THIRTY-FOURBukky and the sales girls locked the shop and headed home. Her aunt had not been coming to work for some time because she was very heavy. S
Bukky and the sales girls locked the shop and headed home. Her aunt had not been coming to work for some time because she was very heavy. She hoped the woman would give birth speedily. The last time she visited her, she was complaining of backaches and pain in her legs. She hoped she wouldn’t go through such stress in her own pregnancy period. She wanted the Hebrew women kind of delivery, short and fast, not like the ones portrayed in Nollywood movies. She had heard testimonies of how some women went through painless labour. She wanted that to be her story. On her way to the bus-stop, she ran into her ex. She had not seen him since she returned to Lagos from Owerri. She thought he had already gone back to school.
“Hey… hi, longest time,” he stood by the roadside and seized her up. He liked the blouse she was putting on. It fitted her perfectly. She looked as if she had added some weight.
“Evening, how is everything.” she feigned a smile.
“Good. Thanks. Happy New Year in advance. How is sales at the shop?”
“Happy New Year. Sales is good. God is faithful. Thanks.” She looked around, searching for an excuse to dismiss him.
“I will be travelling to Abuja after the Easter holiday for my Industrial Training in my aunt’s firm,” he informed her. The proud look in his eyes wasn’t lost to her.
“Congratulations. I wish you good luck.” She couldn’t think of a reason why he was telling her. It was none of her business.
He smiled, “Thanks.”
“I am on my way home, see you around.”
“Wait,” he still wanted to chat with her, for reasons he would rather not decipher. “Em… You and Chike.”
She raised an eyebrow, “What about us?”
“When did you two start dating?” he folded his arms across his chest.
She looked him up and down. Why did he want to know? What business of his was the time frame of her relationship?
“It’s rather sudden and I wanted to know if, you were both together, while we were going out.”
She smiled with understanding. “l never cheated on you. I am a one-man person. I don’t two-time. I despise the very act of jumping from one person to the other.”
He nodded in agreement, “l know, I know. I was just a bit baffled, when I saw you two together. It’s not been too long since we broke up.”
She laughed lightly, “Oh, so, you thought I was going to mourn losing you forever, right?’”
“No, of course not,” he didn’t like the way she was looking at him, like she pitied him.
“I got over you Gbemiga. deal with it.”
He eyed her.
“Remember, you were the one who left me for the promise of sponsorship of your education by your family.”
“Ehn… I know.”
“I have to go. Good luck,” she started to walk away.
“Bukky…” he called out to her, but, she didn’t respond.
He frowned and turned around. He didn’t expect her to disregard him as if he never meant anything to her. Her lackadaisical behavior got to him. After all, he was her first love and her first boyfriend, that should count for something.
While she ate her dinner, seated in front of the T.V screen, she got a text from her aunt’s husband that she had been delivered of a set of twins, a boy and a girl. She finished her meal in a hurry and called her fiancé. He agreed to drive her to the hospital to see the happy couple and their babies.
She changed into a jeans and a tee-shirt and went to meet him in his place. The hospital was in Yaba, very close to their shop. They got there in less than an hour.
They found kike in the Maternity ward with her husband and the twins in a cradle beside the hospital bed. They were very happy to see them.
“I thought babies were supposed to be fair,” Bukky stared at them wide-eyed.
“These two are so black,” her fiancé stood beside her.
Chike and Bukky carried the babies.
“They resemble their parents. When you give birth to your own, ask God for fair children.” Kike eyed her niece.
“Your fiancé is dark brown, maybe God will have mercy and give you oyinbo children,” her husband chimed in.
Kike and her husband started to laugh.
“Maybe he will,” Bukky kissed the baby in her arms.
“True, you never can tell,” her fiancé added.
“In your dreams,” Kike kept on laughing.
Baba and Remi adviced their son as he packed his bags and prepared to live for the bus park. He would be staying in his aunt’s place in Wuse, Abuja, while he worked in the company she was a major shareholder of. His six months Industrial Training there would probably create an opportunity for him by the time he graduated the following year.
“Listen to your aunt and do whatever she asks of you,” Remi patted her son on the shoulder.
“You know it is her house, and you are just a visitor, being related to her doesn’t give you the yardstick to misbehave,” his father added.
“I know, I know. I will be a good boy, okay?”
“I don’t just want any complain. You know how our family is, if anything happens, the news will travel far and wide,” his mother shuddered.
“Mum, nothing bad will happen. You should be praying for my success not dreaming up ill-luck.”
She glanced at her husband. He cleared his throat twice.
“You know we only want the best for you.”
“I know dad and I will not disappoint you.”
“Ehn-hen, that is exactly what we want to hear.”
“I am set,” he zipped both bags.
“God will follow you and come back with you.”
“Amen,” Gbemiga closed his eyes.
“You shall be the head and not the tail everywhere you go.”
They continued to pray for him.
His sisters were exceptionally happy. They planned to brag to all their friends that their brother was now living in the capital city. They would be the envy of everyone till he returned home after the long holiday.
Gbemiga hoped that he would make enough money so as to move his family out of their present accommodation. If Bukky could rent a better place for herself, he should be able to do the same. He and his family would be more comfortable in a self-contain apartment, than where they were at the moment. He was determined to save as much as he could.
“I will call once I get to aunty’s place,” he started towards the door.
“Okay, safe journey,” his parents chorused.
“Keep your money properly.”
His sisters helped him to carry his bags out of the house, to the bus-stop. Several buses halted at the bus-stop and each conductor shouted out their destinations. His sisters waved at him when he got on a bus heading to Yaba and retraced their steps homewards. The conductor arranged his bags with other loads at the back of the bus and informed him that he would pay double fare. They argued for a while and agreed on a price.
Bukky and Chike strode bare-footed on the off-white sea sand, holding hands and watching the way the waves rolled over, hitting the rocks, back and forth, non-stop. There were several other people on the beach. Many were seated in groups of twos, three or more, under large umbrellas surrounded by plastic chairs, eating and drinking. Some people stood outside the mini-bars at the far end of the beach, dancing to the music blasted by the loud speakers.
A dark looking man in his late thirties walked up to them, holding about ten pairs of female slippers. He tried to cajole them into patronizing him, but, they were not interested. The moment he walked away, an average height woman, plump, in a blouse and a pair of jeans hurried to their side, waving a set of beaded necklaces, bracelets and ear-rings in their faces.
“No, thank you,” he shook his head at the woman.
She turned to Bukky, but the girl turned away. The woman left them and ran after a group of young women in skimpy outfits, laughing at an inside joke. Lucky for her, they liked her wares and started bargaining for a good price.
“I am beginning to feel cold,” she looked up at him.
He glanced at her, “Why did you leave your jacket in the car?” he liked the way the black sleeveless top hug her body.
She shrugged, “At the time, I was a little bit hot.”
“And now you are feeling cold.”
She nodded and shivered a bit.
He placed a hand around her shoulder, “It’s past seven. The darker it gets, the cooler it becomes.”
She leaned against him, basking in the warmth of his nearness.
“I have been here as late as ten and it wasn’t fun.”
“What were you doing here at that time?”
He grinned, “A course mate had a party here. It was a birthday party. I think we left the beach before midnight. It was freezing by then.”
She trembled against him. She couldn’t imagine how cold it must have been.
“Fun-time over, let’s get you back into the car.”
They turned around and headed towards the exit. On their way to the car park, she sighted huge rocks in a long line.
“What are those?”
He followed her gaze, “Oh… those rocks prevent the ocean from flooding the road.”
Her eyes grew big. She thought of the tsunami in Haiti.
“That’s Bar beach, or what is left of it.”
“Bar beach?” her alarmed look made him smile.
“Yes,” he led her towards the car.
“I have been there as a child. What happened?”
“Nature. Water claiming land.”
She waited while he unlocked the vehicle. “Did something like tsunami happen here on the Island?”
He chuckled, “No… not really, but, the incessant flooding of the road and surrounding buildings made the government to take action. Bar beach is
now a shadow of itself. I used to come here as a child back then too.”
She opened the door and got in. “But, do people still go to the beach?”
He climbed in, “Sort of. The place is deserted. Everybody comes to Kuramo beach now.”
“So, Kuramo beach replaced Bar beach?”
“Sort of, kind of… some people prefer Bar beach because it has less crowd now, unlike before. Although I won’t advice a pretty girl like you to take a walk on that beach at night. Touts, thugs and criminals hide on that beach,” he pulled her cheek.
“Hmm… we don’t maintain things in this country,” picked up her jacket and wore it.
“We can spend all the money on things, but, we abandon it once the project is done. No maintenance culture.”
“You are right.”
“May God help us.”
“Amen. Hope you had a nice time.”
She met his smiling gaze, “Yes,” she smiled back at him, “I enjoyed our birthday celebration.”
“I had a good time too,” he brushed a hand over her face.
“When do you think we will get home?”
“If we are lucky, before ten.”
“But, if we are not?”
“Maybe sometime before midnight.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“Don’t worry, we will be home before you say Jack Robinson.”
“Okay,” she looked out of the closed window.
Chike picked up the paper-bag at the back seat of the car and brought out a small red box.
She turned her head and saw the glittering gold ring in the opened small red box. Her astonished dark eyes flew to his excited dark brown ones.
“Today, I ask officially, will you spend the rest of your life with me? Will you marry me?”
She breathed out loudly and looked at the ring. It was beautiful. “Yes, Chike. I will marry you. I will spend the rest of my life with you.”
“Do you even have a choice?”
She started to laugh. He slipped the ring on her finger and kissed her lightly.
“The convocation is scheduled for mid-October,” he informed her.
“That means our introduction ceremony will be that same week.”
He nodded with enthusiasm.
“I will let my parents know.”
“Mine are already preparing. They want us married immediately after my service year.”
She smiled broadly, “I will have it no other way.”
“Me neither,” he leaned forward and kissed her again.
Gbemiga and his friends stood outside the Silverbird Galleria. One of them hailed a cab and tried to bargain on a price. It had been a good day. His friends hosted him in celebration of his twenty-third birthday.
“Guys, let’s go,” the guy who stopped the cab beckoned at them. He had been able to agree on a good price with the taxi-driver.
Gbemiga and the rest of his friends climbed into the vehicle. It was past ten, hopefully, they would get home before midnight.
He looked out of the window and sighed heavily. His Industrial Training at his aunt’s firm in Abuja turned out well. He was able to move his family into a self-contain apartment in the area with some of the money he saved. His parents and sisters had been ecstatic. No more sharing toilet, bathroom and kitchen with dozens of people. No more living in cramped room with little or no ventilation. Their new place was sweet relief. The space was twice the size of their former accommodation and they were able to convert it into a bedroom and sitting area. Although, it wasn’t that conducive for a family of five, it was better than where they were coming from.
His thoughts drifted to his ex. Funny enough, he still had feelings for her. Assuming she wasn’t dating Chike, he might have been able to convince her to go into a secret relationship with him. Maybe in time, his family would finally accept her. During his I.T program, he had gone on a date or two, but, no one compared to Bukky. He missed her. He wondered if she was happy in her new relationship. Thoughts of the day he saw Chike kissing her flashed through his mind’s eye. His brows knitted in a frown. He hoped the guy wasn’t sleeping with her. Images of the times he had slept with Bukky at the back of the kitchen flooded his mind. He groaned in frustration, erased his torturous thoughts, closed his eyes and rested the back of his head on the car seat.