“The bastard” Fiona cursed, pulling off her blue high heels, clutching them in her hands. She dared not go near the railings for fear that the breeze might become too strong to topple her over and into the expanse of water below. She was seething with resentment at the inhumane treatment, but then with the shoes in her hand and kilometers of tarred highway before and behind, her resentment gave way to fear.
A car sped past like every car does on this bridge, but this driver appeared to have stepped harder on the accelerator on sighting of her; a lone female figure standing on the bridge. She could only imagine what these drivers would think of a skimpy clad lady standing alone in the darkness of The Third Mainland Bridge. A second car followed moments later, the driver accelerating more than the one before. She could guess that if she so much as dared to stand in the road, they would run her over without a second’s thought. She couldn’t tell whether it was the fear or the cold breeze of the lagoon that made her teeth clatter. She willed herself to run the distance in front of her, but the sheer futility of the exercise made her legs feel like they were in a cast.
“Oh God” she prayed, but couldn’t say more as she began to cry realizing the fear wrapping itself around her. For what she feared, she couldn’t tell but being stranded at 9pm at the middle of the nearly twelve kilometer Third Mainland Bridge could do wonders to your sanity.
She remembered Amaka’s disapproval of Tunde, for all she could see, her friend was correct, for Tunde was nothing short of a devil, but this his latest antic was overkill.
He had picked her up after work at her home where she had excitedly hurried over her grooming for a night out with him. She had worn that tight fitting blue gown he had bought for her only yesterday, she had been satisfied with her reflection in the giant mirror that took the whole of one wing of the wardrobe door; the gown did wonders to her cleavage, she observed. He had appeared at the door looking princely and she had thrown herself into his arms, feeling lucky. In his car, he had smiled when he told her that he was giving her an experience at a part of Lagos she hadn’t seen before.
“Isn’t Ferdinand a nice guy?” he had asked unprompted. Her heart had skipped and she had kept quiet for longer than was suggestively safe.
“You know him?” she asked trying to maintain an indifferent countenance although her throat had felt dry and her tongue sticky
“Yes, from way back in our University days” his face was focused on the road ahead as they drove through the night traffic of Lagos metropolis
“Oh” she managed to say
“And he said you are such a sweet lady”
She coughed nervously
“The kind that leaves such a lasting impression on a first meeting” by now, he was gripping the steering wheel tightly and his jaw was set firmly like it was a sculptor’s handiwork chiseled out of stone.
“He said so?” she asked, regaining her composure more than before.
He remained quiet and she remained quiet too. By now, they were speeding along the lonely Third Mainland Bridge.
“He told me about this dashing boss at his new job. I knew it was you and so I cajoled him into taking a bet. Not only did he give me a video coverage of the scene, but he gave me more than one.”
She remained silent
“You really are a bitch”
He braked suddenly at the middle of the bridge.
“Get the fuck out of my car!”
“Are you crazy?” she asked, “In the middle of this place?”
“Just fuck off!” he had screamed into her face, reached onto her side of the door, jerked the lever and pushed the door open. He had roughened her out through the door and sped away, only braking to shut the door that had been ajar threatening to be yanked off.
He was crazy, he could go to hell, men and their chauvinism, and what did he expect me to do? What would he have done in my condition? The guy was handsome, had this charisma about him, was a kind of unique being, she reasoned. Fearful, cold and desperate on the bridge, sleeping with Ferdinand wasn’t amongst her life’s regrets.
She prayed to drop dead on the bridge, for only in death could she escape the horrors that plagued her mind. She was too afraid to jump over the railings into the glittery streaming water below, she could make out shapes and horrifying forms and the wind that blew over the waters sounding like it was a communion, a sort of coded messages exchanged between water beings only broken by the ‘whoosh’ of cars that hastily sped past. The cold bit through her exposed skin riddled with goose pimples and she prayed to die and forget the business of living.
The man pounded his fist on the steering wheel to the rap beat playing on his car stereo. He was a jolly fellow, but tonight he was looking to be more in a jolly mood; it was his friend’s birthday and there was going to be an all night house party complete with girls and wine, no Friday could be more perfect. He had spent an entire fortnight preparing for this one night and nothing, nothing was going to………
“Oh my God!” he exclaimed slowly in shock as the Nissan car began to jerk and jerk and then ground to a halt in the most unlikely of places.
“Not on the Third Mainland Bridge” he muttered more in supplication
He had taken his father’s car for tonight since the old man had gone for medical check-up overseas on his eldest son’s invitation. He had thought the car to be in good shape, but alas, the malicious car had carried out its stingy owner’s desires even in his absence. He pounded the steering wheel in frustration and turned off the music. He popped the bonnet open, but was at a loss for what to check out for. He opened the boot, rummaged through it and found what he was looking for; two reflector triangles which he placed on the tarred road some meters behind and before the unworthy automobile. He took out his mobile phone and dialed a number. He had to try a third time before a male voice answered at the other end
“Boy, wey you now?”
“Guy, my car just fall my hand o”
“Wetin happen? Party won begin o”
“The car don spoil for Third Mainland Bridge”
“Chineke!” the voice screamed at the other end
“Guy, we dey come pick you now now” the voice instructed and cut the call on his end
He felt like setting the stupid car ablaze, like tossing it over the railings into the lagoon, such an unworthy piece of metal. His anger gave way to fear when he thought of the stories of what mysterious deaths have come upon drivers whose cars broke down on the bridge at such hours. He began to shiver in spite of the milk designer coat he wore that had taken a huge chunk out of his monthly salary. Cars sped past and even when he had tried to flag them down, they ignored him in their hurried flight within the comfortable confines of their mobile zones.
No cars had sped past in the next twenty five minutes. He could feel his head swell like he had seen a ghost. Shapes materialized in the distance, approached and disappeared in the ocean breeze. The water below seemed to beckon in its glitter and the breeze seemed to goad him on, to jump over the rails. Was he getting mad? Were the water spirits playing pranks on his mind?
He had heard rumours as a child that there were water creatures- ‘mammy water’ they were called-very beautiful feminine creatures who lived in the water. According to the lore, these creatures were partly women and partly fishes, that they could fall in love with a man. Yes he was handsome, but was it a‘mammy water’ who had broken his car and was luring him into the water? He crept back behind the steering wheel and flicked on the headlamps and interior lights to chase away the gloom and then he saw her, or was that it?
She walked towards the car tentatively and his heart beat like it was going to leap out from within him through his mouth any minute. She walked gracefully, her hair cascading down her shoulders as she bent over on the other side of the window, peering through it at him seated behind the wheel wide-eyed
“Good evening sir, please can…..”she was saying in a beautifully shaky voice
“Ferdinand!” she screamed, the familiar voice cutting the still gloom
He recognized her then, Fiona.
“What was he doing here?”
He leaped from behind the wheel and was having her in her arms.
“I saw the reflector and then the headlamps” she muttered into his ears as relief washed through her.
“Have you watched Shrek?” she asked him as they lay wrapped in each other’s arms inside the back seat of the Nissan.
“Uhuh” he muttered into her neck
“Are you my Shrek or Lord Fraquar?”
“I am handsome and tall” he replied
They both giggled as they lay on their makeshift bed, lost in the comfort of each other’s warm presence, oblivious to the whistling wind, the gloom and the glittery waters of the lagoon. Ferdinand’s friends would soon come to fetch them; meanwhile no cars sped past to disturb the communion of two stranded souls with the ‘whoosh’ they left in their wake.