Chinedu noticed Fadeke walking towards his direction, engrossed in a discussion with her friends. As she saw him, she froze, said something to her friends and took another turn. He decided to take the turn as well to catch up with her at the opposite end. She sighted him again coming from the opposite end and was about to turn back when he jogged up to her.
“Fadeke, what’s wrong? Why have you been avoiding me?” He said holding her by the arm.
She simply looked at him and turned her face away. “Can we talk somewhere private?” He asked sensing her tension.
“Whatever you say”. She had missed him so much and could not deny it. Avoiding him had been more difficult than she had thought. He had been coming to her lecture hall every day for the past one week and she had always sneaked out of the hall just before lectures ended. That was the best way to avoid him, she thought. Sometimes, she saw him chatting with his friends but she always avoided their path. She longed for him but she was scared of getting hurt.
As he held her arm, he triggered feelings she thought were dead. She wished she could embrace him and tell him how much she had missed him. She wished he could promise her that he wasn’t like the other guys Tochukwu had talked about. She wished he could tell her that everything would be okay.
They walked to a secluded bench resting under a tree far from the prying eyes of all. He sat down and waited for her to sit down as well, but she decided to stand.
“Fadeke, please sit down. We need to talk”.
“Go on. I’m listening”.
“Babe, I can’t talk to you this way”. He pulled her towards himself and she fell into his embrace and broke down in tears. She sobbed uncontrollably and all he did was soothe her. He didn’t understand what was going on and he prayed in his heart that she would open up to him.
When her body stilled from the sobs, he raised her head and cupped her face with his hands. “What did I do wrong?” He asked.
“Nothing”. She said tears still streaming down her eyes.
He tried to understand. “So, why have you been avoiding me?”
“I don’t want to get hurt”.
Chinedu looked at her for a second and sighed. “I would never hurt you, Fadeke. I meant it when I told you I love you”. He said wiping her tear-stained cheeks.
“And what happens to me next year when a new set of freshers come in?”
All of a sudden, it dawned on him. She must have heard about the “Use and Dump” tradition on campus. How was he going to convince her that he was for real? That he wasn’t like all the other guys on campus who were just using the girls to catch their fun. He sighed and shook his head. This was going to be more difficult than he had anticipated. Fadeke’s voice jolted him back to reality.
“I asked what happens to me after one year”.
“Fadeke, I won’t pretend that I do not know what you are talking about. You have probably heard about what guys do on campus. I would speak for myself. I promise that I would never do that to you. Just so you know; you are the first girl I would open up to. I have been in this school for three years and I haven’t asked anyone out till date. Every year, I see a new set of freshers but I made a personal decision not to date unless I was sure about it”.
“My roommate was jilted a few weeks back and she’s hurting real bad”.
“Babe, I understand how you feel. I have a few friends who pick new girls every year but the fact that we are friends does not mean I support what they do. They have called me names in the past just because I decided not to tag along but it was a personal decision I made and I owe no one an apology”.
“Do you believe me?” He asked; seeing that she didn’t look convinced. He understood that it wasn’t any fault of hers. The look on her face when she talked about her roommate showed that her roommate’s ordeal must have really gotten to her.
He lifted up her chin so she could look him straight in the eye. “Fadeke, do you believe me?”
“Yes, I do. I’m just so scared”.
“Scared of losing me to someone else?”
She only nodded and lowered her eyes. She hadn’t realized how much she loved him until now.
Chinedu felt like his heart was going to burst. She did love him. He hadn’t been sure of it. But now; she had shown it to him without words.
He pulled her closer to him, wiping her tears and caressing her face as he did. He triggered unspeakable feelings within her. She closed her eyes and her heart thumped within her as she felt his breath close to her face. And in an instant, they shared a kiss so passionate that the world around them ceased to exist.
Right there, with his lips locked on hers, she made up her mind. She was going to stick to Chinedu because he was her heartbeat.
Fadeke walked into her room smiling. The last one week had been the best she had had since her resumption in school. Chinedu had been extra caring. When they were not having lectures, they walked hand in hand around campus and a few students were beginning to talk about them being an item. Both of them could be seen chatting, laughing and whispering into each other’s ears.
As she dumped her bag on her reading table, she lay on her bed and hugged herself. Butterflies fluttered in her tummy. She had never felt this way before. She was so much in love with Chinedu. He gave her a reason to look forward to school every day. They were yet to visit each other in their hostels but she did not have a problem with that.
Tochukwu had noticed the recent change in her. According to her, she was looking brighter by the day and wanted to know the secret. But Fadeke had decided to keep mum over the issue. She did not want to relive her friend’s hurt. She also knew Tochukwu would think she was silly but this was her life and she would live it as she wished.
Tochukwu stormed into the room looking tired. She dropped her bag on her reading table and looked at Fadeke with condescending eyes.
“What is this gist flying around campus, Fadeke?”
“Gist?” She asked as she sat up. “I don’t understand what you are talking about”.
She sneered. “The gist about you and Chinedu”.
“Oh that. There’s gist about us?” Fadeke asked innocently.
“Don’t give me that look. I thought I told you that these guys were all no-gooders”.
“Tochukwu, I love Chinedu and I don’t think he is one of the so called “no-gooders”. Don’t take it personal but I think I have a right to decide who I date. Don’t you think so?” She asked with pleading eyes.
“When you get dumped, don’t come running to me”.
“If I get dumped”, she said stressing the point; “I’ll lick my wounds alone, okay? So how was school today?” She asked trying to change the tensed atmosphere.
“Just okay”. Tochukwu replied still frowning.
“Hey, get over it, girl. Let’s forget about men and have fun. I saw a flyer on our notice board advertising a party coming up soon”. She said excitedly. “Can we go together for the party?”
“Yeah, I saw it too. No qualms. It’s a deal”.
As they discussed the soon coming party and what they would wear, they laughed heartily forgetting everything for that moment. But deep down their hearts, they both had something going on.
For Fadeke, it was her determination to stick to Chinedu but for Tochukwu, it was a whole lot of emotions bottled up.
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