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The Wrong Turn Of Christmas [Must Read Fiction]

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By Chimezie Anajama and Okwuanya Vincent.

I could remember the first day I saw him. It was at a friend’s

birthday party. The weather was dull, the evening quiet and moisty,

sending all the stars to sleep. Myriads of rainbow party light, hung

on the aging ceiling of the open T-shaped venue, danced and swirled

like there was a separate music playing to it. The crowd thinned. It

was not a popular party. An evening get-together of close friends. He

sat faraway from the light. Preferring the semi-dark corner to the

glitz of colourful dancing light. Despite this, I still noticed that

his eyes roved on me, even when I sat down, trying to catch a breath

from the herculean job my birthday friend, Jane, gave me. Mc of the

occasion. That job earned eyes to me. But his was different, wanting,

searching, seductive in admiration.

No matter how I tried to press the ignore button, I still find myself

looking over, glancing towards him. In those few seconds, I noticed

his cheeks flared up and down, a light smile played on them, his eyes

tried winking but his brow won’t just bow to the act. This stole my

smiles for a second before I finally looked away. But in that second,

I felt warmth lurching in my belly despite the moisty and breezy

evening cold i was exposed to. I knew that I was in for a long

As the event progressed, I relaxed into my job, garnering compliments

here and there from semi-admirers, one-night flirts, and pure-hearted

compliment donors.

I did a sweep. The momentum of his stares has lessened. A nearby lady

was the culprit. From the way his head upped and downed occasionally

before tilting to an arching bend, his glass slowly finding his lips, his lips quaking in laughter, his eyes glittering as

he talked after the bout of the laughter, he was really engrossed in

their conversation. Or maybe the lady.

My attention was snapped back when another female friend tapped me,

pointing to Jane’s waving hands.

By now late evening has transformed to early night, replacing the

moisture to a cooler and colder night. The party was getting fuller.

Alcohol and fruit juice glittered in different glasses and plastic

cups, some mixed, others preferred the plain version of their choice.

I managed to take a sip from the plastic red cup handed to me. As it

hit my mouth, i realized it was the mixed version of Chi Exotic. The

after-taste was awakening. With my cup raised in the party toast, i

invited the duo of Jane and her boyfriend, Michael, to the centre,

beside the love-shaped cream and pink birthday cake with HBD JANE

sugar-coated on it, to claim the first dance. I couldn’t help getting

a little twitchy the way Jane’s man held her as they came. Like an egg

instructed not to allow to break or he will be jailed. Jane glowed in

it. Taking care to explore this attention to the maximum. Her red

strapless long gown accentuated her curve in near-perfection. Nipping

in at her belly and her hip claiming the rest to a proportionate

maximum expansion. Her silvery neck piece, matching silvery heely shoe

and bun-packed hair dazzled the more, like a queen without a tiara.

And her fair skin was in the same level of radiance with her face.

Indeed, Michael has made a fine lady from Jane.

As i wiggled myself, inside the bodyfitted blue short gown and a brown

ballerina flat that i wore, at a nearby corner, away from the dancing

lights, i felt a hand circled my wrist. A 180 degree turn pushed me

into his waiting arms.

“Don’t say no to this dance with me.” He breathed into my ears, i

perceived the whiff of alcohol in him.

My feet and eyes stilled. Surprise replaced the earlier seeping anger

from the act. Both tongue and thought tied, I allowed him to drift us

into dancing.

As I peep through the lone transparent window in my pinky room, into

the rising sun, into the street, watching people set their wares in

the open square which was littered with yesterday dirts that has

shrunken and dampened due to last night’s rainfall, probably the last

rain of the year, workers in a hurry to get to their offices, children

walking past to get to their schools for the last time before holiday

kicks, sanitation going on in little groups, I counted and realized

that it was now going to year that we did that dance at Jane’s

birthday. This early December will make it ten months that Kaycee drew

me into his waiting hands and bosom in that party and a relationship

that will lead into marriage began.

The more I reflect on our journey of love, the less I understand the

mechanics of the love. I never believed in the concept of soulmate

until Kaycee sauntered in my life. Even Jane, my friend of six years,

a coursemate of four years, concurred to that concept.

“Kosy, i’ve never seen you so happy. I am still amazed how Kaycee did

it. Even him too, i’ve not seen him this happy since his last break up

years ago. Michael is also amazed at his friend. Both of us agreed

that you and Kaycee are another couple to watch out for this

Christmas. Like altar I DO. Just like we will this coming Christmas.” Jane remarked and winked as she officially made me her bridesmaid, waving her hand-crafted weddinginvite in the air like a child waving an outstanding report card to the face of the eager parents. We hugged in sisterly passion, laughed heartily in friendly ambience, and chatted the nitty-gritties of her wedding which I accepted to be part of, another eye-gathering role, in the voice of wedding planners. Jane can be herculean in tasking. That was in August.

Like Jane predicted, Kaycee popped up the M-question in September, a

month after, at my 24th birthday. It was a quiet evening. Quieter than

Jane’s own. No get-together. No loud music to jazz the atmosphere. No

evening breeze tickling the skin to cold. No rainbow dancing lights.

No admirers, colleagues, friends, not even Jane. It was in this room

that i am now. My personal room in the three bedroom flat that I share

with two other girls. I lit a candle and placed on the table adjacent to the standing wall mirror in the room. Earlier, NEPA had struck. I didn’t mind. I didn’t intend to celebrate it. I just wanted to be alone after my hectic hours at work as a desk writer in a PR firm. Alone on my bed. A slow marathon of thought running in my head, revolving around my life. Kaycee knocked.

I had expected him late, later, not earlier as he stood at the door,

wearing a crispy ironed white shirt and ash trouser, with that smile

that melted something in me the first time. He was without gift. I

didn’t frown. With Kaycee I hardly do that even when the situation

deserved that. We hugged and kissed. Our greeting tradition.

I waved him to sit and turned to close the door. I was puzzled with

how he gained entrance. I didn’t hear the doorbell. A peep out,

towards the flat living room solved that. One of the flatmates was

A walk to the bed saw Kaycee kneeling, flipped open a little black

suede box that i guessed came from his pocket.

“Will you marry me, Kosisochukwu Ude?” I heard him say, with his eyes

searching, just like the first time.

I thought I was in a movie. Another movie where the girl gets to

scream, say yes, and they hug and probably make love for heaven’s

blessing. Am I really dreaming or acting?

I heard him the second time. He was really afraid by now. He was

scared of No, and i was uncertain of Yes. But i knew i really want to

marry him. I knew that even before now, but something held my tongue.

Fear did. I was afraid of myself, at the scene at my front. At my

brother’s marriage where the wife cries and sniff in tears somedays. I

was afraid of the word marriage.

I didn’t reply. I asked him to get up, then opened up my fears in its

horrible glory. He listened without a grumble then later cooed me to

his heart. His was beating faster than mine. We stayed so for minutes,

draining my fears without words, allowing me to enjoy the freshness of

his faith and hope. He has faith in us, in us together. He later

confessed. We talked again. With his words finally patching up my

fearing heart. I asked him to do it again. The proposal. I knelt down

too and accepted. The bed couldn’t contain our happiness just like our

bodies failed. It was a night of bliss and lovemaking.

The sun was no longer mild. It has begun to sear in harshness and

perspiration. Today was the day i was supposed to make the final

shopping with my mother’s youngest sister in lieu of my traditional

wedding coming up in late days of December. I did the first one with

Jane. We did hers and mine together. Her traditional and white wedding

will be done together at her hometown in Delta, earlier than mine.

We’ve really grown to be inseparable sisters over the years.

Phone rang. My aunt and market companion was the caller, reminding me

to bring along the few remaining wedding invites, she has family

friends asking for it in the market. My aunt can really carry a case

on her head. Since mother’s death years back, she has become a mother

I look up to. She has not failed in the role. Caring without

 

Ogbete market. Chaos and madness reigned. It was some weeks before

christmas. It was expected. With the hot sun, people were bathed in

perspiration. Pools of it can be seen formed on strategic parts of the

body. The temple, back, armpit, and sometimes chest and arms. Ogbete

can be raw in cacophony like the uncooked, unchopped slices of meat on

the butcher’s table.

“Aunty, you no go buy?”

“Buy your latest shirt and trouser here.”

“Aunty we get gown o. Original and authentic.”

“Bonanza Bonanza Bonanza. Buy your original Nokia battery here.”

“You dey go? Abakpa, Nike, Obiagu, New Haven.”

All these mouth adverts were laced in thick unrepentant Igbo accent. I

got random bumps and shoves. Aunty Ifeoma was gradually slipping

behind as we walked in the sea of the early christmas shoppers and

I heard Aunty Ifeoma nearly shouting.

“Nne, jide akpa gi ofuma.”

“You never can tell where the pickpockets may come from. They now go

around with razor opening the under of female bags.” She said, pointing

to my brown leather bag. I pulled the bag closer, a reaction to

Aunty’s words.

For two hours we shopped. Prices were hiked by minutes. Exorbitant

traders working their magic on gullible buyers, like me. We didn’t

mind. Afterall, it was Christmas. For me, it was more than Christmas,

i’ll finally get to be prefixed a Mrs to the man of my love. I

wouldn’t mind paying anything for it.

All through Aunty Ifeoma kept on Heyy-ing and Ahh-ing.

 

“You want us to keep our pants here?” She will finally say when she

can’t bear it anymore. We left with baggage that asked for the extra

service of a hired cab. Even the driver asked, jokingly, “Are you doing

wedding?”

 

December 26th. A day before the traditional wedding. My siblings, two

girls and two boys, and Dad were all back for christmas. Most

importantly, they were back for me, for my traditional wedding. We all

drove to the church yesterday in style, in two vehicles, a prado jeep

and highlander. It was grand. Dad’s smiles were ingrained in

deep-seated happiness, one that appears rarely.

 

Jane became Mrs Michael four days back, on 22nd. I almost stole her

day with my attire. A purple flowing tube gown with a flowing

brazillian hair. Aunty Ifeoma attended. She said that i looked like

the daughter of a mermaid but i’ll look the mermaid herself on my own

day. She sniffed her nose when she mentioned how proud my mum would’ve

been if she was alive. Aunty and Jane were here too. The two great

women in my life apart from my sisters.

 

Our compound wore a newer look too. The grand bungalow that has housed

three generations of the Udes was repainted in brown and white. The

paints were yet to be defiled by the avenging harmattan dust.

Coincidentally, the two colours were part of the colours of my

The thickening weeds of the compound were sealed with interlocks, and

a bigger culvert was constructed for bigger vehicle expected tomorrow.

Even the flowers reduced in height. People hung all over the compound.

Relatives, kinsmen, distant family, inlaws. Some stayed overnight. The

night saw rooms congested. Others arrived today.

I was pampered to a pin. Everything was at beck and call.

But I was still unhappy. I wasn’t feeling the vibe. Kaycee have not

called or pinged the whole morning and afternoon. I haven’t heard any

detail from his own side. When they’ll arrive, how they will come, and

how many they’ll be. I was in the sea. The last time he called was the day before yesterday. He sounded expectant like me. Nothing to worry about. I

made the decision to rest my oars on yesterday’s hope instead of

today’s distress.

 

A beep at my phone. A message came in. Kaycee, the sender.

 

Kosy, am sorry. I can’t go through with this. It is all a charade.

Call the wedding off.

 

A scream escaped my mouth. Jane hurried in. I pointed to the phone on

the bed. My eyes grew woozy, I heard Jane’s faint what’s wrong in a

distance. I was still in the room but I grew less and less conscious

of it. Jane’s double face and faint cry were the last things i saw and

heard before my world collapsed temporarily.

 

B

 

There is a method to this madness.

The commercial epicentre of the whole south eastern Nigeria does not throb for nothing. People are everywhere, some carrying their wares, others carrying other people’s wares while yet there are a few others who are not carrying anything but still walked or rather rushed with the same fervour.

It is the 24th December make or break rush.

To my sides, traders and customers argued and agreed, sometimes with understanding smiles and other times with vociferous vituperations.

“I chere na m tutura ya atuta?” A short fiftyish year old woman with a scattering of gray hair shushed away a haggling young fair female customer as she was wont to shush away an irritating fowl which stumbled into her shop.

A calmer, ebony woman in her early thirties who wore a religious crusade banner-jacket over her black cotton blouse disagreed with her customer but with smiles “Anyi anaghi ere ya otu ahu. Agaghi m asiri gi asi. Ndi uka anyi anaghi asi asi.” The customer, smiled and upped his bid. I turned away. They will do business. The banner wearing woman could sell the man anything with that including the green banner-jacket she wore with that tone of voice. A message is often not as important as the tone employed in communicating the message. However, there is no good way of communicating a breakup days before the wedding.

There is a method to the madness.

Above in the sky, the sun burns. It does not shine, not today. It burns with an insolence threatening to consume itself or at least consume the sanity of that unfortunate part of the world. Right in front of me, a tall dark man cleared the sweat in his face with his forefinger and poured it towards my general direction. I jumped away from the organic torrent.

I probably deserved it.

The man did not look back. He kept on towards his task with an equanimity that infuriated me. I hastened my steps to meet him.

“Na heat period we dey. Mercy for am” A feminine voice said from behind me. I looked back. A forty-something year old woman with a baby strapped to her back was the intercessor. She too was clearing her face but poured her own sweat on the hot ground. “Why don’t they ever buy handkerchiefs?” I thought to myself.

“Na heat period.” She said for emphasis as if she had read my thoughts.

“Heat Period?” The words made me think of her.

Her. The Ballerina girl.

I called her that because of her love for soft, flat-soled shoes. The “Heat period” was a joke between us which started at the onset of our relationship. The first time she came to my house in Benin City, I was too keen to impress her with an array of skills. I was in love. Madly.

I cleared my house of all dirts, cleaned the tiled floor of my two-bedroom flat to a shine and entered the kitchen. I wanted to impress my love. The Ballerina girl.

My mother had told me that the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I guessed it would be the same with a woman. What is good for the goose is good for the gander;Isn’t it?

I was cooking or at least doing something that looked like cooking when she pinged me.

“Am in front of ur door, Baby. Open up!” She added the hug and kiss smileys.

I looked around my kitchen. Her scheduled visit had taken me unaweres. The onions I was trying to fry has burnt to black. I had forgotten to open my tin tomatoes. I cannot even find the crayfish. My Romantic evening was becoming a tragedy.

Kosy could not have chosen a worse time to enter my apartment. I wished that I could pause her with a remote and get my life in order.

She coughed as if to remind me that she had noticed my misfortune.

“Couldn’t she just pretend?” I thought myself.

Kosy entered the kitchen, gave me a peck and started fanning herself with her hands. My Air conditioner was broken. I was in a fix.

“Na heat period for your house so.” When we first met at the birthday party, we spoke in English; “Queen’s English” but as we started becoming more comfortable with ourselves, we started speaking whatever we wished. We can both speak Ibo, English and pidgin but only Kosy could speak Hausa and she furtively tried to teach me. I could not learn much because I was always distracted and enthralled by her sensuous small pink lips, her sweet-smelling hair, the smoky eyes that speaks passion with every blink. Wallahi Tallahi, Ballerina girl was effortlessly beautiful.

“Heat period?” I asked putting off my gas cooker, turned the gas off from the cylinder and suspended the burning concotion. We will eat out.

“Are you sure you are in your heat period? Mhmm.” I grunted coming closer to her, fixing my gaze intensely into her eyes.

“Wow Kaycee. That wasn’t the kind of “heat period” I meant.” She said with that smile that lights up her smoky eyes.

“Whichever, one you meant, you sure will not be needing your clothes”

I was surprised when she started unbuttoning the chequered shirts she wore to my apartment, Kaycee had never allowed me to undress her and I did not complain. We kissed, fondled but never went beyond that. Her hands were always there to guide and stop me whenever my roving fingers moves towards the buttons or belt. I was madly in love but did not mind waiting. I was certain that our relationship was heading to the altar. But here she was, unbuttoning, inviting me to behold her in her full feminine glory. I caught my hands stopping her as she made to undo the last button. It was an unwitting reaction. I was uncertain about sex and particularly scared of finding out that we are sexually incompatible. For Kosi, I was ready to give up sex in exchange for her smile. Yet, it was all moving too fast, faster than I had anticipated and the relationship was just two months old.

“Ballerina, are you sure about this?” My hand held her fingers.

“I have no doubt about you, Baby.” She threw away my hands and tugged at the final button and the shirt came off. I stood transfixed as she stood before me nude, looking like a work of art, an erotic masterpiece, like Da Vinci’s Leda and the Swan. My Ballerina girl was the definition of sex and sin.

My recollection of the details were hazy but I do recall that it all happened in that kitchen and that it was mind-blowing. We never did find the time to eat inside or outside. Kosi woke me up at 2am in the morning and served me fried yam in bed. After the meal, we spent further time in ourselves.

She stayed the weekend and left on Sunday to attend to her job.

I wanted to cry.

I nearly cried.

I did cry.

We had so many “heat periods” after that. Not the kind of “heat period” the woman in the market meant.

That was when I made the decision I am about to nullify now.

That was when I decided to marry the Ballerina girl.

It is madness. I love Kosisochukwu Ude, my love for her grows with each passing day. However, like the hulabaloo in the Onitsha Main Market, there is a method to my madness.

“Oga na market you dey” A sweaty young man brushed past me with a load of articles of clothings balanced gingerly on his head and a pungent smell emitting from his body. I turned up my nose at the odour. He looked sweat-soaked. The pushes and shoves prompted me to hasten my steps. I wanted to leave the hot sun and the frenetic market environment. I needed to gather my sun-scattered thoughts and think through my decisions. The marriage was just three days away. I have to make a decision.

I entered a restaurant located just off the market, adorned with an array of coloured ribbons and lights. To the left of the counter a “hoho-hoing” Santa Claus whose dark skin was only partly covered by the red costume, the white beards, white socks and gloves, was carrying a couple of female children who mostly cried as Santa dispensed good cheers and gifts.

I went to the counter and ordered a Standard Whisky with a can of Pepsi cola. I sat on a seat in the corner, facing the christmas charade wondering how it could have gone so wrong.

Ballerina Girl had felt so right with her thousand watt smile, dimples, smoky eyes, outrageous sexiness and impeccable manners; she is the manifestation of my deepest fantasies. She is both ethereal and surreal. Yet pictures do not lie.

I flipped through my Samsung phablet for the evidence that has turned my world upside down.

It was unmistakably her. The eyes, the high cheekbones, the small pink lips. Yet, it could not have been her. The situation was too compromising. She was sitting on an aged man with a thinning gray hair. The man had his hands inside her clothes, a chiffon shirt I had bought her when she ran out of clothes at my place. Her passion-clouded eyes was looking into the camera. The setting was in a seedy. I have been watching and analyzing the pictures for two days now. It was sent to my email by “concernedfriend@gmail.com.”. The emailer ended with a postscript advising me to save myself from “that mirage.” I have sent the sender several messages to identify himself but to no avail; he is yet to reply.

From a distance, I could hear Kosi’s voice.

“I will never cheat on you, Baby”

“I will never hurt you, Sweery”

“I can’t live without you, Love.”

“I long only for your touch and yours ALONE.”

Words. They are empty now.

She had texted this when she had to go on a work-related travel. The text is still on my Blackberry. The promises she had made are no longer pleasing, they are now haunting. How could I have dated Kosi for so long yet do not know her.

My blackberry rang. I checked to see the caller. It was my best friend, Michael. He was supposed to be my Best man for the white wedding and is a husband to Kosy’s friend Jane.

“Yes, Mike…” I had picked the call.

“This one wey you dey answer me like this I hope say things normal.” My tone was not enthusiastic and I had not called him by his nickname “Italian.” He noticed.

“My guy, I dey o.”

“We need to meet. Na next tomorrow o.”

“Italian, I dey reason that next tomorrow thing. I no sure say e go work.”

He was alarmed.

“What!” He shouted into the phone. I disconnected the call and put my phone in silent mode. I was anticipating his barrage of calls; calls that I was not ready to pick.

Predictably, he called and called. After half a dozen of missed calls, he gave up. The phablet became too heavy for me to carry probably because it was carrying the weight of my world which it has scattered to pieces. I found myself wishing that I had not opened the email.

I dropped the phone on the table and mixed my whisky and pepsi. I took a swig and as if on cue, a girl broke out in tears in the queue as she scampered away from the beckoning Santa Claus. Her mother held her tightly carrying her back to the admittedly scary “Father Christmas.” The Santa Claus could scare me too.

The drink was doing its job when I decided to call Kosy.

“Hello Baby!” Her voice was cheerful. Too cheerful. She did not sound like Judas. The tell-tale signs were not there.

“My Ballerina girl.” I tried to match her mood.

“You will not call me that again when we get married”

“So what will I call you then”

“Find something motherly or womanly. Ballerina girl sounds too girly and by 27th December, I will no longer be a girl. By the night of 27th, I may be carrying your child.” I could not cry. I laughed out my tears.

“Ehen now. The heat period on that 27th will be serious”

“Heat period indeed.” I laughed but inside, her betrayal gnawed at my heart eating away at my being.

“I will meet you on the 27th, Love.” I said. I could not gather the heart to deal with her betrayal in a restaurant.

“Love you. Mwuah!” She made a kissing sound and disconnected the call.

“Will you betray the Son of Man with a kiss.” Luke 22:48. The quotation came to me. It is one of the biblical verses that I recall. Not that it was the easiest; “Jesus Wept” took that but it is the scariest and the most dramatic, signalling the fragility of human relationship. My relationship with Kosisochukwu has broken. Dante Alighieri considered betrayal the worst of all evils in the classical poem, Inferno, I can feel why.

My phones started ringing and beeping; the two of them; intermittently yet consistent. I didn’t pick. I started getting Whatsapp messages and pings on my Blackberry Messenger. Obviously, Ifeanyi had called my family.

My elder sister Chidimma who came back from Abuja for my wedding pinged me. She would want to see me, “ASAP”.

Michael sent me a message on Whatsapp “My guy we need to see. Don’t do anything stupid.”

“Your father wants to see you.” Came in as an SMS from My Aunt Rose. She would be the most hurt. She is an extreme extrovert and a talkative who shared more of my invitation cards than myself. Her husband conversely is a shy introvert who calls me “Nwanna” and oddly finds in me a kindred spirit. Or maybe it was merely because we are fans of the same team, Manchester United. We talked more about Manchester United than we talked about family issues. He had once joked that if my wedding had clashed with Manchester United’s boxing day fixtures, he will not come.

“Your aunt will make sure that I was not missed.” He had joked.

I felt sorry for him. There will be no wedding. Not anymore.

“Nwanna, pick ur call.” Was his terse text. When the introvert starts calling and texting, then things had really fallen apart.

The kindred had been notified and they had chartered some buses.

Chidimma my sister and Kosi are already getting along.

My mother had already started calling Kosi “our wife”

My father and her’s both retired civil servants have started calling themselves in-laws and are clearly basking in the euphoria of our impeding marriage.

Everything that could go wrong, had gone wrong.

Yet I was determined to make the call. I cannot text Kosi, not for a case as serious as this.

I did not finish my mixed drink. I started back into the madness of the sun brandishing my own insanity.

It was 6:15pm when I left the Restaurant. I had stayed there for three hoyrs. Father Christmas, now tired was eating a gala sausage roll, the crowd of kids and their parents had thinned. As soon as I emerged from the restaurant into the cacophony and into the multitude of people who were rushing to get home after the 24th December rush, a storm whisked away my phones, the phablet and the blackberry. The boy in jean trousers and slacks disappeared into the crowd quicker than a storm. I shouted after him but nobody took notice of my woes. Onitsha is notorious for that. People do not respond to distress calls. Their behaviour is not without wisdom, such kind of wisdom that is often informed by experience. Good Samaritans are usually the easiest marks for robbers and conmen.

They are quite costly phones but I can get another one. However, I cannot retrieve my phone number till after the christmas celebration.

The damning picture is still accessible through my email. I will decide on the 26th of December and nobody will change my mind.

I do not know about photo editing then.

I do not know what a conspiracy looks like.

What happened on the 26th of December 2013 was more like a story out of a Robert Ludlum’s Novel.

Our separate history had come back to haunt us.

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