“Hello mum”. She answered cradling her phone between her left ear and her shoulder. She had been preparing amala (yam flour paste) when her phone rang. The delicacy was one of Kemi’s best. Kemi had offered to assist but she had declined the offer. She felt she owed her friend as she had helped a great deal during the exam period.
“Your school is on vacation, right?”
“Aren’t you coming home?”
She did miss home but she wasn’t ready to face her father. “Should I?”
“Okay mum. When do you want me to come home?” She gave up knowing this was an argument she wasn’t going to win.
“I want you home today. I’m sending the driver right away. He should be in your school in the next hour and half or two”.
She sighed. “Okay mum”. She scooped the amala she had prepared into a bowl, poured a quarter of ewedu (Jews mallow puree) into another bowl and added a spoonful of stew. She had prepared the stew earlier and it contained all the needed body parts of a cow; shaki (stomach), abodi (intestine), pomo (skin) and ese eran (cow leg).
Kemi felt overfed. She had not eaten this well and this much in a very long while. She downed a cup of cold water and smiled. “Was this what Fadeke enjoyed alone?” She thought. She was more surprised that she was a good cook. She had assumed that as a result of her pedigree, she would be one to shy away from the kitchen.
“My mum is sending the driver to pick me up soon”. Fadeke said breaking into her thoughts.
“Are you serious? I thought you said you weren’t going home”.
“I said I wasn’t sure. She called me when I was preparing the meal”.
“I should start packing my things then”. She said standing up.
“Where are you going?”
“You mean your uncle’s house?” She had said it before she realized that it came out rude.
“That’s where I call home”.
“I didn’t mean to sound rude”.
She smiled. “I understand. Besides, like you rightly said, it’s my uncle’s house”.
Fadeke felt uncomfortable but was at a loss of what to do. Going home or to her uncle’s house; whichever it was called, was definitely not a pleasant experience for Kemi. She couldn’t take her home with her. She did not feel she knew her that well; besides, she had not pre-informed her parents that she was bringing a friend home. She could leave the keys to her room with her; that is if she was willing to spend the rest of the three weeks holiday alone. She looked at her as she moved from one corner of the room to the other packing the few dresses she had brought with her when she moved to her room. She put them in a worn travel bag and Fadeke swallowed looking at it. She hadn’t noticed the travel bag the day she had brought it in as she had moved all her things at night.
“Why are you taking all your clothes home? Are they dirty?”
Kemi laughed. “Dirty? Not at all”.
“Then why are you taking them all?” Fadeke asked again looking confused.
“I’m going to wear them at home”.
“I said I’m going to wear them at home”.
Fadeke looked more confused. “What….I….”
“They are the only clothes I have, so I wear them at home as well”. She said matter-of-factly.
“Was she having it this bad?” Fadeke thought. She wouldn’t have imagined that to be the reason why she was taking all her clothes home. She thought about all the fancy clothes she had in her wardrobe at home that she hadn’t worn for about a year; just because she had newer ones. Kemi needed clothes and that was what she was going to get.
As Fadeke was about to retire to her room, Mr. Peters tapped on the door. She had arrived home two hours earlier; had dinner with her family and told them she needed to rest. Her father had noticed that she was unusually quiet at the dining table but had decided it was best to talk to her later.
“Yes, come in. It’s open”. She called from inside.
He entered into the room and sat on the bean bag opposite the bed. “We need to talk”.
“Okay dad”. She said sitting down on the bed and looking at her feet.
“Why have you been avoiding me?”
“I want the best for you”. He paused. “And dating an Igbo boy isn’t part of the plans I have for you”.
She raised her head to look at him. “Have you thought about how I feel, dad?”
“You’ll get over it”.
She looked stunned. “I’ll get over it?”
“Yes, I’ll help you. Once you are through with your graduation, you are going abroad to do your masters”.
She couldn’t believe what she had just heard. Her father was bent on tearing them apart. He wasn’t even bothered one bit about how she felt. Anger began to rise within her and she squinted at her dad. “Okay daddy”.
“I promise you that you would be glad you took this decision”.
She said nothing.
Her dad rose up and kissed her goodnight.
As he walked out of her room, she paced round her room upset. “What right did her parents have to interfere with her life and her feelings?” They obviously had this planned. “Did they think they could take control of her life?” She had thought her father would reason with her but she hadn’t even been given an opportunity to voice her feelings. She picked up her phone to call Chinedu. It had been three days since she last spoke to him. And right now what she needed was his soothing words to calm her soul.
The three weeks holidays were over and Fadeke was back in school for her final semester. Kemi had arrived a day earlier and she had to squat with someone on campus since she did not have a key to Fadeke’s room. Getting and maintaining a mobile phone was luxury; so she couldn’t call her to find out when she would be back in school. Fadeke was just about unpacking when Kemi walked in.
“Hi. How was your break?” Kemi asked.
Fadeke understood what she meant but thought it best to keep quiet about it. This wasn’t the time. “Did you come back with your clothes?”
Kemi laughed. “Of course I did. You want me going around school naked?”
“Not really. Could you put everything outside the door?”
Kemi looked confused. “Outside the door? Are you…..”
“No, I am not sending you out”. Fadeke interrupted suddenly understanding her confusion.
“I brought you a new set of clothes. They are in that bag”. She said pointing to a travel bag she had put on the spare bed.
“You did what?”
She ignored the question. “You can try them on. I’m sure they would fit nicely”.
“But you didn’t have to”.
“Yeah, I know but I did. So can you please quit the pity party and try them on?”
Kemi was at a loss of what to say. How could she say thank you for this gesture? “Fadeke, you are a true friend. Thank you so much”. She said blinking back the tears that were beginning to gather at the corner of her eyes.
Kemi and Fadeke got closer over the next few weeks and soon they were both writing their final exams. Fadeke tried as much possible to tell her only a bit about her relationship with Chinedu. Even though, Kemi had become a good friend, she would rather keep her private life to herself. When their call up letters arrived, Kemi was posted to Plateau state while Fadeke was to stay in Lagos. Her father wasn’t ready to let her go to some unknown town, so he had gotten a friend in the NYSC office to effect his daughter’s posting to Lagos. Kemi graduated with a first class degree; and this was not lost on her other course mates. They knew she earned it. Fadeke came out with a second class upper degree and was glad she did not disappoint her parents. Her parents in turn decided to throw her a graduation party. She invited a few friends as she wasn’t interested in having a large crowd. Kemi was also at the party and her friends who knew her were amazed at how close she and Fadeke had become. One thing however kept her unhappy throughout the party; Chinedu’s inability to attend. He couldn’t take time off work; he had said.
By the time her friends were about to leave, the doorman brought her a wrapped box about three feet high and said it had just been delivered by a courier. She wondered what it was about. She took it from him and placed it on the dining table. Her friends however did not want to miss the moment and asked her to open it. She reluctantly opened it after much pressure and found a massive teddy bear holding a heart shaped pillow close to its heart. She noticed there were inscriptions on the pillow and she moved closer to read what was written on it. “I love you so much, baby”. Tears gathered around the corner of her eyes as her friends hugged her. Even though, he hadn’t been able to make it, he had put a smile on her face.
“So when would you like to leave the country?” Mr. Peters asked. Her friends had all left about an hour earlier and she was tired and wanted to go to bed.
“It’s too early to decide, dad”.
“Why? Don’t you want to do your masters immediately?”
“When I am through with my youth service, I’d decide”.
He shrugged. “Okay, if you say so”. He looked towards the teddy bear still sitting on the couch. “Where did that come from?”
“Chinedu sent it”.
“Yes dad. Chinedu, my boyfriend”.
He pulled her by the cheeks smiling. “You can keep it if you want to but I’m sure you know that you aren’t going to marry him”.
She walked towards the couch, picked up the teddy bear and put it on her hip like she would a baby. “I’m going to bed, dad. I’m really tired and I’m beginning to have a headache”.
“Okay darling. Have a good night rest”. As she walked past him, he held her by the hand. “I love you. You know that, don’t you?”
She looked up at him and smiled. “Yes dad. I do”.
She put the teddy bear on her bed with a sad smile. “Why did things have to be this way”. She loved her father and did not want to go against him but she also loved Chinedu, even more. Her father’s refusal to accept him was tearing her apart. A tear slid down her cheek and she lay down on her bed hugging the bear. As she sobbed quietly, the day took its toll on her and she was soon fast asleep.
The National Youth Service Camp was over in three weeks and Mr. Peters pulled enough strings to ensure his daughter was posted to one of the foremost banks in the country. Fadeke put her all into her job as she knew her prospects of getting retained were quite high. Kemi, on the other hand was posted to a telecommunications company. She kept in touch with Fadeke and both of them grew closer even though they were miles away. Chinedu came home on a few occasions when the company he worked for sent him on assignments in Lagos and on such occasions, he made his visit worthwhile. He made another attempt at visiting the Peter’s home.
Even though Mrs. Peters welcomed him, she told him she was at a loss of what to do as her husband had refused to listen to her entreaties to let them be. Chinedu became more confused than ever. There was no way he could get married to Fadeke without her father’s consent. He thought about coming to visit when he was home so they could discuss man to man but Mrs. Peters advised against it. She was okay with him dating her daughter but coming to talk to her husband was recognizing trouble and walking into it head-on. “He needed to give her husband time”. She had said.
Chinedu decided to listen to the voice of reason and give Mr. Peters time. If that was what his wife said he needed; so be it. Even though, he felt time was against him as he was settled and ready to make Fadeke his wife, he knew there was no point pushing it. He would wait till he was accepted by Mr. Peters.
The one year youth service rolled to a finish and Fadeke got retained in the bank. She was transferred to the head office. Kemi was also retained but was moved from Plateau state to Abuja; where she was meant to understudy the job for a few months before being made a team lead. She was overjoyed and Fadeke also shared in her joy. She couldn’t believe what she was offered. God had finally put a smile on her face and she cried tears of joy when she received her letter.
Fadeke had worked for a few months in the bank when she was asked to go with three of her colleagues to Abuja to commence a project. The project was to be handled by the Abuja team but they needed assistance from the head office to get the project going. The head office team was meant to be in Abuja for a week before handing over the project to the Abuja team. Fadeke was overjoyed that she had been picked. It was an opportunity given her to become skilled at her job and most importantly; it was an opportunity to be with Chinedu for a whole week.
She put a call to Chinedu informing him of what was going on. “So, that’s it”.
“Cool. But I’m sure your office would have booked a hotel for everyone, right?”
“Yeah, they did”.
“Write down my address. It is Flat 4, number 202, Babatunde Fashola way, Wuse”.
“Which hotel are you guys staying in?”
“The Falcon hotel”.
“Oh, that’s at Wuse as well. It’s about a stone throw from my place”.
“That’s cool then. We would be in Abuja next Friday”.
“I’d expect you then”.
After the call ended, Fadeke couldn’t contain the joy she felt. Even though Friday was just 7 days away, she felt like it was forever. She went home that night with renewed energy. In a week, she would be with Chinedu and that was all that mattered right now.