WRITTEN BY: OGECHI ALABI
Christmas Holiday came pretty fast.
Patience came to the hostel to see Nkem. Nkem was surprised to see her. They were friends but not very close. She had asked Nkem if she would want to travel back with them again and Nkem expressed her desire to. She had to be prepared for this trip.
Read – Devil incarnate prologue
She had gone shopping earlier. She bought so many things for her family members. They were much. She didn’t want them living as peasants anymore. The business was also doing very well. Her mother was also saving. She said she would want Nkem to travel abroad to further her education like her brother so she would be successful. It was their plan.
She was travelling with the things she bought. If she sent them via transport, it will be expensive. She decided to join Patience and had told her. So seeing her in her room worried Nkem. Did she come bearing bad news?
“Babe, Demian is returning tomorrow. He is already en route and he asked me to tell you.”
Nkem was confused. “Ok. Why would he ask you to tell me?”
“That’s what I want to find out. He is travelling to the village in the car he sent to Nigeria. His mother is worried but he insists. He has even hired a driver. We are leaving on the 22nd, when are you leaving?”
“I beg your pardon? Am I not leaving with you?”
“I thought so too until Demian sent you a message through me. I didn’t tell my aunt but it is suspicious. Just be careful, my aunt loves Demian more than life itself. She would do anything for him.”
“I still don’t get what is going on. Did he say anything about me to the family? Don’t bother. I am travelling with you.”
“Ok. When he arrives I will talk to him.”
Nkem did not want to disclose to Patience that she was close to Demian. She knew about the car but didn’t know he wasn’t travelling with the family. He said he needed the car so he could move around on his own without having to beg for a ride to move around. It didn’t make sense because Nkem knew his father had many cars in Nigeria or could buy him one. The car was a stamp on his authority. He was sending a message.
How she got involved, she couldn’t understand. Had he mentioned her to his mother? That would have been a costly mistake. The woman might just come after her. She wouldn’t understand that they were just friends. She didn’t want anything romantic with Demian, she wasn’t attracted to him. She wasn’t attracted to anyone except her future. She had a plan which she hoped to achieve.
Her phone rang and it was Demian.
“Hello dear. I just arrived in Lagos. Where are you?”
“Demian, what are you doing in Lagos?”
“I came back for the Christmas Holiday.”
“Why did you send Patience to me?”
“I didn’t. I only told her I was coming back.”
“She came to see me yesterday. She claimed you asked her to tell me.”
“I didn’t. I told her I was coming back early to surprise someone. How did she deduce it was you?”
“I don’t know. Your mum?”
“I think I know. My sister came to my place. She saw your picture and asked me about you. I suspect she told either my folks or my cousins.”
“I don’t understand. Didn’t you tell her we are just friends?”
“I told her. You know I don’t have female friends. Don’t worry about it. When can I see you? Will you come to the house?”
“I am at a cousin’s house in Lekki.”
“Lekki? It is too far from my school. I would have said come to the hostel to see me but your cousin will report back to your mother. I don’t want trouble.”
“I am not a kid. I will pick you up from the hostel so I can see you.”
“There is no need to see me, aren’t we travelling together? We will see then.”
“Mbanu! I am seeing you tomorrow, I can’t wait until then. I will send a car to pick you up.”
“What about your cousin you are staying with?”
“What about him?”
“Wouldn’t he wonder who I am?”
“He knows who you are. He knows you are my close friend. He sees nothing wrong with people of the opposite sex being friends. You will meet him, he is cool.”
Demian sent a vehicle the next day. It was a Sunday at midday. She went to church and came back to get ready.
She had told Funke and Zainab about Demian after Patience’s visit. She told them she wasn’t interested in a relationship but a friendship. She showed them their conversations to show their cordial friendship.
Funke knew where this was going but she didn’t say anything. The guy wanted to have Nkem but Nkem was playing a good game. She never encouraged conversations that would become intimate. She was smart.
Zainab was a romantic and encouraged Nkem to enjoy the moment. She told her it was about time she loosened up and allowed a man to take care of her. She said they can just be friends while she lives life a little. “I didn’t say you should sleep with him and hang out with him. He is a quiet guy and he might be shy. You might also be shy around him.”
“I am not shy.”
“If you are shy around him, know that you like him in another way than friends,” Zainab replied. “Anyway, Funke, help her choose her clothes. She shouldn’t wear what he bought for her, she shouldn’t. She has clothes reserved. She should wear one. This your hair you don’t like making, I think you should fix weave on. Maybe you should go to the salon on Bode Thomas and make your hair today. Your business is doing very well, spend some money on you.”
“Why do I have to go to that expensive place? I can do it in school.”
Funke burst into laughter, “Someone just came in from abroad and you are going to see him at Lekki. Do you want to go with Iya Bose’s hairstyle? Then you will come back to complain they were looking at you somehow. Go and make your hair.”
She did. She had never looked that good in her life. She planned on travelling with the hairdo to the village. She selected five clothes and they all chose a long black stretchy gown. She wore the gown with a pair of carton colour wedge slippers and a bag. She had made her hair in a bob, so she wore long earrings. She had on a big bangle and her wristwatch.
When she was ready, she rubbed some brown powder on her face, kajal (eyeliner) and a light pink lip gloss. She stood for her roommates to admire her. She was stunning. Funke took pictures of her. She looked so beautiful. Funke and Zainab were happy for Nkem. At least she had shown interest in someone even though she claimed they were just friends.
Demian called and told her the car was outside. He gave her the plate number and the make of the vehicle. She came outside the hostel and was looking for the car.
Demian noticed a lady in black come out of the hostel. She looked a bit familiar but this lady was gorgeous. There was no way it could have been Nkem. She was taller than his friend and much lighter. He was confused until his phone rang.
“Where are they parked? I am outside and I can’t see the car.”
“What are you wearing so I can tell them.”
“I am wearing a black dress. I am standing beside a blue vehicle, they won’t miss me.”
“Let me tell them.” Demian couldn’t believe she was the one. He pointed her out to his cousin who was driving. They had hidden in a corner to surprise Nkem.
They drove beside her. She was surprised to see Demian. He came out of the car smiling and said “Surprise!”
“This is a pleasant surprise,” Nkem replied equally smiling.
“Don’t I get a hug?” Demian asked as he opened his arm. Nkem hugged him and came out of the embrace quickly. Demian understood. They had to leave immediately.
As they drove off, Nkem was introduced to Demian’s cousin Kelechi who preferred to be called Kel. Demian had turned to the back to talk to Nkem. She looked so pretty that he wanted to tell her but he knew it would make her uncomfortable. He just kept looking at her smiling. She shied away twice.
The road was free until they got to Lekki phase 1. They drove into the compound to the back where his cousin stayed. It was also a duplex but a smaller one. There was no one in the main house.
Kel let them in and told Demian he was going to pick up his girlfriend from church. Demian and Nkem were left alone for about an hour. He ushered her into the sitting room. She sat on a couch.
“I didn’t recognise you, you are so pretty.”
Nkem smiled, “Thank you.”
“You should make your hair more often. No, I don’t want the lecturers coming after you.”
“Exactly. I have to keep a low profile if I want to graduate in peace.”
“Nice. How is it going? I mean your final year.”
“Tests start immediately school resumes, exams begin in February. No break, I think we have only two or three weeks before we resume. The university wants to catch up with the calendar.”
“That’s nice. What are we graduating with? First class?”
“I wish. I don’t think so though. Most likely a second class upper.”
“That is still very good. Where would you like to further your education?”
“I have to serve and get a job first before I start dreaming of that.”
“You are funny and even prettier when you smile. You are gorgeous.”
Nkem was uncomfortable with all the compliments. She didn’t know how to respond anymore. He was no longer hiding his admiration. He took her hand in his as he talked.
Read – A bite at the cherry prologue
Demian was lost at this point. He wanted to tell her exactly how he felt but he knew it would create a boundary between them. He looked at her not knowing his look had a longing in his eyes. He sensed her withdrawal but he couldn’t help himself. He came back for her. He wanted to spend time with her and he had decided he would.
Their thoughts were diverted when his cousin came back with his girlfriend. The cousin didn’t look that much older than Demian but the lady he came back with looked older than them. She had an attitude as she stepped in and saw Nkem. Her boyfriend introduced them and she gave a non-challant “Hi” and left for the kitchen.
Her boyfriend explained why he took so long. They had to stop by the market to buy foodstuff for her to cook. Nkem didn’t want to sit with Demian in the sitting room while another woman was busy in the kitchen. She asked Demian if she could help the lady. Demian went into the kitchen to ask her. Initially, she declined. After a few minutes, she came out to call her. Demian offered to give Nkem clothes to change so her outfit doesn’t get stained, but she declined.
She asked the lady what she was cooking. “I am making soup from Rivers state. I bought seafood to make Fisherman soup. I also bought ogbono. I will make stew too.”
“Ok. I have an idea about the fisherman soup, I think the okro you bought is too much. I can help you cook the ogbono and add okro to it so it doesn’t waste. I can cook the stock for your stew but you will cook it yourself. What type of meat do you want to make with the ogbono?”
“I bought goat meat. I have already put it in the pressure cooker. It will be ready in no time. We can then boil the chicken for the stew. He insisted on native chicken so it is hard.”
“The pressure cooker can make it get done in time. Once the goat meat is almost soft, I have to add the stockfish.”
“I want to use the stockfish for the fisherman soup.”
“It doesn’t need it. You will be using seafood. I can see fresh fish, prawns, snails, shrimp, and crabs. I hope your guy likes it because I don’t think Demian will be able to eat soup with too many activities. It will be too much for him.”
“And you know this how?”
“We are friends, best friends. He is a picky eater that’s why he is so slim. I will make the ogbono with okro, he likes goat meat and would prefer it to the soup.”
“And which will you eat?
“Fisherman soup of course,” the girlfriend smiled.
Nkem ended up cooking the ogbono and stew. Demian’s cousin came into the kitchen and there was a lot of PDA going on. He would kiss her and touch her in sensitive places while looking at Nkem. She was uncomfortable. Immediately after she finished cooking the fisherman’s soup, they both left the kitchen.
The aroma of Nkem’s soup and stew brought everyone to the kitchen. The cousin put water on the fire for poundo yam. His girlfriend tried to make the poundo yam but Nkem took over otherwise it would have been lumpy.
They served the food at the dining table. Both men ate the ogbono and okro soup while the two females ate the fisherman soup. Demian couldn’t believe Nkem made the soup. He praised her. She just smiled at his remark.