A story written by INEGBENOISE OSEODION OSAGIE. (07068221839, 08093828575, [email protected])
Lauren finished with Jide over the phone and tossed the phone to the bed. He phoned to tell he would stop by. That wasn’t her request. Her request was to see a glimpse of him on March 13th, and the day passed without a shadow of him. He didn’t come, didn’t call, didn’t text, did nothing but sit in his office chair all day with rubbish papers.
The dying hum of a car engine at her front yard sounded like him. If him, good. If not, still good. It wouldn’t change anything. She sucked in a long breath. It wouldn’t change anything.
The knock at the door was strong and hard. She sauntered and unbolted. It was he, posing as though he had done something good—hands in jean with a cocked head—waiting for her to let him in. She tried not to smile, or put on any unnecessary face, and prayed she was good at it. If there was any reason to be pleased at all, it should be because he was able to locate her apartment without much help, not because he was present. The time to be present had long gone.
“I stayed in the school’s dormitories. It wasn’t as fancy as this,” he said, with a fleck of pride in his voice that clearly stated staying in the school’s dormitories was something he should be awarded a medal for, and those that stayed in fancy apartments outside school weren’t real students. If he called her apartment fancy with only a home theatre and a study desk, what would he call it when she installed the air conditioner, the one her dad bought to help discourage the mosquitoes that would be prevalent at the heart of the raining season. He settled on the bed and picked the novel lain on the pillow, scrutinizing its front cover. “Romance or thriller?”
She wondered if that was the right name.
“I was driving past the university and thought of stopping by. How was your matriculation ceremony?” He thumbed through the pages.
“Okay.” She sat on the bed and joined him in gazing at the brunette pictured on the novel’s front cover. After much gazing, he dropped the novel on the bed.
“It wasn’t okay,” she said. “My matriculation ceremony wasn’t okay.”
Now, he attached more seriousness, but still carried a widened face as though there was a hint of funny in her words.
“No. My dad was in the office, and so were you. So…”
His lids still pointed out, eyes still shone brightly. He wasn’t touched. Or he was but didn’t want to show the face. Her aunt told her black people didn’t show their emotions on their faces. They could be sad and still keep a smile and they could one day decide to keep a frown, whether sad or happy.
“The matriculation ceremony would have been better placed on a weekend,” he said.
That was no excuse. It lasted the whole day, dawn to twilight.
“I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it. That’s why I made no promises.”
“No issue there. It’s not really a big deal.”
“I don’t believe that’s the case to you. I would have tried coming, but was so occupied, and thought your dad would be around.”
Thank heavens he knew it was a big deal. “Dad couldn’t leave work, but visited at evening.”
“He did well. From work to here must have taken a lot. That’s why he’s your dad.”
“So you didn’t come because you’re not my dad.”
Instead of being sober and sorry for not coming, he chuckled. “You wouldn’t understand.”
“Maybe you should make me understand.” She made sure every iota of cheer on her face, if any, was wiped off.
“I leave work by night. A break for a ride to a matriculation ceremony is rash.”
“So a minute break for a phone call is also rash.”
That worked, he lost words. Eyes no more shone brightly, but rested on his sandals. They left his sandals and went to the novel, to the brunette on its cover.
“Sorry for not calling.”
She never thought all she needed was a sorry, but it seemed as though his sorry removed all the grudges she had kept—forced herself to keep. “I guess you were too busy to hold a phone.”
“It merely didn’t occur to me. I never thought you’d need a call.” His lowered voice was more pleasing to her ears than the business-like ones every man in the country had.
“Anyways, it’s gone. It wasn’t that bad. I had fun with my dad.”
He heaved a sigh with a loud whoosh. “I thought of stopping by since I couldn’t on your day.” He pressed his palms together. “I was on my way to Tarkwa bay for a light recreation. You could come with me as a make-up for the matric. You could meet many of your mates there and make few friends.”
She heard that right, and he didn’t seem joking. No bit of smile stuck to his lips when the words came out. “Tarkwa bay?”
He shrugged. “It’s a good relaxation centre. I visit on occasion.”
“I think I’ve heard of it. I’d love to go to the bay, but you don’t really have to do anything. I mean, you were right. You made no promises. I shouldn’t put you in a tight nook.”
His shoulders hunched, he looked at her, and the look lasted until a chuckle came forth, a chuckle whose reason would forever be mystery. “Teens remain teens,” he said, and his smirk made it sound like “kids remain kids.” “Get dressed, and let’s drive to the bay. I’ll wait outside while you change.” He rose and walked to the door.
She stared at the big mirror and scrutinized herself. No bit of her seemed like a kid and she sure hadn’t talked like one, so whatever he said or meant was to make her pissed, and painful it was working. She grunted, and ended her grunt with a wink at her mirrored self.
She opened her closet, scanned, and picked a pair of beige trousers. Beige didn’t go too well. She tried grey, which turned out okay, but not perfect. Nobody was looking for perfect. Just good. Good enough.
The grey trousers, she topped with a red, and another look at the mirror said her black loafers would add. After donning that, she turned to the closet for her swimsuit. Sure, they could swim. She tucked it in her bag and slung the bag over her shoulder. After a last sigh, she walked to the door and opened. He was seated on a recess with hands on his jaw.
“You forgot someone was waiting,” he said.
That sure was him attempting a con. No time was wasted in the room. “I spent barely five minutes.”
“You call five minutes barely? If that’s how you delay in getting dressed, then I can imagine how many lectures you miss a day.”
“I don’t miss lectures.”
He gathered himself and rose from the recess. “What’s in your bag?”
His cheeks gathered. “Suit for what?”
“Aren’t we swimming?”
“I don’t swim.”
“I do. Maybe you’d learn.”
He studied his wristwatch and led the way to his Toyota. He opened the driver’s door and the remaining doors made a click. She opened the front door and he welcomed her with school talks. Develop the habit of dressing quickly to survive the early morning lectures, he said. Of all the discussions on planet earth, he came up with only that.
She dressed quickly and smartly compared to other girls. He surely didn’t know how much time most girls spent dressing at mornings, whether in Canada or in Nigeria, so there would be no battling words with him, and silence beat wasting words on a dreary talk.
To Be Continued….