The Dean was attending to some visitors when I got to his office. While I waited, I fought to stay calm and rubbed my sweaty palms against my knees to keep my hands from trembling.
What would be my fate after this meeting? Would I be expelled? What disturbed me more was that Paul had not called since we met at Lilian’s kitchen. I had deliberately decided not to call him and yet not even a text message or chat on Whatsapp had come from him. Wasn’t it the duty of a boyfriend to check up on his girlfriend regularly?
The door opened and two men came out with the Dean. I stood up but the Dean motioned for me to sit and wait for him. He went out of the office with the two men and after some minutes returned and asked me to follow him into his office.
He took his seat behind a large mahogany table and picked up a pen. He tore out a sticky note and scribbled something in it before sticking it on the back of his laptop. All the while I was standing, my heart pounded with foreboding.
‘Sit down.’ The dean said, without looking at me.
I perched on the edge of the chair and clasped my hands. He removed his glasses and wiped his face with a white handkerchief. He put it back on and leaned forward.
‘Bisola, what exactly is the problem?’
I lowered my head and stared at the floor.
‘I’m asking you a question.’
I raised my head and fixed my gaze on the table. What was I to say?
‘Are you really Dayo’s daughter? Because the Dayo I know as far back as secondary school had the smartest brain in the whole school. Do you know how many awards your father won when we were in secondary school? From SS1 to SS3, he came out with straight As in all his subjects. Did he tell you he had all distinctions in his WAEC result?
I am sure you are aware he came out with a first class from the Physics department. We had our Masters together in the U.S and that man surprised even our professors in school. After his PH.D, he had an offer to stay back, but he chose to return home.
Have you read the content of his journals? Brilliant. His papers are scattered in different international journals around the globe. So I need to ask again, are you really his daughter? I thought you’d come here and shake this department but instead you are close to being expelled from this school. If not for the respect I have for your father and for Dr Chibuzo, there is no way you would have made it to 200level. But right now, there is nothing I can do.’
The tears were running down my eyes and I couldn’t stop them. He passed a pack of serviette to me and I grabbed one and blew my nose into it.
‘Sit up Bisola. Let’s see you do your best and then I might be able to help you. Leave all these boys without a future and focus on your books. There is nothing difficult in the courses you do. If you read very hard, you will pass.’
‘Thank you sir.’ I said and stood up to leave. I thanked him again and left the office.
I was on my way to the hostel when Tochukwu’s father called me.
‘Bisola, where are you?’
His voice was soothing to my ears and the tears returned. I couldn’t talk, I just sniffed and tried not to break down in tears.’
‘Come to my office.’
Few minutes later, I was standing in front of a door that had Dr Chibuzo written on it. The moment I entered, I lost my composure and stood at the center of the office, covering my face as tears poured down my cheeks. Dr Chibuzo’s hands went round my shoulders and my head fell to his chest. He patted my back quietly. When my tears subsided, he led me to a sofa and sat beside me
‘Bisola, your Dean called me this morning. He told me about your results.’
‘Dad, I tried. I read very hard. I don’t know what is wrong with me. I am just a failure with a shrunken brain. I wish I was not born. I just want to die and leave this world.’
‘Stop talking like that. Stop it! You are God’s precious daughter. Remember when you were 9 and I led you to Christ? That day, you were born into God’s family and you had access to his unlimited favour for exploits.’
I stood up and folded my hands. ‘I don’t think there is a God anywhere. Does he even exist because if he does, this will not be happening to me. Maybe God is just a figment of our imagination. The best student in my class does not even believe in God so why is he doing so well.’
Dr Chibuzo reclined in his seat and said nothing. I stared out the window, suddenly angry at God for abandoning me when I needed him. Didn’t I just say I didn’t believe in God? Of course I knew he existed but if what I had said would get him mad, that’s exactly how I wanted him to be. Let him kill me and throw me into hell. After all, what good had life offered me.
There was a knock on the door and Tochukwu entered. He stopped when he saw me standing and his father sitting on the sofa.
‘Did I interrupt anything?’
His father shook his head. ‘No.’
‘I wanted to know when you’ll be leaving for the house. I don’t have any more lecture today.’
Dr Chibuzo glanced at his wristwatch. ‘It’s almost noon. Take my bag to the car. I’ll join you soon.’ He turned to me. ‘You are going home with me. Afterall, tomorrow and Friday have been declared public holiday. We need to sit and talk. You can return tomorrow morning or stay with us until after the sallah break.’
He stood up to get a bottle of water from a small fridge.
I shook my head. ‘Thank you sir.’
He handed me some books and asked me to take them to the car. When I got to the carpark, Tochukwu was sitting in front, reading a book. He didn’t raise his head when I opened the back door and dropped the books. I hate to be ignored but pride kept me from saying anything to him. My phone rang and I was glad to have the silence broken until I saw the caller ID. My father.
‘I want you back in Lagos tomorrow.’
‘Yes sir.’ I responded and he ended the call. My father couldn’t even ask how I was doing. Will all these troubles ever end?
‘Anybody care for ice-cream?’ Dr Chibuzo asked as soon as he climbed into the driver’s seat.
‘No sir.’ I responded.
‘No Dad.’ Tochukwu said and returned his attention to his book.
When we got to the house, Dr Chibuzo drove into a bungalow and stopped at the entrance. Tochukwu got down, holding his father’s bag and sauntered into the house. Mummy Tochi was in the kitchen when I entered. She rushed into the living room, beaming with smiles and clapping excitedly. She hugged me and stooped down to lift me up from the ground. I screamed, laughing and pleading with her not to carry me. I escaped from her grip and ran behind the sofa. She chased me and I ran into Tochuwku’s room. He was lying on the bed, his hands behind his head. He jumped when I entered.
‘Sorry,’ I apologized and left the room, closing the door quietly. I peeped through the door that led to the living room and saw the doctor and his wife leaning on the wall, his hands on her shoulders. They were giggling like teenagers in love.
‘I have gist for you.’ Mummy Tochi said and dragged her husband to the kitchen. For a moment I wondered, Why couldn’t my parents be like this? Our house was always like a convent, everyone walking around on invisible eggshells. My elder brothers rarely came home long before they left the country. I remember the night my mum and I had taken Biodun to the airport, he had turned to me and said,
‘Don’t ever let dad use you to fan his ego like he did to us. Live the life you want. I know he loves us but we were more his awards than we are his sons. Mum deserves more. She has stuck with him all through these years and yet-’ he paused. ‘You are his favourite. I really hope you soften his heart.’
Mum spent more time in my room when my father was around. It was as if she was running from something. When we moved into a twin duplex dad had built, it made no difference to my mother. I still remember her 45th birthday ceremony that had brought dignitaries from different countries. When Dad stood up to give his speech, he grinned at his wife and said,
‘You should have seen her when I first married her, she was so thin but look at how beautiful, smashing and radiant she is. Have you ever seen anyone like her anywhere in the world. I did a good job, didn’t I?’ Everyone stood up and clapped. Biodun hissed and whispered to me. ‘Stupid man. Must everything be about him?’ Then he left the hall.
Dinner in Tochukwu’s house was at 6. They had very strict eating habits and so after we finished eating, Tochukwu’s Father called me to his room. Mummy Tochi was sitting on a sofa and her son beside her. He fixed his gaze on me and that made me uncomfortable.
‘Sit beside me here.’ Dr Chibuzo said, pointing to the bed. I sat and lowered my head.
‘Tochukwu, you have to help your sister. I don’t know how the two of you will be in the same department and this will be happening.’
When I stole a glance at Tochukwu, I noticed he was still looking at me and I turned my face away. I knew what he was thinking. I had been so consumed with Paul that every time he wanted to come close, I pushed him away. All the times he had come to see me in the hostel, he had met Paul in my room. He stopped coming.
His father was still talking. ‘Give her your past questions. Teach her the difficult topics until she knows it. I have seen you teach some of your classmates and you are good at this. Don’t be far away from her again.’
He placed his hand on my shoulders. ‘Bisola, you have to believe you can do this. Once you allow despair set in, that’s all. You are an intelligent young lady. You can do all things through Christ which strengthens you.’
When I returned to the guest room after the meeting, I was very upset. Who does Tochukwu think he is? How could he sit there, so full of himself because of the predicament that had befallen me. I was sure he was happy it had happened, but I was going to show him that I could get out of my mess by myself.
I paced the room, boiling with anger. I do not need anyone’s help. I’ll prove to my father, my dean and all my enemies of progress that I am not weak. They’ll be shocked when I finally come out with a first class.
I exhaled and sat on the bed. I suddenly had the urge to hear Paul’s voice. I missed his touch, the cuddles and the gentle bites of my earlobe. I wanted to be curled up by his side and forget about my result or my father’s order to return home. I wanted to wipe clean Tochukwu’s sour attitude and the words of the Dean from my memory.
I called Paul. He picked up this time. ‘Paul, why? Why are you treating me like this?’
‘Babe, I’m very sorry. I’ve been so busy. College of Medicine no be joke o. can I see you tonight?’
I wanted so badly to see Paul but how do I get out of the house without a believable lie. I needed an escape plan.
‘Bisola, are you there? Babe, I know you are very upset. I’ll make it up to you, I promise. I’ll be in your hostel in an hour.’
‘I love you.’
I let out a breath along with every seething anger against Paul that I had harbored. ‘I love you too.’
Immediately I ended the call, I picked up my handbag and rushed out of the room. Tochukwu and his father were in the living room watching a documentary. When he saw me standing beside him, he paused the video and turned to me.
‘Where are you going to?’
I was ready with my lie. ‘I have the key to my room with me. Usually, there is a place we keep the key but I forgot to drop it there. Right now, my roommates are outside the room waiting. I need to get the key to them.’
‘Then let Tochukwu take you to the hostel. You drop the key and come back with him.’ Mummy Tochi said, coming into the living room with a big bowl of fruit salad.
How do I get myself out of this? ‘Dad also called me today. He wants me to come to Lagos first thing tomorrow morning. I’ll have to pack some of my things and copy the notes from today’s class.’
Tochukwu’s father looked at his wife. She shrugged. He tapped his Tochukwu. ‘Son, drop her at the school hostel.’
I thanked them again and followed Tochukwu out.
Throughout the trip back to school, none of us said a word to each other. This time I enjoyed the silence. All I cared about now was Paul. When he drove in through the school gate, he cleared his throat.
‘You didn’t forget any key. That was a ploy to see Paul.’
I shot an angry glance at him. ‘What?’
‘You didn’t have to lie. You should have told them you wanted to see your boyfriend.’
‘It wasn’t a lie!’
He chuckled. He glanced at me and didn’t say anything.
‘Why would you even think I lied to your parents. I’m annoyed that you think so dishonest of me.’
I was angrier when he still didn’t say anything. I wanted him to talk so I could defend myself but instead, he turned his attention to the road. The anger dissipated, replaced by guilt and shame.
When he pulled up in front of the hostel, I got down and slammed the door without saying thank you. The fact that the lie had been thrown in my face annoyed me more than the fact that I had lied.
I was climbing the stairs that led to my room when someone grabbed my hand from behind. I turned to see Paul grinning at me. I screamed in delight and jumped on him. We only pulled away because some guys needed to go up the stairs.
‘Let’s go to your room, so we can talk.’
‘No joor. I want to be alone with you.’
He smiled and I felt my heart flip with excitement. I poked at his chest playfully. He held my hands and we ran down the stairs.
‘I think I know the perfect place.’
I giggled and wrapped my hand around his waist. ‘I have missed you so much.’
He stopped and winked at me. That melted my heart and every problem seemed to disappear. His love was all that mattered now. I wish this was my reality when I wouldn’t have to go back to the real world and face some boring tests and exams.
Paul knew the perfect place where we could talk. In front of the faculty of social sciences were concrete slabs stationed under some trees. The place was almost empty now except for some students coming out of the faculty’s entrance and heading towards the back gate. The ambience was exactly what we needed. I sat and locked Paul’s hands with mine. He kissed my forehead and I smiled, placing my head on his shoulder.
‘Have you forgiven me?’ his chin was resting on my head. It felt so good, so safe.
Without moving my head from his shoulder, I responded. ‘Yes.’
‘Thank you.’ He whispered. ‘Bisola, we know we can’t be seeing regularly.’
I raised my head and pretended to be upset. ‘For goodness sake, you are just in 200level. What will happen to us when you get to 400. You are not the only medical student in a relationship. Paul, that’s not an excuse.’
‘It’s getting tougher.’
I played with his fingers, unhappy at the news. ‘That’s not fair. How am I supposed to survive without you?’
He rubbed my cheeks with the back of his hands. ‘You’ll be fine. By the way, how was your result?’
Not now, please. ‘It was just there.’
He raised my chin. ‘What do you mean by, it was just there? You didn’t fail any course, did you?’
I sighed, wondering whether to tell him the truth or not. I figured he’d understand. Our love mattered more than anything in the world. He’d sympathise with me. When I had cried to him after my 100level result was released, he had comforted me, telling me I still had the chance to get better grades.
‘Paul I failed some courses.’ I said, looking down. He didn’t say anything and when I looked at his eyes, it was a different man I saw. There was no compassion in his eyes and somewhere I could see disdain and irritation.
‘What’s the situation of things now? How many courses did you fail?’
‘Five. But the Dean said I still have a chance this semester. If it means sleeping every night in the class, I’ll do that.’
‘You still have carryovers from 100level to write this semester. So in 300 level, you will still be writing another set of carryovers apart from your regular courses and that’s if the total credit load can accommodate all of them. Wait, what’s your CGPA?’
I flared up. ‘Why are you talking like you don’t understand my predicament.’
‘Because I do not! Babe, I cannot relate to what you are going through so please explain it to me. What exactly is your problem Bisola?’
I hissed. ‘I shouldn’t have told you in the first place. You of all people should not be making fun of me.’
‘I am not making fun of you. I just don’t understand why you keep failing. For God’s sake, you have so much opportunities than I do. Your father is a guru, the dean of your faculty is a friend of your father. Even my lecturers know your father. You are surrounded by brains and yet you don’t know a thing. If I had one-third of the opportunities you have, do you think I’ll be where I am today?
I got admission into the college of medicine thrice but every time, something would stop me from taking up the admission. You have to all the basic amenities of life freely, I’m struggling through life. I’ve told you how we lived under the bridge for many months. We were homeless Bisola. I worked my way through secondary school but you got everything on a platter of gold.’
My shoulders dropped. This was not going the way I expected it.
Yet you don’t know a thing.
Did he really say that? Was he saying I was dull?
‘I think we have to call off this relationship. You need time to focus on your studies.’
I stared at him, alarmed. What did he just say? He wants to leave me? I grabbed his hands as tears welled up in my eyes.
‘Don’t leave me please. I need you.’
Gently, he pulled my hand away and stood up. ‘No you don’t. You need to get out of your mess and put your life back on track. If I’m going to be spending my life with any woman, it has to be a smart and intelligent woman, one who takes life seriously.’
I watched him walk away, taking a part of me with him. My lips trembled as he disappeared out of sight. I covered my face with my hands and wept. I wanted this to be a dream. I wanted to wake up to discover that everything was fine. I wanted Paul to run back to me and say he was joking about all he had said.
He wanted a smart and intelligent woman but I was the definition of a dummy. I wasn’t good enough for him. I wasn’t good enough for anyone. What then was the essence of living. Why can’t I kill myself and bring an end to this pain.
I didn’t know how long I sat there but by the time I stood up, it was already very dark. On my way back to the hostel, Paul’s words came back to me. My father had lashed out at me several times after every exam I failed.
‘You are a disgrace to this family. Look at your brothers. Seyi graduated with the best result in Chemical Engineering. Biodun represented Nigeria in a spelling bee competition and returned with an award. Your younger brother, Wole, wrote WAEC and JAMB once. Why are you different?’
Paul’s words came back. You don’t know a thing. If I’m going to be spending my life with any woman, it has to be a smart and intelligent woman, one who takes life seriously.
When I got to the front of my hostel, my knees couldn’t hold me anyone. I couldn’t see clearly either because of the tears that blurred my eyes. I blew my nose before settling for one of the concrete slabs at the carpark.
If I killed myself, Paul would regret his words. He would cry at my funeral, wishing he had not said those hurtful words to me. He would plead with me to stand up from the grave and after the funeral service return to his room, sad and unable to read his books. He would be forced to eat and every night with my pictures on his chest, he would think of the times we had spent together. It would be difficult to find another woman to love again.
The idea calmed my heart. I wanted to see Paul kneel, declaring his love for me again. But if I killed myself, how would I know if he really regretted his actions. What if I tried doing it without really doing it. Just enough to land me in the hospital.
My thoughts were interrupted by a sound coming from one of the cars. Just close to the street light at the carpark were two women standing by a car. One looked older in buba and iro. The other person was obviously a student. The sound came again. It was a slap from the older woman to the younger lady.
‘Go inside now and bring all the trousers, the jewelry and all the useless clothes you wear. Esther, is this what we sent you to school to do? We raised you well. Look at your picture. It is all over the church. Your father has not been able to get out of the house out of shame. Esther, why?’
Another woman got down from the car. ‘Mummy calm down. You are causing a scene here. Look at the students already gathering.’
‘I don’t care!’ She put her hands on her head. ‘Esther, you will come home wearing long skirts and looking like a good Christian daughter and I will be using you as an example to the women in church, showing them how to train their children. How do I go back to face them. You have ruined our lives.’ She stamped her feet. ‘Oya, go and pack all your things, we are going home. No more school for you!’
When I moved closer to see the lady in question, my eyes widened in surprise.
Esther! The hottest babe in my hostel. She was in Block C, two rooms away from Eseosa’s room. That was the girl with the most beautiful skin I had ever seen. She was light in complexion with thick hips and a slim waist. Eseosa and I wondered how God could put everything beautiful in one body. She walked with grace and with so much class. When she steps out of her room in the morning, you are forced to ask what such a lady was doing in a stuffy hostel. Several times in the morning, on my way back to the hostel from night class, I had seen different cars drop her off at the car park.
Her mother was still shouting when I left the car park for my room. I had my problems to deal with. My boyfriend had just broken my heart and tomorrow I was going to face my father. The very thought of a meeting with my father almost scared me to death.
Episode 3 comes next.