Bukky stood at the bus-stop, awaiting a vehicle heading her way. She was clad in a pink cap-sleeve blouse and a matching black A-shaped knee-length skirt with pink poker dots. Her shoulder length braids was swept behind her neck in a pony-tail and she had on a white gladiator sandals with a matching white hand bag. She hoped that she would get home before the rain began that evening. She was hungry and tired.
She turned in the direction of the voice and found Chike standing a few feet away, in a white tee shirt and blue jeans. A black knapsack bag hung over his shoulder.
“Hey you,” she broke into a smile.
“Did you just close from your lecture centre?” he stood beside her.
She nodded her head in response.
“How was it?” he stood beside her.
She shrugged, “So, So.”
He raised an eyebrow, “Are you having problems with your studies?”
She looked up at the dark sky, “Not really?”
He adjusted his knapsack, “I am here whenever you need my help.”
“Okay,” she dropped her head.
It began to drizzle.
“Wow…” he signaled to one of the bike riders on the other side of the road.
“I can’t believe it,” she held her bag against her chest.
“Come, let’s take a bike home.”
She directed her uncertain gaze at him, then at the bike man.
“Do you want to get wet?”
She shook her head slowly.
The moment they got on the bike, the rain came down in torrents. Chike gave the bike man directions to his place. Twenty minutes later, the bike man drove into their wet and muddy street. They got down, he paid and they ran into the building. He unlocked the door and let her into his self-contain apartment.
“Are you wet?”
She looked up at him and nodded.
He flung his knapsack on the bed, marched to the wardrobe and brought out a long sleeve sweat shirt, “You can put on this. I will dry your clothes under the fan.”
She bobbed her head, collected the sweat shirt and followed his direction to the bathroom. She yanked off her clothes and sandals and got into the brown sweat shirt. It was over-size and it reached her knees. She packed the wet clothes and stepped out.
“I made tea,” he pointed at the mug of steaming tea on the table in front of the two settee.
He hurried into the bathroom and got out of his wet clothes and changed into a red sweat shirt and a pair of white shorts. He stepped out and arranged all the wet clothes on a plastic chair under the ceiling- fan. He sat beside her and drank from his mug of tea.
“Do you need more sugar?”
She shook her head.
“What about milk?”
She shook her head again. The hot sweet milky liquid warmed her up. She looked around her. The room was almost the same size with the one she lived in, but the ventilation was far better. The two big windows at opposite sides of the room enhanced the inflow of fresh air. The cream curtains completed the brown leather chair they were sitting on. The blue and white coloured carpet felt smooth under her feet. She noticed that the bed took more than half of the space in the room. She hoped to get something similar at the end of the month. The mattress in her aunt’s room needed to be thrown out. It had over-stayed its welcome. A small size refrigerator stood at a corner and above it was a twenty inch LG flat screen television with a DVD player underneath.
“Should I switch on the television?” he glanced at her. She looked funny in the brown sweat shirt. It was a size bigger for him, but, she looked like she was dropped into a big water drum.
“Okay,” she sipped at the tea.
He picked up the remote on the table and switched on the television, “Should I get you something to eat?”
She looked at him, “Yes, I am hungry.”
“Me too,” he placed the mug and the remote on the table and got up. He hurried into the kitchen and returned with a loaf of bread and a plate of fried eggs.
They ate together in silence. When they were through, she carried the empty plate and mugs to the kitchen. She saw the camp gas cooker on a small wooden stool, the electric kettle on the table beside the microwave. There was a toaster beside a set of pots and plates. The cutleries were hung on a small plastic stand. A small cupboard was above the sink. She dropped the mugs and plate in the sink and opened the cupboard. She found a carton of indomie noodles, a big tin of milk, a carton of tea bag, a jar of sugar, bottles of palm oil and vegetable oil, transparent containers filled with rice, beans, yellow garri, melon seeds, ogbonna, crayfish and maggi. She closed it and looked around. Tubers of yam lay beside a bunch of plantain and a small basket of onions. She smiled to herself, impressed.
Bukky walked out of the kitchen and joined him on the chair, “Your place is nice.”
He met her pleased gaze, “Thanks.”
“I hope to get a place like this soon. My aunt and I are due for a change of accommodation.”
He chuckled and grinned.
“You are in your third year, and you will be graduating in the next two years. What level is your girl friend?”
Her question caught him off guard, his eyes widened in surprise, “My girl friend?”
“Yes, don’t you have one?” she stared back at him.
He scratched a spot on his scalp and turned away, “I am not in any relationship.”
She looked him up and down, “Why?”
He started to laugh.
“Don’t you have plans?”
He returned her gaze, “Yes, I do.”
“So, why don’t you have a girl friend? Or do you want to wait until you graduate?”
He blinked and stared back at her, “My last relationship didn’t work out.”
“So?” curiousity got the better of her.
“I am on the look out for a special someone.”
“Okay, good. I am glad you didn’t give up because of a glitch in your past,” she smiled at him.
“I think I have found her,” he looked straight at her.
“Really? Who is she? I love, love stories,” her eyes went dreamy.
He dropped his gaze and faced the television, “We met recently. I like her. I don’t know if she likes me.”
“Ask her, what if she likes you too?” she eyed him.
He turned his head and stared at her, “I don’t even know how old she is. She looks very young.”
Bukky started to laugh, “How old are you sef? You think because you have started growing beards, you are now old papa abi?”
He bursted out in laughter.
“Ask her and stop wasting time. You guys sef.”
He cleared his throat and swallowed hard.
“So, who is she? Is she a course mate, school mate, or does she live in this area?”
“Tell me now,” she held him by the hand.
“She is right here in my apartment,” his serious gaze remained on her face, which changed from amusement to shock.
Bukky stared back at him. Was he pulling her legs? She let go of his hand and moved away, creating space between them.
“How old are you Bukola?”
She blinked and just stared at him, tongue-tied.
“I like you a lot. It will be my greatest pleasure if you will go out with me.”
Her lips parted. No words came out. Since she had known him, he had been good to her. If she could turn back the hand of time, she would have loved to date him. She liked him too, but, she was already in a relationship.
“I… I…em…” she dropped her gaze.
He drew closer and reached out for her hands, “I really do like you.”
She raised her head to meet his intense stare, “I am in a relationship.”
He pressed his lips together and released her hands. He felt a tightening in his chest.
“I am sorry.”
He turned away, “It is okay.”
“We can still be friends,” she suggested.
He sighed sadly, “It is not the same thing.”
She stared at him long and hard. She didn’t want to lose him. He had been a good friend to her.
“How old are you?” he glanced back at her, his facial expression was emotionless.
“I will be nineteen in August.”
“I see, that’s six months away,” he observed her.
“Yes,” the sad glint in his eyes gnawed at her.
“I will be twenty-five in August.”
Her eyes widedned, “You were born in August too?”
She blinked and sighed heavily. He was six years older than her. The age-gap wasn’t that wide, but, it didn’t matter anyway.
“So, you are a small girl,” he eyed her.
“Oh please, and you think you are old abi?”
He started to laugh. She hissed and faced the television.
“All right. We can still be friends. Maybe in the near future, an opportunity might create itself.”
She glanced at him. She didn’t know he liked her that much, “In your dreams.”
He chuckled and got up. He strode to the window and drew the curtain. Cold air swept past his face. The rain had stopped.
“Is it still raining?”
“No,” he watched a group of children playing a game of soccer on the wet road.
She glanced at the wall clock. It was past seven. Her aunt should be back from the market. She hoped she didn’t get caught up in the rain too. She got up and checked the clothes on the plastic chair. They were still wet.
“You can go home with my sweater. Please return it as soon as possible.”
She glanced at him, “I am not retuning it.”
He eyed her, “You better return it or else, I will come to your house and seize all your clothes.”
She chuckled, “I need a polythene bag,” she gathered her clothes in a heap.
Chike went into the kitchen and returned with a black polythene bag. She collected it and placed her clothes and sandals in it.
“Can I borrow your Dunlop slipper too?”
She eyed him, “Do you expect me to walk home bare footed?’
“Not my problem, oya come and go to your house,” he went to the front door and unlocked it.
She started to laugh, “Are you driving me away?”
“Oya, oya, oya, you are wasting time.”
She hissed, slipped into one of the Dunlop slippers under the chair and headed to the door.
He blocked her way, “Your boyfriend is a very lucky somebody.”
She met his gaze.
“I am not giving up on you that easily. He has a competition, starting today.”
She blinked and opened her mouth but could hardly say a word.
“See you later,” he leaned forward and pecked her on the forehead.
She gasped and looked into his eyes. They shone with desire. She swallowed hard and took a step back.
“Good night,” he stepped away from the door.
She held the polythene bag against her chest and hurried out. Her heart hammered against her chest. She trembled slightly as she quickened her steps and walked home. His face flashed through her mind’s eye. She blinked and cleared her thoughts.
Watch Out for Chapter Twelve…