A week after the incident at my place, the third semester examination commenced fully. I spent more time in the library than before, and it led to my breakdown. I became sick.
One way or the other, my dad got to know about it. I hadn’t informed him at all, and I wasn’t planning to. He just took me by surprise on a certain Thursday.
“Dad?” I exclaimed with shock as I laid eyes on him. He was holding a bag and a briefcase, while Mimi stood beside with a polythene bag and some yam tubers.
She dropped the items in the kitchen and was about leaving when he called her back.
“Thank you my daughter. Have this token to yourself,” he stretched some Naira notes to her but she refused. He insisted adamantly till she had no choice but to collect and thank him before leaving.
I stood up and made to collect the bag and briefcase he held, but he denied me. I greeted him by kneeling also, yet he didn’t respond. He was acting cold.
“Sit down,” he said, and I sat.
“Fifi,” he called.
“How many times did I call you?”
“Three times sir…”
“What is wrong with you?”
I didn’t know whether to respond or just keep mute. It was a clearly directed question to me.
“Answer me!” He demanded. I didn’t know what to say, neither could I look up at him. I just buried my head down and toyed with my fingers.
“Our people say, A toad does not come out in broad daylight unless it is being chased by something.” He began.
That was my father. He always referenced every little thing to proverbs.
“They also said,” he continued, “A child does not know how far the journey is as long as it is being carried by its mother.”
I kept mute and listened.
“Fifi, what is wrong with you?” He asked again.
“Do you want to kill me?”
“God forbid it!” I revoked indignantly.
“What is God forbidding about it, Fifi? Was this how I brought you up? Or is it a crime to let me know when you feel strong and when you feel down again?”
“I’m sorry…” I managed to say.
“This is not a matter of being sorry here, child. You fell ill for a whole week and didn’t bother informing anyone, not even your sister. You just kept to yourself that way. What if your friend hadn’t called to inform me, how would I have known?”
“Dad, I’m sorry… I didn’t want you bothered unnecessarily…”
“Am I complaining?” He cut in. I buried my head down again.
A brief silence ensued between us for a moment.
“Fifi, you and your sister are the only reason I see hope to live in this world since your mother died. Everything I do, everything I am today and everything I work for is for the good of you both. Why then would you hide something this critical from me? Do you have a family elsewhere?”
“No sir,” I replied.
“Then make sure this never repeats itself again, ever! If not, I’ll report you to Lawma and deport you back to Accra,” he joked as we both laughed.
The bag he brought contained various variety of items and beverage like Bournvita, Milo, evaporated tinned milk and many more. He also left some money and spent some more time with me before taking his leave.
I accompanied him to the car park and was on my way back when someone called my name from a distance. I looked around but couldn’t find anyone, so I continued walking.
I hadn’t taken more than two steps forward when a hand blindfolded me from behind and asked me to guess. From her voice, I already figured who it was.
“Ijeoma!” I said aloud as we both laughed. We walked and talked together on our way home.
When we returned, I met Mimi seated outside with a friend from school. I greeted them and walked by when Mimi called me back.
“Fifi, a guy came asking of you.”
“Yes. He said I should hand these over to you,” she said, handing me a sheet of paper and a polythene bag.
“Thanks.” I gestured to her and went inside.
I opened the nylon and saw my T-shirt and jean in it, neatly washed. An envelope was also beside with some money in it. Then, I looked at the paper and saw a phone number written on it.
I just smiled to myself and went to the kitchen, took out a bottle of kerosene, grabbed the nylon bag and went to the backyard to burn them.
“Girls, how did you see the paper?” Oluchi, Mimi’s friend, asked as we all trooped out of the exam hall. We had just ended a paper on Literature and Geography.
“It wasn’t what I expected, but it was fine,” Mimi answered.
“The invigilators were too strict today, I wonder why.” Oluchi lamented.
“What were you expecting?” Mimi asked. Oluchi didn’t reply. We just kept walking.
“Doesn’t she talk?” Oluchi asked after a brief silence.
“Oh, you mean Fifi? She does. Just that you rarely find her doing so,” Mimi answered.
“Nawa for her o! Is this how she does at home?” Mimi nodded.
“Sister Fifi, hope all’s well? I am not understanding this your squeezed face again o,” she joked.
“I’m fine,” I answered with a smile. “I’m just a bit drowsy.”
“Ehya! I learnt of your condition. Mimi told me. How’s your health now?”
“Getting better,” I replied.
“You know what? There’s someone I want you guys to meet. He’s my new catch. He should be at the cafeteria now, waiting for us. I told him I might bring some friends along with me, and he agreed. I hope you girls don’t mind?” Oluchi asked.
“Sure. Why not?” Mimi approved without my consent. I had no choice but to follow them.
When we got to the cafeteria, the place was already crowded and rowdy. It had no distinct difference from that of a market square. We were still trying to find him when we saw someone waving at us from an angle. He had spotted us.
We followed the direction the wave came from and soon got to his table.
For the second time in the same week, I was shocked to see who I saw again, so was he. He now looked decent and much more sophisticated than the last time we met. His old school Afro haircut was what I used to recognize him easier! His beards were trimmed and neatly shaped; as well as his skin radiated and glowed in its dark-coloured complexion.
I briefly withdrew my gaze from him in pretence like I hadn’t seen him, but he knew I had. He never stopped staring at me, and it made me highly uncomfortable. Two other guys were also sitting beside him, but he sat at the most extreme edge.
“Girls, meet Simon my baby boo, and his friends Kingsley and Boma.” Oluchi introduced as she hugged tight to Simon.
“Hello, ladies!” Simon and Kingsley chorused together, apart from the last guy who just waved at us. He was acting strange, probably because we had met before.
I personally didn’t fancy alcohol, so I ordered for Malt instead when we were asked to make our orders. Mimi and Oluchi mixed theirs with a bottle of Stout, while the guys all had beer and Whiskey.
“She doesn’t drink?” Boma suddenly asked, for the first time he said something since we got there.
“No, she does not. She’s holy holy!” Mimi answered. They all cracked up with laughter.
“And na their type dey worst pass o!” Kingsley cut in immediately, which made them release another outburst of laughter again.
I was starting to feel like the major topic they came there for. They probably thought it was funny to them, when it wasn’t a bit funny to me.
I gently picked up my bag and stood up with the excuse that I wanted to use the rest-room, meanwhile, my main route was to go home.
I had barely stepped out of the cafeteria when a hand grasped me from behind. I looked back… it was Boma.
“Where’re you going?”
“None of your business.”
“Is this how rude you usually are?”
Those words struck me like poison! I felt my blood boiling deep inside like a volcano.
The next thing I knew, I felt my left hand super-glued tight to his cheek.