Bukky and her motherâ€™s younger sister, Kike, got down from the bus. It was about seven in the morning. She was surprised to find the market place crowded with people. She followed her aunt and tried to keep up with her.
â€œThis is where I make ends meet every day,â€ Kike addressed her niece.
Bukky glanced at her. The woman was a little bit taller than her. One inch taller to be exact.
|Bukky Alakara By Serah Iyare|
â€œI carry loads for as little as fifty naira, I fetch water for as low as ten naira per gallon, sometimes twenty naira per gallon during scarcity. I assist buyers to get around the market for a token and I also help the sellers to get customers. In a day, I make as much as three thousand naira and as low as five hundred naira.â€
She nodded her head, taking in all the information.
â€œThis is how I pay the bills, feed and clothe.â€
She nodded again.
â€œYou have to fend for yourself. I can provide you shelter, but, that is as far as I can go,â€ the note of finality in her voice wasnâ€™t lost to her.
â€œI understand aunty mi.â€
â€œGood. I have to go. We will meet at home around seven in the evening.â€
â€œBeware of pick pockets and all those jobless touts,â€ she waved a warning finger.
â€œYes aunty,â€ she watched her leave.
Eighteen year old Bukky looked around her. A slight tremor ran through her spine. She didnâ€™t even know where to start from. Her tummy tightened in vengeance. She wished she was still living with her parents. Things had gone from bad to worse for them that year. She and her siblings had been shared among relatives in order to ease the stress on her parents. Her father had lost his job and her mother didnâ€™t make much from the sales of vegetable in the market. It had become difficult to feed and pay the bills. She hoped they would get back on their feet soon enough. She said a quick prayer and merged into the crowd, looking for how to make money for her next meal.
Gbemiga Phillips towered over his parents and siblings. He was the tallest, about five feet eight inches and the darkest. It was a very happy day for them all. Their beaming dark faces looked up at him. He had just received a letter from the Ministry of education. He had been given a scholarship to study Economics and Statistics in the Lagos State University. He had passed his GCE and JAMB examinations with flying colours. It had been a relief that his parents wouldnâ€™t have to suffer to sustain him in the higher institution. They had gone through thick and thin to get him educated. He was the only one who had completed the Secondary School education in his family. They couldnâ€™t afford to add his younger sisters to the list. His father was a Security guard at the home of a rich man in Surulere. His mother and sisters worked as cleaners in Onward Paper factory. It would be difficult, but as far as the government paid for his school and accommodation fees, he had only feeding and books to worry about.
â€œGod has answered our prayers, e se baba, baba e seâ€¦â€ Remi began to dance in circles. Her daughters joined her.
â€œI am so proud of you,â€ Baba patted him on the shoulder.
â€œThank you sir,â€ he bowed in respect and grinned. He was happy that they were all happy for him.
â€œBy the time you graduate and complete your service year, you will get a good job, and move us out of this hell hole,â€ Remi eyed their surroundings, â€œMy enemies will be put to shame.â€
â€œYes o!â€ Lola and Kemi chorused.
Baba and Gbemiga exchanged glances and began to laugh.
He caught the glimpse of a dark slim average in height young lady walking past them. She mumbled a greeting and walked straight into one of the twenty rooms in the bungalow. He knew everyone that lived in the compound. He could swear on his grandfatherâ€™s grave that she was new. He had seen her with Aunty Kike that weekend. Were they related? Was she on a visit?
â€œYou must stay clear off all those bad boys,â€ his mother pointed a warning finger at him.
He glanced back at her.
â€œYes,â€ his father nodded in agreement, â€œThere are dangerous cults in that school.â€
â€œBrother Gbemiga is not in their level at all,â€ Lola, his immediate younger sister smiled at him.
â€œYes o. He doesnâ€™t have time for such nonsense,â€ Kemi, the last child, chimed in.
â€œBorn again lomo,â€ Lola chuckled.
â€œYes o,â€ Kemi added.
Their parents began to laugh.
Kike and Bukky sat on the mat and ate from a bowl of amala with ewedu soap.
â€œI am surprised that you made one thousand naira today.â€
She looked up at her aunt and swallowed the food in my mouth.
â€œI can still remember my first day out there, I didnâ€™t make a kobo. I returned home and slept on an empty stomach,â€ Kike lamented.
Bukky dipped a lumped of the plantain flour into the peppery soup. She didnâ€™t make a dime that day until about six in the evening. She helped a woman to carry her purchase to the car and she gave her a handsome tip. If not for that, she would have returned home without a penny. She had never worked in her life. Her parents had done their best to take care of her and her siblings. If only wishes were horses. She wished God would give back her father his former job so that things would return to normal.
â€œOnce you are full, go and fetch water and fill up our drum. That crazy tap might decide to go on strike tomorrow morning. You know we need to leave the house very early.â€
Bukky nodded in affirmative.
Gbemiga placed a bucket under the running tap. He was in a black tee shirt and a pair of brown three quarters khaki trouser. He opened the tap and waited for the bucket to fill up. His heart missed a beat when he saw her coming towards him, carrying about four plastic buckets. He looked around him and searched his blank mind for what to say to her.
Bukky dropped the buckets on the concrete and looked up at him, â€œGood evening.â€
â€œEvening,â€ he mumbled without looking at her.
He glanced at her.
â€œI heard your dadâ€¦ I hope to be in your shoes one day,â€ she smiled and looked away.
â€œThanksâ€¦â€ the whole neighbourhood must have heard that he was given a scholarship. He lifted the overflowing bucket away from the tap.
She placed one of her buckets under the tap and waited for it to fill up.
â€œWhatâ€™s the name?â€
She looked up at him, caught unawares. He was about three inches taller than her.
â€œMy names are Oluwagbemiga Philips,â€ he stretched out his right hand.
She looked at his hand, and then back at his dark face, â€œOluwabukola Folorunsho,â€ she shook his hand.
Their gazes locked. The air became still. The background noise faded away. She felt pulled into the dark calm pool of his eyes. He took a step closer, drawn to her like nails to magnet. He brushed his left hand over the side of her dark smooth oval face. She sucked in breath. The light touch had ignited sparks within her. She stepped back and he dropped his hands. He carried his bucket of water by the handle and walked away. She exhaled and turned around. He was gone.
Bukky walked out of the house, clad in a blue jeans and a blue fitted tee-shirt. She held her small black hand bag close and headed down the street in a black low heel sandal. She took the turning that led to the bus-stop and saw Gbemiga afar off. Her heart missed a beat. She had a flashback of the other night. The way he looked at her, the intense feeling that coursed through her body when he touched her face, she closed her eyes and tried to block the memory. She had heard her elder sister gisting with her friends about how she had, had a crush on a boy in their area. What she described was a bit similar to what she was experiencing, although hers seemed a bit too fast. She had only known Gbemiga for a couple of days and the sudden likeness seemed too soon. The attraction made matters worse. Was it possible to feel so strongly for someone one just met? Maybe it was one of those things and it would fade away. What if it didnâ€™t? She had never dated anyone before. She had been asked out a number of times, but, she had decided to wait until she was older. She was sixteen now. Was she old enough? The little she knew about relationships was what her elder sister and her friends discussed. The fact that several girls got pregnant and became single mothers in her former neighbourhood had back-pedaled her plans. Many had also died while trying to get rid of their pregnancies. She opened her eyes and saw him approaching her, he was grinning from ear to ear.
â€œMorning Bukky,â€ he halted in front of her, blocking her way.
â€œMorning Gbemiga,â€ she looked towards the bus-stop.
â€œHeading to work?â€ he followed her gaze.
â€œCan I see you off to the bus-stop?â€
They walked side by side.
â€œAre you related to Aunty Kike?â€
She glanced up at him and nodded, â€œShe is my mumâ€™s younger sister.â€
â€œOkay. How long are you staying with her?â€
She pressed her lips together. She had applied lip-gloss on it that morning.
â€œI donâ€™t mean to pry,â€ he tried not to sound desperate. He had hoped against hope that she would be staying in the area for a long while.
She shrugged, â€œI donâ€™t really know.â€
â€œOkay, but, will you be here till Christmas?â€
She shrugged again.
â€œI hope so,â€ he sighed heavily.
She looked up at him, wondering why he wanted to know if she would still be around during the holiday season.
â€œI will be resuming school in September. I hope you will still be around when I return for the Christmas holiday,â€ he met her gaze.
Bukky looked away. She had no formal education. Her parents could afford to give them shelter, food and clothing in their early years, but, getting educated was like wishing for a house full of gold. Things had gotten worse when her father lost his job. She hoped her siblings were living well with her fatherâ€™s siblings.
â€œI believe that you can get into the higher institution too. Donâ€™t give up,â€ he encouraged her.
â€œI have never seen the gate of any school, going to the university is far-fetched,â€ sadness glinted in her dark eyes.
Gbemiga pitied her. There were several people in his area that had no form of education too.
â€œI have always dreamt of going to school,â€ she tried to smile.
â€œDonâ€™t give up. Whatever you place in Godâ€™s hands, he will perfect it.â€
She nodded in agreement. She was going to take God up on that. They stood at the bus-stop and waited.
â€œI will be twenty in August, I am not celebrating or anything, but, I will like to spend that day with you.â€
She looked back at him in surprise.
â€œMy birthday is also in August.â€
â€œSplendid! Mine is on the 15th.â€
â€œSame day,â€ she turned away and gave a shake of head. It was weird meeting her birthday mate.
She smiled back at him.
â€œWow!â€ his head bobbed with excitement.
She heard a bus conductor shouting â€˜Mushin Oloshaâ€™, â€œMy bus is coming.â€
â€œOkay. Our birthday is next month. I am going to save towards it. Maybe we can celebrate with cupcakes and ice-cream or suya and drinks.â€
â€œYou barely know me,â€ she eyed him.
â€œThat is why I want to spend that day with you; it is part of getting to know you,â€ he stressed.
She wasnâ€™t convinced.
â€œI like you.â€
She directed her gaze at him, â€œSo? I believe I am not the first girl you have liked.â€
He started to laugh, â€œYou are right. You are not the first girl I will be asking out either.â€
She eyed him. He seemed too smooth for her liking. Why did guys who were easy on the eyes think they could smooth-talk any girl into a relationship?
â€œI know you like me too. There is something special about us,â€ his dark eyes bored into hers.
She rolled her eyes and waved down the bus heading for Mushin.
â€œSo, what do you say?â€
â€œAs in?â€ she observed him.
â€œCome on girlâ€¦â€ he shifted on both feet.
â€œNot interested,â€ she got on the bus.
He watched the bus leave. He scratched a spot on his head. It had been a long time since he had been turned down by a girl. Maybe he acted too fast. He should have waited. She was right, they barely knew each other, but that night, what he felt, he could bet the whole world that she felt it too. He turned around and headed home. He needed a better plan.
Kike walked into the compound carrying a sack filled with yams. Gbemiga was seated outside the house, playing a game of Ludo with some of his friends in the area. The moment he saw her, he ran up to her and relieved her of the heavy sack and dragged it into the building. He followed her into her room and placed it beside the waist length cupboard.
â€œThank you very much,â€ she beamed at him.
â€œIt is a pleasure aunty,â€ he bowed his head in respect.
â€œBukky come and give me some of the mangoes I bought yesterday.â€
His eyes widened in surprise. Was she in the room? He looked around and found her seated on the mattress. She met his gaze, turned away and got up. She had on a pink spaghetti top with a red and brown coloured wrapper tied around her waist. She picked a few mangoes from the bowl on the table beside the window and approached him. He collected the fruit and smiled at her. His hands brushed against hers; her eyes flew up and met his intense stare.
â€œGod will bless you. I am so tired. Bukky what did you cook?â€ she walked towards the paper-thin mattress and settled on it.
She stepped away and glanced at her aunt, â€œI prepared yam porridge.â€
â€œPlease give me some. I am so hungry,â€ she pulled at her scarf and threw it on the bed.
â€œGood night ma,â€ he headed out.
â€œGbemiga thank you,â€ Kike called after him, â€œIs the porridge still hot?â€ she directed her gaze at her niece.
â€œI donâ€™t think so.â€
â€œGo and warm it for me,â€ she kicked off her sandals and lay on the bed.
Bukky opened the cupboard and brought out a plate and a pot. She hurried out and headed for the kitchen which was at the back of the twenty room bungalow.
Bukky got down from the bus and started to walk home. She sighted Gbemiga standing at a corner and wondered who he was waiting for. She waved at him and walked past, but, he held her by the elbow.
â€œI have been waiting for you.â€
â€œReally?â€ she seized him up. He looked fresh, as if he had just had his bath. He smelled well too. The red tee shirt and black jeans did justice to his good looking features.
â€œYes. Have you forgotten what today is?â€ he released her hand.
Her eyes darted about. What was he getting at? She hoped her aunt was home. It would be great if she had also prepared dinner. A nice bath, then a palatable meal, what more could one ask for?
â€œItâ€™s the fifteenth of August.â€
She shifted on both feet, â€œSo?â€
Her response didnâ€™t go down well with him, â€œI canâ€™t believe you forgot our birthday.â€
â€œOhâ€¦ thatâ€¦ I didnâ€™t forget,â€ she scratched a spot on her eyebrow.
He eyed her, he wasnâ€™t convinced, â€œI donâ€™t believe you.â€
â€œI know my birthday is today,â€ she started to walk away. She was in no mood to banter words with him.
He followed in hurried steps, â€œSo is mine, have you forgotten?â€
She shrugged and moved her hand-bag to the other shoulder.
â€œWe were supposed to spend today together,â€ he sounded exasperated.
â€œEhnâ€¦ when did I agree to that?â€ she glanced up at him.
He sighed with frustration, â€œWe talked about it.â€
â€œYou and who?â€ she eyed him.
â€œThat time now.â€
He halted and held her by the hand, â€œStop playing hard to get.â€
She snatched her hand from his grip, â€œI donâ€™t know what you are talking about.â€
He looked heavenwards, then back at her, â€œThere is something special between us.â€
She started to laugh, â€œWowâ€¦ you are imagining things.â€
â€œWe are attracted to each other. Stop denying it.â€
She sensed the seriousness in his voice, â€œI donâ€™t know what you are talking about.â€
Out of the blues, he pulled her into his arms. Gazes locked, her surroundings became blurred, mouth wide open, she felt wrapped in a warm tingling sensation that coursed through every part of her body.
â€œCan you feel that? Am I still imagining things?â€ the look in her eyes gave him the answers he needed.
â€œLet me go! We are in public for Christâ€™s sake,â€ she wriggled free and stepped back, â€œPlease keep your distance,â€ she pointed a warning finger at him.
â€œI know you feel exactly the way I feel. I like you and I want to go out with you.â€
She turned away. What rubbish was he vomiting? She was in no frame of mind to start a relationship. Things were topsy turvy in her life at the moment. She didnâ€™t want to add the rigours of an affair to it.
â€œSpend the evening with me. I promise you a good time, no strings attached,â€ he tried to convince her.
She looked up at him. She was very hungry. When was the last time she celebrated her birthday anyway? Here was her birthday-mate dying to give her a treat.
â€œO-kay,â€ she gave up.
â€œHalleluiah!â€ he raised both hands and looked up at the sky.
She raised a hand, â€œButâ€¦ but, wait a minute.â€
â€œWhat?â€ he beamed at her.
â€œI must be home before nine. I donâ€™t want to be harassed by my aunt.â€
â€œNo problem,â€ he took her by the hand and pulled her towards the bus-stop.
â€œWhere are we going?â€
â€œI have it all planned out,â€ he winked at her.
On their way home that night, he took her to a cyber cafÃ© and tried to teach her how to use the internet, but, her lack of education became a stumbling block.
He opened an email address for her and negotiated with the CafÃ© Attendant, who lived in their area, to help her send mails to him and also deliver any mails he sent to her from school. He hoped to get a mobile phone soonest, and hopefully get for her too, so that communication between them would be frequent. They bought popcorn from a shop beside the cafÃ© and headed home.
â€œHope you had a great time.â€
She grinned, â€œYes, I did. Thank you.â€
â€œYou are welcome. I hope you will spend this day with me next year.â€
â€œMay God keep us till then.â€
â€œIs that a yes?â€
â€œYes,â€ she avoided his gaze.
â€œI will be leaving for school in two weeksâ€™ time.â€
â€œI will miss you.â€
She remained silent.
â€œWill you go out with me?â€
She didnâ€™t respond. He reached out for her hand, but, she pulled free from his grip.
â€œI need an answer before I leave for school.â€
They walked down the street in silence.
â€œI am not sure it is a good time for me to start a relationship.â€
He turned his head and saw the uncertainty in her eyes, â€œI like you. I know you like me too. I will not disappoint you. Just give me a chance.â€
She sighed and pressed her lips together, â€œWhy start a relationship when you are going to be so far away?â€
He grinned, â€œLasu isnâ€™t far away. You can visit anytime you are free. The cyber cafÃ© attendant is my friend; he will help us to keep in touch. You have nothing to worry about.â€
He sounded convincing. Maybe the distance was a good thing. It might help them build a strong connection.
He halted and looked at her, â€œIs that a yes?â€
She stopped a few feet away from him and nodded. He started to laugh. He would have been depressed if she had refused him. He had a feeling that theirs was going to be a successful union.
â€œI have to go, it is almost nine,â€ she glanced at her wrist-watch.
â€œHurry along, I am right behind you.â€
She quickened her steps and hurried home. She met her aunt seated on a bench with a few other women outside the house. They were gossiping about people in the neighbourhood as usual. She greeted them all and went in. She unlocked the door to her auntâ€™s room with her spare key and walked in. She closed the door behind her and pulled off her sandals. She dropped her hand-bag on the carpet floor and sat on the mattress. Did she just agree to date Gbemiga? She lay on the bed and smiled. She was so crazy. She had never dated anyone before. What experience does she have?
Oh Godâ€¦ what have I gotten myself into?
She remembered the way he stared at her all night long. It was so obvious that he really liked her. She liked him too. She turned on her tummy. Gbemiga was tall, dark and good looking. His faith in God was an added plus. She reasoned that she had made the right decision. There was no need to panic. She wished she could share the news with her elder sister. They would have gisted into the night. Here in her aunt house, she had no one to talk to. She doubted if Aunt Kike would entertain such discussion. The thought of the way he held her made her to feel warm. The chemistry between them was undeniable. She would tread carefully. She had witnessed several girls been burdened with children that they were not prepared for. She would make no such mistake. She planned to remain intact until her wedding night. Be it Gbemiga or any other man, she swore to keep herself.
There was light off. Bukky and her aunt sat outside the house with some of their neighbours. Many complained about the incessant shortage of power supply, the terrible heat, and the nationâ€™s economy as a whole. A few people spread their mats and lay under the moon, cooled by the night breeze. She wished she could join them. She was already feeling sleepy, but, dreaded sleeping in the hot baked room. She heard someone whistle. She turned her head and sighted Gbemiga standing by the entrance of the bungalow. He was looking straight at her. He retreated and stepped back in. Her dark anxious eyes darted left and right. She mumbled into her auntâ€™s ear that she was going in. The woman nodded and continued talking to the house wife seated beside her. She got up slowly and went in. She saw Gbemiga walking towards the back of the house. She hurried after him.
He halted behind the large kitchen shared by everyone living in the house and turned around. He smiled broadly when he saw Bukky walking towards him. It was dark, but the full moon illuminated their surroundings. She stood in front of him and folded her arms across her chest. She felt a tinge of happiness at the thought that she was finally alone with him. She saw him briefly that morning when she left for the market to hustle for her daily bread, and when she returned, she ran errands for her aunt until it grew dark. The lack of electrical supply also made movement a bit restricted.
â€œHow are you doing?â€ he grinned at her. He had been longing to speak with her all day.
â€œI am okay,â€ she stared right back at him.
â€œI will be leaving for school tomorrow morning.â€
She paled. She had tried not to think of the day he would resume school. They just started dating. Would the time apart make their bond closer and stronger or fragile?
â€œI will be home for the Christmas holiday,â€ he tried to cheer her up. The sad glint in her dark eyes mirrored is own state of mind.
â€œThat is almost four months away,â€ she complained and frowned. Maybe it wasnâ€™t a good idea to start a relationship with him. Maybe they should have waited.
He reached out for her hands and held it in is warm ones, â€œI am going to miss you too. You can always visit.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know my way to Epe,â€ she began to shake her head.
â€œMy school is a popular place, you will not get missing,â€ he tried to convince her.
She raised an eyebrow and stared back at him. She doubted if she would be able to visit him in school. The transportation fare would surely be cut-throat.
â€œThe cafÃ© guy I introduced you to will help you check your mails and send replies.â€
She dropped her gaze. She wasnâ€™t comfortable with the arrangement. She couldnâ€™t read or write. What choice do they have? She swore to herself. She would get educated one way or another.
â€œI am going to miss you greatly,â€ he drew her close and wrapped his arms around her.
She swallowed hard and looked up at him. Her skin became tensed due to his nearness. Her heart missed a beat. What if someone caught them? She pushed the thought and tried to relax. She wouldnâ€™t be seeing him again for a very long time.
â€œI am going to miss you too.â€
He dropped his head and claimed her lips. She froze. Should she push him away? Should she bask in the euphoric sensations that coursed through her nerve cells for a while then stop him? Indecision numbed her for a moment. She parted her lips and leaned into him. She heard him groan. She kissed him back; like a good student, she copied the way he maneuvered his lips and tongue. She felt his hands cradling her hips, and then slid down her soft, firm backside. He guided her towards the concrete wall. She rested against the rough wall, hands wrapped around his neck. She felt the pressure of the bulge between his thighs. The way he rubbed against her turned her on and to her surprise, the desire to be united with him clouded her mind.
She jerked backwards the instance she felt his hand on her bosom. She adjusted her blouse and lifted her shocked gaze to meet his intense ones. Why did he touch her like that? The fact that she allowed him to kiss her didnâ€™t give him the right to fondle her.
â€œI am sorry.â€
He didnâ€™t look apologetic. She eyed him.
â€œI got carried away.â€
â€œDonâ€™t do that again,â€ her warning eyes remained on his face.
He smiled, â€œOkay. Whenever you are ready.â€
â€œReady for what?â€ her eyes widened.
He chuckled, â€œIt is normal for two people who really like each other to express their feelings physically.â€
She began to shake her head in disagreement.
â€œCome on. This is part of every relationship.â€
â€œNot this one,â€ her eyes hardened with seriousness.
He opened his mouth to speak, and then closed it.
â€œI promised God that I will keep myself until my wedding night.â€
He scratched his head. Every single girl he dated in the past allowed him to touch them. Although as a Christian, he wasnâ€™t supposed to indulge in sex before marriage, but, at times, things got out of hand.
â€œIf this relationship is going to progress, we canâ€™t sleep with each other,â€ she folded her arms against her chest.
He stared back at her, â€œBut, we can still kiss andâ€¦â€
â€œMaybe once in a while. But, you canâ€™t touch meâ€¦ you canâ€™t just grab me and start touching me anyhow.â€
He sighed, â€œI get your point, itâ€™s fine by me,â€ he hoped to be able to dissuade her from her almighty rules sooner than later.
She sighed with relief. She would have called the whole thing off if he had insisted on compulsory physical intimacy.
â€œWill you be able to see me off tomorrow morning?â€
She nodded quickly, â€œYes.â€
Her eyes darted about the moment she heard voices afar off, â€œI have to go. My aunt might be looking for me.â€
â€œOkay. See you in the morning.â€
She smiled at him.
â€œCan I get a goodnight hug?â€
The smile faded, â€œDonâ€™t be an Oliver Twist,â€ she backed away, turned around and sauntered off.
He started to laugh, leaned against the wall and sighed heavily. Thoughts of his girlfriend flooded his mind. It was a good thing that he would be resuming school the next day. The distance would help to cage his amorous feelings towards her. He placed both hands on his head. He reminisced on the taste of her lips, the smoothness of her skin and the way his body responded to her proximity. He wished he could stay in her arms forever.
Bukky tossed and turned on the almost flat foam continuously until her disgruntled aunt woke up and gave her a knock on the head. She rolled to the edge of the bed, lay still, and massaged the spot where the pain emanated from. She couldnâ€™t sleep. Thoughts of how her boyfriend fondled her replayed on her mind over and over again. She enjoyed been kissed by him. She liked been in his arms. The deal breaker was that things could really get out of hand. What if she got pregnant? She was just sixteen and he was twenty. They were not matured enough to take care of themselves, talk about a child. She didnâ€™t want to be a baby mama. It was the trend amongst several teenage girls and young women in the society. Was it possible to date someone and be able to prevent getting physically intimate? How does one control the sexual urge in the face of temptation? She had no idea that it was going to be that tough. Living in obedience to Godâ€™s word was a whole new affair when it involved matters of the heart. She cleared her mind and tried to think about other things.
Her boyfriend was now an undergraduate and in the next four years, he would be a graduate of LASU, with B.sc in Economics and Statistics. Where would she be then? If by chance they were still in a relationship, would her illiteracy come in-between them? If she really wanted to get educated, how was she going to finance it? God said in his word that he had given her the power to make wealth. She needed a very good business idea. If she began to do something, God would surely bless the work of her hand. She was not too young to run her own business. She closed her eyes and began to pray.
Kike woke her niece up that morning before leaving the house to the market place to hustle for her daily bread. The girl didnâ€™t allow her to sleep the other night. The way she was turning every five minutes kept her awake. Even after hitting her on the head in order to caution her, she heard her praying a storm a while later. If not that the girl was her elder sisterâ€™s daughter, she would have driven her out of the room. She wasnâ€™t against the prayers, but, it was done at the wrong time. She should have considered that she wasnâ€™t alone. She would raise the issue when she returned home in the evening.
Bukky sat up on the almost flat bed, drowsy and exhausted. She doubted if she slept for more than three hours. She scratched a spot on her scalp and thought of loosening her plaited hair. It would cost her nothing less than two hundred naira to have it re-done. She looked around for her leather wrist-watch and found it on the floor. She stretched out her hand and picked it up. It was several minutes past seven. She was late. By the time she had her bath and dressed up, an hour would have gone by. If she met a queue outside the only bathroom in the compound, two hours would take flight.
She rubbed her fingers against her eyes and yawned loudly. A random thought crossed her mind. There was a woman that lived three houses away from theirs, when she used to live with her parents. She sold fried bean cake, popularly called akara. Whenever she was sent to buy some bean cake, she watched how the woman turned the grinded bean in a big basin and scooped it into the hot oil. The people that patronized her used the akara to eat cooked pap, bread, or garri soaked in water. She heard that the woman was able to sponsor her childrenâ€™s education with the business.
Bukky jumped off the bed. Several thoughts and ideas ran through her excited mind. She could do the same thing. She had less than a thousand naira in her purse. She could start with what she had. She would buy a module of beans, a bottle of vegetable oil, pepper, magi, salt, what else? She used to see one of her neighbours with a big black fry pan. She would borrow it. She needed a coal pot too. How much does it cost to buy coal and fire wood in the area? She would find out. First things first, she needed to ask the landlady for permission to use the front of the bungalow to sell her wares. What if she asked her to pay? She hoped she wouldnâ€™t. She paled. The landlady was known to be foulmouthed and easily angered. She prayed to God for favour
She slipped into her Dunlop slippers, changed into a blouse and a skirt and hurried out of the room. She was going to take the bulls by the horns.
Bukky placed the big black fry pan on the medium size charcoal stove and re-arranged the coal and firewood underneath. The pan was borrowed from her neighbour, on the condition that she returned it washed and cleaned every day. She hoped to buy one soonest. The yellow light of the fire began to lick its way around the wood and coal which cost her a quarter of the money she had in her purse. She opened the bottle of vegetable oil she bought that morning and poured it into the pan. She threw the empty bottle aside and began to turn the mixture of grinded black-eyed beans, pepper, onions and seasoned with Maggi and salt. She had no more money left. She promised to pay the local grinder after sales that day. The woman was the only one she owed. It had been a miracle when the landlady gave her permission to use part of the frontage of the house to cook and sell her wares. The woman didnâ€™t even ask any funny questions. All she wanted was a daily portion of bean-cake. She looked up to the sky and prayed to God to bless her business.
â€œNa you dey sell akara for here?â€ one of her neighbours approached her. The pot-bellied man was bare-chested and had a wrapper tied around his weight.
She looked in his direction, â€œYes, sir.â€
â€œVery good. How much?â€ he stood in front of the charcoal stove.
â€œTen naira per one.â€
â€œI want a hundred naira own,â€ his eyes darted around, â€œDonâ€™t you sell bread?â€
â€œWhat about corn pap?â€ he directed his gaze at her sweat streaked face.
He scratched his bald head.
â€œI will start selling bread by tomorrow, and maybe corn pap later on,â€ she made a mental note to go to the bakery at the junction and find out what it would cost to buy hot fresh bread daily, with or without cash. She might buy corn, blend it and make the pap herself. Her mother taught her how to make corn pap before she turned twelve.
â€œOnce your akara is done, please sell a hundred naira own for me.â€
â€œI will go and buy bread at the junction.â€
â€œOkay sir,â€ she watched him leave and smiled; her very first customer. She started to scoop the mixture into the hot oil with her hand until the pan had no more space. The aroma of the cooking bean-cake drifted into her nose. She grinned from ear to ear. She could discern that it was going to be very tasty.
Thirty minutes later, almost everyone living in the twenty room bungalow gathered around her, ordering for the akara. They argued, fought, joked and bought her wares. People from the houses next to theirs joined them and in less than three hours, it was sold out. When she counted the money she made, it was triple the amount she spent that morning. She had enough to prepare for the next day, pay her debt, make pap and buy bread from the bakery.
She had her bath, changed into a tee-shirt and a jean, brushed her hair and set off to the market. She thanked God as she walked towards the junction. She had a feeling that her business was going to do very well. Finally, she would be able to sponsor herself and get educated. It didnâ€™t matter how long it would take, she would not give up.
Kike returned home from the market that evening and met her niece sieving a large amount of corn pap outside their room. One of their neighbours who saw her in the market informed her that Bukkyâ€™s akara was the best she had eaten in a long while. She thought the woman was high on something, until she met someone that lived on the same street. The man was just dishing out advise without been asked. She had no idea what her elder sisterâ€™s daughter had been up to, but, it got the attention of many people.
â€Good evening aunty Kike,â€ she looked up at the tired looking woman in her mid-thirties.
The dark skinned a little above average height woman eyed her, â€œYour news travelled all the way to the market and made me look like a fool. Next time you want to do something, please let me know in advance. Or have you forgotten that you are living with someone? Are you the one paying the rent?â€ she hissed and marched into the room.
Bukky scrambled to her feet and hurried after her, hands covered with blended corn. She found her motherâ€™s sister seated on the almost flat bed, fuming.
â€œI am so sorry aunty. It all happened so fastâ€¦â€ she went on her knees, â€œI am sorry. It wonâ€™t happen again. E ma bi nu ma.â€
Kike hissed again, â€œYou are not serious at all. When your mother sent you to me, what did I tell you? Since I have been living in this compound, no one has heard my voice. I mind my own business. I donâ€™t want any problem with anybody.â€
â€œI am sorry,â€ she sighed heavily. Maybe she should have looked for her aunt and intimated her of her plans when she was at the market that morning. Assuming she had a phone, she would have been able to call her. Or maybe she should have gone to the lady selling recharge cards under the umbrella down the street and put a call through to her aunt. Next time, she would do just that.
â€œWhat exactly is going on?â€ she turned to the remorseful sixteen-year-old girl.
Bukky narrated how she started the akara business that morning. Her aunt advised and encouraged her. She thanked her and returned to the basin of pap she left outside the room.
Bukky removed the last batch of the bean cake from the hot oil. It wasnâ€™t even noon and almost all her wares had been bought. Itâ€™s being six days since she started the business and news had travelled fast. She was patronized by people living on the street and also in the area. God had truly blessed her business. She hoped to construct a wooden shelter soonest, so that when it rained, she would still be able to sell her akara.
She raised her head, â€œMorning,â€ she recognized the cyber cafÃ© attendant. He was the guy who tried to teach her how to browse and opened an email address for her so that she could communicate with her boyfriend.
â€œHow is business?â€ he grinned at the hot bean cake in the iron sieve.
â€œWe thank God,â€ she used a piece of rag to lift the hot fry pan at both ends and placed it on the sandy ground.
He brought out a piece of paper from his pocket, â€œYour guy sent you a mail.â€
She sighed with relief. She had been expecting him to write her since he resumed school. She looked around her. They were alone. She gave him the signal to read the mail. Soon, she hoped, she would be able to read her boyfriendâ€™s mail all by herself.
â€œMy sweetest pieâ€¦â€ he cleared his throat, â€œI have missed you so much.â€
Bukky blushed. She missed him too. She suddenly felt shy that someone else was reading her love letter.
The cafÃ© attendant tried to keep a straight face and read on, â€œSchool is okay. Lectures are running smoothly, although, some days, I get so tired, I can hardly get off the bed. I am really looking forward to coming home for the Christmas break. I miss home. I canâ€™t wait to see you. I am expecting your reply. Love you loads, your dearest, Oluwagbemiga.â€
She scratched a spot on her scalp. Her newly plaited hair was beginning to itch, â€œDid you bring a pen and paper?â€
â€œYes,â€ he smiled, â€œI will write down your reply and mail it today.â€
â€œOkay, good, thank you,â€ she mused for a while, â€œMy darlingâ€¦ no, my dear, noâ€¦â€ she scratched her head, â€œMy love,â€ she glanced at the cafÃ© guy and blushed.
He stared down at the blank paper and tried not to laugh out loud, â€œOkay, my love,â€ he wrote it down.
Bukky dictated how she started her bean cake business, how much she missed him and hoped he would come home soon.
â€œOkay. I will send it today,â€ he folded the paper and kept it in his pocket.
â€œThanks. Wait, let me give you some bread and akara,â€ she took some old newspaper and poured some bean cake in it.
â€œThanks,â€ his mouth watered.
She placed the wrapped bean cake in a black nylon, alongside a medium size bread and gave it to him.
â€œThank you,â€ he beamed, waved and strode off.
â€œDo you still have akara?â€ a tall brown skin, thick, young man hurried to her side. He was in a pair of sky blue shorts and black long sleeve tee-shirt.
â€œYes,â€ she looked up at him. She recognized him. He was one of her customers living a street away.
â€œThank God!â€ he brightened and smiled at her.
â€œHow many pieces do you want?â€ she looked into his dark brown eyes and smiled.
He looked towards the iron sieve, â€œHow much is everything?â€
â€œHmmmâ€¦â€ she did a quick count, â€œAbout two-fifty.â€
â€œBring everything,â€ he brought out his wallet.
She grinned with relief. She would be able to head to the market early and prepare for the next day. She thanked God for blessing her business.
â€œWhatâ€™s the name?â€
She gave him the wrapped bean cake in a small polythene bag and collected the five hundred naira note, â€œBukola.â€
â€œBukolaâ€¦ Bukky for short right?â€
â€œYes,â€ she met his inquisitive gaze.
â€œCall me Chike,â€ he stretched his right hand.
She shook his hand, â€œOkay.â€
â€œI moved into this area recently. I am an Engineering student of Unilag.â€
Her eyes brightened, â€œWhat level?â€
â€œThree hundred level.â€
â€œSo, you will be graduating next year.â€
He chuckled, â€œI wish. My course is a five year course.â€
â€œI seeâ€¦â€ she thought all the courses in the university ended at the fourth year.
â€œAre you in school?â€
She lifted her dark eyes and met his firm stare, â€œNo,â€ she dropped her gaze and started to arrange her things.
â€œOhâ€¦ Waec issues or JAMB problems?â€ he stood akimbo.
She got to her feet, â€œNone.â€
He raised an eyebrow, â€œWhy arenâ€™t you in school?â€
She put out the fire and zipped the purse tied to her waist.
â€œI am sorry for prying, just wondering why a pretty girl like you isnâ€™t in school.â€
She blushed and started to laugh. Some of her male customers, both single and married had also told her that she was pretty. Many of them had also tried to ask her out.
She met his gaze, â€œI am not lucky like you. I donâ€™t even have a primary school certificate. I will get educated someday, I have not given up yet.â€
His eyes widened in surprise. He watched her why she gathered her things, â€œBut, you speak well.â€
She shrugged, â€œBut, I canâ€™t write well. I watched a lot of movies while growing up, I guess I pick up a few things along the way.â€
â€œI am impressed.â€
She chuckled and stared at him.
â€œThere is an Adult educational center close to my school. If you start now, by the end of the year, you will be able to acquire your first school leaving certificate. Then proceed to write the GCE and then the JAMB examination.â€
She laughed, â€œI need to save first.â€
She directed her gaze at him. He looked serious.
â€œI can take you to the center this evening if you are ready.â€
She scratched a spot on her head, â€œI donâ€™t know if I have enough money toâ€¦â€
â€œJust come along and find out exactly what you need for the enrolment.â€
She sighed, â€œO-kay.â€
â€œGreat! Do you know how to get to Akoka?â€
She looked towards the bus stop, â€œI think so.â€
â€œGood, we will meet at the Campus gate. The center is close by.â€
She nodded in agreement.
â€œI have to run. I am late for lectures already.â€
She waved at him as he hurried away. Joy filled her soul. A zing of excited flooded her. Finally, the realization of her dreams would come true. She carried the bottle of vegetable oil and headed into the building.
Gbemiga walked towards the backyard. There was light off and the compound was dark. Candle lights and rechargeable lamps illuminated some of the rooms in the house. A few privileged ones powered their rooms with electrical generating sets. When he returned home from school for the Christmas holiday, he was surprised to meet his girlfriend running her own business. When he got her mail several weeks back, he thought it was a small scale trade. As early as seven in the morning, people queued in front of the hot fry pan. He recognized most of them. Several of them lived on the street, and others came as far as three, four streets away. Bukkyâ€™s bean cake was tasty and had a nice aroma. It was also a little bit bigger in size than what was sold in other places. He was proud of her. One of their neighbourâ€™s daughters assisted her with scooping the blended beans into the fry pan and at times, she sold the bean cake to the customers. Since he got back, they had not really been able to spend time with each other. She was busy during the day and at night; she turned in early due to tiredness.
He walked straight to the back of the large kitchen shared by all the tenants. He noticed an average height figure standing at a corner. The bright moon light illuminated the surrounding. The moment he saw her face, he broke into a smile. He was glad she came. He had been able to pass a message to her that evening before she turned in for the night.
â€œMy darlingâ€¦â€ he stood in front of her and scooped her in his arms.
Her heart beat hammered against her chest. It felt good, close to him, in his arms. Seeing him home again, her joy had known no bounds. Although he looked a bit slimmer, he was still the same. She didnâ€™t know how much she missed him until she saw him a week ago with his luggage. She almost ran into his arms, but, restrained herself. She had been longing to speak with him since he got back, but the opportunity had not presented itself.
â€œI missed youâ€¦â€ she whispered.
â€œI miss you moreâ€¦â€
He released her from his embrace and looked deep into her eyes, â€œSo many nights I yearn to see you. I almost came home one day.â€
She smiled and looked up at him. She had almost gotten on a bus, bent on locating him at school, but decided against it.
â€œI hope to spend lots of time with you before I return to school.â€
He dropped his head and claimed her lips. She froze, then relaxed. She allowed him to pull her into his warm embrace. The kiss intensified. She heard him groan loudly. Back against the wall, she knotted her arms around his neck. She jerked a bit when she felt one of his hands slipping into her blouse. Panic coursed through her. She wasnâ€™t putting on a bra. She was naked underneath. She felt both hands fondling her bosom, exciting sensations swept through her nerves. She tried to pull away, but he claimed her lips again, distracting her with sweet kisses.
Gbemiga pulled down his boxers with one hand and loosened her wrapper with the other. She pressed her hands against his chest. Her resistance didnâ€™t dissuade him. He pressed into her, his groin rubbed against her trembling thighs.
â€œGbemiâ€¦ Gbemiâ€¦Pleaseâ€¦ donâ€™tâ€¦â€ her heart hammered against her chest. She enjoyed his kisses but, she wasnâ€™t ready to sleep with him. The pressure of his groin against her brought her pleasure and made her wet. She had never experienced such feelings before. She wanted him to stop, but, she felt pinned to the wall. There was no escape route for her except she screamed. That wasnâ€™t an option. Her aunt would skin her alive if she was caught in such compromising situation.
â€œDonâ€™t be afraidâ€¦â€ his voice was hoarse, â€œI wonâ€™t go farâ€¦ I just want to feel youâ€¦â€
Sweat broke out all over her, â€œNo! Please stop,â€ she pushed against his chest, but, he wouldnâ€™t bulge.
He kissed her again and slipped a finger into her. She jerked, then start to moan. He removed the finger and guided himself into her. The pleasure that flooded him clouded his mind. He was tempted to go deeper, but, he didnâ€™t want to break her hymen.
A tear drop slipped down her face. She prayed that she wouldnâ€™t get disvirgined that night. It was high time they drew a line in their relationship.
He slipped out of her and rubbed his groin in between her thighs. He jerked and worked himself up until he pulled away and released against the wall.
She pulled down her blouse and re-tied her wrapper around her waist. She couldnâ€™t look at him. she wanted to return to her auntâ€™s room.
He adjusted his boxers and grinned at her, â€œI love you.â€
She folded her arms against her chest, â€œGoodnight,â€ she started to walk away.
He reached out for her elbow and drew her back, â€œHeyâ€¦â€
He sensed her anger, â€œBaby,â€ he drew her close, toe to toe, he looked into her eyes, â€œI love you. Itâ€™s hard to keep my hands off you.â€
She eyed him and hissed.
â€œI promise you, I will never ever go deeper thanâ€¦ I just wanted to feel you.â€
â€œWe donâ€™t need all that. I donâ€™t want to get pregnant.â€
He started to laugh, â€œI promise you, it wonâ€™t come to that.â€
â€œGoodnight,â€ she hurried away.
â€œBukky!â€ he dashed after her and bumped into his mother.
Remilekun eyed her son, â€œWhere are you coming from?â€
He scratched a spot on his scalp and looked behind her shoulders. He saw Bukky getting into her auntâ€™s room. He would speak to her the next day. The way her softness melted into him made him smile. It was going to be very hard to keep the promise he made to her. Most times, all he wanted to do was kiss her, but, once he got started, his emotions too over.
â€œWhy were you calling that girlâ€™s name?â€
He directed his gaze at his mother, â€œWho?â€
â€œBukky, the akara seller.â€
â€œOhâ€¦emâ€¦ we were just talking.â€
She hissed, â€œYou shouldnâ€™t be talking to the likes of her. You are now in the university. Your level has changed.â€
Her words shocked him, â€œMum, Bukky is a nice girl. She is different.â€
Remilekun hissed again, â€œPlease, concentrate on your studies. If you want to have friends, at least choose from the people in your school or from those in your level. Bukky alakara is not in your category.â€
â€œMum, thatâ€™s absord.â€
â€œYour father will hear,â€ she turned around and headed to their room.
She didnâ€™t respond. He watched her go into their room. He followed in slow steps. His father attacked him the moment he stepped into the room. His sisters were in support of his argument. They all felt he shouldnâ€™t be socializing with the people living in the area because most of them were illiterate. He was supposed to be making friends with the educated ones, especially those living in high brow areas.
Gbemiga became troubled. He really liked Bukky. It hurt that his family didnâ€™t approve of her as a friend. What would they say or do when he finally introduced her to them as his lover or the woman he would like to spend the rest of his life with? He decided to keep his relationship with her a secret. When the time was right, he would open up to his family, by then, he hoped that their perception would have changed.
Bukky lay on the almost flat bed. She couldnâ€™t sleep. Thoughts of what transpired between her and her boyfriend remained like a rock on her mind. She shouldnâ€™t have allowed him to go that far. What if he had lost control of his emotions and penetrated? What if she had been deflowered that night? Her dream of getting married as a virgin would have been thwarted. Was it possible to date someone without getting physically intimate with them? God made the rule that singles shouldnâ€™t indulge in sexual acts before marriage. That alone was an inclination that it was possible. She needed to speak to her boyfriend about it. They should do without all the fondling. It would only stir them up and fuel the desire to consummate. At least, kissing was a bit appropriate. They could do that once in a while, not all the time. She didnâ€™t know how he was going to take her suggestions. She believed that it was the best thing for them.
She turned on her side and stared at the wall. The room was dark. There was no electricity. The curtains were drawn and the only window in the room was opened, but, it seemed like air was trapped outside the room. Beads of sweat gathered on her forehead, around her neck, arms and chest. She scratched an itchy spot close to her spine. The area began to sting. She groaned. She must have cut herself. First thing the next morning, she would cut her finger nails.
Thoughts of how he kissed and touched her flooded her mind. She closed her eyes and inhaled sharply. It was a good thing that he would be returning to school soon. The distance was very good for them. The farther he was, the less likely it would be for her to loss her virginity. She hoped they would come to some sort of agreement. Fighting him off everything he touched her wasnâ€™t an option. She doubted if she would be able to stop him the next he came close to her. She needed help. They needed to re-prioritize their relationship.
She planned to tell him about the Adult education centre Chike too her to. She would be starting lectures immediately after the holidays. The head of the centre told her that if she excelled, she would be able to take the Common Entrance Examination by the end of the New Year. Once she passed, she would take more lectures and prepare for the G.C.E examinations. In less than three years, she would be ready to take the JAMB examination and successfully gain admission into the university. She beamed with joy. She was going to get educated. Her parents and siblings were going to be proud of her.
Her train of thoughts returned to Gbemiga. By the time he graduated, she would be in her first or second year in the university, be it as a full time or part time student. His family patronized her almost on a daily basis. She wondered if they would support their relationship. His sisters seemed a bit friendly, but his parents acted as if they were not in the same category with anyone living in their compound. She sighed heavily and cleared her thoughts. When the time was right, Gbemiga would introduce her to them as his girlfriend.
On Christmas day, the Phillips organized a get-together in front of the house. None of their neighbours were invited. The family started to look down on everyone living in the compound when their first son gained admission into the university. They believed that no one was in their level, except a few educated families in the neighbourhood. The landlady gave them till midnight to celebrate. The Philipsâ€™ guests comprised of their relatives, close friends, colleagues at work and a few from the church they attended. Gbemiga invited some of his course mates for the party. They ate, drank and danced.
Kike and her niece stood at the entrance of the building with a few other people living in the compound. They gossiped about the Phillips made offensive comments about the family. At about past nine, Bukky slipped away and went to the back of the house. She waited at the back of the kitchen, a package in her hand. She saw her boyfriend that morning and told him that she had a gift for him. They both planned to meet before she turned in for the night. He gave her a signal a few minutes ago while he danced with his course mates. She hoped he would show up soon before her aunt start to look for her.
She sighted a tall dark figure heading her way. She sighed with relief and smiled.
â€œMerry Christmas love,â€ he reached out for her and crushed her in a warm embrace.
â€œMerry Christmas,â€ she leaned into him. It felt good been in his arms.
He released her and gave her a card and a plastic flower, â€œThis is for you.â€
She blushed and collected it, â€œThank you,â€ she passed the package to him.
He opened the brown envelop and brought out a small square box. His eyes widened in surprise. He looked at her and back at the box.
â€œMerry Christmas,â€ she grinned from ear to ear.
He tore the box open and brought out a black and white Nokia 3310 phone. He could hardly believe his eyes. He had tried to save money several times to get a phone, but he kept on using the savings to sort out one need or the other.
â€œNow, we will be able to communicate effectively.â€
â€œYou got one for yourself,â€ his dark face brightened.
â€œYes. No more emails.â€
He started to laugh, â€œYou have surprised me.â€
â€œI am glad.â€
Before she could stop him, he drew her close and planted a kiss on her lips. She didnâ€™t kiss him back, she placed her hands on his chest and pushed.
â€œNow, about thatâ€¦â€ she stepped away from him, â€œDonâ€™t you think we are playing with fire?â€
He laughed, â€œCome on darling. I told you I will be careful I know my bounds.â€
She wasnâ€™t convinced, she folded her arms, â€œWell, I think we should try and limit our physical closeness.â€
He observed her. He sensed her seriousness.
â€œI donâ€™t want to get pregnant.â€
â€œYou wonâ€™t. I promise you.â€
She looked him up and down, â€œBut, stillâ€¦ I donâ€™t want us to go beyond hugs and kisses.â€
He scratched a spot on his head. He wasnâ€™t sure how possible that would be. He loved her and yearned for her touch each time he was around her. She was asking for the impossible.
â€œPleaseâ€¦â€ her pleading dark eyes held his unsure ones.
â€œFine. We will try. Okay? Just, let things flow naturally.â€
She sighed heavily, not sure if she got through to him.
â€œI will be returning to school in less than three weeks. I want to enjoy every moment and opportunity I have to spend time with you,â€ he drew her closer, â€œThanks for the phone; we will be able to talk any day, any time.â€
â€œThatâ€™s my girl,â€ he dropped the box and slipped the phone into his jeans pocket.
â€œGoodnightâ€¦â€ she looked into his eyes.
â€œYou and sleep.â€
She chuckled, â€œI need to rest. I will be resuming my bean cake business after Boxing Day.â€
She laughed lightly, â€œI might be able to give you a little something when you are leaving for school.â€
â€œThat will be great! I am dating a cash madam.â€
He dropped his head and claimed her lips. She struggled, then relaxed. He pushed her against the wall and ran his hands over every inch of her. She trembled slightly, consumed by the sensations his touch created. His lips slid down her neckline, he slipped his hands under her blouse and squeezed her bosom.
â€œWaaaitâ€¦ donâ€™tâ€¦â€ she tried to stop him, but, her hands felt like a dead weight.
He lifted the blouse, swallowed one of her bosom and fondled the other.
â€œGbemiâ€¦â€ she gasped.
He kissed her again, held her bosom and slipped the other hand down into her toe length skirt. She jerked the moment she felt his fingers inside her.
â€œNooooâ€¦ pleaseâ€¦ donâ€™tâ€¦â€
â€œSssshâ€¦ you will enjoy it.â€
â€œNoâ€¦ stop,â€ she felt turned on. She didnâ€™t want to feel that way. She wasnâ€™t ready for the desires that flooded her mind.
He didnâ€™t listen to her. He raised the skirt, and kicked her legs apart. He pushed down his jeans and positioned himself.
Fear gripped her when she felt his hardness rubbing against her groin. What was he doing?
â€œI wonâ€™t go inside. I just want to feel you.â€
Despite the cool breeze, she began to sweat. How was she going to fight him off? He was physically stronger. If she raised an alarm, both of them would get into trouble. What had she gotten herself into?
â€œGbemiâ€¦ please, let me go.â€
Her pleas fell on his deaf ears, controlled by the desires that pumped through his bloodline, he drove into her. A stinging sharp pain shot through her. She buried her face in his chest and tried not to scream. Her fingers gnawed into his shoulders till he bleeds. Tears slid down her dark oval face. He had just broken his promise to her. He had just taken what she was ready to give. Her heart ached at the fact that her innocence was gone.
Gbemiga rode her in frenzy, lost in sizzling pleasure. It had been a very long time since he had sex with a girl. When he got born again, he promised God that, that part of his life would be kept under wraps until he tied the knot. Dating Bukky, it was hard to keep that promise. He loved her and the physical attraction between them was explosive. He pulled away quickly and released on the wall.
Bukky staggered away from him and noticed the blood stains around her thighs. She adjusted her skirt and glared at him.
â€œYou are so sweet,â€ he breathed out and winked at her.
She eyed him and started to walk away.
â€œBukky, wait! We need to go to the chemist.â€
â€œNeither of us was protected.â€
She turned around and stared at him angrily.
â€œI know what to buy. Itâ€™s a pill. It will stop anything from happening.â€
A tear dropped. What sort of trouble had he gotten them into?
â€œWait for me outside your room, I will go and buy it. I will be back,â€ he zipped his trouser and dashed off.
She hissed and began to weep quietly. She shouldnâ€™t have trusted him. What if the pill didnâ€™t work? What if she got pregnant? Her parents would be disappointed. Her aunt would freak out? Did she make a mistake when she said yes to Gbemiga? She usually saw her period at the beginning of every month. She hoped and prayed that nothing crazy would happen. She was just sixteen. He was just twenty. What would people say? She wiped her tears with the back of her hands and hurried back into the building.
Bukky paid the carpenter living in the neighbourhood to construct a wooden shade for her. She wanted it big enough to occupy a few benches, so that people could sit and eat, while others queue to buy her wares. She had already gotten permission from the landlady. The woman collected a daily portion of bean cake, bread and pap from her. The carpenter promised to start work that day. On her way back to the house, several thoughts ran through her mind. She saw her period a few days ago. It was a relief that she didnâ€™t get pregnant. It had been torture to wait for it. She had been avoiding Gbemiga since that night and every time he tried to speak with her, she played dumb. His actions hurt her and he almost got them into trouble. What if she had gotten pregnant? She wasnâ€™t ready to sleep with him, yet he took advantage of her. She wasnâ€™t sure she would be able to trust him ever again. He had been calling and texting her too. She didnâ€™t care. She was almost regretting agreeing to date him. The sooner he returned to school, the better for them.
She heard her name. She recognized the voice and kept on walking. She halted when someone grabbed her by the elbow.
She turned around and saw him. Desperation in his eyes, tired lines laced his forehead. She pulled her arm away from his grip.
â€œWhy are you treating me like this?â€ his saddened gaze observed her.
She crossed her arms against her chest and looked him up and down.
â€œI have not been able to sleep. I canâ€™t eat. Your attitude is driving me crazy.â€
She hissed and turned her head.
â€œIs it becauseâ€¦ Okay I am sorry. I was taken over byâ€¦ try and understand, I love you. I justâ€¦â€
She began to shake her head, â€œI am no longer interested.â€
He opened his mouth and closed it.
â€œI donâ€™t think I can trust you anymore.â€
â€œBukkyâ€¦â€ he whispered.
She looked up at him and noticed the way his eyes glittered with unshed tears. She stilled her emotions. She didnâ€™t want to be dissuaded from her decision.
â€œDonâ€™t do this. Donâ€™t break my heart.â€
â€œIt is over,â€ she swirled and started to walk away.
She ran the remaining way home, anxious to be as far away as possible.
He placed both hands on his head, heart thudding against his chest.
Kike and her niece watched the carpenter as he worked on the wooden shed. He assured them that he would be through before the sunset. Bukky hoped that the shed would be ready for use the next day. The number of people that patronized her on a daily basis had greatly increased. She thanked God for expanding her business. Lectures at the Adult Educational Centre was starting at the end of the month of January. She had paid for the form and her fees. She was told that her progress determined the books she would be asked to buy. She was excited. Thoughts of Gbemiga clouded her mind. She sighed heavily and tried to erase him from her mind. She heard from one of the neighbours that he would be returning to school that week. She felt sad and happy at the same time. Their break-up had been painful. She still liked him, but, she couldnâ€™t get past what he did to her. It wasnâ€™t completely his fault, but, she was afraid. They were both too young to raise children.
â€œYour mum is planning to come and see you this weekend.â€
She turned to her aunt, excitement written all over her face.
â€œShe will be very proud of you,â€ Kike smiled at her.
Bukky sighed with relief. The thought of seeing her mother filled her with joy.
Bukky came out of the toilet and strode towards the building. It was dark, except for the light coming from the bulb hanging above the kitchen entrance. Most people living in the compound had retired for the night, but, some were still hanging around the front of the house. She yawned loudly and scratched her upper arm. She adjusted the wrapper tied around her waist and scratched a spot on her neck. She yawned again.
What was that? Fear gripped her. She hastened her steps.
She halted and looked around. There was no one in sight.
She noticed a tall dark figure standing behind the kitchen.
â€œPlease, I will lie to have a word with you.â€
She recognized her ex-boyfriend and frowned.
â€œPlease, I am leaving for school tomorrow.â€
She hissed and folded her arms. She didnâ€™t want to be anywhere near him.
â€œYou can say whatever you want to say.â€
He came out of his hiding place and swallowed hard, â€œI am sorry for everything. Please forgive me. Please take me back. I will do whatever you want. Please.â€
She eyed him and bit at her lower lip.
â€œPlease Bukky, I love you. I cannot live without you,â€ he went on his knees.
She opened her mouth in shock.
â€œPleaseâ€¦â€ tears slid down his face.
Her heart melted. She took a few steps towards him, â€œYou hurt me.â€
â€œI will never, ever hurt you again. Your wish is my command, henceforth.â€
She stopped in front of him and pulled him up.
â€œPlease take me back,â€ he held her hands.
She dropped her head and sighed. Should she forgive him? Was he trustworthy? She was confused, but, her feelings for him had not changed.
â€œPlease give me another chance. I will not touch you again until you are ready.â€
She raised her head and met his pleading gaze, â€œI think we can start over.â€
â€œThank you,â€ his face brightened.
â€œAre you really leaving tomorrow?â€
â€œYes,â€ he nodded and dropped her hands.
â€œSo, till Easter.â€
â€œYes, but you can visit me at school.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know about that.â€
Their gazes locked.
â€œI am going to miss you,â€ he brushed a hand over her face.
â€œI will miss you too.â€
He took a step back. He tried to fight the urge to draw her close and kiss her. He turned his head and looked at nothing in particular.
â€œI will,â€ he glanced at her, â€œEveryday.â€
She smiled with satisfaction, â€œI have to go,â€ her eyes darted left and right. There was no one around. She sighed with relief.
â€œYou too,â€ she tore her gaze away and hurried into the building.
Gbemiga placed both hands on his head. It would have been devastating if she had not re-united with him. He really, really loved her. It saddened him that she doesnâ€™t want to be physically intimate with him. He felt it would make them closer. Maybe if he took things slowly, she might come around.
Chike Nwosu joined the queue under the wooden shed. He looked around him and saw some people seated on long wooden benches eating a combination of bean cake and pap or with bread. He caught a glimpse of Bukky. She was seated on a stool, bent before a large basin of blended beans. She turned the mixture with one hand and scooped the paste into the hot oil with another hand. Beads of sweat gathered on her forehead, dripped down her neckline and soaked her red short-sleeve blouse. Her plaited hair in â€˜police-capâ€™ style made her look like an African beauty. When he went home for the holidays, he missed her tasty akara. If he was truthful to himself, he might have to admit that he missed her too. They were not even close, just acquaintances and he was already missing her. He cleared his thoughts and tried to think of his courses at school.
â€œHappy New Year,â€ she looked up at him and grinned.
â€œSame to you,â€ he smiled back at her. It was almost his turn. The person in front of him paid for his purchase and walked away.
â€œWhen did you arrive?â€
â€œThree days ago.â€
â€œWhat did you bring for me?â€
He scratched a spot on his head.
â€œDonâ€™t tell me you went to Owerri for the holidays and you returned empty handed?â€
He started to laugh.
She turned to her neighbourâ€™s daughter, who was helping her to attend to the customers, â€œPlease, whatever he buys, no jara.â€
The girl nodded with understanding and smiled.
â€œBukky, donâ€™t be a fair weather friend,â€ he teased her.
â€œAbeg, let me hear word,â€ she hissed and eyed him, â€œWhat sort of friend travels and returns empty handed.â€
He laughed louder and held his waist.
â€œYou can laugh all you want, no jara for you today.â€
â€œEhâ€¦ I don die ooo.â€
â€œHow much?â€ the girl looked up at him.
â€œPlease give me two hundred naira own.â€
The girl used a long fork to pick the bean cake and gather it in a large paper. She wrapped it and placed it in a small black polythene bag.
â€œI have packaged your Christmas and New Year gift,â€ he turned to his friend.
She eyed him, â€œWhere is it?â€
â€œAt home,â€ he grinned.
â€œYou are not serious.â€
Chike collected the polythene bag from the girl and paid for the bean cake, â€œDonâ€™t worry, I will bring it when I return from school today.â€
â€œNot until I set my two eyes on your so called gift.â€
He laughed and shook his head at her, â€œOh yea of little faith.â€
â€œSee you later,â€ he waved at her and walked away.
She watched him leave and smiled.
A nagging headache made her leave the market and return home earlier than usual. She met her niece seated by the doorway sieving corn pap.
â€œGood afternoon Aunt Kike,â€ she was surprised to see her at home at that time.
Kike mumbled inaudibly and went in. Bukky returned her attention to the blended corn in the basin in front of her. She hoped it would be enough for that week. Several people come to buy the corn pap from her, even if the bean cake was exhausted. At times, they come to knock on her door as late at nine in the night.
She raised her head and saw Chike wakling towards her. Her heart missed a beat when she noticed the two heavy polythene bags he was carrying.
â€œDonâ€™t you rest at all,â€ he placed the bags beside the basin and placed his hands on his hips.
â€œWhat is this?â€ she pointed at the bags.
He grinned, â€œYour Christmas slash New Year gift.â€
Her pretty dark eyes widened in surprise. She opened the bags one after the other and found tubers of yam, sweet potatoes, onions, a bottle of palm oil, yellow garri, dried fish and rice.
She looked up at him with gratitude, â€œThese are for me.â€
â€œWhat are friends for? I am expecting my gift tomorrow morning seven sharp.â€
She started to laugh.
â€œInclusive the jara you deprived me of this morning.â€
â€œNo wahala. I am ready for you.â€
Their gazes locked.
â€œThank you. I am, amâ€¦ blown away.â€
His smile broadened, â€œI am glad.â€
She washed her hands and got to her feet. She adjusted the red and black coloured wrapper around her waist and looked up at him.
â€œWhen is your lecture starting at the Adult educational center?â€ he started off towards the exit.
â€œAt the end of the month,â€ she walked beside him.
â€œI am here for you if you need any help,â€ he glanced at her.
â€œOkay, thanks,â€ she sighed with relief.
They strode out of the building and headed down the street.
â€œHow long have you been living with your aunt?â€
â€œA couple of months.â€
â€œNice, I am not the only one that is new in the area.â€
She started to laugh.
He turned a corner and pointed at a green painted house, â€œI live there.â€
She followed his direction and saw the bungalow. It was one of the nice houses in the area. She believed it had about seven or eight self-contain apartments.
â€œDo you want to come in?â€ he glanced at her.
She gave a shake of head, â€œMaybe another day. I have to finish sieving that pap before night fall. I donâ€™t trust NEPA.â€
â€œOkay. My flat is the third on your right. Brown door.â€
â€œOkay,â€ she looked up at him, â€œThanks for the foodstuff.â€
â€œYou are welcome.â€
â€œSee you later.â€
She waved, turned around and walked back home.
Chike stood at the road side and watched her. How old was she? Facially, she looked younger than twenty. Physically, she had the body of a twenty-one-year-old. He couldnâ€™t place her real age. He needed to come up with a genuine excuse and ask her.
Bukky stood at the bus-stop, awaiting a vehicle heading her way. She was clad in a pink cap-sleeve blouse and a matching black A-shaped knee-length skirt with pink poker dots. Her shoulder length braids was swept behind her neck in a pony-tail and she had on a white gladiator sandals with a matching white hand bag. She hoped that she would get home before the rain began that evening. She was hungry and tired.
She turned in the direction of the voice and found Chike standing a few feet away, in a white tee shirt and blue jeans. A black knapsack bag hung over his shoulder.
â€œHey you,â€ she broke into a smile.
â€œDid you just close from your lecture centre?â€ he stood beside her.
She nodded her head in response.
â€œHow is it?â€ he stood beside her.
She shrugged, â€œSo, So.â€
He raised an eyebrow, â€œAre you having problems with your studies?â€
She looked up at the dark sky, â€œNot really?â€
He adjusted his knapsack, â€œI am here whenever you need my help.â€
â€œOkay,â€ she dropped her head.
It began to drizzle.
â€œWowâ€¦â€ he signaled to one of the bike riders one the other side of the road.
â€œI canâ€™t believe it,â€ she held her bag against her chest.
â€œCome, letâ€™s take a bike home.â€
She directed her uncertain gaze at him, then at the bike man.
â€œDo you want to get wet?â€
She shook her hand slowly.
The moment they got on the bike, the rain came down in torrents. Chike directed the bike man to his place. They got down, he paid and they ran into the building. He unlocked the door and let her into his self-contain apartment.
â€œAre you wet?â€
She looked up at him and nodded.
He flung his knapsack on the bed, marched to the wardrobe and brought out a long sleeve sweat shirt, â€œYou can put on this. I will dry your clothes under the fan.â€
She bobbed her head, collected the sweat shirt and followed his direction to the bathroom. She yanked off her clothes and sandals and got into the brown sweat shirt. It was over-size and it reached her knees. She packed the wet clothes and stepped out.
â€œI made tea,â€ he pointed at the mug of steaming tea on the table in front of the two settee.
He hurried into the bathroom and got out of his wet clothes and changed into a red sweat shirt and a pair of white shorts. He stepped out and arranged all the wet clothes on a plastic chair under the ceiling- fan. He sat beside her and drank from his mug of tea.
â€œDo you need more sugar?â€
She shook her head.
â€œWhat about milk?â€
She shook her head again. The hot sweet milky liquid warmed her up. She looked around her. The room was almost the same size with the one she lived in. it had better ventilation. The two big windows at opposite sides of the room enhanced the inflow of fresh air. The cream curtains completed the brown leather chair they were sitting on. The blue and white coloured carpet felt smooth under her feet. She noticed that the bed took more than half of the space in the room. She hoped to get something similar at the end of the month. The mattress in her auntâ€™s room needed to be thrown out. It had over-stayed its welcome. A small size refrigerator stood at a corner and above it was a twenty inch LG flat screen television with a DVD player underneath.
â€œShould I switch on the television?â€ he glanced at her. She looked funny in the brown sweat shirt. It was a size bigger for him, but, she looked like she was dropped into a big water drum.
â€œOkay,â€ she sipped at the tea.
He picked up the remote on the table and switched on the television, â€œShould I get you something to eat?â€
She looked at him, â€œYes, I am hungry.â€
â€œMe too,â€ he placed the mug and the remote on the table and got up. He hurried into the kitchen and returned with a loaf of bread and a plate of fried eggs.
They ate together in silence. When they were through, she carried the empty plate and mugs to the kitchen. She saw the camp gas cooker on a small wooden stool, the electric kettle on the table beside the microwave. There was a toaster beside a set of pots and plates. The cutleries were hung on a small plastic stand. A small cupboard was above the sink. She dropped the mugs and plate in the sink and opened the cupboard. She found a carton of indomie noodles, a big tin of milk, a carton of tea bag, a jar of sugar, a bottles of palm oil and vegetable oil, transparent containers filled with rice, beans, yellow garri, melon seeds, ogbonna, crayfish and magi. She closed it and looked around. Tubers of yam lay beside a bunch of plantain and a small basket of onions. She smiled to herself, impressed.
Bukky walked out of the kitchen and joined him on the chair, â€œYour place is nice.â€
He met her pleased gaze, â€œThanks.â€
â€œI hope to get a place like this soon. My aunt and I are due for a change in accommodation.â€
He chuckled and grinned.
â€œYou are in your third year, and you will be graduating in the next two years. What level is your girl friend?â€
Her question caught him off guard, his eyes widened in surprise, â€œMy girl friend?â€
â€œYes, donâ€™t you have one?â€ she stared back at him.
He scratched a spot on his scalp and turned away, â€œI am not in any relationship.â€
She looked him up and down, â€œWhy?â€
He started to laugh.
â€œDonâ€™t you have plans?â€
He returned her gaze, â€œYes, I do.â€
â€œSo, why donâ€™t you have a girl friend? Or do you want to wait until you graduate?â€
He blinked and stared back at her, â€œMy last relationship didnâ€™t work out.â€
â€œSo?â€ curiousity got the better of her.
â€œI am on the lookout for a special someone.â€
â€œOkay, good. I am glad you didnâ€™t give up because of a glitch in your past,â€ she smiled at him.
â€œI think I have found her.â€
â€œReally? Who is she? I love, love stories,â€ her eyes went dreamy.
He dropped his gaze and faced the television, â€œWe met recently. I like her. I donâ€™t know if she likes me.â€
â€œAsk her now,â€ she eyed him.
He turned his head and stared at her, â€œI donâ€™t even know how old she is. She looks very young.â€