“Oh God; what have I done?” Jumoke sank into a seat in the near-empty class awaiting Dr Awofisibe and his test. “What came over me? No, Jumoke! You didn’t just say that to him… Oh God!” She placed her head on the desk in front of her to hide her tears from her mates just arriving.
She felt empty, it had been her deepest secret since her first year when she met Tunji. She was hoping that luck would smile on her that year (in part three) and Tunji would finally ask her out, but Amaka suddenly came into the picture and she was brushed aside. She had been brave about it at first, she tried her best not to pay much mind to the new development, but her feelings for Tunji were too strong; she couldn’t watch him go with another girl without doing anything; a ‘loose’ girl at that. She confronted Amaka twice but the latter seemed unmoved, and in her bid to fight her way back into his mind, she had carelessly spilled the beans to him. Jumoke tried not to imagine what he would think of her, she felt too ashamed to even face him again. She wanted to avoid him forever.
She opened her notes to revise once more for the test hoping that would make her forget the embarrassment she had brought upon her self. As she turned the pages of her notes, every word seemed to look like the letters making up Tunji’s name. She couldn’t concentrate, she felt terrible.
It was unlike the experience her friends shared whenever they talked about love. Tunji was the first guy she ever fell in love with and she had fantasized about having wonderful moments with him but now, she blamed herself for falling for him and swore never to get close to any guy after him.
Tunji was going crazy. He just wished he could run to the middle of nowhere and have some time to gradually make some sense of his jumbled life. He wondered for how long Jumoke had been hiding her feelings and how he failed to notice for so long. He felt giddy as he processed in his mind all she must have been through to make her confess her love for him.
They had been friends since their first year, they did everything together. She cooked for him most of the time, and they were already regarded by many as a couple. He wondered how she managed to conceal what she felt about him through all of that. He pitied her and suddenly, he wanted to look for her, to tell her he would always be there no matter what.
He rose from his seat and made straight for the test class, knowing quite well that she would be there.
“Mr Lover Man…shaba!” Sunky’s cool voice sang as he appeared behind him.
“Sunky, how far?” Tunji spoke in a distracted voice searching the class for Jumoke with his eyes and pondering if it was wise to tell his friend about the new development.
“Wetin you dey find?” Sunky asked, wondering why Tunji seemed agitated.
“I have a test in a few minutes, I’m looking for my seat partner.” He replied immediately.
“Okay. I wish you the best o…” Sunky responded and stepped away. “I’m through for the day, going to the room to find something to eat.” He added as he continued to walk away.
“Wait….Sunky, please come” Tunji called out and his friend did as asked. “I have a problem ooo”
Amaka was completely frustrated. She had refused to attend classes for that day. It had been a gloomy day; all she could think about was how to raise the money needed for her father to survive. Her mother had been putting so much pressure on her to raise the money and put her elder sister and her ‘stingy’ fiancé to shame. She had called more than twice that day already, asking her to meet her so called ‘uncles’ and ask them to help. Amaka couldn’t tell her mother the implications of what she was saying, she only kept assuring her that she would try to raise the money. She didn’t need anyone to tell her otherwise, she knew Tunji had nothing to offer her in respect of the money, but she wanted to please him.
“I don’t know who will be able to give you such a huge amount of money at once, but I know a man who’s very rich. I met him last week at a party and he gave me 150k for spending the weekend with him. He told me his friends would also love to meet some of my cute friends. That’s why I came to see you. I believe whatever you can raise from there should go a long way in salvaging the situation. We can then think of other sources to raise the rest.” That was Amaka’s friend Ngozi speaking when she visited her earlier that day.
Amaka was queasy about the offer, not because there was no exact promise of raising all the money, but because she suddenly felt the need to stop being with older men to raise money, just as Tunji demanded. She wanted to be good for him. To her, if a guy could still love her despite being aware of her shortcomings, such guy deserved to be loved back and given the best.
Knowing fully well that Tunji would have to come up with an ‘out of this world’ idea to raise 500k-which was very unlikely to happen-the only available option was to take up Ngozi’s offer; she would have to do it one last time. She wished she could find another way, for Tunji; but she was in a true dilemma.
Tunji was exhausted by the time he finished voicing his frustration to his friend. However, he was careful enough not to mention the issue of Jumoke’s confession to him.
Sunkanmi shook his head thoroughly and patted his friend’s back. He wanted to help him, but the kind of help he had to offer wasn’t the type Tunji would readily jump at. He however decided to propose his offer and then leave him to decide.
“I must tell you the truth Teejay, I feel for you o. E don show say u really like this babe but as e be now, the only opportunity wey dey, I no sure if you go fit do am o” Sunky lowered his voice as he slowly pulled Tunji along with him.
“What is it? Tell me. I will do anything to help this girl.” Tunji replied, sounding desperate.
“Follow me” Sunky ordered.
It wasn’t his usual habit but Benjamin didn’t seem to have a choice. He had to talk someone, his situation demanded it. Ordinarily, he would follow his granny’s instruction: ‘talk to God’, but suddenly God seemed too far away to listen or profer a lasting solution. He needed someone who would understand him at once and tell him what to do instantly. After much thought, he chose to speak with his colleagues at work while they were at a club in Ikeja on a Friday evening.
Ben was the first child of his family, his father died when he was in secondary school and he had to take on the huge responsibility of being the man of the house. He had three siblings from his mother and two others from his father’s second wife who also died of heartbreak after her husband’s death. Ben shouldered the responsibility of taking care of his now aged mother and five siblings, life had been far from easy.
He had been dating Ada for five years, but the last three years had seen him cater more to Ada’s family problems than his own family or even his personal development. His mother had been crying out against him to break up with the ‘ekwensu’ he was dating. His siblings tagged him as ‘stingy’, even some of his friends wondered why he had seemed stagnant. Prior to the time he got his job, he was working as a sales boy for a man selling generators, and he made quite a lot, but the larger percentage of his earnings was invested in solving one problem or the other for Ada or her family. To make matters worse, her mother didn’t like him, she wanted her to marry a rich man.
“Mr Ben, I don’t believe this should give you any concern. The situation itself has shown you the best way to solve it. Let this girl go and marry a rich man as her ungrateful mother desires” one of his colleagues advised after listening to his predicament.
“Mr Akeju, I really would have done that, but I have been with this lady for five years. We have gone through a lot together. I can’t ditch her now…” Benjamin defended.
“You are not ditching her, you are only being wise. Your family expects more from you, this girl takes more, yet she has a mother who will stop at nothing to see her marry another! Let me ask you, what will be your lot if eventually her mother manages to convince her to leave you for a rich man? What will be your gain for having stayed so long with her and spending so much money?” Another colleague added.
It was like a veil was lifted from Ben’s face. That was a situation he had never really given a thought. Cold fear gripped him and he seemed helpless.
“Come on guys, let us not complicate matters for this man” the third man sitting with them spoke, “he is truly in love with this girl, the only problem he has is that he’s not striking a balance between her and his family. What I’ll advise you, within my own wisdom, is that you should draw a line and strike a balance between making your family happy as much as you can, and helping your fiancée as much as God gives you grace” he submitted.
“Forget love when there is not enough money, and when you have a bad mother in law. If you ask for my opinion on this, I think you should let her go now that it would be very easy to get over her, than wait for her to throw the bombshell at you when it would seem like your whole world is crashing down.” The last man sitting seemed to have won the case, because majority of those seated nodded in affirmation, even Ben seemed to agree with him.
He went home that night with a troubled mind. Ada had been a wonderful lady, but her family problems were too much to marry along with her. His mother had stopped talking to him for over six months, giving him a standing order to leave Ada, whom she termed a witch, or risk being disowned. She didn’t want a daughter in law that would make her son forget his family.
All Ben’s pleas to her had fallen on deaf ears as she would not change her position.
At exactly 10:25pm, he got into his apartment and crashed on the old cushion he had been hoping to change at the end of the month, before having to divert the funds meant for it to Ada. The cushion added to the effect of the advice of his colleagues as it reminded him of what he needed to do.
Ada was battling with her mother at the hospital. She was also at her tethers end with her.
“Why have you refused to withdraw the money your husband sent for your father’s treatment? Or has he changed his mind?” Mama challenged.
Ada wasn’t surprised at Mama’s words anymore, she had become accustomed to her callousness. This time however, she was prepared to give her a match.
“Why should I withdraw the money? Didn’t you say it was too small? I decided to return the money to the owner, when he has enough to cover the expenses, he’ll send.” Ada responded coldly without looking in her mother’s direction.
“Adamma! What has come over you?” Mama was shocked, “even if the money wasn’t enough for your father’s treatment, won’t we eat or even provide some basic drugs for him from the money?”
“That’s where you still get it wrong Mama, the money Ben sent was for treatment, and not for food! But you scorned the money, saying it was too small, and he has decided to send all the money when he can afford it, even if it will take twenty years.” Ada packed the clothes she had been folding together and walked away from her mother.
“Now I see the conspiracy between you and your husband. I am not surprised, I always knew this day will come when you’ll grow large wings and begin to fly. But one thing I should let you know is that it won’t last long before your wings will be truncated! When my daughter arrives with the money, you and your poor husband will be put to shame!” Mama threw the words at Ada and left her in the ward.
Ada’s courage seemed to wane off at the mention of her sister. She wanted desperately to weep, but the tears refused to flow. Amaka had a lot of promise, but Mama was driving her towards destruction. She had tried so many times to talk to her sister, but Mama’s influence upon her had been too strong. She silently prayed that her sister would not fall into the ditch their mother was ignorantly leading her to.
Her phone rang at that moment and realizing it was Ben on the line gave her much relief. With excitement, she answered the call.
“Hello Ada, how are you doing this evening?”
“I’m fine… Mama and Papa send their gratitude for the money you sent”
“Its okay. May God grant him total healing. How’s he faring now?”
“We thank God, he’s not getting worse, at least.”
“Alright…” Ben paused, his courage to speak suddenly waned, he couldn’t bring himself to say what he intended to say.
“Ben, what’s wrong? You don’t really sound well.” Ada inquired, sounding quite worried.
“Nothing really. I am fine. Just that….” He stopped again.
“Just that what?”
“Err… Just that we need to talk… and it’s serious.”
To Be Continued Next Week………..