The Wait – Chapter 8

Kokumo walked home dejected. The joy and happiness he had initially felt coming home had been stolen from him and he saw no reason to be home. He would have turned back to school but he knew that all his roommates would have also left the campus by now and locked the room. He just wanted to be alone to lick his wounds. He sauntered into his compound, taking out his own key to the padlock on their door. He opened the main door, dropped his travel bag on the floor in his room and flopped on the mattress. He had suddenly lost his appetite and also lost interest in everything. He knew his mother would still be at the market but he did not look forward to seeing her. If only she had pushed him a little to take action the day she had the discussion about Ajoke with him. He sighed as he tossed on the mattress. The day took its toll on him and in a few minutes, he was snoring loudly.

Iya Kokumo arrived home to meet the padlock to the main door of their house open. Only Kokumo had a key to the door. Does that mean my son is home? She quickly dropped her basket of left-over fruits by the door and rushed to her son’s room. She saw him sprawled on the bed snoring loudly and smiled. Her son was home. She closed the door to his room quietly and went to the kitchen. He must be tired and hungry. She set to work as her hands moved in quick motions to prepare a meal for her son.

***

Kokumo woke up at about 7.30pm and heard the melodious voice of his mother as she sang praises to God in the kitchen. He stood up and stretched lazily. His tummy began to rumble announcing the arrival of hunger pangs. He walked to the kitchen to see his mother and to assist her with the food she was preparing.

“Ëkáalé màámi.”
“Good evening, my mother.” He greeted touching the floor in a half-prostrate.

Iya Kokumo held a pot over a stove with her left hand as she used a small turning stick in her right hand to beat the amala she was preparing into a fine paste. She stopped momentarily, turned round to look at her son and smiled.

“Kòkúmó, ömö mi. Káàbò. Báwò ni ilé-ìwé.”
“Kokumo, my son. Welcome. How was school?”

“Daadaa ni mà. Mi ò mò pé ë ti dé lé láti öjà.”
“It was good. I did not realize you had arrived from the market.” Kokumo replied.

Iya Kokumo returned her gaze to the amala in the pot.

“Èmi náà mö bê. Mo ri pé ó rè é gan.”
“I know. I could see you were very tired.”

“Kínni ki n bá a yín se?”
“What can I do for you?” Kokumo asked.

“Má yö ara ë lénu. Ìwö lö jòkó, ko ma wò ní tìë. Óúnjë ti fé jiná.”
“Don’t bother yourself. Just sit and watch. Your food is almost ready.”

Kokumo picked up a small stool by a corner of the kitchen and sat down as he watched his mother. He put his hand on his chin and was lost in thought that he did not realize when she finished the food and dished his meal into a bowl.

“Kokumo, Kokumo.” Iya Kokumo called.

Kokumo suddenly jerked up and looked at his mother. “Maami.”

Iya Kokumo dropped the bowl of amala and ewedu she was holding on the kitchen stool which served as her table and touched Kokumo on his forehead to feel for his temperature.

“Kílódé, ömö mi.”
“What is wrong, my child?”

“Kò sí ìyönu Màámi.”
“There’s no problem, my mother.”

Iya Kokumo looked at her son unconvinced. She stood before him as she waited for him to say something. Kokumo knew his mother would not let him be until he voiced out what plagued his heart. He noticed the worried look on her face and stood up from the stool to pick up his meal.

“Ë jé ka lö jëun.”
“Let us eat.” He said to his mother. He needed to get himself together; he did not want his mother getting worried unnecessarily.

***

Kokumo refused to step out of his house for the next one week. His mother had expected him to visit his farm to see to what his workers were doing but he had no pleasure in that. She asked him every day what the problem was, but he continued to state that he was fine. The pain in his heart was great and being on the farm was not going to help ease the pain. It was only going to remind him of everything and everyone he had lost – his father, Ajoke, their love and their future together.

Deep down, he was also a little angry with his mother. He understood that the situation between himself and Ajoke was beyond her control but if only she had pushed him a little. If only she had welcomed Ajoke the day she saw her in his embrace. If only she had realized early that he was not too young to get a wife. If only she had encouraged him to go ahead and visit Ajoke’s father. If only she had advised him that he need not wait till graduation before getting married. If only she had guided him to marry Ajoke and bring her home. There were a lot of ‘if onlys” that his mother could have done but she had done none.

*

Two weeks after his arrival at home, he was sitting down with his mother outside the house when an old friend of his from secondary school passed by. His friend spotted him and his mother and walked up to them smiling. The last time they saw was the day they wrote their final papers for the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations.

“Ah ah Kokumo!” Ajirebi said stressing his name. “Ojú ë rèé.”
“Is this you?”

Kokumo stood up to hug his friend. “Ajirebi, long time. Where have you been?”

Ajirebi did a half-prostrate to greet Iya Kokumo.

“Ëkú’ròlé mà.”
“Good evening ma.”

“Kú’ròlé Ajírébi. Àwön òbí rë n kó?”
“Good evening Ajirebi. How are your folks?” Iya Kokumo smiled as she acknowledged Ajirebi.

“Dáadáa ni wón wà mà.”
“They are fine ma.”

“Ìwo àti òyìnbó ë yìí.”
“You and this your English.” Ajirebi said as he looked at Kokumo. “You no dey tire.”

Kokumo laughed as he slapped his friend on the back. “Wetin you wan make I do? Make I no speak am again?”

Ajirebi suddenly pulled his friend by the arm. “Wetin happen to Ajoke? I hear say she don marry.”

Kokumo looked at his mother and noticed she was looking at both of them. Even though, she was not literate, she understood pidgin English.

“Yes, she should be married now.” Kokumo said looking away.

“Ah…ah, no be say both of you dey carry yourself for secondary school as husband and wife. Women!!!” Ajirebi lamented.

“It is not Ajoke’s fault.” Kokumo shouted at his friend.

Ajirebi looked at his friend, shock written on his face. “Wetin I talk?” He asked gesticulating with his hands.

Kokumo took a deep breath as he calmed down. “It is not her fault. Her father married her off against her will.”

“Hmm…” Ajirebi said as he squeezed his face. “I no know. Ah, the thing go pain you gan oh.” He continued as he bit his forefinger.

Iya Kokumo looked from the son to his friend. She noticed Kokumo was uncomfortable with the discussion and decided to step in.

“Ëìn Ajírébi, kí àwön òbí rë fún mi o.”
“Ajirebi, send my regards to your folks.”

She turned to her son. “Óyá nínu ílé. Èyí ta se ní ìta ti tó.”
“Let us go inside. We have had enough outside.”

Kokumo obeyed his mother as he walked into the house without looking back to say good bye to his friend. He sat down and there was a look of misery on his face. His mother walked into the house, shut the door firmly and sat beside him.

“Kòkúmó, ìdí tí gbogbo nkan ò se wùn é se mó leléyìí, àbí?”
“This is the reason why nothing has been of importance to you anymore, right?”

Kokumo sighed as he looked at his mother.

“Sé o féràn ömö yën tó bè?”
“Do you love her that much?”

Kokumo nodded his head, unable to utter words.

“Mo dè sö fún ë nigba yën o. O ní pé àdéhùn tí èyin méjèjì jö ní nipé ë ma féra tí o bá ti se tán ní ilé-ìwé gíga.”
“And I told you then; but you said it was the agreement between you both to get married after your university education.”

Kokumo put his head in his palms. He did not want to be reminded about the mistake he had made. It still hurt and his heart was still tender and broken. Iya Kokumo noticed her son’s hurt and pulled him close as she rested his head on her bosom. His mother’s action broke him and he groaned as he hid his face in her bosom and shed tears of hurt and pain; his body wracking with each sob. His heart had been shattered into a million pieces and life had lost meaning to him. He had tried unsuccessfully to put the matter behind him; and right now, Ajirebi had brought it to the fore and reopened his wounds.

Iya Kokumo prayed for her son that evening; that he would find his own wife when it was time. She also admonished him to put the love he had for Ajoke behind him and focus on his studies. She told him that maybe they were not meant to be together and he had to accept what fate had in store for him. His mother’s words made him both angry and sad. He was angry that fate did not recognize the love he had for Ajoke; he was sad that he was helpless and had to accept what life had thrown at him.

Kokumo went back to school a week later. The love he had for Ajoke could not easily be forgotten but he was going to make an effort. She was now married to another man and wishing things were different was only going to keep him depressed.

——
The story continues…

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The Wait – Chapter 7

Exams were soon over and Kokumo packed his travel bag in a hurry. He half-ran to the bus stop to catch the next bus out of town. As he sat in the bus that was loading, he waited impatiently hoping the bus would fill up on time. He intended to go to Ajoke’s house before going home – he could not risk going to his house first and getting distracted from his mission. It had been over a month since his mother last saw him and he knew once she did, she would kick against him going out immediately after his arrival home.

As the bus moved and eased into the snarling traffic, he prayed in his heart that Ajoke would be home. He knew he took a risk by going to her house but he had no other choice. The matter at hand had to be handled today.

In one hour, Kokumo arrived Ajoke’s village. He threw his travel bag over his shoulders and walked towards her house. He was a few metres from her house when he saw her sitting on a low stool and frying garri outside her house. He looked to the left and to the right to see if anyone was looking. When he observed no one around, he stood at a corner where he would not been seen and whistled. Ajoke’s turning of the garri with a local fry-spoon stopped immediately she heard the whistle. She looked around her to see if her mother was in the vicinity before looking in the direction the whistling came from.

Kokumo whistled a second time. This time, Ajoke packed up the garri she was frying in a hurry, covered it up and took it into her house. She stepped out of her house with a water pot and started walking towards the back of the house to the path that led to the stream. Kokumo took the cue and also sauntered through another path which would eventually lead him to the stream.

*****

Ajoke dropped her water pot on the ground and waited as she craned her neck to look out for anyone passing by. She tapped her hand on her laps impatiently as she waited. Where is he? She almost jumped when she heard the rustling of leaves behind her. As she turned back, she stood face to face with Kokumo. He had a smile on his face. He removed the travel bag slung across his shoulders and dropped it on the ground without breaking eye contact with Ajoke. Ajoke stood rooted to the spot. Time seemed to stand still; her beloved stood before her but her mind could not decide on what to do. She wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. She wasn’t sure whether to hug him or just stand there lost in his gaze. Kokumo closed the space between them as he took her hands. She hugged him tightly and the tears began to flow freely.

Kokumo pulled her back and kissed her lips gently. Ajoke responded with a passion that was unmatched with his. She ravaged his lips as the tears continued to flow. She wished Kokumo would kiss her fears of the future away. She wished time travelled and threw them into that future where they stood in each other’s embrace as husband and wife. When she eased away from him, Kokumo wiped her cheeks with his thumb. “I love you Ajoke.” He said.

“I am getting married to Adejoro in a week.” She cried.

“What?” Kokumo’s eyes widened. “A week? Why?”

“I don’t know, Kokumo. I don’t know what to do.”

Kokumo exhaled as he picked up his travel bag and slung it carefully on his shoulders. He also picked up Ajoke’s water pot and held her by the hand. “Let us walk to the stream.”

Ajoke sniffed and nodded.

They got to the stream and searched for a secluded area where they could sit down. Kokumo found a spot where they could see anyone coming to the stream to fetch water but remain unseen. There was nothing to sit down on, so he took out his wrapper from his travel bag and spread it on the ground. He placed Ajoke’s water pot and his travel bag by a corner and sat down resting his back on a tree. He spread his legs apart and folded his knees as he pulled Ajoke down to sit with her back to him.

“So who is this guy?” Kokumo asked.

“Adejoro. He is Broda Adisa’s friend. They have been friends for long but I never knew he was interested in me.”

“Hmm….so your father just decided you were getting married to him without consulting with you?”

“Maami discussed it with me. When I kicked against the idea, she asked to know what made me different from my friends who were already married. I had no words to reply her.” Ajoke responded.

Kokumo put his hand on his head as he thought. He hadn’t bargained that Ajoke’s wedding will be so close. He was confused. Was there really anything that could be done at this point to salvage their relationship? Was this the end of their dream?

Ajoke turned to look at Kokumo when she noticed he was silent. She removed his hand from his head and looked straight at him. “Let’s run away.”

Kokumo looked at her; shock stamped on his face. “Run away? To where?”

Ajoke shrugged. “Anywhere. As long as we are far away from the village.”

Kokumo shook his head vigorously. “No Ajoke. We can’t do that. Have you forgotten that you are an only daughter? Your father will never forgive us.”

“I don’t care.” Ajoke said throwing a tantrum. “Did he think about that before deciding to seal my fate with a stranger?”

Kokumo put his hand on his head as he looked to the heavens. “Ajoke, your father believes he is doing this in your best interest.”

“And you?” Ajoke asked, getting angry.

“Ajoke my love, you don’t know how much this hurts. Do you think if I knew this could happen, I would not have asked for your hand in marriage before going to the University? Our dreams are being shattered before our eyes. I wish I knew what to do. I am as confused as you are.  If we elope, where will you stay? How will I cater for you while I am still in school? I wanted a better life for us. A life different from what our parents have in this village where civilization is still a dream.”

“So you are just going to let me go? You would leave me to live a life of misery married to someone I do not love?” Ajoke asked as tears began to stream down her cheeks again.

“Ajoke…..” Kokumo stressed her name as he turned her so that she sat face to face with him. “I cannot help it. What do you want me to do? If we could think of a way out besides eloping, I am ready to go that route.”

Ajoke burst into tears as her body shook. This was not the dream they had when they were leaving the secondary school. They had had lofty dreams; Kokumo especially. He had been so sure of a bright future ahead of them. Even when she had been discouraged knowing that her education ended at the secondary level, he had lightened her spirit by telling her that once they got married, she could go back to school. He wanted her to be educated as well. All the dreams they talked about were crashing before them like a pack of badly arranged cards. She understood everything Kokumo had said. She knew eloping with him did not make sense but she was ready to gamble on their destiny.

As she sobbed, Kokumo pulled her close and hugged her. This was difficult for him as well. His heart was also getting broken. He had never loved anyone the way he loved Ajoke. She was his first love but fate was turning its back on their love. Fate was tearing them apart leaving each one of them in the cold. How he wished he could turn back the hands of time. How he wished he had listened to his mother. It was almost as if she knew this would happen. He would have visited her father immediately to make his intentions known. He would have gotten married to her and taken her home to his mother. He would have still continued his education but he would have also saved their love. Now, his inactions had caused both of them great pain. He sighed deeply as he held on to Ajoke.

Ajoke looked up at Kokumo’s face and his heart broke. She was more broken than he was. She took Kokumo’s face in her hands and kissed him passionately. She kissed him with so much dexterity that Kokumo almost wondered where she learnt to kiss. As she held on to him, she raised herself from her sitting position and knelt before him as she continued to kiss him. Beams of passion began to burn in Kokumo’s body and he tried to pull back but Ajoke refused to let go. She began to caress his body as she put her hands under his tee-shirt. The sensations Kokumo felt were indescribable as blood began to seep into his lower extremities. Ajoke was waking up every member of his body. He kissed her back matching her passion and soon, they were both panting. Ajoke began to unzip his trousers and his body began to seek expression. He tore the wrapper she tied round her waist away as he lay her down gently to take pleasure in her. Just as he was about to merge his body with hers, he remembered what she had told him a few minutes ago; I am getting married to Adejoro in a week. He shook his head as if a spell cast on him had suddenly been lifted and stood up as he began to zip up his trousers.

Ajoke lay on the ground with her eyes closed awaiting his pleasure. His kisses had pleasured her and she wanted him to take her whole. She opened her eyes when she noticed she couldn’t feel his breath on her again and saw him standing and watching her. She looked at him confused as she realized he had zipped up his pants and was holding her wrapper.

“We can’t do this, Ajoke.”

Ajoke sat up. “Why? We both want this.”

Kokumo breathed hard. “Yes, we both want it but it is not right. You are getting married next week.”

Ajoke opened her mouth to say something but shut it again. She stood up, snatched her wrapper from Kokumo and tied it round her waist. She picked up her water pot and was about walking away when Kokumo held her arm. She looked back at him angrily. “Leave me alone, Kokumo.”

“Please understand Ajoke. The embarrassment a woman goes through when her husband finds out someone else had made her a woman is great. I love you and do not want you to go through it.”

“Kokumo, I said leave me alone.” Ajoke repeated in anger.

Kokumo exhaled. He regretted leading her on and as much as he would have loved to be the one to make her a woman, he could not stand the embarrassment she would face later. He retrieved the water pot from her and dropped it gently. He hugged her tight but Ajoke struggled to free herself from him. She continued to fight Kokumo off her but he was unwilling to let her go. He wasn’t ready to part with her this way. When Ajoke’s strength failed her, she sighed and stayed still in his embrace.

“You don’t know how much I love you, Ajoke. I am willing to make this sacrifice to show you how much I love you.” He said as he cradled her face and planted a gentle kiss on her lips. He bent down to pick up her water pot and handed it to her. She collected it without making eye contact with him. She had cried enough for the day.

Kokumo took up his wrapper, shook it before placing it back into his travel bag. He picked the travel bag and held Ajoke’s hand as he led her towards the stream. He collected the water pot from her, filled it up with water and helped to balance it on her head. They walked quietly towards the path that led to her house. Not a word was said between them; it wasn’t needed because they were both heartbroken.

When they got to the junction before her house, Kokumo stopped walking and held Ajoke’s hand. He kissed his fore and middle finger and placed it on her lips. Ajoke smiled sadly as she knew this was his goodbye. Kokumo turned back and took another path that would lead him back to the main road while Ajoke watched in sorrow.

——–

The story continues…..

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The Wait – Chapter 6

Ajoke’s letter got delivered to Kokumo’s department a day before his exams were about to start. He was handed the letter by the departmental secretary. As he collected it, a smile played on his lips as he recognized Ajoke’s handwriting. He closed his eyes briefly and imagined being right by her side. He had missed her so much. He put the letter in his book folder and quickened his steps towards the hostel. He longed to read from her and he wanted to do it while relaxed. He knew she would have written to fill him on the happenings in her village and also gists about her friends.

As he hastened towards the hostel, he thought about when next to pay her a visit. Exams were scheduled to end in a month’s time and he looked forward to going home just to be with her. This time, he was going to take her home and make sure his mother accepted her. He was now a grown man and if he wasn’t in the University, he knew she would have been asking about his marriage plans.

He sauntered into his room, all his thoughts on his beloved. He took out the letter from the book folder and dropped the folder on his mattress which lay by a corner in the room. As he lay on the mattress, he tore the envelope carefully.  He took out the letter and began to read.

“My darling Kokumo,

How are you and school? I hope you are doing well.

I am writing this letter with so much pain because my father is marrying me off very soon. The man to whom I will be married to is coming for my mò mí mòó o in two weeks’ time.

My eyes are filled with tears as I have no choice in this matter. I wish it did not have to be this way.

I don’t know what to do any longer. I am confused. I love you with all my heart.

See you whenever you come home.

Ajoke.”

Kokumo must have read the letter a thousand times but each time, he failed to understand what he had just read. Marrying her off? To who? Why? What about our plan to get married once I graduate from the University? Then it hit him like a thunderbolt. Ajoke had mentioned during his last visit that she had overheard her parents discussing about marrying her off just like her peers. She had been so worried and told him so.

The moment it dawned on him, his eyes filled with tears and he felt like he had been stabbed in the heart. Ajoke, Ajoke, I can’t afford to lose you. God why? First, you took my father. Now, you want to take Ajoke away from me. He put the letter on his chest as he cried silently, hot tears making their way down his cheeks. What do I do? Should I risk going home today? If I do, how will I read for my exams? Would Ajoke’s father grant me audience? Will he think I am insane? So many questions but no answers were forthcoming for Kokumo.

He sighed. Ajoke wasn’t the only one confused; he was as well. His exams were starting tomorrow and it did not make sense to go home now. Besides, from the date on the letter, the introduction had already been done. His mind was in disarray as he thought of what to do.

Throughout that evening, Kokumo could not concentrate. He knew he was meant to read for his paper the next day but every time he did, he saw the words in Ajoke’s letter dancing before his eyes. As much as he tried to get his mind off it, he kept on seeing the words; the man to whom I will be married to is coming for my mò mí mòó o in two weeks’ time.

After a fruitless hour of not being able to concentrate, he decided to pack up his books and go to bed. Maybe when he woke up, he would realize it was all a dream; Ajoke would still be waiting for him to finish school and they would get married – and they would laugh about a letter which he supposedly received from her. He would caress her as he told her he thought he had lost her forever. He would tell her that he was glad their wait was not in vain.

*****

Kokumo woke up fitfully the next day. He could not remember how he slept or if he did at all. He kept on seeing Ajoke crying out to him for help. While she did, he stood afar with his arms folded and watched as she struggled with someone he couldn’t recognize. The person held her tightly by the hand and he made no attempt to rescue her. Her cries filled his ears, calling him and pleading with him to save her from her captor but he shook his head, turned back and walked away.

As he was walking away, he saw his mother walking towards him. She pulled his ears as she got to him and repeated their last conversation over and over again.

“Sé bàbá ömö náà mò é?”
“Does the girl’s father know you?”

“Rárá mà.”
“No ma.”

“Kí ló wá fi é lókàn balè pé to bá padà láti 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.”

“Ölórun á bá ë sé o.”
“God will do it for you, I hope.”

He sat up on his mattress and noticed that the tee-shirt he wore to bed clung to his body. The tee-shirt and his mattress were wet with sweat. He shook his head as he sighed deeply. What sort of nightmare did he just have? He would do anything within his power to rescue Ajoke from danger but why didn’t he do that in his dream. It made no sense to him. He loved her and would never allow anyone endanger her life. Who could have been holding on tightly to her? Was it her father or the man she was to be married to? Why had he made no attempt to save her from her captor? Instead, he had turned his back on her when she needed him most. The dream was so confusing and he could not fathom what it meant.

To Love & to Hold 40

He stood up from his mattress and stretched. He looked at his other room mates who were still sound asleep. He needed to concentrate if he wasn’t going to fail his exams. He thought about responding to Ajoke’s letter but words were not enough to convey everything he had to say. He would rather see her in person and they could discuss their next line of action. Just give me three weeks and I will be with you, Ajoke. He said to no one.

He picked up his bucket and decided to get ready for the day ahead. As much as he loved Ajoke, he also wanted to make her proud and graduating with good grades was of utmost importance to him. Her friends who had gotten married had been given out in marriage to secondary school certificate holders and artisans. Just like Ajoke whose parents could not afford to send her to the University, most of them either could not afford to do so or did not see the importance of sending their daughters to a tertiary institution. Those who failed to see the importance believed it was a waste of funds as she would eventually get married and be confined to taking care of her husband and her children.

Kokumo reckoned it would be a thing of pride when Ajoke stood in the midst of her friends to say she had gotten married to a graduate. She would become the envy of her friends just as his mother’s friends envied her in the market where she sold her fruits. She was no longer referred to as Iya Kokumo. She had been given a new name and was now called “Iya Gradue.” Even though, he had tried to correct them that he was still an undergraduate, it did not matter to them. The fact that he was in the University had upgraded his status and that of his mother. He also wanted the same change of status for Ajoke and he was going to make sure he worked towards not just being a graduate but one that finished with good grades. Once they were married and he had a good job, he would ensure Ajoke’s dream of going to the University was also fulfilled. She deserved it and much more. Even with his mind in a state of chaos, a small smile lifted his lips and just like it had come, it left and he was thrown into sadness again.

He walked towards the bathroom to take a shower. Once he was done, he sat down to read as he pushed the contents of Ajoke’s letter behind his mind. In three weeks, he would be done and if he needed to present himself to Ajoke’s father as the man who loved his daughter and wanted to get married to her, so be it.

——

The story continues…..

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The Wait – Chapter 5

Kokumo went back to school a week later. Immediately he arrived campus, he went to his favourite spot; away from all the hustle and bustle of the school environment and sat down to write a letter to Ajoke. He informed her that he had arrived school safely and that he missed her already. He wanted to explain how he missed her with more words, but they weren’t enough. He finally told her he couldn’t wait to complete his education so that they could be together and forever.

Ajoke smiled when she received Kokumo’s letter. She placed the letter on her chest and day-dreamed about her marriage rites to Kokumo. The Alága ìjókòó and the Alága ìdúró will get the ceremony started without the couple. A proposal letter and an acceptance letter will be exchanged between the two families signifying an offer and an acceptance. Kokumo will dance in with his friends and she smiled as she imagined the Alága ìjókòó – representing her family; grilling the crew. Kokumo and his friends would be made to open their wallets and pay their way in before their official introduction to her family. Kokumo and his friends will prostrate flat in front of her family and he would receive her parents blessings. He would also acknowledge his family by prostrating in front of them before he is allowed to take his seat.

Ajoke’s smile grew bigger as she saw herself seated patiently with her friends in her room while the traditional engagement went on in her absence – awaiting the call of the Alága ìjókòó. She would be dressed in an expensive lace bùbá and ìró with matching gèlè and ìpèlé. The red coral beads popularly worn by brides during their traditional wedding would adorn her neck. When she is eventually called into the venue, she will be veiled as she dances in, swaying her hips; surrounded by her friends. Ajoke rocked from side to side to an imaginary tune as she moved from her parents to Kokumo’s family, to be received into their fold. She was lost in her imaginary engagement and did not realize when her mother walked into the room.

“Ah ah, kí ló n se ìwö ömö yìí? O jòkó sí ibí bayìí, tó yë ko wá bámi dá iná.”
“What is wrong with you, this child? You sit down here when you should be helping me prepare food.”

Ajoke was startled when she heard her mother and quickly put the letter under her pillow. She had no idea how long she had been in dreamland.

“Kíni ìwé to tójú sí abé ibusùn ë?”
“Which paper did you just keep under your pillow?” Iya Ajoke asked.

“Kò sí mà.”
“Nothing ma.” Ajoke replied looking scared.

“Sé ìdáhùn sí ìbéèrè mi nì yën?”
“Is that the answer to my question?”

“Rárá mà.”
“No ma.”

Iya Ajoke looked at her as she expected a response.

“Ìwé…ehn…ìwé yën.”
“Paper….the paper.” Ajoke stuttered as she looked at her pillow and looked back at her mother.

“S’ó ò lè dáhùn ni?”
“Can’t you answer?” Iya Ajoke shouted.

“Ìwé tí wón fi ránsé sí mi láti ilé ìwé gíga ni.”
“I was sent the letter from the University.”

“Ilé ìwé gíga? Sé bàbá ë o sò fún ë pé kò s’ówó láti rán ë lö sí ilé ìwé gíga ni?
“The university? Has your father not told you that there are no funds to send you to the University?”

“Wön ti so fún mi, mà.”
“He has told me, ma.” Ajoke said looking at her feet.

“Kí lo n wá da ara ë láàmú fún?”
“So why are you disturbing yourself?”

“Mi ò ní rò ó mó.”
“I won’t think about it again.” Ajoke replied as she stood up.

Her mother pulled her close and hugged her.

“Ilé ökö ló yë kí o ma rò ní ìsìnyín. To bá ti lo sí ilé ôkö ë, o ma gbàgbé nípa ilé ìwé.”
“You should be thinking about getting married. Once you get married, you will forget about schooling.”

“Mo ti gbó Màámi.”
“I have heard, my mother.”

*

That night, as Iya Ajoke and her husband were about to retire to their tattered mattress, she mentioned the discussion between her daughter and herself to Baba Ajoke. She told Baba Ajoke that she was beginning to see reasons with him as regards giving their daughter out in marriage. She told her husband that even if Ajoke was interested in going to the University, she would be better off doing that from her husband’s house; as he would bear the sole responsibility of financing her education.

Baba Ajoke told his wife that he was happy that she understood his point of view. He informed her that a friend of their first son, Adisa who was an engineer had indicated interest in Ajoke but since she refused to give out her daughter in marriage, he had asked him to hold on for a while. He also mentioned that he had even gone ahead to make investigations about his family and that they were good people.

Iya Ajoke was surprised that her husband had made all the inquiries needed prior to the marriage of their only daughter without her knowledge. She was however, happy that they had found a suitable suitor – an engineer. That meant her daughter would be referred to as “Ìyàwó Engineer” (wife of an engineer). She smiled as she thought about the title which was much better than hers – Ìyàwó Bàbá Ëlému.

***

The next day, as agreed between her parents, Iya Ajoke called her daughter aside and informed her that a young engineer had indicated interest in her. She told her daughter that she and her father had agreed that this was the best time for her to get married. Most of her friends were already married and they wished the same for their daughter. She informed her that the young engineer was her elder brother’s friend who frequented their house in search of her brother. She also assured her that he would take care of her and make her a proud mother of many children.

Ajoke looked at her mother, unable to utter words. I warned Kokumo. I warned him. Now what I feared is eventually coming to pass. Her heart cried out. Oh Kokumo, where are you? How am I going to fight this battle alone?

“Ajoke…Ajoke, so gbó gbogbo nkan tí mo sö?”
“Ajoke, did you hear all I have said?”

Ajoke looked at her mother as a tear escaped her eyes.

“Mo gbó ö yín Màámi.”
“I heard you, my mother.”

“Kí ló n wa pá é ní igbe? Nkan ìdùnú kó ni mo bá ë sö ni?”
“So why are you crying? Isn’t this discussion a thing of joy?”

“Mi ò tí ì fé lö sí ilé ökö.”
“I am not ready to get married now.”

“Kí lo fé ma se ní ilé Bàbá ë? Sé orí méjì ni àwön òré ë tí wón ti lo sí ilé ökö ní ni?”
“What will you be doing in your father’s house? Do your friends who have gotten married have two heads?”  Iya Ajoke asked irritably.

Ajoke looked down as the tears flowed freely.

“Ya nu ojú ë kíá kíá, ko múra láti pàdé àwön ëbí ökö ë ní òsè méjì sí èní.”
“Better wipe your tears and get ready to meet your husband’s people two weeks from now.” Iya Ajoke concluded.

As Ajoke lay on her bed that night, she thought about the promise Kokumo had made to her; the promise to get married to her immediately after his graduation. Since eavesdropping over her parents’ conversation about marriage, she had been uncomfortable with his decision to wait till he graduated. But his dream was to become a graduate and she knew denying him that dream would be selfish of her. With the turn of events now, she wondered if his decision was the best. Her parents were giving her out in marriage and there was nothing she could do about it. Most of her married friends also had their marriages arranged by her parents and thinking hers would be an exception at this point was laughable.

Early the next morning, before her brothers woke up to prepare for the day’s job, Ajoke tore a sheet of paper and wrote a lengthy letter to Kokumo. She informed him about the decision taken by her parents, the date set for the introduction by her prospective husband’s people and her fear of living a life of misery married to someone she did not know. She put the letter in her pocket and waited till the right time to go to the local post office.

***

Two weeks later, Adejoro and his immediate family came for an introduction. They came bearing gifts of foodstuff and told Baba Ajoke that they had found a flower in his house which they intended to pluck. Baba Ajoke welcomed them into his abode and asked Iya Ajoke to entertain the August visitors.

“Àwön ëbí ökö ë ti dé.”
“Your husband’s family members are here.” Iya Ajoke said excitedly to her daughter who was pounding yam at the back of the house.

Ajoke refused to look up from what she was doing but continued to hit the mortar with the pestle in her hands with force.

Iya Ajoke assuming that her daughter did not hear her moved closer to her. She repeated herself again.

Ajoke ignored her mother and continued to pound.

“Sé o ti di adití ni?”
“Are you now deaf?” She asked her daughter.

Ajoke stopped and wiped her brow with her forefinger flicking the sweat away.

“Mo ti gbó yín.”
“I have heard you.”

“Wò ó, ya só ara ë, tí o ò bá fé kí bàbá ë bínú sí ë.”
“Look, you better be careful if you do not want your father to be cross with you.” Iya Ajoke said as she pointed a warning finger at her daughter.

She walked into the kitchen and started dishing the èfó ëlégùsí that she had prepared that morning for their visitors into bowls. When she was done, she called Ajoke to scoop large mounds of the iyán into plates and bring them into the kitchen. Iya Ajoke called her youngest son, Akanni to assist her so she could serve their visitors. It was not yet time for the prospective husband to see his intending bride.

Akanni and his mother went ahead to serve the visitors while Ajoke went to her room to await her parents call. As she sat down on her mattress, a tear slid down her cheek. She was at a loss of what to do. She hadn’t heard from Kokumo and she wondered if he had received her letter. She was half-expecting him to show up in her house any moment from now to disrupt the marriage rites. She was still in her state of dejection when she heard her mother’s voice.

“Ajoke, Ajoke, ó ti yá o.”
“It is time.”

She quickly cleaned her eyes and stood up. Her mother had given her one of her most expensive ìró and bùbá to wear with beaded accessories. The attire was always at the bottom of her portmanteau as she only wore it for special occasions. Ajoke’s introduction was one of such and she told her daughter that she deserved to be dressed expensively. Even though the attire looked a little big on her, Ajoke had cared less about the fit. She was not interested in looking attractive to her prospective husband’s people.

Her mother took her hand and led her into the small courtyard where everyone waited for the beautiful flower to be plucked. As taught by her mother, she knelt down in front of every member of her prospective husband’s family greeting each one of them. Adejoro smiled broadly as he nodded his head. He raised his shoulders with pride as she took turns to greet every member of his family. He was the last to be greeted and as she knelt down in front of him, he pulled her up into a hug. Everyone clapped at Adejoro’s gesture while Ajoke boiled inside. She refused to hug him back but Adejoro was too caught up in the moment of adulation to notice.

He had eyed his friend’s younger sister for years. She was still in the junior secondary class when he had mentioned to his friend, Adisa that his sister was beginning to sprout into a beautiful lady. Adisa had mocked him when he said he would not mind marrying her one day. Adisa told him she was too young for marriage and that their father wanted her to finish her secondary education. Adejoro had agreed with him on the importance of education. He had also finished his secondary education the same year as Adisa but from different schools. While Adisa had gone ahead to trade in shoe making, Adejoro had gone to a technical college to fine tune his engineering skills. He was still in the technical college but also made a few cash helping out with sub-contracted jobs. His side job had earned him the title “Engineer” within the village and he prided in it jealously. He had also earned the admiration of the young ladies in the village and each one of them sought his attention.

The two families agreed to wed their children in four weeks’ time. A list of items to be bought by Adejoro’s family was also handed over to them by Ajoke’s family. Baba Ajoke reckoned that since his daughter was getting married into a family which stood better than them in terms of means, he needed to make sure he requested enough to cater for his own family.  He therefore demanded for an increased number of food items than the usual tradition. His wife also needed to have a change of clothing, so he demanded for expensive clothing items as well.

This was the only chance he had to upgrade his family and he was ready to go the extra mile to ensure they were well catered for.

——–

The story continues…..

Photo Credit: http://www.wikihow.com

The Wait – Chapter 4

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, retrieved a small wrapper, rolled it into a ball and balanced it on her head. She bent down to lift up the water pot and placed it gingerly on the wrapper 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 and wanting at the same time. Kokumo 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 met 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.”
“Mother, 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 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 often 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 day to day activities 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 her 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 day 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. The Ayobo market was a haphazard conglomeration of stalls. Most of the stalls had only a table where food items were displayed in varied quantities. The market women sat on low stools behind their tables as they called out to customers passing by in a bid to advertise their wares.

Kokumo 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 was wearing a black Ankara buba and iro which had lost its colour and looked more white than black. She looked up from the fruits she was arranging, loosened her wrapper revealing a sparkling white long lacy underskirt and retied it again. She began to dance to an imaginary song on seeing her son.

“Ömö mi ti dé o.”
“My son is back.” She lifted up her hands as she continued to sway her hips.

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.

The other traders stretched their necks to catch a glimpse of the University student. One tapped the other and both of them sneered at the display of affection between mother and son. Another sat behind her table as she smiled and watched; while another hissed, clapped her hands sideways and turned away in disgust. Some others gathered in a corner as they gossiped about Kokumo’s fortune – A University graduate in the making regardless of his father’s demise about a year ago.

Kokumo greeted the traders as his mother began to pack up her left-over fruits into a basket. A few of the traders smiled at him and asked about his wellbeing while some others faked smiles and others ignored him.

“Se ti ta öjà tán ni?”
“Have you finished your sales for the day?” Kokumo asked his mother when he noticed she was packing up.

“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.”
“It 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. Iya Kukomo would stop after walking a few metres, place her palms on her chest and take a look at her son in awe as he smiled at his mother. She would then sway her hips, loosen her wrapper, retie it and begin to dance. They stopped to greet a number of villagers who were also 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, hugged him and held on 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 brighter like the sun.

“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?”

“Three years.”

“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

The Wait – Chapter 3

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 pay a visit to a man but she had to see Kokumo. It had been about four months since she saw him. 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 offered 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. Títì Alábéré ni mò n lö .”
“Please ma, I am a stranger in this town. 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 was dressed in a brown Adire danshiki on loose trousers. He had rolled up the sleeves of the danshiki to accommodate a hoe which he placed gingerly over his right shoulder. His brows beaded with sweat and he looked like he had aged five years. Ajoke’s 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, why?”

Kokumo shook his head in confusion.

“You were supposed to go to the university, so we could have a better life together.” Ajoke cried.

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 he 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 in the direction of the interruption and was startled at his mother’s sudden presence as she stood 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. Ë mà tètè dé lôní?”
“My mother, welcome back. You are back early today?” Kokumo reeled out greetings to his mother as he stepped back from Ajoke.

“Ëkáàsán mà.”
“Good afternoon ma.” Ajoke said getting down on her knees to greet Iya Kokumo. She wiped her tears with her palm in quick motions.

“Káàsán o.”
“Good afternoon.” Iya Kokumo sneered as she looked at Ajoke and ignored Kokumo’s question.

Kokumo stood and watched.

“Ömö tani é o? Látì ibo lo ti wá?”
“Whose daughter are you and where are you from?” Iya Kokumo continued as 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?” Kokumo’s mother 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 was surprised as she turned to see Kokumo taking the seat beside her.

“Kokumo?” She looked at him with shock. “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 cheeks 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 began 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. While other passengers chatted all through the journey, Ajoke and Kokumo stayed quiet savouring the closeness of their bodies and the familiarity of each other’s breath. Even though words meant a lot to them, no words were spoken between them till they arrived their destination.

——–

The story continues…..

Photo Credit: http://www.wikihow.com

The Wait – Chapter 2

Ajoke and Kokumo remained friends all through their senior secondary education. They studied in class and walked the long journey home together. Even though, Kokumo could afford to take a public bus home, Ajoke couldn’t. Her parents were struggling to survive and told her that transportation fare to and from school in the next village was a luxury. Therefore, she had to make do with long walks every day. Ajoke was however, not deterred. She loved to go to school and education was a priority for her.

Kokumo’s parents could afford to transport their son to and from school but he preferred to walk the long trek home with Ajoke. Kokumo used his transport fare back home to buy snacks and water which he shared with Ajoke as they chatted, sang and sometimes danced on the road. He knew most times, she was hungry but she never once complained about her parents not being able to give her money to buy lunch at school.

By the time they were in their final year in the senior class, they had become inseparable in the school. They were teased by some of their classmates that they should get married immediately after school but Kokumo wanted more than that. He mentioned to Ajoke that his dream was to become an accountant. Ajoke had smiled and wished him well. She knew her education terminated after the secondary school level and there was no point having dreams that were not going to come to fruition.

“So you won’t even bother to make any attempt at the university by writing the Jamb exams?” Kokumo once asked her. They had gotten to the forked junction before their villages but decided to sit down under a palm tree off the road.

Ajoke shrugged. “What is the point of writing an exam when the result of the exams would be useless?”

“At least, make an attempt.”

“Kokumo, both of us know my parents cannot afford a secondary education much less a University. We eat from hand to mouth at the moment and my father is waiting for my brothers to start fending for the family so the burden on him can be reduced.”

Kokumo sighed. “I wish there was something we could do.”

“Nothing can be done. Don’t bother about me.”

Kokumo looked at her as he cradled her face in his hands. “Don’t say that. I love you and I want us to get married someday. But I want to go to the university, so that both of us can leave our villages and have a better life in the city.”

“I know.” Ajoke said smiling. “I love you too and I look forward to the day you will make me your wife.”

They sat for their school certificate exams three weeks later and their results had been impressive. Kokumo had straight A’s in all the nine subjects he had written while Ajoke had A’s in six subjects and credits in the other three. Kokumo sat for his Jamb examinations and also passed with very good grades. He was offered admission into the University of Lagos to study Accountancy just as he had dreamed of. Kokumo was overjoyed when he received his admission letter from the University. He couldn’t wait to get home to tell Ajoke and his parents the good news.

He took a public bus from the University gate as he danced and sang. A few passengers in the bus looked at him strangely but he cared not. The journey home was a long one as a result of the usual Lagos traffic, but Kokumo hardly noticed. He was oblivious to the intermittent hisses and sighs of his fellow passengers as he continued to hum and bob his head at intervals.

On getting to his village, he ran towards his house but noticed a strange calm in the environment. He looked left and right and noticed that the traders who lined the road to his house all avoided his eyes or refused to acknowledge his greeting. This was unusual; he thought. They all seemed to be in a hurry to pack up their wares. He looked at his wrist watch. The time read 5.30pm. The traders usually sold their wares till 7.00pm. He wondered why they were all packing up at this time. He scanned through the market looking out for his mother’s stall but noticed that she wasn’t there. Her stall looked untouched; the same way she left it every evening. He stopped in his tracks. Why did my mother not come to the market today? He had left home as early as 5.00am to make the journey to the University. His mother was already up as she had insisted that he ate a small meal before leaving. She had prepared a bowl of eba and egusi soup for him and his father. He hadn’t been able to eat much as he had been anxious to leave.

The hair on his neck rose as he inched closer towards his house. There was an eerie feeling in the environment which he couldn’t shake off or place his finger on. He got to his house and saw his mother seated on a low stool on the front pavement. She had her arms across her chest as tears streamed down her cheeks. She was lost in thought and did not see her son walking towards her. Kokumo noticed that she did not acknowledge his presence.

“Màámi.”
“My mother.” Kokumo said shaking his mother by the shoulders.

She shook all of a sudden as she saw her son. She burst into tears as she stood up and hugged him.

“Màámi, kílódé?”
“My mother, what is wrong?” Kokumo said tearing himself away from his mother.

“Bàba Kòkúmó ti kú.”
“Kokumo’s father is dead.” She said as she put her hands on her head in lamentation.

Kokumo stood still unable to grasp what his mother had just told him. His father? Dead? He looked around him for an explanation. How could his father who was hale and hearty when he went to bed last night be dead? The traders who had ignored him at the market started trooping into their compound to commiserate with his mother. Some walked in crying and lamenting while others shook their heads in pity. Was this a dream? He had been happy a few hours ago about his admission into the University. His admission letter still sat untouched in the knapsack slung across his shoulders. He had brought good news home to his parents; only to be welcomed with the opposite. No, his father could not be dead. He started walking away from his mother and everyone around him.

“Kokumo! Kokumo!” His mother called. He looked back at her strangely before turning back to walk away.

“Ë má jè kó lö o.”
“Don’t let him go.” Someone shouted amongst the now teeming crowd.

Kokumo continued to walk away without looking back. A man ran after him and grabbed him by the hand. Kokumo flung the man’s hand away as he continued walking.

Iya Kokumo stood up and started shouting.

“Ë gbà mí. Ë má jè kí ömö mi lö.”
“Please help me. Don’t let my son go.”

Two men ran after Kokumo and held him firmly. Kokumo tried to struggle with them but was overpowered. They dragged him towards his mother and made him sit at her feet.

Kokumo was not allowed to step out of his house that evening. His mission at the University was also not discussed. For three days, Kokumo looked at his mother as she wept. He was unable to console her as he was also yet to come to terms with his father’s death. His mother told him that after he left for school, she had gone to wake up his father. It was unusual for him to sleep for so long and she had been worried. He had woken up and complained about a headache. She gave him the meal of eba and egusi to eat and asked that he stay home and not go to the farm. He had nodded as he ate. She also decided to stay home and take care of her husband. He took some herbs to ease the headache after his meal and he went back to sleep. He never woke up.

The burial rites began in earnest as Kokumo’s paternal uncles took over the responsibility. A week later, Kokumo’s father was buried in his house. Two days after his father’s burial, Kokumo took out his admission letter and looked at it. Was this the end of his dream? He still had the letter in his hands when Iya Kokumo walked into his room.

“Kínì yën?”
“What is that?” She asked him.

“Ìwé tí mo lo gbà ní school ní öjó tí Bàámi lö?”
“The letter I went to collect in school the day my father died.”

Iya Kokumo sat down gently on the low mattress in his room.

“Kí ló wà nínú è.”
“What is written inside?”

Kokumo sighed.

“Wón ti fún mi ní admission sí University.”
“I have been offered admission into the University.”

“Hmm….Yunifásítì t’èwo?”
“Which University?”

“University ti Èkó”
“The University of Lagos.”

Iya Kokumo took a deep breath and bowed her head.

Màámi, èmi náà mò pé University ò sé lö mó. Màá ló wá isé ki n lè rí owó rán ara mi lö sí ilé ìwé.”
“My mother, I know going to the University is no longer possible. I will go look for a job so that I can sponsor myself to school.”

Iya Kokumo looked up at her son as tears spilled down her cheeks.

“Màámi, ë jò ó, ë má sunkun mó.”
“My mother, please stop crying.” Kokumo consoled his mother.

“Ah, Bàba Kòkúmó, n kan ta jö sö kó nì yíi. Àdéhùn ta jö ní kó le léyìi o.”
“Baba Kokumo, this is not what we talked about. This was not our agreement.” Iya Kokumo lamented as she bit her forefinger in tears.

Kokumo pulled his mother into a hug and cradled her like a baby.

Ó ti tó Màámi.”
“It is okay, my mother.” He said repeatedly.

When Iya Kokumo was spent from her tears, she removed the end of her wrapper and untied the knot. She took out all the cash she had in the knot and gave it to Kokumo.

Kokumo shook his head as he looked at his mother. He held her hand and said;

A ma jëun, Màámi.
“We will eat, my mother.”

Iya Kokumo looked at her son as her body shook with sobs. Kokumo wrapped his arms around his mother again as he looked heavenwards. Baba Kokumo had left but he was going to make sure his mother did not suffer.

The story continues…….

———–

Photo Credit: http://www.wikihow.com

The Wait – Chapter 1

“Do you Ajoke Omolewa, take this man, Enitan Boluwatife to be your lawful wedded husband; to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, keeping yourself solely unto him, to honour him, submit to him, forsaking all others till death do you part? If so, answer “Yes, I do.” The minister asked again, this time with some humour.

Ajoke opened her mouth but was unable to form the words the minister, her family members and Enitan waited to hear. Her eyes were trained on the man who had just walked into the registry and sat quietly at the end of the hall. He had walked in unnoticed but Ajoke’s attention towards him was beginning to attract stares in his direction.

One by one, Ajoke’s family members comprising her father, her mother, her six elder brothers and her two teenage kids looked back to find out what had caught her attention. Enitan also confused at the sudden change in Ajoke’s mien looked in the same direction. He could not recognize the stranger and he wondered why the man’s presence had suddenly affected Ajoke. He turned to look at his bride and saw tears streaming down her made-up face. What on earth is going on?

All of a sudden, there was commotion in the hall. Ajoke’s aged father struggled to get up, his face taut and his jaw set but Ajoke’s brothers were faster. The youngest of her brothers tapped her father on his shoulders and slid his right hand up and down his chest. Their father took the cue and relaxed in his seat. His sons were capable of handling the situation. The six brothers stood up one by one and marched towards the end of the hall.

Ajoke, knowing what her brothers were capable of doing, left Enitan and the minister at the podium and started running towards the end of the hall.

“Ajoke!!!” Enitan called as he watched her break into a run.

She stopped to look back at Enitan, her tears now coming down her face in streams, staining and drawing black lines on her wet cheeks as a result of her smeared mascara. She looked at him, her eyes pleading but it only made Enitan more confused. Who was this guy whose sudden presence had stalled his wedding? He looked at Ajoke’s parents and searched their faces for an answer that didn’t seem to be there. Ajoke’s mother slumped her shoulders as she watched an imaginary being in her open hands while her father’s neck was stretched to the back as he trained his attention on the on-goings down the hall.

Ajoke reached the end of the hall just as her eldest brother, Adisa held the stranger by his tie, rough-handling him. The stranger coughed as Adisa held him by the neck. He refused to hold Adisa’s hand or make an attempt to stop Ajoke’s brother from strangling him.

“What are you doing here, you bastard?” Adisa asked.

The stranger only looked at Adisa without a word or a plea. Ajoke’s brothers had gathered round the stranger but none stopped Adisa from his bid to strangle him. Ajoke pushed through the circle and knelt before her eldest brother.

“Bòdá mi, ë jò ó, ë má pà á.
“My brother, please don’t kill him.”

“Will you go back to the front and continue with your wedding?” Adisa said to Ajoke, his eyes blazing.

“I will but please don’t kill him.” Ajoke said, her face totally in a mess now.

Adisa refused to let go of the stranger.

“Àdìsá, fi sílè.
“Adisa, leave him alone.” Their father said. He had trudged down the hall after Ajoke had broken into a run. He reached the end of the hall panting and sweating in the air-conditioned room. His wife had not accompanied him as she now stood, talking to the minister, the groom, his elder brother, his uncle and aunt. Her hands were clasped as she pleaded with them. They all looked at her confusion clearly written on their faces.

“Ehn, Bàámi kí lë sö?
“My father, what did you say?” Adisa asked, as he looked at his father with anger.

“Mo ní ko fi sílè.  
“I said you should leave him alone”.

Adisa squeezed his hands once more on the stranger’s neck, this time with an emergent strength making the man to gasp for air before releasing his grip. The man coughed once more as he loosened his tie and massaged his neck. His face was sober as he looked at Ajoke’s father. As the old man’s tired eyes met his, the stranger dropped his gaze. Ajoke’s father sighed deeply as he shook his head.

“Bàámi, ë jò ó, mo fé ba s’òrò”
“My father, please I want to talk to him.” Ajoke said to her father.

Ajoke’s father nodded to show affirmation and turned back.

“Alone!” She reiterated when her brothers refused to leave.

“You better know what you are doing.” Adisa advised Ajoke. “And as for you” – He said pointing towards the stranger – “I will still deal with you.”

Ajoke watched her brothers as they all filed back to the front of the hall; leaving her and the stranger alone. Her brothers however kept their eyes on them as they monitored their discussion from afar. As she turned to look at him, he knelt before her and tried to hold her hand. “Don’t touch me, Adejoro.” She said.

“I know I have hurt you greatly but please hear me out.”

“Hear you out? What could you possibly have to say? Hmm….Adejoro. What?”

“Ajoke, please…..”

“Adejoro, what did I do to you to deserve this? What was my offence? Tell me.” She sobbed.

“Ajoke, it is not what you think?”

“I gave up everything and gave you my all. But you trampled it under your feet and threw it back in my face. Just look down the hall” – She said nodding towards the front. “Did your children come here? Did they acknowledge your presence?” She asked.

Adejoro looked towards the front pews and sighed. So those are my children? He placed his hands on his head and bowed his head in shame. His children did not recognize him. They did not know who their father was. Fifteen years was a long time for any man to abandon his family. He knew he had messed up but he wanted to make it right if Ajoke could give him an opportunity to.

As Ajoke looked at his bowed head, she remembered how she had fallen in love with Kokumo nineteen years ago. Both of them had attended the same secondary school in the Ayobo village. The village, a suburb in the Alimosho local government area of Lagos state, Nigeria; had mostly low-income earners as residents. Ajoke’s parents had struggled to send her to school as they barely had enough to eat with seven children. Her mother had given birth to Adisa, two sets of twin boys and another boy before having her. Her father tapped palm-wine for a living while her mother processed garri. The little they made from the sales of palm wine and garri was used to feed the large family.

As much as her father valued education, he had told all his children that the best he could do for them was to ensure they got educated up to the secondary level. After that, he encouraged each one of them to go learn a trade. Her elder brothers had all learnt one trade or the other but Ajoke being the last child and only girl, had been confined to helping her mother’s business so it could thrive.

Kokumo was named an Abiku child. His parents said he always died at childbirth and returned to torment his mother again, and again. To stop the scourge of death, the sixth child was marked before burying, a normal tradition in South-west Yoruba. Even though, Kokumo did not return with the mark (as it was believed would happen), he was still named Kokumo – meaning; will not die again. After his birth, his mother decided to give child bearing a wide berth. Kokumo’s father was a peasant farmer while his mother sold seasonal fruits which were planted and harvested by her husband.

Kokumo and Ajoke attended the same secondary school but only became acquainted with each other in their senior secondary class. They were both in the Art class and having to do the same subjects brought them closer to one another. Ajoke’s parents had been unable to afford to buy her textbooks, so Kokumo was always on hand to assist her with his. They became reading partners and within a short period of time, love found them.

Each day, they both trekked a distance which took them about an hour to get home from school. Kokumo lived in the next village to Ajoke’s and the forked junction before their villages served as their end point before each faced the journey home alone.

Ajoke looked at the man before her, her husband of three years and father of her children. What a wasted life she had lived married to him? She and Kokumo had been denied of their young love and she had been married off to Adejoro. Her father, her mother and her elder brother had thought him man enough to take care of her.

As the tears began to make their way down her cheeks again, her mind is forced to go back in time to when Kokumo meant the whole world to her.

——–
The story continues…..

Photo Credit: http://www.wikihow.com

Here we go again 🤸‍♀️

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Yesterday Lives goes live

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