VAL’S DAY BLUES (SHORT STORY)
The fictional story that follows is for your enjoyment and inspiration. The protagonist, Tonia, is quite a character! Do read, comment, share widely and be blessed!
VAL’S DAY BLUES
Tonia was anxious and depressed. Another Val’s Day was rolling in and she had no one special to spend it with, no one she could call her own. All her friends had something special lined up: Celia had travelled to Jos to be with her fiancé, Sochi would be skyping with her boyfriend in Hamburg, Chii had been invited to spend the day with the boy in Pharmacy she had been crushing on for months.
She had no serious relationship and no proper invitation, except Chioma’s plea to come to the Val’s Day Special planned by the Singles’ Fellowship at her church. Seriously? How can that be an option?
This was why Tonia hated the whole Val’s Day hype. It made folks like her miserable, folks who were single, waiting and hoping for love. On a normal day, she would get busy with lectures and assignments and justify her lack of a social life. The stress of school was too much to combine with “frivolities” if one wanted to earn A’s and B’s, without which one would be ashamed of the degree they get at last, she would reason.
But such concerns seemed hollow on Val’s Day. The day made her feel she was throwing her life away with misplaced priorities. I am TWENTY-FIVE, for goodness sake! And most of my classmates are in serious relationships. Some are engaged, a few married and in the family way already! Tonia was certain life was passing her by!
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She considered joining one guy who said he would go to the Motherless Babies’ Home in town to celebrate with the kids. But that was lame, in her view. You can show love to everyone everyday, true, but you don’t pretend that love of the less privileged is what Val’s Day is all about. That doesn’t mean that I don’t care for the less privileged.
Perhaps to prove it to herself, she decided to visit the orphanage on Val’s Day’s Eve and resign herself to her misery on the day proper. She dressed casually in a buba and iro with matching but simple gele. Then she withdrew ten grand from her account. She planned to spend five of that on her benevolence and the rest of the money on transport to the Home and her own needs in school.
Unfortunately, five thousand Naira couldn’t buy all that she wanted to donate. The prices of baby products were unbelievably high. A tin of infant formula with iron alone was over two thousand Naira. So she spent an additional three thousand Naira. At last, she had 20 cups of beans, a medium-sized bowlful of crayfish, a tin of baby milk, a bottle of palm oil, four tablets of baby soap, a tube of baby lotion, another of baby oil, a jar of baby powder, a dozen and half sachets of detergent, two bar soaps, six toilet rolls and a big packet of biscuits.
She wasn’t one to splurge, but considering her financial situation, that was exactly what her purchases amounted to. What was she trying to prove? Nothing! Who was she trying to impress? No one! To show her sincerity on the matter, she promised herself she would tell no one what she had done. More questions were harassing her, however.
How about praying and attaching the seed to something like, “Oh Lord, kindly give me a love that is just for me”? It’s a seed, right?
Hey, can’t I do a good deed without asking for something in return?
She thanked God for the privilege of having something to give and asked Him to continue providing for those children who had no parents to depend on. It occurred to her that they were the ones who were truly deprived. She had her immediate family and other relatives to support her, she was about to get a degree in Food Science & Technology. She even had a job waiting for her in her uncle’s food processing factory. She wasn’t old or ill, or anything else. It wasn’t too late for her to find love. She was just losing sleep because she wanted what other people had at that very moment. Time to stay in my own lane and be thankful.
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She gathered up her purchases and went to hail a cab. Who should pull up but James, the chief driver of the Amazing Youths’ Fellowship on campus in their 18-seater bus! Tonia and James had some history. They had dated briefly in her first year (his second) but he became so jim jim that she took fright and ran. He still tried to be friendly but she gave him the cold shoulder most times. In any case, her attendance at fellowship was not consistent because she didn’t “want to be sucked into positions there that could negatively affect” her grades.
“Abeg, go find your jim jim sisters and leave me alone oh,” she would often tell James, but he kept “popping up like a bad penny”.
“Where is my favourite sister off to today?”
“Hi Brother James! I’m waiting for a cab.”
“I can see that. Hop in, I’ll take you where you’re going.”
“Are you the one buying the fuel for the bus? Abeg, push off!”
“I won’t leave till you come with me.”
He was stubborn like that. So Tonia relented and heaved her bags into the back of the bus before climbing in beside James and telling him her destination. She detected approval in his gaze.
“What are you still doing in school?” Tonia asked. “Your mates left last August.”
“You know I can’t leave without you,” James replied with a smile.
He must have been joking but the sentiment warmed Tonia’s heart. He sounded more playful than his old uber-spiritual self, she noted.
“I had missing results in some courses. By the time, the confusion was sorted out, I had missed Batch A Youth Service List.”
“You’re sure you didn’t flunk the courses?”
“I’m just saying!”
They drove along in silence and Tonia realised that she had missed him. He was actually a nice guy from a good home, gentle and considerate. And handsome too! Why did he have to go deeper, deeper kwanu?
His presence made the visit to the orphanage more fun. They played with the kids, told them stories and took pictures with his phone.
As they were posing for a shot to be taken by one of the staff there, he drew her close and whispered, “You know I’ve been praying for this day.” She smiled and said nothing, hoping he would elaborate but he didn’t. In fact, he said nothing intimate again till he dropped her off at her hostel.
By that time, Tonia was feeling worse than she did at the beginning of the day. The enjoyable time spent in James’ company, his whispered comment full of promise had sparked hope in her. But the lack of a followup had deflated her. She was feeling irritated when she came down from the bus but she doubted that James noticed because he was making a call. She didn’t even wait to say goodbye.
I really must pull myself together! I’m just acting like a desperate woman. I am not an old maid, far from it!
The next day dawned bright and cool. The recent unseasonably hot weather seemed to have abated. None of her roommates were around, so Tonia refused to attend classes and locked herself in. In spite of her pep talk to herself the previous day, she cried her eyes sore. She was a wreck by noon when she decided to find something to eat.
She had a bath to refresh herself, wore a lovely green dress with a smocked bodice and a new pair of brown sandals with long tie-on straps. She had the practice of dressing well whenever she was sad. She wore an Afro wig that gave her a teenage look. Just what I need! She lined her brows, glossed her lips, wore bangle-sized hoops in her ears and shades on her eyes. Then she stepped out of the hostel smiling.
As she rounded the corner that would take her to the restaurant, she saw a familiar white bus heading her way and wanted to dodge. For what, kwanu! Instead, she held up her chin and moved on. The driver was James, as she feared, but he merely horned and kept driving. Tonia exhaled! Get a grip, girl! It’s only Brother James, you know, the brother you dumped several years ago.
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Twenty minutes later, as she was digging into her semovita with ogbono soup, a voice by her left ear startled her, “Help a brother, please!”
“You again! You scared me,” Tonia rebuked, picking up her hankie to wipe off the soup she had mistakenly smeared on her philtrum.
James laughed, plonked into a chair opposite her and rephrased his plea: “I’m so hungry I can faint. I actually came here to eat but I just realised I don’t have my wallet.”
“Likely story. But I’ll pay for your food as long as you don’t order anything expensive.”
“Thank you, mummy!” That sounded so good. A number of guys called their girlfriends “mummy”. This brother will not kill me.
He ordered what she was having and watched her as they ate.
“Anya torch, allow me to eat in peace.”
He smiled and assured himself they would get back together again. After their meal, he invited her to his place in a BQ on campus. He had learnt to play the guitar. Wonderful! As he played her a song by Eben, she wondered what was happening. He was much more mature and seemed to have outgrown his hyper spirituality. And he was good with the guitar. He sounded wonderful too, like Steve Crown.
She stood up abruptly.
“I need to go.”
“So soon?” She nodded.
“I want to sing another song for you. It’s a song I wrote just for you.”
Her heart leapt. “Maybe another time.” What am I doing? Playing hard to get?
“Can I call you? You stopped picking my calls ….”
“Of course, you can call me!” God, you’re so good! Some brothers chose that very moment to visit and James could only see Tonia to the door. If her eyes were bullets ….
As she strolled to the road, her phone rang.
“Hey, it’s me. I’m right behind you.”
She turned and saw James trotting towards her.
“What about your guests?”
“I sent them away.”
“I told them I needed to see you off but that’s not really what I want. Today is Val’s Day and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather spend it with than you.” You couldn’t have said it better!
“Okay. But you need to go get that guitar of yours. I want to see if you’re really any good with it.”
As James raced back to his room, Tonia asked herself a salient question: “Could James, Brother James, be the love that is just for me after all?” Well, time will tell. But for today, at least, no more Val’s Day blues for me!
Ⓒ Edith Ugochi Ohaja 2018
I hope you enjoyed the story. Let’s chat for a bit if you don’t mind.
Do you agree with Tonia that Val’s Day isn’t for showing love to the less privileged?
If you were James, would you reunite with Tonia?
What are the things you like about Tonia and the things you dislike about her?
Advise the sister, if you may.
I wish you joy and fulfilment in life in Jesus’ name.
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