Fiction Tuesday – The love that never was (First Part)

Yes I know it’s not Tuesday but I felt bad that I haven’t put up a fiction piece for some weeks now. Since I don’t want to rename the column ‘Fiction Wednesday’, I have decided to leave the name as it is 🙂

Today’s Fiction Tuesday story is one that I had fun writing. It’s about my ‘love’ experience in NYSC camp but I added a bit of twist to it by including the experience of two of my friends and I also let my imagination veer off a little as well. Hence, this is fiction. I didn’t fall in love in NYSC camp but it was interesting to see the different ‘love’ dynamics that existed. I’m babbling too much. Enjoy the first instalment of ‘The love that never was’.

*********

The mild rays of the morning sun filtered into the room as Lola stirred in her bed. She loved the comfort of her duvet. It was warm underneath those sheets. “Can’t believe it is morning already!” she groaned to herself. She looked at the time. It was 7am. She had barely two hours to get ready for her trip to the orientation camp in Iseyin.

“Who sent these people with this NYSC thing sef? Must I go?” she sighed as she unwillingly got off her bed. Her body felt heavy; like the weight of the whole world was on her. Well that’s how she felt the night before as she talked to her so called boyfriend. Things had been shaky between the two of them for a while. They never seemed to agree on anything. “Was I wrong?” Lola said out loud to no one in particular. She began to analyse the last conversation they had, playing the judge and the jury at the same time. “Is it too much for me to ask that he should work harder? Why am I being painted as the bad person here? I’m only trying to help. That’s not a bad thing right? Akin is just living passively as…”

“Lola!” the loud voice of her mother transported her back to reality with a great jolt. She looked around confused for a moment. “What was I supposed to do? Ah yes, get ready” she mumbled with a slight frown on her face. She walked to her door and looked back into her room. In her heart she felt that life as she knew it was about to change. She had been looking for an escape for a while. Life seemed to be choking her – Akin, her mother…in fact everybody around. Maybe being posted to Ibadan was not such a bad thing after all. She sighed as she walked out of her room, still unable to shake off this heaviness that she felt.

“Good morning mum” she greeted her mum with little enthusiasm. “Lola, is it that you don’t know you are going to camp today? You know it’s better to leave early. You cannot predict the traffic on Lagos-Ibadan expressway. Are you still standing there?” her mother barked. “Umm…but I’m just listening…you know what don’t worry. I’m going to shower. I’ll be ready by nine. That’s when we planned to leave isn’t it?” Lola replied. Her mother simply shook her head and continued watching the morning news. Lola shrugged in response as she headed for the shower. She desperately needed a change.

*******

“Wake up oh. We don reach” the croaky voice of Jubril, her mother’s driver, woke Lola up. She looked around and she is greeted with the sight of ancient buildings. Tons of people are littered around the dusty street with suitcases and buckets. Some were shedding tears; others wore looks of despair. It was a strange sight. “What have I signed myself up for?” Lola wondered. She got out of the car to carry her precious pink suitcase. Jubril kept insisting on carrying it for her. He was not taking no for an answer. She grudgingly yielded to his pleas. Her mother looked on, unconcerned, as they walked towards the gate of the Iseyin camp. Lola’s stomach churned as she looked inside. Fierce looking soldiers were barking orders at frightened ladies. She shook her head praying silently to survive the next three weeks with her sanity still intact.

“Na who dey serve?” the horrible voice of the soldier at the gate derailed her train of thoughts. “Me”, she answers. “Oya carry your box for head”. “Sorry?” Lola asked, confirming she actually heard correctly. “Something dey your ear? I said carry your box. Na so you otondo dey do. You go pack the whole world like say you wan go your husband’s house. My friend carry the box no waste my time abeg” the soldier said indignantly. He seemed to be enjoying the power he wielded over Lola. Lola resented him as she picked up her suitcase and placed it on her head. Wow…she was glad Jubril was there at that very moment.

With all the strength it took, Lola managed to walk into the camp without fainting. She felt like she was carrying a cow on her head. It was with relief that she dropped the suitcase when she was asked to write her name at the registration point. “Thank God that is over”, she sighed as she cleaned the drops of sweat that were already dripping from her face. Lola looked up as she pulled out a pen to write her name. She could see the look of pity on her mother’s face from afar. Her mother was still at the gate with Jubril. “Should I just go back home with them? I mean who am I really proving a point to?” She looked up again but she knew she had to do this. She needed to. She remembered Akin’s words when she told him her fears about going to camp. “You won’t die. Trust me” he said reassuringly. “In fact, you will discover that you will enjoy it at the end of the day”.

Akin really wasn’t a bad person. She remembered when they first met. It was a very stormy day. The almighty Lagos rain did not want to let anyone to succeed in having a fruitful day. Lola was stranded in the banking halls of GT Bank. She had forgotten to take an umbrella that morning. A voice had told her to but she ignored it. After all, the sun was out in full force that morning. No one would have ever thought that it would rain. Then again, she should have known better. Only God could predict the weather in Lagos. She remembered noticing a strange figure at the end of the banking hall staring intently at her. She squinted as she tried to make out the person’s face. He didn’t look familiar. He smiled at her. She frowned. She didn’t like random encounters with strangers. This Lagos rain was to blame. Suddenly, she felt a tap on her back. As she turned her head, she is confronted with a charming face. “Not bad”, she thought to herself. “My name is Akin. I’m sorry, I couldn’t stop staring at you. You are very beautiful.” “Hiss. So he’s one of those cheesy guys who don’t have work to do”. Lola was disappointed. She gave him a blank look and went to the other corner, far away from Akin. She did not have the patience for time-wasters.

“Eh! You no dey hear? Go and frog jump with your friends”. “Frog jump…what?” It hit her – she had let her mind wander again. She let out a silent squeal as she attempted to do the frog jump. Her thighs began to sting by the third jump. “Welcome to the other side of life” she told herself, feeling morose all of a sudden.

*******

Several hours later in what seemed like a war zone, Lola walked beside her new fried, Joke. They met on the registration queue and they were also in the same Platoon. Lola liked Joke. She was funny and she felt Lola’s frustrations too. They were going to get along very well. Lola knew.

“Let’s drop our uniforms in our room then head over to the mammy market for dinner. I’m starving”, Joke suggested. Lola had completely forgotten about food. The only thing she had since morning was toast and a bottle of coke. All that struggle for a mattress and getting registered had made her to forget that she hadn’t eaten much all day.

“Sounds good to me”, Lola replied. “Meet back here in 10 minutes? Does that work for you?”

“It sure does”, Joke answers as she made her way to her room.

The atmosphere in camp had changed from what it was when Lola first arrived. It was buzzing with activities now. The tension had disappeared. People were mingling and getting to know one another. Music was blasting from loud speakers as they entered the mammy market. There were many stalls selling all sorts of food; jollof rice, plantain, indomie, vegetable. You name it, they seemed to have.

“Aunty wetin you wan chop? We dey serve the best food”, a lanky woman from one of the stalls cried out. ‘Iya Dunni’ canteen the cardboard at the entrance read. “God forbid. You see how she is spitting over the food she is cooking”, Lola whispered to Joke. “Ah see you. Be forming hygiene there. You will just die. If you want to survive the next three weeks, you have to close your eyes to a lot of things” Joke offered her unsolicited advice. She was right though. Everything in the Iseyin camp was below acceptable hygienic standards. They finally settled at Mama Uche’s canteen. The food was decent. Nothing like what Lola was used to. She looked up to take in the sights around her. There were tailors on her right adjusting uniforms for people who had been given khakis twice their size. There were young men and women coupled up at various corners. “Didn’t they just meet themselves?” Lola wondered. It was none of her business really.

They paid the attendant from the canteen and Lola was ready to head back to her room.

“Don’t you want to mingle a bit”, Joke asked, pleading with her to stay. “Mingle with what? Did you not hear that lights out is in 20 minutes?” “And so?” Joke shrugged. “Babe you’re on your own abeg. All I am in the mood to do right now is to sleep. So you can stay and mingle. I’m going to sleep. See you tomorrow for parade.” She blew Joke a kiss.

As she settled under her mosquito net, she could almost feel the spring from the iron bed beneath the mattress. The mattress was that thin. Lola didn’t have time to lament. Nothing was going to stop her from sleeping right now, not even her flashing phone. It was Akin calling. He had been calling since she arrived at the camp but she had been too busy to pick up. Now she was just not in the mood to talk to anyone, not even him. She said a short prayer and she soon drifted to a world where she was sleeping on a queen sized bed in a mansion.

* Watch out for the Second Part next week*

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