Closer than you Imagine*
Ayomide couldn’t wait for school to be over. To her, the time was getting slower by the minute. She knew her mates were talking about her and she could not wait to get out of the class. Through out the rest of the lesson for that day, she paid less attention. She just wanted to get home. At that moment of thoughts, she heard the jingle of the bell.
“At last, its 2 O’clock”, Ayo stated.
“Are you in a hurry to get home?” Bukola asked curiously.
“Not really. I just want to get away from school”
. She didn’t even wait for Bukky to respond before she took her belongings and left the classroom hurriedly. She went to stand by one of the school bus on which ‘School Bus 3’ was written boldly. She has been told earlier by the cashier that she would be boarding the bus, another reason she was excited by the jingle of the bell.
While sitting inside the bus for it to be filled up, she was surprised to see Bukky and Bayo coming towards the same bus she was in. ‘Maybe they live along the road’, she thought. She dreaded the idea of Bayo living close to her house.
Bukky was the first to enter and was surprised to see Ayo also. “Oh! What a coincidence”, she exclaimed
. “So you live around Unity Estate also?”
“Yes”, Ayo responded surprised. ‘How did she know that?’
“I know because Bus 3 goes towards that area”, Bukky revealed after seeing the surprised look on Ayo’s face. “My house is at Plot 10, Johnson Avenue”.
“Really! Mine is Plot 11, same Johnson Avenue”
“You don’t mean it. So we live opposite each other? As in we are neighbours”, Bukola cried excitedly. Her joy knew no bounds.
All the while, Ayo was smiling. She was glad she accepted Bukky’s friendship. Now, after 3 months she has a friend who live close by, attend same school as her, seats beside her in class and a good talkative.
* * * *
“Esther, are you not going home?” Mr. Badmus demanded as soon as he got out of his office and still saw Mrs. Cole busy with the computer in front her.
“I would, right after I finish with this”.
“Okay do you mind if I wait and give you a ride home since we live just a street from each other”.
“I wouldn’t want you to bother. I could be delaying you”.
“That true but I’m not complaining”, Mr. Badmus insisted.
“Okay, I give in”, she surrendered raising both hands. “Just give me a few more minutes. Please”.
“Okay”, he said smiling. His mind drifted away – Since the first day Esther walked into his office seeking employment, he had always felt something for her. But he didn’t know what it was. He still nurse the pain of his wife’s death from 5 years. How could he be so friendly to another lady? – He wondered.
“… and I’m done. Let’s go”, Mrs. Cole announced thereby interrupting his thoughts.
“Okay let’s go”.
They both left the office and headed straight home.
It was half past two by the time Bukky and Ayo alighted from the school bus. As soon as they were alone, Ayo took the opportunity to ask Bukky a question that has been bothering her mind since Bayo entered the same school bus as them.
“Bayo, does he live around here also?” she asked.
“Why do you ask?” Bukky queried.
“I saw him earlier in the school bus and he’s yet to alight”.
“Yes, he lives on the next avenue, Adams Avenue. If I’m to be exact, his house should be just behind yours”.
“Okay thanks”, Ayo said. “Do you mind if I lend your English textbook so I can copy the question to the assignment?”
“Don’t you have the text book?” Bukky asked shockingly. “I thought all first year student are supposed to have the textbook before enrolment”.
“My mother doesn’t have enough money to get me the required textbook”, Ayo responded honestly.
“Okay. I will bring mine over to your place later in the day.
. We can work on it together. I don’t understand the question”, lamented Bukky.
“I will bring it over to your place later in the day”, Ayo mimicked her. “Do you even know our apartment in that house?” she asked pointing in the direction of her house. All the while they have been standing in front of Bukky’s house.
“Ehn and you will tell me. Which one is that one now?” Bukky said slightly angry.
“Sorry”, Ayo apologized. “It’s just the first apartment to your left”.
“Okay”, she said and turned to leave but Ayo stopped her.
“You were saying something about not understanding the question”, Ayo said. “Have you even studied it?”
“See, Life is too simple to worry yourself about studying”, Bukky deflected and left hurriedly.
Ayo ignored her and left for their apartment. She went straight to the kitchen and brought out garri from the cupboard as that was the only food at home. She soaked it in water, added the little sugar she could find and drank it hungrily.
After the light meal, she brought out a storybook from her school bag and opened it. She smiled and remembered Bukky’s word – ‘Life is too simple to worry yourself about studying’. She just smiled and afterwards slept off without reading a sentence in the book she was holding.
What could it be?*
When Bayo got home, he became restless. He couldn’t help but think about the events of the day. From when he pardoned a junior student to when he was told to call the same student. In between, his classmates wouldn’t stop talking about the same girl. He also encountered a woman while at the gate post and the girl looked exactly like the woman. The woman had complimented him even though she was in an hurry
. She had also told him to take care of her daughter like her big brother. In his mind, he knew he had seen the woman before but he couldn’t place the face.
Again, in the bus earlier he had come across the same girl again and she dropped just a street before his. Oh! Could it be?, he thought.
Amidst his thoughts, his best friend walked in, also an SSS 3 student in Nightingale Academy. He is also the labour prefect who was absent from school that day.
“Hey! Bayo”, Jide greeted.
“Don’t hey me oo”, Bayo scolded. “Why didn’t you come to school today. You are the cause of my headaches today”.
“Ah! Ah! Me? What happened”
Bayo narrated all that happened in the school that day to Jide leaving nothing out. Jide could not stop laughing after Bayo finished especially when he said the girl might leaving at their backyard.
“What’s so funny?” he queried
. “I should have known better than to tell you”
“Shun that talk joor”
“Ehn Ehn. It’s not your fault na”
“Come on, let’s play game”, Jide suggested ignoring Bayo. At first, Bayo felt reluctant to play but eventually he agreed due to Jide’s persuasion.
The duo went to another room adjacent Bayo’s bedroom. They started playing a football game but Bayo wasn’t enjoying it. His mind was still on the woman and the girl. ‘Could she be the girl’s mother’, he thought. ‘If yes, where have I seen this woman before and why was she so friendly to me?’
“Oh! Yes I remember”, Bayo screamed all of a sudden.
“Ahn! What is it?” Jide screamed also, he was scared. “You scared me”.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to. I remembered something”
“What? Is it about the woman and the girl?”, Jide asked seemingly interested in the topic.
“Yes, The woman is my dad’s secretary at work and the girl happens to be her daughter”, He explained. “I have seen her two or three times before today when she visited our home on business related stuffs”.
“Interesting!” Jide exclaimed. “You are about to have a step-sister”.
“What kind of joke is that. Don’t be delusional”.
“Ehn now. I thought you said the woman asked you to look after your step sister”.
“Daughter not step sister”.
“As a big brother, remember”, Jide quoted. “And also the woman has been coming to your house frequently?”
Bayo looked at his friend and didn’t know if that was meant to be a question.
“Yes I said that”, he eventually answered when Jide stared at him.
“She lives behind your house.
. Her daughter attends same school as you all of a sudden”.
“What’s your point exactly?” Bayo queried.
‘It’s just not coincidence. A lot of coincidence like this means it’s planned. Your P man is up to something”, with this Jide focused more on the game and less on Bayo’s issue.
“And what would that be?” Bayo asked but got no reply. He was confused. Then he began to connect the dots.
‘Ever since my mom died 5 years ago, I have never seen any woman so close to my Dad. Moreover, over the years he has always been against bringing office related work to the house. He claims that let the office work stay at the office and be free for inter personal relationships at home. Could it be they are both having a relationship. If not then what could it be?’ A lot of thoughts flowed through his mind all at once. Eventually, he gave up and continued playing his favourite game.