A Christmas Love Story

‎”Jingle bells, Jingle bells, jingle all the way……..”
“Will somebody switch off that blasted noise?” a voice thundered from the masters room upstairs.
Molly and Jane snapped to attention and quickly switched off the radio. Daddy was not in a good mood. And he would not be in a good mood until christmas passed. Every christmas was met with frowns, bad moods, and surly attitudes. He refused to acknowledge the christmas season. He never bought a tree, never allowed decorations, not even the ones they made with coloured papers in school. If he saw anything that smelled of christmas, he would throw it out.
But Molly and Jane knew they couldn’t blame him.
It wasn’t really his fault. You see, when they were five, mommy got hit by a trailer when she went to the market on christmas eve. She didn’t survive it. Daddy stopped smiling, stopped laughing, stopped playing with them. In their grief, they couldn’t understand why. But eight years after, they had had enough. Even though they missed mummy, they missed daddy more. And they couldn’t do anything to bring mommy back, but they sure could do something to help daddy.
And this year they had a plan. A plan that would not fail. Today, they planned to get their daddy back. They smiled and nodded at each other, their identical faces shining with anticipation.
Molly picked up the broom and began sweeping the parlour while Jane started cleaning and wiping the harmattan dust from the furniture. Aunty Amaka, their housekeeper, had gone to the market and would be back soon to prepare the day’s meals.
House chores done, they rushed upstairs, had their bath and dressed up, awaiting the arrival of their special guest. By the time she arrived, Mrs Amaka had prepared the meals and left.
They rushed to the door and let in their school teacher, Miss Mildred. Tall, elegant and beautiful, kind and patient with all her pupils, Miss Mildred was perfect for daddy. If only he would see it. She would also be a perfect mommy. Though they knew nobody could replace their mommy, at least daddy would have somebody, the way they had each other. And just like the movie, this plan would work. They giggled with excitement.
“Aunty welcome” Molly said as she led Miss Mildred to the sitting room.
“Thank you my dear. How are you?” Mildred said as she sat, opening her arms so they could sit next to her, one on each side.
“We are fine aunty. But daddy is still upstairs. Let me go and call him.” Jane said as she left and ran upstairs.
She knocked shyly, not willing to make too much noise that would upset him. Daddy needed to be in a good mood today.
“Come in….” daddy said gruffly. She opened the door and entered. His room, the biggest in the house, was a mess, like he hadn’t cleaned it in a while. Regardless, he had taken a bath so it didn’t matter.
“Miss Mildred is downstairs.” Jane said. She walked to the dresser and picked up one perfume bottle, handing it to her father who stood up reluctantly, handsome in a white tee shirt and brown shorts. His straight hairy leg peeked at the world.
He looked at the perfume in confusion.
Jane shook her head as if to say ‘Men, They knew nothing’.
“Put it on dad. It’s not good to keep a lady waiting. Miss Mildred said so.”
She didn’t see her father roll his eyes behind her. His children were always planning, scheming behind his back.
He obediently put on the perfume and groomed his hair with the brush she handed to him.
Then he followed her downstairs. Miss Mildred sat calmly, patiently answering Molly’s questions like they were best of friends. The woman had a lot of patience and he admired her for that. He also admired other things. The way she smiled. The way she wore her glasses to peer at class reports. The way she laughed at the children’s jokes, even the ones that were not funny. But he wasn’t in the market for a wife. No need to raise the school teacher’s hopes.
Miss Mildred stood up on seeing him.
“Good afternoon Mr Edwards.” She smiled and held out her hand. Even though Molly and Jane were always trying to get her dating their dad, she knew that Mr Edwards was not interested in her. And not because she wasn’t beautiful. She could see in his eyes that he still missed his wife. Still loved her even. And how could you compete with a ghost? How could you even be jealous of a ghost? But she was jealous. Jealous of the lucky woman who stole this man’s heart and then left him broken. Her interest was not because he was handsome or he was rich. She admired the love he had for his children, his dedication and commitment. He never put his office above them and though he rarely smiled the few times they met, she could tell he was a gentleman. Even now, though unwilling, he bought the children’s fake ‘sickness’ story and agreed to let her bring their report card to his house.
Smiling sadly, she calmed her beating heart as he held her arms in a brief handshake. She always avoided touching him. Always avoided being close to him. Maybe he would see her strong attraction to him and begin to feel sorry for her. She didn’t want that. So she smiled at him and sat down, bringing out the School Report card from her bag.
“Mr Edwards, Molly and Jane have being good girls this term.” Mildred touched their noses in affection. They giggled excitedly.
“Molly had a great average of 87 percent. Jane had 89 percent.” She announced as she handed the papers to him.
Suddenly, Jane’s left hand shot out and hit hers, in a bid to collect the glass of water on the centre table, throwing the papers in her hand to the floor and knocking the glass of water down. They didn’t see Molly and Jane’s smile.
Mildred quickly bent down to retrieve the papers before the water got to them. So did Mr Edwards. Their heads bumped as they stood up, making her raise her head and looking straight into his eyes.
For a small moment, she thought she saw admiration in his eyes. Then he lowered his head and picked the last paper on the floor. By the time he looked up, all she could see was a mild interest in the papers, not in her. Typical.
What she didn’t know was that Mr Edwards was not made of stone. He noticed the curve of Mildred’s lips. He noticed her beauty. And just now, as they had bent to pick up the papers, he noticed the curve of her neck, sloping down to nether regions. He noticed her sweet fragrance. He was interested. He liked her. A lot. He just didn’t want to. There was no way he could commit to another woman. No matter how much he liked that woman. Joan was his first love and would always be. Suddenly, he began to feel guilty, guilty for looking at another woman. He frowned as he sat down, looking at the papers in deep pretend concentration. The sooner Mildred left his house, the better.
Mildred noticed the smile was gone from his face. Infact, he looked angry. Clearly, her time was up. She stood up and cleared her throat. “I’ll be leaving now Mr Edwards.” She said to him.
He glanced up at her, did a small ‘hmmmm’ in answer and looked back down at the papers like she was an irritation. An afterthought. Tears welled up in her heart. Just typical of him. Every time it seemed they had an understanding, he would clam up and ignore her existence.
Someone tugged at her skirt. Molly. Mildred didn’t know how, but she was the only person in the whole school who could differentiate between the twins.
“Please stay with us and have lunch. Please….” Molly looked up at her, a sheen of tears in her eyes. Her heart melted. The children missed female companionship, an older role model.
Mildred smiled and nodded yes, glancing sideways at Mr Edwards. He was still peering at the papers. She ignored him and followed the girls to the dining table. She set the table and carried the already prepared food to the dining, smiling as Jane put a bouquet of flower at the centre of the table.
“Alright girls, go and call your father.” she said to them. They trudged up to him, still peering at the papers. She kept busy at the table, peeking sideways as she saw him shake his head in the negative. He stood up and went back upstairs, totally ignorant of the look of sadness in his children’s eyes. Maybe Mr Edwards was not such a nice guy. Fuming inwardly, she walked up to them and cheered them up, dishing the food out and promising sweets if they finished their meal.
Upstairs, Edwards was fuming, pacing his room in anger. What the hell was Mildred doing encouraging the children? And who gave her the right to go into Joan’s kitchen, and act like she was the wife of this house? Joan was and will always be the wife of this house, no matter what the kids and any school teacher thought. Even though he knew the kids were hungry for female companionship, he didn’t know how to help them there. Molly and Jane were growing up. They needed a mother. But he wouldn’t be swayed by any beautiful, intruding teacher. Even if he decided to get a wife, he would damn well go out and find one himself. Not a ready-made wife brought to him by his kids. After lunch, he would give Mildred a piece of his mind.
Downstairs, Mildred and the kids ate, washed out the dishes and arranged the kitchen. Already, the kids’ were looking sad. They kept bringing up fake problems to make her stay till evening. But how could she stay where she was not welcome?
“Am sorry kids. I have to go now okay? You be good girls to your father. Tell him I’ve gone.” she said as she carried her bag and walked to the door.
“Miss Mildred, can I talk to you for a few minutes outside?” Mr Edwards called out, standing at the staircase.
She nodded yes and he followed her outside. Immediately they got to his car, well out of the children’s earshot, he turned to her roughly.
“This will be the last time you come to my house Miss Mildred. It’s bad enough that Molly and Jane keep seeing a mother in every woman that pays them attention, you are the one encouraging them. If you think you can use my children to get me to marry you, you’re wrong.”
Mildred looked up at him in shock.
“How dare you say that to me? How dare you talk to me like that? All I’ve shown your children is kindness and love, something they don’t get from you, their supposed father. If you would let go of your grief for just a tiny moment, maybe you will see that your children badly need a mother. But how can someone like you understand what it is to grow up without a mother? You’re just a selfish man. A man like you wouldn’t understand that. All you care about is yourself. “
Tears welled up Mildred’s eyes, and she brushed them away angrily. “And by the way, I could never ever be interested in a man like you. And for your information, I have a boyfriend.”
‎”Uh oh!” Molly said as she peeped through a window.
“What is it? Lemme see…” Jane hurriedly opened a corner of the curtain and peeked out at daddy and Miss Mildred obviously having an argument. As they watched, Miss Mildred started crying, then she said something to daddy and left. Daddy didn’t look happy either. He just looked at the gate for a while, then came back inside. The twins quickly closed the curtain and ran into the rooms. The plan didn’t work. At first, Molly was so sad that Jane had to hug her for a while to calm her down. They both knew this plan had to work this christmas season. That was their only wish to santa this year. It had to.
When it was time for dinner, all three sat at the table, eating slowly and deep in thought. Suddenly Jane blurted out “daddy, you have to apologise to Miss Mildred.”
Daddy looked surprised. “What?” He yelled. “Apologise for what? How do you know we had an argument?.”
“Because we were peeking through the window.” Molly chirped in happily.
“What have I told you about eavesdropping? There’ll be no TV for two weeks for both of you.”
Jane glared at Molly in anger. She just had to open her mouth without thinking. But they came up with another plan. Though the school year was officially over, a christmas carol/party had been organised for pupils, teachers, and parents the coming weekend. The twins worked out another plan and waited happily till the weekend for the christmas party.
The day of the christmas party arrived and the twins prepared anxiously. Daddy drove them to the school which was beautifully arranged for the party. Already christmas carols were being played through the speakers. Immediately they spotted Miss Mildred talking to the music teacher, they walked up to her.
“Molly and Jane…” Miss Mildred cried excitedly “how are my lovelies today?”
“We are fine…” they replied simultaneously. Not wasting any time, Molly opened her back pack, removed a bouquet of beautiful flowers and handed them over to Miss Mildred.
“My daddy said we should tell you that he’s sorry.” they chorused, looking up at Miss Mildred with hope in their eyes.
Miss Mildred could tell Mr Edwards had not sent them. She had noticed him the moment he entered the hall, handsome in a sky blue shirt and black trousers. Their eyes had met and she had looked away flustered. She was still so angry at him. Accusing her of using his children to get to him had hurt her deeply, so deep that she had spent that entire night crying. The man obviously had no respect for her. And she made up her mind to avoid him at all costs. But she couldn’t hurt the children. So she took the flowers and sent them to play with other kids.
“What was that all about?” Raphael, the music teacher asked after the twins had left.
“Oh! Nothing really.” She said flippantly, even as her eyes searched for Mr Edwards.
“Who are you looking for? Are you even listening to me?” Raphael bursted out.
Mildred turned in surprise. She hadn’t expected such vehemence. Then she understood. He was jealous. She knew he had a crush on her. Smiling, she laid her hand on his shoulder “Raph, nothing really happened okay?”
Raphael took a deep breath. “Okay. Want me to get you some punch?” He asked, like he was trying to apologise for something. She nodded yes and he left.
Across the room, Mr Edwards watched Miss Mildred as she talked to a tall young man, probably the boyfriend she told him about. She held a bouquet in her hand, it looked like a gift from the boyfriend. Whatever. It didn’t affect him in anyway. She could do whatever she wanted. It’s not like he cared. She was a grown woman and could take care of herself.
That was until she put her hand on her boyfriends shoulder. What did she think she was doing, playing love with her stupid boyfriend in front of the school children? How immoral.
Infuriated, he walked up to her as soon as the boyfriend left.
“What do you think you are doing? Publicly romancing your boyfriend in front of the school children? Have you no shame?” Edwards said angrily. “Please behave properly in front of the children, especially my kids.” He stalked away. He didn’t see the tears in Miss Mildred’s eyes. He didn’t see her when she ran out of the hall.
Molly and Jane walked up to him. “Have you seen Miss Mildred dad? She was just talking to our music teacher now.”
Mr Edwards stood in surprise. The music teacher? Not her boyfriend? Pure joy filtered into his mind. Until he remembered the angry words he had spoken to her earlier. What would he do?
“”Am sorry.”
Mildred was standing at the balcony beside the basic 5 class, looking out into the darkness. Edwards could see the sheen of tears in her eyes.
She didn’t turn.
“For what exactly Mr Edwards? For accusing me of using your children to get you to marry me? For telling me never to come to your house? Or for being so rude? Which one exactly are you apologising for?”
Guilt ran through him. She didn’t deserve any of this from him. All she had done was be nice to his kids and him. And how did he repay her?
“For everything okay? For everything.” He took a deep breath.
Mildred turned to him. “Why do you always do that? Everytime I try to come close to you, you insult me? Do you hate me? What is it?”
“It’s because I like you okay? I like you so damn much.”
Now that he had said it, he felt lighter, like a weight had been lifted off him.
“And I feel so guilty about it. You gotta understand Mildred, I loved my wife. I loved her a lot. And I pledged to never look at another woman. But everytime I see you, I lose myself. I begin to feel things I shouldn’t feel. Am sorry.” he leaned on the door, standing so close to her.
“How did she die?” Mildred asked. She turned to look at him directly.
“It was eight years ago. The kids were five. That christmas eve, she left for the supermarket to buy sweet corn. I love sweet corn and she had forgotten to get it. She got hit by a trailer.”
For a while, neither spoke. Then Mildred said…
“She’s dead Edwards, there’s nothing you can do about it. Am sorry for your loss. But am not sorry that I like you too. That every time I see you, I lose myself. I can’t apologise for that. But I also won’t accept anything from you until you make up your mind about me. It’s either you choose to be with me or not.”
Mildred looked up at him, awaiting an answer. He didn’t say anything. Disappointed, she walked away, her heart breaking. He treasured the memory of his dead wife more than her. It shouldn’t hurt this much, but it did.
Mr Edwards watched Mildred walk away, feeling as though he was losing a part of himself. He wanted to call out to her, to tell her that he had made up his mind, that he wanted to be with her. But his voice was trapped. Trapped inside the memory of Joan. For eight long lonely years, he had treasured the memory of Joan, had held it close and ignored everything else. He had even ignored his children’s need for a mother. She was right. Everything she had said about him was true. He was a selfish man. In his grief, he hadn’t cared about anybody else, not even his own kids. He had cared only about himself, his guilt. Joan had only gone out that evening because of him. Because she wanted to please him.
But maybe he had paid his penance. Maybe he had paid the price. For eight long years, he had been loyal to the memory of his dead wife. Maybe it was time he became really selfish and do something for himself. For his kids.
“Wait…” He called out to Mildred just as she got to the door of the hall. She stopped and turned back. He smiled. She smiled back.

The Situation

It all started innocently. Christopher, a struggling young man, had gone to the backyard of the compound to bring in the clothes he had washed that morning. It was a public compound, with houses as old as the ancient times, with no hope of improvement. The lines were directly behind his neighbour’s flat.

The sharp smell of urine hit his nostrils as he walked towards the line, a result of the kids who preferred to pee outside than miss any play time. As he bent to pick a shirt that had fallen from his hands, he raised his head and that’s when he saw it, a sliver of light coming from a small crack in the window of a bedroom. The window was made of wood, the rains had washed away the brown rich colour of the wood, the years had left many cracks and tears. It wasn’t the crack that caught his attention however. It was the image behind it.

He could clearly see Ronke, his neighbour’s quiet fifteen year old daughter who was rarely seen except when she went on errands. She was standing and gazing at her reflection in the mirror as she tried out different poses in quick succession, wearing a short flighty nightwear. Perplexed, he stayed there, stooped on the floor, watching her until she left the mirror and out of his sight.

Her image stayed with him all through that night into the next morning. Ronke was not exceptionally pretty, he had never really paid any attention to her. The only times he bumped into her was in the mornings when she left early for school and even then, she would offer a mousy greeting his way with her head down, never actually looking at him.

That morning he delayed in his room till he saw her open the door in her school uniform. Not wasting any time, he grabbed his bag and headed out, catching up with her at the gate. He noticed there was something different about her. He couldn’t place it. She offered her greeting and walked past him.

It wasn’t until he got to his office that it hit him. For the first time, Ronke had not bowed her head to greet him. She had looked directly at him, her dark brown eyes filled with confidence. Her skirt had been shorter too, her shirt tighter. A smile spread accross his face. He recognised the signs.

On getting home that evening, he hurried through his evening ablutions, waiting patiently till it got dark. He picked up some clothes, making a pretext of going to spread them on the line. Nobody used the line in the evenings so he knew he would be alone. Peeping through the crack, he didn’t see anybody at first. He adjusted his neck painfully until he could make her out, lying on the bed and going through a phone. She had a wrapper tied on her chest which got to her knees. He continued to watch as her legs danced on the bed excitedly until she put the phone aside and stood up. She grabbed a hair net drying on the mirror stand and covered her hair. She retied the wrapper that was slipping from her waist as she removed a short night wear from the bag lying close to the bed and spread it out on the bed. She put a short towel on her shoulders and went out the room.

She had gone to take a bath. Excitedly, he sat down and began scratching his mosquito feasted legs. The bathroom window was on the front side of the house. He couldn’t go there without being seen. The creaking of the door brought him scrambling to his knees, his greedy eyes making their way to the crack.

She had cleaned her body and was spreading the towel out on a thin iron hanger, her wrapper still tied to her chest. She put her long smooth legs on the bed and applied lotion. Then she removed her wrapper and slid into her thin night wear. He grinned excitedly, his mind running wild as he went back to his room.

He could barely sleep that night, her image stayed in his minds eye.
So began the ritual. Every evening, he would wait anxiously until darkness fell before proceeding to his spot beside her window. He barely glanced at her when their paths crossed in the mornings. He was sure she would see the lust written all over him. He began to depend on seeing her image every night before sleeping. He would spend hours lying on his bed, dreaming.

One evening, two weeks later, he went to the crack but nobody was in the room. He waited for about an hour before giving up. He couldn’t sleep that night. He kept wondering where she had gone to. She wasn’t at the gate the next morning either. After waiting till he was sure he was going to be too late for work, he left. Her room and her parents’ seemed deserted. That evening, he paid a courtesy visit to the other tenants. He learned that Ronke had travelled with her parents and would be back at the end of the weekend. As Sunday approached, he got more anxious, more restless. He couldn’t wait for his Ronke to be back.

In the evening, he saw her. She was carrying a little travelling bag in her arms, her hair was slightly wet from the light drizzles, wearing a brown skirt under a white shirt. She greeted the other neighbours sitting in their varendah before going to her door. He looked around. Her parents were not in sight. He casually strolled to her as she struggled with the padlock on the door.

“Good evening Mr Christopher” she greeted as he approached.
He smiled what he hoped was an easy smile. “Welcome oh. Where are your parents na? I heard you people travelled this weekend.”
“They’ll be back tomorrow sir. I came back for school tomorrow.” she replied.
“Oh, Ok then…let me help you with that.”

He took the key from her, making sure their fingers touched as he did. He looked sideways at her. She hadn’t noticed.
Suddenly he felt angry. She was looking at her phone, paying no attention to him. Couldn’t she see that he loved her? What was so important that she couldn’t take a moment to talk with him? He banged the padlock as it opened, making sure he startled her before walking away.

He was in a rage. She didn’t really see him or notice him as a person. Every morning, he would risk being late to work just so he would see her in the mornings. He swallowed numerous malaria drugs to appease his legs which were covered in mosquito bites and despite all this, all his sacrifice, she gave him no more attention than she would give a passing fly. He was only fifteen years older than her, why couldn’t she just notice him? Even if for one time?

His anger only increased as darkness fell. Strapping a knife to the back of his trouser, he stomped furiously to her window, not caring if anyone saw him. He peeped through the crack, she was sitting on the bed, her bag open in front of her as she folded her clothes. He waited till she left the room, then he tested the window. It wasn’t locked. He removed his trouser and spread it on the line, securing the knife to his boxers. He slipped into the room and stood next to the shoe rack behind the door.

She came in a few minutes later, humming a song. As she went to the bed and bent forward, he pounced on her, covering her mouth with his hands immediately to stiffle her scream. She struggled until he pushed her violently to the floor and brought out the knife, holding a finger to his mouth. She covered her mouth with her hand as tears filled her eyes. He smiled as he used the knife to cut her skirt open. She covered her legs and moved backwards towards the door, pleading with her eyes. It only added to his excitement.

He knelt in front of her and started to unbutton her shirt, ignoring the tears that dripped to his hands. She was moving backwards slowly, he dropped the knife by the side and dragged her forward, going back to work on her buttons. His hands were shaking so much it was taking too long. He didn’t see her hands creep downwards. He didn’t see her hands reach the silver glinting knife. He was raising his head to grab her hair when the hard thin steel struck. The knife went three inches deep inside his left eye.

The Double

“Who are you?” 
The other girl was tall, beautiful and light skinned. She wore a red halter neck top and skinny blue jeans. Her hair was perfectly styled and she had no blemish on her skin. She sat poised on the settee, a soft orange drink in her hands, sipping quietly as she read the Vogue magazine on her laps. She looked up in surprise at the question, her face hardened at the rude and abrupt tone. 
“I could ask you the same thing, who are you?” she frowned her lovely face, keeping her drink aside to face her unwelcome companion. 
The first girl laughed in derision, dropping her bright pink bag on the side table and taking a fighting stance. 
“Considering that I asked you first, let me show you manners. I am Victoria, Ade’s girlfriend. So, who are you, again?” 
The other girl raised her brow, “am Liz, Ade’s fiancee.” 
“Says who?” Victoria shouted. 
“Says Ade, the day he gave me this beautiful ring.” she shoved her left hand in Victoria’s face, to better show her the gleaming ring. 
She took a deep breath, waited a beat before turning back to Victoria who was frowning in confusion. “I don’t know what games Ade has been playing with you but am his fiancee, our wedding is in four months time. Before you get a broken heart, just leave.” Liz said calmly, a plea in her eyes. 
Victoria sat down heavily, like one confused. She looked up at Liz, saying in a small voice “Am carrying his child.” 
“What!!?” 
They sat together, each mind running in circles. 
The door creaked open and Ade walked in. Liz ran to him, holding his shirt and crying into his shoulders. 
“Why did you do this to me Ade,” she kept saying over and over. 
Victoria held back, looking at Ade strangely. 
“It’s not what you think Liz, I can explain.”
“Explain what?” Liz exploded. “Explain how you’ve been keeping another girl? All this time I’ve been away, I felt I had a faithful man, waiting for my return. I should have known…” 
“Listen to me Liz….” Ade interrupted.
“No I won’t, there’s nothing you can say, no excuse, no explanation. I shouldn’t even be surprised. You’re a typical man.” 
She grabbed her bag, making to leave. Ade held her arms and pulled her into his shoulders, she struggled weakly, quieting down into small sobs. Victoria still had not said a word, staring at him. 
He sat Liz down gently, then stood up and went inside. Victoria sat down, her face puzzled. It was Ade, yet it wasn’t him. Something about him was not right. As she sat contemplating this, he came back into the living room, clutching a picture frame. He went to Liz and showed her the picture. Victoria peeped from her seat. 
It was Ade, there were two of them, smiling and waving blue convocation caps into the air.
“That’s Adewole, my twin brother, and your boyfriend.” he said to Victoria. 

Love And Lust 2

“How do you know?” Lisa asked in surprise.
Doris snorted. “You think am a dummy? I wasn’t sleeping last night. I saw you and that guy outside last night.”
Lisa cringed. She really thought Doris had been sleeping. She would have to be more careful next time. Next time? Was she planning a next time? 
Doris interrupted her train of thought.
“Why are you doing this to a good man like Desmond? A man you’ve known for six years for one random dude I’ve never seen before.” Doris was frowning. 
“Listen, I didn’t mean to do anything like this. You know me…I still don’t know how it happened.” Lisa protested.
“Was it that guy’s house you slept the Thursday night? Doris asked.
Lisa bowed her head, almost shameful. “Yes.” she admitted in a small voice.
“You don’t know how it happened and yet,  it’s happened twice.” Doris shook her head in derision, her mouth bent downward in mockery. “Stop deceiving yourself. Maybe the first time was a mistake. But now it’s not. Don’t you love Desmond anymore?”
Lisa pursed her lips as she thought about it. “I can’t say anymore. I really thought I did. But now that Abiye has come into my life, am seeing a new side of happiness. Surely that couldn’t happen if I truly loved Desmond.”
Doris looked at her thoughtfully. “Since you’ve decided it’s this Abiye guy you want, at least break off the engagement before you start sneaking around. He deserves that much.” She walked away into the kitchen, leaving Lisa feeling like a slut. This is it, she thought. Abiye’s chapter is over. She would find a way to make it up to Desmond.  She couldn’t abandon a friendship of six years and engagement of six months for a fling, no matter how the fling made her feel. 
 
She walked into church the next day with her mind resolved, determined to cut Abiye off permanently. She blatantly ignored the pang that tore across her heart as she remembered that he hadn’t called her all though saturday. Desmond waved to her as he rushed to meet the senior pastor. Her heart twisted as she saw him. Desmond really was a good guy who deserved better. Service was just starting when Abiye entered. He gave her a cold look, walked past her and sat down in the seat in front of her even though empty seats were in front. She ignored him. As service went underway, Abiye began a quiet conversation with a beautiful girl seated beside him. She could see their heads bent together as they whispered to each other. As service ended, he escorted her out, right past Lisa like she wasn’t there. 
 
She smiled painfully, refusing to acknowledge the emotion in her heart. As she went outside, she looked around till she saw Abiye and the girl standing beside his car, talking and laughing gaily. The girl was a beautiful light skinned newbie she had noticed before. Tears rose to her eyes and she blinked hard. Was she that easy to forget? She stood stock still as she watched them exchange numbers. They talked a while more before the girl entered the car. As Abiye drove off with the girl in his front seat, his eyes connected with hers for a split second. His eyes were cold, angry, and vengeful. She bit back the anger that poured through her as the pretty girl touched his arm and he turned his head away to look at her. She went back into the church, feeling small. She grabbed her bag angrily and went outside to stand beside Desmond’s car. He came some minutes later. By then she had worked herself into a fit of anger.
“Why did you waste so much time like that?” She snapped at him as he got to the car. He stood surprised at first, then opened his mouth to explain.
“Don’t just say anything. You’re always keeping me standing and waiting for you. If you don’t want to be taking me home, just let me know instead of all this.” She tapped her leg angrily.
“Why you being so harsh? Besides, I’ve told you to come collect the key whenever you are coming to the car.” 
He took a deep breath. “Okay, am sorry. Forgive me.” He held her hand imploringly. She snatched it away and stalked to the passenger door. 
“Open the door now” she snapped, ignoring the hurt look in his eyes. He drove her home in silence. She climbed out, mumbled ‘thank you’ and walked into her house, banging the door with so much force the hinges rattled. She couldn’t eat the food she prepared for lunch. She covered it up and went to lie in the couch, turning restlessly every now and then. She picked her phone to check. No call. Nothing. Towards evening, she picked the phone and placed a call. It rang. He didn’t pick. She called twice. He picked the third time.
“What?” Abiye barked out into the phone. 
“Who was that girl?” she asked.
“What girl…..”
“Oh don’t pretend like you don’t know what am talking about. The one you were with in church.” she interrupted.
He paused. “Why do you care?” he finally asked. “You said you don’t want to see me again, so why do you care who am with?”
She was quiet, unable to come up with an answer.
He took a deep breath. “Lisa, do you want me?” 
She remained quiet. 
“You have to say it Lisa. You know how I feel about you. I miss you so much. Just admit that you miss me too. Tell me you want me, just for once.”
She didn’t say a word, her heart just kept quivering, hovering, poised to take a leap. Then she cut the call. 
 
It was around 7pm when she stood up immediately, packed a night bag, hailed a cab and drove off. She got out, walked into the compound and rang the doorbell. The door opened. 
“Woah, I wasn’t expecting you.” Desmond said as he opened the door to let her in. She just dropped her bag on the couch then turned, grabbed him by the shirt and kissed him. He pushed her back quickly.
“What are you doing?” he asked, surprise written on his face.
“Make love to me.” She said simply, holding on to his shirt. 
“What?” he pulled her hand away. “What’s gotten into you?” 
“Nothing” she said impatiently. “I just need to be with you. I need to feel you inside me. Please Desmond, don’t deny me this. Just for once. God won’t strike us dead if we do it this one time. He’ll forgive us.” She held his shirt and began to unbutton it. She could feel his heart beating wildly. As she got to the last button, he held her hands. 
“I can’t do this Lisa. You know I can’t. We can’t do this. We said we would wait. Why are you changing your mind now?” he moved away from her. 
“Why can’t we do this? It’s just sex. Sex, sex, sex. People do it all the time. Even the ones who go to church. So what’s the big deal? Am giving you permission. Or don’t you want me?” 
He turned to face her. “Look at me and say that again.” Her eyes trailed down to his bulging trousers.  
“I made a promise Lisa. We..made a promise to God. We can’t go back now when we’re so close. We can’t do this just because the rest of the world is.” He held her shoulders. “Just be patient I beg you. It’s not easy for me too.” 
She looked up at him. “Can’t we just kiss at least? I know you’re a pastor but I just want to feel any intimacy at all with you.”
“If we did, it wouldn’t end there.” 
She pushed his head down for another kiss. He pushed her away violently and she fell to the sofa.  “Stop it Lisa. What’s gotten into you?” 
She stood up, grabbed her bag and walked out. She hailed a cab and they drove off. She got to the compound, went inside and rang the doorbell. The door opened. 
“If you’re coming in, it’s because you’ve decided it’s me you want. I won’t take anymore of this engagement Christianity nonsense.” 
She nodded weakly, tears in her eyes and ran into Abiye’s embrace.
 
SOME DAYS LATER
           “Lisa wait…” It was Desmond, standing outside her gate in a rumpled suit. He looked like he had been waiting a while. 
Lisa eyes became cold as she saw him. She hissed quietly to herself and walked grudgingly to his car, pledging to give him ten minutes. Abiye was waiting for her and he didn’t like to be kept waiting. 
“What do you want?” she asked coldly. 
“Why have you been avoiding me? You don’t take my calls. I haven’t seen you in two weeks and everytime I come here, you’re not around.” 
“I’ve been busy.” She replied.
“Too busy to even come to church? What’s happening? You’re acting strange.” He said with confusion in his eyes.
“I’ve just told you I’ve been busy. What else do you want me to say? See am late already. I have to go now.” She turned to leave. He held her hand and pulled her back.
“Why are you not wearing my ring anymore?” He asked. 
“That thing?” She scoffed. “I don’t know, it’s somewhere.” 
He dropped her hand in shock, giving her the opportunity to step back and start moving towards her cab guy who was parked further down. 
She turned to look at him as she got into the cab. He still stood there like a man mentally confused. A twinge of pity ran through her heart and she stiffled it. She was tired of this fake relationship, she just wanted it to end. But she couldn’t break up with him. He had to be the one to break up but so far, he was proving resilient. She yawned widely and relaxed in the seat, smiling as she thought of Abiye waiting for her. 
She got to Abiye’s house and entered with her key. He was sleeping on the sofa. She smiled warmly and kissed his cheek. He stirred and held her hand. “You’re back.” He said and pulled her close.
“Yes, and am going to prepare dinner now.” She made to stand up.
“No kiss for me?” he raised his eyebrow.
She smiled warmly and kissed him.
Then the door burst open.
 
Desmond. They stood up together in shock. She could see the quick angry breaths Desmond was taking, the vein throbbing in his forehead. He moved so fast they didn’t anticipate it. He pushed her to the floor, grabbed Abiye by the collar and punched him smack in the nose. Blood spurted out of his nose, some of it fell on Desmond’s sky blue shirt. He fell to the ground, holding his nose and wheezing in pain. Desmond grabbed his collar, dragged him up and punched him again in the eye. Abiye sagged and would have fallen if not for the grip Desmond had on him. 
Lisa stood up and held Desmond by his trouser. “Please leave him alone. Am sorry.” she kept saying.
He flung her hand away and released Abiye who crumpled down to the floor, his nose still bleeding and his eye swollen shut.
She thought he had gotten the anger out. She was wrong. He picked up the black glass vase on the centre table. Lisa ran and held his hand. “Please don’t kill him, please I beg you.” 
He pushed her away roughly but she held on tightly to his upraised arm. They didn’t see Abiye as he stood up slowly. He took the ceramic side table and threw it with all his strength at Desmond. 
Desmond staggered, then righted himself. He pushed Lisa away, then brought the glass vase down on Abiye’s head like a sack of potato. The glass showered down Abiye’s head like crystals, one piece stuck in his eye and began pouring down rivulets of blood. But the fatal blow was the large chunk of glass that had pierced his head. He stood in shock, his eyes widened in disbelief. Then he began falling backward, till his head hit the two step staircase leading to the dining. There was a sharp crack. Then silence. 
Lisa and Desmond stood immobile watching Abiye as he spasmed on the floor, their bodies too shocked to move. Then he became still, his eyes vacant and open. 
Abiye was dead.
TWO YEARS LATER
The day dawned bright and early, bringing dread and anticipation to Lisa. Her hand kept shaking as she did her morning chores. She swept the tiny one bedroom apartment, boiled some water before going into the room to wake up the small bundle on the bed. She recalled how the doctor had said ‘You’re pregnant’ a month after Abiye’s death. She had left the hospital in a daze, unable to cry anymore. It seemed her tear tank had dried up. She could hardly glance at the newspapers at that time. They all carried the sensational story of the pastor who had been sentenced to two years imprisonment for murdering his fiance’s lover. She hadn’t been able to leave her house for weeks. Only her mother’s continued presence had stopped her from committing suicide. 
 
She had stopped going to church too, despite her department’s attempts to reach her. She couldn’t forgive herself and she didn’t expect anybody to forgive her. But today was her day of atonement, today was the day that would determine her fate. She shook the bundle on the bed until the little girl, a reflection of her mother, stood up rubbing her eyes sleepily. Lisa smiled as she looked at her. Even though her daughter, Love, looked exactly like her, she had Abiye’s eyes. She ignored the pang of regret that shook her heart and promptly picked her daughter to the bathroom. She applied lotion and powder on her before dressing her up in a cute red gown she had saved for two months to buy. She combed Love’s hair and began artfully arranging it with colourful ribbons. Satisfied with that, she quickly prepared some oats for the little girl and fed her carefully. Then she left to bath and dress up. They had to be there on time else…..she didn’t bear to think what would happen if they were late. 
 
She dressed hurriedly, wearing a pink shirt over her trouser. She combed her hair and simply parked it with a ribbon. She no longer wore ear-rings or make up. She smiled sadly at the mirror, said a quick prayer and went out, her daughter in her arm. Love was still learning to walk. They got into a public bus and were on their way. Love kept fidgeting in the bus, it was like she could feel her mother’s nervousness. The closer they got to their destination, the faster her heart beat. By the time the bus lumbered to a stop, she was a bundle of nerves, berating herself for coming. 
 
She stood outside the dark grey building, holding Love in her right hand. 
“Mama, we here?” Love asked her. She gulped audibly. 
“Yes sweet” She smiled at her daughter and glanced at her watch. They had arrived early. With fifteen minutes to kill, she walked to a nearby restaurant and ordered a cold drink for herself and Bobo juice for Love. They sat and sipped quietly, one in deep thought, the other happily oblivious. 
They left the restaurant and went back to the prison gates. She didn’t enter. She just stood there taking shade under the MTN umbrella of a recharge card seller. They didn’t wait for long. Desmond walked out ten minutes later, considerably thinner than she had ever seen him. His clothes were two sizes too big, all the more emphasising his thin frame. He walked outside and stood, looking around. She knew he was waiting for his family. She had to meet him before they arrived. 
 
With her heart thumping heavily, she crossed the street and walked closer to him. He looked up, then stilled in shock as he recognised her. She stood uncertain, Love humming an unknown tune in her arms. Then he looked down at the little girl she held. She couldn’t recognise the emotion that flittered across his eyes. Tears filled her eyes. She saw what her mistakes had done to an innocent man. What did she expect in coming here? There was no way she could ask for his forgiveness. She bowed her head in shame and turned to walk away. Then a gentle hand touched her shoulders. “Lisa” he simply said. 
She stood still, her shoulders shaking as deep tears racked her body. He turned her till she was facing him. Then he hugged her. He didn’t have to say a word. She knew he had forgiven her. When his family arrived, they looked at her in hatred. He simply told them “Who among you here hasn’t sinned?”. 
 
Two years later, they were married, with Love as the little bride. That same day, the Senior pastor conferred the title of ‘Pastor’ back on Desmond.

‎Love and Lust

“I shouldn’t be here.” Even as Lisa said this to herself, her legs moved forward steadily. She had no control over them, their determined strides contrasted with her quivering heart. She got to the gate and knocked. ‘Leave! Leave now. It’s not too late to back out’ a small voice whispered in her ears. She turned slightly to leave, then the gate opened. She smiled tentatively at the security and walked into the elegant duplex. The evening breeze ruffled her hair, sending it flying in several directions. Harmattan season was near. She patted the hair, walked hurriedly to the door and rang the doorbell. Her heart was now beating loudly. ‘You can still leave. If that door opens, there is no going back.’ the small voice whispered again. She glanced back at the security who sat in a plastic chair, whistling an old tune. Then the door opened.
 
The bright smile that greeted her was reassuring. Her mind steadied. She smiled back and entered. Everything would be alright. Nobody would find out. 
The living room was beautifully painted in shades of red, yellow and orange. The sofa was a soft cushion in a lovely shade of brown, an exquisite glass table sat on a soft orange centre rug. The effect was relaxing. She sat down as he went to get some drink for her. She shouldn’t have come here but suddenly, all her defences fled. While she was here, she would be bold enough to do everything she had been fantasising for weeks now. Abiye came back with a glass and a pack of Chivita juice on a silver tray. She smiled at him. He smiled back and poured the juice for her. Awkward silence. She shifted closer to him till their thighs touched. She saw his Adams apple bob up and down. She smiled. She put her hand on his thigh and squeezed lightly. He remained still. She could see his chest pounding away. She put her hand on his chin and lightly pushed his face to hers. Then she kissed him. 
 
She woke up with a start the next morning. The sun was almost up. She hurriedly showered and began dressing. She found her shirt behind the chair and put it on. She went to the mirror and combed her hair slowly, her mind reliving the past moments. Abiye was sleeping soundly, his body relaxed and his mouth hanging open. She felt nauseated and went to throw up. She flushed, hoping the sound wouldn’t wake Abiye. She grabbed her bag and was about leaving when his voice stopped her.
“Where are you going?” 
She paused. “Home.”
“Will I see you this evening?” He turned to look at her.
“No.” She still faced the door.
“Why?”
She didn’t answer. She opened the door and walked out into the morning sun. She hailed a cab and went home. 
Home was a one bedroom apartment she shared with Amaka, or Doris as she preferred to be called. Doris was still sleeping. She dropped her bag on the bed and changed into a comfortable short and an old tank top. Her eyes fell on the dresser. Her engagement ring lay there, the diamond glittered in the early morning sun. She checked her phone. Desmond had called severally. The nausea came again. 
 
That evening as she walked into church in black trousers and a pink shirt, the ushering uniform for the evening, she felt sure that everyone would know what she had been up to. Everything seemed normal. No accusing finger pointed at her, no one noticed how black her soul had become. She felt stained and dirty, her skin still crawled. She greeted Gilbert and Judith in her department and took a stand behind the first row. Desmond was already in church, seated at the front row as all the pastors did. 
 
Thirty minutes into the service, Abiye walked in. Her body knew the moment he walked in even before she saw him. He walked past her, his familiar scent followed closely. She closed her eyes and saw him as he had been last night. She quickly opened them and looked straight at him. He gave her a look filled with hidden messages, glanced down at the engagement ring on her finger, then he sat down. Her body started to shake. The nausea came again. She swallowed and bit her tongue sharply. Different scenarios ran through her mind till the service ended. As people poured out of the building, she went to the back seat where she had kept her bag and sat down heavily, taking deep breaths. Then a hand touched her shoulder. She looked up. Desmond. She smiled at him. He didn’t smile back.
“Where were you last night? I called several times. You didn’t pick.” He sat down next to her.
“Am sorry. I forgot my phone in the parlour last night.” She hoped he wouldn’t see the weakness in her eyes. 
He smiled and took her hand. “Are you okay?” He asked with a look of concern. “You seem a bit tense.” He said, brushing the hair from her face with his hand.
“Am fine. I just need a good sleep tonight.” She replied.
Somebody called out ‘pastor Desmond’ in the front row. He stood up. “Wait for me by the car. Am coming.” 
“Okay” she said but he had gone. She carried the bag and went outside, answering the greetings that came her way with a smile. She got to the car and leaned on it, hoping desperately that Abiye had left. She looked up and saw him coming. No such luck. He reached her and immediately took her hand, squeezing her ring so it bit into her skin.
“What are you doing?” she muttered through gritted teeth.
“Meet me at the back staircase right now.” He left.
She looked around. Nobody seemed to notice. She walked slowly to the back staircase, hoping nobody would suspect anything. Abiye was leaning on the wall. He smiled when he saw her. 
“What do you want Abiye?” she asked coldly.
He frowned. “Last night you were all over me. Now you’re asking what I want?” He seemed perplexed.
She smiled bitterly. “Last night was a mistake.” 
He paused, then took a deep breath.
“If last night was a mistake, then we’re going to make that mistake again and again. You think you can use me to slake your lustful desires then dump me? Think again.”
 
He pulled her close roughly and kissed her. She struggled in his arms but it didn’t last. Soon, she began kissing him back. She didn’t know how long they stayed there. She would have continued if he hadn’t pulled away. 
“Now tell me last night was a mistake.” 
She didn’t say a word.
“I’ll see you tonight.” he said.
A throat cleared behind them. 
 
 
Lisa and Abiye turned at the same time. Nobody was there. The voice had come from outside. She gave Abiye a dark look and walked away. Desmond was already waiting. She got into the car and he drove her home. She called a weak goodnight and got out quickly before he could say a word or kiss her goodnight. 
Her phone vibrated. Abiye. She threw the phone back in her bag, disgusted at the smile that lit her face as she saw his name. Doris was lying on the couch watching a movie as she entered. 
“Hi hi. How was service?” she asked gaily.
“It was okay.” Lisa replied and went into the room. Her phone vibrated again. Abiye. She ignored it. When she came out of the bathroom, he had called severally. She ignored the phone and switched on the fan before lying on the bed. She picked up her devotional and Bible and began to study. Her phone vibed again. She ignored it. As she knelt to pray, it vibed. She ignored it, closing her eyes to pray. An image of Abiye came into her head. She opened her eyes immediately, then stood up and lay down. She couldn’t pray, not with that sin hanging over her head. Then he called again. This time she picked.
“What?” she asked rudely.
“Why are you not here?” he asked.
“Are you mad? Do you really expect me to spend the night with you again?” she asked hotly.
“Yes Lisa, I expect you to spend the night with me again. Not just one night, many nights, so many more nights Lisa.” he replied with confidence.
“Don’t you have any conscience at all? Am engaged, to a pastor no less.” she said.
“Hey, don’t play that christian card with me. Last night when you were in my bed, that Christianity did not come up. Don’t try to play sanctimonious with me.” he replied.
She took a deep breath. “I made a mistake.” she said. 
“What mistake?” he asked angrily. “Was it a mistake when you came to my house? Was it a mistake when you kissed me? Remember Lisa, you started this. I’ll finish it. Am coming to your place now.” he cut the call. 
Lisa gasped and looked at her phone in disbelief. It was ten already. How would she explain this to Doris? Last night’s excuse of going to her sister’s place would not work again. She called Abiye again, ready to give him hell. His phone was switched off. She sat down on the bed confused, regretting the day Abiye had walked into church and she had gone to usher him in as a new comer. She wished somebody else had done that. 
 
He called in fifteen minutes. “Am outside your gate. Come out let’s go.” was all he said before cutting the call. She went into the parlour. Doris had fallen asleep with the TV on. She tiptoed past her and went to the verandah, unlocked the padlock and went outside. Abiye was in his car. She tapped on the window. He rolled it down.
“Are you mad?” she asked hotly. 
“Come inside let’s go Lisa.” he said calmly. 
“Please leave here. I beg you. I know I made the mistake of going to your house yesterday. Forgive me for that. Just go.” she was close to tears.
He looked at her a while, then came out from the car, walked straight to her and held her close.
“What are you doing?” she was confused again.
“I don’t want us to quarrel.” he said with his mouth close to her ears. She shivered.
“There is no us Abiye.” she said, no force behind her words. 
He kissed her ears lightly. She shivered again. Then she turned and he enveloped her lips in a fiery kiss that robbed her of all senses. She moaned and clung to him, holding his shirt tightly. He pulled her away. “Go get your things.” he whispered, then kissed her softly. Her heart melted. She smiled weakly and nodded.
Doris was still sleeping when she came in. She packed her necessities in a small bag before she woke Doris up. “Am going to my sister’s house again. She wants me to follow her to the market tomorrow.” 
Doris nodded sleepily and turned to lie more comfortably on the couch. “Lock the door.” she called out as Lisa went out. Abiye was already in the car. She entered and they drove off to his house. 
They entered his living room. He held her waist and she threw his hand away. “This is the last time Abiye.” she said as she pulled her shirt over her head. 
He smiled ferociously. “Whatever you say, my lady.” 
 
The next morning, as she made to stand up from the bed, Abiye held her close. “Don’t rush off. It’s saturday.” 
she smiled. “I know, but I have to….” 
“You don’t have to do anything.” he interrupted. “Stay with me a while. Please.” she grinned and nodded.
 
They stayed in bed all morning. As   she took a bath later in the morning, the smell of fried plantain and eggs rose to her nose. She smiled warmly. Abiye was so sweet. She went down to meet Abiye standing beside the gas cooker wearing just his boxers, a tray of fried plantain and eggs with tea on the table. “I hope you like this.” he said.
“I love it. Thank you.” she sat down and began eating. “Won’t you join me?” she asked after a while.
“No, I don’t eat breakfast. Makes me slow.” 
“Oh.” she said.
He left to take a bath, then came down to find her sitting in the parlour, her bag beside her. He frowned at the bag. 
“What is it?” she asked as she noticed his frown. 
“Do you have to leave? Can’t you just spend some time with me? I hate that bag.” he sat down grumpy. 
“Yes I have to. I told Doris I was going to the market with my sister. Besides, I have to go to church for clean-up this evening.” she replied. 
“Alright then, i’ll drop you off. But next time, you’re going to spend some real time with me.” he said as he picked her bag.
She stopped. He looked at her inquiringly. “I told you this was the last time. I meant it.” 
His face became cold. “Let’s go.” He went outside, taking fast paces that she struggled to keep up with. He got into the car and slammed the door close. She jumped at the sound, then entered. They drove in silence. He stopped in the street before hers. 
She sat, thinking of what to say to diffuse his anger. “I…” she started to say. 
He cut her off. “You don’t have to say anything. Just go.” 
She opened the door and came out. He sped off. She walked to her gate and entered. Doris was inside, playing a gospel song. She entered the parlour and sat down.
“Where are you coming from?” Doris asked, standing beside the door to the room.
“I told you I went to my sister’s house….”
“You lied.” Doris said simply. “I called your sister. You weren’t there.”
“Did you tell her anything?” Lisa asked anxiously.
“No. But you tell me where you spent the night.” 
Lisa swallowed. She didn’t want to lie to her. Doris was like a sister. “Ummm….um…I went to…”
“You don’t have to lie Lisa. I know exactly where you slept last night. And with who.” 
 
 
To be continued.

Invisible Girl

Do you know what it’s like to have a crush on somebody who doesn’t know you? Or even knows you exist?.
 So there he is, laughing with his friends, talking to girls from his class and girls not from his class. From your vantage point, peeping outside your classroom window,  you’re staring and wondering what these girls have that you don’t have. 
Oh sure, they are the beautiful and confident girls always talking to boys, and most importantly, they are tidy. These girls always appear perfect, hair perfect, uniform ironed and clean always, no stains or spills, not even ice cream spills. Their socks are always sparkling white even after school. You on the other hand, have socks so black and dirty sometimes you wonder if it’s from the dust or if everybody lines up to match your feet everyday. You don’t even have hope of ironing. You have no senior friend that could help you iron. When you do have ice cream, it’s like a tornado of stains on your uniform, forming a map from here to the whole of Africa. 
And most importantly, you don’t talk to boys. It’s not a hype thing or a classy thing. But somewhere between jss 2 and jss 3, you stopped talking to boys entirely. None, not one. Which is weird considering that you go to a mixed school. 
And you have this awesome conversations with them in your head. You know you’re funny and would be great friends with boys. But the shyness. And the persona of the dark, quiet, angry girl who never smiles, is a tough shell to break. Maybe at first they noticed you, but now, you’ve faded into the wood work. 
It’s not like you don’t smile. It’s just that every time a boy comes close, a hard frown appears automatically to hide the fact that you’re nervous. So all you do is have crushes on cute guys, and wonder how girls start up friendships with boys. And what do they even talk about?
That’s the big question. I always imagine the conversation to be an intelligent, great one. The truth is, you crush on any guy that even says ‘hello’. Cos you know how rare that is. How about that time you were in Jss2 class, and that guy suddenly started been over-friendly. You could tell he had an interest in you. And you enjoyed that, and started developing an interest, even though you would not have considered him before. That is, until he moved his interest to a tall pretty girl. And not just any kind of pretty. The kind of pretty that everybody notices. Everybody, boys, girls, seniors. 
The kind of pretty girls that are popular. I used to think I was pretty too. Then at home, everyone used to compliment me and tell me how tall, slim and beautiful I was. I believed that. 
Until I came to school. And I discovered that there are pretty, then there are pretty. 
Maybe my kind of pretty needs deliberate and exaggerated lighting. But this girls, didn’t need any of that. Their pretty was obvious. So when that young boy lost interest in me and started running after her, I was crushed. Though he never said anything, I knew he had an interest in me then. I was just waiting for him to ask. The humiliation. He left me for a girl whom we all knew would never date him. She was too pretty and popular for him. 
Girls like her, date the most popular and the finest boys in our set. And he wasn’t that popular. Or that handsome. Something that amazes me, is why the Obviously Handsomes (that’s what I call the people who are pretty and everybody knows it. Not me. I am pretty and nobody knows it), would somehow always date the Obviously Pretties. 
It always galled and fascinated me. Like, do they call a secret meeting for the Obviously handsomes and Pretties that the rest of us, the ordinaries, are not aware of? Is it not the same class we all attend? Yet, tomorrow, you’ll see one Obviously Pretty, laughing, talking to, and dating another Obviously Handsome and you’ll be wondering, when did all this start? Where are these meetings that I never get invited to? 
But enough of that. The state of Obviously Handsomes and Pretties still fascinate me till today. I mean, somehow, I hardly make the kind of friendship I want with the Obviously Handsomes. Yet I know some few girls, who it seems, are friends with all the Obviously Handsomes you can find in any environment. You know, the cool, really handsome, sometimes tall guys that is every girl’s dream. And I wonder where these girls meet them. 
Seriously. I mean, it’s not like I don’t meet and befriend the Obviously Handsomes. I even date them sometimes. But it takes a while before one Obviously Handsome walks into my life. It really does. And I can’t wait that long before i date someone. How do they have the patience? Maybe it doesn’t take that long for that to happen to them. And I notice that these girls, are usually the quiet, cool, calm, organised girls. Like the ones in primary school. And secondary school. And university. And the office. 
Not me, the scatter scatter. It’s not like am dirty or too loud. It’s just that I use my body a lot, to talk, laugh, gist, shout and play around. I like playing hard. And I don’t even like these cool calm girls. I always feel like it’s just a sham. I even try to be cool and calm. But that’s only when I get depressed. 
Which takes me back to my window, where am peeping at a boy I like, talking to one obvious beautiful. It hurts me. A lot. Who is she? Just because am too quiet and shy to talk to boys, does not mean am not fun to talk to. It’s just because am not Obviously Beautiful. So I remove my head from the window and sit down.  
 
I remember one day, I was walking home from class, tired, hungry and angry at my parents for not sending me money the previous weekend. 
You see, the thing about boarding school is that once your money and provisions are finished, then you’re entirely at the mercy of the school dining. And God save you if you don’t have a plate. 
I was in that boat. Money gone, provisions gone and no friend to lean on. And walking back to the dorm after a tiring day of classes that I hardly paid attention to, my head was down, my mind far away, when I heard the sound of a voice that made me look up. 
There, at the four point junction that led to the dining hall, the girls dorm and staff quarters, stood Alex, standing with other male friends and laughing. Normally, as junior students, they would never dare stand at the junction. But the senior students were writing their Mock exams in the dining hall, giving us some few hours of freedom. Of course being in Jss3 didn’t mean much freedom, especially if somebody in a senior class came along. But nobody else was around. And Alex and his friends were taking advantage of this few precious minutes of rare freedom. 
But my mind barely registered all that. My heart had started beating fast again and my legs stopped moving. I had the sudden urge to turn back and go the other way. Why are you running? I asked myself. What’s the point? It’s not like Alex knows you exist or anything. So what was the point of all this hide and seek? No point at all. 
I would pass there and they wouldn’t even bother to look at me, talk of acknowledging me. 
But I knew it didn’t matter much. Even though they didn’t know I existed, I knew they did. Especially Alex. Oh, I knew Alex existed. Sometimes, in my dark bleary world, the only spot of sunshine would be the times I would catch a glimpse of Alex in class or in the dining hall. Which wasn’t often. 
You see, though we were all in jss3, I and Alex were not in the same class. He was in D class, I was in B class. Which meant we learnt in different classes. So I only saw Alex in brief moments when he walked down the classroom corridors past my class and I would be peeping through the window. I had made the habit of always watching the corridor like a hawk. Sometimes I think that’s the main reason I chose a seat by the window. 
Other times, when I ventured outside my class and walked past his class, I would see him inside his class, never alone, always surrounded by friends. And girls. Always girls. Especially that Miriam girl. Maybe it was the fact that Alex was tall, dark skinned and had a bit of muscles. Or because by far, he was the neatest boy in Jss3 with his sparkling white shirts that were always ironed. Or maybe because he was also intelligent. Me, I was an average student, not at the least of my class but not at the top either.
Other times, I would catch glimpses of Alex in the dining hall. But this wasn’t often. He wasn’t a ‘gruber’ as we called those always too eager for dining hall food. And even when I would see him, he would always be in the company of senior boys. 
So you see, Alex was a special special boy. Sure, he didn’t know I existed, but I sure did. I noticed everything, from the small cut he had on the back of his neck from a bad hair cut, to the clean cut fingernails. Sometimes, I would imagine those hands around my shoulders, his face bent close to mine as he talked to me in whispers. 
But all that was non-essential. Because there stood Alex in front of me. And I had been standing and staring for a few minutes now. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t walk past them. I would surely miss my step, or slip and fall, or walk awkwardly. No matter what, I didn’t want Alex to see me. No matter what. 
Just as I made up my mind to turn back and wait in the parking lot of the Admin block until the coast was clear, Alex suddenly turned sideways, straight towards me. 
Oh no! He had seen me. What would I do? I couldn’t possibly turn and go back now. It would be too obvious that I was too chicken to walk past them. Neither could I walk past them. I was too chicken to do that!
So I stood there, then had a flash of inspiration. Turning my head away, I removed my bag, opened it and brought out a notebook, then I nodded slowly like I just remembered something. I closed the bag, still holding the book and turned back quickly, like one in a great hurry, and walked away. 
I don’t know how convincing I was, but anything was better than nothing. And I had avoided another disaster. I stood in the parking lot for a good thirty minutes, before I could build up the courage to check if they had left. 
The coast was clear. I smiled benignly as I walked past the previously dangerous spot. Of course, the thirty minutes I had wasted meant that the senior students had finished their exams and the moment I entered the dorm room, we were forced to take a siesta. I couldn’t wash like I had planned to. But it was worth it. I think so. Wasn’t it?

Briella

“I’ll be landing soon.” Richard said over the phone. I shivered, my body already tingling with anticipation.

“Okay sweetie” I replied. “See you soon. Think about me and all the naughty things i’ll do to you.” I giggled seductively and cut the call.

My body hummed with anticipation. I felt like I was going to explode. I quickly jumped up and rushed to the bathroom. I took my time in the shower, scrubbing away like I had fallen into a sewer. I even shaved my legs, admiring the long smooth feel of my shapely legs. Of all the assets in my body, I was most proud of my legs. These legs gained a lot of compliments. I grinned happily and expertly applied my make up. I opened my drawer and pulled out the sexy red lingerie I had bought just for Richard. He always said how he loved me in red. I had sent him a lot of nudes with me in red undies. I combed out my long tresses I had fixed the previous day.

I wore the black brief gown and my red six inch heels. I knew I had the power. The stares and whistles that accompanied my going out were enough compliments for me. At last, I was going to meet Richard face to face. This was a dream come true. I called my cab guy and waited for him anxiously. I had to get to the hotel room I had booked in advance before Richard arrived.

I called Trish, my roommate and best friend. She picked on the third ring. “Sup bae…” she said in a sexy voice. I grinned. She was still with Alhaji.

“Leave that accent for Alhaji oh. Don’t be forming for me. Na me and you dey this business…” I said gaily.

She laughed softly.

“So, is he still coming?” she asked me anxiously.

“Of course he is. He’ll be arriving in two hours. Am waiting for that my cab man….” I replied. I got up and went to get a cold drink from the refrigerator.

“Hmmmm….am almost jealous of you oh. To get such a good man on BBM. You’re so lucky sha.” Trish replied.

 

“I’ll see you tomorrow or whenever. I don’t know when i’ll be able to leave that room. We are going to make sweet sweet love tonight. Not all those old alhajis that don’t even know how to touch a woman.” I said.

Trish laughed. I knew she couldn’t speak much because of Alhaji so I cut the call and dialled Musa,my cab man again. He didn’t pick. I hissed in anger and called my second cab man. It was still ringing when I heard the horn outside. Musa had come. I pulled out my perfume and applied a generous amount before getting into the car.

“Madam the madam….e don tey oh. Atink say you don forget me sef.” Musa said.

“Musa shut up and drive. I don’t have time for senseless conversations.” I said in my best British accent.

Musa smiled the more and drove off to the hotel. I paid him handsomely, much more than was necessary. He bowed low, repeating ‘thank you madam’ like a mantra. I smiled condescending and entered the hotel lobby. Mr Yetunde had been kind the previous week, giving me much more than he usually gave after a night together. I paid for the room and climbed upstairs. I removed my gown and lay on the bed, watching the tele to pass the time. I had almost fallen asleep when my phone vibed. Richard. I purred and cleared my throat, assuming a sexy pose even though nobody was around.

“Hi sweetie……have you arrived?” I said in a throaty voice, the one I usually used when we whispered naughty things to each other when we talked at night.

“Am almost at the hotel. Did you wear the red lingerie I asked?” Richard asked.

“Maybe I did, maybe am not wearing anything at all.” I replied.

He breathed heavily and cut the call. I laughed and stood up, arranging my hair and putting on more perfume. Twenty minutes later, there was a knock.

“Come in” I called out breathlessly. Then Richard was in the room.

 

He stood tall, dark skinned and handsome as ever, dressed in expertly cut blazer and a sky blue shirt that looked expensive. His pictures did him no justice. He didn’t say a word. He simply jumped to the bed and ravished me over and over all through the night. In the wee hours of the morning, I woke up and moved closer to him. He held me tightly, the way i always imagined he would.

I stood up and took a bath. Then I began dressing. He stirred and turned to me.

“Good morning baby…” I called out happily.

He smiled at me, then frowned.

“Where are you going?” he asked harshly.

I smiled, happy that he was so possessive. “I have to go see my mother this morning. She asked for some money.” I called out, bending towards the mirror to apply mascara.

He stood up, walked towards me and knelt down beside me, holding me by the side tightly, a bit painfully. Then he grabbed my hair violently and pulled my neck back. I grunted in pain but his hand at my side held me tightly so I couldn’t move.

 

“What are you doing Richie?” I called out, barely able to speak with my neck bent so far backward.

“You little whore…” He spat out viciously. “You think am an idiot? Who is the stupid man you’re going to see? Huh? Tell me…” He shouted in my ears.

“Sweetie, it’s not what you think. Am actually going to see my mother…i promised her that I would….” I tried saying through my hurting throat, my hair still wrapped in his hands, imagining how he could possibly know I was going to see Chief Adolphus today.

“Just shut up, I know what you’re doing. Tell me the truth…”

I held his hand on my hair, trying to ease the pain pounding through my head. He pushed my hand away and jerked me up roughly. Then he pulled my left hand backwards, twisting painfully. I shouted in pain. He released my hair and immediately closed my mouth with that hand.

“What are you doing Richie? It’s me, it’s Briella, the one you love…” I said in fright.

“Love? You think I love you? How can I love a woman like you? I know, Briella, I know about all the men you service for money….” He laughed bitterly. I looked at him through the mirror. All I saw was a face contorted in anger and…pleasure. He was enjoying this. Then he slammed my head into the mirror. I felt a sharp blinding pain as my head shattered the mirror. He released me and I crumpled to the floor. I could feel little bits of the mirror stuck in my forehead. I don’t know how long I lay there. I woke to the sound of the shower running. I could hardly move. I opened my right eye, I couldn’t open the left, and looked at the mirror stand. My phone lay next to my make up bag. I lifted my hand and tried to reach it. It was too far. I had to get closer. I shifted slightly, the glass on the floor stabbing me painfully as I moved. I tried to ignore the pain and continued creeping forward. If I could reach my phone, I could call Trish.

I got closer to the dressing table and grabbed my phone. Then I dialled Trish, hardly seeing through the blood running down my eye. I could see my left eye swollen shut in the mirror left on the dresser. I began crying, the salty tears stinging my eyes as they fell. Then Trish picked. “Bri babe, how are you en……” the phone flew out of my hands and slammed into the wall, falling in pieces to the floor.

Richard stood above me, wearing a white towel on his waist.

“So you’re a smart girl eh? You want to play smart with me.” He picked me up by the hair and punched me in the mouth. My head fell back and hit the tile floor heavily. I winced, feeling the blood spurt out of my mouth. I spat it out. I could feel my teeth shaking. The blow had loosened them. I curled myself on the floor, little shards of glass biting into my skin. My mouth began to throb. I didn’t have to look to know they were swollen.

I could see him smiling through the haze of blood on my right eye. He looked excited. Then he began to kick me with his foot, kicking my back, my head, my legs in an excited frenzy. That didn’t seem to satisfy him. He brought his foot slamming down on my stomach. I yelped in pain hardly able to scream through my throbbing mouth. I could feel the blood on the floor spreading quickly, seeping into my shirt and trouser I had worn that morning so happily. The tears began to drop, stinging my eyes as they fell.

Richard started dressing calmly. I couldn’t move anymore. He wore his shoes last, then looked at me thoughtfully. He went to his bag and brought out a tiny white case. When he opened it, then I saw what it was. Razor blades. A new fear entered me. It sat down heavy and cold on my chest, making it impossible for me to breath. I began grunting in fear. He oh so calmly brought out a muffler and tied it round my mouth. Then he dragged me through the floor, ignoring my muffled screams as the glass and blood bit into me. He threw me to the bed side, stepped over the trail of blood my body had left and went into the bathroom. I couldn’t see what he was doing in there. Then he came back in and knelt beside me. “You’ve betrayed me Briella. I thought I could trust you but you’re just like all the others. I never thought I would have to do this to you too. You seemed so different. But you’re just like the other whores. So am going to teach you a lesson, am going to leave my mark on you so you’ll never ever cheat on a man again. I’ll cut off your nipple and take it with me as a souvenir”

My eyes widened and hot tears filled my eyes. I began twisting on the floor, thumping my body against the bed to alert anyone passing by. “No one is going to rescue you. No need for all those antics Briella. You’re mine now. All mine.” He smiled ferociously, then began pulling my shirt from my body. He unhooked my bra and my breasts spilled out. He put the razor to my cheek and cut slowly. “That’s just a little of the pain you’re about to experience.”

Then he held my nipple and raised the blade. I watched in horror as his hand came down slowly.

 

Then the door burst open. Trish and Musa stood in the doorway.

Junior Boy

“What are you doing here?” The sharp voice startled Daniel. He brought his head up. It was a girl, a senior girl. He knew her face. She was said to be the girlfriend of Senior Kelachi, the most wicked senior in the boys dorm.

Embarrassed, he tried to wipe the tears in his eyes surreptitiously but her smile told him she had already seen them. She walked closer, avoiding the stones and wild grasses. They were at a small farm behind the staff quarters. He suddenly remembered he was supposed to be in class and stood up immediately, “Good morning senior” he said. He stood there, wondering what excuse he could give her for loitering during class periods.

She sat down in the spot he had been sitting, beneath the palm tree.

“Your name is Daniel right?” she asked.

“Yes..” he stammered out, wondering how she knew his name.

She smiled. “I saw you when your parents and your sisters came to drop you. Cute little girls. How are they?”

“They are fine. Thank You.” He said confused.

“Why were you crying?”

Daniel was embarrassed. The heat rose to his cheeks.

“Don’t be shy.” she said. “You can tell me. Sit down.” she patted a spot beside her.

He moved slowly, afraid to sit so close to a senior girl. An image of senior Kelachi’s fierce face rose to his mind and he halted.

“I said sit.” she said authoritatively.

He sat down meekly, hoping and praying that no senior would come around that area by any chance. This was close to the Lovers spot. The place no junior student dared go close to, especially during the evening prep.

“So….” she said, an expectant look in her eyes.

He shook his head slowly.

“Common, you can talk to me. You can tell me anything.”

He was still hesitant.

“Okay, let me tell you a secret. When I came to this school in my Jss 1, I used to come here to cry too.”

He looked up at her surprised. He couldn’t imagine her in tears.

“Why?” he asked timidly.

“The usual. I missed my home, I hated this school, I had no friends, not even a school mother.” she smiled sadly in recollection and nudged him with her shoulders.

“Is that the same reason you’re crying?” she asked.

He nodded weakly, the tears came back to his eyes.

She laughed lightly. “You don’t have to be afraid. Everybody goes through it. Even the mean senior boys. And girls.”

He smiled as he thought of senior Kelachi in tears. It just wasn’t possible.

“You know you’re a fine boy. I’ll take care of you. Don’t worry. You’re in love house abi?”

He nodded.

“Let me walk you back.”

He nodded again, grateful for her presence.

As they got to the junior block, heads began to turn. He knew they were wondering how he was talking and laughing with a senior girl. He grinned broadly and puffed up his shoulders. Let them wonder. She said a short goodbye and left for the senior block.

He could feel the eyes staring at him as he walked into class and went to his seat. His seat mates, Arthur and Friday were still staring. Acting unabashed, he brought out his note and pen.

“How come you know senior Soty?” Friday finally asked.

He smiled. “She’s my friend.”

“Don’t you know she’s senior Kelachi’s girlfriend? Let him not catch you with her oh” Friday said hotly.

The banging of the desk heralded the entry of the Geography teacher. The class stood up and greeted. Daniel’s mind wandered. How would senior Kelachi react if he saw him, a mere junior boy talking to his girlfriend?

Dread filled his heart. He wasn’t ready. Senior Kelachi always gave the meanest and most creative punishments. Sometimes, it was better he flogged than punished. His slaps were known to produce bells inside a boy’s ear that would ring for days. There were so many rumours about senior Kelachi. He heard that one time, senior Kelachi had made an ss2 boy sleep on a tree outside the boys dorm all through the night. Another time, he had put a small junior boy inside a locker and closed it for a whole day. Daniel didn’t know if the rumours were true. He didn’t want to find out either.

He got through class and went to the dining hall for lunch. Junior boys kept staring at him like he had grown horns, increasing his fear.

It was in the evening as he was preparing for prep hours when he heard the counting in the first dorm room. He hurriedly picked his shorts and sandals, putting his stainless plate under his armpit while trying to hold on to his spoon. He didn’t make it. He heard the big footsteps and stood still. The whole dorm stood still.

A big voice rang out “Who is Daniel here?”

All eyes pointed at him. He raised his hand timidly. Senior Kelachi walked to him and sat down on top of his locker. “The rest of you go for food.”

The other junior boys scampered out, each grateful they were not Daniel at the moment.

Daniel stood still, wondering what the senior boy had heard. The senior’s big hand dropped on his shoulders.

He looked up.

“Where’s your bed?”

He pointed to his bed on the top bunk. Kelachi picked it up, rolled it up and put it under his armpit.

“Where’s your bucket and keg?”

Daniel shook his head. “They are missing, Senior.”

Kelachi smiled and ruffled his head gently.

“Let’s go. I’ll send some boys to bring your locker later.”

Daniel followed slowly, not really understanding what was happening.

Kelachi got to his dorm and dropped the foam on an empty down bunk, placed close to a single bunk. Only the seniors were allowed to use single bunks. Kelachi motioned for him to sit down on the single bed.

He sat down slowly.

“Soty asked me to take care of you. So now, you’re my school son.”

Sweet Poison

The exam pressure was getting too much. Her eyes were tired of reading, her body needed to be in another position except sitting, she needed fresh air. So she decided to take a stroll through the Love Garden that evening. As she got to the road, she saw Alex, her jovial funny course mate. He was the type of guy who made everyone laugh. He was standing in front of his room, wearing his usual t-shirt and shorts with a blue rubber slippers.

She shouted his name and went to meet him.

Wondering why he was just standing outside alone, she asked “why are you outside na? You no go go read?”

He looked at her like she had asked him a silly question.

After giving her the bad eye, he held her arms and started moving to the road “Oya come dey go your house, come dey go…..who tell you say I never read?”

She laughed…he looked like he was going to strangle her for laughing at him….which made her laugh harder.

“All these girls, una be distraction….I wan do night vigil this night abeg..i no need any girl to dey around me. In fact, I dey fast.” he continued.

She laughed so hard at this till passers-by looked at her like she was going crazy. Those who knew Alex simply grinned and walked past. It wasn’t like Alex does not read or go to church. He was just too playful that even when he tried to be serious, it didn’t work.

“Ok na.” She replied him. “Let me go and collect material from somebody in front”.

 

She felt lighter as she left, grinning broadly as she walked.

She had collected the material, photocopied it and was on her way back to her room when she spotted a familiar red shirt. She took a few steps back and saw Alex in a bucateer, a plate heaped with beans in front of him. She had never noticed the bucca before. A big pot of beans was cooking on firewood right outside the door beside the entrance, guarded by a fat woman with christian morther arms, sweating profusely as she turned the pot. She went inside. It was like she had entered a male gym with all the sweating and grunting except they were all eating huge plates of beans instead of lifting weights. They all looked up at her as she walked in like she had grown horns. She started to wonder if there was an unspoken rule forbidding girls from entering the bucca. It seemed the bucca specialised in beans, all the plates in front of everyone was heaped with beans.

 

She sat down accross Alex and he looked at her in surprise. “Didi, you mean say you dey enter this kind place? To come eat beans..” he laughed.

“Na here your fasting and night vigil end abi?”

Didi retorted as she collected a spoon and tasted his beans. It was delicious. She took another, then another. He picked up his, and soon it became a competition.

He paid the attendant who served pure water.

They tore it open with their teeth and drank, the cool water brought relief to the burning sensation in her chest.

 

As they went outside and started back, she heard a small sound. She frowned in concentration as she tried to place it. It came again. She turned to Alex. He looked uneasy.

“Why did you fart na? You’re polluting this environment.” She covered her nose with her hands even though there was no smell.

“Na this beans oh. Anytime I eat this woman beans, e dey purge me.” he replied.

Her mouth opened. “Nain you no tell me before I start to eat?”

“Na so you go take chop poison one day. Since you like to put hand for my food, I wan teach you lesson today.”

 

Already, her stomach was rolling. They began to walk faster, ignoring all the friends they encountered on the road. Alex’s farts became more and more dangerous, the sounds got louder and louder. As they got closer to his room, he broke off in a jog, holding his buttocks so tightly clamped together his steps became awkward.

She laughed inspite of her own discomfort. He entered his room and closed the door with such force it’s hinges rattled.

She was still laughing when she felt her stomach move. She broke into her own jog, the laugh forgotten.

Her Prince Charming

There was no rain, no sun on the day events changed. There was a lot of wind rustling the trees, making the grasses dance to its rhythm. The houses in the area were all lavishly constructed, each straining to be better and bigger than the other, as were the cars that occasionally drove up the street. Only the newest and latest models of the biggest brands were seen in that area. No one came out to discuss with their neighbours. They passed each other with their noses in the air, boxed up inside their cars with tinted windows, cold white wind visibly swirling from the blasting AC.

 

No one noticed the figure that would hurdle in the garden in front of the third house until the gate would creak open around the midnight hour and the figure would quietly sneak in. The figure would be seen again in the early hours of the morning, sneaking off into unknown corners. This occured frequently for a long long time until the day the events changed.

 

The wind was blowing hard that day and the figure was shivering in the wind but it wasn’t alone this time. There were two others, each tapping their foot in apparent agitation and anger as they banged on the gate repeatedly. The gate opened and a head appeared. Instant recognition and alarm filled the gateman’s eyes as he saw the figure, Grace and her accompainants, her parents. They started talking at once, their voices loud enough to wake up the entire neighbourhood. The gateman gulped in morbidity, as he closed the gate to do their bidding. He had to call the one involved but he didn’t get far. The imposing figure of the house’s owner and his wife Mr and Mrs Obiekwe, in their designer jammies were already looking down at the scenario from the balcony. They hollered his name and gestured to allow them inside.

 

The three figures outside went inside, one fearful and the other two looking around the elegant compound in awe, despite their anger. They approached the main door which opened as they arrived by a uniformed maid. She led them to a posh living room and offered them water. They sank into the cosiest and softest leather couch, trying not to look too awed by their surroundings. The owner and his wife came out, accompanied by their only son.

 

Then came the embittered arguments: your daughter is an opportunist, your son is a rapist. So they argued back and forth for fifteen minutes until the son, Prince, who was only twenty four at the time, stopped the arguments and proclaimed, with his haughty attitude that Grace would stay with him until she gave birth. He didn’t mention what would happen after she did. Her parents didn’t ask. They left soon after. They didn’t see Prince pull their daughter up gently and lead her to his room. He didn’t see his mother’s eyes harden in hate. She didn’t see her husband’s eyes troubled with confusion. No one noticed the maid who had been eavesdropping, leave to make a hasty call.

 

Barely two hours later, an irate and thin figure, dressed in an expensive casual attire stormed into the house with the familiarity of someone who knew her around. She tossed her car keys in the dining table and marched to the Prince’s room. Grace was huddled on the bed, freshly bathed and dressed in Prince’s oversize hoodies and shorts, trying to eat a breakfast of tea and biscuits. The irate figure, named Isioma in her birth certificate but known only as Serene, frowned on seeing Grace and immediately dumped the tea on her head. Grace yelped in surprise. Luckily the tea was not hot and she was not scalded. Serene proceeded to give her two quick slaps and was about to give her a third when Grace held her hands and slapped her so hard, her head shot back. She pushed her back and took a defensive stance. Serene was still in shock when Prince walked in. He immediately noticed the tea on Grace’s hair and the line of a slim hand on her cheeks. Turning to Serene, he grabbed her arms and dragged her outside the room. He led her to the parlour and dumped her unceremoniously on the setee. She immediately stood up and started to shout violently. Prince stood and watched her hysterics, no emotion on his face. His silence annoyed her and the screams increased in tempo, bringing his mother to the room.

 

Her expression changed from one of pleasure then anxiety as she saw Serene. She held Serene with tenderness, promising her that she would make everything right. Serene cried into Mrs Obiekwe’s arms, seeking the comfort that Prince, who had left as the mother came in, could not giver her.

 

This only made Mrs Obiekwe resent Grace more. She had always wanted her only son to get married to Serene who, in her estimation, would be the perfect daughter in law. Not only was Serene also from a wealthy and affluent home, she was also well exposed and cultured. She never lifted an arm to help Grace all through her pregnancy. Neither did it bother Grace so much. She did the best she could to win her over but she gave up in time. Whatever hostility Mrs Obiekwe showed towards her, Prince showed her a hundred times more love. She knew she was lucky Prince didn’t reject her and throw her out. It hadn’t been her intention to get pregnant either but she was glad it happened. She loved Prince so much and now she could see he loved her too. This strengthened her, especially when Mrs Obiekwe would invite Serene over and the two of them would taunt her severly when Prince was not around. But she was had a tough skin and didn’t let it affect her.

 

It didn’t last long though. All the hatred and malice Mrs Obiekwe felt towards Grace dissolved the moment she laid eyes on her newly born grand-son. She looked at him with so much tenderness and tears filled her eyes. Infact, she was the one who hounded her son till he fixed a wedding date. Of course Serene attended the wedding in all her irate and thin elegent splendour. But it didn’t dampen the happiness in Grace’s eyes.