By Akpan-Nya, Alexandra Emem
“Mr Man! Are you okay at all? What are you trying to shove me down for?”
“Madam abeg shift that keg comot for that place! No be me first you come?! No be to dey speak big English for here.”
Lara scowled at the man who had nudged her aside roughly. The man glared back, his eyes as red as the faded t-shirt that was plastered to his body. The queue at the petrol filling station was chaotic, but Lara was certain the man had not been in front of her.
As she watched, enraged, the man shoved a plastic jerry can forward and the fuel-pump nozzle was immediately deposited into it. Lara felt a twinge of anger as petrol began to gush into the container.
“Excuse me!” she called out to the male fuel attendant as he noisily withdrew the nozzle and turned to lazily punch numbers into the meter keypad. “Didn’t I come here before this man?”
The attendant threw her a cross look, then raised an arm towards his forehead and wiped at the beads of sweat gathered there. The dripping hose in his raised fist deposited a few drops of petrol on the shoulder of his formerly-white shirt and he scowled at the spreading transparent stain in fresh annoyance. The mass of people on the queue waved their jerry cans in his direction, shouting and shoving.
“Excuse me.” Lara switched to her funky version of Pidgin English. “Abi you no dey hear me at all? I dey ask if…whether…”
“I heard you quite clearly, madam. No need to talk down to me.” the young man retorted. “You’re buying next, aren’t you? So, what’s the big deal?”
Lara felt her anger bloom. Again, she regretted the decision to stop at this filling station on her way home from work. But she had been unable to risk the chance that the local electricity provider would be blessing her neighbourhood with the usual darkness. She had been desperate to get fuel for her generator.
She bit her lip, and then hissed. “I don’t blame you, it’s because you have seen me here today. If not for this government, will I need to buy fuel for my generator? Anyway, that’s how you people always are. ‘What’s the big deal?’ Like you’ll pay for me. Very rude and inconsiderate.”
The young man rolled his eyes at her and scoffed, then roughly jabbed the fuel nozzle into the lid of her open jerry can. “Please, tell me how much fuel you want and let me hear word jor! The weather is too hot for female drama abeg.”
Lara swallowed a befitting retort and mumbled the price, running her eyes over the fuel attendant as he testily punched the buttons of the fuel pump again. She was surprised to notice that he was actually quite good looking; with slightly slanted eyes, ringed by long lashes, shining intelligently out of his smooth, dark face. His lips were taut with anger beneath a small moustache, but she could still see their fullness. The name tag on his faded uniform read ‘Lawrence’ and she idly let her eyes continue their journey, wondering why someone who looked good enough to be a model was pumping fuel. Her eyes widened in involuntary appreciation when he noticed how tall he was, and the way his muscled arms filled out his uniform in the right places, but she grabbed the interest that had surfaced and quickly choked it to death. This one had proved to be rude, so he might be dishonest as well, she thought, and shifted her attention to the numbers swirling on the pump meter screen to avoid being cheated. She had heard of cases where some fuel attendants pumped in air rather than precious fuel.
When the can filled, the fuel attendant jerked the hose nozzle out roughly, splashing petrol on her expensive flat shoes. Lara gasped in indignation.
“Oops.” The attendant said, straight-faced. There was no iota of contrition in his voice. “Your money, please.”
She stared daggers at him, and then thrust money into his palm. The other people in the fuel queue immediately jostled forward, pushing their fuel cans forward and cursing at the attendant as he took his time to slowly count out Lara’s change. She stepped back from the pushing crowd and glared angrily at the attendant, wincing at the oily feeling of petrol seeping between her toes and certain he was being deliberately slow to annoy her. Finally, he pushed her exact change at her and she grabbed it, letting her nails make contact with his skin. As she turned to leave, she heard him hiss audibly. She stalked off, hoping it was a hiss of pain and her nails had left a mark.
Nothing will bring me back to this useless place, she thought angrily as she pushed her way out through the crowd gathered at the fuel pump and stomped off towards her parked car, petrol-soaked shoes beating out an angry rhythm on the hot tarmac. Nothing. Nothing.
She was wrong. Fate had brought her there, and a chain of events had only just begun.
When her car swung out into traffic, taking her home, another car came to life from where it was parked and followed her.
Trouble was going home with Lara George.
To Be Continue
Check back Tomorrow for more episodes.