Bukky and Chike strode bare-footed on the off-white sea sand, holding hands and watching the way the waves rolled over, hitting the rocks, back and forth, non-stop. There were several other people on the beach. Many were seated in groups of twos, three or more, under large umbrellas surrounded by plastic chairs, eating and drinking. Some people stood outside the mini-bars at the far end of the beach, dancing to the music blasted by the loud speakers.
A dark looking man in his late thirties walked up to them, holding about ten pairs of female slippers. He tried to cajole them into patronizing him, but, they were not interested. The moment he walked away, an average height woman, plump, in a blouse and a pair of jeans hurried to their side, waving a set of beaded necklaces, bracelets and ear-rings in their faces.
“No, thank you,” he shook his head at the woman.
She turned to Bukky, but the girl turned away. The woman left them and ran after a group of young women in skimpy outfits, laughing at an inside joke. Lucky for her, they liked her wares and started bargaining for a good price.
“I am beginning to feel cold,” she looked up at him.
He glanced at her, “Why did you leave your jacket in the car?” he liked the way the black sleeveless top hug her body.
She shrugged, “At the time, I was a little bit hot.”
“And now you are feeling cold.”
She nodded and shivered a bit.
He placed a hand around her shoulder, “It’s past seven. The darker it gets, the cooler it becomes.”
She leaned against him, basking in the warmth of his nearness.
“I have been here as late as ten and it wasn’t fun.”
“What were you doing here at that time?”
He grinned, “A course mate had a party here. It was a birthday party. I think we left the beach before midnight. It was freezing by then.”
She trembled against him. She couldn’t imagine how cold it must have been.
“Fun-time over, let’s get you back into the car.”
They turned around and headed towards the exit. On their way to the car park, she sighted huge rocks in a long line.
“What are those?”
He followed her gaze, “Oh… those rocks prevent the ocean from flooding the road.”
Her eyes grew big. She thought of the tsunami in Haiti.
“That’s Bar beach, or what is left of it.”
“Bar beach?” her alarmed look made him smile.
“Yes,” he led her towards the car.
“I have been there as a child. What happened?”
“Nature. Water claiming land.”
She waited while he unlocked the vehicle. “Did something like tsunami happen here on the Island?”
He chuckled, “No… not really, but, the incessant flooding of the road and surrounding buildings made the government to take action. Bar beach is now a shadow of itself. I used to come here as a child back then too.”
She opened the door and got in. “But, do people still go to the beach?”
He climbed in, “Sort of. The place is deserted. Everybody comes to Kuramo beach now.”
“So, Kuramo beach replaced Bar beach?”
“Sort of, kind of… some people prefer Bar beach because it has less crowd now, unlike before. Although I won’t advice a pretty girl like you to take a walk on that beach at night. Touts, thugs and criminals hide on that beach,” he pulled her cheek.
“Hmm… we don’t maintain things in this country,” picked up her jacket and wore it.
“We can spend all the money on things, but, we abandon it once the project is done. No maintenance culture.”
“You are right.”
“May God help us.”
“Amen. Hope you had a nice time.”
She met his smiling gaze, “Yes,” she smiled back at him, “I enjoyed our birthday celebration.”
“I had a good time too,” he brushed a hand over her face.
“When do you think we will get home?”
“If we are lucky, before ten.”
“But, if we are not?”
“Maybe sometime before midnight.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“Don’t worry, we will be home before you say Jack Robinson.”
“Okay,” she looked out of the closed window.
Chike picked up the paper-bag at the back seat of the car and brought out a small red box.
She turned her head and saw the glittering gold ring in the opened small red box. Her astonished dark eyes flew to his excited dark brown ones.
“Today, I ask officially, will you spend the rest of your life with me? Will you marry me?”
She breathed out loudly and looked at the ring. It was beautiful. “Yes, Chike. I will marry you. I will spend the rest of my life with you.”
“Do you even have a choice?”
She started to laugh. He slipped the ring on her finger and kissed her lightly.
“The convocation is scheduled for mid-October,” he informed her.
“That means our introduction ceremony will be that same week.”
He nodded with enthusiasm.
“I will let my parents know.”
“Mine are already preparing. They want us married immediately after my service year.”
She smiled broadly, “I will have it no other way.”
“Me neither,” he leaned forward and kissed her again.
Gbemiga and his friends stood outside the Silverbird Galleria. One of them hailed a cab and tried to bargain on a price. It had been a good day. His friends hosted him in celebration of his twenty-third birthday.
“Guys, let’s go,” the guy who stopped the cab beckoned at them. He had been able to agree on a good price with the taxi-driver.
Gbemiga and the rest of his friends climbed into the vehicle. It was past ten, hopefully, they would get home before midnight.
He looked out of the window and sighed heavily. His Industrial Training at his aunt’s firm in Abuja turned out well. He was able to move his family into a self-contain apartment in the area with some of the money he saved. His parents and sisters had been ecstatic. No more sharing toilet, bathroom and kitchen with dozens of people. No more living in cramped room with little or no ventilation. Their new place was sweet relief. The space was twice the size of their former accommodation and they were able to convert it into a bedroom and sitting area. Although, it wasn’t that conducive for a family of five, it was better than where they were coming from.
His thoughts drifted to his ex. Funny enough, he still had feelings for her. Assuming she wasn’t dating Chike, he might have been able to convince her to go into a secret relationship with him. Maybe in time, his family would finally accept her. During his I.T program, he had gone on a date or two, but, no one compared to Bukky. He missed her. He wondered if she was happy in her new relationship. Thoughts of the day he saw Chike kissing her flashed through his mind’s eye. His brows knitted in a frown. He hoped the guy wasn’t sleeping with her. Images of the times he had slept with Bukky at the back of the kitchen flooded his mind. He groaned in frustration, erased his torturous thoughts, closed his eyes and rested the back of his head on the car seat.