When girls my age were outside baking mud pies in the sand and playing ‘husband and wife’ with the boys next door, I was in my room, huddling under the blanket with a Mills & Boons novel in my hands.
To say that I loved reading M &B’s would be an understatement; I was obsessed with them. I stumbled on a box full of them when I was only eight years old. We had just gotten back from London and were moving into our new house in the campus quarters of Ahmadu Bello University. I was helping my mother unpack her stuff when I came across more than a dozen of them in one of the moving cartons.
The covers made me curious. The pictures of tall, strong, dangerous looking men clasping slim flaxen haired beauties by their finger nail waists made me automatically suck in my breath so that my little round belly could be as flat as theirs. The look of passion in the eyes of these men had me wondering what was going on in their minds so I grabbed one and settled down to read it…and was hooked.
I took my M & B novels everywhere with me the way a two year old would drag a teddy bear around the house; To the classroom where my primary three teacher nearly had a fit after he caught me reading one during a math class (God I hated math!). The sultry cover didn’t help my case. After the incident, I heard girls gathered in groups during break time calling me a ‘bad girl’. Believe me when I say my reputation was tainted from that moment on till I got to my seniors years in secondary school where it seemed all the girls had just suddenly discovered M & B novels like it was the new ecstasy and were reading them all over the place.
After a second scandal where another teacher caught me reading the harlequin version of an M & B, and reported me to my dad, I wisened up and started wrapping the books with newspapers and old calendars. Far be it from me to spoil my teachers with the scandalizing pictures that characterized the covers of these precious novels!
I wasn’t averse to taking my little darlings to church either. Father Bruno was a fine young priest but his delivery of the sermons sent over half of the church to sleep every Sunday. With an M & B by my side on Sundays, it was ‘goodbye sleep’ and ‘hello handsome!’
I spent my days dreaming about tall dark handsome men with chiseled chins and hard lips coming to sweep me off my feet. I had fantasies at that age that would have sent my mother running to a professional shrink if she had known about them.
My all time favorite part in Mills and Boons novels were the kiss scenes. I lived for them and I nearly died for them too. Thanks to those scenes, I grew up thinking about the first man I would kiss. Most girls think about the man they will give their virginity to; I spent my waking and sleeping moments planning which man I would share an earth shattering, body shuddering kiss with.
I got my first chance when I was in my first year at the university with a boy who fit the M & B profile. While he didn’t have a head full of wavy raven or sun kissed hair, he did have the trademark intense piercing eyes and hard lips that begged to be kissed. Ahmed was his name. He pestered me to go out with him for months but I blunted refused because in spite of the fact that he looked like the M & B man he didn’t act like it. He didn’t take charge or grab me by my shoulders and shake me silly when I was being impetuous. He didn’t kiss me into silence or make me quake in the knees with the things that he said. All he did was look good when he wasn’t talking so I kept on saying bored no’s to him until one day I was standing with a group of friends when he walked up to me, frustration etched in every line of his face.
‘All this shakara you’ve been doing for me must stop, he ground out standing so close to me that I could feel his body heat.
‘Whether you like it or not, you will say yes to me’, then he walked away.
That was what an M&B man was supposed to say!
Was I impressed? Very! Did I say yes? You bet I did! An M&B man in action? Halleluiah!
And so, I carefully got ready for the very first visit to Ahmed’s place.
He lived off campus in one of those compounds where your business is everybody else’s business but I didn’t mind as long as no one made me their business.
It was a lazy evening as he came to pick me up from my hostel room with his leggedy Mercedes. We strolled back to his place in fifteen minutes where he made sure I was comfortably seated on his bed then slotted in ‘something about Mary’, a hilarious comedy starring Cameroun Diaz.
My M & B training had prepared me for the moves he brought on from the movie to the drink and the conversation. All I had my mind on however was the kiss.
I wanted it to be perfect so I had borrowed a tube of my roommate’s lip gloss for the occasion. I got the chance to use it when he stepped out to return a movie he had borrowed from his next door neighbor. The minute he was out, I quickly dove to the mirror hanging on his wall, slathered enough lip gloss on to make my lips look as shiny as Marilyn Monroe’s and sat back on the bed with a well rehearsed pucker on my lips.
Ahmed walked into the room, stopped short and stared at me with those intense eyes of his.
I looked back, doleful eyed and puckered lips on full display. I had rehearsed this look in front of the mirror too long for it not to work.
‘Wetin you put for mouth nah?’ He burst out.
‘You lick my groundnut oil when I commot ne?’
I was stunned.
An & B man would have never spoken like that.
He would have never said those words to a lady.
Never. Never. Never.
Needless to say, Ahmed did not get kissed that evening and neither did I.
While it didn’t mark the end of the search for the prefect kiss and the perfect M & B man, it did mark the end of my short-lived relationship with Ahmed.
Lesson learned? Never wear another woman’s lip gloss, wear your own!