Oma went to the last row of the bus and took the seat by the window. She didn’t take her shades off as she sat down; her eyes were red and swollen, she didn’t need curious glances. She counted the empty seats; five more to go then checked her wrist watch; 6:30am. She searched her bag for a novel; she needed to keep busy. If she stayed idle, she’d think and the last thing she needed was to be reminded that she had been a fool.
By 6:40am, the bus was full. The driver collected their tickets and passed the ‘Camelot Transport Company’ manifest around, and by 7:00am, the bus moved. Oma closed her eyes and bent her head in prayer when her bottom vibrated. She sighed, adjusted and dug her phone out of her back pocket; the black phone had a small mirror dangling from it. The caller id read ‘David’, her thumb hovered over the red button.
You’ll have to speak to him someday, her mind told her, and she pressed the green button.
“What??” she barked into the mouth piece, and earned herself strange glances from her fellow passengers.
“Where are you?” he sounded calm and it annoyed her.
“I’m on my way back to Cally”
“What? You’re going back to Calabar? How can you just leave without telling me? Oma, we need to talk” his calmness was gone now.
“No, we don’t” she told him, shaking her head.
“Yes, we do. You can’t just run off after everything that has happened”
“Oh can’t I? Of course not, you’d want me to stay so that you and that stupid bitch” more uncomfortable stares were thrown her way “can humiliate me more”
“It’s not like that, Oma” he was sounding tired now “It’s not what you think. Avon lied to you, nothing happened between us. We were just…”
“David” she called, raising a hand to stop him as if he was in front of her “Why don’t we skip the part where you try to deny that you didn’t sleep with her? And I start to lay out all the evidences I have against you. Then you try to make silly excuses about them. And we end up arguing back and forth. I know you did it, you know that I know. So please, don’t insult my intelligence, the least you can do is apologize for what you did”
“If you wanted an apology, why didn’t you pick up my calls since?”
“You’re a fool” Oma hissed, her cheeks burning hot. She caught the driver’s eye in his rear view mirror and cleared her throat “You know what? I can’t talk about this right now. I’m on public transport”
David was about to tell her that it was a little too late for that but cleverly decided against it.
“Fine, just call me when you guys stop to eat. Maybe when you get to Ore, you can… ” the line went dead in his ear. David gritted his teeth in frustration and snapped his phone shut. He stared at the device for a long time, wondering if he should call her back. A part of him wanted to just let go and move on with his life, it seemed easier than facing the consequences of his actions however he couldn’t let Oma go. Though their relationship was a volatile one, she was still very special to him; like a sidekick he couldn’t do without. They’d only been together –on and off- for two years but she knew him more than anyone else. She had the ability to rile him up faster than anyone he knew and she also knew how to calm him down even when he was in his worst mood. She meant a lot to him and he was sure he did to her; even if she failed to express it.
He stared at the phone again then pushed it aside. I’ll call her later he decided and tried to focus on the pile of work on his table. By 1:25pm, he impatiently picked up his phone.
“Hey” he said when she picked “where are you?”
“Benin? Wow, you are halfway there. Have you stopped to eat? ”
“Okay, umm…so you’re back in the bus?”
“Will you stop answering me in monosyllables?” David shouted “I thought I told you to call me when you got down. We need to talk”
“Seriously, David. You can do whatever you like with your life. I don’t care if you sleep with all the girls….”
“You don’t care?” he shouted “You don’t care if I cheat on you?”
Oma did more than care, it pained her. Her heart was broken and she was hurt like never before.
“No, I don’t…” she began but David didn’t let her finish.
“That is my problem with you” David was screaming now “you always act like you don’t care when I know you do. You act like our relationship means nothing to you, like this is all a game to you”
“Yes, make it my fault” she was shouting too. She didn’t bother hiding the despair in her voice and didn’t care if all the other passengers looked at her like she was crazy “It’s my fault you cheated on me”
“Baby, I’m sorry, so sorry. I made a terrible mistake with Avon but she means nothing to me; she was just something I used to get back at you”
“Why? What did I ever do to you?” she asked him, her voice cracked and she fought back the tears that threatened to spill.
“It’s what you didn’t do, love. It’s what you didn’t do. It wouldn’t have hurt, if you for once, showed me that I was somehow important to you. That I’m not just one of the guys in your basket, that I’m not just a toy you keep aside only to remember me when it’s necessary”
“But it wasn’t like that” she sniffed, wiping her tears from underneath her shades “I never treated you like that”
“Babe, you did” his heart tightened at the sound of her cries. He wanted to stop, but he wouldn’t be doing them any good if he didn’t tell her how he felt. “For like a month I wouldn’t hear from you and when I call you, you’ll act all vague and shy probably because you had found a guy who seemed nice at the moment and then when it doesn’t work out the way you planned, you remember me and start acting all loving again”
Oma swallowed but didn’t talk, what was she going to tell him? She couldn’t deny it that what he was saying wasn’t true.
“Babe” David called.
“I don’t…” just then a van carrying steel rods tried to overtake their bus. Oma, for a moment wondered if the driver didn’t know that it was wrong to overtake on a bend especially on a single lane.
“I don’t know what to say” she finished.
“Tell me that you’d give me a second chance. I’m sorry about Avon; it will never happen again, I swear to you. I’m sorry I broke your heart and made you cry, I deserve to be punished but don’t even think of breaking up with me because I won’t let you go. I want us to work this out but I need to know that your heart is in it”
An oncoming heavy duty truck appeared from around the bend; the van was heading straight for it, the truck immediately swerved to the left.
“I…” Oma started and at the same time looked outside her window. Oma’s scream pierced the air as she saw the truck head towards them.
“Oma!” David screamed, standing up from his seat. He heard various people scream in the background and then a loud thump. “Oma!!!” the line went dead.
The truck hit Oma’s side of the bus, instantly crumpling half of the vehicle. The collision broke Oma’s hip, shoulder, and spine. Shreds of glass flew into the bus with high velocity cutting flesh as it went. The small bus was then sent into a triple somersault; some of its passengers were thrown out through the window to land splat on the concrete road. With each tumble, Oma’s head hit the iron above her, causing her a major brain hemorrhage. The bus finally landed upside down in the middle of the road; it was bent out of shape and blood stained its remaining windows.
* * * * *
“Oma!!!” David screamed again into the phone “Jesus Christ” He ran into the next office.
“Meks, I need you help” his friend looked up from his computer; smiling but his expression changed when he saw David’s face.
“Dave, what’s up?” he got up from his seat, concern written all over his face.
“I was talking to Oma just now. The…the next I heard was her screaming and then the line died” he stared at his friend, waiting for the other man to understand his suspicion. Emeka did, but didn’t let his worry show.
“I’m sure it’s nothing serious. Here” he handed David his own phone “Use mine to call her”
David took the phone and quickly dialed her number – he knew it by heart. There was only static and after a while, a computerized voice came on to tell him that the number was unavailable.
“It’s not going. It’s not going” he was close to hysteria now. What if something had happened to her? What was he going to do?
Then his phone rang; it was Oma.
“It’s her, she’s the one calling me” he announced to his friend and without waiting for a reply, he ran back to his own office and picked the call.
“Yeah” the voice on the other end of the phone was faint and distant and there was a crackling noise in the background. But David could recognize her voice anywhere. It’s her, he thought, and not someone calling to tell him that there had been an accident. The relief he felt almost stopped his heart; and that was when he made up his mind to keep her forever.
“Babe, you scared me” he sat back on his seat, reflexively clutching his heart “I heard you scream and I thought something bad had happened.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry. A truck somehow hit us.”
“A truck hit you?” David asked incredulously, covering his other ear. “Are you alright? Did something happen to you”
“No, I’m okay. Listen, I want to tell you something. I’m really sorry”
“Sorry about what?” David shouted into the phone “Babe, you need speak up. I can’t …”
“I’m sorry for not treating you right, I know I played with you but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love you. I really do love you maybe more than you’ll ever know,” her voice was so sad; David looked for a way to comfort her.
“I know babe, and I love you too.”
“I was just being stupid and I was also scared” It sounded as if she was sobbing.
“Scared? Oma I can’t hear you; you really need to speak out”
“I said I was scared. What I felt for you scared me and I didn’t want to show my feelings to you because I thought that you might take advantage of that fact. I didn’t want my heart broken but I want you to know th…” her voice broke “you really mean a lot to me. And I hope that you’ll forgive me for not telling before”
David couldn’t believe his ears “Babe, I don’t need to forgive you for anything, this is what I’ve been waiting to hear from you. I’m glad you told me how you feel and I’ll surely make up for all the wrong I’ve done to you. I’m so sorry about Avon; we’ll talk about it when I come home this weekend”
“Yes, to Calabar” David answered, he has never felt this happy in his entire life “Home is where you are, babe. Home is where you are”
The noise was louder now, but David managed to hear a faint “I’ll always love you, no matter what”
“I love you too, babe. See you soon, and tell that driver to be careful”
* * * * *
The inspector stood in the middle of the road and watched the activities of his men. They had sealed off the road, carefully navigating all the cars to follow the other lane. He looked around and shuddered inwardly. Bodies were lying on the road and there was blood everywhere. No one knew exactly how the accident had happened; eye witness stories were not corresponding. All he knew was that three vehicles had been involved; a heavy duty truck which had been lacking a driver when they’d arrived, a van and a small Toyota bus. Fortunately, his unit had come with a doctor; in case of survivors. He looked back at the doctor; the man was bent over a body probably checking for any signs of life. The Inspector shook his head at the hopeless situation and was about to look away when a gleam caught his eye. He squinted and moved towards the shiny object in the grass. He squatted, picked up the phone and examined it.
It must have belonged to one of the victims he thought, noticing the specks of blood on it.
It had a small mirror dangling from it and the screen was badly cracked but a red light was blinking at the top. Not sure about his reason, he put the phone to his ear.
There was only static but then he thought he heard something and listened closely.
“We’ll talk about it when I come home this weekend”
“Hello” the inspector shouted “Hello?”
“Yes, to Calabar. Home is where you are, babe. Home is where you are.”
Is he not hearing me? The inspector thought “Hello, who are you? Can you hear me?”
“I love you too, babe. See you soon, and tell that driver to be careful”
“What?” the inspector said but the connection was gone.
“Sir” someone called behind him. The doctor and one of his sergeants were staring curiously at him and the object in his hand.
The inspector waved his hand dismissively “Any survivors?”
The doctor shook his bald head, sweat making it glisten. “I would have been surprised if anyone had survived this disaster,” he said “They must have all died instantly.”
Grief washed over the inspector as he thought of the lives that had been lost.
These were ordinary people that had no inkling that today would be their last.
“Okay, let’s close this up” he called to his sergeants “We need to get in touch with C.T.C, and see if they can get us the names of the passengers. We have to start notifying their families”
He stared down at the phone in his hand and suddenly found his vision blurred with tears.