CHAPTER TWENTY-FOURBukky came out of the bathroom dripping wet, a wrapper was tied around her chest, a pink shower cap covered her hair, she held her
Bukky came out of the bathroom dripping wet, a wrapper was tied around her chest, a pink shower cap covered her hair, she held her sponge-case in one hand and her bucket in the other hand. She halted when she saw Lola and Kemi standing outside. She tried to walk past them, but, they restrained her.
“Wait!” Lola held her by the elbow.
“We are not going to warn you again. Stay away from Gbemiga,” Kemi poked her on the forehead with a finger.
Bukky looked from one to the other. She had been excited when Gbemiga told her that he had already informed his family about their relationship. But, when she got home, her aunt told her to be careful. Now his sisters were warning her.
“You are not in our level at all.”
“When he graduates, do you think he will end up with a common illiterate like you?”
“Stay away from him, or else, you will regret it for the rest of your life.”
They hissed, eyed her and walked away. Bukky sighed out loud. Their words felt like salt on an open wound. She found her way back to the room and met her aunt fully dressed. Kike doesn’t go to the market anymore to hustle. She fries and sells fried yam and plantain under her niece’s shed. The joint business brought them more customers.
“Get dressed fast. Those sales girls of yours are too lazy for my liking,” Kike walked out of the room.
Bukky dropped her sponge-case in the bucket, placed it behind the door and sat on the bed. Several thoughts ran through her jittery mind.
She didn’t want to have problems with the Phillips. She had no idea that they would fight against her relationship with their son. She thought they would accept her, after all, they all lived in the same compound and they knew the kind of girl she was. She looked heavenwards and prayed to God to help them all.
Gbemiga helped his girlfriend and her aunt to clear the shed once they were done for the day. Bukky was impressed. It was the first time he was helping them out. She was glad that their relationship was no longer a secret. The two love birds sat on a long bench outside the house.
“I cannot believe that I am sweating like this,” he stared at his drenched tee-shirt.
Bukky started to laugh.
“I had no idea how tedious your work was until today.”
She kept on laughing.
“When we get married, I won’t allow you to work anymore. I will take care of you for the rest of your life.”
“Hmmm… wishful thinking.”
“Come on. Don’t you trust me,” he feigned offence.
“Abeg, let me hear word.”
Gbemiga started to laugh. Kemi came out of the house, saw her brother seated with Bukky and ran back in.
“You need to trust me,” he looked into her eyes.
“Seeing is believing,” she stared back at him.
Remi and her daughters came out of the house in a hurry.
“Why are you bent on disgracing this family?” Remi accused her son, “Why are you seated here, talking to this thing?” she pointed at her neighbour’s niece.
Bukky bowed her head in sadness.
“Mum, please…” he looked around, hoping that they won’t draw attention.
“Bukky, I am warning you, leave my son alone!” Remi clapped into her face.
She covered her face with her hands, feeling embarrassed.
Gbemiga got up, pulling his girlfriend after him, “Mum, stop all this nonsense.”
“Leave our brother alone! He is not in your level at all,” Lola and Kemi shouted in her face.
Bukky stood behind her boyfriend and wished the ground would open and swallow her up.
“The sooner you all accept the fact that I love her, the better for us all.”
“Eeeeeh! Which love? You must vomit the love portion she has given you to eat,” Remi stood toe to toe with her son. She strained to meet his angry stare, he was about three inches taller than she was.
Kike ran out of the house. Her niece’s sales girls had just informed her that the Phillips were harassing Bukky.
“Mama Gbemiga, what is all this rubbish?” she approached them, red eyes, nose flared.
The woman turned towards her, “I warning the both of you. Leave my son alone!” Remi shouted at her.
“Leave our brother alone!” Lola and Kemi clapped into Bukky’s face.
Gbemiga protected his girlfriend and shielded her. He noticed that some people living in their compound had gathered around.
“Is your son the President’s child? What is so special about him?” Kike eyed her neighbor, “Bukky is worth a thousand of your son.”
“Eeeeeh! You lie!” Remi faced Kike.
“Leave these children alone. We are not in the stone age. You cannot choose who they should be with.”
“Speak for yourself! Do you have a child of your own? Old cargo,” Remi glared at her.
Her eyes turned gloomy, “I don’t to have children of my own before I can…”
“Please, please, jor, jor, jor, save your advice for the people who need it,” she looked at her with disdain.
Gbemiga held his girlfriend’s hand and walked away.
“Gbemiga! Gbemiga!” Remi called out to her son, but, he did not respond.
“Look at her, broomstick!” Lola shouted after their brother’s girlfriend.
“Egbere!” Kemi added.
“This is not over! By the time I am through with you, you will know that God doesn’t have tribal marks,” Remi beat her hand against her chest.
Kike shook her head in pity, hissed thrice and returned to the house.
Gbemiga and Bukky sat in a Sweet Sensation outlet, eating from a big bowl of vanilla and strawberry ice-cream on New Year day.
“I will be leaving for school before the resumption date,” he announced and watched her smiling face turn pale.
“Why?” the cold sweet creamy substance melted in her mouth.
“Our class rep sent a text message to us that one of our lecturers is planning to give us a test on the very day we resume.”
Her eyes widened in surprise.
“The man is an unrepentant sadist. The annoying thing is that he only gives one test for the whole semester. The test is thirty marks, attendance is ten marks, that makes a total of forty marks.”
She shook her head in disbelief.
“If you miss his test, no one can plead on your behalf. He listens to no one and he won’t allow you to retake the test.”
“Why are some people that cruel?”
He shrugged, “He isn’t the only one. There are others like him.”
Fear filled her mind. She hoped she wouldn’t encounter such lecturers when she got admitted into the university.
“While I am gone, just ignore my parents and siblings. No one can stop me from dating you.”
She dropped her gaze. Living with the Phillips had become a nightmare. They were constantly looking for every opportunity to insult, argue and quarrel her and her aunt wasn’t left out. Everyone living in the area had also gotten wind of their relationship and his family’s disapproval. Her aunt was ready to move out, but, the rent of the new place they liked was thrice what they were paying in their present accommodation. She was saving towards it, but, by the time she gives her boyfriend some money when he was ready to leave for school, she would be left with almost nothing and it would take four or more weeks to raise the money again. She didn’t mind. She loved him. She would do anything to help him.
“I love you, you love me, nothing else matters.”
She lifted her eyes and met his passionate gaze. Maybe things might work out for them this time around. Maybe someday soon, his family would accept their relationship.
“Everything is going to work out for our good,” he reached out for her hand across the table.
The confidence in his eyes assured her. She smiled back at him and thank God for a second chance with him.
Chike knocked on the door. he was eager to see the woman his heart yearned for. He wished she followed him to Owerri for the Christmas holiday. He missed her so much. He planned to take her out that evening and ask her out. He was beyond confident that she was going to say yes. He was excited that after waiting for a long time, she was finally going to be his.
The door opened. Kike smiled when she saw her niece’s friend, “Chike, is this your face? How are you?”
“I am fine ma,” he smiled back at her.
“When did you return?”
“Welcome. It’s good to see you.”
“And you too ma.”
“Your friend has gone to the saloon to make her hair.”
“Oh… okay. Is it Iya ibeji’s place?”
She nodded in affirmation.
“I will go and meet her there,” he was familiar with the route that led to the local hair stylist wooden shop.
“All right,” she stepped back into the room.
He turned around and headed out of the building.
“Chike!” Bukky halted at the side of the road when she saw her friend coming out of the house.
“My pretty baby,” he beamed and walked up to her. The plaited hair made her look like an African Princess. He liked it.
“When did you arrive?” she was very happy to see him.
“Last night,” he seized her up. She seemed to have added a little weight. Her hips were curvier and her chest was fuller.
“Welcome back. Happy New Year in advance.”
“Same to you,” he smiled at her.
She smiled back at him, “Let’s go inside.”
“No, I want to take you out.”
She raised an eyebrow, “Where are we going?”
“It’s a surprise,” he beamed.
“Okay,” she looked at her toe-length blue chiffon gown.
“You look great. Let’s go,” he took her by the hand and led her down the street.
“How are your parents and siblings?”
“You should have followed me to Owerri,” he eyed her.
She rolled her eyes.
“Has your ex gone back to school?”
Her heart missed a beat. She hasn’t told him that she had given her ex another chance. Whenever he called while he was away, she always avoided talking about Gbemiga. She cleared her throat thrice and glanced at him.
“What?” he sensed her jittery composure.
“He has returned to school, but…”
“He, we… em… he asked me to forgive him.”
He halted and stared at her with full concentration. She avoided his intense gaze and tried to still her racing heartbeat.
“I… I …em… I forgave him. We… we have started over.”
Chike let go of her hand. Pain seared his heart. The sudden news paralyzed his mobility and made his head dizzy.
“He… he has changed,” she looked up at him. The pain in his eyes gnawed at her. “Gbemiga is different and I think things might work out for us this time around.”
What did he expect? The guy was her first love. He was the one that deflowered her. Of course, he had a lot of influence over her emotions and self-will. She had definitely not gotten over him.
“What about us?”
She swallowed hard.
“I have been waiting for you to get over him, but, you went behind my back and… and gave him another chance,” he shook his head in disappointment, “Don’t come running to me when he hurts you again. This time around, leave me out of it.”
“He… he has changed,” she tried to convince him.
He eyed her. Maybe he was wrong. Maybe she didn’t like him as much as he thought. Maybe whatever she felt for him couldn’t withstand the enormous affection she had for her ex, now her boyfriend.
“It is your life. You can do whatever you want. After all, you are a big girl and you are not a baby.”
“You have made your choice. I will not stand in your way,” his voice trembled with emotion.
“Chike…” she tried to hold his hand, but, he stepped away quickly.
“I planned to ask you out tonight.”
Her hand flew to her mouth. She would have said yes. She would have loved to date him. If Gbemiga had not asked for a second chance,
Chike was the man she would rather be with.
“There is no need for that anymore.”
“Chike, I am so sorry.”
“I wish both of you well.”
“Have a lovely evening,” he started to walk away.
“Chike!” she wrapped her arms around her body. Her eyes brewed with unshed tears. She hoped she wasn’t going to lose him. She wasn’t sure
if he would remain her friend after that day, but, she hoped and prayed that he wouldn’t let her go.
He didn’t respond. He kept on walking. Hot tears streamed down his round brown face. His chest burned and he was finding it hard to breathe. It hurt that she had chosen her ex over him. it hurt that he had lost her, just when she almost became his. He hated the way he was feeling. He decided not to allow such circumstance to befell him ever again.
Bukky paid a year rent for the self-contain apartment which was four houses away from their former accommodation. Her aunt had been ecstatic and overjoyed when she informed her that the money for their rent was complete. They moved in, in less than 72 hours. It was a relief that they wouldn’t be sharing kitchen, toilet and bathroom with dozens of people. They had been able to get permission from their new landlord to construct a shed outside the compound and sell their wares. Many of their customers liked the new place. Some say it was bigger and others liked the cleaner environment.
When she called Gbemiga to inform him, he rejoiced with her and thanked her for the money she paid into his account. He was happy that he wouldn’t need to disturb his parents for funds.
Her junior waec exam was around the corner. Although she was a bit scared, she believed that God would see her through. If Chike hadn’t made himself scarce, he would have helped her to revise and prepare, like the last time. He seldom came to their shed to buy akara and bread or fried yam with plantain. He rarely picked her calls or returned her text messages. Whenever she visited him, he was never home. She had a feeling that he was avoiding her. She missed him. She knew that her decision to go back to Gbemiga had hurt him badly. She felt she was doing the right thing. More so, she still loved Gbemiga and he had turned a new leaf.
She hoped Chike would find it in his heart to forgive her. She didn’t want to lose him as a friend.