I didn’t even get to see Lizzy Ubeh again and we were getting into the bus that brought us when someone ran up to us and threw the scarf at me.
“Lizzy said I should give it to you,” she said and ran off and for the first time since I won the race I let myself smile. I’d won the race and even though it had turned into a celebration for Lizzy Ubeh, I’d still got my price.
I’d gone back home and then to school the next Monday where I was given another special prize by the principal for doing the school proud.
The race was the talk of the school for the rest of the term and I’d been glad to lap up all the admiration and acclaim as I came to school every day with the scarf tied around my head or neck.
It became a sort of good luck charm for me as I wore it every time I had to run in an event.
When I left primary school, I had to go to school in a Federal Government College down east and though I still continued to compete at athletic events, I neither came across nor heard of Lizzy Ubeh again, even though I still had her scarf.
I finished secondary school and was admitted into the university to study Architecture and as soon as I’d settled in, I began training with the athletics team.
I’d been there for about a month when I saw Lizzy Ubeh in flesh again after almost seven years!
I was doing stretches, when I looked up and our eyes locked. A tingling sensation ran down my spine as she held my gaze for a moment, then frowned and looked away. I watched as she moved to a group of girls nearby and began to exercise. I stopped exercising and watched her every move. I was still watching when Greg, one of the guys on our relay team bashed into my thoughts.
“Haba, you never see woman before?” He asked, punching me playfully on the back as he settled beside me on the grass.
“You know her?” I asked, gesturing towards Lizzy with my head.
“Ehen, now, she’s Lizzy, the superstar-sprinter,” he said and rolled his eyes. “Everyone believes that we’ve won this year’s 100 metres gold in the female event because she’s here.” Greg added. He didn’t seem bowled over by the superstar.
“You don’t think she’s good?” I’d asked.
“Good or not, she’s just a woman and you know how women are, once you start praising them they will start messing up,” Greg said, cutting and chewing a blade of grass.
“I like her,” I said more to myself than Greg.
“It’s obvious. I saw how you were staring at her. She’s a fine girl though. Nice face, nice figure. I just hope she’s smart too.”
“But it’s true.” He said and got to his feet. “I want to do two laps, you want to come?” he asked.
I shook my head and stared way ahead, twirling the scarf around my fingers.
“You’re still thinking of her?” he said, stooping to eye level.
I’d smiled and said. “You know, she gave this scarf to me.”
Greg had looked at me like I’d gone mad. Then he’d said, “you’ve always had that. She just moved here.”
“She gave it to me years ago,” I said.
“Of course, she did. And you don’t even know her name,” Greg said, not ready to believe me at all.
“Aright, just forget it,” I told him and lay back on the grass. He’d stood and trotted off.
I’d laid there for a while before I stood up to do some laps. I was half way through the second lap when Lizzy joined me. I’d acted as if I didn’t notice her and went on with my jogging. I did four and went to sit under the shade of a tree.
She’d gone ahead to complete four laps before she came and joined me.
“I know you from somewhere?” she said, as she flopped down by my side, her bosom heaving as she panted.
“You do?” I said.
Yeah, but I just can’t figure out where. Reckon we must have met somewhere in secondary school.” She did the effort at recollection, furrowing her pretty face.
“I suppose you don’t remember the guy who beat you in Primary School?” I asked and watched her as she tried to subtract the years away from my face.
She stared at me for a long time, then cracked a smile and asked, “Where’s my scarf?”
“Here!” I said, pointing to the scarf I’d wound round my head.
“Boy! It’s been a long time,” she said, smiling shyly.
“Yeah,” I said watching her face.
“You know, someone took a picture of us at the finishing line. I look at that picture all the time and wonder who and where you are. You know, I don’t even know your name.
“Dave, and you’re Lizzy Ubeh. I never forget and when I saw you striding onto the pitch, I just knew it was you. You haven’t changed much. You’ve still got the same pretty face. The only difference is you’re no longer a kid and from what I hear, you’re still burning up the tracks.”
“I do my best.” She said shyly as the whistle sounded, calling us for our weekly conference.
“We’ll talk some more after the conference,” she said, as we walked towards the gathering.
That was how we became friends and in no time, love blossomed. We became virtually inseparable. We’d train and study together. She was studying to be a Biochemist while I was working towards a degree in Architecture.
Lizzy was great fun to be with. She was not just a good athlete, she was also smart and full of life. She had a great sense of humour and the times we shared were always fun filled. She was just the right woman for me.
I graduated a year before Lizzy and I’d stopped competing by that time. I stopped because I’d been involved in an accident on my way to a meet with some of the guys. I’d fractured my left leg and though Lizzy had been there for me during that difficult period, I’d decided to give athletics up. I’d realised that it was more important and more enduring for me to get my degree first and concentrate on athletics afterwards. But even then, I’d realised that with that urging, I was through with competitive sports.
My decision must have affected Lizzy more than I realised, for she had also stopped competing after she left school, though she still took out time to exercise and do light training.
“I’ve got to stay in shape for you or else I’ll lose you to some young babe,” she’d say whenever I raised an eyebrow.
Lizzy and I got married five years after we left school and if there is anything like a blissful marriage then, that was what we had.
We were a young couple just starting out in life. We had our careers to build, a family to set up and all that, but it never for once interfered nor diminished what we felt for each other. We were more of lovers than husband and wife.
We had our son in the fourth year of our marriage. It was as if we just woke up one morning and realised that it was about time the honey moon ended. We’d settled down quite well in that short space of time. We both had our own cars and we were getting to be quite financially secure so we felt it was time to have a baby and we were blessed with a boy though I’d wanted a girl.
Lizzy was over the moon with joy. She’d been praying for a boy and she’d got one. Me, I didn’t really care though I’d have preferred a girl for no particular reason anyway.
Our son was welcomed and we set about giving him the best care we could and we’d been doing quite well until that black Sunday, seven months ago, when our world exploded.
Major, Lizzy’s immediate elder brother was getting married in Ibadan and we’d gone for the ceremony. We’d gone on Thursday so that Lizzy could contribute her own bit, while I used the time to catch up on a long overdue rest. I’d take Lizzy to the house in the morning then return to pick her back to the hotel while I lazed and read novels, a pleasure I’d been denied for so long – in between.
We’d left junior in Lagos with the Owolabis, our friends from school and they were to bring him to Ibadan on Saturday morning. The wedding was cool and we’d all had a lot to eat and drink. We retired late at night and so had to leave for Lagos late the following day, way past noon.
To Be Continued…