By Akpan-Nya, Alexandra Emem
Lara drove her car expertly through the busy evening traffic, humming along to a song playing on the radio. She was proud of her skill behind the wheel and loved to match wits with the crazy Lagos bus drivers and other impatient people trying to get home from work. She was always on alert and mindful of every other vehicle around her.
But she failed to notice the dark blue Honda Civic that followed her all the way home, staying no farther than four cars behind her; a major feat, considering the unpredictability of Lagos traffic.
The sky had gotten dark when she drove into the gated compound where she lived in Ikeja, and she heaved a sigh of relief as she parked. The windows of her neighbour’s apartments were lit brightly and there was none of the usual rumble of generators that drowned out the evening sounds of nature.
She leaned over and grabbed the backpack containing her laptop from the backseat, and then climbed out of her car and locked it carefully. She paused to retrieve the petrol she had bought from the trunk of her car and hissed to herself as she remembered her encounter with the rude fuel attendant called Lawrence.
“Trust there to be light now, after I struggled to buy fuel and that idiot soaked my shoes.” She murmured to herself as she hefted her backpack and the sloshing fuel can into the house, thinking of the best way to clean her shoes.
Outside the compound, the dark blue car that had followed her home idled, engine purring, for a few minutes, until the driver was convinced Lara wasn’t going out again. Then the car’s engine rumbled and fell silent. The car door opened, and two booted feet emerged. Hateful eyes narrowed as they examined the compound Lara had driven into, as though trying to pierce her through the walls and cement.
Trouble had discovered where Lara lived.
“Mummy, I’m fine. You worry over me too much abeg.”
Lara was seated on her sofa, dressed in blue shorts and a white t-shirt with her hair tied up into a messy bun on top her head. She was bent over her knees, and carefully painting her toenails in a muted shade of red. Her mobile phone was propped up against her right ear by a shoulder and her mother’s voice purring through the small speaker made her roll her eyes.
“Lara, don’t blame me. You’re a young woman living on your own. What mother wouldn’t be worried eh? And I had a bad dream about you last night…”
Lara’s concentration slipped and the small brush she was using to paint her toes shifted, leaving a smear on the side of her foot. She held back a hiss and dropped the brush.
“Mummy, seriously. I can’t take any more of your dreams and visions. I agree they are not ordinary. They sound so…..feverish! I recommend malaria medicine abeg.”
Her mother laughed and Lara felt an answering smile tugging at her lips. She had moved out from the small home where she had lived with her mother a month ago, and she understood why the woman was concerned. But it was way past the time to leave her mother’s apron strings; the only person left to convince was Lara’s mother herself.
“At least, if you had a good man in your life, I would feel better about you living alone.” Her mother fretted.
Lara’s smile disappeared. Her mother’s comment had brought back memories she preferred not to have in her mind. Memories of her last boyfriend and the man she had almost married. Bode.
Except he turned out to be scarily possessive, and yet ironically, an unrepentant cheat. He had been part of her motivation for moving to a new house and she had made her mother promise not to tell him where she lived.
“Maami!” Lara said warningly, “I hope you didn’t tell Bode where I stay now?”
“Ah, my dear, why would i?” her mother replied.
Innocent bewilderment coloured the woman’s voice, but Lara wasn’t buying it. She knew her mother still liked Bode, but she couldn’t blame her. Lara had deliberately spared her mother the sordid details of her ex-fiancé’s betrayal, so the woman was still holding on to the hope of reconciliation.
“Good. See that it remains so.” She said firmly. “And don’t worry about me, Maami. I’m fine, okay?”
When she ended the phone call less than a minute later, she felt a momentary longing to be with her mother, protected and loved. But she pushed the feeling aside. It was time to be independent, excel at her job and build a new love life from the debris that Bode had left behind. She would never be able to achieve that with her mother dogging her every step.
She sighed as she remembered her mother’s warning and dreams; despite her blasé attitude, the phone call had rattled her and she decided it would do no harm to do a final check on her windows and doors.
It was when she was securing the curtains beside her front door that she thought she saw a movement near her car.
She froze and then instinctively stretched a hand out, flicking off the light switch in her living room. The movement could be the compound’s security man or the guard dog, but she stood still in the pitch darkness and watched the area around her car, just to be sure.
The movement was not repeated.
Still, her heart thumped loudly in her chest. Her window curtains had been slightly ajar all this while. What if someone had been watching her?
To Be Continue By 3pm