By Akpan-Nya, Alexandra Emem
The next morning Lara woke up too late to bother about imaginary peeping Toms. She bathed and dressed up at the speed of light and hurtled out of her house with her shoes and backpack in her hands. Her toes twitched on dew-wet grass as she hurried towards her car and she winced when she remembered her face was fresh and bare, but she decided that whenever she met slow traffic, she would pause to pull on her shoes and apply a little make-up.
“Ah! Aunty, good morning o.” The middle-aged security guard greeted her as she flung everything in her arms onto the back seat of her car and clambered in. The man grinned at her, his teeth stained with bits of wood splinters from the local chewing stick which he had been using. He pulled the stick out of his mouth, turned his head and spat in the direction of the nearest flower bush, which was unfortunately, close to Lara’s front door.
She watched in fascination, unable to tear her eyes away as the stream of saliva and chewed up wood landed beside one of the shrubs.
“This one wey you dey rush like this, e be like say you don late o.” the man continued, still beaming at her. In sharp contrast to her own crisp green dress, his blue uniform was faded from numerous washings and sun-bleaching, but at least he smelled clean, which was why Lara forgave his rhetorical question. She only wished he wouldn’t spit everywhere. The first and only time she had asked him about it, he claimed it was good manure for the flower shrubs and had proceeded to paint a nauseating picture to prove that his saliva was incredibly nourishing to plants. She had avoided discussing it since then. His teeth were incredibly white anyway, so he seemed to have a good thing going.
“Yes, sir. Good morning, sir.” she said, returning his smile as she started her car. “Can you please open the gate?”
Beaming, he obliged and she backed out of the compound. Just before she zoomed off past him, she considered asking if he had seen anyone loitering around her car the night before, but decided not to.
It was hard enough getting respect as a young lady living alone. She didn’t want to be thought of as an easily scared young lady living alone.
She was made of sterner stuff than that.
Ten hours later, she drove into the filling station she had sworn not to return to the day before, cursing under her breath and feeling very fragile.
She had almost driven past the filling station when her eyes wandered to her fuel gauge and shock nearly made her step on her brakes. Her car was practically running on fumes.
She was confused and a bit annoyed. She was sure her fuel tank had had enough petrol to last her for an extra day when she left her home that morning; was something wrong with her car? She had expressly settled for the Toyota Corolla because of its good fuel economy.
The line of cars moved and she eased closer to the fuel meter, gripping her steering wheel and biting her lower lip worriedly. This was not a good time to have a car that guzzled fuel; petrol was currently highly priced and hard to get.
The queue moved again and she reached the fuel pump, hoping it was manned by anyone else but the rude attendant she had met the day before. What was his name again….?
Lawrence. Her eyes travelled up from the name tag on his shirt as he turned from the meter to face her. For a moment his eyes ran over her in pure male admiration, and then she could see her annoyance mirrored in his eyes. She sighed to herself. Why did it have to be him manning this particular station?
She had been planning to buy just a few litres of petrol but as she stepped out of her car, irrational pride made her blurt, “Fill the tank, please.”
Lawrence’s expression barely changed as he slowly opened the fuel tank of her car and put the nozzle in. Lara frowned, wondering if he was trying to bait her again. She was the last car on the queue, so he had nothing to lose by moving at a snail’s pace. She glared at him and he smiled humourlessly at her, and then looked away towards the reading meter.
Lara tore her gaze away from his handsome silhouette and walked idly around her car, her heels clicking on the cement floor, as she checked her tyres. She paused at the back of her car and stared in confusion.
Dimly she heard him detaching the hose, closing her car’s fuel tank, and then walking over to her, but she couldn’t tear her gaze away from what she had noticed. Now she understood why her car had been burning up so much fuel all day. And she knew she had not imagined the person who had been skulking around her car last night.
Lawrence opened his mouth to tell Lara to pay and be on her way, when he noticed the look on her face. He followed her gaze and his eyes widened in surprise.
“Wow. Lady, that’s a huge hole running through both sides of your exhaust pipe.” He said in surprise. His gravelly baritone made Lara look up. “Did you drive over a bed of nails?”
“No, I didn’t.” Lara replied, still looking dazed. “But I think someone deliberately did that to my car last night.”
To Be Continue Tomorrow