That was it. That was the words I have been clamouring to hear- the soul soothing words that could change everything about me. And they just came to me, in peace, without any compulsion. I stared into her eyes, agape. My mind ran several calculations at the same time. I got her. I got a girlfriend finally. I found love in the strangest of places and humans; a lab and its attendant.
“What? You are not happy?”
Her voice, like a gel, snaked into my veins, melting all the frozen blood. I shook my head and emitted a smile. “No! I am very much happy.” I took her hands in mine. “In fact, if I am allowed to show how happy I am right now, you will break up with me thinking I am crazy.”
She giggled. “Please don’t. I don’t want to break up with you.”
Some seconds of silence got us staring at each other.
“I love you, Hope.” I fluttered my eyes.
She smiled. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Her lips parted to reveal her clenched teeth with a gap in between her incisors. “I love you too, Thony.”
“You know my name?”
“Jesus! Are you crazy? How can I not know your name?”
“I don’t know. Aside from telling you that day, I don’t think we have had a cool…”
She made for outside. “I know your name before we officially met. And don’t ask me how or why.”
I stood behind watching her limp outside the hospital. She loved me. She has been crushing on me since. How did I not know? What was I busy with to have ignored such pretty? I inhaled. She was mine now. So there was no point dwelling on the past. I hurried towards her and before I could talk, she flipped her hands up.
“No questions Thony.”
“I wasn’t going to ask any. I just wanted to help you down the stairs.”
She paused, glanced at me and smiled. “Thank you.”
I flashed my teeth and reached out to her. With hands around her shoulder and another on her waist, I helped her down the stairs. Then we stepped out of the school and headed home.
Stepping out of the cab on her long and lonely street, a familiar coarse voice shouted my name from afar. My heart skipped. I muttered an ejaculatory prayer. That should not be who I thought it was. I looked up and my heart sank.
Idima was standing feet before me with a sharp dagger in his hands. I looked around and saw two other guys; all holding a short dagger hidden just enough for us to see the glittering blade.
“Ignore him.” Hope held my hand and dragged me towards the opposite direction.
Then another guy, tall and masculine like Idima blocked us and we halted.
“Say nothing.” She swayed me over and we headed the other way.
Another guy blocked us and we paused, again.
My anger started piling. What was he trying to do? Scare me into handing him over the girl who he has hurt terribly? No way! Even if I ended up not dating Hope, I wouldn’t let an animal like him continue hurting her. I pulled my hands from Hope’s grip.
“Thony please, don’t. He is evil.”
“Stay here.” I ambled towards him. “What is the meaning of this?”
He scoffed. “You ask what this means? I am here to take back my girl. Hope is mine and any guy that wants her should pay homage and obtain a permit from me.”
“She is not a slave. She is a free being and to think you have been treating her like a slave is very pathetic of you. You are just a coward hiding behind this pumped body while the presence of a little girl troubles you.”
“What?” His eyes reddened. “You dare call me a coward?”
“Any man who has the weakling mind to lay his hands on a woman is a coward. You are a true example of that.”
A slap gave me a minute blindness. I staggered back with my hands on my right cheeks. My head turned to the rhythm of the whirring sound in my ear. I swallowed hard.
“You should know better than insulting me. You are just a boy and I will kill you and bury you here if you dare call me a coward again.”
My last fight was with the boy, a bit older than I was who made a caricature of my younger sister because she turned him down. That was my first and last fight. And the boy, well he slept in the hospital for days. Now Idima, like the boy, has flipped the same switch boy flipped the day he made sister cry. I let down my hands and looked up.
“Now give me what I came for or I will kill you and take it.”
“Let’s start with killing me.”
“Please Thony, let’s go.”
I hushed her and stepped towards Idima.
He was shocked. His face bore a surprising expression. He glanced at his team and the three guys bounced towards me. As I stepped closer, he raised his dagger to strike. I hung his hand in the air and with my left hand punched his jaw. His jaw bone shifted and blood flew out of his mouth. He fell backwards, clutching his jaw.
My left leg sent the guy from the left to the ground and my right leg did same to the one from the right. The guy in front thrust his dagger towards me and I ducked. I grabbed his arm and twisted it. He screamed and fell on the floor.
“We can settle this in peace, or you will end up in pieces.” I checked the scratch the dagger left on my ribs.
“Thony leave this guy let’s go, please.”
“Stay where you are Hope. Cancerous cells are best removed; else they will keep coming back.”
Idima giggled and stood up. With his left hand, he wiped the blood off his face. “I don’t want to kill you.”
“I don’t want to die; neither do I want to be jailed for murder.”
“Good. You only have to give me what I want.”
“You have to pass through me to get it.”
Like he was pushed, he raced towards me. His dagger stretched out before him. I stood at a still, watching and calculating his movement. As he reached, I lowered my head and jerked him up from under. His dagger fell and slid towards Hope. I lifted him up and let go. He fell. I inhaled and turned to see if the dagger touched Hope. Then the other guys bounced on me. Away with their dagger, they devoured my body with their fists.
I groaned in pain. Blood oozed out of my mouth and my head span 360 degrees. My heart pounded harder and I felt the cord of my life cutting. I was getting weaker every second. In the deepest shallow of my subconscious mind, I heard Hope wailing. I heard her pleads and promises to go with Idima if only they would leave me alone. But they didn’t, and I was dying. One second wasted, I would drift into a coma.
Then I heard a gunshot- a loud gunshot that sent my heart out of its cage. The guys paused for a second and looked up. I tried opening my eyes to see what was happening but the blinding rays of the headlamp from their car shut my eyes again. I lay on the ground, wishing for death to take me.
“Stay with me Thony.” Hope rushed towards me as the guys withdrew. “Please stay with me. Somebody help!”
My subconscious mind picked the static sound of her shout for help. I wanted to tell her never to make such promise again. I wanted to tell her never to go back to Idima no matter what. I wouldn’t want my death to be in vain. But I couldn’t say a word. My tongue was tied in the excruciating pain that was piercing my bones and marrows like a screw drilling into a wood. I laid there- in the pool of my blood as some saviour in gun settled my scores with Idima.
“Stay with me.” She cuddled me.
I made to sit up.
“You have to stay calm Thony!”
“Who are those?” My voice was faint, very faint but she heard me.
“I don’t know, but please stay calm. You are seriously injured.”
Another gunshot and fear returned in me. The fear came with a strange strength and desire for life. I jerked up, fluttered my eyes and wiped the blood on my face. Then I looked up.
A figure that looked like Ken stood before Idima with a gun. Three others stood beside him, well positioned and ready to shoot. I was awed. If that was really Ken, what was he doing with a gun? Where did he even get the gun and these friends that looked anything but responsible? I struggled to stand up. I needed to know if I was being saved or discussed on how to be killed. If saved, I needed to know who it was. I needed to see the face. I staggered towards them. Hope tried to drew me back. I broke free and she followed.
Ken’s gun fixed on Idima’s head. “Go and never bother him or his girlfriend again.”
“She is my girl.”
“Not anymore. She is his now, and I am his friend. I will protect him no matter what.”
Idima scoffed. His smile was rooted in mischievousness. He turned and headed out. His three men followed. That was easy, and with the look on his face, I knew he would come back.
Closer to them now and the figure’s face became clearer. I gaped. “Ken?”
“Step aside Thony.”
“What are you…”
A sharp groan startled us and we froze. For some seconds, everything stood at a still, except a thrust of a knife in a heart and the sequential pump of blood out of a body system. Then a heavy thud followed and we unfroze.
…the story continues…