Flo sat on the cold tiled floor of the new apartment she would call her home for the next year. (roughly 11 months) She and Ilya had rented the one roomed self-contained apartment together and their stuff lay scattered everywhere.
They had just moved in so their only furniture was a plastic table and two chairs and a couple of 8 spring mattresses that they had doubled to make space, but could separate whenever they wanted to sleep. Flo sat, hanging clothes on an assemble-able wardrobe made of fabric and small metal pipes. It had taken hours to put up because the pieces kept falling down but with the use of some rope and tape, the wardrobe was now sturdy (-ish).
Ilya was on bathroom duty and Flo was in charge of tidying up the room and putting everything in its place. Flo could hear Ilya humming away, she had been scrubbing the toilet bowl for hours now.
Flo’s phone vibrated and she reached for it under a heap of clothes. She was getting a video-call from Max. As she picked the call, she saw her cousin, Esther’s face staring up at her.
“Hello Flo!” Esther said in a sing-song voice shaking her head from side to side.
“Esther, what are you doing in Max’s phone, I mean my phone.”
Esther laughed. “Max came over and we were all talking about you. So I suggested we do a video call and here we are.” Esther moved the phone around to reveal Ene, John and Max all sitting down in the familiar parlor of her uncle’s house.
“Hey Flo.” Max said waving. It was when she saw his face that she really realized how much she missed him. “How’s Benue state and the Corporate life?”
“Oh, it’s fine.” Flo said. She wanted to tell him that she missed him but she didn’t want the others to be an audience to her declaration.
“Corper sure!” Ene screamed from the background and Flo groaned. She was annoyed enough whenever random strangers screamed at that nickname (commonly given to corps members) as she moved around in the NYSC uniform. But she let her cousin enjoy her moment.
“Oh I remember my own service year in Enugu. It was so much fun…” Ene reminisced as she disappeared into the kitchen and Esther turned the phone back to her face.
“We miss you Flo. When are you coming to visit?”
“I need some time to settle down and get the hang of things then I will visit. Promise. Benue is only four hours away from Abuja.”
“Oh that’s cool.” Esther said as handed the phone to Max.
“How is moving day and your sat so far?” He said.
“Going just great. Benue is just wonderful.” Flo said sarcastically.
“You’ll settle in just fine, trust me. Work takes me to some of the most remote places I can imagine, but when I change my mindset, I find that I can always handle it.”
“I was posted to some government day school, I am teaching literature. I’ve never taught before so the first day was a disaster. At least it’s not as bad for me as it is for Ilya. She was posted to some state Commission and wherever she goes, people keep complaining about her pink hair. It will take a while getting used to everything but we’re getting there.”
“I know you’re a strong. It might not be easy but you can do it.” Max said.
“When you talk like that, I wonder how you could possibly be referring to me.” Flo said. “I’m not strong, I’m not special. I’m not like you. ” She sounded irritated.
Max didn’t argue with her and Flo felt bad that she had reacted that way to his compliment. But that was simply the truth. Max had this grand expectation about her but she was just a regular girl.
“I’m sorry,” Flo said apologetically .”How are you doing?”
“It’s agony here without you babe.” Max used the most sexy voice he could find, narrowing his eyes at her. Flo stuck out her tongue saying “Give me a break.”
“But seriously, It’s not the same without you. My Mom was insisting that I asked you to try to redeploy to Abuja. She says she knows someone in the NYSC that can push some buttons for you. But I told her that you preferred it this way.”
“Tell her not to worry. I am not the first person who served, neither will I be the last. I will be just fine. She should just focus all that energy in taking care of you for me. On the plus side, staying on my own is a totally new experience. I have never stayed alone be…”
As she spoke, she noticed that Max was staring intently at something behind her. Ilya had stopped singing.
“Who is that behind you?” Max said, startling Flo and causing her to turn around. It was Ilya, hands akimbo, staring silently, not saying a word.
“Oh my God!” Flo said holding her chest. “Max, that’s Ilya,” She finally said after getting over the mini heart-attack.
“Why were you just standing there like that.” Flo said turning to her. “I didn’t even see you pass by.”
“One of my many many talents. I call it ghost-walking. I wanted to see the famous Max for myself. ” She said matter-of-factly.
Max waved from the screen of the phone. “Hey, Ilya. Where’s you pink hair?”
She felt her head instinctively and touched the scarf. “Scarf.” She said, moving the mountain of clothes around and then sitting beside Flo.
“Max, I have to go.” Flo said in the middle of a sigh.
“Sure Flo.” he said . “Nice meeting you Ilya.”
The screen went black and Flo turned and stared at her new roommate for a while. “Why were you just standing there like that? That was beyond creepy.” Flo said.
“I’ve told you, wanted to see him. He’s cute. Too cute if you ask me. Not exactly my type.”
That was not something you said about someone else’s boyfriend to their face. Flo peered at her carefully actually wondering what was wrong with her. “Are you alright?” She might have made the wrong call by picking someone who could just have psychopathic tendencies as her roommate.
At Flo’s reaction, Ilya threw her head back laughing. “I might not have given you a memo, my dear roomie. But a lot of people say I’m not that right in the head.”
Flo’s eyebrows shot up.
“I have no filter. If I think it, I say it. Another of my many talents. I hope you still want to be my roommate. She wringed her hands playfully. “So what do you say, Flooo…?” She said with an expectant cringe.
Flo sighed. What had she gotten herself into. She balled one of her clothes and threw it at her. “It’s not like I have a choice. But I guess deep down, we are all a little crazy.”