The second semester was in full swing and all students ran around in order to get their course forms signed by their lecturers. A few of them had started receiving lectures and every nook and cranny of the school was filled with students. Fadeke and Tochukwu had settled down in their hostel and by an unspoken agreement, they both steered clear of discussing about Chinedu.
Fadeke hadn’t had the time to ask Chinedu about Tochukwu’s behaviour and the more she thought about it, the more she felt there was probably nothing to it. Fadeke and Chinedu still went for lunch together but not as frequently as it had been in their first semester. Chinedu was getting busier with lectures as most of them weren’t spaced apart. Everything went on smoothly and before they realized, it was time for another round of exams. School grew tense as students stayed out late to organize tutorial lectures for themselves while a few read in the halls overnight.
In three weeks, exams were over and students started saying their goodbyes. Fadeke made up her mind she wasn’t going to make the same mistake like the last time. She called Chinedu to find out if she could visit him in his hostel since he had adamantly refused to visit hers. He had no choice but to oblige. He had kept her away from his hostel for too long. Besides, Tochukwu was the threat; he thought. As he prepared a dish of noodles spiced with onions, tomatoes and sardine, he reminisced on his encounter with Kunle the previous night.
Kunle had come to his room so they could read together and share notes on a subject. After discussing for about an hour, Kunle asked, “My guy, are you really serious with this Fadeke babe? You guys seem to be getting fond of each other by the day”.
“I told you I was”.
“I know you did but don’t you think you may be going a little too fast. I mean, give yourself another shot at someone else.”
“You mean I should double date?” Chinedu queried.
“It is not called double dating. It is having an insurance against any eventuality”.
“Which could be?” Chinedu looked at his friend, his eyebrows raised.
“Hey, dawg, don’t look at me that way. You could get hurt. You know that, don’t you?”
“Yes, I know I could get hurt. But you know who would do that; the other lady you want me to have as insurance”.
“You can’t be too sure about that. Ladies are all the same. They stick to you like leeches when all is well and turn their backs on you when the going gets tough”. Kunle said matter-of-factly.
“If they are truly leeches, wouldn’t you rather deal with one than combat with two?”
“Well, I mean no harm. It’s just that you aren’t experienced at this game, that’s why I’m bothered”. Kunle said shrugging his shoulders.
Chinedu laughed. “I understand your pain, man. I’m up to the task”.
He smiled as he thought about Kunle’s concern. He needed to meet Fadeke to realize that she was totally different. He had brought in his cooked pot of noodles from the kitchen when he heard a knock on his door. “It’s open”. He called out.
Fadeke opened the door gently and peeped in. Chinedu wasn’t wearing a shirt and had his back to the door. She entered into the room and as he turned around to welcome her, she put her hand to her mouth. “Hi dear, is there a problem?” He asked.
“No. I’m just….well, you look hot without a shirt on”. She said shyly avoiding his gaze.
“Thank you”. He answered as he set down the pot on a pot stand.
“You obviously work out”.
“Well, not every day. I only do when I have the time”.
“So, what’s cooking?” She asked changing the topic to hide her nervousness.
“Why don’t you sit down, then I’ll let you in on my special dish”. Chinedu laughed.
She sat on the chair by the reading table and fidgeted with her hands. Chinedu noticed and took his shirt from where he had hung it by the wall and wore it. As he buttoned his shirt, he continued, “I prepared my special noodles for you”.
“Special noodles for me?” She asked giggling, clearly more relaxed.
“Yes. Don’t make fun of it. It is a delicacy any day”.
“Don’t you think I should be the judge of that?” She teased.
“Alright”. He said picking up a plate and dishing a spoonful of noodles into it. “My Lord, may I know my judgment”. He said doing a mock bow and stretching out the plate to Fadeke.
She collected the plate from him and took a forkful of noodles and smiled. Chinedu looked at her face expectant. “So?” He asked impatiently.
“Here is my judgment”. She said smiling.
Chinedu stood at attention with his face morose. On seeing the look on Chinedu’s face, Fadeke burst out laughing. She laughed so hard that tears streamed down her eyes; all the while Chinedu smiled.
“I love it when you laugh”. He said when she stopped laughing. She looked away shy, that she had loosened up too much. Chinedu noticed and quickly changed the topic.
“So, you were about to deliver your judgment?”
“Nice and spicy. I hope you like it”. He said getting another plate so he could dish for himself.
They ate and talked for close to three hours discussing about their exams and agreeing to leave school the same day. Chinedu hadn’t forgotten his encounter with Tochukwu last semester and he did not want a repeat performance. Fadeke also succeeded in convincing him to ride with her to Lagos instead of going by public transport. After all was settled, Chinedu walked her down to the bus-stop. As he walked back to his room, he smiled to himself. Kunle was wrong. If anyone was going to get him hurt, it definitely wasn’t Fadeke.
The holidays were soon over before they realized it and they started preparing for another session in a hurry. Chinedu went to his mum’s room the night before travelling to discuss with her.
“Mum, I have found the lady I want to spend the rest of my life with. I would love to marry her when the time is right”. He said.
“Yes”. He nodded.
“Hmm”. She exhaled. “Are you sure?”
“I have never been so sure of anything. We have only dated for a year but I feel like I have known her for so long. Mummy, you would love her when you meet her. She’s so unassuming and gentle”.
“A year is quite short. Don’t you think so?” She looked at her son. “However, if you love her that much, I guess I would give you my blessings….”
Chinedu was so happy, he stood up from where he was sitting to hug his mother.
“I haven’t finished”. She said returning the hug. “I have to meet her before I can give you my total blessings”.
“That is not a problem, mum. I’ll bring her home during our next holidays. Is that okay?”
She shook her head in an unsure manner and shrugged, “Okay. It’s fine by me”.
As Chinedu lay on his bed trying to catch some sleep that night, he received a text message from Fadeke. She asked him to wait at an agreed bus-stop so that they could ride together to school. It was a nice idea but he did not think it was a wise one. Her dad’s driver was going to drop her at school. What if someone saw him in her father’s car? He objected replying that he would rather go by public transport. He received another text from her a minute later asking if he was ashamed of her and did not want to be seen with her. He replied immediately saying he would never be ashamed of her as she had become a part of him. Fadeke smiled on reading the text. “Then prove it by riding with me”. She replied. He thought about it for a while. He could save some money and also catch up on some gist on the journey back. “Okay, you win. Pick me up at Berger bus-stop”. He texted back to her.
The journey back to school was uneventful. They sat together at the back of Fadeke’s father Lexus Jeep and talked on end about the new session and the expectations of most students. Chinedu noticed that Fadeke grew quiet when he mentioned the freshers who would be milling around the school the next few weeks. She seemed lost in thought all of a sudden and he guessed the security of their relationship was on her mind. How was he to broach the topic? It did not seem like the right place as he did not want the driver overhearing what he had to say.
She did have a lot on her mind. Was Chinedu going to stick to her as promised? She would not be able to handle it if he eventually confirmed her fears. She hoped against all that for her sake, he would surprise everyone. Tochukwu would be the first to laugh her to scorn if Chinedu ever broke off their relationship. As she looked out the window, her heart pounded in her chest and she willed it to be still.
Fadeke clasped and squeezed her hands in anxiety. Chinedu wished he could pull her into his arms and reassure her that his love for her had come to stay. Trying not to be noticed by the driver, he stretched out his hand and held hers. She turned to look at him and there were tears in her eyes. He shook his head and smiled and she knew without words that she had nothing to fear.