Bukky lay on the bed and wept. It hurt that her boyfriend’s parents felt that he was too good for her because he was in the university and she wasn’t. She wished she had told them that she was no longer an illiterate. She now has her Junior waec certificate. Soon, she would be equal to every other person who graduated from the Senior Secondary school.
Did she make a mistake by giving Gbemiga a second chance? He was planning to marry her, but, his family were prepared to fight their union. What were they going to do? Maybe if they prayed and fasted, God might make a way for them, after all, the heart of Kings were in his hands.
She wished Chike was available. She needed a good friend to confide in. His door was always locked whenever she visited. Even his neighbours were not sure of his whereabouts. It scared her to think that he might have moved out. His phone lines were not even going through and his social media handles were static. No updates. She missed him.
If she confided in her aunt, she might advise her to give up on Gbemiga and move on. She didn’t want to lose faith. She was determined to be hopeful. She believed that God would turn their situation around for good.
Kike and her niece moved to their new shop in Yaba market. It was sandwich between a provision store and a soft drink depot. The space was very tiny, but, convenient. They fried the akara, yam and plantain outside the shop under a canopy attached to the front of the shop, while seats and tables were arranged inside the shop so that people could sit and eat. They were patronized by different sets of people, aside from the traders in the market place, people going to work, students going to school, motor drivers and conductors queued at their shop to buy their wares.
Kike’s fiancé also had a shop in the same market. He repaired phones, tablets, laptops and desktops. Whenever they were done for the day, she goes to her fiancé’s shop and stay there till he was ready to go home. That way, they were able to spend time with each other.
Bukky envied their relationship. She wished hers was trouble free. It had been three days since she spoke with her boyfriend via phone call. He was equally frustrated by his family’s unwavering stance. He was willing to pray and fast, hoping that God would turn and change their hearts towards his girlfriend.
She hasn’t heard from Chike. She remembered that he told her that he would be going for his Industrial training after the Easter period. Has he gone? She wondered if he had started working for his uncle in Owerri, or maybe he got a better offer in an oil company. Regardless of their disagreement, he should have honoured their friendship and not leave her out of his plans.
A week before her twentieth birthday, Bukky’s aunt got married. She met her parents and siblings at the reception. They were all happy to see her. She was informed that her parents had been able to rent an apartment in Ikorodu and her younger brothers had moved in with them. The boys had also been enrolled into a Secondary school in the area. Her mother now sold fresh pepper and vegetables in the local market, while her father worked as a security guard in a Private school. Her elder sister was presently living with a friend on the island and was working in a Law firm as an Office Assistant. The pay was okay and she was able to enroll in a lecture centre in preparation for the G.C.E examinations. She was glad that every one of her siblings were getting the education they all deserved. No one would be able to bad mouth them and call them illiterates d any longer. She thanked God that each and every person in her family was doing well. God had indeed answered her prayers.
Bukky returned home from the wedding party and met Gbemiga outside her apartment. She was surprised to see him, but, glad that he had returned home from school. He helped her with her bags filled with take-aways and souvenirs and they went into the apartment together.
“Should I dish some food for you? There is jollof and fried rice, yam porridge, semolina, pounded yam with vegetable soup and ogbonna soup.”
He shook his head and sat on the two settee.
She carried the polythene bags into the kitchen and came back to sit beside him. She noticed that he had a sad expression on his face.
“Is everything okay?”
He shook his head and stared at her, “My parents called a family meeting.”
She sighed heavily. She had a feeling that their relationship was the topic of discuss.
“They involved my aunties and uncles, even distant relatives.”
She dropped her jaw in amazement.
“My parents told them all that I am dating an illiterate, a common bean cake seller, a nobody.”
She closed her mouth. The words used to describe her made her feel angry and gloomy at the same time. She couldn’t understand his folks dislike for her. What did she ever do to warrant their hatred?
“One of my aunt has decided to sponsor my tertiary education till I graduate, on the condition that I break up with you.”
Her eyes widened in shock.
“Two of my uncles are ready to sponsor me whenever and wherever I want to do my Masters program.”
She swallowed hard and stared back at him. Where were they when her boyfriend was looking for money to pay his school fees? She had been the one supporting him financially.
“But, on one condition, I must break up with you.”
Suddenly, a chill crawled all over her, making her to shudder in anguish.
“I will graduate in less than two years, I am not even sure where or when I want to take my Masters program. It will be unfair for me to ask you to wait for me. I don’t know what the future holds for us. I am not sure if our relationship will survive this year, talk about next year.”
She blinked back the tears threatening to spill all over her face. She couldn’t believe that he was considering his relatives’ offer. She concluded that he didn’t try to defend their relationship during the meeting. His body language said it all.
“Bukky,” he reached out for her hands, but she pulled away immediately.
“I can’t believe that you are giving up on us so easily,” her voice shook. Her eyes brimmed with tears.
“No… no, I am not giving up on us,” he tried to convince her.
“I can’t believe that you are allowing them to bully you into… into breaking up with me,” she looked straight at him through blurred vision.
“No, they are not… I am not…”
“You can’t even stand on your words. You said things will be different for us this time around.”
“Don’t you have a say in your own life? You are twenty-two for heaven’s sake. Are you going to allow your family to dictate the direction your life should go? I can’t believe this,” she placed a hand on her forehead.
“Look, it’s not like that,” the disappointment and hurt in her eyes made his chest to tighten in pain.
“Then how is it? Ehn? Explain,” she eyed him.
“Just imagine, my parents won’t need to bother about my education again. I am going to get sponsored.”
“I see. So, you are trading me for the educational sponsorship you are not even sure you are going to get?” a tear dropped from her eye.
“No… see… I can’t ask you to wait for me. I need to complete my education first. This is an opportunity I can’t just pass off. I will also be able to do my Masters. Just imagine, when I am done, I will get a wonderful job and give my family the life they deserve.”
“Where does that leave me?” she eyed him again.
“Em… if you are still single, we can get married then.”
“So, you want me to wait, for how long? While you date every Nkechi, Ibinabo and Hauwa?’
He sighed, exasperated.
“Do you even love me?” she directed her pale eyes at him,
“Bukky,” his pleading eyes observed her, “Of course I do.”
“Then why aren’t you fighting for that love? Why are you letting them to quench the flame of our love? Why are you letting them to split us, tear us apart? Why? Gbeniga why?” tears slipped down her dark oval face.
He remained quiet, lost for words. He had been thinking about the whole thing since the meeting ended. He thought he was taking the right decisions, but, it was clear she didn’t think so.
“Go to them, go to your family. I believe they will end up choosing your wife too.”
“Go!” she screamed at him.
He got up slowly.
She covered her face with her hands and began to cry.
Gbemiga walked away, opened the door and stepped out. He closed the door behind him and leaned against it. What had he done? He closed his eyes momentarily, then opened it. He hoped she would be able to see reasons and forgive him in time. Maybe, just maybe, they might eventually end up together as man and wife. He was hopeful. He breathed out loudly, stepped away from the door and headed home.