She was approaching him from behind, quietly like a child sneaking into the house after committing a crime. Still seated alone, Banji was picking stones from the ground and flinging them on the grasses ahead of him, and occasionally he would glance at Bisoye and Aisha who were now standing afar off. When Oyinkansola was about four feet away, she stopped and bowed her head, regret and grief darted across her face like grasshoppers jumping from grass to grass.
From that spot, she mumbled, “Hi, Banji!” The name was heavy in her throat like a chunk of stone. She held her breath, expecting him to look back.
Banji didn’t seem to hear her. He was busy staring upwards, probably at the flocks of birds wandering across the sky in their hundreds. Besides the noise from students playing baseball, chirrups of little birds and cries of eagles from the distant trees, the atmosphere was calm and peaceful; there was no one else at the playing tent. Oyinkansola could feel sweat in her palms, despite the breeze that swayed and lulled grasses, like a caring mother to her baby.
She swallowed courage and moved nearer, and this time Banji heard a light footstep and glanced back.
“Hi, Banji,” she called, waving her left hand awkwardly,”Wha…what are you doing here?”
Banji could not believe his ears. He looked at the other side to confirm if she was really talking to him.
“You mean me?” His right hand flew on his chest.
Oyinkansola was now standing beside him, tilting her head, “I’m sorry… I am really sorry about my reaction to you the other day… I…heard something about you. I just realized it was not true.”
Dumbfounded, he stared at her for a moment. In a calm voice, he asked . “What did you hear about me?”
“You don’t need to know…Just pardon my misbehaviour.”
Banji was excited to see her apologize to him. It was just like a dream, but outwardly he did not display that gleeful feeling. Rather, he bowed his head and plucked a tendril of grass from under the bench. For a moment he fiddled with the grass between his fingers while staring into the sky.
“I have heard you,” He said after a short silence, “so, what about our talk?”
“Our talk….?” She repeated the word as if she didn’t understand what it meant; instantly, the grief on her face was erased by a naughty smile, “Okay. I’m accepting what you said on one condition.” She said shyly, tilting her head, and tapping her right foot on the ground.
“Just Promise to be faithful to me. I don’t like liars.”
Banji could not resist the smile that graced his cheeks.
“Is that all?” He asked.
“Yes, that’s all,” She mouthed.
“Okay, I’m not going to promise. I will swear to you.”
“Hmmmmn; alright, oya swear o.”
“I will always be faithful to you, I swear.” He said grimly.
Oyinkansola wore a broad smile, “Is that how to swear? Anyway, I’ve heard you.”
“You mean you’ve accepted?”
“Yes.” She nodded slowly.
Smiling in excitement, he rose to his feet, standing face to face with her. He made to hold her by the wrist, but hesitated, “Am I free, ma’am?’
Meanwhile, Aisha was showing Bisoye a topic in her notebook. Bisoye had already seen Oyinkansola with Banji, and wondered if it was a miracle.
“Why not….sir.” Oyinkansola smiled, tilting her head.
With tenderness Banji held her both hands , “Now I want to make a real promise to you. But before I do that, you have to look into my eyes for a second. A good conversation abides eyes contact.”
Slowly she revealed her face and stared him straight in the eye, “Okay. I’m listening.” She said sharply.
“I just deceived you,” he said, “I can’t swear or promise you anything. According to my Dad, TRUST is the pillar of any relationship…That’s how I would have just deceived you with a promise. Only God will promise without failing. Hope you get.”
She smirked, and in a teasing tone, she asked if his father was ever a reverend. Banji grinned and told her his father was not a reverend, but a man of God. When she was about to ask Banji the difference between the two, a whistle interrupted from the distance. It was the new security man. He was ordering all day students to leave. Oyinkansola glanced at her wrist watch. 5:23PM. She thought it was too early to withdraw the day students. Although, her own boarding house was outside the school premises.
Aisha and Bisoye were already done. Oyinkansola bade Banji a farewell, and they went separate ways. Oyinkansola went to meet Aisha and together they headed towards the narrow gate across the field. Banji and Bisoye were coming far behind them; they were passing through the same route.
The few weeks that proceeded SS2 first-term was stressful for Oyinkansola and her classmates. Apart from too many practicals, the notes had gathered weight; same in other classes. Over the last three months, before the holiday, Oyinkansola and Banji had come to know many things about each other. During one of their dates at the playground, Oyinkansola learnt that his father was a soldier who had retired to become a lorry driver. He was based in Lagos, and he would come to their residence at Ota every weekend. Banji was the last child of his parents, and the only son. Oyinkansola was delighted to tell him that her Dad was also in force before becoming a chief judge.
“Dad actually studied law at university of Ife,” She said gleefully, “In our sitting room, there was a full image of him in a police uniform….So funny, police of those days used to wear shorts….Dad said the painting was done by a female artist that finished from his school…I was amazed that a lady could do such a perfect work. Dad showed me the real picture, and I opened my mouth.”
“That must be the reason why you chose art class.” Banji was half smiling, half teasing.
“I never chose Art class jor,” she laughed, “somehow, the class chose me.”
Drawings had become part of her since tender age, she said. But she’d wished for science class right from Eko girls high school. She wanted to study medicine in high institution like one of her sisters in England. Despite being one of the best students in JSS3, her name was posted in Art after junior WAEC. Those who were academically inferior to her were shared in science.
Banji realized Oyinkansola was born with a silver spoon, unlike him whose parents had never crossed Nigeria border.
Even after SS1 third-term exam, Oyinkansola had forced Banji to have a snapshot with her.That very day so many students were catching fun on the field with football, race, skipping ropes, high jumps, back flips, and baseball. Oyinkansola and her friends were skipping when suddenly an aged man with a massive camera approached them. Those photographers would come around after any exam, especially after SSCE or junior WAEC. So, Oyinkansola took some shots with her friends. She saw some of her classmates snapping with boys and she seized the opportunity to fetch Banji where he was playing football. She told him she wanted to show him something. When Banji discovered it was a photograph he objected to it. Actually, he didn’t have a dime on him for deposit. When Oyinkansola said she had 30 naira balance with the photographer he was still reluctant, but eventually succumbed. She took the photographer to a location at the end of the field. For a moment, Oyinkansola and Banji debated the best posture. When Banji decided to place his hand around her shoulders, she said, “No! That’s boring.” She wanted his hand around her waist. When his hand did not encircle her waist properly, she adjusted it. The old man was drunk with laughter. In the end, they took one couple shot and each single.
The pictures had come out after ten days; it accidentally fell on the day they collected their results. Oyinkansola praised Banji after getting her report card. During the revision weeks, they had revised together with past questions. She had 8 credits out of 12 subjects. The only subject she failed was Government. Others were “D7”. The Government teacher had deliberately failed her since she had refused to meet him for expo, which might lead to the promised land.
Her Second term mathematics was “C4” compared to the third term “B2”. Banji was better in mathematics, but in other subjects they both exchanged ideas. Once or twice Oyinkansola had teased him as a future accountant. Banji also had “B” in mathematics; he had 11 credits out of 13 subjects. Oyinkansola was proud of him beyond limit. She had taken his single picture and the couple shot home, for the holiday. Banji had her picture as well.
On Tuesday evening, Oyinkansola landed excitedly on her bunk when she arrived from school. The next day would be valentines’ day. She lay on her back in bed, wondering how the day would be like. She sat up at once. From a wardrobe beside her bed, she produced a white cardboard. There was a pencil drawing of Banji on it; a portrait of him in school uniform wearing a broad smile.
For a while she stared at the drawing and smiled, as if admiring herself in a mirror. The resemblance was too glaring, but it looked unfinished. She wanted to surprise him. She placed a wooden board on her laps, removed the real pics from the wardrobe and sharpened her 2b pencil. She carefully added some dark shades and rubbed her finger on the strategic parts. At last, the outcome was smooth and neat. She had started the work over a week ago. She would arrive earlier than anyone to avoid disturbance. But now she could not hide it anymore. Her roommates had already huddled around, begging her to help them make for their boyfriends.
“See this yeye pikins. You think it’s a day job abi.” she laughed at them.
“Han…han, I go pay you o,” said a girl from SS3, “as I be your school mama, how much you go collect from me nah?”
“Senior Lade, dont worry jare,” said Oyinkansola, “I will do one for you after Val. As for these naughty girls, I no get their time.”
At nightfall Oyinkansola lay on her bed with her diary. She noted all her achievements for the day under the date: February 13, 1996. On another blank page she wrote her dreams for valentines’ day. She would like Banji to give her a kiss. It had always been pecks and hugs all these while. “Could that be possible tomorrow?” She thought aloud, chewing the butt of her pen.
Like the usual academic days, the valentines’ day was burdened with works for the students. At noontime, the sun appeared so lazy, hiding behind the clouds towards the east, and dabbing rose-coloured clouds on the ashen sky. The heart of the students danced to the melody of love, and merrily the breeze sailed affection from one heart to another. Majority of the teachers had touches of red on their attires.
The students began their day after the school hour. The playing ground was bubbling and teeming with friends exchanging gifts, kisses, hugs and smiles. Faces beaming with bliss and ecstasies. Felix and Banji were walking towards the field. Their friendship had become intimate ever since Olumide was withdrawn from school in SS 1; his offense had reached the limit at the VP’s office. The female teacher had eventually implicated him over the letter. However, Banji was not happy about it.
Soon, Felix met his girlfriend and left Banji alone. Oyinkansola had asked him to wait for her at that spot. When he was carried away with the various activities around, Oyinakansola tickled him from behind and laughed heartily. She was holding a wrapped stuff, of 30 by 25 centimeter. He presented it to him; with a warning that he must not reveal it until he got home. Banji also removed a wrapped circular item from his pocket and gave it to her, adding the same warning. And they both burst into laughter.
Later, after the lesson period, she met with Banji at the playing tent. She whispered into his ear, “The most precious gift you could give me today is a kiss.” He pretended as if he didn’t hear, asking her to come again. “Liar. I said I feel like kissing…a long kiss.” She repeated, almost aloud.
Banji wore a mischievous smile.”What a naughty girl you are!” He said, fondling her nose with his middle finger.
“I’m dead serious.” she said.
She then whispered a safe location to him. Far behind the JSS1 block. Banji stared at her and smirked. He thought Oyinkansola was up to something beyond a kiss. The place she mentioned was the most silent location in the school premises. An uncompleted classroom.
“Okay, let’s go,” he said, staring hotly into her eyes, “you know I’ll do anything for you.”
“Really?” a warm smile crept upon her face.