The call-up letters arrived and while some final year students were thrilled that they were posted to states that weren’t too remote, some did not have the same story to tell. The graduation ceremony had taken place a week earlier and Chinedu’s mum and Fadeke had been the only guests for Chinedu. He had taken pictures with them both and intended to take the pictures with him to his place of primary assignment. He graduated with a second class upper degree; Kunle also doing same. It was a joyous day for all the graduating students. Tochukwu had come to congratulate both Chinedu and Kunle and Ms. Ugo had noticed that there seemed to be a little friction in their attitude towards her. She made a mental note to ask her son who the young lady was.
“Congrats man”. Chinedu said shaking his buddy’s hands and giving him a hug.
“Yeah, we deserve it”.
“So where did you get posted to?”
He laughed. “Bayelsa state”.
“Couldn’t be more serious. And you?”
“Wo-hoo. You got the best, man. Soon, you would be frolicking with the powers that be”.`
They both shared a laugh.
“So, what happens to Fadeke?” Kunle asked getting serious.
“Yeah. You are going to be away for a whole year. Do you intend to go along with the relationship?”
He nudged his friend. “You should know me better. Of course, we are sticking like glue”.
“There would be a lot of pretty girls in camp. My man, cut a few shows. Variety is the spice of life, you know?” He winked.
Chinedu laughed as he tapped him on the shoulder. “You never change”.
He shrugged. “Someone’s got to tell you the truth”.
It was such an irony that as best buddies, they had different ideals but still got along together. The decision to stick to Fadeke was one he had made long ago and no one; not his mother or his best friend was going to change that.
“Am I free to come over to your place anytime?”
“Of course, baby. You don’t need to ask, do you?” Chinedu smiled.
He put his arms round her waist. “You are free to crash into my place anytime, any day”.
She put her arms round him as well and rested her head on his chest.
The school session was over and students started trooping home as usual. In a week, the graduates would leave for their places of primary assignment spending three weeks in the youth camp. She would have loved to stay back in school where she would have unhindered access to Chinedu, but her parents would wonder what she was doing in school knowing fully well that they were already on vacation.
As they stood in her room in each other’s embrace, they were satisfied with the silence between them. Nothing else seemed to matter. The love between them was compared to none.
“I wish we did not have to be apart”. She said her head still on his chest.
“I wish the same too, my love”. He raised her head and cupped it in his hands. “It’s only for three weeks”.
“Which looks like forever already”?
He smiled as he put his hands behind his neck to remove the chain he had on. He put it round her neck and clipped it behind. “Let this always be a reminder that we could be apart bodily, but you would always be right here”. He said taking her right palm and placing it on his heart.
Fadeke felt her heart flutter as butterflies danced in her tummy. Was this how it felt like to be loved absolutely? Right from the first day she met him, he had always had the chain on. Right here, right now, in the confines of her room, he had removed it and put it on her as a seal on their relationship. For a split second, she remembered what her mother told her “You are just 17 and too young to recognize true love”. How wrong she was. “What we have discussed this night remains between the two of us because all hell would be let loose if your father finds out”. She looked up at Chinedu and smiled. Not even her father was going to stop her at this point.
She had never been a rebel and she hoped her parents would change their stance and not compel her to become one. She still had her right palm on his heart and she used the left to cradle his face. He closed his eyes savouring the feel of her soft palm. She traced the outline of his lips with her thumb and he kissed it. She was so much in love. She pulled him closer, her hand cradled behind his head and kissed him with a passion that reached deep into her soul.
When they came apart, he smiled.
“Why are you smiling?” She had acted on impulse and blushed.
“You are still smiling”.
“Because I love it when you loosen up”.
“Now you are making me shy”.
He tickled her. “Shy? Why should my baby be shy around me?”
As she giggled, she pleaded with him to stop.
He continued to tickle her. “No, I ain’t stopping”.
“Please, please”. She laughed hard.
“Now, I can stop. I needed to hear you laugh”. He confessed.
She nudged him as she wiped her eyes of the tears that had gathered during her bout of laughter.
He looked at her and smiled. In a week, he was leaving for Abuja and every moment they had shared together was going to be a treasured memory.
Kunle dropped his travel bag on the bed. He was exhausted and famished. Three weeks in Bayelsa state had been more than he had bargained for. The military drills had been second to none. The camp commandants had woken them up every day at 4.30am. They had been subjected to morning drills, march parades, long treks and all sorts of obstacle courses. His body ached badly and he longed for good food and a bed. Knowing that by the time he arrived home, he would be too tired to cook; he had stopped by at an eatery and gotten himself a good meal. Every food he had been given at the camp had tasted like wood to him. At first, he had abandoned the students’ kitchen and bought food every day at the mammy market. By the time he had spent a week and half, he realized he had used up most of his cash on food. He was then forced to go back to eating the food disregarding the bland taste.
He sat down on his bed and brought out the Styrofoam bowl and cup from the paper bag containing the meal he had bought. The aroma of the food wafted through his nostrils and he smiled. Who said good food did not make you happy? He took the plastic fork attached to the bowl and with a few mouthfuls of salad, he was done in a jiffy.
“This is what I call food”. He said to no one in particular.
He opened the paper bag once more and brought out another Styrofoam bowl. He set the bowl on his bed and squashed the paper bag; shooting it into the waste bin. His basketball skills hadn’t gone rusty; he acknowledged. He was about to settle down with the bowl of coconut rice when his mobile phone vibrated in his pocket. He took out the phone and smiled. “Hey dawg”.
“What’s up?” Chinedu asked.
“I’m good. And you?”
“You just arrived town?”
“Yeah, like an hour ago. I just left the bus park”.
“Got home a few minutes ago as well, tired and famished”.
“Guess we are in the same shoes, man. I really need good sleep”.
“Couldn’t need it better than I. How was camp?”
“It was okay”.
Chinedu shrugged “Wasn’t out of the ordinary”.
“You did not see anything wrong with waking up at 4.30am every day?”
He laughed. “Kunle, you have always been a butterscotch, you know”.
“Man, those drills weren’t a hit for me but the girls sure made my stay at the camp worthwhile”.
“You did not enjoy the drills but you enjoyed sowing wild oats around camp”.
He chuckled. “I needed to relieve the stress I was getting from the commandants”.
“And the girls were available”.
“Of course. I had a couple of them”.
“You are so unrepentant”.
They both laughed. They later talked about the places they were posted to. While Kunle was posted to a secondary school to teach, Chinedu was posted to an auditing firm. Kunle teased Chinedu that Fadeke could be the reason why he was having everything go smoothly. He smiled at the thought. He had called her as soon as he arrived at the park. The call to his mother had come second before he called Kunle. He had missed her so much and she had been overjoyed to hear from him. She had promised to come over to his place immediately.
Chinedu arrived home an hour later. His mother had prepared his favourite meal and had been waiting patiently for him. After his meal, she asked about his stay in the camp and complained about the mosquito bites she noticed on his arms. As he filled her in on the events in the camp, he yawned incessantly. She knew he needed to rest and advised him to turn in for the day. Fadeke was yet to arrive and he told her to wake him up once she did. With that, he went to his room to nap.
An hour and forty-five minutes passed before Fadeke got to Chinedu’s place. As she walked into the compound, Ibrahim greeted her familiarly. She was no longer a stranger to the Ugo’s home and she tapped confidently on the door. She had missed Chinedu so much and the previous three weeks had felt like forever.
She was lying in bed at 12 noon when she received his call. She had woken up earlier, had breakfast and went back to lie on her bed as she flipped the TV channels absent-mindedly. She had been so excited with his call that she got up immediately and went to take a shower. She hadn’t been going out the previous weeks as she really wasn’t interested in visiting anyone. Her mum had noticed and had asked but she had waved it aside. Her excuse was that she wanted to stay home and rest. Her decision to go out had therefore, surprised her mum a little.
Mrs. Ugo opened the door on the third tap and smiled; her smile reaching her eyes.
“Good afternoon ma”. Fadeke curtsied.
She stepped aside “How are you, darling? Please come in”.
“Thank you, ma”.
“He’s asleep in his room”.
“Okay”. She hesitated wondering if the statement meant she was given a go-ahead to his room.
Mrs. Ugo smiled “Go on. You are not a stranger in here, are you?”
Fadeke simply nodded.
As she opened the door to Chinedu’s room, she saw him sprawled on his bed. Even though asleep, he had a smile on his lips. She wondered if he was dreaming about her. He was so handsome. She smiled as if returning his and whispered; “Hi love”.
He tossed and slightly opened his eyes; the smile still on his lips. “Hey baby”. He said groggily.
She moved closer and sat down on the bed. “You were smiling in your sleep”.
“That’s because I was dreaming about you”.
“I missed you bad. Come here….” He said as he pulled her down gently and planted a full kiss on her lips.
She kissed him back holding on to him as if her life depended on it. If only they could stay like this forever. She did not ever want to be apart from him.
When they eased back, he rubbed his thumb on her cheek. “My sweet puff puff cheeks. What would I ever do without you?”
He rose up and sat on the bed gently pulling her close to him as she turned her back to rest on him.
“How was camp?”
“It was okay. Quite rigorous but very interesting”.
They talked for close to two hours before Chinedu decided it was best she left before it got dark. His mum had left earlier for her store. He walked her back to the car she had come in and nodded a greeting to the driver.
“So you are back in Abuja in a week?”
“I guess this is the difficult part”.
He held her hand and squeezed it gently. “I promise to try making it a little easier”.
She eased into the back seat still holding on to him and promised to visit him once more before he left.
As the car sped away from his house, Chinedu prayed in his heart that he would be able to keep the promise he just made.
End of Volume 1.