Mr Lawson watched Pamela drudgingly change the second car tyre of the Mazda 626 that parked beside the gate of the workshop. He darted another suspicious glance at the young boy that stood beside his father pretending to be so absorbed with something in his phone.
Pamela knew that her actions had not fooled her father. Watching Mr Kalio drive in with his son, Daniel, into the workshop had sent the butterflies dancing in her stomach and she had smiled and blushed so stupidly before recalling her father was close by.
She knew why he had come; she had been so depressed that she had blocked everyone except Judy, her father and annoyingly, Eche. She had ignored Daniel’s calls and texts on countless occasions before finally putting him on her block list three days earlier. She suspected he even had a hand in his father’s flat tyre.
At the sight of her father, she had tightened her features and acted as though she had no idea who he was, but she was apparently not quick enough because the moment her father and Mr Kalio exchanged pleasantries and haggled the price for changing the tyres, he ordered her to handle it; something he never did.
After much drudgery, she tightened the last knot and gave way for her father to crosscheck what she had done. He gave her a momentary hard stare before squatting to have a look at the tyres.
As much as she tried to ignore Daniel’s figure about fifteen inches away from her, she could not. Risking a glare from her father, she slightly raised her head to take a proper look at him. He stood with one hand in his pocket and another typing incessantly at his phone keyboard; his hair cut low as usual, unlike Eche’s high crew cut. He actually did not have the looks like Echezona, but he was presentable with those ears of his that stood erect like those of elves in novels and animations.
She sniggered at the sight of them and bowed her head immediately; she just could not get enough of his ears. One look at him and all she could remember was the elf that fell in love with the fairy in the animation, Strange Magic.
“Pamela, come and have a look at this”, her father’s voice bellowed immediately.
She cleared her throat before walking towards him and squatting beside him. He smiled at her and pointed at the knots, “You tightened this so well, I’m proud of you”.
Pamela watched the fake smile spread across his lips and nodded feeling quite uneasy. He had offered that sinister smile on the day he had seen her sitting down with Eche five blocks away from the house. She had received three sound slaps before he dragged her home in the most embarrassing manner.
I did nothing this time; I just chuckled, she mentally defended herself even though her father had not said anything else to her.
She almost jumped back when he rose to his feet to walk to Mr Kalio who stood with his arm resting on the booth of the car. For a split second, she had feared he would hit her. She stood with arms akimbo and watched him pay her father the stipulated amount.
“Your girl is a very sharp one”, he commended with a smile of admiration as Mr Lawson nodded with a fake smile plastered on his face.
“Oh she is”, he replied as Mr Kalio climbed into the driver’s seat.
She helplessly watched Daniel climb into the seat beside his father. She had no idea how much she had missed him until she had set her eyes on him earlier. With a hiss of frustration, she walked towards the shed as the car made its way out of the workshop and onto the highway.
“Lawson”, she heard and stopped in her tracks with a heavy sigh escaping her. She straightened her face before turning to him. “Go to mama Nkechi and collect my balance of N500”, he ordered and walked away as she rolled her eyes and turned towards the gate.
Mama Nkechi was the best cook in the area and the Lawsons patronized her whenever Pamela was unable to prepare lunch before work. As she left the workshop still dressed in coveralls, she took out her phone and hurriedly unblocked Daniel. She so desperately wanted to hear his voice and possibly tell him all that had been going on.
She dialled his number and was about to click on the “call” icon when she heard a whisper behind her.
“Are you trying to call me?” his voice sounded like Jon Bellion’s music to her ears and she could not hold back the smile that quickly spread across her lips.
“Dan”, she called and turned to him but his stern look caused her smile to vanish. “What’s wrong?” she swallowed feeling uneasy under his steady gaze.
“How are you?” he ignored her and put out his hand for a handshake.
She began to shake her head, “Dan, I can explain”.
“Really?” he tilted his head to the right and watched her. He was a foot taller so she looked up at him apologetically.
She then shook her head and sighed, “No”.
“I guessed as much”, his voice was low but was audible enough for Pamela who stood an inch away from him with her head bowed instantly.
“I-I just”, she sighed and raised her head to him with her hands fidgeting in the pockets of her coverall. “I’m sorry, Dan”.
A sad smile sat on his face, “Well, you should be”. She bit her lips and struggled to maintain eye contact. “I mean I understand that you’re still trying to get over your relationship with Eche and I respect that”, he placed his right hand on his chest. “But that doesn’t mean you should shut me out completely”, his voice was heavy with emotion and Pamela felt guilt eating through her like termites through wood.
“I know that”, she nodded her head and sighed.
“Look Pam”, he stopped her and placed his right hand on her shoulder. “It’s okay if you’re not ready or if you don’t want to date me”, he felt a knot tighten in his throat at his last words; he was used to being rejected.
He was not the typical dream bad boy every teenage girl wanted; he was not even half as handsome as her ex-boyfriend was, it had taken a great amount of courage to tell Pam how he felt about her. With her history, he was obviously below her standards, but he had chosen to be optimistic yet his optimism was depleting slowly.
“I just don’t want to stop being your friend”, he begged in a low whisper as she smiled sadly and held his hand that rested on her left shoulder.
“We’ll always be friends”, her voice was low but convincing.
You’ve been given a special seat in the friend zone, Dannyboy.
He tried to conceal his disappointment with a wide grin. As much as he wanted to thank her, he could not bring himself to. “So, I guess I’ll see you around”, he muttered slowly and retrieved the hand he had placed on her shoulder.
“Sure”, she smiled and saw one of her father’s workers come out of the gate. “I have to go now”, he stared at her contemplating the suitable goodbye gesture when she simply rubbed his shoulder and turned to leave.
Judy and Eche sat at a table in the popular restaurant “Eat and smile”. She kept darting glances at her watch and Echezona who typed at his keyboard incessantly. As she watched him, she wondered for the umpteenth time why he always wore sweaters but chose to say nothing about it. “I think you should try and call again”, she finally said as Eche sighed obviously fed up of her constant distraction.
“Judith”, he called in a low tone and placed his phone on the table. “I called her three minutes ago”, he tapped his finger on the table for emphasis but Judy only frowned.
With how nonchalant he was acting, she was sure they were still angry at each other. “Look Eche, I know you don’t care about Pam as much as I do, but your phone is the only reason I’m begging you to use your brain and let go of your ego”, she eulogized as he opened his palms and stared at her perplexed.
“What in God’s name are you talking about?”
She hissed and slapped her forehead. “I just want you to call again and if she doesn’t answer, you send a text. Aren’t you worried about her? Remember someone wants her dead”, she tried to keep her voice from going higher than it already was.
Eche sighed and clasped his palms together. “If I didn’t care, Judith, I wouldn’t be here”.
She scoffed and rolled her eyes at him. “Need I remind you, you’re receiving notes as well”.
He frowned instantly, “I never forgot, but that doesn’t mean I’m not worried about Pam as well. I really care about her even though she can be really a handful sometimes”.
Judith only stared at him and without a word of reply; she bowed her head and heard the irritating sound of Eche’s phone keyboard once again.
She raised her head again, “Have you even told your mother?” she asked looking dubious with arched brows.
He did not look up from his phone. “We’ll talk about that when your friend gets here”.
Noting how absorbed he was in his chat, she decided to be nosy. “Who are you even chatting with?”
“Alice”, he smiled absent-mindedly and looked up at her wide eyes immediately. “I mean-”
“You’re still with Alice?” her voice was low and the disappointment in it was apparent. She sighed and bit her lips before she spoke up again. “Does Pam know this?” he bit his lower lip and scratched his forehead with his left hand.
He sighed and finally dropped the phone on the table, “Pam and I are still trying to sort things out. Alice is just”, he paused as he searched for the right words to say but none was forthcoming and Judy’s questioning stare did not help.
“If you hurt Pam, I’ll get you before this holiday killer does”, her finger shot up in the air as she cast menacing eyes at him.
He folded his lips to hold back the laughter; Judith was a clown even when she had no plans of acting like one. “I’ll remember that”, he told her with a straight face and saw her look beyond him.
“Finally”, she muttered as Eche sighed and licked his lips ready for whatever drama that would ensue between him and Pamela. He then noticed the look of bemusement on Judy’s face.
“What’s he doing here?” she whispered as Eche studied her before turning to see Pamela approaching their table with Daniel Kalio beside her.
Pamela smiled at Judy as soon as she caught sight of her. “She’s going to kill me”, she whispered to Dan whose eyes were fixed on Eche’s glaring eyes.
“I had no idea he was going to be here”, he whispered as Pam nodded with her eyes all over the filled restaurant.
“He’s receiving notes as well”, she finally said before they got to the table.
Her smile got broader as she stood before them. “I’m really sorry I took so long”, she rubbed her palms together and kept her pleading eyes on Judith who could not take her eyes off Daniel.
“Dan?” she called as though she wanted to be sure and Pam sighed at how Judith had completely ignored her.
“How are you, Judy?” he asked with a smile as Pamela pulled a seat next to Eche and sat so that Dan would sit beside Judith.
She smiled back, “I’m okay”.
He nodded and pulled the only available seat in between Pam and Judy; it was a square-shaped table so he found himself seated directly facing Echezona.
“Hey, Ech. What’s up?” he greeted casually as Ech nodded and raised his right palm in reply.
They all sat quietly with Judith’s eager eyes on the trio she sat with; she knew there was a drama scene brewing and with all the tension, that would be a source of comic relief to only her.
“So”, Pam began and turned to Echezona. “Have you finally spoken to her?”
Eche turned sharply to her with a glassy expression and then to Dan before facing her again. “What exactly is he doing here?” his fingers drummed impatiently on the table.
Pamela scrunched her face wondering whether to dignify his question with a reply; she decided against it and turned to Judy who just relaxed in her seat watching them with keen interest.
“He wanted to come”, she shrugged and turned to Dan who kept his eyes fixed on the table.
Eche sat upright and tilted his head to the left, “I don’t understand”.
Pamela slapped the table in frustration, “What’s there to understand?”
Eche turned to Judy for support but all she did was sit silently. “Forget it”, he finally said with a wave of his hand.
“Good”, Pam insisted and stared at him. “What did your mother say?”
He looked her up and down before replying. “She thinks someone is playing a prank on us”, he finally said as Judy banged her fist on the table.
“I knew it”, she said to no one in particular. She turned to Eche obviously annoyed, “Did you even show her the notes?”
“Durrh, I did”, he rolled his eyes at her as Pam placed her elbows on the table and held her face.
“This is bad”, her voice was near tears as she shook her head slowly. “This is very bad”.
“I think we should try and report to the police, I mean, what’s the harm in trying?” they all turned to Dan as though they were suddenly aware of his presence.
“Newsflash”, Judy raised both hands in the air. “I went to the police yesterday”.
“What!” echoed Pam and Eche with their eyes wide opened.
Judy facepalmed and pouted her lips, “I had to try; after that note, you showed me at Jane’s house, I knew we were in deeper shit”.
“Whoa whoa whoa, hold on. Why did you go to Jane’s house? I’m sure it wasn’t for a condolence visit”, Eche fixed his gaze on Judith, the idea bank.
“Judith actually came up with the idea of checking up on all the victims so we decided to start with our friend, Jane”, Pam explained as Eche stared at her with his features expressing utter surprise.
He then turned to Judith and heard Pamela say, “Why didn’t you tell me you were going to the police?”
“Well, I felt as if I was doing stupid so I did not want you confirming that and making me change my mind”, she explained as her friend exhaled loudly and silence followed.
“Well, did they believe you at least?” Dan finally asked as three pairs of eyes focused on Judy.
“His own mother didn’t believe him”; she nodded at Eche. “The officer definitely did not believe me; he’s also of the opinion that someone is playing a prank on you”, she explained as Pam sighed.
“So this is it, I guess?” she whispered with her eyes still on Judy half expecting her to say something.
Judy noticed the expectant look in her eyes and turned towards Eche only to notice the same look. She pulled back her head and turned to Dan, but he had his worried eyes fixed on Pamela. “I don’t understand why you’re both staring at me that way”, she shook her head with her eyes darting from one face to the other.
“I think it’s pretty obvious you’re the one with the big brains here, Judy. You’re our Sherlock Holmes”, Dan explained only to get a menacing glare from Eche, which he completely ignored.
“I really don’t-”
Eche cut in with pleading eyes, “Come on, you can come up with something”.
Judy bowed her head completely overwhelmed by the responsibility that lay atop her teenage shoulders. She then looked up at her friend and the two boys; they all had faith in her; in her ideas.
Think, Judy, think.
Daniel had his eyes fixed on Pam still aware of the scrutinizing eyes of Echezona; if only he knew Dan was not a threat to him. Pam still had her hands on her face, he struggled to reach for her hand, and hold on to her to convince her that everything would be all right.
How much he wanted to hug her and hold her till she was calm and devoid of worry; but that was impossible. He had boundaries and since he was willing to respect her decision, he was determined not to overstep them.
He was about to look away when he noticed droplets of tears on the table; he immediately reached for her, but Eche was quicker.
“Hey”, his voice was calm and soothing as he held Pamela’s arm with one hand and her face with the other. “Pam, don’t do this. You’re stronger than this”, she turned to him helplessly with sad eyes.
She shook her head slowly as he pulled his chair closer to her and she collapsed in his arms. “I’m tired, I don’t know how much longer I can hold on”, she sobbed and let the tears wet Eche’s sweater.
He patted her back and ran his finger through her loose braids, “You can hold on, Pam. I know you can; we can do this”, he placed his lips closer to her ears. “You and I Pam, just like old times, we’ll survive this”, he whispered with his lips grazing her earlobes lightly, but she was too glum to react.
She slowly nodded and tried to release herself from his hug but his grip was overpowering and not wanting to seem rude, she remained in his arms oblivious of Dan’s emotions.
Eche offered Dan a wry smile and buried his face in Pam’s hair only to raise his head instantly with his face squeezed in disgust. Judy who had been watching the entire drama all along tried to stifle a laugh but failed miserably and exploded into a peal of maniacal laughter that caused heads to turn in the direction of their table.
Pamela raised her head immediately to understand what was going on, but Judy certainly had not finished laughing. She pointed her finger at Eche and then laughed even more with tears welling in her eyes.
Eche pretended not to know why she was laughing and said to Pam whose questioning eyes were on him. “She’s finally gone berserk”, Eche rolled his finger beside his head and Pamela concurred immediately with a slight nod of her head.
“Brother”, she called when her laughter had reduced and hit her palm lightly on the table.
“This is Nigeria”, she said amidst laughter. “We don’t bury faces in girls’ hair; that only happens in the movies”, she reminded him as he chuckled and Pam laughed as well finally understanding the joke.
“Judith, you’re crazy”, she swore and turned to Dan who did not seem to share their joke.
Judy wiped the tears in her eyes and opened her palms, “I’m not and you know it. I mean, we sweat profusely and carry our hair for God knows how long and-” she turned to Eche and only ended up laughing again.
“I was trying to be romantic”, he excused still smiling while Pam reached for Danny’s palm under the table.
She held it and saw his features tighten before he pulled away from her grasp. She started to say something when Eche’s voice got her attention.
He sounded and looked serious as he spoke. “But really”, he paused. “Happy Hols! What does that even mean?” he repeated staring into space and then an eerie silence followed as though they were all thinking.
Judith broke into their thoughts with her right fist banging the table with a killer smile spread across her lips. She smiled so broadly that her eyes almost closed; and with that, Pam could tell she had an idea.
“That’s it”, her eyes sparkled as her finger shot up in the air. They all cast questioning stares at her impatiently. “Mr Belema Tamuno”, she called in a low voice as though she did not want anyone asides the three onlookers to hear her.
“Who is that?” Dan finally asked.
“He is the principal of our school”, she replied as though they were new students in Afobiri Secondary School.
Pamela pulled her head back and stared at Judy, for once dubious of how smart she was. “I don’t understand”.
“Hey, I’m not saying he’s the one though he always yells “Happy Hols!” at the end of the term”, she put out her palms quickly and then she pulled her seat closer to ensure she had their attention. “I just thought of him now and realized something”, she paused and observed them; nobody thought it wise to interrupt her. “We could get personal details about the other dead students from him”, all three pairs of eyes widened in unison.
“Wait”, Eche shot up a finger in the air. “That’s a very nice idea, but”, he waited until he had everyone’s full attention. “We’re on holiday; the school is closed”, he reminded them as Pam sighed and placed her head on the table in frustration.
“What happened to a break in?” Dan asked as though surprised that the school closure posed a problem.
Judy smiled at him and tapped him on his shoulder, “Good one, Dan”. Then she turned to Eche and then Pam who slowly raised her head from the table to look at Dan. “Finally, there’s someone here who’s as optimistic as I am”, she beamed ignoring Pam and Eche’s mocking eyes.
“Tomorrow, we’ll pay a visit to our school”, she announced half expecting someone to give a negative response. When she received none, she turned to Dan; she had already taken a liking to him. “You’ll come as well, right?”
He cast a glance at Pam and then at Eche before shaking his head, “I’ll pass; Pamela will tell me how it goes”.
Pam bit her lips and glared at him shortly before turning to Eche, “You’re in, right?”
He smiled at her, “Of course, I am. I’m not dying this holiday”. He then looked at Dan and twitched his left eye with a smirk on his lips.
Judy smiled at Eche and the positive energy that filled the atmosphere, “That’s the spirit”.
Written by M. E. N.
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