Phew! Three more days to her twenty-first birthday and she still felt sixteen! And looked it—much to her distaste.
As she drove away from her school, Seeds of Greatness in GRA, Enugu, Somadina Okwu joined the long queue of vehicles on Abakaliki road. With one hand on the steering wheel, she leaned on the door handle and rested her chin on her fist, in a classic pose of fond-memory reminiscence, her small lips curling in a dimpled smile as some detailed moments of her life at various stages flashed through her mind.
She recalled a near-drowning incident, in a bid to save a puppy from the small river close to her house in Achi, her hometown. She had always loved puppies but never actually owned one, because her parents didn’t want to keep pets in the house. So, even though she was only nine and could hardly swim more than a foot, she hadn’t thought twice before running to save the beautiful brown dog she saw slipping into the river. Good a thing a good swimmer was around to fetch her out. And the young man even succumbed to her plea not to let her parents learn of the incident. But she’d had to spill the beans when she went home in a wet dress.
And then there had been a fire outbreak in her neighbour’s house; she had been brave enough to run into the house to wheel out their crippled grandmother. She had been fourteen then.
Somadina’s lips pursed as she remembered spearheading a riot for the removal of the nefarious principal in her secondary school in Langtang, Jos.
She acknowledged, as the holdup eased that growing up had had its ups and downs, especially in the campus. She was glad that University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where she just graduated from the department of Education, was one of the coolest universities in the country. On the average she’d had a good life. But being an only child wasn’t all fun. She envied her cousins their numerous siblings.
The wind tousled her relaxed black hair, bringing some strands to her face, and as she pushed them away, she remembered that, though she preferred her natural hair, she would, nevertheless, need to do something to it in preparation for Christmas, which was just a month away. She hated braiding it, couldn’t stand the hours required to do that. She’d rather choose fixing weave-ons. In a matter of weeks she would say goodbye to all forms of hairdo forever. It would be a shame to shave off her very long hair, but that was merely one of the sacrifices she had to make for her decision.
She yawned. It had been a tiring day at the pre-nursery, and she longed to go home. The children had been unusually touchy, crying often and being naughty. Two of them had persisted in removing their diapers soon after they were changed. Her assistant had seen hell trying to joggle between the children and her other responsibilities.
The weather was also not helping matters. The dry air had a way of making her yearn to snuggle in bed and never come out. Harmattan was her favourite season, but she wished it could be more tolerable on her tender lips, which bore the brunt of the climate. She ran her tongue over the dry lips. She only had a few things to pick from Roban stores and then head home.
Enugu was a big city but not nearly as large as Lagos. Within two hours, the city could be covered by an expert driver. Somadina’s pastime was not driving, though she did it excellently well. So she was lucky she lived close to her work place, a mere fifteen-minute drive from her home in Trans Ekulu. She wouldn’t admit it to anybody but she actually preferred walking. Very unglamorous, she knew, chuckling to herself.
She sped up; trying to cover the few meters to the shop so she would be home in good time, but as soon as she pressed the accelerator, her twenty-year-old Bluebird suddenly seemed to be leaping out of her hands. Startled, she held the steering wheel with both hands and then applied the brake, but the car kept on moving at an alarming rate.
“Good heavens!” she cried, her big eyes widening with fear as she realised she had a brake failure. She remembered how often her parents had told her that the car could disappoint her someday, but she had paid so little heed, mainly because she didn’t see the reason in maintaining a car that, though old, was still very functional, and then partly because she didn’t have the spare cash to spend on an auto mechanic. But this was no time for recrimination; she berated herself as she fought wildly to control the car, her leg pumping the brake pedal. She tried not to be frightened, but she could feel the fine hairs on the back of her neck lift in primitive reaction to danger, feel her heart thudding madly, and her stomach hollowing with dread. But her brain was still working. Just. Out of nowhere her hand moved frantically to shift to a lower gear. This helped the car slow down a bit, but this was the time to pray for a miracle, because a few feet ahead was a pedestrian walkway.
And then the miracle happened.
A black, exotic Hyundai Elantra came from behind, moving with ease and precision, only to start slowing down right in front of her!