The next session started a few weeks later. It was their final year and Enitan was bent on having Ajoke for keeps before she fell out of his reach. He started picking her up from home on days they had lectures and they drove to school together. They talked about various issues on their ride to and from school. He asked about her children’s father and she told him he was dead. As far as she was concerned, that is what he was to her. Dead! She told him about her salon and how she managed it together with her studies. Enitan got more impressed daily by her doggedness to succeed.
Gradually, he started getting involved in her children’s lives; having man-to-man talks with Adegbenro and seeking Adebola’s approval of his relationship with her mother. He should have had no reason to worry; they already liked him. He met Iya Ajoke when she came to stay with the kids so that Ajoke could prepare for her first semester exams. She had been happy that her daughter was finally going to pick up the pieces of her life. She and Baba Ajoke had regretted their actions in the past and this time, they were going to take a back seat and allow their daughter to chart the course of her life.
The first semester exams inched nearer as Enitan and Ajoke got closer by the day. They soon became inseparable and their classmates began to call them a couple. Most of them were not surprised at their relationship and even told them they deserved each other. They were given a short vacation after their exams and Enitan used it as his opportunity to get acquainted with Ajoke’s business. He gave her ideas on how to improve on her services and his idea brought a huge turn-out of clients to her salon.
The second semester began a few weeks later and a feverish feeling fell over most of the students. It was their final semester in school and a number of students had mixed feelings. The semester moved faster than expected and their final exams were soon at the corner. Enitan and Ajoke studied most evenings in Enitan’s house sharing and comparing notes and ideas. After long hours of studying, Enitan would order a quick take-out for dinner before dropping Ajoke at home.
Their results came out a few weeks after their exams and Ajoke and Enitan graduated with a first class. It had been a joyous day for both of them as they hugged each other; grateful that their hard work had paid off. Ajoke was happy that finally; she was a graduate and she was grateful to Kokumo for it. She sent him a text message informing him about her result and asked if he would not mind attending her graduation in school. He called her when he received her text message. He congratulated her and told her he was proud of her but declined attending her graduation. Ajoke had been at a loss for what to say. She had wanted him to be a part of her big day but he told her he was unable to make out time. Enitan was a few metres away from her; talking to his uncle and his wife as he gave them the good news and invited them to his graduation. She turned away as her eyes filled with tears.
The graduation ceremony took place a week later. Enitan and Ajoke were both given awards for the best graduating students in their department. Their score had been a tie and the Dean of their faculty had decided they both deserved it.
It was a joyous day for all the graduating students and they could all be seen taking pictures with friends and family. Ajoke had invited only her brother, Adisa for the ceremony. She smiled as Enitan took pictures of her and Adisa with her mobile phone. She was about to collect the phone from Enitan when someone tapped her lightly on her shoulder.
“Would you mind taking a picture with me on my phone?”
She turned around and gasped. She hugged Kokumo tightly as a child who had missed her mother would.
“You said you were not coming.” She said.
“I know but I thought long and hard about it and decided to make it.”
“This means so much to me.” Ajoke said smiling.
“I know.” Kokumo said as he brushed her cheeks lightly with his thumb.
Enitan stood uncomfortably as he watched the show of affection between the two.
“Enitan, meet Kokumo; my best friend from way back in secondary school.” Ajoke said as she looked at Enitan. “Kokumo, meet Enitan.” She said as she introduced them.
Enitan stretched out his hand to shake Kokumo. “Hi.”
“Hello.” Kokumo said as he took the extended hand. “Could you take a picture of us together?”
“Sure, why not?” Enitan replied. He took the phone from Kokumo and took a picture of him and Ajoke who was beaming with smiles as she put her hand around Kokumo.
Kokumo did not miss the look in Enitan’s eyes every time he looked at Ajoke and he thought it wise to make his visit a very short one. He congratulated both graduates and wished them success in their journey to Law school. Ajoke wanted to see him off to his car but he told her not to bother as he did not want her leaving her friend alone.
“Oh, his uncle is here. Let me see you off quickly.” She said. She turned to talk to Enitan but noticed he was already walking towards his uncle. Adisa was also seated with Enitan’s uncle and both of them seemed engrossed in a conversation.
“I told you.” Ajoke said as she turned back to Kokumo. They started walking towards Kokumo’s car which was parked a few metres away from the hall.
“He loves you. Please give him a chance.”
Ajoke turned to look at Enitan. He was talking to his uncle’s wife but she noticed for the first time that he wasn’t smiling. “You think so?”
“Yes Ajoke. It is very obvious.”
Ajoke exhaled. “I like him but I haven’t been able to forget about you and…..”
Kokumo stopped walking and looked at Ajoke. “You have to. You can’t bring your life to a standstill. You know I almost did not come here today simply because of this. I did not want to bring back memories which should stay buried.”
“I know and I’m trying. He is really sweet but I don’t want to hurt him.”
They got to Kokumo’s car and Ajoke rested on it.
“I have a family now. You should build yours with that young man. Open your heart to him. Live your life again and live it to the fullest. You deserve it.”
Tears filled Ajoke’s eyes as she thought about Kokumo’s words.
“Thank you.” She said as she hugged Kokumo.
“You are welcome.” Kokumo said hugging her back.
Kokumo eased into his car and started the engine. He smiled as he looked at her.
“I will never forget you, Kokumo and I will always love you.” Ajoke said as she placed her hand on her heart.
“You will always remain here.” Kokumo said as he tapped the left hand side of his chest.
Kokumo drove away and Ajoke stood there till his car disappeared in sight.
Ajoke sighed as she used her fingers to dab her eyes to stop the tears that were threatening to spill. When she gathered her emotions together, she walked back to the graduation venue looking out for Enitan.
His uncle, his aunt and Adisa were about leaving when she got there and she apologized for her time away.
“Oh, it’s fine. Enitan told us you were seeing off a friend that came for your graduation.” Enitan’s aunt said.
“Should we expect to see you soon for a visit?”
“That depends on Enitan, ma.” Ajoke said as she looked at Enitan.
“Okay then. I hope to see her soon.” Enitan’s aunt said smiling as she turned to Enitan.
They all walked to the car park where Kokumo’s car had been parked a few minutes ago and Enitan’s uncle offered to drop Adisa where he could get a bus back home.
The trio eased into the car after congratulating Enitan and Ajoke again with hugs. Enitan’s uncle started the engine while Enitan and Ajoke stood and waved as the car drove away.
Ajoke noticed that Enitan was unusually quiet as he drove home. They had earlier agreed to have dinner on their graduation day.
“Are you okay, Enitan?” Ajoke asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Enitan said as he looked at her but his trademark smile was missing.
Enitan parked in front of his residence and eased out of the car without a word. Ajoke was confused as she eased out of the car and walked behind him.
He opened the door and slumped into the couch in the living room as he closed his eyes.
Ajoke stood before him wondering what the problem was. “Enitan, is something wrong? You have been unusually quiet.”
Enitan sat up and looked straight at Ajoke. “Maybe because you decided to disregard my feelings and flaunt your ex-boyfriend before me? Huh? Don’t you think that is enough to make me “unusually” quiet?” He said as he raised his hand to signify his quote.
Ajoke exhaled as she sat down beside him. “Kokumo and I were best friends in secondary school. We had plans for a future together but my parents gave me out in marriage while Kokumo was still in the university. My father wanted me to get married on time because he could not afford a university education. He felt my husband would send me to school. Kokumo and I were heart-broken but there was nothing we could do. I got married, had my kids and met Kokumo again ten years later. He asked why I hadn’t gone back to school and I told him I had a salon already. He reminded me of my dream to become a lawyer and encouraged me to go back to school.”
Ajoke paused as she held Enitan’s hands.
“He bought me the GCE form that same year with all the reading materials that I needed and also bought me the Jamb form the next year. He made sure I did not lack as he provided for me throughout the school sessions.”
“So why didn’t he get married to you?” Enitan asked, a confused look on his face.
“He had a fiancée he was committed to already. Letting him go still remains the most difficult decision I have ever taken. Not long after that, you asked to be my friend. At that point in my life, I was not interested in any man and I felt love was no longer worth it.”
“Do you still love him?”
Ajoke took a deep breath.
“I assume that means a yes. So what are you doing with me? Are you playing games with my heart?” Enitan asked as he stood up.
Ajoke could hear and feel his hurt and pain deeply etched in every word he spoke.
“No, Enitan.” She said as she stood up and walked towards him. “I would never do anything to hurt you. Kokumo told me it was obvious that you love me. He asked me to open my heart to you and receive the love you have for me.”
“How else am I meant to show my love for you, Ajoke?” Enitan asked in frustration.
Ajoke held Enitan’s hands as she embraced him. “I’m sorry. I did not want to hurt you.”
“I love you Ajoke. I always have since the day I set my eyes on you.” Enitan whispered into her ears. He kissed the nape of her neck and Ajoke shivered. He pulled her away from his body and cradled her face; tracing his finger on her lips. Ajoke looked at him and the only thing she saw in his eyes was love. He loved her and she was willing to give him a chance. She closed her eyes; it was time to let Kokumo go.
Enitan closed the space between them as he kissed her gently at first. She let out a sigh of surrender as Enitan took her lips and ravaged them in a passionate kiss.
The story continues…
Photo Credit: http://www.wikihow.com