“Sebastian, Bastian for short”, was often how he liked to introduce himself. Tall, suave and handsome, the student of international relations and allied diplomatic studies was a regular with the ladies.
Lately though, Bastian had little inclination towards these “daughters of eve” as he called them. His final year exams were fast approaching, and also the job hunt could never be begun too early. He had already filled and sent out applications for job placements and trainee attachments, just as most of his other course mates had. There were those who could care less about the course though, merely doing so simply to have a university degree. The thought irritated Bastian a lot, as did every time someone might make some comment alluding to his course choice, saying such things as how he was wasting his brain. The curt response, “…of course, to roll akara and boli with it. What else?…”, or some words in that line, was his snide reply whenever anyone asked what he intended do with his certificate in a country like his.
The latest job application had Bastian travel down to Kegao state to write the qualification exam. He had done a flurry of cartwheels, mentally of course, when he received a notification email that he was shortlisted after the first phase of the nationwide screening. So he made his arrangements and tied up as many loose ends concerning school as he could manage and was on the next bus to his friend Pete’s to stay for a few days. It was an unspoken agreement that Pete was to show him around town. Bastian had picked him on purpose. He was a bit of a nerd. If he had decided to lodge with Victor, or Pryce, he knew he would be contorted in some imaginatively exotic positions with some voluptuous lady or other for the better part of his stay there, rather than read. There was a time for all that and it wasn’t now. Predictably, the first place that Pete took him to was Kegao state university, and after a quick meal at the central cafeteria, the next place he showed him was the library.
For two days straight, Bastian was married to the library. And on the third day, his interest in the daughters rose again from the dead.
There was a girl in front, sitting not far off. He stared at her for a while. She looked the type: smart, chic, savvy. The type who would not instantly assume any guy about to start a conversation with her would be doing so only to get a date. Well, even if she was, she also seemed the type who would give the benefit of doubt and hear him out first.
To be fair to him, Bastian had only begun to look around in an effort to relax his straining eyes, when his gaze fell on her. Her shade of lipstick was light, and her hair was done in off-white dreadlocks. She had highlights. It made the braids compelling to look at. Bastian saw it would not be nice to let the possibility of a conversation with her simply die, even if he had no plans for meeting up with her afterwards. Besides, he was sure that she was already interested in him in some way. Not necessarily physically, but at least, enough to want to know what the chap sitting in front of her was all about. Her flicking a loose braid and lodging it behind her ear to give a better view of her slightly dimpled cheek every few moments was obviously more than a coincidence.
He had seen her at the same spot the previous day. As at then, he had given the people seated a cursory once over, and then proceeded with his work, not to look about until he was finished and ready to leave some three hours later. But there she was again today.
She was reading, or at least trying to. He took a side glance at her now and then, observing her while she valiantly battled with drifts between wakefulness and sleep.
“I’m dozing, right?” she said, when she noticed he was watching her.
“Sorry?” he said.
“I said, ‘I’m dozing, right?’ ”
“Oh, yeah, yeah,” he said. They both smiled. Seeing an entry, he took it.
“Do you often come here to read?” he said drawing his seat closer.
“Not at all,” she replied. “I only ever come to watch the musicians, and then the dancers. I’m surprised to see all these books and shelves. Do people actually read here?”
Bastian didn’t know what made him do it; whether it was the earnest way which she said it, or her sincere oblivious facial expression. He began to laugh despite himself, long and hard. The others in the library shot him disapproving looks, but he didn’t mind one bit. His normal self-consciousness seemed to have faded completely.
“You have a weird sense of humour, you know that?” he said.
“I know right?” she said, smiling a little. “I’m glad you understood I was joking, though. Most guys just look at me like… Uuuh?” she made a moping face, which made him laugh some more. “Others be like: ‘Wetin sef? Is it because I came to talk with you? Or ‘…You know as a girl you don’t have to be so rude…’ ”
“Really, oh,” Bastian said, finally controlling his laughter, “boys are not smiling. What’s the worst thing you’ve ever been told?”
“Well,” she said, looking thoughtful. “Excluding insults, let me see.”
“Wow, you actually have to think about it,” he said. “There must be so many.”
“Yes, well… the perks of being a fine girl,” she said, comically batting her eyelids and flicking her hair.
He looked at her with an amused expression. “ Ehn ehn? Who deceived you?”
“Well, there has to have been a reason you were busy looking at me for the past twenty minutes,” she said, innocent-faced.
“Chei! Koba ,” he said, putting his hands on his head. “See finishing. One -Zero, but you cheated. You know were supposed to be sleeping.”
“Well, I had to give you something to talk to me about didn’t I?” she said, smiling mischievously.
He leaned back in his chair to look at her with his head tilted at an angle, amusement all over his face.
“I like you,” he said, nodding and pointing at her.
“Yes,” she said. “I like me too.”
“Hey, hey, don’t push it.”
“Sorry, lol,” she said. “One joke too many?”
“Come,” he said. “Wait, wait. You said ‘lol’. Like, you actually said it. As in, who does that?”
They both laughed.
A young man at the far left corner raised his head and looked at them; with a surly expression, and an upturned palm to emphasize indignation. They waved in apology, and the young man seemed a bit placated. She was still smiling as Bastian looked back at her. He tapped her slightly and pointed to the young man they had just apologised to.
“I suppose that’s his shoro niyen face,” he said, in a low tone.
Immediately, she pressed her palm to her mouth to suppress the laughter.
“If looks could kill,” she said, in between gasps, “we might probably have died five times by now.”
“Speaking of which,” Bastian said, “you still haven’t told me the worst reaction you’ve gotten from your jokes.”
“Oh, yes, that,” she said. “Honestly you don’t expect me to be wasting precious megabytes storing unnecessary things up here.” She pointed at her head.
“You don turn flash drive abi?” Bastian said.
“Na you sabi,” she said. “Well, there was one though, I don’t know whether I remember because it was funny, or pathetic, or both.”
“Okay, tell me.”
“The dude said something about girls like me being the ones who won’t get married until they are forty two, and that by then we’ll be hopping from one church to another.”
“Ah, no imagination at all,” Bastian said. “That’s stale stuff everybody says.”
“I know,” she replied. “It was the build-up to what he finally said that struck me.”
“That I should keep playing hard to get until I grow old, and then become hard to take.”
“Lol,” Bastian said. She looked at him comically, and they both smiled.
“So, mister ‘do you read here often’,” she said. “Don’t you think it’s about time you tell me you name?”
Bastian smiled. He dimmed his eyes and licked his lips, then began to stroke his chin in a deliberate manner.
“Give me yours first,” he said in an exaggerated, suave-sounding voice, “and with that, your phone number, babe.”
She smiled back. She leaned towards him and signalled with her index finger for him to come closer. He did, and he could get the scent of her perfume. She signalled again, and he came closer still. This time her face was so close to his that all he could focus on was her full pink lips.
She brought her mouth nearer to his then suddenly moved it towards his ear instead.
“Not a chance, Romeo,” she said. She drew away, and leaned back to her normal position, the mischievous smile firmly planted on her face. “Two-zero,” she said.
Bastian gave a mock scowl.
“You know its girls like you who will end up rolling in front of the altar from one church to another by the time they’re forty-two,” he said.
“Yes,” she replied, raising her finger, “and every church I go to will be a hit, back to back!”
The laughter seized him. Quickly, Bastian bent down and shoved his face into a book, shaking violently from his hushed giggles.
“Yes,” he finally said, raising his head and gasping for breath, “from Catholic to Baptist to Pentecostal, but still no ring. Iyalaya anybody! Ifa shrine ti take over!”
It was her turn to become animated. The indignant young man and his surly expression packed their books and went to a seat at the furthest corner of the room. They became quiet again.
“Okay, now seriously what’s your name,” she said, flicking back a fallen braid.
Bastian thought about whether he wanted to add another daughter to the fairly long list of girls he was currently attending to. He knew he had little time left to spend in Kegao, so any package he would run with this lady would probably be a quick fix parole. He looked at her again and decided she was too good a person for that. He would have to let her go.
“You know,” Bastian started slowly, “we might probably never meet again. I only came here for an exam. I’ll be out of this state by Monday.”
“Oh, okay,” she said. “No problem, then.”
She bent her head and continued to read. He did so as well.
After a while, a funny thought flashed in his mind. He raised his head to talk, but her eyes were trained on her book, her fingers intermittently leafing through the pages. He wanted to signal for her attention, but thought better of it as he noticed her lips and saw that the smile was gone.
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