Getting dazed by the question, I started fiddling with my shoulder-length hair in anxiety. I didn’t know where to start from. I was scratching the back of my neck without feeling any itches. I wonder what my parents would say if I told them how poor Festus’ parent had been. I trust Mum. She might call him a gold digger. Dad might ask me to stop relating with him. As much as Dad craved a responsible man, he did not want to betroth his daughter to the son of any nonentity. Right from my tender age Dad had promised to make my wedding an elaborate one. He had always attended the engagements of his friends’ children, and each time he returned he would tell me all he witnessed.
“My Treasure,” he would call me, while sipping a wine from a goblet or puffing on his tobacco, “Oh, I wish you were there. If you see how many cars the groom bought the bride’s parents as a present you would be amazed.” At the end of his statement he would tell me whose son the groom was among the important personalities in the states.
“Wow!” I would giggle, my panda doll would lie beside me, “That’s really interesting.”
That statement had always been my response over the years. That was Dad for me. He would talk to me like an adult those times I was less than fourteen years of age. Sometimes, Mum would become jealous of me because anything Dad was supposed to discuss with her, I would be the one to first hear about it.
“Who are his parents?” Daddy’s voice yanked me out of my daydream. His voice was calm this time.
“Dad, his father is nobody in any state, but his parents are living fine.” I said with confidence. I needed to just lie again in order to save myself from further interrogation.
“Honey, this is no time for such question,” Mum said, fondling with my hair. “This is a time for thanksgiving. I am just happy that my daughter is alive. Boyfriend or no boyfriend is not the issue for now. Besides, she has not introduced him as a fiancé.”
I wished I could interrupt Mum. Did she mean I wouldn’t be allowed to marry him if I finally introduced him as a fiancé?
“I know you wouldn’t let me talk,” Dad said with a tinge of tease in his voice, “I am still talking to my second wife; not you.”
“Okay o … husband and wife. Continue with your talk.” Mum smiled, turning her face away.
At that moment, the nurse in charge of Festus came in and asked if Mum and Dad were his parents. I told the nurse that Festus’ parents were staying in Lagos, which was very far from Kano state. Then she prescribed some drugs for his quick recovery. My parents volunteered to pay all the bills. Dad asked the nurse if she had carried out any test on me.
“Yes, sir,” responded the nurse, “I have examined her immediately. She wasn’t hurt. But she needs a good rest for her to recover from the shock she passed through during the incident.”
“I hope you heard what the nurse said,” Dad turned to me, “you have to come back home. So, I will make sure you have a good rest.”
“…And you must come back home today,” added Mum.
“But, our exams is few days away – five days precisely.”
“I’m not sure you’re going back to that school, “ Dad said firmly, “When you come back home, I will know the next step to take.”
“But, Dad why?”
Dad did not respond. instead, he gave me a glaring look that suggested that the reason was obvious. Mum didn’t utter a word either. She just gave me an eye-contact, meaning that I shouldn’t argue with Dad. She rose to her feet, picking up her handbag.
“Come home before nightfall,” Dad said as he turned towards the door with Mum leading the way.
I believed my parents had decided to send me abroad to further my education. What would become of my relationship with Festus if I eventually leave this country? I couldn’t afford to. I would rather find a way to persuade them.
When it was quarter-to-nine in the morning I realized that my phone had been off all through the night. The battery was dead. I rummaged for the charger in my handbag and plugged it at a socket near the bed. In a little while I switched on the phone.
“Oh my goodness!” I exclaimed in a low tone, covering my mouth.
Checking through my BBM, I realized that the incident had spread through the whole campus. Majority of my friends were taunting me that Kingsley had seen my nakedness at last. Some of their messages went thus:
“Upon all your shakara 4 dat guy, he finally checked you out. I can’t still believe it. So tell me, how many rounds now?”
“Shasha Baby, I don tell you say Kay-Euro go chop you. Lol. Sorry for the pains o. Where the hospital dey?”
“….hope dem no wound your Festus for you too much sha. Lmao …. lover girl. Me too dey suspect say dat guy be cultist for all im swag for campus. Na so God go dey catch dem one by one.”
Scrolling through the countless messages, I shook my head. The campus newspaper would definitely have me and Festus on their cover page this week. How many people would I tell that Kingsley hadn’t raped me before the police arrived? He had only stripped my bra and buried his mouth on my nipples before he screamed. Nothing more. He must have become infatuated with my breasts. Although his first attempt was for my panties, but he had changed his mind.
I heaved a sigh as I directed my look towards Festus. He was still sleeping.
“With all these rumour, would I be able to study in this school any longer?” I thought to myself, “ Is this how I’m going to part ways with Festus? No … never!”
At that instant, I heard my phone ring. It was Bisola, one of the friends I accommodated. She told me she was just hearing about the incident when she got to the lecture room. She added that the incident was the new topic in every department. And I narrated all that happened to her.
“Oh, thank you Jehovah!” She exclaimed, “this is a testimony to be shared. I hope your boyfriend is not seriously injured.”
“Yeah. It’s just a small cut in the head. He will be alright. Thanks for your concern.”
When Bisola told me she was coming to the hospital, I asked her to get some food and beverages for him on her way.
I arrived home on the next day after Festus had been discharged from the hospital. Three security guards came to help me with my luggage out of the car. Our edifice had almost the same structure with the Whitehouse in Washington DC, but not as gigantic. It was coated in cream and orange colour. A section of the house was decorated with the American clay bricks. Our garden stretched up to 15 acres. From our gate, one had to drive through paved road flanked by flowers, decorative trees, streetlights, sculptures and fountains before locating our edifice.
I was clad in a body-hugging dress that left my arms and shoulders bare. I walked through the front door after the guards. When I got to the sitting-room, I looked up only to see Mum smiling down at me from our loft or interior balcony. I guessed she had seen me coming through the security camera. Gently, I climbed the stairs with my pink high-heels which glamorously matched my dress. Mum embraced me. She welcomed me as if I hadn’t been home for a year, and I couldn’t do without coming home once in a month.
“You look stressed up, dear,” Mum said, putting her arm around my shoulders. We headed towards my room, “remember what the nurse said.”
“The driving is just too tedious for me.” I placed my palm on my aching head.
“You mean Kano to Abuja is tedious? But you have refused to let your Dad get you a driver.”
Immediately we got to my room Mum said she had a good news for me, and asked me to guess. We both sat on the bed, facing my tall standing mirror.
“Oh, Dad eventually got that private jet?” I asked while unknotting my diamond necklace and bracelets.
“Not about your Dad.”
“Alright then,” I hummed thoughtfully for a moment, “Okay. You have decided to open another mall in the UK or … California.”
“You don’t still guess right. Now, let me tell you,” Mum said, her voice falling into a whisper. She told me that Alfred Peters, the first son of my Dad’s best friend, would be coming back to Nigeria in three weeks’ time because of me.
“Why … because of me?” I frowned, my voice laced with repulse.
Mum said Alfred had refused to marry since he left Nigeria to manage his father’s business in New york. He had been gone for three years after he graduated as a medicine student. I could remember when I was 13 year-old or thereabout. Each time Alfred and his Dad paid us a visit, his Dad would stroke my chubby cheeks and say, “Beautiful Princess, I will still marry you to my son.”
Seated beside his father, the fifteen year-old Alfred would tilt his head shyly. His tender eyes would speak out desire. He was such a cute black boy.
“Me?” I would laugh childishly, “I can’t marry a black boy. When I grow up, I’m going to marry a white man. They are very, very fine. I like their films too.”
That was all I could remember about Alfred. I hadn’t seen him for a very long time. Why would he decide to propose to me now?
“So, I want you to treat him well when he comes here,” Mum continued delightedly, “your Dad had supported the union already. Alfred is a very handsome man with a high reputation. If you see him now, I bet you won’t be able to resist his sight. Let me show you some of his pictures on my….”
“Mum, don’t bother,” I interrupted Mum when she was about to show me the picture on her phone, “I don’t care if he’s the most handsome man in the universe. The fact is, ‘I already have a fiancé!’ ” I uttered the last statement out of frustration, and I could see Mum almost bouncing off her seat as if the words had sent a thunder bolt into her body.
“And who is that?” She asked, confused.
“Mum, it’s the boy you saw at the hospital!” I said with a frowned face. I turned away, folding my arms across my chests.
“I don’t think you know what you’re talking about. So, tell me what his comfortable parents have achieved; maybe I will consider him.”
I took a long sigh and turned to Mum. With a consoling, gentle voice I said, “I think, at this juncture, I have to tell the truth … His parents are poor, and I don’t think that has anything to do with the feeling I have for him.”
Before Mum could respond I heard my phone ring. On the phone screen I saw “SWEET HEART calling…” That was Festus.
“Mum, please; just a minute,” I said, walking across to the corner of the bed. “Hello, sweetie,” I said in a low tone.
“Hello dear,” Festus said, “I just want to know if you’ve arrived home.”
“Oh, thanks dear,” I said, peeking at the wall clock, “I got home about thirty minutes ago. I hope everything is alright. Feel free to call me if you need anything. Okay?”
I was very amused when Festus said he wouldn’t be needing anything for two months after the one-fifty-thousand I gave him. That wasn’t up to the money I bought my recent necklace. If I needed to shop for jewelry Dad wouldn’t give me less than 750 k. I really wished to give him up to 300k, but I regretted I had only N150,000 left in my account.
“You must be kidding,” I smiled, “ that wouldn’t be enough for two weeks let alone two months.” I stole a glance at Mum who was about to stand up, “anyway, I will call you back, dear. Let me attend to Mum … love you, bye.” Festus replied the statement and sent a kiss to me.
“Mum, I’m so sorry,” I said, moving close to her. I placed my hand around her shoulders, “ I didn’t mean to interrupt the conversation, but I had to keep Festus’ mind at rest. He wanted to know if I’m already at home.”
Mum still stood on her ground that Festus was not suitable for a prestigious girl like me.
“He is only a gold digger!” Mum almost yelled at me. “All I know is you can’t marry him.”