Gboyega looks on as Bola walks away. He had noticed her when she came into school as a fresher and he had felt there was something strange about her. He knew it was beyond being just a girl studying Civil Engineering. There was more to her and he had been curious to find out. He watched her from afar hoping to understand her peculiar personality. When he found out that her life revolved around school, fellowship and the hostel, he had smiled. One of those born-again chicks. They had always being a mystery to him. There was something about them that he just did not understand.
His parents were not religious. They attended church whenever they felt like it. And their kids, all seven boys always stayed away on such days. His parents were secondary school teachers who believed that as long as their kids were morally upright, they were fine. The boys however, all engaged in one vice or the other without the knowledge of their parents.
Two years ago, he lost them on a trip back from their hometown. They had travelled home to attend the burial of a family friend who had died of a heart failure. The bus conveying them had somersaulted a number of times after a burst tyre. The bus had been mangled and bodies were thrown out during the mishap. There were no survivors.
Gboyega suddenly became an orphan with six younger brothers to take care of. He tried to keep his brothers as one family but they all rebelled. Family members deserted them and life became tough. This further hardened the boys and the centre of their family could no longer hold. Each went his own way taking his destiny into his hands and struggling to chart the course of his life.
It had been a sober day for him during one of the crusades organized by a church close to his house. He had been loitering around thinking about what had become of his life and that of his siblings when he felt a strong urge to go into the crusade ground. He looked around and saw joy radiating as the people danced and worshipped God.
When the pastor started preaching, he looked around wondering if anyone had mentioned his travails to the pastor. The pastor kept on talking as if he was referring directly to him. He stood up in annoyance thinking someone was playing pranks on him. But as he was about to leave the crusade ground, right before his presence, he saw flashes of his life before him. He saw himself struggling in vain to come out of a dark pit. The pit was deep and hollow. He looked up and there was bright light at the top of the pit. He cried out but no one heard him. His voice bounced back to him in deafening echoes. All of a sudden, he started to sink. He stretched out his hand for a lifeline but there was nothing to hold on to. The more he struggled, the more he sank deeper. He was neck deep in the bog and was about to be enveloped in the darkness of the pit when he suddenly came to himself and realized that he was still standing in front of the crusade ground. He turned back and right there on his seat, he called on God to save him. He could not boast of his past and he was haunted daily by a past misdeed. He continuously prayed every day that God will forgive him for all the wrongs he had done in the past.
Gboyega becomes a regular in the fellowship longing to know more about God. His lifestyle changes and he garners a lot of whispers within campus. His close friends notice his turnaround and they are surprised. He moves close to Bola trying to learn more about God from her. When he is confused about a scripture, he calls on her to expatiate which she gladly does. At other times, she refers him to the pastor of the fellowship. His changed life has an effect on a few of his friends and some also turn a new leaf.
A few days to his graduation, Gboyega attends his last fellowship meeting. After the service, he walks up to Bola and asks if he can accompany her to her hostel.
“Okay.” She replies.
“I want to thank you for being a good friend and helping me in getting grounded in Christ.”
“Oh don’t mention. What are we friends for?”
Gboyega stops and holds Bola by the hand. “Bola, I want us to be more than friends.”
Bola looks at him confused. “I don’t understand.”
“I mean, am I allowed to date you?”
“Date me?” She looks at him, shock written on her face. “I see you as an elder brother.”
“But I am not.”
“I’m sorry Gboyega, I can’t date you.” Bola says as she starts walking ahead. She looks back at him. “Thanks for walking me to my hostel.”
Gboyega stands still at the spot where he had stopped Bola. She walks away without a second look at him. Their friendship had grown over the past months and he saw her beyond being friends. He had fallen in love with her. He had tried to lighten his proposition by telling her he wanted to date her. What he actually wanted was to spend a lifetime with her. But he had been unable to bring himself to tell her. She would have thought he had gone bonkers. She was so different. He had had his fair share of ladies in the past but Bola was nothing compared to them. He hadn’t planned on falling in love with her. But it had happened and he could not deny it. He was leaving school in a few days; and in about two months, he would be going for the compulsory National Youth Service. He did not want to leave without declaring his feelings for her.
As he turned to walk back to his hostel, he thought. “How am I supposed to tell that I love her if she won’t let me?”
Bola walks into her room tired. Her room is empty. As usual, her roommates have gone for either a party or hangout. Sometimes, she wonders how she copes living with such roommates. They all lived for the moment. They knew Bola’s stance and tried as much as possible to respect her. One of them had actually confided in her once about changing her lifestyle. She said not having enough to spend had pushed her to hang out with the others. She wanted to be seen as one of the happening girls on campus. Bola had smiled and asked her if that was her main purpose in school. She had been sober but it had lasted only for a day. The next day, she was back in the company of the others. She did not want to be seen as a living the life of a bore.
Bola had gone straight from lectures to fellowship. She was hoping no one would try to make small talk with her as she sneaked away after the service was over. She was therefore surprised that Gboyega had still found her. His question about dating her had come as a shock. She was not interested in dating anyone much less someone she took as an elder brother. Yes, he was not her brother but he could pass for one. She had a lot ahead of her and a relationship was not part of what she saw right now. She pushes away thoughts of him and lies on her bed. In a few minutes, she drifts off into deep sleep.
Gboyega’s graduation day is here and he has no one to invite. He asks Bola if she would be his guest and she obliges. When it is time to take pictures, she looks around wondering where his family members are but sees no one. After the event, he asks her to walk with him to his hostel to pick his luggage. “How come no one came for your graduation? I thought you would have invited your family.” Bola asks.
“I don’t have a family.”
Bola stops short. A confused look on her face. “You don’t have a family? How is that possible?”
Gboyega smiles as he holds her hand so she can continue walking. “I lost my parents two years ago. We have been deserted by family. My six brothers all live their lives the way they deem fit.”
“I’m….I’m so sorry. I did not know that.” Bola says sadly.
“I know. I don’t like talking about my past.”
They walk silently for some minutes; each lost in his own thoughts. When they get to the boys hostel, Bola tells him she would rather wait outside. Gboyega nods and goes inside alone. A few minutes later, he emerges with two travel bags and a knapsack on his back. Bola asks if she can help him with his knapsack and he takes it off his back, balancing it squarely on hers. They proceed and walk towards the campus gate.
“Where is home?” Bola asks.
“Okay. And where were you were posted to?”
“I was posted to Ogun state.”
Bola smiles. “That’s nice. At least, you were not thrown into a bush where you would have to go in search of network to receive calls.”
“Does that mean I should expect your calls?”
“Would you rather I don’t call?” Bola teases.
“I would love to hear your voice every day and today’s pictures would remind me of you even when I am far away.”
Bola looks away. “Abeg, don’t start oh. What’s with all the ‘mushy mushy’ talk?”
“I meant what I said the last time and much more.” Gboyega stops walking.
Bola also stops and looks up at him. “And I also meant what I said as well. Sincerely, Gboyega, can we just remain friends and leave a relationship out of this?”
Gboyega shrugs. “Okay. If that’s how you want it.”
“Thank you.” Bola replies as they resume walking again.
They arrive at the garage some few minutes later and Gboyega loads his luggage into the next public bus on queue. Since it is going to take a while to fill up, Bola decides to hang around with him till the bus moves. They find a comfortable place to sit down and order two cold bottles of coke from a food vendor.
“So, I have never asked about your family as well?” Gboyega asks.
“I lost my dad two years ago as well. My family is just me and my mum. I am an only child.”
“I’m sorry about your dad.” Gboyega says looking at her. “What does it feel like to be an only child?”
Bola shrugs. “Sometimes, it feels lonely. No one to talk to or confide in. But mum tries her best to fill in the gap.” She says staring at the bottle of coke in her hand.
“I feel that way too sometimes. Lonely. Since my parents’ death, everything has been in disarray. My brothers don’t care about each other. I have tried to bring them together but nothing seems to work. I guess the rejection by family members worsened it. I once thought about ending it all….”
Bola raises up her head in shock.
“I was just tired. It was the same day I walked into a crusade ground and everything changed from then.” He says smiling.
“I’m glad that happened.”
“Me too.” Gboyega says as he holds her hand.
The bus fills up and Bola nudges him gently. “You should go now.”
Gboyega gets up still holding on to her hand. Bola becomes uncomfortable and tries to remove her hand from Gboyega’s hold. He looks at her straight in the eyes and smiles as he drops her hand gently.
They hand over their empty bottles to the food vendor and Gboyega takes his seat in front beside the driver. “I will miss you.” He says as Bola stands by his side.
Bola looks away and does not respond.
The bus drives off before Bola decides to leave for campus.
As she walks back to her hostel, she pulls out her copy of Gboyega’s graduation picture from an envelope. Even though he is smiling, his eyes are sad. She remembers what he said about his family and brothers. How sad that no family member had been there to share in his joy. She put the picture back into the envelope and sighs. At least, she had her mother, Gboyega had no one.
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