Cassandra Oriefieze Amanna. The name was too long and classless, my mother used to say. At first she called me Fifi. But my father used to get so angry, he thought it was sacrilegious. As I grew older it became Cassie. My half-caste neighbour used to call me that, and soon everyone joined in. Oriefieze was too long a name for her polished tongue.
I was born in the northern part of Kaduna, to an Anambra father and Imo state mother who ran a small canteen just opposite our house where labourers ate during their day job. When the Sharia riot broke out in year 2000, my parents fled and abandoned the canteen and northern Kaduna for the southern side which was more developed and flourished in business. After the riot, My mother got another shop selling provisions while my father managed a small office selling building materials.
There wasn’t much money but my parents were very happy. We were four children, three girls and a boy, with I and the boy as the middle kids . Though humble, our parents had great plans for us. My mum, being unread had sworn that all her kids would be educated. At sixteen, like my older two siblings, I had gained admission into the university. University of Abuja to study business administration.
At twenty one I graduated university after spending almost a year at home due to the ASUU strike. Things were already looking up for my family. My elder sister was already married to a wealthy accountant in Lagos, my brother was working for a telecommunications company in Lagos, my younger sister was in her second year at the university, and I was just about to go for my youth Corp service..
I was posted to Nasarawa state despite all arrangements I made so I could be in Abuja. These days everything was based on how connected one was. Nasarawa wasn’t so far from Abuja and I had resolved to enjoy my NYSC come what may..Now as the camp drew closer everyone was getting worried about their primary posting. Nasarawa had some very violent backward villages and no one wanted to be posted there. Everyone was clamouring for Keffi which was closer to Abuja, or Lafia, the state capital.
I was standing at the far side of the hall as I listened to names being called out and assignment letter handed over. I was visibly anxious. I held mine in my hands afraid of revealing the content. I bent my head over the letter trying to take a quick peep, that was when he came behind me. He peered down quietly over my shoulder trying to sneak peek at my letter. After a moment he spoke “Lafia too?”
I looked up, not sure what he meant “Really! Did you see it?” I quickly opened my letter to see. And there it was, National Orientation Agency Lafia. ”Yes, yes, yes”, I jumped for joy. Smiling calmly, he watched me intensely now from under his eyebrow. In my euphoria I had almost forgotten he was there.
“Destiny calls then”he said, a silly grin on his face
“Excuse me!!”I laughed, a bit embarrassed, “you have taken me by surprise, yes I was posted to lafia, you?”
“Yeah some school in lafia there”he pretended to frown
“Common look on the bright side, at least you are in lafia, not some hidden village out of the map”I teased
He shrugged”At least I get to see you again” his eyes met mine carefully. I recognised him. He was the same guy who had won the Mr. Macho contest. On few occasions I had run into him in the camp cafeteria but we had never acknowledged each other. He did seem pompous and arrogant at the time.
“Uyi Mengwa” he stretched out his hand
“Cassandra,….Cassie to my friends”I replied as I shook his hand while smoothing my hair.
“Cassie it is then” his eyes were twinkling. He had a very attractive smile and I liked the way his eyes crinkled up at the corners. I decided he was dishy. He was really tall, about six feet, elegantly broad with broad shoulders and well muscled legs that indicated he must have been working out. He was the most charming man I had ever met.
“I have to go, my friends are waiting”I said as I waved at Jasmine who was beckoning on the other far end of the hall. .jasmine was my best friend since we got into camp.the fact we attended same university had cemented the bond even though we barely knew each other back in school.
“See you in lafia then?”he arched an eyebrow.
“I hope so”
“Enjoy your weekend, it was nice meeting you” He shook hands again”
“You too” I replied, smiling again as I walked away towards a curious jasmine.
Three days later I ran into Uyi again as I was house hunting in Lafia. Most Houses in Lafia were deplorable, and most corpers just wanted a room they could manage, I wasn’t one of those. I wanted a comfortable house I could make cozy, somewhere I could lay down after work and forget how sunny and humid Lafia was. The state was a bit backwards in development, everything was centered on government employment.
Together we had stumbled on a two bedroom flat and after much deliberation, we decided to share the flat. I was a bit skeptical at first, but Jasmine was quick to remind me most corpers lived that way, we didn’t necessarily need to be lovers to share a flat, after all, it was everyman to his own room. Jasmine should have been my ideal choice but she wasn’t intrested in staying in Lafia, she wanted somewhere closer to Abuja, so she could come from her parents house. She ended up working her posting back to Karu, which was few kilometers away from Abuja.
And that was the beginning of our friendship Uyi and I. He was a facilitator for an NGO, so he was always away on jobs. I spent most times alone in the house, it was beginning to look like I lived alone. I looked forward to days when he would be back
When Uyi finally officially asked me to lunch a month later, I agreed, and I enjoyed it. Uyi was entertaining and witty. He made me laugh heartily. We would talk for hours into the night on my bed before he would retire to his. My room was the masters bedroom of the apartment so it was airier and more spacious. Uyi had offered I picked a room first when we first moved in. I loved that about him. He was very mannerly and good manners always impressed me.
He told me he was in a serious relationship back in Abuja before camp and they lived together in a small self contained house in Gwarimpa.
We spent more nights talking and laughing and soon it became clear there was a strong physical attraction between us. It’s said that once a woman really likes the way she feels around a man, she begins to like him more. At first it is just an accidental bump in the bed, a touch of hands that lingers a while, or a shared laughter that turns into a long smiling gaze. We shared a lot in common, from our type of music, movie, ideology about life, even down to our flirty personality. He told me he had noticed me in camp when I would always come to the cafeteria to eat with Jasmine.”The way you walked was what attracted me, you walk in quietly, swinging those hips provocatively yet innocently, then when you find a seat you stand awhile while hanging your hips before you finanlly seat” he told me.”I love it because you were totally unaware of the effect you had on guys, you were just being you, it was absolutely natural”.
I looked at his smiling eyes and thought defiantly, “you weren’t the only one that noticed me, I noticed you too”. Uyi was a hunk of a man and it was impossible not to notice him, even in a hall filled with attractive men he would stand out. I however thought back in camp that he was arrogant, because he hardly spoke, always sitting down in the cafeteria all puffed up in his self importance, like we were all beneath him.
Uyi wanted to know everything about my life, about my boyfriends”tell me about the lucky man”he commanded”I envy you with your life ahead of you”he said as he picked pillow debris from my hair
“oh common Uyi, you just four years older than I am, you still have a lot ahead of you too, ”
“”I m only young in age Cassie. I ve been through a lot in life, it’s beginning to feel like I m fifty”
“yeah!! Whatever , but you are the sexiest fifty year old I would know, millionaire corper”I teased.
“what would you do if I kiss you?” He was starring hard at me while his finger caressed my cheek. He caught me off guard, it was like time stopped. My insides went a bit wobbly,.He just spoke of the elephant in the room
“Now?”I muttered flippantly
“Right this minute”he was serious. Now his finger was fiddling with a thread in my pyjamas
“well?”he asked softly
“I don’t know”I didn’t know what answer sounded right at the time, my heart was beginning to pound so loud I was afraid he could hear it.
Uyi smiled”now cat got your tongue?, you use to talk a lot” he chided good humouredly breaking the ice.”I thought you knew everything”
“Stop fooling around Uyi, it’s late, I have an early day tomorrow”I dismissed him..
I spent the whole night thinking about him.my bed suddenly felt uncomfortable, from laying on my stomach, to laying on my back, to cheeks resting on my arms, to gazing at the rolling ceiling fan. My thoughts kept straying back to Uyi . ”was he thinking of me too?”I thought gumly and the awful thing was I didn’t really know how genuine his attraction was, considering he had his woman back in Abuja.
A man they say, loves it when a woman feels free to be herself in his presence, that he is turned on by her ease of comfort with herself, and her freedom of expression.
Uyi used to say, A woman being herself in the presence of a man was a clear message that the man doesn’t also have to change to be with the woman and men loved that. Was he indirectly telling me something.
To be continued………………