“Lagos, Lagos, Lagos… Onitsha, Onitsha…” a cacophony of sound rented the atmosphere as various conductor lobbied for passengers. One of them was Labake, trailed by the guy who wheeled her luggage. “Ajuwaya! Where you dey go?” a conductor beckoned, “Lagos” Labake responded. At exactly 5:45pm, they were set for the journey…
“Abeg, e remain one bag o”, Labake charged the conductor. Soon afterwards, everybody started chattering taxi to their destination within Lagos, while Labake waited for the arrival of Demilade; “naughty boy” she soliloquized. Growing more impatient, Labake reached for her phone again. As she awaits the connection from the service provider, a car flashed her in the face. She was almost cursing when she spotted Demilade in the car… “Hahahahahahahah…” she screamed as Demilade alight from the car, welcoming her with a warm and soothing hug. “Welcome aunty Labake”, the driver greeted. It was a happy re-union. The road was so free, so in no time they were at home. It was a hug, patting, peck and kiss galore as everybody scrambled to have a feel of Labake. Though it was midnight, the planned party would still go ahead. In 30 minutes, Labake was out of the bathroom in her night wear, while her mum and sisters hurriedly fixed up the dinning. The dinning gist was getting more interesting… “Dad!”, “I’m serious Labake. Thank God you are back with the certificate minus Akpan!” Labake’s father said jokingly, while the rest laughed their ribs off. It was a long night in their house. Two days later, the atmosphere was back to normal. Labake was no longer a new bride.
Labake now works with SFH. One day she returned from office only to discover something new, “Mum! Who placed a letter on my bedside locker?” “Oh! I forgot to tell you, it was your dad. It’s from Akwa-Ibom.” “Akwa what!” Labake exclaimed as she motioned towards her mum in the kitchen. She opened it, and to her surprise, it was an invitation letter engineered by the Matron. A new government is in place, and on recommendation, they had wanted some former Corps members who showed promise to come execute a project for them. Obvious in the body of the letter, she wasn’t the only one invited for the project. The offer was actually mouth watering that she did not even think twice, “Mum, I’ll go for it!” Labake exclaimed. Well, let your father return so we can discuss this as a family.” “Mum! Dad wouldn’t stop me, will he?” “I don’t know…” her mother said, making her way to the dinning. Labake lost her calm as she awaits her father’s arrival. Soon, the family was at the dinning. They discussed Labake’s invitation through the dinner. She was more than happy when her father consented… “Anyway, you can go. But this time around I wouldn’t mind an Akpan.” “Dad!” Labake sounded embarrassed as the dinning quaked at her sibling’s funny response. There has been an argument in the house of recent, on Labake’s inability to tie down a man for marriage. She used the remaining days in the week to pack her bag. Sooner than expected, Labake was out of Lagos already.
Labake travelled aboard unique airline. The airport still wears a Heathrow look as it was not up to a year yet that it was commissioned. In no time, almost every passenger had gone. Labake was still gazing around when she felt a hand on her back. She turned around only to see Mrs. Sunday Uwem, her dear Matron… “Mummy!” Labake shouted as she couldn’t believe her eyes… “My daughter, I told you! I said you’ll be back here very soon. Shey you now see that am right?” Labake was so filled with joy that all she could do was walk into Matron’s arms. It was a warm and reflective hug. The two of them reflected on the past, while their car breezed through the beautiful roads of Uyo. Her hotel accommodation was superb, a 5 star one it was. Indeed, it was a home coming!
It was the project briefing morning and almost everybody was already seated: the commissioner for health, members of the “imported” project team, of course Labake inclusive. The only exception was the First Lady of the State, Commissioner for Women Affairs and Kunle Smith, the leader of the project team. He had a flight hitch, which delayed his arrival. As their car halted at the conference center, one of the protocol officers quickly made his way to the briefing hall to signal their arrival to the commissioner for health. As the protocol officer put his mouth to the commissioner’s ear, he sprang up from his seat…”Ladies and Gentlemen, I was just told that Her Excellency and her team are here…” in a student-like manner, everyone re-adjusted their sitting posture. In 5 minutes they were in session already. From her countenance, it was obvious Labake couldn’t comport herself any longer from the moment she saw Kunle Smith enter the hall. The session lasted for hours, but all through it, the first lady and the matron never missed the cue. Kunle and Labake sounded so incoherent when it was their turn to assess and comment on the project blueprint. They however both had their faces saved by the First Lady, who made excuse for Kunle. At exactly 3:47pm, Kunle was called upon to close the briefing…”this has always been our passion. So, on behalf of the entire project team I say, Akwa-Ibom be our guest.” The inspiring speech no doubt, overshadowed his earlier goof, as a thunderous applause rented the hall. In quick succession, the cars present at the venue made their way to the team lodge; a befitting accommodation provided by the state government.
“Psooopsooo… psooopsooo…” Kunle whistled across the living room as he took the last spoon of meat meal in his plate. Suddenly, his door bell rang…”grang grang…” “Yeah! Who there?” Kunle sounded Rastafarian. The sound of the music that rented his apartment however did not let him hear who’s at the door. As Kunle opened the door, he almost slammed it as he saw Labake, but she hurriedly entered though not violently. As if on impulse, Labake went down on her knees sobbing…”Kunle, I’m sorry, am truly sorry.” “Oh! Save me. I don’t need your…” Kunle cuts as Mariam entered the living room from the kitchen. “Oh ho ooo… what do we have here, a movie scene?” Mariam said sarcastically. “Oh, sorry I don’t wanna be a part of this potter’s house scene. Kunle please, don’t forget to copy me the file, see you tomorrow!” Mariam said closing the door behind her. “Labake leave, please leave my apartment right away” “Kunle hear me out, I said am sorry. I can explain…” “Explain what?” now an emotional outburst… “Explain what? Explain how you made a mess of my final year on campus? Explain why you jilted me two weeks to my final exams without any reason. Go on! Go on and explain!” The floor beneath Labake was wet from her tears already, yet she sobs still. Kunle continued unbolting his emotions… “No! Go ahead! Explain why it was needed that I lose my 2:1 to our relationship; explain how you ended up with Kelvin my spiritual brother. I lost interest in life because of that. I lost my creativity, my peace, joy, name it! Explain why I deserved the 3 years emotional wreck I’ve suffered” “Oh no, Labake you are a disgrace to womanhood, a disappointment to God. I hate you!!!” Kunle screamed. Labake was already a shadow of herself. She has sobbed her soul dry, and wept her spirit weak. The next 2 hours was a mixture of emotional songs and talk. It was a serendipitous evening.
Throughout the past 4 months, Kunle had maintained a very cold attitude towards Labake. Now is the time for the project team to have their first, but short, break. One week it is, and the famous Obudu ranch resort is the destination. Everybody definitely has something up their sleeves, as they were all determined to enjoy every moment of their break. The first night wasn’t that loaded as it was a dj night, all sort of slow music rented the air all through the night. Everybody has been busy discussing Kunle and Mariam, both sitting at particular corner. They’ve been too noticeable in the last four months. “I know that he loves me ‘cos he told me so…” Destiny Child’s Brown Eyes rented the air, suddenly Mariam noted and called his attention “Kunle, look at Labake, she’s right over there” she pointed towards Labake’s direction. “Go boy, go for the kill!” A fully charged Kunle stood up and motioned towards Labake’s table where she sat alone. “Can I?” Kunle pointed at the chair. “Eh, Kunle! Sure you can” an excited Labake offered a chair. “Labake, I’ll be straight. I know it’s been tough going down this road. I know we’ve both had our share of the offerings of this disappointment. But you know what; I had expected this all along. I believe this was going to happen. This is fate. I think am through, crying over you. All I wanna do now is smile and embrace the future” now in a subtle voice, Kunle suddenly knelt down and said “Labake… will you marry me?” understanding her unspoken fear, Kunle looked towards the direction of Mariam and said “oh, Mariam? Never mind. She’s just a friend, a good one though. She’s been my… call it emotional therapist. We both had our youth service here 3 years ago, and she’s happy about this. So, I’ll say it again, Labake will you marry me?” “Yes! Yes! Yes! I will. I’ll marry you. They both clung to each other in a hug battle, while Mariam smiled her heart out at the other end.