Ajoke sat in the taxi taking her back to the village. She put her hand on her chest willing her heart to slow down to its normal rhythm. She wasn’t sure whether it was the sight of Kokumo after ten years or the hope that she was going to see him that evening that made her heart beat faster; but it did. He hadn’t changed much and seeing him again had awoken feelings in her which she thought were dead. She sighed as she closed her eyes. Was he married? He hadn’t mentioned anything about a wife. If he was, he would not have asked her to see him in the evening, she thought.
She remembered his question about when she intended to go back to school and she suddenly became upset. What guts did he have to ask her about that? He had had it relatively easy for him. His dream had always been to be a graduate. And now he even worked in a bank with his certificate. Her dream of ever going to the university had been truncated by her father the day he gave her hand in marriage to Adejoro. Adejoro had been more bothered about his own education. Hers was a distraction to the marriage as far as he was concerned. As long as he provided for her and their kids, she did not need to worry herself about an education; he had told her. Now that the sole responsibility of taking care of her children was on her shoulders, Kokumo had the effrontery to talk her into getting a university education. She hissed as she looked out of the window. She had promised to see him at 7.30; she would keep to her promise.
She closed from her shop about thirty minutes earlier, so she could make an early dinner for her kids. Once dinner had been served, she told her kids she wanted to see a friend in town and would be back before their bedtime.
She boarded a bus into town and hoped to be back early enough. As she walked the distance from the bus-stop to Kokumo’s house, she took a look at the dress she was wearing. She had changed into a dress from the blouse and wrapper she was wearing in the morning. She had made an extra effort to look better than she did in the morning.
Kokumo couldn’t sit still. He had paced his living room more times than he could remember. Was Ajoke going to honour his invitation? Was he doing the right thing by inviting her to his house? He hadn’t even considered her children when he had asked her to meet him. How selfish of him? He blew out air through his mouth and rubbed his temples. He had missed her so much. He had tried unsuccessfully to forget about her throughout his stay in the university. He had buried himself in his books in a bid to get her off his mind. It worked but only for short periods. He refused to read her letters because he imagined reading them would reopen his wounds which were still fresh. His mother had also steered clear of talking about her as she noticed that anytime she asked if he was considering marriage after his education, he flared up and got upset.
He had graduated from the university with a First class and proceeded on the compulsory National Youth Service programme in Anambra state. All through, he had avoided intimate relationships like a plague. On his return from his youth service, his mother began to question him about marriage. She was worried that no woman visited and she voiced out her concerns. When he could not bear his mother’s questions any longer, he moved out and got an apartment in town. Besides, it was easier for him to get to work from town than while living with his mother in the village. He had gotten her a mobile phone and taught her how to use it. Two months ago, he was transferred to the branch close to his house.
He thought about Adunni as he sat down on the couch in his living room. He had met her during his Youth Service in Anambra state. She was beautiful and fun to be with. Even though, she had wanted more from their friendship, he had made it clear to her that he was not interested in a relationship. She had been disappointed but had gotten over it quickly. She was free-spirited and he loved that about her. She held no grudges and saw the bright side of every situation.
After their youth service, they had kept in touch by calling each other once in a few weeks. She had gotten a job in a telecommunications company and lived with her parents on the other side of town. His last visit to his mother had not been pleasant. She had been upset about his inability to settle down. She had asked him what he was waiting for. He had said he wanted to be a graduate. He had said he needed a good job. He had gotten both but had still refused to settle down. She reminded him of all his friends who already had kids and told him she was not ready to go down to her grave without seeing her grandchildren. That was six months ago.
He had left his mother’s house the next day and she had made him promise to settle down quickly. On his way home, he had thought over his mother’s request. She was right that he had to settle down but he couldn’t think of anyone who suited or complemented him. While he deliberated on what to do, Adunni had called him to tell him she was visiting an aunt around his vicinity and would not mind visiting him as well. He had gladly accepted her invitation. Out of all his female friends, she had remained a constant in his life.
He had told her that evening that he was willing to take their friendship a step further. Adunni had shrugged. If it worked out between them, it was fine. If it didn’t, she was willing to move on. She had told him. He had felt relieved that she had seen their relationship in that light.
The doorbell chimed bringing him out of his reverie. He looked at his wristwatch. It was 7.30pm. He stood up and walked to the door. As he opened the door, he smiled and let Ajoke in. Ajoke walked in with an expressionless face. Kokumo wondered what was on her mind.
“Please sit down.” He said. “Have you had dinner? I bought some food at the eatery down the road just in case you hadn’t had dinner.”
“I’m fine.” Ajoke replied as she sat down. “You wanted to see me.”
Kokumo exhaled. He was hoping Ajoke would loosen up with him but it seemed she was bent on being uptight. He walked towards her, knelt down on one knee before her as he took her hands in his. “Ajoke, please I said I am sorry. You are still upset with me.”
Ajoke had not expected his action and it had caught her by surprise. Ajoke looked at him and was about to speak but words failed her. She closed her eyes trying to stop the tears that were beginning to gather at the corner of her eyes. She had promised herself not to breakdown in Kokumo’s house or in his presence but her strength and resolve was failing her.
“Ajoke, please talk to me.” Kokumo said. “I love you and will always do.”
The words were the trigger Ajoke needed and she burst into tears.
Kokumo stood up from his kneeling position and pulled Ajoke up. He hugged her tightly as she sobbed on his shoulders. He was in love with her and he could not deny it. The truth was that he never stopped loving her, but life had been unfair to them, throwing a curve in their lives. He wished there was something he could do to ease the pain they both felt.
He raised her head as his lips found hers and he kissed her gently. Ajoke initially resisted as she put her hands on Kokumo’s chest and tried to push him back. Kokumo stepped back and looked at her. He used his thumb to wipe the tears on her face and Ajoke closed her eyes savouring his touch. Kokumo pulled her closer and kissed her again. This time, Ajoke did not push him away. He had kindled a fire within her and her body which was long dead lit up with passion as she shuddered with every touch. She kissed him back with a hunger that had been buried for ten years as she held on tightly to him and refused to let go. In a few minutes, both of them were caught in the frenzy of the moment and they tore at each other’s clothing thirsty with the desire they both longed for. As their naked bodies entwined, Ajoke’s body throbbed with passion and expectation. She had not been touched by any man for the past seven years and her body came alive. She screamed in ecstasy and cried in fulfillment; her whole body trembling as Kokumo made her a woman to be loved again.
By Bukola Adekusibe
THE WAIT continues
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