Reaching for the Stars (Part 1)

I enjoyed driving. Enjoyed the feel of the engine revving, so powerful, so thrilling. But this particular night, I was not so keen on driving. I was just bent on getting to my hotel room, and jumping into bed. I had an early flight to catch. The only thing gratifying thing about my tiredness was that I completed the business deal I came for. I own a software developing company; I would have allowed some other person to handle the deal but this case was different. It involved the largest software company in the East. There were a lot of companies that wanted it but MedCorp was the highest bidder.


Thank God I was not on high speed or I would have knocked her down. Luckily, I applied to brakes early enough. She frantically waved at me to stop. I had already stopped, so she immediately came over and leapt in through the passenger door. Immediately, some men came out of the junction that she also came out from. She let our an almost inaudible moan of terror. I needed no persuasion to get out of the area. As I passed the men, she crouched so low that I wondered how she could twist and fold herself so.


When we were well past the men, I signaled for her to sit up but she was too afraid to move.


“Hello, we’re past the men chasing you. You can sit up now,” I said with the gentlest of voice. Tentatively, she sat up, still darting her eyes here and there. Perhaps to see if she was followed. You could see the raw terror on her face, it was so palpable. In a bid to calm her down, I reached out and touched her shoulder. She let out a blood curling scream that immediately sent shivers all the way down my spine. What could have put such terror into her? And who were those men? She was looking very haggard, her gown was torn in different places. She had blood on her nose and lips. The bruises on her face was turning purple. Her eyes were bloodshot and blank, as if she was in another planet. What do I do? I can’t take her to my hotel room; even if I could, not with her looking like a character from a horror movie.


I started looking for any place I could buy clothes for her. I was unfamiliar with the city, so I couldn’t go out of my route for fear of being lost. Then I remembered that I bought some clothes for my younger sister, Maria. That would do it. Looking at her, she would be the same size. How do I now make her understand? Because she very well could have been so traumatized that she could not speak.


“Uhm… Are you heading anywhere in particular?” She shook her head. “Okay, can you go to back and change? I have some clothes there and I think they would be your size. Don’t worry, I will stop the car and wouldn’t look,” I added. She looked at me quizzically.


“You won’t go down?” she asked. At last she spoke. Not that traumatized then.


“Well, my dear, as much as I would want to make you feel relaxed, I can’t just get out of the car. If you look at the seat behind you, there is a pair of crutches that belongs to me. So, it would be an unnecessary stressful stuff for me. Don’t worry, I will bend my head over the steering wheel to give you maximum privacy.” I replied with as much humor as I could giving the circumstances and the dangerous location we were. Not that I saw anyone here — that’s the problem, no one was in sight — it made me nervous.


She reluctantly nodded and went to the back of the car. I bent over the steering and started whistling, mulling over the current situation. Two minutes later, she was done and came back to the front seat. “I’m done.” I nodded and drove off.


~~~~~~~


At the hotel, since I did not drop the keys at the reception, I was heading to my room when the receptionist saw me and the girl. She winked at me. I took no heed of the meaning behind the wink and resolutely headed to my room. As I opened the door, her bearing became more relaxed. It was obvious she wanted the security of a roof over her head.


Contrary to what I had planned, I had to make sure she was comfortable before taking my bath and flumping on the bed and dozing off.


“Make yourself comfortable. Let me take a shower, I’ll be right back.” And I went into the to bathroom. As I bathed, I went over the events of the past hour. Who was she? And why was she so scared of those men? I was certain it was no ordinary scenario here.


When I was done, I came into the room and saw her sitting on the edge of the bed. She was looking so forlorn, my heart went out to her. She noticed my presence and stood up.
“Hey, calm down dear,” I began, “What’s your name?”


“C-Clara,”


“OK Clara. My name is Ifeanyi. Can you tell me why those men were after you?”


At the mention of ‘those men’ she froze. I thought she wouldn’t answer, but finally she gave a brief nod. “They wanted to… to kill me. I barely managed to escape,” she answered amidst sobs that racked her body. I was not sure what her reaction would be if I went close to her, but I had to try. Gently, so as not to scare her, I went to her and put my arms around her.


To my surprise, she held onto me and cried the more. I could only imagine what she had been through. We just stood there. “Hush now dear. You are now safe. They can’t get to you here, OK? You’re completely safe here,” I said, reassuringly.


After what seemed like five minutes, she slowly pulled away from me. Her lips were still quivering but she wasn’t crying anymore. “Can I use the bathroom? I’m afraid I look like a zombie.” Was that humor? Good. She’s getting herself back then. I just smiled and motioned that she could go on.


~~~~~~~~~


...To be continued...


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