Ajoke picked up the water pot she had hid in the bushes behind her house. She brought out a filled keg of water from the bushes and filled her water pot. She searched the bushes as she retrieved a small wrapper, rolled it into a ball and balanced it on her head. She bent down to carry the water pot as she placed it gingerly on her head.
As she walked the short distance to her house, she smiled as she thought about the kiss she had shared with Kokumo. She had never been kissed before and it made her ecstatic. He had turned back at the junction that led to her house. She had hoped he would kiss her again before leaving but she knew he did not because he had to be careful. Anyone could be watching them and later report her to her father or her elder brothers. She prayed in her heart and hoped he would not get into trouble with his mother when he got home.
Ajoke placed the pot of water in the small kitchen and walked to the front of the house to look for her mother. She saw her bent over a basin of garri which had just been fried. “Ëkú’ròlé màámi.” (Good evening, my mother).
“Ibo lo lö lát’àárò?” (Where have you been all day?)
“Mo lo pön omi ló’dò.” (I went to fetch water from the stream). She lied.
“Lo wá pé tótó yën?” (And it took you so long?)
“Ë má bínú. Mo rí àwön òré mi, a wá n sòrò nípa ilé ìwé. A ò mò pé àkókò ti lo.” (Don’t be angry. I saw my friends and we started discussing about school. We did not realize time had been spent).
“Kò burú. Sáré lô gbé óúnjë sóri iná fún bàbá ë àti àwön ègbón ë.” (Okay. Go and prepare food for your father and your brothers and be fast about it).
Ajoke placed her hand on her chest, wiling her heart to be still as she turned to go into the kitchen. She knew she could not afford to do this again but she was glad her journey today had been successful except for her encounter with Kokumo’s mother. She sighed as she thought about her. She hoped the woman would be more receptive to her the next time they met.
Kokumo walked into his compound and saw his mother seated outside on a low stool in the veranda. As she saw him walking in, she stood up and entered into the house. Kokumo sighed deeply as he took quick steps into the house. His mother was in the kitchen when he walked in.
“Màámi.” (My mother). He called.
She turned to look at her son. “Kí lo fé?” (What do you want?).
“Ëni tí mo fé fé nìyën.” (That is the person I intend to marry).
Iya Kokumo looked on without a response.
Kokumo closed the space between them and held his mother’s hands. “Màámi, nítorí ömö yën ni mo sé n tiraka ki n lè lö sí ilé ìwé gíga. Ti bá ti se tán, mo ma fë.” (I am doing my best to go to the University because of her. Once I am through, I will marry her).
“Sé baba ömö náà mò é?” (Does the girl’s father know you?) Iya Kokumo asked.
“Rárá mà.” (No ma).
“Kí ló wá fi é lókàn balè pé to bá se tán ní ilé ìwé gíga, o yì ma ba l’ómidan?” (What gives you the assurance that when you graduate from the University, she would still be single?)
“Àdéhùn t’émi àti è jö ní ni.” (That is the agreement between us).
Iya Kokumo took a deep breath as she removed her hands from her son’s grip. “Ölórun á bá ë sé o.” (God will do it for you, I hope). She said as she walked into her room.
Kokumo continued to till his father’s farm day and night with a mission. He hoped he would not have to defer his admission beyond one year and he worked towards achieving his objective. God smiled on him and the harvest season was bountiful. His mother had more than enough to sell and Iya Kokumo had to employ a sales girl to man another table of fruits for sale in front of their house. Iya Kokumo was overjoyed and she sang praises to God each day for not putting her to shame. She also praised Kokumo’s hardwork and told him times without number that he had made her a proud and happy mother.
Another school year was approaching and Kokumo was elated. He went back to the University of Lagos and he was re-offered his admission to read Accountancy. Since his house was a distance to the school, he knew going home every day would be a herculean task. He employed someone to manage his farm during the week while he went home every weekend to see to the on-goings on the farm. He quickly made friends in school and asked one of his course mates who had a bed space if he could squat with him. His request was accepted and he put his few belongings in a corner of his friend’s room.
Once he was settled in school, he wrote a letter to Ajoke informing her of his admission. He told her it was only a matter of time. In four years, they would be joined together as husband and wife. Ajoke received the letter a month later. She read the letter over and over, smiling each time she read it. She put it under the pillow and kissed it every night. She imagined that as she kissed it, she was kissing Kokumo wherever he was. Since she shared a room with her brothers, she was careful not to allow her brothers see her anytime she read the letter.
Just before the second semester exams, Kokumo wrote to Ajoke that he wanted to visit her. He told her he was aware her father may not allow her receive male visitors, so he proposed a date, a place and a time where they could meet. The venue was in-between the two towns, on the way to their secondary school. He figured that picking that venue would give Ajoke a sense of security and douse any fear of anyone seeing her and reporting to her father.
Ajoke wrote back responding in the affirmative. With that agreed, the wait began and both of them looked forward to the date with excitement. Ajoke had a little diary which she guarded jealously. She had written down the day she received her first kiss from Kokumo. Now, she wrote down the date she was to meet the love of her life after many weeks of being away at school.
Kokumo finished his exams and packed his few belongings into his travel bag. He had stopped shuttling between home and school just before the exams started so that he could have full concentration on his studies.
As he boarded the bus that would take him home, thoughts of Ajoke filtered into his mind. He smiled as he imagined how she was going to throw herself on him in a hug. He had missed her so much and he couldn’t wait to see her and have her in his arms.
Iya Kokumo was still in the market when Kokumo arrived home. He walked to the back of the house to drop his travel bag and then decided to go to the market. He was still a few metres away when the woman in the next stall to his mother’s shouted; “Ìya Kòkúmó, ömö yín kó ló n bò yën ni?” (Kokumo’s mother, isn’t that your son coming?)
Iya Kokumo looked up from the fruits she was arranging and started dancing on seeing her son. “Ömö mi ti dé o.” (My son is back).
Kokumo closed the distance between them and prostrated. “Ë kú ìròlé, màámi.” (Good evening, my mother).
“Kú’ròlé, ömö mi. Báwò ni ilé ìwé?” (Good evening, my son. How is school?) She asked as she pulled up her son from the floor and embraced him.
“Ilé ìwé wà dada.” (School is fine). Kokumo answered smiling.
Other women started to stretch their necks to catch a glimpse of the University student. They gossiped among themselves about Kokumo’s fortune. A university graduate in the making regardless of his father’s demise about a year ago.
Iya Kokumo began to pack up her left over fruits into a basket.
“Se ti ta öjà tán ni?” (Have you finished your sales for the day?) Kokumo asked his mother.
“Öjà wo ni mo tún fé tà, nígbàti ömö mi ti wálé?” (What else am I selling when my son has come home?) Iya Kokumo responded as she opened her palms.
“Ó da nígbà yën. Ë jé ki n bá yin palèmó.” (That is okay then. Let me help you pack up).
Fifteen minutes later, mother and son walked home with Kokumo carrying the basket of left over fruits on his head. They stopped to greet a number of villagers who were excited to see the University student.
A week later, Kokumo told his mother he needed to see a friend while Ajoke told her mother that a friend from her secondary school just came back from Lagos and wanted to see her. The two mothers told their children not to stay out too long. Iya Ajoke reminded her daughter that she needed to get back home in time to prepare dinner for her father and her brothers.
Kokumo arrived the venue of their meeting ten minutes early. The spot was a woody area off the road and not easily visible. He sat down on a log of wood and waited patiently for Ajoke. She arrived about five minutes later than the scheduled time. As she strolled into the woods, she looked out for Kokumo. He whistled and Ajoke looked in the direction of the sound. She ran towards him and hugged him holding him tightly.
“Ajoke mi.” (My Ajoke). Kokumo said endearingly as he pulled away from her grip. “I have missed you so much.” He said touching her cheeks lightly with his thumb.
“Not as much as I have.”
“You think so?”
“Prove it.” Ajoke said smilingly sheepishly.
Kokumo pulled her close and kissed her. When he eased away from her, Ajoke’s eyes were still closed and there was a smile on her lips.
“Why are you smiling?” Kokumo asked laughing.
“Because you make me have these tingly feelings anytime you do that.” Ajoke said opening her eyes.
“I love you and would love to make you have those tingly feelings all day long.”
Ajoke’s smile grew big.
“Not today.” Kokumo said as he held her hand and sat on the log of wood pulling her close beside him. “How have you been? What has been happening in my absence?”
Ajoke shrugged. “Nothing much. The same routine as usual.”
“How is your father?”
“Baami is fine. Broda Adisa has been helping him with his palm wine tapping anytime he has no customers to mend shoes for while the others are doing one job or the other. I still help Maami to sell her garri.”
“So have you been reading? You know, just to brush yourself up.” Kokumo asked as he traced his finger on her cornrows.
“I try to but most times, I listen to the radio. Baami has a small radio that he just bought. I listen to the news.” She said smiling. “How long is your holiday?”
“Just two weeks. I should be back in school by the next weekend.”
Ajoke’s smile faded. “So, I won’t see you again before you leave for school?”
Kokumo blew out air from his mouth as he pulled her close. “No. I won’t be able to come back here. I need to monitor the farm and make sure everything is in place before I leave.”
“How long do I still have to wait?”
“It’s a long time, Kokumo.” Ajoke said as tears gathered at the corner of her eyes.
Kokumo cradled her face in his hands. “Three years and it will all be over. Please wait for me.”
A stray tear traced its way down Ajoke’s cheek. “My friends are beginning to get married.”
“Don’t worry about your friends.” Kokumo said as he wiped the tear with his forefinger.
“I overheard Baami talking about marriage with Maami but she refused. She told him she still needed me at home with her.”
Kokumo nodded. “That’s good. Just try and convince them that you still need to be with your mother to help her.”
“Okay. I will.”
“I love you so much Ajoke.”
“I love you too.”
Kokumo took her lips in his again; this time he kissed her slowly and passionately. He was leaving in a few days and he wanted to have sweet memories of their last time together.
The story continues……
Photo Credit: http://www.clipartfest.com