Short story

FEBRUARY 14

I pulled back the curtains just as the white Pathfinder swerved sharply through the black gate and came to an abrupt stop in front of the duplex.

“You should go downstairs.”

My mother was standing by the door.

“I don’t want to see him.” I said, moving away from the window.

I retrieved a novel from my bedside drawer and sat on the bed. I flipped to the first page but couldn’t make sense of the words in it. Mum left the room and I could here my daughter’s excited voice and the pounding  of her feet on the stairs.

The door opened. “Mum.”

“Come here.” I beckoned on my daughter. I pulled her close.

“I’m so sorry I couldn’t go with you.” I said.

Funmi turned her face away. I couldn’t tell if she was angry or disappointed.

” I won.”

I pulled her close. “I’m so proud of you.” I ran my hands over her face. “I knew you would win this. I knew it.”

“I just wished you were there with me and Uncle Shola. It would have been perfect.”

“Sweet heart, I’m so sorry, I promise, I’ll make it up to you.”

“We could have a Girls night out. What do you think? We could go get pizza and ice-cream.”

She hesitated. “I want to stay here with you.”

She lolled her head against my shoulders. “Tell me a story.”

I sighed deeply. Yeah it was time to open up old wounds.

**************
I cried my eyes out the day Femi broke up with me, right after that powerful Sunday service. Who does that?

“Hello Jumoke. I just want to tell you that I’m calling off this relationship because I don’t see a future with you.”

Yes that was how he put it. So plain and dry.

I’m never going back to that church. Period!

But Gbemi, my best friend, wouldn’t hear of it. She said I would be giving my enemies reasons to fuel their scuttle-butt.

“If you don’t open this door now, I’m going to call Oga Victor to come and break it.” Mum pounded vigorously on the door two days later.

When I unlocked it, she rushed in, pulled out the bunch of keys from the door knob and faced me.

“Mummy, he left me. I wish the holiday was over. I want to go back to school.” I cried.

“Oya, come and suck breast.” she said, chuckling. I ran into her arms. She patted me and rubbed my back gently.

I had just begun to narrate the break-up story when my brother entered. “There is a man in the living room looking for Jumoke.”

My heart thudded. “Who is he?”

When I walked into the living room, I stared at the visitor in astonishment

Shola!

The last time I set my eyes on him was when he proposed to me, three years ago, shortly before he proceeded to Abuja for his youth service. The shy, thin, unattractive poverty stricken dude didn’t fit into my idea of the perfect lover but now as he stood, handsome and gorgeous in a blue t-shirt that blended with his sneakers, I saw before my very eyes my dream man.

We hung out the next day.

In my silver studded black gown, I stepped into Defaros Pizza spot. Shola, approached me in his stunning dark grey suit, beaming with smiles .

“Hello, Jummy.”

“Shola.” I said. We shook hands.

In silence, we walked to the counter. I was nervous.

“Look how perfect you two look perfect together!”

I turn to stare at the wrinkled face grinning at me. She was quickly pulled away by a much younger woman.

“Excuse my grandmother. She loves to poke nose into other people’s affairs.

I smiled, wishing Shola would say something about what the woman had just said.

“Can we order now?” Shola said.

“I love this one.” I pointed to the chicken barbeque pizza on the menu list. Within few minutes, our hot pizza sat in front of us. I reclined against the padded chair. It was just like three years ago when I sat with Shola on our veranda and w talked about everything. He was still bringing me up to speed on his new IT firm in Abuja and his intention of starting up another in Lagos when I grabbed his iPhone and went straight to his photos.

Then I saw this lady. Her head was resting on his shoulders.

Just a friend, I thought. Next?

The lady again. Her hands tuck under Shola’s. Both of them running down the beach. Two pairs of hands on a knife placed at the center of a large lemon cake. Her hands wrapped round his neck as they stare at each other.

I’m not liking this.

“So how’s Femi?”

I looked up, surprised. He knows about Femi?

He smiled. “Distance may have pulled us apart but I hear the gist.

“Who is this?” I said, a little loudly.

He sighed before replying. “She is my fiancée.”

My heart cut.

I shoved the phone to him. “To answer your question, Femi is doing fine and I think we should get going. I have to be home by 6p.m

Shola stared at me. “Did I say anything to upset you?”

I smiled. “I’m fine.”

I was already on my feet. “Please can we go now?”

My mother sat on the edge of the bath tub watching as I poured water over my face  smeared with tears, she shook her head and said sternly “It’s time to stop spreading your feelings around. You have to begin to relax in God’s hands and trust Him to lead you to the right kind of love.”

But I called her words bluff when some weeks later, I met Jerry, a youth corps member serving with my church. I had caught him stealing glances at me as he played the piano. My heart raced whenever our eyes met. So every Saturday, I looked forward to seeing him and I would scurry to the front seat and settle for a spot and he would tilt his head backward and glance at me with a smile.

After rehearsals on a rainy Saturday, I stood at the entrance hugging my neck while watching the downpour.

A hand tapped my shoulder gently. I turned. There he was, Eyes, the exact shape of the waxing crescent moon, skin glowing in its darkness and lips messing with head. I saw that his strong biceps gave him a certain confidence, a manliness so endearing and his height swallowed me up . His nearness was intimidating.

He smiled as I punched my number into his phone.

Jerry called me every night.

His voice was deep and soothing. “How is my beautiful angel doing?”

I chuckled

He continued. “I wish you know how much I love you. You are the best thing that ever happened to me and right now I want to hold you so close to my heart. My hands are moving around your waist, can you see them?” And then I would imagine his strong hands and my heart would leap.

As days progressed, He took another form. “I’m kissing you hard.” and I would imagine. “My hands are moving from your neck…”

By the end of the call, he would be panting hard. Sex for us began long on the phone before the morning of February 14th

I was getting ready for bed when my phone rang.

“ I wrote my final paper today. I’m now a graduate!” I screamed on the phone.
Jerry laughed. “Congratulations to my dearest sweet heart.”

I grinned.

“So when is my baby returning. ” he asked.

I frowned. “I don’t know yet. I still have to complete my project.”

Jerry sighed. “Jumoke, my passing out parade is next month and I’ll be travelling back to Port Harcourt.”

“I know.” I said, sadly.

“I was looking forward to spending this year’s valentine with you. I have so much plans laid down for tomorrow.”

I was confused.

“Can you come to Lagos tomorrow? We’ll just spend few hours together and then you’ll return to school.”

I paused. My mother wouldn’t agree with the arrangement. I had never embarked on a journey without her approval.

“You don’t have to tell your mum. Let this be our tiny little secret.” he said, as if he was reading my mind.

“I promise this is going to be our best time together. We’ll stay indoors so no one will find out that you are in town. I’ll come pick you straight from the park.”

Everything happened very fast from the moment I walked into Jerry’s room. I was mesmerized by the scented candles lighted at all corners of the room, the red flowered bed spread, the red roses placed at the center of the bed, the love-shaped cake boldly inscribed in bright red, ‘HAPPY VAL. JERRY&TOPE, the bottle of grape wine that stood beside it. I was excited.

I pulled out my phone from the pocket of my jeans and we took a ‘selfie’ together in front of the cake. Then I cut a large chunk and allowed the delicious sponge to settle on my tongue. Jerry poured me a cup of wine and we sat on the rug, quietly enjoying the moment. I wished I could stay there forever.

Jerry stared at me. I smiled.

He moved closer and placed his hand around my waist. “I love you so much.” he whispered and nipped at my ear.

Electric surge flew through my body. His head was on my neck and he rubbed my stomach slightly. “You are going to carry my babies.”

I glared at his beautiful eyes. He got up quickly and turned on the CD Player. A soft music began to play. He pulled me to my feet. I held his shoulders and we slowly danced to the rhythm of the song. My heart pounded. Slowly, his hands slid to my waist. He pulled me closer.

Get out of there now, a voice said.

He cupped my face with his hands.

‘Don’t ever go to his house!’ I heard my mother’s voice.

He kissed me lightly. Gently he led me to the bed. I stiffened. He stopped.

“Funmi” he started, his hands drawing lines on my nape. “It is you who makes my heart beat. I can’t live without you. Every night I see us together, as husband and wife. I see us cuddled in bed. I feel your breath, your warmth.”

My strength waned.

We were at the edge of the bed. “I promise to love and cherish you all the days of my life.”

He unbuttoned my shirt.

“I’m never going to let you go. I don’t care if I have to fight to have you. Tope, no woman has ever made me feel so strong and so happy. I will-”

We made passionate love that afternoon.

Five minutes later, I laid on my back, staring at the ceiling and pushing away the guilt. I could hear my mother say, ‘Tope, but you promised to keep your virginity till your wedding night.’

He said he will marry me, I defended myself. I sat up and looked at Jerry. He was snoring. Quietly I dressed up and walked out of the room.

Three weeks after I submitted my project and returned home, I threw up on my mum as she entered my room to wake me up for the family devotion.

The doctor confirmed her fears. He said I was six weeks pregnant. That morning, she marched right out of the doctor’s office and drove away. Fear gripped me. How would I face the wrath of my father? Jerry had returned back to Port Harcourt. I was still within the hospital’s premises when I dialled his number.

“Listen to me dear. You can’t keep this child. I don’t have a job yet for goodness sake. I’ll send you a friend’s contact. He’ll handle this smoothly.”

I swallowed the pills Jerry’s friend gave me that afternoon. Never was I going to allow an obstacle deter me from moving on with my life. My mum still wouldn’t talk to me and my father was returning from his trip that day.

That night I groaned in pain. I woke up the next day on a hospital bed.

************
I squeezed Funmi’s hands again. “The doctor said, the pill I took may have caused some serious damage but that you had a chance of survival.

I was weeping now. “I’m sorry.” I said. I ran my hands over where her eyes should have been. Funmi pulled away. She began to search frantically for her stick.

“You should have tried aborting me a second time. You deprived me of living like every normal child.”

“I love you.” I cried. I reached for her arms. Her stick fell.

“Leave me alone!”

My mother rushed into the room and led her out.

For two days, Funmi locked herself up in her room. When I couldn’t bear the silence anymore, I picked up my phone.

“Shola, please can you come over.”

When he showed up ten minutes later holding a box of pizza, I ran into his arms crying. I was glad he’d moved to Lagos ten years ago, shortly after his fiancée jilted him and two years after Funmi’s arrival. He has been part of her life and even though I had rejected his several marriage proposals, painful memories of my past still haunting me, he actively nurtured me back to health-spiritually and emotionally.

“What happened?” He asked. “She knows.” I answered

He sighed. “Funmi, Please open this door.”

No response. He tried again.

We sat at the entrance to her room. We talked. We even laughed.

I turned to Shola. “I will marry you.”

He was stunned. I smiled. He jumped to his feet and began to bang furiously on the door.

“Funmi, Open the door. I have good news.”

He hit the door vigorously.

The door opened. Funmi stood there frowning. Shola hugged her tight. “She’s agreed to marry me.”

Funmi tried to hide her smile. “I smell pizza.” He handed her a slice.

“Yummy.” She said, hungrily.

I shook my head when I entered her room to find empty packs of biscuits and bottled water scattered all over her bed.

Behind me, I could heard Shola say to my daughter. “You know, I’ve loved you since you were two, and I still love you.”

I turned. Funmi was making out the features of his face with her greasy hands. “I love you too dad.”

Six months later, as I stood before Pastor Richard in my white flowing gown, I glanced at my blind daughter, sitting at the front pew, dressed in a crispy pink gown.

I will give anything just to have her see how beautiful I look. I thought, fighting back the tears. I returned my gaze to the man I loved, a man who has patiently waited to see this day come to reality.

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