Lara loved music and singing, Saturday afternoons always meet her at the church for choir rehearsals.
Today she’s sitting at the last column alongside other tenor singers, sandwiched between Abraham to the left and Mabel to the right. Everyone stayed put as they waited for Mr Effiong, the ebullient choir director and the other technical crew members to play the song they were to learn on the stereo.
The prelude of Jay_mikee’s Telephone To Heaven sliced through the quiet and Lara gaped in embarrassment. It was her phone ringing and all heads were turned to her. She delved into her and whipped out her phone. Lanre. She quickly excused herself from the meeting and walked out to receive the call.
“Hi.You’re in church right?” He asked gruffly.
“Yup. Choir things.”
“Fine. I’m in church too, at the parking lot.” He said.
“Really? What did you come for?”
“Well, I just wanted to drop you off after your rehearsals.” There was a dullness in his tone, Lara noticed it but waved it off.
“Aww.. Aww.. How sweet. That’s really thoughtful of you.” Lara said smiling ecstatically and the line went off. Lara assumed it was network palaver but it wasn’t, Lanre hung up.
She walked into the church auditorium beaming.
“Eh! Sister Lara, this one that you’re smiling like this, who called you?” Mr Effiong queried playfully and Lara smiled.
“We all know who now. Abi, wasn’t it Lanre that called? Ehn Lara, please prove me wrong.” It was Felix from the alto section pulling her legs. Lara laughed and sat down. Mabel nudged her with her elbows and Lara turned to her.
“Love in ya eyes.” She teased with her Igbo inflected voice. Lara giggled and gave her a friendly punch.
She strolled across the church premises, past manicured lawns and trimmed flowers lining the walls to the parking lot. She sighted Lanre’s car from a distance.
She tapped the window to get his attention. He didn’t turn his head from the windshield he only unlocked the door with the central lock button. She opened the door and slid in.
“Lanre, what’s up?” He nodded absentmindedly. His face was a cold mask and Lara wondered what could have been boggling his mind.
“I hope there’s no problem?” Lara asked concernedly.
“Omolara, we need a break”
It was like a wrecking ball hit Lara’s head, causing her cerebral hemispheres to switch sides. She paused to process what she’d just heard. Nothing at all had prepared her for that.
“I don’t understand.” Her feet were cold and numb.
“I’m done with us.” He blurted.
Her bag dropped and so did her jaw. She started blinking foolishly. She opened her mouth to speak but the words wouldn’t just come out, there was a thick clog of phlegm blocking her throat.
“La…nre Lanre. I… I… Why?” She stuttered incoherently. “Why?”
“Well, I want to be with a lady who loves me.”
“But I do. I love you.” She said fighting back tears.
Lanre finally turned to her.
“Yeah. Maybe you do… Er… But not wholeheartedly.” He faced the windscreen again. He didn’t want to grow emotional, so he had to avoid her face.
“And you understand what I mean.” He added. He spoke with such finality that Lara’s heart rent.
So emotionless. Did he ever love me?
“Lanre but we could settle this now. We could make amends, I would make amends. But it hasn’t come to this now. Plea-” Lara was saying before Lanre hit the steering wheel with an open palm and the horn blared loudly. He shook his head.
“It is O-V-E-R!” He bellowed tremulously.
The tears were no longer just pressing her eyes, they were now blinding her. She sniffled and reached for the door. It was locked.
“No, I said I’d drop you at home.”
“Don’t worry I’d be fine. I will just flag down a taxi.” Lara retorted shakily.
Lanre shook his head. “I insist.”
She wanted to be out of his sight immediately, she wanted to be alone and cry off her head but she was too weak to protest. She watched him strap his seat belt, turn the ignition and engage the gear in reverse.
The journey seemed endless. There was a thick and choking cloud of gloom in the car, the silence was deafening.
Lara climbed out of the car and moved forward hurriedly.
As she walked away a muscle in his chest jerked. She wasn’t just walking away from his car, she was walking out of his life. He blinked back the unmanly tears that pricked his eyes and he powered down the window.
She heard her name in his voice. He had called her so tenderly. She looked over her shoulder and his face was no longer expressionless, she could see grief encircle his eyes. He waved at her sullenly. A bubble of sob tore at her throat, she could hold in the tears no longer. She scampered into the house wailing.
The entrance burst open, startling both of them. He stared at them with bloodshot eyes as he threw his hands into the air.
“I’ve done it. I have by myself broken the relationship God gave me. No thanks to you two.” He said with rueful sarcasm. His mom took off her glasses and his Dad sighed.
Sweat rolled down his temples as though the split air conditioner lurking in a corner of the room was not working.
“Lanre.” His Dad called sitting straight. “If the foundation be shaky, what shall the righteous do? You can’t build a home on a shaky foundation because when the rain, flood and winds come it wouldn’t be capable of standing.”
“Er- I know that and that was why I came to you so that you could help sort out the foundation issues. For goodness sake I came to you so that the problems in my relationship could be solved and not for the relationship to be dissolved.” He said, pain choking his voice.
“When you told us of the issues you were facing in your relationship we -Your Dad and I- chorused the same thing. I hope you know we love Lara just as much as we love you, she’s also our daughter. But at this point, I don’t really know why and I might not be able to explain perfectly. Er… but I feel this is what God would have us do.”
His nostrils flared and blood rushed into his head. He sniffled a couple of times before his lacrimal glands gave way. Who would smack him and yell ‘wake up, you’d be late for work!’ and this entire nightmare would be over?
“Frankly yours, this makes no sense to me!” Lanre blurted. “I mean.. It’s obvious God ordained this relationship, how then would he say we should terminate it again? God is not an author of confusion now.”
Mr Martins sighed. “Well, like your mom rightly said; we might not be able to understand everything now but we know what God is saying. God sees in 3D while we can only see a side. We see the pieces, he works with the bigger picture of the fitted pieces. I advice you go to God. It’s all plain before him. Maybe after you’ve heard from the Lord, we would talk again.” Mr Martins said.
“We love you and we’d be praying for you.”
Plenty nonsense, that was what all they were saying seemed like to him. Angry at everything around him, he flicked off the rivulet of tears rolling down his cheeks and left the room.
She lay supine in bed, completely exhausted. She wanted to cry some more but there was no strength left in her, no tears left in her tear glands. For the past three days all she’d been doing was cry.
On Saturday night it had rained, the raindrops pummeled the roofing heavily and in rapid succession, producing a loud continuous noise. The noise of the rainfall easily bellied that of her weeping and the thuds of her punching the bed.
She cried, paced up and down, had monologues with the mirror and when she was tired, stood and watched raindrops streak the windows just like tears streaked her own face.
It’s been three days and she’s not been able to do any other thing but lie on the bed, sit on the floor lie on the ground and be miserable. She couldn’t eat, she couldn’t talk to any one.
She wished she had in her own apartment, she hated the fact that her Mum knocked severally and disturbed her. She just wanted to be alone, to wallow in self pity and feel sorry for herself all by herself! Is that too much to ask?
Since Sunday afternoon she had been feeling a burning and gnawing pain in her chest, right under her sternum. She had been feeling nauseous too and was puking bile.
Lara knew what all those meant, she understood the hazard of what she was doing to herself, but she cared less. There was a greater pain from her broken heart than whatever she felt in her body.
She was miserable. She was distraught. She still couldn’t believe it. She wished it was a nightmare, but the frankest part of her screamed the bitter truth. It’s no dream, it’s all real.
Her eyes roamed about aimlessly and everything within sight seemed to scream a name- Lanre!
She didn’t want to hear that name, but she couldn’t stop hearing it. He seemed to be all over. She put away his picture that was on the wall but she didn’t stop seeing his face in her mind. She was withdrawn so that no one would remind her of him, but she kept hearing his voice, right in her head.
Why did he leave her to the torture of the memories of him deeply emblazoned in her? If he wanted to go, he should have gone with her memory.
Amnesia, she craved just that.
She wanted to weep out her heart but it seemed heavier than what tears could solve. She wanted to jump out of the world but that was clearly impossible. She had tried drowning herself in sleep but she meet her problems even in her dreams.
Gbam! Gbam! Gbam! Gbam! Gbam!
Someone rapped on the door impatiently.
“Lara! See, if you don’t open this door right now I’d bring it down!” Mrs Ayeteju screamed. “And if I bring it down you’d pay for the repairs.” She quickly added.
She waited for a few seconds before taking a step backwards and lunging forward with all the strength she could muster.
The door shook vehemently upon the collision of her massive body against it. If only it could speak.
Lara saw that her Mum was serious about bringing down the door. She tottered to the door with great difficulty. Pain shot through every part of her body. She was light-headed and bleary.
She managed to unlock the door and the moment she released the door knob, she collapsed. Alarmed, Mrs Ayeteju knelt over her.
“Lara! Lara! Lara!” She shrieked, shaking her shoulders vigorously.