Curse of the Rose (Episode 3)

“He that would enjoy the scent of the rose must risk the prick of its thorn”
– Kanayo Anigboka (Kani)

Nkoli took a deep breath as she pulled back the door latch. She open the door gradually and stared at the space behind Salam avoiding her eyes. She glanced over at the nosy neighbour peeking from behind her door then down at her chipped red toe nails tapping nervously against the cold tiled floor. She felt Salam’s glare on her forehead until she gently pushed her aside and stepped into the pile of rubbish covering the floor of the sitting room; takeout bags, plates, ice-cream cups, chocolate raps, left-overs, dirty laundry. If Salam was disgusted she didn’t show it, she carefully made her way to the other end of the room and placed her bag on the coffee table covered with stains from old meals. She went into the kitchen and returned with bin bags ignoring Nkoli crouched in a corner. Salam began to stuff the bags with the rubbish, the crackling of the bag, breaking the tension in the room into tiny pieces. It was like déjà vu only it had really happened before, their relationship was punctuated by the same routine.
Nnadi swung his legs across the bed and sat with his head rested in his palms. He remembered last night. His head ached. He grunted and rubbed his temples.
  • Are you alright?
He turned and looked at the girl buried in a fluffy of quilt. 
  • Hey beautiful. How was your night?

She smiled knowingly and winked at him. There was a rap on the door.
  • Your cousin. The girl said as though he didn’t already know that

He grunted loudly and rubbed his temple again as the next bang filled the room.
  • What Afoma? He yelled, raising his head sharply
  • I need to speak with you. Afoma’s voice reached them muffled through the thickness of the door.
  • Can’t it wait?
  • No!

He knew it could wait but if he didn’t go to her, she would bang the door until the neighbours complained. He sprang off the bed and swung the door open. He saw Afoma retreating into the sitting room and he knew it was his cue to follow
  • What Afoma?
  • Upheveal is premiering today. Would you like to go?

Nnadi bit down on his tongue hard. He took a step forward and then backwards. His eyes popped.
  • This was why you dragged me out of my room in my boxers. This early?

She shrugged
  • You said I should let you know when the movie comes out. Didn’t you?
  • Yes but did you have to… couldn’t you wait till I came out or sent a ping?
  • Why would I send you a ping when we’re in the same house and I can just walk to your door?

Nnadi took a deep breath and stared at the ceiling.
  • You really don’t like her. It wasn't a question
  • How many times do I have to say that?
  • Why?
  • Why not? The girl is an akwuna
  • Afoma!
  • Yes! Is that not what she was to those guys until they got tired of her and booted her out
  • Afoma…
  • To think you would pick from their left over!

The sharp sound of the slap introduced a deafening silence. Afoma’s cheeks turned rosy as the blood capillaries beneath her skin swelled at the impact, tears from her eyes glazing over the rosiness.
Nkoli measured time with the ticking of the clock above her. She heard the clanging in the kitchen and hugged her knees lying on her freshly made bed. Soon Salam would open the door, a bowl of soup in hand. She would make her sip from it and Nkoli would swallow hard, each spoon more difficult than the last.  She felt the walls closing in. she won’t let it. Not again. She went to the window and looked down at the football field. It was Saturday and the poster families were out. Clutching lunch baskets and red checkered cloth for a supposed picnic which was in truth just a show of ‘see how happy we are’. Soon she would hear the happy smiles and shouts as the fathers played football and then the mothers, then they’d stand in groups and gossip about each other until darkness fell upon them and they’d wave at the night as they climbed back into their flats. She shut her window with an angry bang just as Salam opened the door.

Salam placed the soup on the table next to her laptop and walked over to the wardrobe. Chickensoup. Nkoli sipped the soup silently as she watched Salam dig through her clothes. She finally lay the black dress she wore at her last award ceremony on the bed.
  • Wear that when you’re done with the soup, we’re going out.

Nkoli paused, the spoon halfway to her mouth but Salam ignored her and walked back to the door.
  • One day I won’t be here. She silently shut the door

Hot tears filled Nkoli’s eyes. Her tongue became aware of the taste of the soup. Her fingers shook until they let go of the spoon and it dropped into the bowl with a splash, smearing her white laptop and the papers from her research. She clenched and unclenched her fingers then she grabbed the spoon. She scooped the chicken soup into her mouth, her tears mixing with drops of the soup from her mouth as they dripped back into the bowl.
As Nkoli granted her last interview for the night, she glanced over at Salam hurdled over with her agent at the book stand. She had a reason to be grateful. Her friends showed her the bright side of life. Here she was smiling again. She was glad that Salam had made her come. Hell, she was glad that she had opened the door to Salam that morning. She glanced back at the journalist in front of her waiting for the answer to his question. She smiled as she always did in such situations and rattled off the answer. She smiled and thanked him before he could say anything further and made her way to her friends.
Nnadi entered the lobby and he saw her standing on the red carpet talking to a journalist. She wore the black dress she had worn for the Splits award ceremony, looking more beautiful than ever. He reached for his anger but couldn’t grasp it. Of course he was still angry. He should be. She had embarrassed him and there was no reason he shouldn’t still be angry. He looked away and walked over to the book stand to browse through the books. His girlfriend, well guess he could call her that having spent an entire week in bed with her, was hanging on his arm, urging him to go into the theatre. Afoma marched ahead without a word. She was sulking that he had brought his girlfriend along. After he slapped her in the morning, they hadn’t said much to each other until at the car when she refused to get in because his girlfriend had sat in the front. He had never understood the deal with car front seats and women. He had had to ask his girlfriend to sit in the back so that he would have his peace.

He was about to give in to his girlfriend’s pull and go into the theatre when he saw her approach the book stand. For a minute he thought she was making her way to him, he should turn his back on her just as she had, she deserved that. But then he realised she was smiling at the two ladies standing next to him, not him. Why would she remember him? Of course she wouldn’t. He gradually turned away but a gentle hand on his shoulder stopped him.
Nkoli recognized him. The guy from the bookstore the previous week. She should apologise. Why? No need for it. He would have forgotten. Of course he hadn’t. How could he? She saw him turn away and tapped his shoulder before she could change her mind.
  • Hi

He stared at her blankly. Maybe it wasn’t him. Of course it was him. That eyes.
  • We met two weeks ago at the bookstore in Jaliki Mall. You remember?
  • We didn't exactly meet.
  • Sorry about that day. It just wasn’t a good day. I was…
  • It’s ok you don’t have to explain. He shrugged.
  • Sure?
  • I’m a huge fan. I’d forgive you if you rammed into my Porsche

Her eyes sparkled as she laughed. He forgot the girl hanging on his arm.
  • Hmmm. A gentleman who drives a Porshe. Must be magic day
  • Who says I am a gentleman. Wait till you hear my other jokes

Her laughter rang through the lobby and his heart swelled.
  • You know what, why don’t you employ me as your personal comedian. Just call me when you need a laugh; daytime, night time, midnight whenever. I’m at your service. No salary. Just consider it community development service. Your laughter could light up the world.

She laughed some more as she took his card and watched his back as he retreated. The girl on his arm was invincible.
  • He is cute! Salam and her agent chorused from both sides into her ears
  • Oh please! She said ignoring the fluttering in her belly.
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Reason alone can never understand two souls bound together with the cord of friendship.
  – Kanayo Anigboka (Kani)      

Story written by +Nnedinma Jane Kalu 
Nnedinma studied Biology but works as a freelance scriptwriter. She lives in Enugu from where she sees the world in the pages of books. She is a co-writer at the Radio drama series Purple produced by Flint Productions. She participated in the Writivism writing program 2014 and is an Alumini of the Farafina Creative Writing Workshop.

Kanayo Aniegboka

Kani is a Nigerian born and based minister, public speaker, entrepreneur and life coach. His keen and unique perspective to life issues makes him a refreshing voice to listen to. He currently serves as the Executive Coordinator of House on the Rock - Word House and sits on the board of a number of companies.

1 comment:

  1. I have a Salam in my life. Everyone needs a Salam. Nice read.