. The car slowed down a bit as it approached Oluomachukwu and Nkiru, but it didn’t stop. The car windows were tinted, so it was difficult to tell who could have been in it.

As soon as the car passed by, Nkiru turned back to face Oluomachukwu, then spoke immediately and quickly.

“Oluoma, don’t look, don’t look.”

Oluomachukwu almost turned around to look, but she stopped. “What is it?”

“That guy, whose number you collected, is in the camp market looking around as if he is searching for someone.”

“So?”

“He might be searching for you.”

Oluomachukwu shook her head and laughed. “I doubt it. How would he know I was here?”

“Because he was tracking you, why else?”   Oluomachukwu laughed again. “He couldn’t possibly be tracking me.”

“He’s coming this way. He’s a tracker. He always tracks people down, and it’s your turn.”

John, who was from then known as Tracker, started to approach them, because he was indeed looking for Oluomachukwu. She, still refusing to look back, started to walk towards the hostel because she didn’t want to talk to anyone. Nkiru turned around too, trying not to gain eye contact with Tracker. He started to jog towards them, but before he could reach either one of them, a soldier walked up to them and stopped them.

“Which of you otondo is Oluoma?” he asked, and both Oluomachukwu and Nkiru almost laughed. They found the word ‘otondo’ to be funny, even though the word was used to describe an idiot, a stupid person or a learner. The soldier also didn’t pronounce her name properly, but she knew he had come for her. She wasn’t sure if to raise her hand up, salute or say “Me, sir.”

“Are you deaf?” the soldier yelled.   Oluomachukwu saluted dramatically, even some Corps members who passed by and saw her, chuckled. She then put her hand up and said, “Me, sir.”

The soldier turned to Nkiru. “You are dismissed, otondo. Leave this place now.” Nkiru ran off without asking any questions. He turned back to Oluomachukwu, and without looking at her, he said, “Follow me.”

Oluomachukwu obliged. She followed the soldier to the main building where the office of the Camp Director was. She wasn’t sure what was going on, but she knew she had done nothing wrong. When they got in front of the office the soldier told her to wait outside while he knocked at the door and entered.

A few seconds later, the door swung open and Kayode stood in the doorway. Oluomachukwu’s heart almost exploded in her chest at that instant, shocked to see him. She loathed him and wasn’t sure if it was because she had slept with him the first day she met him, because he had a wife, because he had told her about Nnanna, just to ruin her happiness or all of the reasons combined.

They stood quietly and looked at each other until the soldier took the hint and walked out of the office. Kayode wasn’t really sure if to hug her or not, but he had a feeling that she would have probably slapped him, pushed him away or even done nothing, since no one was around. He opened his hands as if asking for permission to hug her. She stepped aside.

“So did you need to send a soldier to go around camp looking for me?”

He shook his head. “No. I saw you talking with a girl when I drove in with a colleague. I had wanted to come down and call you, but the soldier who came in with us offered to call you for me.”

“Okay, so what do you want?”

“I wanted to see you again.”

Oluomachukwu hissed. She made an attempt to leave, but Kayode grabbed her arm. She tried to release her arm, but he held her firmly urging her to listen. When she was about to scream, Kayode let go off her, raising both hands up as though he was surrendering.

“I didn’t mean any harm. I just wanted to tell you why I am here and also to apologise to you,” he said.   It was too late. Oluomachukwu already left the office and slammed the door behind her.

*****
Copyright © 2015 C. M. Okonkwo