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…

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

The Wait – Chapter 10

Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. With each passing month, Ajoke’s hope of receiving a letter from Adejoro dimmed. Initially, his mother frequented their home assuring her that he would be back soon but Ajoke was not sure who to believe; his friend or his mother. Adejoro’s mother gave no indication that her son had deserted his wife and Ajoke became more confused. She wondered a few times if Akanbi had mentioned her husband’s refusal to write back to spite her for refusing to sleep with him or if he meant what he had said. But she was unable to ask anyone. The only close friend Adejoro had was Akanbi and her elder brother and she was not sure if it was worth asking her brother, Adisa. Each day became a wait in expectation of a hope that was non-existent.

Six months after Adejoro’s scheduled return, Ajoke decided to go to her father’s house to talk to her brother. She reckoned that she was better off knowing if a calamity had befallen her husband than waiting expectantly for a letter that wasn’t forthcoming. She told Adisa about Akanbi’s statement carefully avoiding to discuss her encounter in his house. Even if her brother would forgive her for longing to be touched after years of abstinence, she was sure he would never forgive Akanbi for trying to take advantage of his sister. She knew her brother would head straight to Akanbi’s house and the consequences of his action could be fatal.

Adisa had been surprised by her revelation; and told Ajoke he was not aware Adejoro did not contact her anymore. He was even more shocked that he had stopped sending her a monthly stipend and wondered how his sister had coped the past six months with two extra mouths to feed. He scolded her for not confiding in him earlier but was glad that she sought his help now. He told her he was going to make sure he got to the root of the matter and find out exactly what the situation was.

Ajoke thanked him and Adisa gave her some money to take care of herself and her kids. Her mother also packed some foodstuff for her and Ajoke went home with her heart less burdened. The wait for word on her husband continued; albeit with support from her family. Three months after, Adisa sent an errand to Ajoke to come home. She wondered why Adisa would call for her as it was unusual. She hoped her parents were doing fine. She woke up early the next day, made food for her kids and got them prepared to visit her father’s house. She met her parents and her six brothers seated discussing when she walked in. The discussion stopped as soon as she stepped in and Ajoke felt uneasy. She looked at her father and her mother – they both looked well. Whatever had called for a family meeting must be very important; she reckoned.

Ajoke was asked to sit down and her mother took her grandchildren away, leaving Ajoke alone with her father and elder brothers. Adisa started by asking how she was faring and how she coped taking care of the children alone. Ajoke knew her brother was beating around the bush and she held her breath as she awaited the news from him that had made him call for a family meeting. Adisa eventually broke the bad news to Ajoke. Akanbi had been right – Adejoro had been enticed by the desire to live permanently abroad. He had therefore deserted her to build another home in the United Kingdom. Ajoke looked at her father’s face and shook her head in despair. Her father’s face mirrored her misery. He bowed his head and slumped his shoulders. This was not the desire he had for his only daughter. Ajoke’s face was resolute as she looked at the faces of each of her brothers. No tears escaped her eyes. She was only sad that she had become a single mother with no source of income.

She thanked her brother, Adisa and asked for her children. One of her brothers stood up to call for their mother. Ajoke’s mother came in with her grandchildren. She had tears in her eyes as she looked at Ajoke. She encouraged her daughter to stay the night but Ajoke refused; saying she was going back to her husband’s house – the house of the man she and her husband gave her out in marriage to. Iya Ajoke held her daughter’s hand as she begged her to forgive them. The tears threatening to spill came down Iya Ajoke’s cheeks in streams. She cried while Ajoke looked at her unflinching. They never imagined Adejoro would do this to them, Iya Ajoke said. She cursed the company that gave her son-in-law a scholarship and made her daughter a young single mother in her prime. She regretted the day she agreed to give out her daughter in marriage. She put her hands on her head as she grieved that her grandchildren would grow up without a father. Ajoke looked at her mother and sighed. There was no point lamenting, she told her mother. The deed had been done. The past couldn’t be erased. Ajoke walked out of her father’s house with her kids in tow.

When she got home, Ajoke sat down and looked around her. She needed a clear head and she pushed all thoughts of what could have been aside. The house she lived in had been built by Adejoro and she was glad she had no reason to worry about rent. She had never worked while she was married to Adejoro as he had seen no reason for her to. With two children in quick succession immediately after her marriage, she had had no opportunity to do any other thing but stay home and take care of her children. She thought of what she could do to earn a living so that she and her kids would not suffer. She remembered that when she was in the secondary school, a lot of her friends came to her house to get their hair weaved because most of them could not afford to pay a hairdresser. She stepped out of her house and looked around the vicinity. She saw a small carton lying on the ground; probably abandoned by some children who played around. She picked it up and took it into her house. She strapped her daughter on her back and held her son’s hand as she walked towards a primary school not too far from her house. Used pieces of chalk were strewn all over the floor and Ajoke picked up a few. She wrote on the carton with a piece of chalk advertising that a hairdresser lived within. She found a used rag and tore it into two, then used it to hang the carton on the tree in front of her house. She went back into her house to prepare a meal for her kids and awaited her first client.

Within a short while, word spread round that Iyawo Engineer weaved hair better than most of the other hairdressers in the vicinity. Ajoke’s house became a mecca of sorts for children and her weekends turned out to be her most busy period. She had mothers knocking on her door very early on Saturday morning to plait their daughter’s hair as they did not want to be caught up in long queues later in the day. Those who couldn’t deal with the long queues on Saturdays brought their daughters on Sundays. Ajoke hardly had time for a breather during the weekends.

She enrolled her kids in the nearby primary school and life took a new turn for her. Soon, the mothers who dropped their daughters also needed her services to get their own hair done and Ajoke became busier by the day. Her days became filled with work and soon the mothers had to book appointments. She no longer thought about what to eat and how to survive. She had just enough to feed herself and her kids.

The years rolled by and Ajoke forgot about her husband. His mother still visited her once in a while to see how her grand-children were faring in light of their father’s absence. By an unspoken agreement, Ajoke and her mother-in-law never discussed Adejoro. His mother could visit whenever she deemed fit but Ajoke demonstrated to her husband’s mother that she had no need for their family. Iya Ajoke also visited her grand-children but the relationship between mother and daughter was strained. Iya Ajoke tried to lighten her daughter’s burden by visiting with foodstuffs and buying gifts for her grand-children. Ajoke performed her duties to her parents but it was not done out of love but out of obligation. Her elder brothers all got married and had successful marriages.

*****

Seven years after Adejoro abandoned Ajoke, she rented a shop close to her house and opened a small salon with the proceeds of her business, establishing a name in the village as one of the foremost hairdressers. She recruited two girls who helped her in her salon and business went smoothly. Her brother, Adisa was happy that she was doing well and on one of his visits to her house, he advised that she opened a bank account so she could have some money saved for the rainy day.

Ajoke heeded her brother’s advice and took a bus to the nearest town the next day to open an account. She walked into the bank feeling a little strange as it was her first time in a banking hall. She had previously kept the proceeds of her business in a bag which she kept under her bed. The spacious banking hall was filled with the young and the old all waiting to be attended to. Even with the air-conditioning at full blast, the banking hall was stuffy with the smell of fish and raw beef mixed with sawdust and cement. Ajoke stood in queue by the customer service corner of the hall and awaited her turn. The lady at the customer service desk smiled at her as she asked Ajoke to sit down and gave her an account opening form to fill.

As Ajoke bent her head to fill the form, a man walked out of his office and called the attention of the customer service staff to a form in his hand. Ajoke froze as she heard the voice of the man who she assumed was the lady’s boss. She held on to the pen in her hand mid-air as the questions on the form became confusing – her mind went blank. She was scared to look up to identify the person who had just spoken. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know but she also needed to know. The manager walked to the customer service desk and stood beside his report requesting for more information regarding a customer’s form in his hands. As he spoke to her, Ajoke summoned up courage to lift her head. She met the manager’s eyes and the expression on the faces of both was shock. Ajoke could not believe her eyes. Her jaw dropped as she looked at him. The manager was stunned that he couldn’t finish his sentence. He started to stammer as his mind refused to process the information he was passing across to his report. He stood there looking at Ajoke; confusion and shock stamped on his face. The customer service staff noticed her boss was a little disoriented and asked him if he was okay. She wondered what had suddenly caught her boss’ attention and looked at Ajoke.

Ajoke had however, turned her attention back to the form she was filling. She could not fill the form any longer as the letters danced before her eyes. She held on to her pen refusing to look up as her eyes filled with tears. She could not afford to break down here in the presence of strangers. She bit her lower lip as she blew air through her mouth in a bid to subdue the tears. Life had been unfair to her. She quickly filled the form and handed it over to the lady before rushing out of the bank in a hurry.

———

The story continues…..

Photo Credit: http://www.123rf.com