This story is by ADEKOYA EDWARD and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
His hands trembled as he tried to light the cigarette. After seven tries he started to laugh. It was a mirthless laughter, all nerves and no joy. His mum would have his head if she could see him now sitting behind the wheel of a van trying to light a cigarette. She’d pull his ear and shriek at him:
“When you get your own place you can smoke and sleep with as many girls as you want but as long as you remain seventeen and under my roof you will do as I tell you!”
He knew she meant well, but she just doesn’t get it. She is as blind as the rest of the world. His friend, John Smith, understands though. The world needs more people like John Smith—people who would tell you the truth.
He gave up trying to light the cigarette and looked at his watch.
forty minutes to go.
3.15pm felt to him like a lifetime away and in some ways he thought it was. The lollipop man walked past his van, phone held to his ear with one hand. From his rather loud conversation it was clear he was a Tottenham Hotspurs fan. Just another fan arguing with a rival fan, probably an Arsenal FC fan. These things no longer mattered to him. Football, the Economy, Brexit it was all a lie. The mobile phone on his lap vibrated startling him. He answered the call immediately.
“How are you my friend,” said the voice at the other end of the line.
“I am fine,” he replied and then silence. He had been trained well. Don’t speak unless spoken to and no names.
“You need to be strong my friend, we are all proud of you.”
“Yes, thank you,” more silence.
“The Lollipop man should be there by now.”
“Yes…yes he is.”
“The time is close my friend…go with God.”
In an apartment fifteen floors up above the van the man at the other end of the line cut the connection. He paused for a few seconds and then dialled another number.
“Hello,” he said when the call went through. There was no response.
“The kid seems stable everything is going as it should.” There was a sound like a grunt at the other end.
“I understand your concern, but I saw to his training personally, there are four people on the ground as we speak.” Another grunt.
“I will call you when it is over.”
The line went dead. The man in the apartment had another look at the van below through his binoculars.
The kid was beginning to sweat even though air conditioning was on. His heart began to beat very fast. He looked at the time on the dash board.
His breathing suddenly became difficult. I was trained for this, he thought. He held his breath for ten seconds and then released. He repeated this five times and it helped. He could breathe easier but it did nothing for his thumping heart.
“I need to do something about this,” he said aloud. He picked up the other phone, his real phone, and began to scroll through Facebook then Twitter. The posts he saw only made him feel sick in his stomach. He scrolled through his contacts. Many of the names had become unfamiliar to him. He stopped when he saw Nicky’s name. He gazed at her photo, her smile beamed through his phone screen. He had always had a crush on her but never had the guts to tell her. He thought of her as one of the prettier girls in their college. They had been in study groups together, and had been put on projects together. She had barely ever acknowledged him as anything other than a fellow student while he had always day dreamed about what could be and what could have been. His thumb hovered above the dial button. John Smith most likely would not approve. What the heck, he thought and dialled.
The phone rang a few times and then voicemail. He was oddly relieved. Maybe I don’t want to talk to her, he thought, at least not right now or not ever again. Ever again seemed like such a deep word to him. There was a sinking in his chest.
His real phone rang.
It was Nicky. He watched it ring for while, her eyes seemed to look straight into his. Again, he thought what the heck and answered the call.
“Nicky, what’s up?”
“Hey, Omar I’m so sorry… your text book. I keep forgetting to bring it to school. I promise to bring it next week.”
“You mean the one I gave you months ago? I’d forgotten all about that.” Omar paused then added “I had other reasons for calling.”
“Oh, ok. And?”
Omar bit his lip and then the thought came to him: if today was to be his last day on earth what was the point of fear.
“I wanted to tell you about the crush I’ve always had on you.”
“Omar ok…hold up…where are you?”
“I am sitting in a van and thinking if today was my last day on earth I will die without telling you.”
“Who are you with? Is Robbie with you?”
“Nicky humour me, take me seriously for a second.”
“Is this a Prank?”
“Nicky! Omar raised his voice a bit. “The reason I have never said anything to you about this is because I thought you’d never take me seriously. Are you going to prove me right? If you’re never going to take me seriously hang up the phone and prove me right.”
Nicky said nothing back.
“Are you still there?” Omar said.
“Yes, I am.”
A smile crossed his face. “It still feels like yesterday when I first saw you. You wore a green top, blue jeans and your black Nike trainers. You were so beautiful…you are always beautiful.”
“But Omar, you know I have a boyfriend. You know Mark.”
Omar laughed out loud and at the same his eyes caught the clock on the dashboard.
eight minutes to go. A shiver ran through him.
“Really? Mark? Everybody knows about Mark and Liz. Mark and Titi. Even Lisa. Mark is a lousy cheat and we all know it.”
“I guess you called to tell me you are better then?”
“No! I already told you why I called. I thought if I never see you again…if I were to die, I would die with you never knowing how I feel about you.”
“But I will see you on Monday and you can say this to my face.”
“You don’t know that.”
“That you will ever see me again.”
“Omar you are strange. But if it makes you feel better I always knew you had a crush on me. I just never thought you’d tell me.”
“Well, I’m telling you now. I really like you, Nicky. What do you think about that?”
“I will tell you when I see you.”
“Tell me now!”
“OK…fine. I think you’re cute. Let’s talk some more on Monday.”
Omar sighed heavily.
“What’s wrong? “Nicky asked.
“Tell me. Are you going to start this by keeping secrets from me?”
Omar looked at the time again. three minutes left.
“It’s too late.”
“Why? What do you mean? Are you in trouble?”
Omar remained silent.
“Omar please tell me.”
“Yes…I am involved with some guys.”
“What? What is it? Is it drugs?”
“No, but I have to leave in less than two minutes.”
“Omar, please tell me. What is going on?”
“Goodbye Nicky…I love you.”
“Stop!” Nicky cried. “If you love me you’d tell me!”
Out of nowhere uncontrollable sobs wracked Omar’s body.
“I’m meant to kill them.”
“The kids…as they come out of school.”
“I’m in a van…and I’m meant to run them down right now.”
“OMAR PLEASE GET OUT OF THERE! PLEASE I BEG YOU!”
Just as the kids began to troop out of their school gate something in his head clicked and he knew he knew he wanted to see her again.
He pushed the door of the van wide open and began to run with the phone held tight in his hands.
He dashed past the school, and down an alley. The first man caught him as he was about to vault over a fence. The stabbing began.
“Traitor!” they all hissed and spat as they jabbed him with their knives.
It was over in less than a minute. The men disappeared leaving him drenched in his blood, the phone still in his hand. As the darkness the closed in, the last thing he heard was Nicky calling out.
“OMAR! OMAR! WHAT’S GOING ON? OMAR!”