Guard your heart

Ejura sat alone in her one-room self contained rented apartment crying out tears of regret. She swam back into her very recent immediate past and had no one to blame for the emptiness she had been feeling in the past few weeks other than herself. If only she had listening ears for herself, the man she longed after would have either picked her calls, returned them or at least traveled over just to catch a glimpse of her. This same man whose love for her was not only unquestionable but also suspicious had felt the same for her what she felt for him; they were meant to be.

Having locked herself indoors for a fourth consecutive day, she cut herself off from the outer world. She hadn’t reported at her place of primary assignment for over a week, though she had it covered after she had placed a call to the officer in charge of assessing the Youth Corper’s that were posted to the hospital she was serving with. She cited health challenges as the reason for her absence.

Memories of the good times she had spent with Emeka kept flooding into her thoughts: times spent at the cinemas, their hang-outs together, love, and the laughter as well as the nights they spent together, the promises they both made and the sincerity in those promises; it was all too real.  She had been cursing herself from deep within the heart moment after moment. Had she paid listening ears to herself and not to Jumai, she wouldn’t have found herself in this setback.

Ejura, a graduate of Microbiology from the University of Jos, Plateau state, Nigeria had graduated with a first class honours’ degree in her field of study. She was stunningly beautiful with cleavages perfectly visible as if she had been worked on by some sculptor. Tall for a woman, she stood at 5’11 and had a skin tone that couldn’t be defined; she was outspoken.

Shortly after graduation, she was mobilized for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme and was then posted to serve in Enugu state. In the course of the service; while in camp, she crossed paths with Jumai as they both served under the same platoon. They became intimate and were tagged best friends of the entire NYSC camp.

Jumai studied Psychology at Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Nigeria. She had a smallish structure as compared with Ejura; one foot shorter than her friend, she had bulgy eyes and was as well a beauty. She was light skinned and extremely a social kind of person that was willing to jump into conversations and keep them going on.

After the three weeks of camping, it was time for the Corpers to move ahead and out of the NYSC camp. As fate would have it for the two, they were posted to the same Local Government Area and coincidentally rented apartments in the same compound. The compound was notorious for accepting rents from Youth Corpers year in and year out.

They both screamed at the top of their voices as they discovered the reality of their living together in close proximity; fate was at work. It wasn’t until after two weeks when they both had left for their family homes and returned that they started living together as neighbours. Ejura’s primary assignment was approved as well as Jumai’s. They were posted to Enugu state University of Science and Technology (ESUT) Teaching Hospital and Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital respectively.

Ejura’s place of primary assignment was at the Department of Microbiology and she reported there almost immediately. Due to her punctuality and social nature, she was loved by most members of staff working under the department. For her, it was a dream come true as her posting was to a place that required the services of the course she had studied.

Jumai on the other hand had her place of primary assignment at the psychiatric wing of the hospital. A few weeks into her attachment, she started getting advances from most of the spinsters that had been working at the hospital. She didn’t give in just yet as she viewed these advances as acts of desperation; not until Henry came into her world.

Henry was a tall, handsome and well built fellow who was a medical consultant consulted for various critical psychiatric cases. He visited this facility twice a week and on this particular day; on his way out as he walked pass the desk where Jumai was seated, his eyes caught and settled on her. He couldn’t help himself after then, he orchestrated a conversation with her; he threw flirty gestures at her which intoxicatingly got her drunk. Since he had no much time on his schedule, he requested for her phone number which she gladly passed unto him.

Weeks later, they started dating and it was Heaven brought to Earth. Jumai felt genuine love for the first time in her fifth relationship. At nights, she cried tears of joy for having found this never to be lost relationship. She thanked the Heavens on a regular for this priceless moment she never expected would have found a way to her; she deserved it not.

She started sleeping over at Henry’s apartment and promises of a life long relationship were made; marriage was in its making. Henry was so much dedicated to the relationship to a point that it was always Jumai that ran through his mind; she sensed it. The knowledge of this gave unto Jumai a high degree of assurance that Henry could be no other person’s property but hers.

On a certain weekend while she and Henry went on an outing, Henry had invited a neighbour of his along. The neighbour was as well built as Henry, tall and handsome as well; well spoken and sociable. While they were seated at the outing, the friend chipped in a piece of his mind. He asked Jumai why she hadn’t invited any of her friends to the outing as it was obvious she was outnumbered two to one. Jumai explained to him that Henry never told her about an extra hand in the outing. The friend applied pressure on Jumai into inviting one of her friends over, Jumai gave a promise of doing so in their next outing.

The next weekend was another hangout day and this time around, Jumai brought her friend Ejura. Henry’s neighbour who was present at the last gathering was unavoidably absent; rather it was a childhood friend of Henry who had paid a visit on him that was present at the gathering. As the proceedings began and went on, Emeka; Henry’s childhood friend picked a likeness for Ejura, she also did for him; they bonded almost instantly. It was love at a first meet and in no time they were in a world of their own. Sooner later, Henry’s neighbour arrived and was out of place as his supposed date was in deep emotional conversations with his neighbour’s visitor. He let it play on, displaying no emotions at all; for it was entirely his fault. Had he arrived the scene on time he would have been the one laughing it out with his supposed date.

Emeka and Ejura got on perfectly well as had been on day one, they were both into and all over each other. Emeka, having found the lost piece of his puzzled heart found it extremely hard returning back to his hometown; his place of work. Ejura had thoughts of redeployment, but it was quite late to start the process. The duration of leave Emeka had applied for and which had been approved was two weeks; he regretted it, had he known; he would have taken his annual.

The two weeks swiftly vapourized and it then seemed as if everything that had happened was a dream; Ejura felt all had come to an end. Emeka was virtually everything that a woman would require of a man, he was passionate and compassionate, considerate, caring and also had within his hearts wisps’ good tidings. Ejura having experienced these had a feeling that some other woman elsewhere would also have seen or noticed these gifts in Emeka; she felt she had lost him.

On return back to his hometown, Emeka called on Ejura more than he did on Henry; he kept the contact in strict continuity. This emptied all negative thoughts out of Ejura’s subconscious. Emeka invited her over on a certain weekend of which she honoured. While there, she met a few of his family members, family friends and colleagues at work. He never let the cat out of the bag, for he had marriage concepts on his life’s agenda; a marriage to Ejura. The visit sealed the assurances of Ejura’s heart.

Things started taking a turn in Henry and Jumai’s relationship…. Henry became obsessed with her and as such Jumai stuck to the notion “You don’t fight for what is yours”. She hence felt a reluctance of putting in more efforts into an already built and presumably sealed relationship. She picked his calls less frequently and stopped returning the ones she missed, claiming a tight schedule as an excuse. Her nagging was another strong aversion that had picked up pace; she couldn’t speak with him for five minutes without her finding some kind of fault in either his words or gestures and whenever she needed his emotional or financial services she acted in the modest of ways. Henry tried putting up with this new development, but months on; the emotional touch which he had felt with Jumai took a turn that even his love for her couldn’t upturn.

It was clear to Henry that his girl was either seeing someone else or had grown tired of having an affair with him. Day and night his thoughts hovered around the twist of this tale that he always felt would be a straight one. He had asked her severally, questions that were bounded on the relationship they shared, but she wasn’t forth coming. Their hangouts became lights out, Jumai only attended to him when her needs arose; Henry became frustrated. He finally arrived at a decision that was enclosed and one disclosed only to himself.

Waking up to a new day and having the plan he did at heart wasn’t a usual deal. He had a weeks plan in motion; one that would put his present behind an ancient past. As hard as it had seemed to be, he defiled what his heart had been a slave to. He got ready for work and cut off the usual; calling on the girl who had been after his heart. The day passed; though hard, he stuck to his guns and put no call or text message across to Jumai, neither did she call him.

Jumai’s birthday was days away and Henry had made certain preparations in this regard though he never disclosed it to her. As the day drew close, his calls became more deficient and hence Jumai saw the need of putting a call across to him; her intentions were selfish. She wanted reminding him of her celebrations and that the gifts could start coming in; the phone rang but there was no pick-up. Henry never returned any of her calls even though they were consistent and later on persistent; the calls kept coming in until the late nights.

He woke to the next morning with a sense of his pride returned and his love or likeness for Jumai further reduced. The number of missed calls he got from Jumai the previous day surpassed the number of calls he received from her in the past three months. He knew the reason of her persistent calls, her ingenuity rose on the daily. She passed by his apartment on her way to her NYSC duty post and met him not; she was only minutes shy of having met him, she then forwarded a text message to him and the contents surrounding it were bent on his well-being and a reminder of her birthday which was just two days away. He returned a call almost immediately and said he had been away from his phone due to an emergency he had to attend to at the office, he apologized for not calling; she still nagged.

The next day was a Friday; hanging out day. She called early in the morning to make reservations for an outing with him; something she had avoided for quite sometime. He made no promises as to the certainty of his honouring her invitation; she questioned him on his change of attitude towards her of late of which his reply helped conceal his innermost intentions. She called him later on that evening to remind him of the outing, he picked up the call and his location was a busy one; there were shouts and screams all over. She questioned him and he related unto her that he was out with his boss at work, watching a football game. It was obvious to her that he was telling her nothing but the truth, she didn’t feel bad after he gave her assurances that the next day was hers and that he was spending the day with her.

The day of her birthday finally arrived and calls upon calls found their way to her phone. Colleagues at her duty post, fellow Corps members, neighbours, friends of family as well as family members put calls across to her. Henry put no call through; neither did he send in any text messages as he had assured her the previous night. Emeka, Henry’s friend called and sent a message across to Jumai for he got wind of the birthday information from Ejura; Henry was off the radar. Jumai put a call through to Henry’s phone number, it got across but there was no response on the receiver’s end.

All day she sat in solitary, perusing through her recent past up to the time she was dwelling in. Her phone lay next to her and every call or message tone that buzzed was assumedly Henry’s voice call or message respectively. She put a call across to Emeka and had confirmation that he had just finished speaking with Henry; she ended the call and put one across to Henry but still no receiver’s response. She finally had an inner feeling that he intended giving her a surprise; she felt a temporal relief.

Welcoming her guests at the celebration venue later on that day, she searched around for Henry and there was still no trace of him. It started downing on her that all of his actions within the past days had been premeditated; the changes she had noticed in him were just not in place. Her heart melted within but she hid her feelings for the sake of the guests she was attending to. There was surplus of everything while the party lasted, and the dance session was something else. She later got into the groove and pushed thoughts of Henry aside; it was her day. At the end of the day she had a car load of gifts she had received from her guests; she still felt empty though; for she was a hundred percent sure that Henry had stylishly put an end to the relationship he had with her.

The love bond between Emeka and Ejura was still in full swing. They were on a romantic trip during the frenzy between Jumai and Henry and as a result of this; they were short on details concerning the rift between the two. Ejura returned a week after Jumai’s birthday and was stunned when Jumai fed her with info on the turn of things, she felt really sorry for her friend. She talked Jumai into calling on Henry and appologising for any of her wrong doings; Jumai flared up. Ejura let her be as pride was definitely at work; and it was at work in the depths of Jumai’s personality.

Jumai’s emptiness could be likened to that of a formatted media device, Henry had deserted her and flirty advances from other men had stopped coming in. Most of the advances that had come her way, she had them turned down due to her engagement with Henry. Envy gradually crept into her mind over the relationship her friend Ejura still shared with her ex-lover’s friend. The stability in Ejura and Emeka’s relationship was the precise model Jumai had always longed for. She couldn’t bear the false reality of things happening right before her eyes, how on earth could a relationship she helped orchestrate still be in motion while hers had crashed. These thoughts helped build a monster within, one ready to devour what was no longer due for her; she got to work.

Jumai started spending more time with Ejura, watching movies in her apartment and taking her out on a few dates. On a few of these outings, one or two male or female counterparts graced the outings and as a result of this; Ejura’s web of friends skyrocketed in less than a month’s period. As a result of her beauty and brains, most persons that had come across her showered her with everything they could; lustful glances, praises, gifts or money. On a particular outing, a senior medical staff with the State Health Service Board was present at the seating and Jumai introduced her friend to him. It never occurred to Ejura that an impending doom was covertly being put in place.

The Director showered gifts and money on Ejura; as a matter of fact he spent more money on her than Emeka did and due to the fact that he was readily available, it built in her a false impression. Though she was still in frequent contact with Emeka, his distance away from her started being an issue. The senior medical staff was a young man who was still single; at least the absence of a wedding ring indicated so. Ejura didn’t give in just yet, but the intensity of pressure that was applied on her from both Jumai and the senior medical staff gave her little or no room to make decisions for herself. Jumai made it clear to her that the same way Henry had jilted her was the same way she was going to be jilted by her more distant away lover.

Ejura had at some point asked Jumai what her take was concerning a “one man, one woman” relationship policy and Jumai’s response was nothing close to an encouragement for her. Jumai’s answer to the question though suitable only ended up granting an approval for a “one woman, many men” policy. She explained to Ejura that she had better consider most of the male advances that have been thrown her way if she had no aspirations of loosing everything sometime in her future happiness, she also pointed out the losses she experienced when Henry mysteriously walked out of the relationship they both shared.

On a particular evening while Jumai and Ejura were out with the senior medical staff along a host of his friends, Emeka called on Ejura’s phone number and Jumai picked it up. Emeka quizzed her on the whereabouts of his heartthrob of which Jumai explained to him that Ejura had gone to pick up certain items from a close by shopping mall. Emeka knew for certain that Jumai was outdoors due to the music and noises in the background on her side of the conversation. He called back after a while and was able to talk to Ejura who was forced to lie about her whereabouts; Emeka felt bad.

He asked what her present location was and she explained to him that she had to go meet Jumai at a hangout spot very close to where she was housing; Emeka felt a lot better, for this was very much close to the truth. He quizzed her further; she felt insecure and asked him to call her back in an hour’s time of which he displayed his gentlemanly nature and played suit. He called as had been agreed; spoke with her over what had transpired within the past few hours and warned her precisely to be wary of Jumai; she found his last words offensive. She ended up making utterances that wouldn’t have been attributed to her on or before that day; a line was drawn.

Emeka couldn’t sleep at night as thoughts upon thoughts kept kicking at his brain; the walls he had built with Ejura were being demolished by someone for reasons unknown to him. He picked up his phone and made a call on his main colleague at work and asked the colleague to stand in for him that he had an urgent family issue to attend to; the friend accepted. As early as 5am the next day, Emeka had packed up and boarded a cab to a popular transport service within his town. He then booked a vehicle that was headed for Enugu, took off at about 7:30am and got to his destination around 4:30pm. On his arrival, he headed for Henry’s apartment. He neither called Henry, Jumai nor Ejura about his arrival and hence Henry was shocked when his eyes caught view of his friend.

Emeka explained unto Henry why he hid his journey in such secrecy. He didn’t want the information leaked to Ejura as he was out on an investigative agenda to ascertain his girl’s faithfulness towards him. Henry gave his own views explaining to Henry that any doubts that had been springing up in recent times would only be as a result of Jumai’s handwork, and that Jumai had been flaunting Ejura around town. Emeka questioned Henry why these findings were never related to him and Henry’s excuse was plain; he didn’t want to interfere in another man’s relationship; for it would be better for the man to find out things for himself. He also explained to Emeka that he never saw anything wrong with the girls being together as they had been friends right from the onset of him meeting them.

The two male counterparts arrived at a decision, one that was meant to be carried on at night. Later on that day at precisely 8pm, Emeka boarded a taxi and headed to a night pub close to the compound where Jumai and Ejura lived in; ordered for a soft drink and some suya to keep himself indulged. He called the waitress that had served him, paid her upfront and asked her where he could ease himself. After she pointed him towards a certain direction, Emeka proceeded from there to Ejura’s apartment only to find out that her door was locked and no one was in, hence he returned to the table where he was previously seated at. He put a call through to Ejura who didn’t pick-up until after the fifth consecutive call; she explained she was asleep and that the incessant calls had brought her out of it.

A few minutes later, while he was still seated and contemplating his next move, an expensive car drove up to the suya stand and the two occupants of the vehicle jumped out of it. Emeka was seated a distance away from the stand and what he saw helped calm him down. Ejura was in the company of a man; dressed skimpy, she didn’t seem like the girl he knew; something wrong had been put through and in her. He called her number once more and from where he was seated, he watched as she took a glance at her phone to ascertain who was calling. She refused picking up even after the second time of its calling.

The car thereafter drove towards the direction of Ejura’s apartment; Emeka took a walk towards where they were headed. On reaching the major road that stood in front of the compound, he found the car parked in front of Ejura’s place. Standing across the road for approximately two hours, there was no exit out of the apartment. He left there at about 12 midnight and boarded a taxi back to his friend’s place. He got back at Henry’s apartment around some minutes before 1am the next day and slept with a peace of heart that he hadn’t slept with in quite a while.

He woke very early that same morning and got himself ready for his journey back to his hometown. Before he reached the park, he made sure the cab that he boarded drove pass Ejura’s place and there he confirmed that the supposed man spent the night there as the car was still parked in front of her place. While he was in transit, her call came in regarding his calls she had missed the previous night. She was on a certain medication which made her drowsy and for that reason she was deep asleep that she couldn’t have heard as her phone rang was the excuse she gave. Emeka inquired if she felt any better after the medication had been administered to her, and wished her a speedy recovery; he deleted her number from his phone thereafter.

Weeks into Ejura’s escapade with the senior medical staff, she started noticing certain fluctuations or alterations in his character. There was a certain number that usually called on him; and anytime the number called, he excused himself to a secured distance away before picking up the call. She had taken note of the number but due to the respect or false love she had for him, she never romanced the thought of picking out the number from his phone with intentions of putting a call through to it.

On a particular day while they were both out, a certain call came through to his phone and he explained to the person on the other side of the phone that he was at work; on the night shift to be precise. Approximately an hour after the call terminated, a car drove into this very popular hang-out spot, two women alighted from the vehicle and walked up to the table that accommodated Ejura and the medical staff. The most matured among the two women was the first to react; she started throwing accusations at the man that was seated with Ejura. Ejura who was in the dark on the issues that were transpiring had to stand up for the man she was seated with, and before she could speak her mind; she was descended on by the two women.

Henry paid a visit on a friend of his that was admitted at a private hospital within town and as he entered the Accident and Emergency ward, his eyes caught sight of Ejura who was deep asleep and all bandaged up. He stopped by; paid a little attention to her before proceeding to the friend he actually intended visiting. Through with the visitation of his friend; he went straight to Ejura’s bedside and sat there a while, paying attention to the degree of injuries that had been inflicted upon her, for he was certain this was an act of aggression. She woke up a while later and on the sight of Henry, she started crying uncontrollably to the point that her administering doctor had to intervene in the situation. He politely asked Henry to take his leave but Ejura halted him and asked Henry to take a seat.

She narrated to Henry about a phantom robbery that she was a victim of and that the robbery occurred on her way back from a supermarket close by her apartment. The reason why she cried once she caught sight of Henry was due to the fact that Emeka hadn’t called her for close to a month and he also stopped picking her calls. The facial injuries inflicted on her were focused more on the lower region and as a result of this, her mouth was sealed; she even lost a few teeth. For this reason, she couldn’t speak much about the mishap she found herself in. Henry checked out after he promised her a visit within the next few days.

On reaching home, he called on Emeka’s phone number and passed him the information of what had happened to Ejura. Emeka had thoughts of calling her but realized later on that he couldn’t make the call as he had long before then deleted her contact, call records and messages from his phone memory. Later on that day Emeka called on Henry and it was then that he narrated everything that went down during his last visit on Ejura; Henry couldn’t believe his ears. Why he wasn’t informed was the question that ran through his mind; it even gave him a false sense of impression that Emeka had something to do with the robbery.

Henry visited Ejura the next day as he had promised. He had packaged foodstuffs and juices for her wellbeing. Henry didn’t spend much time with her due to the presence of Jumai and some other faces that he couldn’t fathom; Jumai was the core reason for his timely dispatch. He then approached Ejura’s administering doctor and asked a few sensitive questions surrounding the moments Ejura was brought in for admission and it was thence disclosed unto him that she was brought in from a popular drinking spot in the heart of town. Henry later on that day paid a visit to the drinking spot and quizzed one of the sales boys who gave him the full details of what had occurred. The wife of the senior medical officer was the one who carried out the act along her immediate younger sister.

Henry thereafter called on Emeka and told him not to worry himself over Ejura anymore and also relayed all his findings to Emeka who felt very glad after then. Ejura fully recovered a week later and after her discharge, she resolved within herself to cut off ties with Jumai who she fully held responsible for both her failed relationship with Emeka and the recent scandal that her name had been meddled in. Memories started flooding into her brain waves and the reverse equation was the tears that flooded out of her eyes; it then downed on her that none of the incidents that had occurred could be reversed.