On Trial – Episode 16
© Onyinyechukwu Mbeledogu
As though Kaira was being punished for her rudeness, there was an unusual traffic on the road. From what Kaira had heard, a tanker had fallen just after the Airforce Bridge and the road was sealed off and so everyone was on Aba road or taking one short cut or the other.
She had stayed back at the office to work on a brief for the appeal of one of the criminal matters she was handling in Lagos. She made a mental note to take Rashidat’s advice to employ an additional counsel. The firm was getting more and more briefs which was good for business and so there was need for more hands.
Because of the traffic at Rumuola most evenings, she either waited until it was a bit late before heading home through the Aba Road or she would use the internal roads and link Garrison. However, because of the tanker that had fallen, she was trapped.
Cursing the careless tanker driver wouldn’t clear the traffic and so she didn’t bother. In addition to the existing traffic, stupid and impatient drivers formed additional lines stopping movement from the other side and adding as usual to the traffic that had built.
As though no one else was in a hurry to get home! she hissed.
She had considered linking GRA through the popular mummy B Road but the gridlock there was something else. The road was narrow and movement along the aba road was two times better. She had then tried going through Rumukalagbor only to meet another gridlock. The road leading to Nkpogu junction was blocked and wasn’t moving and she wasn’t even sure what the cause of that traffic was. Listening to the traffic announcement on radio, she realised that the short cuts on her way home were locked down in traffic. To make matters worse, she had been procrastinating in buying a CD Cleaner for her car’s CD player and now none of the radio stations was playing good music. She thought of Erhus’ apartment and remembered he was off shore.
‘ Na wa o. ’
‘I’m sorry for being so rude to him, Lord,’ she prayed, taking responsibility for this unusual traffic in Port Harcourt, not minding how ludicrous that was.
After over an hour on the road and with traffic now building on both sides of the road as a result of impatient drivers running on the wrong side of the road, she was able to turn left on the Rumukalagbor junction and return in the direction from which she had come. There was another traffic there but it was worse behind her. As usual people were cursing at each other, with some cars trying to get in front of her or push her out of her lane. When she’d first started driving, she had hated driving in traffic because a lot of cars would drive dangerously close and in a bid to avoid them she would find herself ending up without a lane until some kind driver had pity on her and made room for her to enter in front of his car. And yes, it was always a male driver. She had come a long way from that naïve driver she was at the time. But seriously, Port Harcourt drivers were the worst kind of drivers, pulling out from different sides of the road without giving any sign and then claiming their right when there was an accident.
She went into the Elekahia estate and met another traffic leading toward Ordinance road. Cars kept popping out from the different side roads and trying to link the major road at all cost. No one was controlling traffic. Where on earth were all those traffic marshals when you needed them?
She had been on the road for close to two hours now, burning precious fuel. The price of fuel had increased and no one drove anywhere unless one had to. She figured it would have been better if she had left her car at the office and taken a ride home. But then she had files she was taking home to work on over the weekend. She hated taking files home but she had so much to cover. There were final written addresses and briefs to work on and all hands were on deck. She could easily have returned to the office on Saturday but she didn’t want to make it a habit. Besides, she lived alone and her home was comfortable and private enough.
Yes, Quadri had jinxed her. The first time she had rejected his brief, her car had suddenly developed a fault and she found herself arriving late in court for the first time in her career and barely managing to convince the court to enter her appearance on its record book.
The second time she was rude to him was two weeks earlier. She wouldn’t go into the details but suffice to say that it hadn’t been nice and she had ended up going to bed with 2 slices of bread and butter for supper because she had burnt a good pot of delicious yam porridge that she had put in so much energy in preparing. She had dozed off tiredly in the living room, waking up to the choking smell of burning food. She had felt like crying but who crying help? Left with no other choice, she had opened the windows to let the smoke out.
Now, she was held up in traffic that reminded her of her years in Lagos or even worse. Call her paranoid but she was simply being a Nigerian, she believed that some kind of juju was at work whether intentionally invoked or otherwise. And no, she wasn’t going to blame her village people this time!
Whenever she was nice to him nothing spectacular ever happened to her. However, every time she wasn’t nice to him, something terrible always happened. Three incidents couldn’t be treated as mere coincidence. Remember the story of Jonah in the Bible? A ship was in danger of sinking with all of its occupants simply because Jonah shouldn’t have been on that ship. The calamity was resolved by simply tossing him out of that ship. Unfortunately this calamity couldn’t be resolved by throwing her out of her car! She was being punished by some higher force. Wasn’t someone allowed to have a bad hair day for crying out loud?
Traffic at night brought with it a lot of things. She had heard stories of people getting robbed in traffic which was why she had parked briefly once she noticed the traffic in order to move her bags from the car to the boot, leaving only her phone and files. She had tossed the phone in the enclosure between the two front seats. Right now, she retrieved it and plugged her ear piece to it. She scrolled through the numbers on her contact section and called the man who had jinxed her.
He didn’t pick her call and she refused to believe he was still angry with her. Where was the man who couldn’t stop teasing her? She called again, not sure exactly why she was calling him. It was almost midnight. He didn’t pick her call once more. Was he with a lover? He was carrying on as though he didn’t have a criminal case pending in court and so she wouldn’t be surprised if he was currently on top of a woman satisfying the needs that Laide didn’t want to. She frowned at that thought, pushing the jealous head threatening to rise within her.
Her phone rang and it was him.
‘Hello,’ his husky voice said.
He sounded drowsy and she thought, there she was held up in traffic and the cause of all her problems had been sleeping! Besides, what was he doing at home on a Friday night? Didn’t he have parties to attend or at least go to his club?
Women and their palaver, that aproko voice inside her head started again. If the man acts normal you complain that he’s not taking his case seriously. And now he’s home when he should ordinarily be hanging out with friends on a Friday night you’re still complaining. What exactly do you want from this man?
‘It’s Kaira Madukaife,’ she introduced unnecessarily.
‘I know. I called you remember? What do you want?’
‘I just wanted to apologise for my rudeness,’ she told him.
He was silent.
‘What? Aren’t you going to say anything? I just apologised.’
‘I heard you.’
‘What do you have to say about that?’
‘I may have woken you up but I refuse to believe you are that drowsy. And if you don’t want to talk with her lying next to you, you can cross to the toilet and talk to me from there.’
‘Who are you talking about?’ he enquired and she could swear that she had heard a hint of that familiar teasing tone. ‘Are you jealous Ms Madukaife?’
‘In your dreams.’
He laughed. ‘Don’t worry, I’m reserving that spot for you.’
‘ Anumkpama, ’ she cursed softly and he laughed. ‘On a serious note, I just apologised and I expect an appropriate response.’
‘Because you don’t usually apologise to criminals like me and you feel that I should feel honoured, right?’
‘Are you trying to punish me?’
‘Why would I want to do that? Where are you anyway? There’s so much noise coming from your end.’
‘I’m held up in traffic.’
‘Oh, I see. And you think I jinxed you.’
‘Did you?’ she returned.
‘We are in Naija. Anything is possible.’
‘Well it doesn’t matter who or what is responsible. What’s important is that I am stuck in traffic and it’s close to midnight.’
‘Where exactly are you?’
‘Approaching the traffic light before ordinance road from Elekahia housing estate.’
He breathed deeply.
‘Once you get to the traffic light, turn left and head for slaughter road…’
‘Slaughter ke? That should be the part I should be avoiding right now.’
‘Others would most likely avoid it and so it would be less busy. All you have to do is keep your windows wound up and the inner car light switched off and you’ll be safe.’
‘I still have to link Garrison from there,’ she told him.
‘Why continue with the traffic to Garrison when you can just stop at Peter Odili Road.’
Wetin concern me concern Peter Odili road ? She wondered and then remembered that his house was off Peter Odili Road.
‘Surely you aren’t suggesting that I spend the night in your home?’ her eyes widened at the implication.
‘That’s the least I can do. It’s really late and you’re not safe in traffic especially as a woman with a nice ride. You’re an easy target for touts cum robbers.’ He chuckled. ‘Besides, contrary to what you may have read on social media, I am not equipped to handle two women in one night. So you have to wait for your turn.’
‘Well take the address anyway. Just in case you change your mind.’
He called out the address which he had provided during the rehearsal. The street was familiar to her.
‘Although you feel you don’t have reason to trust me, I’m a better option right now. And be rest assured that I shall be the perfect gentleman and keep my bedroom door shut. But if I mistakenly sleepwalk into your bedroom please feel free to chop off that part of my anatomy you are most likely to miss more than I would do.’
‘ Agbaya . You’re sick,’ she told him.
‘I know and I’ll be expecting you.’
To be continued