Ajoke sneaked out of her house through the path that led to the stream. She had been restless all day. She had missed Kokumo and wanted to see him today at all costs. She knew there was no way her father or her elder brothers would allow her visit a man but she had to. It had been about four months since she saw Kokumo. The last day being the day they had written their final exams. They had promised each other to keep in touch by writing letters but she had not received any letter from him in over a month. His last letter informed her that he had been given admission into the University of Lagos and that he would be picking up his letter in a few days. She wondered if getting into the University had suddenly erased her from his memory. She had no idea of where his house was located but she was willing to make an attempt.
She took out the sheet of paper on which Kokumo had scribbled his house address. She smiled as she looked at his cursive handwriting. The same handwriting which many of their classmates had fallen in love with. She quickly folded the sheet of paper carefully and put it in the pocket of her dress. She had saved up a little change by selling the garri processed by her mum a few naira higher. She reckoned that one day, she would need cash. Today happened to be the day and the few cash she had saved up was coming in handy.
As she sat in the public bus taking her towards Kokumo’s village, she thought about the good times they spent together reading, walking home and sharing the snacks bought by Kokumo. She hoped those University girls she always heard about in skimpy wears hadn’t diverted Kokumo’s attention away from her.
The bus arrived at the last stop and she disembarked looking around like a lost child. Who could she ask for directions?
“Excuse me, ma.” She said to an elderly lady who was about disembarking from the same bus.
“Yes.” The woman responded looking at her impatiently.
“Ë jò ó mà. Àlejò ni mí ní àdúgbò yìí.” (Please ma, I am a stranger in this town). “Títì Alábéré ni mò n lö.” (I am going to Alabere street).
The woman looked at her and pointed to her left. “Títì Alábéré nì yën bèun.” (That is Alabere street over there).
Ajoke curtsied to indicate her thanks before proceeding to walk towards Alabere street. As she got to the beginning of the street, she took out the sheet of paper again to reconfirm her destination. As she walked down the street, she thought about what she would tell Kokumo’s parents. What would be her mission in his house since he was in school? How would she introduce herself to them? She suddenly realized that she hadn’t thought about all these before leaving her house. Now that she was almost at her destination, she suddenly felt foolish that she had been spontaneous about her decision to visit Kokumo’s house.
She saw the number 23 glowing in red paint from afar and knew that she had arrived her destination. The modest house was built far away from the road. Compared to other houses, it looked modern. She stood on the road and continued to look at the house. She suddenly developed cold feet and wasn’t sure she had made the right decision. She was still contemplating on what to do when she heard someone whistling a song behind her. She would recognize that voice even in her dreams. She turned back and walking towards her was Kokumo. He had a hoe over his shoulders and his brows beaded with sweat. Her jaws dropped as she looked at him.
Kokumo stopped whistling immediately he saw Ajoke standing by the entrance to his compound. He used the sleeve of his buba to wipe his brow as he dropped his hoe on the floor. Was it truly Ajoke? He wondered. He stood still and bowed his head, expecting to be scolded by her for not going ahead to fulfill his dreams but was surprised when he heard her sobbing. He looked up in shock, unable to form words.
Kokumo shook his head in confusion.
“You were supposed to go to the university, so we could have a better life together.” Ajoke said sobbing.
Kokumo closed the space between them and hugged her. He had missed her so much but had felt ashamed to write to tell her about the change of plans. “Let’s go inside and talk.” He said.
He picked up his hoe from the floor and held her hand as they walked into his compound.
Kokumo entered into the house, kept the hoe in its place and retrieved a low stool. He put the stool on the floor in the front pavement of his house and asked Ajoke to sit down.
Ajoke shook her head. “I can’t afford to stay late. I did not tell anyone where I was going.”
Kokumo sighed. “I would not delay you, Ajoke. I need you to sit down so you can listen to what I have to say.”
Ajoke sat down reluctantly.
“My father is dead, Ajoke. He died on the day I received my admission letter from Unilag.”
Ajoke looked up at Kokumo, tears filling up her eyes again. “I’m sorry. I did not know.”
Kokumo smiled sadly. “Yes, I know. I couldn’t bring myself to write to explain everything to you. I had to defer my admission till some other time so I could earn a living.”
“How naïve I was to have thought you were getting distracted in school.”
“I love you, Ajoke. Nothing and no one can get me distracted from you. I was only ashamed that I had to forget about school in the meantime and go to the farm.”
“There is no reason to be ashamed.” Ajoke said as she smiled despite her tears. “I am proud of you.”
Kokumo moved closer to Ajoke as she pulled her up into a hug. They sobbed on each other’s shoulders as they stood together locked in an embrace.
As Ajoke continued to sob, Kokumo lifted up her face and was about to plant a kiss on her lips when he heard someone cough. He stopped and looked as he noticed his mother watching them. In their grief, they had failed to notice that she had walked into the compound.
Iya Kokumo had decided to go home early. She wanted to rest as she noticed she was getting tired easily these days. She put the blame on her sleepless nights thinking about Baba Kokumo. As she trudged home, the only thing on her mind was her bed. She was therefore taken aback when she saw Kokumo in an emotional embrace with a young lady. He had never mentioned having any woman, so the sight before her had been shocking. He was about to kiss her when she knew she had to announce her presence.
“Màámi, ë káàbò mà. Ë kú àt’àárò.” (My mother, welcome back). Kokumo said suddenly startled. “Ë mà tètè dé lôní.” (You are back early today?).
“Ëkáàsán mà.” (Good afternoon ma). Ajoke said getting down on her two knees to greet Iya Kokumo.
“Káàsán o.” (Good afternoon). Iya Kokumo said as she looked at Ajoke and ignored Kokumo’s statement. “Ömö tani é o? Látì ibo lo ti wá?” (Whose daughter are you and where are you from?). She asked with sarcasm.
Ajoke looked up but swiftly bent her head again, still on her knees. “Ömö Bàbá Àdìsá ni mí láti ìlu Ìpájà.” (I am the daughter of Baba Adisa from Ipaja village).
“Hmm……” Iya Kokumo grunted.
“Màámi, ë jé ka wölé.” (My mother, let us go in). Kokumo said to his mother, uncomfortable with the way she eyed and questioned Ajoke.
Iya Kokumo looked at her son, her eyes intense. “Sé ìwö ni mò n bá sòrò ni?” (Was I talking to you?).
“Rárá, máámi.” (No, my mother). Kokumo responded uneasily.
“Óyá ní ilé bàbá ë, ki n tó la ojú mi.” (To your father’s house before I open my eyes). Iya Kokumo closed her eyes as she pointed towards the entrance of her compound.
“Màámi!” Kokumo protested but Ajoke was already on the feet and running out of the compound. “Màámi!” Kokumo said again as he looked at his mother in anger.
“Àfara sí inu’lé báyìí.” (Into the house right now). She commanded her son.
But Kokumo stood rooted to the spot refusing to heed his mother’s command.
“Sé ò gbó mi ni?” (Did you not hear me?) Iya Kokumo asked her son.
“Mo gbó yin màámi, sùgbôn mi ò kín s’ömödé mó.” (I heard you clearly my mother, but I am no longer a child).
With that, Kokumo walked away from his mother. He ran towards the direction Ajoke had gone in a bid to catch up with her.
Ajoke was at the bus garage already when Kokumo found her. It was obvious that she had been crying as she still sniffed and wiped her eyes intermittently with her hands. A bus going towards her destination had filled up and was about proceeding on its journey. The next bus moved forward to take the space of the previous bus. Ajoke opened the passenger door and was about to board the bus when Kokumo closed the distance between them. As she eased into the bus, Kokumo climbed in after her.
She hadn’t noticed anyone was waiting and she had been surprised. She turned to see Kokumo taking the seat beside her.
“Kokumo?” She looked at him with surprise. “What do you think you are doing?”
“I meant it when I told you that I love you. Do you need me to prove it again?”
Tears gathered around the corner of Ajoke’s eyes as she looked at him.
“I promise that I would make enough money to go back to school. And when I am done, we would get married.” Kokumo said as he cradled her face.
The tears that had been threatening to spill made their way down Ajoke’s cheek as she nodded.
Kokumo looked around him. When he noticed no one paid attention to them, he planted a full kiss on Ajoke’s lips.
Ajoke shivered and Kokumo laid her head on his shoulder.
The bus started to fill up with passengers. Ajoke raised her head and looked at Kokumo. “When are you going back home? The bus is almost full.” She asked as she looked behind them.
“I will return when I know you are safely in your father’s house.”
“You are what?” Ajoke shouted. “You can’t go home with me.”
Kokumo smiled as he held her hand. “Stop shouting. Other passengers may hear us. I have not said I am going home with you. I only said I will return when you are safely in your father’s house.”
Ajoke exhaled as the driver shut the door of the bus. The driver took his seat beside the young lovers as he kicked the engine of the bus.
The journey to Ajoke’s home began as the couple hugged each other. Even though other passengers chatted all through the journey, Ajoke and Kokumo stayed quiet savouring the closeness of their bodies. No words were spoken between them till they arrived their destination.
The story continues…..
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