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Monday, November 02, 2015

Touch of Fate (1)

 
  Prologue: 
  Somewhere on a campus in Nigeria- 2002
  
The four friends in the black SUV had had a great time at the party and were on their way back to their campus in the early hours of the morning. They had written their last papers the previous day and in a few days, they would all be leaving school for the last time. The party had been their way of 'cooling off' from all the stress of their final exams as well as hanging out together for the last time.
Except for the one driving, the others were slightly drunk. As they drove along, they spoke in slurred tones of some of the things that had gone down at the party. The main topic was the fight that had broken out between one of their classmates and another boy over a girl.
"Men, that Derek is a fool. Why would he fight over a girl when there are so many out there," one of them at the back remarked.
"Do you blame him? That babe is really hot! Is it her mesmerizing eyes? Or those 'killer' curves of hers?" said his back seat mate.
"Don't tell me you've been 'scoping' her all this while," the one in the passenger seat in front stated, turning round to look at his friends at the back.
This caused much 'yabis' (insults) being thrown at the one at the back seat who had made the remark.
They had just driven past the library sometime later when it happened. As the driver turned into the road that led to their hall of residence, he ran into a dark figure that had run across the road. It was a dark spot as there were no street lights by that part of the road. 
"What was that?" the guy in the passenger seat asked the driver. Their friends at the back had fallen asleep and were dead to the world.
They both got down and rushed to the figure on the ground. It was too dark to see properly but they could tell it was a female. She lay still, not making any sound.
"Is she dead?" he asked his friend.
"I don't know," he replied, bending down to look at the figure. He shook her gently on the shoulder but got no response. "Maybe we should take her to the clinic," he stated.
"We can't. What if she's dead? We will be charged for murder," he stated, a frightened tone in his voice. Taking his friend's hand, he said: "Let's go. There's nothing we can do for her."
The other guy reluctantly got up and they went into the car and drove away. As they left, the prone figure on the ground groaned a little then lay still once more...

Ten years later...
The banking hall was crowded as usual that Friday morning. Don, a tall, slim man in a blue shirt and black trousers, stood at the entrance, wondering how long it would take him to transact the business he had come for. He made his way to one of the queues and was taking his place behind the last person on the line when he heard his name. 
He saw a young lady sitting at a desk in the open space behind the counter waving at him.
He went over and stood by the counter. She looked strangely familiar though he couldn't remember where he had seen her before.
"Come inside," she invited him, pointing to the small opening near the wall.
  The lady called Helen turned out to be a school mate of Don at the university. She had in fact been course-mates and a friend of his cousin Tasha who had been two years his junior.
"Sorry, I didn't recognize you. You look so different," he stated, looking at her closely. He could remember her as a somewhat skinny girl with a pimply face who always wore her hair in braids. That student of many years ago was in sharp contrast to the pretty-looking, confident lady in a dark suit with her hair in a long, sleek weave. She had put on some weight and it suited her.
She smiled at his words.
"I understand what you mean. Sometimes I hardly recognize myself when I look at my old pictures," she noted. 
"You are looking really fine," he stated in an admiring tone. "You work in this bank?" he asked, looking round the office.
"Yes. I've been here for about four years."
"That's good. Hope you are enjoying the job..."
They sat chatting about school days and old friends they had not seen for years.
"What about Tasha? I've not seen or heard from her for a long time," she stated. Don told her she was based abroad and was married with kids.
"That's nice," Helen said quietly.
Later, after she had assisted him in his transaction at the bank, she saw him off to his car.
That was when he noticed the limp. She walked as if one of the legs was shorter than the other and it affected her gait. Since it could not have been caused by high heeled shoes as she was in a pair of flat pumps, he wondered what could be responsible. He could not remember her walking that way back in school.
He got into the car and before starting the engine he glanced at her legs then up at her face.
  She noticed him staring and sighed.
"I know you must be wondering about my leg. It's a long story, something I will tell you some other time," she said. 
"Let's meet up for lunch one of these days then," he stated. They exchanged numbers before he drove off.
Shortly after, Don travelled out of town on official business. He was so busy that he forgot all about his lunch date with Helen. It was on his return that he got a call from her.
"Oh! I'm so sorry! I know I should have called but I've been really busy at work. You know how it is," he said apologetically.
"Is it just work or its something else?" she asked in a teasing tone of voice.
"Like what?" he asked, sounding puzzled.
"Like girls, perhaps. You used to have quite a reputation of being a ladies man back in school," she said.
He laughed at that.
"That was then. I'm a changed person now, much more serious-minded," he noted.
They chatted for a while and before hanging up, Don said he would love to take her out for dinner that weekend. She agreed to the date then hung up.
"Who were you talking to that has put such a big smile on your face, Helen? That is making you look so happy," asked Tina, a colleague who sat close to her.
"I'm always happy," she replied, as she checked some figures on the computer.
"I know. But today, you are glowing. Tell me the secret," she persisted.
"Just face your work, ok. Busybody," Helen said scornfully.
"Or is it that tall, fine bros that came the other day? Is he your new boyfriend? Gist me now!" Tina asked again.
"Mind your business!" Helen said, getting up and walking away towards the restroom.
"Hmm. Some people are so stingy; they don't know how to share. What's wrong in giving me a little gist about the guy? Na wa oh," Tina said to herself before resuming her work on the computer.
Some days later, they went for dinner at a nice restaurant not far from her office.
  "Why are you smiling?" Helen queried, looking across the table at him. They had placed their orders and were waiting for the food to be served.
"I'm comparing that skinny little girl on campus all those years ago with the beauty I'm looking at now," he said, smiling at her. "Whatever happened to her?" he asked.
She gave a short laugh before saying:
  "Well, she grew up. I was in my teens back then. And teenagers grow up," she pointed out.
"You are right. It's a good thing you didn't look like this back then. You wouldn't have escaped," he stated.
"Escaped what?" she said, taking a sip of her drink.
He pointed at his chest. 
"Me," he said, grinning broadly.
"So, I was right then. About your bad boy reputation," she said.
"Yeah. We did a lot of crazy stuff in those days. We were young then..." he said, his mind going to a certain incident that happened on a dark, moonless night all those years ago.
It was about a week later when they met up for drinks that she told him about the accident that broke her leg.
"It was towards the end of the session and it was exam period. I had two more papers to write so that evening I had gone to the library with a friend of mine. She had however, left just before midnight, saying she was feeling sleepy. I stayed for another hour or so before deciding to return to my room," she stated.
She said it was on the way to her hall of residence that the accident occurred.
  "Everything happened so fast. I was close to the library and I remember crossing the road when a car came on high speed round the corner and knocked me down. It was a dark night and there were no street lights at that spot. Anyway, I must have been unconscious for I woke up the following day at the school clinic. I had a lot of bruises all over my body and my right leg was broken as well." She added that her parents later came and took her to another hospital where they tried to set the bones on her leg. "They really tried. But the damage to the bone was much. So, by the time the leg healed, I ended up with a limp," she said.
"I'm really sorry to hear about this. It must have been terrible for you. Can you remember the day this incident happened?" asked Don curiously.
"Of course. Its a day I can never forget," Helen stated, telling him the date.
"And the car that hit you? Can you remember it and the person driving it?" he asked earnestly.
She shook her head.
"I told you it was dark. I never saw the driver of the car. But I remember the car looked big, like a jeep..."
At her words, a cold chill like the type that descends on one about to have a fever, came upon him. He stared at her, a dazed look on his face.
"It can't be. It can't be. No way..." he kept muttering to himself.
"Don! What's the matter? You look as if you've seen a ghost!" Helen said, looking worriedly at him...



To be continued

Names have been changed to protect the identity of the narrator and other individuals in the story.


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