“How did this happen?” I asked in shock. I just could not believe my eyes, could not believe what had happened to our room in such a little time.
“I was reading oo.. Nkechi and I placed the candle on the chair – A white plastic chair that had melted to the ground – and laid on the bed. I wanted to rest my eyes for some minutes, suddenly, I woke up to a loud noise from someone banging the door. It was Tosin, - our next door neighbor – he had been screaming my name when he started to smell the fire. I quickly jumped off the bed and everywhere was hot and dark. I ran to the door and let Tosin in. The damage had already been done before we could put off the fire.” Ada explained.
“This makes no sense to me. What kind of sleep were you sleeping that all these things were burning and you did not even smell it? You could have died in the fire you know?” This wasn’t the time to point out the obvious but everything that was happening didn’t just make sense to me.
Ada started crying. This again, was not the time for tears. So I ignored her and went to Florence’s bag to see if any of her clothes could be savaged, but everything was burnt to ashes.
“Oh Nkechi, what do you think I should do? What do you think Florence would say? Would she think it was an intentional act?”
I had never seen Ada like that before, so scared and vulnerable. The fear in her eyes was real, so I went to her and gave her a tight hug.
“What nonsense are you talking about?” I whispered into her ears as I slowly rocked her from side to side. “Who burns anyone’s clothes intentionally? It is not possible my dear. You do not have to worry; we will handle this together.
Have you called her though?” Ada shook her head, half-heartedly. “You know we have to inform her right?” She nodded. She was scared, I could tell but I did not know what else to do or say, so I broke off from the hug and searched out my phone from my bag full of books, then called Florence.
“This one that you are calling me, I am sure something must be wrong.” Florence said immediately she picked the call. I wouldn’t blame her for thinking so because I barely spoke to her talk more of calling, I thought to myself, then replied,
“Yes, actually, something is wrong Florence.”
“Oh my gosh, I was just being sarcastic oh, what is the matter? I hope Ada is fine?”
“Yes, Ada is fine, it is just that the room got burnt today and your bag got burnt with it.” This wasn’t the best way to relay such a devastating message to anyone but I was short of options.
“What do you mean my bag got burnt and the room got burnt? Is it just my bag that is in the room? Did your bag get burnt too?” Florence was shouting now.
“No and no.” I replied.
“Ehwo, you people have killed me. Is it only my bag that is in that room? How can it now be that it is only my bag that got burnt?” Florence asked and ended the call.
Ada just sat on the floor at the left corner of room with her head to the ground and her legs folded into themselves. She was scared to her bone and I pitied her but I did not know what to do. Then it occurred to me, ‘I had forgotten to check for my diary. What if it got burnt somehow?’ I quickly ran to my box at the other corner of the room, opened and searched for it. “Thank God!” I exclaimed and shut my eyes for a bit.
When I opened my eyes, I found Ada staring at me, in tears.
“She will really be pissed at me.”
I just nodded and remained silent.
The knock persisted. The person knocking must be enraged with anger. I lazily got up and went for the door.
“Where is the girl from Anambra? Where is the girl that burnt my daughter’s cloths?” Florence mum blurted out as she forcefully entered the room.
I couldn’t believe my ears. Why would she think I was the one who burnt her daughter’s things? Because I was from Anambra. I didn’t know when I let out a long and disgusted hiss.
Ada jerked up from her sleep and began to cry, saying,
“No mama, it was me who burnt the cloth, not the Anambra girl.”
At that point, I angrily walked out of the room and made sure I slammed the door loud enough for my feelings to be properly communicated. I went straight to the entrance of my hostel, where the cult boys sat to smoke marijuana and sat with them.
Martins sat at the other side of the bench and the moment he saw me, he got up and asked the guy sitting beside me to excuse him, then he sat there.
Martins was a cult boy that found me really attractive. He always looked at me in a ravishing way and everyone knew he could not wait to fulfill his unholy desire.
“What is the matter Nkechi? You look worked up.”
“Florence’ mum thought I was the one who burnt her daughter’s clothes, because I am from Anambra.”
“Stereotypes and tribalism is all that paddles round the world these days.” He responded as he took another long drag of the marijuana in his hand, inhaled it deep down his soul, then let out a hiss as though he was disgusted, yet still giving way for the smoke to pass out.
I stared deep into his eyes, trying to figure out if he was talking out of the influence of the marijuana or if he actually was a smart person.
Not knowing what to respond, I got up and walked out of the hostel. A long walk was the only thing that could keep me sane at that point.
“I am sorry about what Florence’ mum said. It must have hurt a lot.”
“It is I who should be sorry for leaving you here to face it all alone. How did it go?”
“Horrible. But it is over at least. Florence insisted she did not want me to buy her anything or pay for anything. She said all her dresses were sent to her from Germany and she would beg her sister to send her new ones.
Nkechi, this girl called her sister in my presence and reported me. Her mum just kept on cursing anyone that wished her daughter evil. Nkechi, I died and resurrected like seven times over.
“We cannot stay with her anymore, I am not comfortable staying with her, I have never been.”
“Yes, I thought so too but we can’t do that now or anytime soon. I just burnt all of the girls clothes remember. Housing her is the least we can do.”
I understood Ada but I wished I had a better option.
Two weeks after the ordeal, Florence was back to normal; just this time, Ada payed her closer attention. She exchanged friendliness for the money she should have paid and Florence just relaxed and enjoyed the ride.
They started to go out together. Florence took Ada clubbing and partying every other Friday night. My girl was losing it. She stopped reading her books and started missing classes. I knew I needed to stop her, before she wrecked herself, but everything I did was fruitless. Each time I spoke to her about it, she would become remorseful, only to go back to leaving the life.
The final step I took in the bid to save my friend's life, broke the camel’s back.