The Wait – Chapter 13

Ajoke eased into Kokumo’s car after his insistence to drop her at home. It was 9p.m and he did not want to risk letting her go home alone at that time of the night. There was still a lot to be discussed between them but this night was not the night. His heart was joyful and troubled at the same time. He had poured out all his feelings of the last ten years into the intimate moment with her. His heart had burst forth with joy and the ten-year burden on his soul had felt lighter with Ajoke in his arms. After their intimacy, they had stayed locked in each other’s embrace for some minutes; none said a word. Their naked bodies and their hearts had spoken. If he had his way, she would not leave his side again and forever. He held her hand as he drove with the other. “I don’t know if we should have done what we did in there.” He said looking at her. “I’m sorry.”

Ajoke shook her head as she sighed. “There is nothing to be sorry about, Kokumo. We both longed for it and I do not regret my actions.”

Kokumo took a deep breath. He also did not regret the moment they had together but he still felt culpable. The love he had for Ajoke was deeply buried in his heart and it only took seeing her again to awaken the love which still breathed. Ajoke is still married; I should have restrained myself. He sighed. “Ajoke, I want you to go back to school.”

“Why?” Ajoke asked as she looked at him.

“It was your dream to be educated even though your parents could not afford it. What is stopping you now?”

“I don’t know.”

“I will get you a GCE form so that you can write the next exams in October. I will also get you the syllabus compilations for all the subjects you will need.”

“But you don’t have to do this. You don’t owe me anything.” Ajoke said.

“I don’t owe you anything, Ajoke. You seem to forget that we shared our dreams years ago. I have achieved mine and I want you to achieve yours as well. You can still become that lawyer you always wanted to be. And as long as I have breath in me, I would do anything within my power to help you fulfill your dreams.”

“Thank you but I don’t want to be a burden to you.”

Kokumo looked at her. “Ajoke, you can’t and will never be a burden to me. You underestimate the love I have for you.”

Ajoke looked away as she sighed.

In a few minutes, Kokumo parked his car in front of Ajoke’s house. He smiled as he looked at her and traced her lips with his fingers. Ajoke closed her eyes expecting Kokumo to kiss her but he did not. He was in front of her house and her kids could be watching. He did not want to give anyone a reason to question her. He took her hand and squeezed it. “I will get the forms and the books tomorrow as discussed. Let me have your phone so I can save my number on it.”

Ajoke opened her handbag and brought out her phone. The phone had been held together by cello tapes in various areas. Kokumo collected the phone from her without saying a word. He typed his number on it and saved it before handing the phone back to her.

“Thank you for everything.” Ajoke said.

“Thank you for making my evening pleasant.” Kokumo responded.

Ajoke opened the door and eased out of the car. She walked to the front of her door and turned back. Kokumo had started the car but was still waiting. Ajoke waved as she opened the door to her house and Kokumo drove away after ensuring her door was closed.

******

Kokumo got home and sat on the sofa in the living room where he and Ajoke had been intimate some hours ago. He closed his eyes as he reminisced on their time together. Ajoke’s responses to his touch had been electrifying and he wondered if she had been touched by any man since her husband left. Knowing who Ajoke was, he reckoned she would have kept herself all these years. What exactly am I doing with her? He had no intentions of getting married to her while she was still married to another. What if her husband decides to come home? What if he had issues in the U.K that warranted the seven-year silence from him? Hmm….Ajoke!!! Kokumo could not deny the fact that he loved her and wished to make her happy; married to another man or not. He would go to the ends of the earth to make her dreams come true; even though those dreams were not inclusive of him anymore. He looked at the table clock on the credenza. It read 10.30pm. He needed to sleep to be refreshed for work tomorrow. He stretched out on the sofa and closed his eyes. Soon, he was fast asleep with all his thoughts on Ajoke.

The next day during his lunch break, Kokumo purchased the GCE forms, the textbooks and a mobile phone. He also went to a boutique and shopped for a few clothes and shoes. He went back to his office, happy with his purchases. When he closed at 6.00pm, he stopped at an eatery to buy food and drove towards Ajoke’s house. He parked some metres away from her house and placed a call to her.

Ajoke was in her shop when Kokumo’s call came through. She stepped out of her shop to receive the call as she did not want either her girls or her customers eavesdropping on her conversation.

“Hello.” Ajoke said.

“Hi Ajoke. How are you doing?”

“I’m well.”

“I am very close to your house. Are you at home or at your salon?”

“I’m at the salon.” Ajoke said. “What are you doing around here?”

Kokumo smiled. “I came to pick you up.”

“To where?”

“I don’t know. We can go anywhere around or just sit in my car and talk. Can we do that?” Kokumo asked hoping her response would be positive.

Ajoke sighed. “Okay. Where exactly are you?”

Kokumo gave his location and Ajoke went inside her shop instructing her girls on what to do for the rest of the day. She had gone home earlier to prepare lunch for her kids and she thought about calling Kokumo to inform him that she had to go and prepare dinner. She would let him know he may have to wait a while; she thought as she walked towards his location.

Kokumo watched Ajoke as she approached his car. She was wearing an Ankara blouse and wrapper. His heart fluttered at the sight of her. She is beautiful. Ajoke got to the car and Kokumo eased out and gave her a half-hug. “How is your day going?” He asked.

“Good.” Ajoke said. “I may have to take some of your time. I need to go prepare dinner for my children first.” She continued.

“Don’t worry about that.” Kokumo said as he stretched his hand towards the back seat of his car and picked out the plastic bags containing food. He handed it to her. “I knew you wouldn’t be able to leave without dinner prepared so I decided to bring dinner.”

Ajoke looked at Kokumo with surprise.

“Hey, I’m sure the children will be getting hungry. It is almost 7.00pm.” He said; stretching the bags towards her when he noticed she just stood looking at him.

Ajoke nodded, collected the bags and walked home.

Kokumo rested his back on the car as he watched her walking away. “Hmm Ajoke.” He said as he shook his head. He hadn’t called Adunni since he met Ajoke yesterday and he wasn’t sure if what he was doing made any sense. Ajoke was all that mattered to him now.

*

Ajoke was out of her house in ten minutes. She had changed into a long flowing dress and she looked even more beautiful. Kokumo did a quick mental check of where they could hang out without any disturbance. The village did not have any eateries around. He concluded he may have to drive back to town.

They hit the road and Kokumo asked after Ajoke’s children. She seemed happier talking about her children and he reveled in her joy as she gesticulated and made funny faces. They drove to an eatery on the outskirts of the village and he walked in holding her hand. He asked her if she wanted to eat but she took a rain check. He told her he had gotten the forms and the textbooks and that they were in the car. Ajoke smiled her thanks and he discussed her next plan which should be passing the exams, sitting for the next Jamb examinations and getting into school to study Law. He asked how she intended to take care of her kids once she was in school and she replied that she would employ a maid to assist her. He told her he was available and willing during the weekends to help her if she had any issues with any of the subjects.

Ajoke was grateful for everything and she told him so. Kokumo also handed over the plastic bag containing the mobile phone, clothes and shoes to her. Ajoke was shocked beyond words. She looked at Kokumo as they sat in the car after leaving the eatery. “What do you stand to gain in all this?” She asked.

“Nothing Ajoke. Absolutely nothing.”

Ajoke exhaled. “I really don’t know how to say thank you.”

Kokumo smiled. “You don’t have to. Can I take you home now?” He asked. “The children would be waiting.”

“Yes please.” Ajoke said.

They drove back to the village in silence. Kokumo parked at the same spot he had parked earlier on in the day. He switched off the ignition and looked at Ajoke. “If you can, please fill the forms this evening or tomorrow morning at the latest.” He said.

“I will.”

“Take care of you.”

Ajoke suddenly felt unhappy that she was leaving. She wished she could stay back. His presence in her life was like a soothing balm calming her soul. She removed her seat belt and stretched across her seat. She kissed Kokumo slowly and he returned her kiss. When she eased away, she smiled, bid him good night and stepped out of his car. Kokumo watched her till she had closed the door of her house before starting the engine and driving away.

——-

The story continues…

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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…….

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