Friday, May 17, 2019
Book Preview: Like Never Before (Chapter One)
As I count down to the release of my upcoming romance novel, I'll be sharing chapters of the book every other week.
Here's the first chapter, and I hope you enjoy it:
Chapter One: One Ticket Away
Every day for the whole month was like a Friday to Chiny until the Friday she had been waiting for finally arrived. Chiny was an automobile sales executive in a Nigerian company, a job she got not because she was the most qualified, but because she had simply been lucky. Getting into the job, she had no idea what she would be doing, however in the last three years, she had learnt the business in and out, and was able to sell any car to anyone.
Also, in the three years she had worked in the company, she had never taken a holiday. She had twenty-two days of annual leave, but she had never used it for anything worth her while. It had either been to babysit her nephews and nieces, as the last child of her parents; to help around in her family home in Lagos; or to travel to her village in the Eastern part of Nigeria to still help around at home.
She longed for a holiday, a proper one that included an international passport, a visa, a flight ticket, a hotel reservation, or at least a place she could squat for free. and some money, preferably a lot of money; and three years had become enough for her to accomplish this.
Chiny was repacking her box on Friday evening for her flight that night. She had packed the box a long time ago, but she wanted to go through it again, and for the umpteenth time, to make sure that she wasn’t missing anything. When she was satisfied, she zipped the box back up and lay on her bed, smiling.
After a few seconds, she sat up, reached for her bedside drawer and took out an envelope. She emptied the contents of the envelope on her bed and picked up her international passport and flight ticket. She was admiring her visa and staring at the ticket, when her phone rang. She looked at the caller ID, sighed, and then answered the call.
“Good evening, Mummy,” she said.
“My dear, good evening. How are you?” her mother asked.
“I’m doing well. What about you and Daddy?”
“We are both fine,” her mother replied, then immediately added, “Where did you say you are travelling to again?”
“To the South of France, Mummy. You’ve asked me like a thousand times already.”
“I don’t know why, but my spirit is not just okay with this trip. You have never been to France, you don’t speak their language, and I don’t know anyone there. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
“And it’s now you are telling me? A few hours to the trip. Your spirit had better agree with it, because it has no other option.” Chiny laughed. “I also don’t need anyone to watch me. I’ll be fine.”
Her mother didn’t laugh, as she didn’t find anything funny. “I forgot,” she started. “You’re now a big girl, because you have started making money and you now live alone.”
Chiny didn’t want to get annoyed. Her mother had a way of adding irrelevant sentences to a conversation, but nothing could ruin the joy she was feeling. In a matter of hours, she would be leaving the country.
“Are you still there?” her mother asked.
“Mummy, I’m here,” Chiny replied, rolling her eyes.
“Okay, let me leave you. It seems like I’m disturbing you.”
“You’re not disturbing me, Mummy. I’m just preparing to leave, so I can talk.”
“Let me allow you to prepare to leave, then. Have a safe flight,” her mother replied.
Before Chiny could respond, her mother hung up. It was clear that her mother wanted to get off the phone but didn’t know how to say it. She had called solely to pass a message, and it was that she didn’t want Chiny to travel, so there was no point staying on the phone any longer. Chiny conveniently ignored it, as nothing was going to make her change her mind.
Chiny looked at the time on her phone. She had two hours left to leave for the airport, so she finished up with the preparations, put her international passport and ticket back in the envelope, then put the envelope inside her handbag. When she was sure that everything was ready and that she was good to go, she picked up her phone to make a quick call.
Within one ring, the receiver answered, and said, “Frog, are you done packing and ready?”
“You’re a goat,” Chiny replied. “Of course, I’m done and ready.”
Chiny laughed. “You’re not serious. When are you coming?”
“I’m coming very soon.”
“Nneka nau,” Chiny protested. She knew that she was probably the worst person to pack her things and get ready on time for a trip, even if it was a weekend in Abuja or a week in the village, but she didn’t trust her best friend, Nneka, when she said “very soon.” For her, ‘very soon’ could take hours, and Chiny didn’t plan on missing her flight.
“I promise, I’ll be there soon,” Nneka said.
“We know how soon your ‘soon’ is. I want to call the taxi now.”
“Ah, this girl! What do you want to do at the airport until it’s time to check-in? Is this the effect France is having on you? People will know that you are a Johnny Just Come oh.” “Does it look like I care? Please, I can’t miss this flight. I’ve been planning for this for years and nothing will get in the way. Not Lagos traffic...” Chiny hesitated. “Not you.” “You’re crazy.” Nneka laughed. “I’ll be there in thirty minutes. You can call the taxi now.”
Nneka didn’t arrive in thirty minutes and Chiny almost had a heart attack during the wait. Not only was she scared of getting stuck in traffic, the taxi driver had been calling and yelling at her for keeping him waiting. She had promised to give him some extra money, to calm him down, but it didn’t stop him from constantly calling to harass her. Nneka arrived another forty-five minutes later, which meant that Chiny had less than an hour to get to the airport. Without exchanging pleasantries, they got into the cab and left.
The journey to the airport was an unpleasant one, as the driver kept murmuring and hissing, probably still angry for the long wait when he believed that he could have gotten another passenger, and consequently, made more money. Chiny wasn’t sure what language he was speaking and hoped he wasn’t insulting her. She kept her eyes glued to the road, with the intention of ignoring Nneka for putting her in such a situation.
“Chiny, smile nau. I’m sorry,” Nneka said, bringing Chiny’s mind back to reality. “I didn’t notice time fly, so I screamed when I realised how long it had been since your call.”
Chiny threw Nneka a sarcastic look, then looked back at the road.
“Hmm. Is it this ugly face you want to take to France? Better smile before those French immigration officers send you back home from the airport.”
Chiny tried to hold the laughter that was building up in her chest, but she couldn’t. She turned to Nneka and let it all out in an unladylike manner, making the taxi driver hiss even louder.
“This your mouth, ehn,” Chiny said. “It would land you in trouble one day.”
Nneka also laughed. “At least I made you laugh.”
“Goat,” Chiny added.
“Frog,” Nneka replied.
In that moment, Chiny immediately forgot her anger, turned completely to face her best friend, and they started chatting away.
Chiny was upset all over again when she got to the airport. She knew that Lagos traffic was bad, but she hadn’t expected it to be that bad just from Surulere to Ikeja. From laughing and chatting with Nneka, she resorted to insults, because she believed that Nneka had wasted a lot of time and added to the delay. They had gotten to the airport almost two hours later, and although the check-in counter was still open, the queue was a different story. Chiny didn’t know where to start. Her stress level spiked up instantly, and she began to panic.
“One would think you’re running away by the way you are acting,” Nneka said, irritated. “Calm down, my friend. Everyone is going to the same France, so they won’t leave you.”
“If you had come earlier, I would have gone past this stage by now.”
“But we are here now. Stay on the queue and they’ll get to you in no time.”
Chiny kept quiet. She was nervous and didn’t want Nneka to notice it in her voice. It was her first time leaving the country, and she was more anxious than excited. She felt that something might go wrong. She held her breath, as they moved up the queue, then finally smiled when it was her turn.
“So you can smile now?” Nneka hissed. “You’re just a frog.”
Chiny laughed, then pushed her box to the counter. She presented her international passport and ticket before she was even asked, then proceeded to place her box on the scale, as other people were doing.
“My goodness! Chiny what did you pack?” Nneka asked, when she saw an alarming 29 kg.
“My clothes and shoes, and some other things,” Chiny replied, defensively.
“You know you can only carry 23 kg, right?”
“Yes. Didn’t you check your—”
Before Nneka could finish her sentence, the airline officer interrupted her and asked Chiny to reduce the weight of her box. She was asked to take it to a corner and remove the things she could do without. Chiny wanted to cry when she looked at the time, but Nneka reminded her that they were not going to leave without her.
Within a few minutes, Chiny was able to remove some of the unnecessary junk she had packed and put them in a plastic bag, then gave it to Nneka to take back with her. When she was done, she was fast-tracked to the counter and finally checked in.
She galloped towards immigration check as soon as she was done, with Nneka running behind her. Nneka knew it was Chiny’s first time of travelling abroad, but still couldn’t understand why she was so jumpy. They only slowed down once they got in front of the immigration check area. Chiny stopped so abruptly that Nneka almost bumped into her.
“Nneka, thank you so much for everything,” Chiny said, in a calm voice. “I was just too nervous and didn’t want to miss my flight.”
Nneka laughed. “I understand, JJC. Better act as if you’ve travelled before, so that they will not sell you in France.”
“Okay.” Chiny also laughed, then hugged Nneka. “Let me go before the plane leaves me.” Nneka hissed. “You’re just a frog. Call me once you land,” she said, then left.
“So where are you travelling to?” the immigration officer asked, looking at Chiny’s visa.
Chiny raised an eyebrow. The officer was holding her ticket and international passport, so she wondered why he was asking her that question. “I’m going to France,” she replied.
“France?” The officer showed Chiny the visa. “But your visa says ‘Etats Schengen.’”
“Yes, but I’m going to France.”
“You can’t be going to France. You don’t have a French Visa. You are going to Schengen.”
Chiny had never travelled before, but she knew that France was part of the Schengen States, so she could enter with the visa. Besides, she was sure that the French embassy won’t make such a mistake. She looked at her wristwatch and almost passed out, because it was already time to board.
“Hello,” the immigration officer said, getting her attention back. He then pointed to his left, and instructed, “Stand by that corner.”
“But Sir, I’m going to France. My visa is right there, and my flight is already boarding.”
“I said, ‘stand by the corner.’” He gave Chiny her international passport and ticket back, and she took them.
Chiny looked at the man, angry. At that point, he was the devil because he was trying to make her miss her flight. She didn’t know what to do, and she could feel tears building up in her eyes. Luckily for her, she spotted another officer, who looked senior to the one she had spoken to and who was wearing a different uniform, then signalled to him.
The officer approached, and by the way people greeted him, Chiny concluded that he was senior to all of them there.
He looked at the immigration officer, and asked, “What’s going on here?”
The immigration officer took Chiny’s international passport back from her and showed the senior officer. “Sir, she said she’s going to France, but her visa says ‘Etats Schengen.’”
The senior officer shook his head, with disappointment obvious on his face. He asked the immigration officer to stamp the passport, then he snatched it, handed it over to Chiny, and wished her a safe flight.
Chiny didn’t wait to see if the immigration officer would be reprimanded or not. She ran the rest of the way to the boarding gate, as they had already started boarding. There was a queue, but it wasn’t too long, as most people were already on the plane. Chiny held her breath all through, hoping that nothing else would delay her or make her miss the flight. Just then, her phone rang, and she looked at it. It was her mother calling.
“Hello Mummy,” she said. “I’m just boarding now.”
“Okay, but I’m still not at ease with you travelling alone. What if something happens?”
“Don’t worry Mummy, I’m just one ticket away. If anything happens, I can rush back home immediately.”
Her mother sighed. “Okay then. Call me as soon as you land.”
Chiny agreed. She got off the phone, and still couldn’t breathe until she boarded the plane, was seated, and the plane took off. She looked out of the window, smiling down at the clouds as they covered the city of Lagos. She couldn’t wait for her adventure in France to begin.
Did you enjoy it? Please share it with people you know might enjoy it, and check back in two weeks for the next chapter.
Have a lovely weekend!