Tue. Feb 13th, 2024

PART 28

 

I faced school head-on. I spent most of my time in class and the library reading.

 

Every day,I leave the lecture hall or library, there would be someone waiting to

 

talk to me. I didn’t have this experience before our wedding. When I told them I

 

 

was married, they didn’t believe me. Some of them with cars offered to drop me off but I refused. Emeka would never like it.

 

I was in the lecture hall one evening reading while waiting for when Dr Maduka would close so I could gain entrance to the house. I was not ready for any drama so I maintained this system and we had not had any altercation since. One guy bought a packet of juice and a wrap of suya for me. I thanked him but declined the gift. He tried talking to me but I explained to him I was a married woman.

 

“Married to who?”

 

“My husband lives in Spain. I am married. Kindly stop offering me gifts; I don’t need them”

 

“Your husband is not even in Nigeria and you are making noise about marrying. I can keep you company until he comes back”

 

“Maybe you can make the offer to him directly,” I said as I picked up my phone to call him.

 

“I don’t need to. I like you. I won’t rest until you are mine. I don’t believe you are married” he walked away with two of his friends leaving behind the suya and juice. I tried to call him back to take the items away but he just turned smiled and walked away.

 

“He won’t answer you,” a voice from behind said.

 

“Why won’t he? Why is he doing all this?”

 

“He obviously likes you. He has noticed you so he will always come looking for you”

 

“Noticed me? I don’t get”

 

“You don’t know him? Speedy, the son of Chief Ejikeme?”

 

“I don’t know him”

 

 

“His father is a multi-billionaire and he gets any girl he wants”

 

“With suya and juice?” I asked laughing. He laughed too.

 

“He must have observed you like it and this suya doesn’t look like it is from around here. The juice he brought is freshly squeezed juice from Nature’s treat. Do you know how much a jar costs? He got you a pack of six jars. He is tripping for you. What’s your excuse?”

 

“I am married and even if I wasn’t married, I wouldn’t date him because I don’t believe you should buy a girl’s love. The first step should always be communication. I might like your gifts but not your character”

 

“Smart girl. You are not only book smart but also wise. My name is Amaechi”

 

“I am Akwaugo”

 

“I know. We are in the same class; we are coursemates”

 

“I have never met you before”

 

“You don’t notice people like us but we notice you”

 

“That’s not true. I’m just determined to cross over to Enugu campus after this session that all I do is to study”

 

“I know. Same here”

 

I wanted to discard the juice and suya on my table. Amaechi refused and asked us to eat it together. He told me he hadn’t had a meal that evening and would go to bed hungry. I wasn’t interested in eating it but Amaechi was quite persuasive. He convinced me to sit with him and we had the suya together while reading. Truly, she had never tasted this type of suya before. Amaechi told her it was ram suya. She took a bottle of the juice and left the rest for him.

 

 

“I have to be your bodyguard so when guys toast you, I will benefit. This was a treat” I laughed.

 

Dr Maduka called, he was on his way home so I told my new friend I had to go. He saw me off to enter a bike.

 

The next day in class, someone said hello to me. I replied absentminded. I was studying in preparation for the test. After the test, he walked up to me and said, “I promised to be your bodyguard to gain some benefits from being around you. Unfortunately, the person I am supposed to be guarding completely ignored me. Did I commit an offence?”

 

I laughed. He was funny. I apologized and explained about the test. Truly we were in the same department.

 

“Will we get a free meal today? Any toasters available to do your bidding?”

 

“If you are hungry, we can eat at the buka. We don’t need toasters to survive”

 

He grabbed the opportunity with both hands. We went to the buka to eat; I allowed him to place his order and he was modest in his choice. He chose to eat eba and soup that will fill his belly. I made my order. We ate and interacted.

 

We hardly spoke to each other during lectures but he found time to have a little chitchat with me before he dashes off to the hostel to do one or two things. He had to be back in class at night to read.

 

Jacinta and I successfully kept a safe distance from each other. She didn’t stop me from lavishing goodies on her girls who adored me but she refused to interact with me. Her husband was nice and very civil with me. I appreciated his kindness.

 

During tests, I spent most of my time reading in the house or class. I had no distraction whatsoever.

 

Ugonna visited during our tests period. She tried to enter my room but I refused her entry. I came out to talk to her. She said she wanted to discuss something privately with me. I took my keys and locked my door and led her outside the building.

 

 

“Is there someone in your room you don’t want me to see?”

 

“No, I like my privacy. What did you call me about”?

 

“I heard you are dating one boy on campus”

 

“What did you say?”

 

“I was told you are dating one riffraff here”

 

I found the accusation very funny. Who could they be talking about? Speedy hadn’t made any attempts in recent times; there was no other person I was close to except Amaechi. I had to ask her who the person was but she decided she would rather play games with me.

 

“I have heard your accusation. Thank you for telling me. Can I go in now?” I asked rather too nicely.

 

“Are you leaving just like that? No apologies, no appeal? What if I tell Emeka?”

 

“I cannot apologise for what I am not guilty of”

 

“Emeka’s reaction will be very different if I tell him. The decision for him not to know is in your hands”

 

I became suspicious. I believed she was up to something. I decided to listen to her offer. “What do I have to do?”

 

“There is a bag Emeka gave it. That bag is ash-coloured clutch bag. If you give it to me, I won’t tell him anything”

 

“Before I can agree or refuse, who told you about?”

 

“That is a safe guarded secret. We get our information. Are you in or not?” Ugonna asked me.

 

 

“I am not in. Tell Emeka; I will love to hear what he has to say. If that is all, kindly excuse me” Ugonna stood on the spot looking at me as I worked away.

 

I have never seen a more covetous person like Ugonna. She was targeting the things she believed Emeka got for me. Not bothering about her accusations, I entered my room and locked myself in. I didn’t see her again until she left for Enugu.

 

I wasn’t worried about it because I had told Emeka about Amaechi. I told him how Speedy had come after me with suya and drinks and how Amaechi decided to help shield me from toasters since I was married. I explained he was a dude who was struggling that I bought food for once in a while. Amaechi and I only spoke after lectures. We didn’t have a real friendship. He was focused just like I was. Surprisingly Emeka was not bothered about him. I was tempted to tell Emeka what Ugonna did but I didn’t think it was a good idea to cause a rift between brother and sister.

 

There was a public holiday and Jacinta called me out of the room and said, “I am expecting a visitor. I want you to make Okro soup, pounded yam, goat meat stew and rice. I have brought out everything you will need”

 

I was shocked. I just looked at her as if she wasn’t sure of what she was saying. She had told me not to help her cook anything and now she wanted me to help? She didn’t say it as an order but more like how she used to instruct me when we were in good terms. I agreed to cook it. I prepared the stock for the soup and that for the stew. The aroma attracted her husband to come out. He came into the kitchen to ask me what was cooking but saw me there.

 

“What are you doing here? Haven’t I told you not to do anything in this house?” he bellowed at me which was embarrassing.

 

“Sister Jacinta asked me to cook for her as she would be having a visitor”

 

“What will she be doing while you cook?”

 

“I just want to help her”

 

 

“Jacinta always has a motive for whatever she does. Ugonna is sly and is more interested in what she will gain. But Jacinta, she is a sadist. She will always find ways to pull you down or cause you sorrow. I’m sure she has something in stock for you. I will sit back and watch”

 

I continued cooking. When the meal was ready, I let her know and then went into the room to take a shower. Something prompted me to wear a short shirt dress Emeka bought for me. I tried it on and it was lovely. I wore a pair of shorts underneath. I planned on going for a stroll with the girls when the visitor is around.

 

Jacinta’s maid knocked and informed me her auntie was calling me. I went to meet her. To my greatest surprise, I saw Chisom in the parlour with her. I said hello and faced Jacinta.

 

“Have you finished the food I asked you to cook?” she asked in an insulting manner.

 

“I told you when I finished”

 

“I didn’t hear you. Go and dish food for us. Make it snappy; we are hungry”

 

Was that her game plan? She planned to humiliate me in the presence of Chisom. I was angry. I made the food with love and didn’t deserve to be insulted like this. I went into the kitchen. I brought out her best dishes and served the pounded yam and soup and also rice and stew. As she wanted to treat Chisom an august visitor, I was going to help her. I set the table and placed the food on the table. I announced to them their food was ready. As they came to the dining to eat, Jacinta saw her expensive dish on the dining table and almost had a heart attack.

 

I walked into my room, picked up some money, called the girls and we went for a walk. I brought them back through the back door and took off again. I stayed out until very late. It was Dr Maduka that called me to come back home, Chisom had left. He opened the door when I came in.

 

“Didn’t I tell you? I knew she had something up her sleeves. Those dishes you used are the most expensive items she has in this kitchen. It was given to her by her godparents. She never brings it out but today you used it to serve Chisom who

 

 

is unworthy to use the plate. She was furious and changed the plates and the dishes after you left.”

 

“I won’t help her anymore”

 

“I think you should be going back to Enugu for the weekend and public holidays. You should have a breather”

 

That was what I did. I told Emeka. He wasn’t happy with the arrangement but I didn’t want to tell him the real reason why I needed the break. Auntie Nneoma was happy to see me. There was so much to talk about. As a married woman, I was so comfortable talking to auntie Nneoma. Uncle Emma had travelled out of the country for a medical checkup as he had been unwell. Amanze was in Abuja.

 

I told auntie Nneoma all that transpired. She was shared her own experience with me and told me to avoid Jacinta as much as possible. I always enjoyed my stay in Enugu and didn’t look forward to going back if not for school. Each trip, I brought back some foodstuff for the house. I replenished my provisions and also packaged some foodstuff and provisions for Amaechi. I didn’t know much about him but I was willing to help him. Giving him enough foodstuff and provisions reduced drastically our interactions. This I needed to do to douse the unfounded suspicion people had about us.

 

When it was time for exams, I read all through the night in the lecture hall and came home in the early hours. One day, I was in class engrossed in my reading that I didn’t observe I was the only one in the lecture room at that time. This was about 3am. It was a small lecture room. Two guys walked into the room noisily. I noticed them but continued reading believing they also came to read. They sat down at the back of the class. I had to turn to see them as they were determined for me to notice them. I went back to my studies.

 

Suddenly, I became uncomfortable. I realized when I looked back, I was alone in the class save for those two who just came in. I gradually began to pack my books. Then I swiftly stood up and left. I caught them unawares so I was out of the door when the realized. I ran a bit and then stopped close to a well-lit classroom which was almost fully occupied. I entered the class and took a seat. They entered the

 

 

class to look for me. There was no way I could go back to the house with these boys on my trail. Why they were following me, I couldn’t understand.

 

I had to acclimatize to reading in a rowdy populated environment. I became engrossed again. I was to retire at 5am but I couldn’t leave. When people began to leave, I followed. They followed me. By the staircase, I met Amaechi going home with two of his friends. I was so happy to see him. We walked together to the car park. I told him what had happened.

 

“Stop coming to class to read on your own. There have been numerous cases of rape in the lecture rooms. I would even suggest you stay home and read. If you must read here; be a part of a group. Even I, I move in a group of at least three. If anything happens, one of us can at least escape”

 

“Does it make it right?”

 

“It doesn’t have to. Girls won’t come forth and report because of stigma. Can you tell your husband you were raped?”

 

“It will never be my portion; I don’t even I wish it for my enemies”

 

“Stop coming here alone to read. Stay at home and read”

 

“You won’t understand but thank you for the advice”

 

“I will follow you until you get home so I know you are safe”

 

“Thank you”

 

He escorted me until I was in front of the house. He only left when I had gained access to the house.

 

“So, your boyfriends are no longer afraid to bring you home? Emeka carried you like akwa in an air-conditioned car and you are following a boy that has nothing. Shameless girl. Couldn’t Emeka satisfy you? Virgin my foot! Everyone knows you on campus as a whore since Emeka couldn’t perform his duties”

 

 

“Sister Jacinta, please, I have had a bad night. I really don’t want to talk about anything right now. Save it for another day”

 

“Is it me you are talking?” she asked while I tried to walk away. She came after me and landed me a slap. A very hot slap which set my brain back to factory fitted. It was set to survival mode. I was about to return the slap when I head Dr Maduka’s voice. I didn’t hear what he said but tears were flowing from my eyes. I could see Jacinta trembling in fright when she thought I would return the favour. I entered my room while Dr Maduka came after me.

 

“It is ok. Stop crying. Please forgive her”

 

Those words couldn’t ease my pain. I wished Emeka was around; those guys wouldn’t have tried that rubbish with me. Amaechi I ran into and he agreed to walk me home off his route is whom she accused me of philandering with. All I wanted to do was scream and I did that. When I was done, I relaxed. Dr Maduka asked me what happened. With tears in my eyes and between sobs, I narrated what transpired and what his wife said.

 

“Don’t mind her. For the record, Emeka made it clear he preferred you to Chisom in every way. He confirmed to me you were a virgin when he met you. Jacinta is jealous you are getting all the attention. I know you can’t read here; I will give you the keys to my office. You can stay there and read overnight. I will give you a spare key. You can come home early in the morning. You have just two more months here; just manage it. Please don’t tell Emeka, he will be disappointed in Jacinta. Be wise. Only build and mend bridges; don’t break or destroy them”

 

I took the spare key to his office. I could be there after he leaves for home or the club until 6am in the next morning. No one dared harass me. I did this until I wrote my last 100l examinations. I was free. I was very jubilant when I finished. I gladly packed everything that belonged to me from the house; including the table, chair and dressing table. I looked at the room and I smiled. One phase of my life was over. I was entering another phase.

 

I told Jacinta I was leaving but she acted as though I didn’t exist. I hired a vehicle that could carry all my belongings to Enugu. I was done being treated like a

 

 

nobody. I was rushing into the arms of those that loved me with all my heart. We had a lot of planning to do for a white wedding. AKWAUGO

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