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Knives In || 𝑏𝑦 π‘†π‘‘π‘’π‘β„Žπ‘’π‘› π‘‡π‘œπ‘œπ‘β„Žπ‘–


I'VE HAD IT TO THE NECK. Christ! In my forty years on earth. How can this happen to me? How can it be from a close pal? I have known women to be harbingers of misfortunes. But never could I have thought that a man, a human with rising and falling phallus could perpetrate such heinous act against his type.

To think that he was my friend. The brother I never had. The one who squatted at my place when he arrived in Lagos. Who knew no one. We lived like brothers for three years, me believing I knew him. But alas, I didn't. 

Ugochukwu, may God punish you!

For me love was rare. Far-fetched. A terrifying and daunting idea. Until she came along. I couldn't tell what lured me to her. But I could tell that my heart sang a knowing song. A song that synced with hers. I loved her. And she did too. Never a hoax.

She was flawless before my eyes. An embodiment of beauty: chin slightly raised, arms and legs slender and graceful,... and those wide hips that swayed with sheer femininity. A babe laced with intelligence.

As I tell this story, I feel choked. Like a punch hitting my gut. I'm gagging because it just happened like a scene in a movie. The difference, however, had been that I witnessed it live.

I resent the day I introduced my fiancΓ©e, Uzoma to my buddy, Ugochukwu. If I had known that men aren't to be trusted and that I could be back-stabbed by the one I fed. I'd have saved their meeting for our introduction ceremony. But I was a free-minded person, and that naivety, that innocence had cost me big time.

It was a promising evening. An evening pregnant with certainty. One, of which was the coming of Uzoma. Uzoma was my light. The compass that helped me navigate through life. Her modulation of tongue enticed me. Her accent, a thick variant of Igbo that sends me sprawling with laughter most times. Her physical features were a balm to sore eyes. She was still an undergraduate, and that had limited our physical conversation. The telephone had served to an extent. During our last conversation, we chose names for our unborn children. 

And we were good.

Until that god-forsaken evening. When I lay stretched on my couch, munching popcorn and sipping a bottle of Coca-Cola with Ugochukwu. We were discussing a business project, when she sauntered in.

Her hair was tied in a ponytail. She wore light makeup, a fitting tee-shirt, Ankara trousers, complemented by a pair of blue sneakers.

Once Ugochukwu saw her, his eyes bulged in their sockets. He was obviously awed by what he saw. She mumbled a greeting to him and hugged me.

I did the introduction. She served the meal. When we were done devouring the delicacy she prepared, we had small talks. Those short dialogues gave Ugochukwu the chance to ask a lot of questions. Questions about

studies, dreams and whatnots. I wasn't bothered by the questions. All the while, I only revelled in the euphoria of having a super-intelligent girlfriend.

I couldn't tell when or where the bond formed. But I assumed that Ugochukwu's first visit to her school ignited it. It was the Lagos State University. And he told me of the visit even before she did.

Transparency at its best.

They became free in my presence. Threw banters at each other with no restrictions. I didn't care at all; rather I was happy. Whatever game they played in my absence worked pretty good because I couldn't and didn't smell a rat.

Not until Saturday.

Now, Ugochukwu had been bothering me, wanting me to accompany him to his in-laws'. But I wouldn't agree since I'd known nothing about his fiancΓ©e. He pleaded, saying he wanted to surprise me, so I gave in. Who didn't like surprises? And … what were friends for?

I informed Uzoma of the news and asked if she would go with us. But she declined, quarrelling over the phone since I'd not been resolute about our future together. Her reasons were that my “soon” had no date. After I'd pacified her, she extended her congratulations to my friend.

Little did I know that my trust in them was a recipe for shock.

Draped in well-tailored senator attire. We steered our way to Ikorodu, Lagos. I had been there a couple of times with Uzoma. But today I was just being a companion to Ugochukwu.

The cold air brushed against our bodies. The whirring of cars and scents of living grass accentuated the atmosphere.  I didn't fret when we got into the streets of my supposed in-laws, neither did I knit a brow when we knocked at their gate. I only inquired if this place was his in-laws'.

He nodded.

I frowned. How could he have known Uzoma's family house? And the Uzoma I knew had no sisters. So what was he talking about?

While trying to make sense of everything Uzoma hurried out of the door, her hands outspread for a hug. We dropped the boxes of drinks and edibles we brought as a gift and spread our hands too. Ugochukwu bought these gifts.

She hugged me first and kissed me on the cheek. A gesture that reignited the dying embers in my palpitating heart.

I glared at my friend as Uzoma embraced him too.

She ushered us into their sitting room, waved us to a couch my butt was familiar with, and disappeared. By now, I should have known something was fishy. I shot Ugochukwu a questioning glance but he ignored me. What was he planning? Could he …

A cough interrupted my suspicions. My supposed father-in-law strolled in. His frame was an Iroko's. While he sat with a sly smile on his face, his wife my supposed mother-in-law stepped in. They both were draped in the same lace attire. Uzoma's siblings, the two young men I knew too well, joined them.

Ugochukwu's phone rang, so he stepped out to answer it. I flit a glance around, my brows twitching. The whirr of the fan could do nothing to douse the sweat drenching me. Uzoma's mother noticed my jittery state and decided to raise a topic.

But I didn't care. I was lost in thought. What was happening? Why did Ugochukwu bring me here? What was his plan? I was still seated there only because I wanted to know who his bride would be. I was getting agitated when the door opened and Ugochukwu walked in with my uncle. Uncle Nduka. 

I flinched. I never told my uncle about this trip or my relationship with Uzoma. How could he be here? But he had known Ugochukwu from the village, so he must have come to stand in for him? I thought. I glared at my friend again. But he replied with a grin.

My uncle cleared his throat and began: “Sir, I greet you.” Always straight to the point. “We are here because of a beautiful flower we found in your home. Our wish is to pluck it.”

Uzoma's father laughed. It was his signatory laugh. “I know. I have been expecting it. And since I am a man pressed for time. I'd say let's get down to business.”

A mixture of giggles, chuckles and laughter rented the room but I remained stiff.

“Young man,” Mr Ikedi, Uzoma's father said. He was addressing me with his eyes. “So you have finally decided to do the needful, eh? All well and good. You have always been a son to me. I am glad you're here to do the right thing...” 

I darted glances around the room, trying to crack the puzzle. “Sir—"

“You know son," Uzoma's father said. "Where we came from, there are things to do before a woman becomes your wife. And the first is what you have done. “Iku aka na uzo” means you are ready and I applaud that.”

I was glaring at Ugochukwu now, my eyes bulging with queries. He beamed a smile so that he revealed a side of his teeth as he leaned close to me, whispering: “It is long overdue, brother. This was never my introduction but yours. Blow it and watch her leave you.”


MEET THE AUTHOR:


STEPHEN TOOCHI lives in and writes from Lagos, Nigeria. He's an entrepreneur, a writer, salesman, and freelancer who has crafted engaging contents for websites and personal blogs. His works which cut across several genres of literature have appeared in local and international literary magazines and journals.

He loves weird travelling, doting on Yemi Alade and beans in any form. When he's not writing or working, he's either reading, listening to music or receiving rejection mails. Reach out to him on Facebook @ Stephen Toochi and Instagram @Toochi.Stephen.

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