Ekundayo looked at him and then immediately past him as if he were transparent. She didn’t say anything and went back to what she was doing, her long blue dress billowing around her. Emmanuel couldn’t talk and kept staring at her until the sound of a man laughing interrupted him.
“She won’t talk to you boy, you may as well accept it,” the man said.
Emmanuel turned his head to see an older man, with snowy white bushy hair, wearing golden reamed glasses, sitting at a table with a manuscript in front of him and piles of books surrounding him.
“The name is Odalapo, Dapo for short. What’s yours?” he asked.
“What are you here for, Emmanuel?”
“Spying? That’s why they don’t mind you in the library. And you probably have some rich relatives too, don’t you?” He was chuckling as if the whole thing was just a joke.
Emmanuel was still looking at Ekundayo. He could see her behind a glass door, moving holographic computer images, in the space in front of her, and looking at a slow spinning hologram of a burgundy veined orchid.
“Emmanuel, listen boy. She is out of your league, don’t even look at her. Also know that the library has cameras everywhere watching your smallest movement. One more thing: she doesn’t talk.”
Emmanuel grabbed the first book he saw on a shelf, “Ake” by Wole Soyinka.
“Show me what you got. Good choice son.”
Emmanuel looked like he was reading with his index finger slowly going down on the page under each word. When he seemed to be done, he put the book back on the shelf but backwards.
“Your ride is here son. It was nice to meet you, I’m usually alone here. You’ll see me again. I’m part of the furniture, have been for years.”
The guard was back inside the library. He restrained Emmanuel, covered his eyes and pushed him through the glass doors to take him back to his cell.
The last thing Emmanuel saw was Ekundayo’s profile. She looked intense and pensive. The delicate curve of her neck and her night blue eyes were etched in his memory for ever.
On the way back, he tried to ask the guard:
“Who is that girl in the library?”
“Keep going and shut up,” the guard replied.
Back in his cell he could only think of her and her silent presence until lights went out for the night.
He woke up from a troubled sleep. When he opened his eyes, he could see the sun rising and the horizon coloring pink through the glass dome of his dorm. It was located on the roof of the Meteorology building and he could have a close look at the clouds, which looked like the mountains Miami never had.
He ate a quick breakfast and got ready to go to class. He stepped out on the roof and stopped for a minute between the towers used to get rain samples. He could see Stiltsville in the distance and the tall shimmering buildings of Brickell.
Down below, he could see in the clear waters of Biscayne Bay, the underwater dorms of the marine biology majors. A stingray swam by and a student sitting on the pier waived at him.
Suddenly a blue jay flew by and perched on his arm. He looked at it, startled, and the bird let go of a frangipani flower it was holding in its beak.
Oda, Oda, Oda… The whispering kept going as Ekundayo was wondering where it was coming from.
She was sitting on a couch in the library in her grandmother’s quarters, as usual browsing the shelves for a new book to read. At twelve, she almost had read everything already and it was taking her some time to find something suitable. She stood up to look through the window overlooking the garden. What she saw mesmerized her: it was snowing and the red Poincianas’ petals were covered by a soft white blanket.
Her grandmother came in, rubbed her head and played with her plaits. ”Always be mindful of the weather,” she said.
On Friday, as he was getting ready and eager to go to the libray, the guard came in his cell.
“Library is closed today but the librarian gave this for you,” he said, handing him a book.
Emmanuel recognized the cover of the book “Ake”. She has gotten my message, he thought.
He opened the book feverishly. On the first page was his message “What is your name? Mine is Emmanuel.”
On the second page was her answer, “Ekundayo, but people call me Oda”. The words were made by letters underlined with nail marks.
Emmanuel was elated. Finally fate was smiling at him.