I drove in the company of the GPS. She, as Alex liked to describe it, wasn’t much help at keeping me entertained or awake. We were too far from any city to get radio signals and so, I was stuck with the rap songs Alex had in his car. Even with the songs blaring from the speakers, Alex didn’t move from his slumber. Whatever sedative that hunter had given him would probably have given anaesthesia a run for its money. I had slapped him across the face enough times to leave the area slightly reddish, hoping he would wake up, but he would only turn and continue sleeping. At a point, I began to envy him. The things I would have done to have a good, soft bed to crash on right then.
He had stopped bleeding; at least the hunter had done one thing right by applying some pressure to the injury to stop the bleeding. However, I still felt he should have it checked out. The bullet might have been laced with something. Poison? Maybe that was what was making him sleep so long? Or maybe it would make him hallucinate and start to act out his hallucinations! I had to take a deep breath to stop my mind from overreacting. Hopefully, he was just enjoying what had become an over-two-hour nap under the influence of a sedative. That was normal. Right?
I had been driving for almost three hours, with my mind constantly reminding me that I could be driving myself to Jos without knowing it. My mum always chided me for not knowing how to drive to Kaduna or the cities that led to it. I would always tell her that if I ever needed to drive, I would get a driver. And so, I never learned the route.
See why you should listen to your parents!
The GPS had gotten me this far; hopefully it would take me the rest of the way. It was nearing 9am. The sun looked nice and bright, a perfect weather for a wedding.
It was my best friend’s wedding day.
The day we’d dreamed about since we recognized the importance of boys. Nena must have tried my number at least a thousand times by now. I tried to find comfort in the fact that it could have been a lot worse. I could have been married off to some old chief by now or be stranded because I couldn’t drive and Alex was sleeping like he was half-dead.
So, in comparison, I was having a good day.
I took my eyes off the road long enough to see that, according to the GPS, we were about an hour and some minutes away from Kaduna. A smile slowly tattooed itself across my face when I saw that. If that was anything to go by, I would make it in time for the wedding and the last forty-eight hours of horror would not be in vain. While turning to look at the side mirror, two things caught my attention.
Firstly, the blinding stench that was emanating from my armpit! I smelled like fish and coffee mixed together. After not taking a bath for almost two days and running and sweating ever so often, I supposed it was to be expected. The terrible smell coming from my body almost made me forget the second thing I had noticed while looking at the side mirror.
A car seemed to have been following me for a while. I was on an expressway, wide enough for a person to overtake if they felt it necessary, and a few cars had zoomed past. So it was puzzling that this white car had been a few metres behind me for almost thirty minutes. I’d noticed it earlier, but thought nothing of it till I looked out again and saw the same car. I could tell it was a man driving, but I was too far to recognize the features. I tried to convince myself that it was paranoia and hunger that were making me over-assess the situation. I put my foot to the gas pedal and sped on ahead, thinking I would probably lose the car after the bend that was up ahead.
Still the driver followed me.
Why would someone be following me in the middle of nowhere unless they knew me or wanted to rob me? I looked around the car, there was nothing to steal. Pastor had made sure to take care of that as I was naïve enough to let him. So what did this guy want?
My heart started to beat very fast again as I thought of what to do. I looked at Alex, looking oh-so-peaceful in his sleep that was nearing three hours now. Still looking at the road, I went at his face with a slap.
“Alex, will you wake up already! Haba!” I snapped. “Someone is following us!”
There was no stir, no sound; he just continued with his soft snores. It looked like I would have to face this one alone. Wasn’t I just saying some minutes ago that I was having a good day?
I thought about speeding until I got to Kaduna, it was just about fifty minutes away at that point. Then it occurred to me that this could also be someone going for the wedding, someone who had recognized Alex’s car and was trying to get my attention. Then again, I had been making all kinds of wrong choices throughout this journey and I was too hungry to endure another situation arising before getting to that wedding.
But I also had to consider Alex’s arm; I needed to get him to the hospital before getting to the wedding and I didn’t even know the way to any hospitals in the city. The only gadgets I knew how to handle were my phone and laptop, so configuring this GPS to direct me to a hospital was not an option. But if I knew this person, they could probably help me take Alex to the hospital while I hustled my way to Nena. All these options and things to consider, just to make the decision to either speed up or park the car.
Taking a deep breath, I said a silent prayer as I slowed the car to a stop by the side of the road.
As I expected, the person in the car caught up to me and parked his car in front of mine. He got out of the car, revealing his almost six-foot height, with muscles bulging from his tight T-shirt. As he stood locking the door, I peered through the windscreen to see if I could recognize him. He looked like . . . Taye? What was Taye doing here? And when did he get so muscular? And he couldn’t possibly be on the road when his wedding was in about an hour.
It was then he turned toward me and I noticed the birthmark just about his right eyebrow. I heaved a huge sigh of relief. It was Kehinde!
No one else felt the need to call out my full name but Kehinde.
“Do you know how long I’ve been trying to get your attention? I expected to see Alex driving though,” he said, locking me in a huge embrace.
For once, I had made the right call. I said, “Kehinde, you can’t begin to understand how happy I am to see you. I thought you were Taye for a second there.”
“It’s good to see you too. You look exhausted… And where is Alex? Taye told me the both of you were coming together. It sounded like a recipe for disaster. I hope you haven’t dumped my friend’s body somewhere oh.” He was chuckling.
“Not yet o. Look at him sleeping in there,” I said, tilting my head in the direction of the passenger’s seat.
Kehinde went around and tried to wake him up. Alex didn’t budge. “What’s wrong with him? Which kind sleep be this?”
“Long story o. You wouldn’t believe it if I told you. Your brother and sister-in-law have put me through what has to be the craziest journey of my life. But don’t worry, he’s alive. He’s injured though. I actually stopped, hoping it was someone I knew, so they could take him to the hospital for me.”
It was then he noticed the blood on his shirt. Clearly alarmed, he asked, “Ah, Aisha, what happened to him?”
Then I proceeded to recount the happenings of the entire journey and all its craziness to him. I had not realized how good a story it was until I told it to him. By the time I was done, he was so shocked all he could do was laugh.
“And all this happened between yesterday and today? After all that, the both of you have to get married and make Aisha and Taye do this for your own wedding.”
I laughed like I hadn’t been secretly imagining the same outcome while driving. “You don’t even know. I’m waiting to find out which is a longer journey by road – Lagos to Ghana or Lagos to Kaduna. If Lagos to Kaduna is longer, I’ll find another place. They must experience the ‘thrills’ of a road trip.”
We both burst into laughter.
Finally, we agreed that Kehinde would take Alex to the hospital while I made my way to the wedding. We carried Alex into Kehinde’s car and laid him in the back to continue sleeping. It was 10:03 and I had forty-five minutes to get home, to resume my chief-bridesmaid duties. I knew Nena wouldn’t let anyone else take my place until I got there, but I didn’t want my lateness spoiling her big day. I got the exact directions to the house from Kehinde. We agreed that he would drop Alex off at the hospital and make sure he would be well taken care of before he took off to assume his role as the best man.
As I bid him goodbye, I was careful enough to go for a handshake instead of a hug. There was no need to pass the fish-coffee stench around. I got back into the car, determined to make the journey of approximately one hour it should take to get to the house in forty-five minutes, so I would have some time to get ready. I pulled on the seatbelt, adjusted my seat as I prepared to go all ‘formula one’ on the rest of the journey.
Written by Nky Otike-Odibi, tweets @Nky_Otk and blogs at legalwatchmen.blogspot.com