“An important visitor! Well, let’s go see who this important visitor is.” Shalewa said to herself as she walked towards her bathroom suite.
As warm water from the shower coursed down her back, she remembered how she had fallen in love with one of her neighbours when she was fifteen. He was just a year older than her. They were both young and naïve but they had loved each other. The park opposite their houses was their favourite spot. They would take walks round it holding hands and gisting. They would sit in the park and talk for hours loosing track of time. They talked about school, their parents, movies and their dreams of the future. They never ran out of what to talk about. They were in different secondary schools as boarding students but that did not deter their friendship. They exchanged letters while they were in school and looked forward to every break in the school session. Everyone in the neighborhood knew where one was, the other had to be there.
One afternoon during the mid-term break of their second year in the senior class, Akin Savage had come running to the park in tears. He looked flustered and was struggling to speak. Shalewa had been sitting down waiting for him. She grabbed him, shaking him as if he were a child that had been caught misbehaving. “What is it? Why are you crying?”
“My…my…my mum says I have to continue my education abroad.” He stammered as he choked on his words.
“Abroad? But why? Your school is one of the best in the country. Why do they want you to go abroad?” Shalewa had asked.
“She says that’s what my dad wants. I don’t know why. I have tried to explain to her that I don’t want to go but she would not listen. She says it has been concluded and that I am leaving in two days.”
“Does that mean I won’t see you again?” Shalewa asked; tears streaming down her cheeks.
“I don’t know.” He answered fidgeting. “Why does my dad want to separate us? Do you think he doesn’t want us to be together?”
Shalewa who was already sobbing could not utter a word. Could it be true that Akin’s dad was trying to separate them? His dad had seen them together on many occasions. Both families were friends and there had never been a complaint from Akin’s father. The two families were regarded as the closest in the neighbourhood. Akin’s father was very wealthy and had sent his son to one of the best schools in the country while Shalewa’s father on the other hand, even though not as wealthy as Akin’s father had prospects of being so. He was a hardworking man with very sharp business instincts.
For a while, both of them sat down locked in each other’s embrace as they sobbed. They could not understand the reason for the sudden movement and it looked like no one was going to give an explanation for it. They tried to talk about what they would do in each other’s absence but it only kept the tears flowing. Sitting right there in the park, they were oblivious to their environment. They just wanted to spend this moment together and cherish it. They promised each other that day to do everything they could to keep in touch and in that moment of sadness; they shared their first kiss. It had been magical even though grief hovered around them. Shalewa had laid her head on Akin’s shoulders and they sat there in silence till the sun went down.
For the next two days, as if on cue, they both avoided the park. Funke had asked her daughter on one occasion. “Shalewa, are you okay? You have not been eating well. Are you worried about something?”
Shalewa had not been sure whether to tell her mum. On second thoughts, she felt she should; maybe her mum could help her convince the Savages not to send their son abroad.
“Mum, could you and dad discuss something with Akin’s dad?” She asked fidgeting with her fingers.
“Okay, and what would that be?” Funke asked.
Shalewa was quiet and unable to look at her mother in the face. She had no idea how to present the issue to her mother.
Funke sensing that her daughter was a little uneasy, pulled her daughter into her arms. “Omoshalewa mi. I’m your mother and you can talk to me. What do you want us to discuss with Akin’s father?”
Shalewa gulped, trying hard to control the tears that were already spilling down her cheeks. “They are sending him away, mum.”
“Sending him away? What do you mean?” Funke asked searching her daughter’s face.
“Mummy, Akin is going abroad. His father doesn’t want him to see me again.” She cried.
All of a sudden, reality hit Funke. The Savages had told them about their intention to send their son to the United States to continue his education but both parents had obviously underestimated the friendship between their kids. Being the only children of both parents, they had assumed that the lack of siblings had attracted them to each other and believed that was the basis for their friendship. They never thought there was more to the walks in the park and the long hours of chatting.
“Hmm…Omoshalewa mi.” Funke said; thinking of how best to explain to her daughter without hurting her feelings. “Akin’s father loves you like his own so it is not possible that he would hurt you intentionally. It’s just that he wants Akin to continue his education abroad so that when he returns to the country, he has better prospects of getting an excellent job.”
“But won’t he get a good job here if he studies in the country?” Shalewa asked trying to figure out what her mother was saying. All she wanted was for her mother to tell Akin’s father not to send his son abroad.
“Omoshalewa…” Funke stressed. “Akin’s parents have made a decision for their only child, who am I to question it?”
“Mum…I…I…” She burst out in uncontrollable tears before she could tell her mum she loved him. Did they realize what they were doing to her? They were tearing her heart apart. She knew she liked Akin a lot but right now she realized she didn’t just like him. She loved him with every piece of her heart.
Shalewa wasn’t the only one having a difficult time; Akin was as well. However, he refused to discuss anything with his parents. They had told him their decision was final so there was no point flogging the issue. He wondered what Shalewa must be going through. He knew she wasn’t strong enough to handle the emotional trauma. He wished he could change the situation but there was nothing he could do. Tomorrow, he would leave the country for the United States.
As Shalewa stepped out of the shower, she said, “It’s been 15 years, Akin and I still haven’t found someone to replace the love I had for you.” She sighed as she took out a gown from her closet, wore it and went downstairs to meet her mum.
“Our guest would be coming in at 1.00p.m. I have everything all set for an early lunch. Your dad is in the study as usual.” Funke said looking up from the fashion magazine she was flipping through.
Shalewa looked towards the dining table and gasped. “Mum, who is this guest we are expecting? I can see your finest dishes all set on the table.”
“A very important guest.” She answered without looking up from the magazine.
“He or she must have a name, right? So will you tell me who this person is?” She asked flopping on the couch beside her mum.
“Omoshalewa, you don’t flop on a couch. You take a seat like a lady.” Funke scolded as she dropped the magazine on the side stool next to her.
“Mum…..” Shalewa started to say but Funke raised her hand as if to warn her daughter.
“Okay, I’m sorry.” She said sitting up.
“It is meant to be a surprise but I’ll tell you as long as you don’t squeal to your dad.”
Shalewa put her fingers to her lips making a zipped sign. She had learnt over the years to trust her mum with any issue. Her mum was her confidant and they had stayed close for years sharing secrets and emotional upheavals.
“Do you remember Tunde Williams, the first son of Mr. Williams, your father’s old time friend?”
Shalewa thought for a while. “Tunde Williams? The name rings a bell but I don’t think I remember.”
“I’m sure you would when you meet him. He arrived from South Africa two weeks ago after he lost his father. A business deal took him to your dad’s office and your dad was delighted to see him again after so many years.”
“Hmm…and now he’s coming over for lunch with dad?” Shalewa asked looking disinterested as she picked up the magazine her mum had initially dropped on the side stool.
“No, darling. He’s coming to have lunch with you; well, with us all.”
“With me?” Shalewa questioned as she dropped the magazine. “I don’t even think I remember who this Tunde guy is; so why would he want to have lunch with me?”
“I think he likes you.” Her mum said smiling and pulling her cheeks.
“Mum!” Shalewa looked at her mother curiously. “How can he like me when he hasn’t even met me?”
“Who says he hasn’t met you. He and his dad visited our home regularly years ago. He asked after you from your dad and he was invited to come over for lunch.”
“On my behalf when….” The chime from the doorbell broke their conversation.
Funke checked her watch and gasped. “It’s 1.00pm already. Wow, just right on time. He must be the one at the door. Could you get the door, darling while I go in to inform your dad? And remember to be at your best behaviour.” She said smiling and winking at her daughter.
“Yes, mum.” Shalewa said as she stood up and straightened her gown. Whoever this guy was, must have made an impression on her parents. The name did ring a bell but she couldn’t remember who he was. Her parents were obviously trying to match-make her from all indications. With the amount of broken relationships in her kitty, it did not come as a surprise to her.
Would he end up as all the others? Well, she was going to find out.
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