The gigantic edifice which was part of the University of Uyo’s main gate awed Alex and Jojo on the first day. They stood there with their mouths slightly open, staring at the emblem of the University until a security man asked how he could help them.
They were directed to the admissions office where they could find out information about admissions. It turned out they could get everything online, so, with Alex’s android, they found out they would have to take an Aptitude test before the admissions will be announced.
Copying down the dates for the test, Alex declared that they needed to prepare. And just like in secondary school, sans Ekanem, who was now a business man and Uko, who’d decided he wanted to school at Calabar, Alex organized and implemented a reading session.
He made sure Jojo adhered to it and Isaac seemed really impressed and did everything in his power to give them more time to study, which basically translated to less work time for Jojo at his laundry shop.
After two weeks and a couple of days of intense study, they returned to the University with other young people to take their aptitude test.
“Why are people staring at me; do I have something on my shirt?” Alex asked in alarm as he noticed repeated glances in their direction.
Jojo laughed and slapped him on the shoulder, as usual, “My man, there’s no stain on your shirt. I believe they women are already admiring your distinct handsomeness. And me, I’m proud to be your friend as the benefits will definitely trickle to me,” he said and rubbed his hands together in obvious relish.
Alex swung his stare to him instantly and frowned. He wondered why Jojo would say something like that when he was dating Eka and the girl was crazy over him.
He didn’t have a chance to find out because they called them into the halls at that moment; theirs was at rooms 49-50 and Alex wondered where the other numbers where if the single two halls were called 49-50.
Jojo was in 49 while he’d been seated at 50 with a lot of space between the test takers. This was possible because the University had organised the test during the vacation period.
The papers were passed out and the young lecturer informed them that their invigilator was running a bit late, so he had to divide himself between the twin halls.
It didn’t bother Alex one bit. He jumped into the questions and answered them as correctly as he could. Minutes later, someone walked up to his table, grabbed his answer script and shook it as though to dislodge whatever was in between; it meant Alex was being suspected of malpractice.
He looked up in shock and was ready to defend himself more but his voice got stuck in his throat as his eyes met that of Miss Ukata.
“Hello, Akwaowo,” she murmured with a sly smile, “See me after the test,” she commanded and walked on to the next candidate.
Alex tried to breathe shallowly and almost couldn’t write his test. His hands shook as he recalled the dread Miss Ukata had inspired in him at their last meeting. Alex was realistic; he already knew what she was going to say.
With a deep breath, he determinedly cleared his mind of fear and completed his test.
“Man, that was easy!” Jojo enthused with a grin but it waned when he saw Alex’s face.
“What is it?” he asked in concern.
“She asked me to see her after the test,” Alex fretted.
“Oh God, what is she doing here; what are you going to do?” Jojo fretted too.
“I was thinking I could run…”
“But…” Jojo grabbed Alex’s arm and dragged him away from the crowd of candidates trickling onto the veranda.
“But she knows your name and as an invigilator here…”
“I think she’s a lecturer,” Alex assumed worriedly.
“Which is even worse; she could decide to remove your script, and it will seem as though you never came for the test,” Jojo whispered fiercely.
It occurred to Jojo quite late that he should have left Alex to wait alone. Before he could decide to do this, Miss Ukata walked out from the hall with the young man who had arranged them earlier before she’d arrived. The young man carried the collected answer script and she flicked him away, scanned the sea of candidates and when she found Alex, that calculating smile appeared.
She motioned to him to follow. When her eyes found Jojo, the smile grew wider and she motioned for both of them.
Both of them followed her with their hearts pounding. Miss Ukata hadn’t changed at all. Even with her office assistant, the young man from the exam hall, Alex could see that he tiptoed around her, not wanting to incite her wrath; even the people who greeted her on the way to her office, did so with a level of reverence.
Alex kept his head lowered as they followed the shapely woman. But, suddenly, Jojo hit him sharply on the thighs, when he looked up, he found what had caught Jojo’s attention, Miss Ukata’s office was in the admissions department; they were truly doomed.
“You can leave now,” she said to her assistant who immediately nodded and walked quickly out of the office. Alex thought he heard him sigh heavily in relief as he shut the door behind him but he couldn’t be sure, not when his own breathing was too loud in his ear as they waited in front of her desk.
Compared to the office she’d had at the village school, this one was luxurious. It wasn’t so big, but it would comfortably accommodate six people without a need to rub shoulders. It had leather chairs, and an old AC cranked out cold air from a corner and the ceiling fan, also old, rolled lazily, circulating the cold air.
“So, we meet again,” she declared in her husky voice, her smile hadn’t changed. It was just an upward movement of her lips and it never reached her eyes. Compared to when she’d been at the village school, she seemed more sophisticated as she’d put on light makeup and it made her face seem less ugly.
“Good afternoon, Ma,” Jojo greeted in a shaky voice and she acknowledged him with a nod, her eyes warming just a little bit at him.
“What about your other friends?” she directed her question to Alex who seemed to have become dumb; Jojo hit his thigh again and he cleared his throat to answer.
“Uko sort admission for University of Calabar while Ekanem owns a betting shop at the village…”
“Two betting shops,” Jojo clarified.
“Hmm,” she grunted and leaned back on her seat, her weight made the seat yawn in the quietness of the office ominously.
“What departments?” she asked, as her eyes flicked to the neatly arranged answer scripts on her table.
Jojo answered first, “Geography, Ma,” then he surreptitiously hit Alex again.
“Economics,” he croaked.
“Hmm, the social sciences, nice,” her face didn’t show that she was pleased with their choices though.
“Let’s not drag this out, people. You know what I want, no need to repeat myself and I know what you want, it’s simple,” she said and pulled out a complimentary card from her purse, she flung it on her desk towards Alex and he instinctively stopped it with his palm before the square paper slid to the floor.
“Call me in two weeks; markings would have been done then,” she said and dismissed them.
ALMOST TWO WEEKS LATER…
“You need to call the woman,” Jojo pointed out in trepidation as he realised that Alex was balking at the idea of servicing Miss Ukata.
“This is even more than what we’d faced at secondary school,” he said, trying to soften Alex’s stony demeanour as he leaned on the fence behind Mama Saviour’s shop.
“We? I was in that room alone! Do you know how scary that woman is?” Alex exclaimed, purely upset, his face squeezing as though he was about to cry.
“Well, you refused to tell us what happened and when I said ‘we’, I meant that your refusal would have affected all of us and the situation is the same now, with only higher stakes.”
Alex ignored him and concentrated on fighting the invisible battle in his mind. What if he reported her to authority? This thought seemed viable, so he shared.
“What if I report her to school authority?” he suggested quietly.
“At the risk of sounding pessimistic, Alex, who do you know at the university? Who in authority do you know? Who would believe someone that isn’t even in the system yet? It might have worked if you had reported to the principal, though I doubt Mr. Udeme would have been able to help you, but, there was a better chance back then than now.”
His heart squeezed again in disgust and hatred, “You sound so calm, maybe you should offer yourself to her,” Alex spewed, “After all, it’s not like you care about your girlfriend enough to be faithful to her.”
Jojo’s mouth dropped open. He understood that his friend wasn’t happy but he couldn’t get why he would drag Eka into this conversation.
“I have not cheated on her,” he declared.
‘But you plan to,” Alex rounded on him, his eyes accusing, “I heard your comment when I complained people where looking at me; you were happy to be my friend and as such girls will naturally come to you too.”
Jojo’s mouth opened and closed like fish in water. He didn’t know how to deny the truth of the observation and it bothered him. Just as he was about to reply, Eka rounded the corner with an empty bowl to scoop rain water from the rusted iron drum behind.
“What are you guys arguing about?” she asked with a smile as she noticed that their stance was confrontational.
“Nothing,” Jojo hurried answered.
“Who’s in the shop?” Alex asked with a bit of concern lacing his tone.
“You should have been but then you’re here,” she joked and leaned over the drum, bending a bit from the waist to scoop water. Alex looked away from the curve of her buttocks in the air and found Jojo watching him closely.
“Sorry,” Alex said, clearing his throat.
“No need, my sister returned. She needs water to wash some of the fruits she bought.”
“From the market?” Alex asked, since he normally did their shopping.
“No, from her way back from church,” Eka explained, smiled at Jojo and then hurried away.
They both watched her until she disappeared into the shop.
“You think I don’t know you like my girlfriend,” Jojo accused.
“As a friend,” Alex clarified but not convincing enough.
Jojo scoffed, “But you were just looking at her buttocks and I recall how you were that first day we met.”
Alex was riled, “I saw I her first…”
“But she likes me, Alex. And for the record, even with a girlfriend, I would so do Miss Ukata because it’s not just about me, it’s about the future of my friend. Ekanem told me you won big money and I’m sure you have it saved to help with your fees. The point is, Alex, I don’t have that kind of money to buy JAMB form again, what if I don’t make it?”
“I was thinking we should seek the admission through Diploma?” he suggested.
Jojo was incensed, “Diploma?! With which result now? And is that what you applied for? You think she won’t have influence there; for crying out loud, she’s in admissions, it means she also has clout in Diploma admissions!”
Alex folded his arms over his chest like a petulant child. His mouth furrowed as deeply as his brow as he refused to accept the situation.
“Let’s tell Eka about it though and see what she will say,” Alex suggested again, knowing Eka would definitely take the side of good.
Jojo shook his head, “Yes, let’s tell her the whole truth, that this isn’t a new thing, you had already serviced Miss Ukata before, back at the village to salvage our WAEC results, I wonder why this is a big deal.”
Alex was immediately reminded of Eka catching him pants down at the goat shed. He hadn’t told Jojo about that story and he wondered how Eka would regard him when she found out that he had slept with an invigilator to help his friends not fail.
He sighed wearily, “But I don’t want this to be a trend in my life,” he slumped on the fence with a sad expression.
Jojo felt bad for his friend, he swallowed a lump stuck in throat, “At the risk of sounding harsh, you already did that back at the village.”
Silence reigned for a while and then he walked away, leaving Alex with the realization that he was right; the trend had already started even before the village. It sincerely bothered him that women used him for sex. And it made him miss Nse more, she hadn’t wanted sex, she had seen him and was ready to just converse, at least, after antagonizing him for so long.
But then her best friend had decided to seduce him just because Nse had finally agreed to be his friend. Women were really evil, he thought as he recalled his encounter with Miss Ukata.
An idea blossomed in his mind. He knew what he was going to do; it would not be business as usual, this time around, he would maintain the control. After all, the woman was human, he would shove down his fear for her and do what had to be done.
ALEX OF IKOT UKAP ADVENTURES continues
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