The award ceremony was huge. Dignitaries, celebrity writers and other celebrities graced the red carpet. Popular artists dished out their best performances to the accolades of the enthralled crowd. Cameras flashed everywhere as the media covered the event.
The girls and I accompanied Nkechi. She looked absolutely stunning in her evening gown. In fact, if you didn’t know her, you would think she was a vogue model. Debbie really finished work on her gown.
Back home at Amamkpuma, people were watching the event live on TV. Those who didn’t have television went to those who had. Everyone was rooting for Nkechi. She was one of their own.
Then the moment we were waiting for came.
As the host rolled out the names of the nominees, everyone held their breath. Nkechi was completely calm. I closed my eyes in silent prayer. Debbie held my hand in reassurance. Dami looked like she was about to cry. The hall was eerily silent. You could practically hear a pin drop.
“And the winner is…”
Nkechi won! The hall shook with a wild applause. Debbie and I screamed with mad joy. Dami’s happy tears poured like showers of blessing. Nkechi just sat there, stunned. She couldn’t believe it. It was real. She actually won! We had to help her to her feet and she went to receive her award.
And the best part was when she gave her acceptance speech where she mentioned my name.
“Most importantly, my appreciation goes to my iron corper, a sharp tongue and I-no-send-you personality, the most stubborn girl I’ve ever seen and my best friend, Itohan Osahon.”
She looked over to me as tears filled her eyes.
“IT, I dedicate this award to you. Thank you for being the sister I never had. Despite all the hard time I gave you, you found hope in me when I couldn’t find it. You brought me out of a very dark place and made me believe in myself again. You’re my guardian angel. And you’re not only my friend, you’re my sister for life.”
By now, my tears were flowing more than Dami’s. This was the best accolades anyone had given me. And to think it came from Nkechi, it was very touching.
“And to all of you, thank you so much for finding me worthy to receive this award. God bless you.” She finished and stepped down to everyone’s standing ovation.
Later, the event ended and guests began to leave or hang around. The girls and I chatted happily as we waited for Nkechi. She finally came out, flushed with happiness and we cheered her.
“Here comes the latest celebrity in town!” Debbie announced.
“You did it. I told you you would win, didn’t I?” I added.
“I still can’t believe this is happening. I’m still waiting to wake up from this dream.”
“Hello, it’s not a dream. It’s real.”
“Even if it were, I don’t want to wake up.”
“I wish my bae was here to see this.” Dami added.
For once, I didn’t roll my eyes at her. “How far the two of you? I hope is fine.”
“Yes, we’ve finally made up.” She confirmed happily.
“So who are those people we saw you with earlier?” I asked Nkechi.
“Oh, they’re from an international writing organization. They invited me to give a talk on Feminism and African literature in the Canada next month.” She replied modestly, though it was obvious she was very excited.
“Are you serious?” I was excited. “Oh my God. See you now. See as favors are raining all over you. Five million naira, a book deal, brand new car, new job…”
“And a particular admiration of a loyal fan.” A male voice interrupted us.
We turned to see a man in his early forties approaching us. Man, he was gorgeous. We were moping at him like morons. But his eyes were on Nkechi. And she was staring back.
“Hi.” He greeted her.
“Hi.” She replied breathlessly.
They continued staring at each other. The girls and I watched them with interest. It was as if they were the only ones in the hall and the rest of us didn’t exist. The current passing between them could electrocute my hair.
I cleared my throat meaningfully and glanced at Debbie and Dami. “Erm, I thought I saw Wole Soyinka inside?”
“Yes.” Debbie replied, getting the meaning. “Let’s go and ask for autographs before he leaves.”
We left the potential lovebirds, dragging Dami, who was too enchanted with this brewing romance to understand anything, with us. We got to the exit and we turned to Nkechi to give her a thumbs up. She giggled. Mr. Gorgeous turned to look at us and we immediately faced the exit and vamoosed.
Most importantly, the reception she received at the village when we got back sounded like Micheal Jackson’s concert. The cheers were deafening. Mama Nkechi ran and embraced her. She was jumping and dancing and announcing to those who cared to listen that her precious daughter had arrived. I had never seen a welcome like that in my entire life.
I didn’t win any award for my efforts. But I gained the respect and loyalty of a friend. Nkechi and I remained friends to this day.
Service ended and we went our separate ways. Dami’s bae eventually broke up with her. Then he came back and proposed to her. She accepted. Turned out he was a popular celebrity that looked like Wizkid. No wonder she was crying all the time.
Debbie continued her hustling. Last I heard, she was an event planner and she was doing very well.
As for me and Nkechi…
“Relax, is it not you again? IT, the no nonsense give-me-one-I-give-you-ten person again?” Nkechi asked me over the phone, one afternoon, more than a year later.
“This one no be no nonsense matter o. I have serious stage fright. I don’t know what this NYSC people were thinking when they invited me to give a talk on community projects.”
Nkechi laughed. “IT, you, stage fright? You’re the most confident person I know in my entire life.”
“Ha! Leave that side. Even Obama has stage frights. By the way, I heard your new book has been nominated for a Commonwealth prize. Congratulations.”
“Thank you. It’s God.” She replied, modestly. “Meanwhile, a friend of mine in Cool FM says they’re looking for new OAPs. I told him about you. We can make an appointment if you’re interested.”
“Are you kidding me? Of course, I’m interested. Thank you. Thank you so much.” I said excitedly.
“No, thank you. Without you, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
“I envy you o, I swear.”
“Don’t. You know my history.”
“Abi? But I will not lie to you, I’m very close to calling those people and telling them to cancel my talk. I’m so scared. What if I mess up?”
“And what if you don’t. a friend of mine wisely told me that you can’t know for sure unless you try.”
I smiled. “That your friend must be very wise.”
“She is. And I’m talking to her right now.”
“Okay, I hear you. So, how’s our baby?”
I could imagine her smiling and rubbing her pregnant belly. “Healthy and kicking.”
Yeah, Nkechi married Mr. Gorgeous and they’re expecting their first baby.
“He’s making me lunch. He’s bringing it now.”
“Is that IT?” I heard her husband’s voice at the background.
“Yes.” I heard Nkechi reply.
“Greet her for me.”
“My husband sends his greetings.” Nkechi said to me.
I laughed. “Hmm, I go love o. Greet him for me. Enjoy your lunch. Take care.”
“Take care of yourself. Bye.”
I ended the call and went to prepare for the NYSC talk. Nkechi was right, I didn’t mess up. By the time I finished, I got a standing ovation.