This story is by chinasa udensi and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
‘Somebody help!’ Njide screamed as the stalker drew closer.
‘Nobody is going to hear you,’ he laughed dryly.
He bent towards her as he stroked her hair with one hand, and with the other, caressed her cheeks.
‘Coward!’ a more agile man tore through the bush, and pounced on the stalker man from behind.
‘Coward!’ he repeated and this time around, landed several blows on his prey. ‘I will teach you a lesson of a lifetime…’
And like a bolt out of the blues, the stalker wriggled with all his might and flung his lanky hand on the face of his attacker. As the latter staggered to the ground, the stalker took to his heels.
‘Come back here, you bastard,’ he thundered, but it was already too late as the man had already disappeared into the dark.
Wiping off the dirt off his body, he turned towards Njide exhaling heavily.
‘I hope that bastard didn’t harm you?’
She shook her head still trembling from shock. He brought her to her feet and then led the way towards the main road.
‘Thank you for rescuing me. God bless you.’
‘That’s okay,’ he smiled, ‘my name is Buchi; and your name?’
‘That’s not important,’ she muttered, still trembling from the shock’.
Buchi tossed from one side of the bed to the other, unable to sleep. The crucial assignment which brought him to Ameke village occupied his mind that night.
‘You have no other business in Ameke village other than reclaiming your late father’s palm oil plantation from Duru,’ he recalled his conversation with his uncle the previous day.
Night time was the best time of the day Buchi likes thinking; and luckily for him, Nigeria was experiencing the season of shorter days and longer nights. Although there is no specific name for that season in Nigeria, yet he knew it was called autumn according to the several foreign books he had read.
All of a sudden, the picture of the girl he rescued from the rapist intercepted his thoughts. What’s the big deal about her name that she couldn’t disclose? He pondered.
‘Buchi, business before pleasure!’ he cautioned himself, ‘this is not the right time to fantasize over any girl!’
The next day, he hurriedly dressed up for the mission ahead of him.
The palm plantation was busy as ever when he finally arrived there, and luckily for him, he met with the alleged cheat, Mr Duru.
‘Good day sir,’ Buchi greeted.
‘Good day, young man. How may I help you?’
‘Sir, please, is there any vacancy here?’
‘I’m sorry, young man; there’s none.’
‘Sir, I don’t mind doing any odd job,’ he persisted.
‘Young man, I said no!’
And just as Buchi was about to leave, he ran into the Duru’s niece at the entrance.
The duo stood for a while staring at each other.
‘Njide, do you know him?’ Duru asked his perplexed niece.
‘Yes, uncle, he was the man I told you rescued me from the rapist.’
Duru looked from his niece and then back to Buchi.
‘Thank you very much, young man, I’m very grateful.’
‘You’re welcome, sir,’ he answered and was about leaving when Duru called him back.
‘Actually, the reason I told you there wasn’t any vacancy before was because of the unpleasant experience I had with some of my workers recently; and since then, I had been very sceptical on whom to employ. But knowing that you rescued my niece goes to prove to me that you must be a very good man.’
The world indeed is a small place! Buchi pondered, as he stole a glance at the young pretty lady.
‘Please, what’s your name?’ Duru asked.
Buchi pretended as though he did not hear the question. Having giving out his real name to the girl the day they met, he quickly came up with a false surname.
‘Sir, what did you say?’
‘What is your name?’ Duru repeated.
‘Okay, Buchi Udechukwu, please see me tomorrow morning and let’s talk.’
‘Thank you, sir!’
The moment he turned to leave, Njide turned towards his direction.
‘Buchi, thank you, once more.’
‘That was the least I could have done,’ he smiled as he left.
Buchi, resumed work the next day at the plantation, after finalizing with his boss. Somewhere in his heart, he could feel a connection with Njide; his boss’ niece.
‘I’m here for a serious assignment,’ ‘he reminded himself.
Although several opportunities to execute his revenge mission came up for Buchi, in the course of his work, yet he discarded them all without knowing why.
Is Duru really a cheat? His restless mind probed, or is my feelings for Njide distorting my judgment?
‘Time would tell,’ he muttered to himself.
‘Tough times has a way of bringing the best out from a person,’ Buchi overheard one of the workers discuss with another colleague one day at the plantation.
‘Why do you say so?’ the colleague asked.
‘As the oldest man in this plantation,’ the man continued, ‘my relationship with Duru started from Ejima village, before he fled to this village.’
‘A certain bad man, called Njoku, was after him…’
Buchi shuddered the moment he heard the mention of his uncle’s name.
‘Njoku, killed his younger brother, Obi, out of envy,’ the man continued, ‘and after that, he took possession of his farmland…and then when our boss, Mr Duru challenged him, he sent hired assassins after him, and it was in the course of running for his dear life, that he finally settled here in Ameke village, and through sheer hard work, he had been able to set up this plantation.’
Goose pimples came over Buchi, as he listened to the startling revelation. He felt very sad throughout that day.
‘I’ve been fooled!’ he wept in his room, ‘uncle Njoku killed my father?’
Njide, on the other hand, had intended going back to the city a day after Buchi resumed work at the plantation, but there was something about the young man which made her alter her plans.
‘Is this love that I’m feeling or mere infatuation?’ she asked herself several times.
Njide sighed. The painful memory of the loss of her fiancé a year ago was still very fresh on her mind to accommodate any room for love.
And still in that confused state, her mother’s favourite song, flashed across her mind:
‘Risk is actually inevitable in this world…
If this life is full of risks, then falling in love isn’t risk-free either…
So don’t be afraid to fall in love when it comes knocking at your heart…’
The memories brought a wave of fresh hope upon her; and at that moment, a broad smile played across her face. Watching as the dry leaves fall off from their trees, Njide remembered how several years ago, as a kid, she and her siblings had wondered why the leaves were falling off the trees.
‘Life is in seasons,’ her mother had replied back then, ‘a time to lose and also a time to regain. When the leaves fall, the world is surrendering; letting go of pieces and parts that can no longer serve in a positive way, but as time goes by, the leaves will come back again…’
‘Is this now my season of falling in love again?’ her mind quaked; afraid to admit the truth.
The startling revelation Buchi gathered about his boss, Mr Duru made him sober.
‘There’s nothing left for me here,’ he muttered to himself, ‘it’s about time I put an end to this fruitless venture…’
All of a sudden, the image of Njide darted before him. He shrugged his shoulders.
‘Buchi, you’re not a gold-digger!’ he reminded himself.
With a remorseful heart, he approached his boss the next day.
‘Sir, I’m very sorry,’ he began, ‘I came here with a false mission…’
Buchi later confessed everything to him.
‘You mean Njoku Okechukwu is your uncle?’ Duru asked in astonishment.
‘Yes sir. I don’t feel worthy to work here anymore…please permit me to take my leave.’
‘Buchi, i would miss you badly,’ Duru confessed, ‘and I can bet there’s none who would miss you the way I do.’
‘It’s a pleasure working with you, sir,’ Buchi admitted as he picked his bag to leave.
He had barely left the vicinity when he detected that someone was following him.
He turned instantly and there stood Njide wearing a solemn look as though mourning a loved one.
‘Why are you leaving without saying goodbye?’
‘I’m sorry,’ he avoided her eyes as he spoke, ‘but what difference does it make anyway?’
‘A…whole…lot of…difference,’ she stammered.
‘Because it’s not only uncle Duru that would miss you…’ she blinked back the tears.
‘Who else would, Njide?’ Buchi’s curiousity soared.
‘I… would miss you too,’ she blinked back the tears.
Buchi held her hands tenderly. His heart melted like the cooking oil under heat.
‘Njide, I love you,’ he confessed.
‘I love… you too,’ she bit her lower lip.