“Thank you. I have surrendered Vera to you, sir,” I said smiling, and returned to my washing, as an arm in arm, they went into the room.
I was seeing his smile inside the foam from the cloth I was washing. I could hear his deep and soothing voice echoing in my ears tearing deep into my soul.
Girl, hold yourself together. He is Vera’s, I heard my thoughts rebuking me.
And so the years went by. Treacherous thoughts were gnawing at my heart. I cannot imagine the dark secret that I abhor in my heart. I fought desperately to ban those thoughts to within my heart which itself is not quite easy.
I love Vera and Evelyn as friends and sisters, and we progressed through the years in the school. My boyfriend, Alabo, a student from the University of Port Harcourt came on a visit one particular day, and by coincidence had met Timi. The two men had instantly established a close bond.
Some weekends when activities were not quite demanding at school, we would all go outing to have fun. I now looked to those days with nostalgia. Not on the fact of the escapades we had, but on the bond of friendship we shared.
1987. This was a year of the turning point in my life, school and events that reshaped a lot of issues on our relationship.
For reasons, I could not bring myself to explain now; I broke off relationship with Alabo. It was a painful decision that we had to take at the time.
In the home, my mother was still struggling with managing the affairs of house-keeping, and my schooling. I have to get back to school immediately after the Christmas break as this was my final year at school and I have so much ground to cover on paperwork. On the other hand, I do not want to constitute additional pressure to my Mother in the house.
I was hoping to have a good grade to improve the chances of my admission into the university. With these thoughts running riot in my head, I got to the house at Abonnema and found the door locked. The house was a bungalow which we shared with the landlord who was staying in the main house. We have a room at the back.
My heart skipped as I stood there staring at the locked door, my luggage trailing behind me. Why have Evelyn and Vera not back from their break? We had agreed to come back to school on the first weekend of the New Year.
Dragging my things, I went to the main house to inquire from the landlord.
“Ah! You are looking your friends?” He raised his head to look at me from the newspaper he was reading. He was sitting on the veranda in front of the sitting room, a wrapper tied around his waist, his stomach, like an eight months pregnancy, almost resting on his laps.
“I don’t believe they would be coming back to this house. They sent somebody during the holiday to remove their things. I think, according to the man that came here, they do not want to renew the house rent here this year.”
“Sir, w-what about their loads?” my heart was choppy. This is not happening to me. I tried to hold myself from panicking.
“They have removed all of their loads. I think the only ones left are yours,” he looked at me through his bifocal glasses. “However, I can keep the room available for you if you intend to keep it, or you might consider removing your things as soon as you have made a provision for a place to stay.”
“Sir, please, can I leave my luggage here with you for a moment and make some arrangement? I will come and remove them later.”
“No problem just put them there beside that cupboard,” he said pointing to the corner of the room where a huge cupboard was standing against the wall.
I have no idea where I was going. I glanced at the time on my watch: 4 pm. I cannot get a boat to return to Port Harcourt at this time. Even if I were to get one to Port Harcourt, what will I tell my mother, or how could she get extra money for a rent? She had tried all within her available resources to get me back to school.
I have relied on the goodwill of my friends for too long and have failed to plan ahead of this calamity. Something bad could have happened to have made Evelyn and Vera to stop coming back as planned. I was walking so fast, one step after the other without seeing the crowd that were just blurs around me as I cut across the narrow pathways of this incident city.
Then I was knocking on his door. Timi opened the door to my knocking. I did know what to say as he opened the door and looked at me with shock, his eyes asked the question before his mouth pronounced it.
“Loundah, what’s the problem? You look terrible.” He stepped aside from the door and gestured me into the room.
He was wearing a white T-shirt tucked into a brown khaki short. I looked into his eyes digging deep into mine, a little smile on the face showing him to either be frowning, or just worried at my coming upon him so unexpectedly.
“I just came into town from Port Harcourt, but I cannot get where to enter. I….”
“What do you mean you cannot get where to enter,” he interrupted me, his eyes showing the true concern.
Hesitantly, I explained the situation to him. For a moment, he was silent. I thought he was going to send me away, and then he smiled at me.
“Where are your things?” he asked.
“I left them with the landlord of the house.”
For the first since I came to town. I began to notice the breeze that was blowing in from the sea.
“Well, my house is not much,” he said, spreading his hand around the room.
I glanced around the room. It was a self-contained room. There was a big bed standing at the left side of the room. Opposite the bed against the other wall was a double seat. Beside the seat was a little wall shelf, with a television set and a video player. There was a little wardrobe tucked in between the head of the bed and the wall.
This is a well-compacted room, I noticed. I have been here with Vera on several occasions but not under the present circumstance. For now, I just needed somewhere to put my head down and think out the next line.
“Timi, I’m so grateful to you. It would have been a really big disaster for me if you were not in town today,” I shook his hands vigorously.
“I will get a boy to go with you to bring your things here. You are our sister, you know?” he beamed that smile at me and left me in the room to call the boy.
I felt relieved, and my reasoning started flooding back into my head with a little trepidation. What am I doing here of all places? There was a raging battle within me. My desire for Timi and my present situation on one hand, and my love for my friend Vera on the other hand; is it really a desire or a feeling?
The image that imprinted in my memory of him the first day I saw him started floating back to the surface. How can I stand against myself? What would Vera think of me? But above all, what will Timi do about me?
I was like someone floating on air as I went with the boy to pack my loads from our previous house.