“Man proposes, God disposes” is a popular maxim for good reason, the best laid plans can fall through in a minute. I had planned to update this series daily but yesterday was nowhere near the norm for me and I couldn’t even write anything at all. I’m glad that today I could pick up from where we left off and…
“Cold, dark, still, drab, dreary, dead”
If Chinwe had been asked to honestly describe London, she would have used at least three of those words.
It had taken forty days for her ship to sail from Apapa port to the port in London and every night she dreamt of Madu. During the day it was easy to push the thoughts of the man she’d built her dreams on, the one she had thought would be her forever and ever. She could think of her impending studies, of the parents and siblings she left behind, of Nwaodaku her little niece who’d cried so much when she was leaving that she had been tempted to take her along. Her sister Egomdinanwa had cried too even though she was the eldest child and should have been stronger. At night however, Madu reigned supreme.
She had always known him, their fathers were best friends who had been brothers in another incarnation and therefore shared a bond that no one could understand or try to break. Their mothers weren’t as close because Matilda and Appollonia could not abide the small talk and chitchat that close friendship involved, they too could have been sisters in another life because they seemed cut from the same cloth in every aspect apart from size. Matilda was tall and round, Appolonia was petite and looked delicate. They both had the sharpest tongues in the whole of Mbaise division and they weren’t averse to challenging anyone to a fight, even young men.
When she started showing signs of exceptional brilliance, it was Madu who would give her his old notes and textbooks to stimulate her brain, he would help her through knotty areas in her school work and most importantly he was the one who understood her the most. She had been devastated when he left for secondary school at Government College Umuahia when she was in standard 3 but he had written her every month, long and detailed letters that showed how much he thought of her.
In her dreams, she would find herself swimming across an ocean to get to him. She’d swim for hours but just before she got to him, he would disappear and a certain girl would laugh at her. When she’d charge at the girl to beat her up, the girl would disappear too. She often woke up to see tears staining her pillow and she would curse Maduka for breaking her heart.
When they finally got to the London port, she was utterly disappointed by her first sight of London. She wanted to turn back and go to Mbaise, where was the dazzling London of her story books? Where was the Big Ben and the young queen Elizabeth? Why was everyone looking grey, even the black people? It was the thought of her mother’s reaction that kept her from running back to home and becoming a reverend sister in line with her mother’s original plan, Matilda’s wrath was not something she wanted to face.
Days became weeks and weeks became months and one day she realised that she hadn’t thought of Madu in almost a week. Her studies at the University of London were gruelling and they left her with little time to even think about anything else. Her beauty attracted intense masculine attention but she barely even acknowledged the young men who threw themselves at her. All that changed when she met Nnamdi.