I have always believed miracles were restricted to the corridors of religion; but what I was witnessing -not in a church nor mosque- cannot be called by any other name. Seated across from me was my frail-looking but stern father, his trademark pipe hanging from the side of his mouth; the conveyor, indeed the performer of the miracle.
I watched in utter disbelief as my own father spoke those words that would change my life: “I have decided to send you back to school…”
The tears formed in my eyes as the full impact of those words sank into my mind- Undergraduate!
“I have decided to listen to your Aunt. You will now be allowed to proceed to the University,” I heard him say amidst my streaming tears.
What was I supposed to do? Kneel in appreciative gratitude or simply continue crying? The latter seemed calming, even appropriate, for I was simply stunned. Already four years behind in my academic schedule, and totally unexpectant of any form of miracle, hope had come from nowhere like a late-minute equalizing goal in a football match. With the tears streaming down my cheeks, my mind began to replay the events that led to the miracle.
All my woes began the day I met Chucks. Oh, forgive my manners. I should make some introductions. My name is Chinwe, Chi for short, the last (and only girl) in a family of eight. Being the last child, I was pampered by the family and I’ve always reveled in the joys of being the only girl. Dad never beat nor chastised me, until Chucks. The reason for these pampering go beyond my last born status: I was a perfect replica of my late mum, who died giving birth to me. Maybe as a result of the love he had for my mum, Dad wouldn’t just let anyone punish me, no matter what I did or failed to do. I grew up in that loving and carefree family and as a result enjoyed life to the full. But do not be mistaken, I was not unruly. Maybe a little spoilt, but never unruly. Dad saw to it that I became his dream girl: intelligent, brave and fully domesticated. All of these I became at my pace. Dad would not stop encouraging me to learn. He would not stop buying me all kinds of literature materials for he wanted me to become a lawyer. He made sure I was so intellectually grounded that by the time I was 16 –the age I met Chucks- I was more intellectually grounded than a lot of 22-year olds. It was not surprising that my intellect came to bear on my academics. I was never third throughout my secondary school: it was either first or a close second. So many people did not consider it out of place when I was made the Head girl of my school even from SS 2 as a 16-year old.
So much for the digression. Now to my albatross, Chucks. Chucks was a Youth Corp member posted to my school. He read International and Labour Relations at one of those state universities (I can’t remember which one). He came to our school the year I was made Head girl and coincidentally was introduced to the students the same day I was approved & subsequently presented as the Head girl. Chucks was to teach us History and I was, expectedly, the best in class. One thing led to another and before long we became good friends. I would spend the whole of my break with him in the ‘staff room’ and even wait after school hours just to gist and ‘show off’ my intellectual prowess. We would argue all sorts of topics and invariably, would end up achieving nothing except a better knowledge of the topics we discussed. I still remember the day we argued about the whole “Awolowo vs Akintola” crisis that technically accelerated the demise of the first republic in 1963. He would defend Awolowo from beginning to end but I would back Akintola. Though we both knew a hundred individuals would see the issue –and take sides appropriately- from a hundred perspectives, but the unwritten, unstated law of ego & intellect would not allow us to reach a progressive conclusion.
After each discussion he would see me off to the bus stop where I boarded a cab home. Day-in, day-out we did that same thing and before long we fell in love. Falling in love was really not unexpected but the manner it happened really caught us both off guard.
I got to school one bright Tuesday morning to meet his absence. He wasn’t present on the Assembly neither did he come for classes. Later I was told by his ‘corper’ friend also serving in our school that he got an urgent message from home (home being someplace in the southeast) and had to leave after he saw me off the previous evening. For one week, Chucks was not around. It was then that I actually realized how much I had grown accustomed to him being around. When he came back the following Monday, I accosted him immediately after the morning assembly and berated him for not informing me of his journey. He apologized and dropped a bombshell: he was getting a reposting.
“Reposting? Why?” I asked, shock waves enervating the muscles of my heart into a faster tempo.
He dropped his gaze and told me in an emotion-laden voice:
“My mum has just been diagnosed of leukemia and has been admitted at the hospital,” he said in a very low voice as droplets of tears escaped his eyes.
“Leukemia?!” I almost shouted. He nodded hurriedly, not minding the now-dripping tears.
“The doctors have given her 7 weeks, max to live” he added resignedly.
“7 weeks?!” I whispered. He nodded slightly and suddenly, as if the deadline was all I needed, I joined in the crying.
Sensing we might be creating a scene inside the near-empty assembly hall, he offered me his handkerchief, took my hand and led me to the adjoining staff room and sat me at his desk. When the tears reduced, he continued.
“I have informed the principal last Thursday and he has even helped me out with the reposting. Though it would still take some few weeks to be worked on at the secretariat, he has given me an indefinite off till my reposting comes through.” The words sounded like a death sentence to me.
“So you are going away now?” I asked in a quivering voice. He nodded in affirmation.
“I am really sorry about your mum, I really am…but isn’t there something you can do?” I stammered knowing what I wanted to ask was for him to stay.
“I wish there was Chi, but really, I just have to go back home and await her death….”
“No, no, no…Don’t talk like that,” I cut in hurriedly “she is not going to die, she won’t die.” I muttered in a torrent of tear-filled ranting.
I heard him heave a sign of resignation as he placed his hand on my shoulder. I looked up to see him seated right in front of me with red bleary eyes.
“Chi, the best you can do is pray for me. Pray for her and pray for my family. There is nothing more Chi.” He said with that distinct loss of will and energy that accompanies helplessness.
“No Chuks. I will not just pray for you, your mum and your family; I will also pray for us, for you are the only person, except my father, who has been a most adorable companion and friend. Chucks don’t think that I am just being unnecessarily emotional but this is the truth. And wait, there is one more truth I have to tell you.” I paused to look around the staff room to see if anyone was there. There was no one.
I stood up from the chair leant to within his earshot and whispered those three words: “I love you”. I did not wait to hear his reply, I just took to my heels.
Throughout school hours, I avoided him. Thankfully he did not teach us on Mondays. All of me wanted to see him and talk things over with him, even bid him goodbye but I couldn’t stand facing him again. I knew I had crossed a threshold I wasn’t sure I wanted to pursue further. I only wanted to say my mind and I had done that. I wished him well in my mind and awaited the closing bell. When school closed, I picked my bag and hurriedly left school without doing all I was to do as the senior prefect. Just outside the school gate, I saw his corper friend, Yakubu, I think, his name was. Yakubu accosted me and slipped me a note which I needed no soothsayer to tell me it was from Chucks. I collected and asked as I did if he’d gone. He answered in the affirmative and we both went our ways
I couldn’t wait to see what was in the letter but I held on till I got home. At home, I locked myself in the toilet and unsealed the letter. It was very brief and concise:
“Chi, I have loved you from the first day I saw you. I still do.
And I am glad you love me too. Call me 07091234567. Lots of love.
My heart leapt for joy and for the next few days, as dad wouldn’t buy me a mobile phone then, I used my Dad’s phone to send SMS to him asking about his mum’s health and all. Probably because he knew the phone wasn’t mine, he never replied. But soon I devised a means of speaking with him at a call centre close to school. I would call him for a minute and sometimes more depending on my pocket money. Often times, when my money ran out, he called back and the conversation would continue. We professed our love for each other and hoped circumstances worked in our favour. Two weeks later, during our daily conversations, he informed me his reposting had been approved and he would be coming around to complete all paper works at the NYSC secretariat. I was happy and looked forward to the day. The day came and I did not see him. I became worried naturally and thought something wrong had happened. But at break, Yakubu called for me and told me that Chucks just called him to say that he was delayed at the secretariat and that he wouldn’t be coming down to the school again. I was dejected and downcast all at once and was about to start crying when Yakubu’s phone rang.
When Yakubu dropped the phone, he smiled. The smile literally dried my already-forming tears.
“Can you come down to my house?” Yakubu asked.
“Your house? I don’t understand.”
“Chucks just called and he said he would be able to see you after school hours if you can make it down to my house.”
“Oh, no problem. How do I get there or do we go together from school?” I answered hurriedly, as if Yakubu might change his mind.
“No, we can’t go together. I’ll give you the description, you can’t miss it.”
Yakubu gave me his house address. I hurried there after school after I had called Chucks to confirm if he was there.
The door was opened at the first knock. I threw myself in his arms as soon as he appeared. Before we knew it we had started kissing but he stopped as soon as we started.
“I’m sorry,” he muttered.
“Sorry for what?” I asked with delirious passion oozing from every pore on my skin. “I thought you were my boyfriend. So what’s with the apology?” I answered him as I found myself the only seat. He sat on the mattress lying on the floor grinning at me.
I studied him and noticed he looked a little unkempt. Then I remembered his mum.
“So how’s your mum doing?”
“Well, she’s not fine but we have taken everything in good faith.”
“So how are you doing?” he asked, deliberately changing the direction of the discussion. We chatted, laughed and enjoyed each others’ company. When I saw it was almost 4pm, I asked to be on my way. He acceded to my request and stood up to see me off. He held my two hands in his, looked into my eyes and told me:
“Chi, I love you with my life. As soon as all this is over and you go to university I’ll make arrangements to come and see your parents.”
I blushed because no one has said that to me. Moreover, what I saw in his eyes were the true sparkles of love, or so I thought.
“I love you too Chucks and I’ll always do with all my life.”
We hugged. After a while he stopped, cupped my face in his hands and kissed me. I responded by kissing him back and hugging him tighter. Suddenly, I felt his hands let go of my hips and found its way to my blouse. Something told me to stop him but the kissing had taken the better part of my brain. Soon he was fondling my breast from under my blouse. I stopped him with a brush of my free hand but he went back to it. I forgot all about it when I felt that tingling sensation caused by a brush of his thumbs over my nipple. I let out a soft moan and released myself to him. Quickly, he unbuttoned my blouse to reveal my full, corseted breasts. Somehow I didn’t feel awkward without the blouse and had no qualms with him removing my bra even though one cup was already out of place at the breast he was fondling.