Chinedu stood in front of the Peters’ residence. He was dressed in a white tailored shirt and navy blue pants. He knew Fadeke came from a wealthy family but it had never crossed his mind that the wealth of the Peters’ family spoke in volumes. He was standing in front of a marbled fence with gates that looked like they led to a fortress. There were well-kept lawns on each side of the gate and it was obvious that a skilled gardener was being paid to do a good job. If the outside looked this way, he wondered what was behind the gates. Standing right there, he suddenly developed cold feet and wondered what he was doing in front of the expansive building. He pulled himself together and forced a smile. Fadeke was expecting him and he couldn’t let her down; not when he had gotten this far into their relationship.
He had discussed his intended visit with his mother last night but he had been careful not to let her know that he faced a possible rejection. Besides, she had also been skeptical about Fadeke before meeting her. He did not want to leave for Abuja without sealing his relationship because very soon he was going to propose to her. As he pressed the door bell, he prayed a silent prayer in his heart that everything would go on well with his visit today.
Fadeke and Chinedu walked out of the house an hour later. The meeting with her mother had gone better than she had expected. Even though, she was yet to get a feedback from her, she noticed her mother had been impressed. She had however, shown an indifferent attitude but Fadeke knew her mother better. It was clear that Chinedu had won her heart. She linked her fingers with Chinedu’s and smiled. “I think she likes you”.
“You think so?”
“I know so”.
“And your dad?”
“She would do the talking”.
He rubbed the thumb of his free hand on her cheek. “I pray everything goes well”.
“I pray so too”.
“Mum?” Fadeke called the third time. She had come back in and met her mother watching one of her favourite sitcoms. She wanted to know what she felt about Chinedu but her mother was so engrossed in the programme that she refused to look her way. The programme went into a commercial break forcing her mother to give her the attention she desired.
“What do you think?”
She looked at her daughter; her right forefinger tapping the tip of her nose.
The commercials were running to a close soon and if she did not get a response from her mum now….
“Come and sit here”. She tapped the couch she was sitting on.
Fadeke did as she was bided.
The commercial break was over and the programme went on. Mrs. Peters picked up the remote and switched off the TV. She faced her daughter and held her hands.
Fadeke swallowed the lump in her throat. “Yes mum”.
“You have put me in a very difficult situation”.
She looked up at her mum; confusion clearly written on her face.
“It’s obvious the young man loves you but how am I meant to convince your father that you have considered an Igbo boy”.
“Mum, can I ask a question?” She asked finally finding her voice.
“When you fell in love with daddy, would his tribe have been an issue if he wasn’t Yoruba?”
She sighed. “No, it wouldn’t have been. I am not against tribes Fadekemi, your father is”.
“Then, you have to help me convince him”.
“It is not as easy as you think”.
“Please mum, for my sake. I love Chinedu and you have also admitted that he loves me. Talk to daddy, please”.
“I’d try my best”.
“Thanks. I love you, mum”.
She hugged her daughter. “I love you too darling”.
Mr. Peters looked at his wife as if she had just hit him on the face. He couldn’t believe what he had just heard. They had both retired to bed after having his favourite meal for dinner. She had dimmed the lights of the room and had burned scented candles. The room smelled like strawberry and he had been enticed by his wife’s body. She still looked very sexy after their years of marriage and he had never stopped desiring her.
“Did I hear you right?”
He shook his head. “I don’t believe you”.
“She loves him”. She cried.
“And you allowed her to love an Igbo boy?”
She opened her mouth looking aghast.
“You should have guided her on who to love. You should have warned her ahead”.
“How was she supposed to control her daughter’s heart?” She thought.
“I expect you to go and undo what you and your daughter have done”. He said turning his back on her.
“What was he saying? She tried to understand but couldn’t. “How was she going to undo her daughter’s love for Chinedu?”
She took one last look at her husband and sighed. It was obvious Fadeke and Chinedu loved each other. She was torn between her daughter and her husband. As she heard her husband gently go into a snore, she prayed silently that he would change his mind; for her daughter’s mind had been made up long before now.
Three weeks passed and Fadeke was back in school for her final year session. She had avoided her father after getting his response from her mum. Mr. Peters had noticed but had chosen to be indifferent. “She’s just a little girl and would get over it”. “Besides, he had asked Dupe to handle it, so he did not expect to hear anything further about the Igbo boy”. As far as he was concerned, the matter had been closed.
As expected, Fadeke had been adamant when her mother had discussed with her. She was going ahead with her relationship, her father’s warning notwithstanding. Mrs. Peters had tried to make her see reasons with her father but deep down her heart, she knew her husband’s reasons held no water. He said the Igbos were slimy and not truthful. He said they were not good husbands to their wives. He said they were too stubborn. “What had all these got to do with the boy her daughter loved?” Her daughter had gone back to school unhappy and she felt bad about it.
Fadeke slumped on her bed in her room. The journey back to school had been tiring and what she needed now was sleep. She was about to tune off into sleep mode when she heard a tap on her door.
“Ohh…..who could that be?” She groaned.
She stood up to open the door and smiling before her was her old time friend; or enemy depending on which side she wanted to stay on.
“Let me in. Will you?” Tochukwu said pushing her aside.
She was too tired for a fight. “What do you want?”
She shrugged. “I was posted to Lagos for my youth service”.
“Congrats”. She said dryly.
“Won’t you at least give me a hug?”
“Oh God. What the heck?” She gave her a hug wondering what was next.
“Anyway, I came to clear up my apartment and decided to check on you”.
“So nice of you”. She forced a smile.
“I’d call you when I get to camp”.
“Thanks”. She tapped her feet impatiently.
Tochukwu walked towards the door still talking. “Make sure you keep in touch”.
She walked behind her ready to lock the door. “I will. Enjoy yourself”.
She locked the door and turned round to rest her back on it. “When will she let me be?”
She walked towards her bed and sat down. “Chinedu, I miss you so much”. She soliloquized. She lay on her bed and tried to get some sleep; making a mental note to call him when she woke up.
The semester moved faster than expected and exams were soon around the corner. Fadeke and her course mates milled round the faculty offices visiting their project supervisors from time to time. She shared her project supervisor with Kemi Salvador, who had made a habit of coming to visit her in her room. Kemi had stayed on campus all through her first three years in school. She was one of the very brilliant students in the class but was also known to be a glutton. She came from an average family and always got people to buy her food. Since she discovered that she shared the same supervisor with Fadeke, she made it a custom to always end her day in Fadeke’s room. Fadeke did not mind as she actually needed the company; mentally and emotionally. Kemi was a good study partner even if she had to sacrifice her food.
In three weeks, exams were over and for the first time, Fadeke did not look forward to going home. Kemi had practically become her roommate as she had moved all her belongings into her room. She noticed Fadeke hadn’t packed anything three days after their exams were over and decided to ask.
“Aren’t you going home?”
“I can’t say yet”.
“Why? You were always one of the first students to go home”.
“Is it about Chinedu?”
Fadeke looked at her with surprise.
“I see and hear a lot but ignore them because firstly, they are not my business and secondly, I came to school to study”.
“Was that the reason why you kept away from everybody all these while?”
Kemi smiled. “Kind of. You all had your cliques and I didn’t fit into any”.
“That’s because you always looked aloof and I don’t mean to be rude or pry into your affairs; your dress sense is wacky”.
She laughed. “I don’t need anyone’s approval”. She continued; getting serious “I noticed Chinedu hasn’t been coming to visit you like he did last semester. Is everything okay between you guys?”
“Yes. He got retained in his job in Abuja, so he can’t visit like he used to”.
“Congrats. I’m happy for both of you”.
“You don’t seem happy. Is there something wrong?”
Fadeke looked at her. Over the past few weeks, they had become quite close. She had found out that Kemi was an orphan and was sponsored in school by a paternal uncle whose wife resented her. Her uncle and his wife had two kids of their own. She lived more like a servant in her uncle’s house; doing the dishes, cleaning the house, washing the children’s dresses and doing everything she was bided by her uncle’s wife. To allow her concentrate on her studies, her uncle had told her to get a place to stay on campus; he had however, left her to sort out the financing herself. This had meant squatting throughout her first three years on campus. She had moved from room to room sleeping where she was accommodated for the night. She also did some menial jobs after school hours in order to earn some money to pay for her handouts and the few textbooks she could afford. She was only entitled to school fees; her uncle had told her and she was grateful for that.
Fadeke wondered how much she could tell her. Since Tochukwu’s change in behavior, she had learnt not to trust anyone, including her so called “clique” like Kemi called them. Kemi was looking at her still expecting a response to her question.
“No, there’s nothing wrong”.
She shrugged. “When you need a listening ear, I’ll be right here”.
She smiled at her new friend. There was something about her that she admired. The fact that even in the midst of all her misfortunes, she seemed unperturbed. She knew she would learn to trust again someday and maybe then, Kemi would be the one to trust.
Photo Credit: http://www.wikihow.com