"I’m coming home in three weeks baby”
Ade kept staring at those words unseeingly. He had read the words over and over until they became a blur. It was uncharacteristic of Teniola to start her letters to him with an announcement, they usually started with poetry like endearments. That was however not the problem at the moment, it was the fact that she was returning; he knew she would someday return and in any other circumstance he would have thought she had taken too long; when she left, she had promised to return as soon as she had a chance. He had assumed that soon meant six months or at most a year. This however was not the best of circumstances. She had been gone for almost three years but with time he had discovered that he would never be ready to face her.
Teniola was in her second year of college already, she had had to run a one year program before embarking on her college program proper. She had been upset initially but the whole thing had paid off. Ade who had been in his third year at the time she left was only just fifth year due to the incessant strikes that plagued the country’s educational system. Julia was in her fourth year as she had been unable to write her papers while on admission after the surgery that had been carried out on her to remove the ectopic pregnancy. Ade really found the strike situation frustrating but was determined to see through his decision to complete his seven year program in one stretch. Julia on the other one, had during one of the strikes taken up a holiday job as a trainee nurse in a private hospital and when that particular strike had dragged on too long, she had decided to see the trainee program through, up until she qualified.
It had been hectic, running both her university program and her training as a nurse but she had needed to stay completely occupied for the sake of her own sanity. She had cut off communication with Ade for a while after she was discharged from the hospital although he had never left her side throughout her stay at the hospital- except to brush his teeth, take a quick bath and when he felt up to it; eat.
Then she had seen him one evening just after the university resumed albeit briefly from one of the strikes. He looked really changed, lean, taller but at least he had gotten rid of the beard. She stared at him for a while undecided as to whether to walk up to him or walk away; she was still very bitter about what had happened and she completely blamed him for everything. She did not care whether or not she was being unreasonable, he was to blame for the fact that she was never going to be truly happy and that was that. She finally decided to walk away when she saw a girl walk up to him, the girl took a seat on a bench next to where he stood, he sat down beside her almost immediately, they were in front of a kiosk that sold snacks and soft drinks. She continued watching until the girl raised a hand to pick something out of his hair.
Julia had instant goose bumps and felt bile rise to her throat.“That bastard” she thought, “he left me a damaged person, he is dating my cousin and he thinks he can bring a third girl into this situation, he thinks he can be happy when I am not?”
She strode over to where Ade sat, and then when she finally stood facing him, she took a couple of deep breaths before pasting a really fake smile on her face and saying “Hello Ade” ; her voice sounded too high and too breezy; and she hated it.
Ade looked up and froze for a micro second before jumping up from where he sat. “Julia” his voice was also several notches higher than usual but he didn’t care. The jumble of emotions he felt was more real to him. He knew he would one day have to stand facing her, talk to her but he knew he would never be prepared for that day. Still, he had hoped it would be after Teniola’s return, with Teniola there he felt somewhat sure that he would be safe from whatever emotional attack Julia would have reserved for him. He was sure she cared too much about her cousin to let on that anything had happened between them.
He returned to the present and offered up introductions, Julia was staring at the offending individual, her name was Chichi, she was Ade's classmate, she was in turn staring at him. He was really flustered.“Hi Julia” she stretched out her hand but she only looked at the outstretched hand briefly before wrapping Ade in a really tight hug.
Ade had a really confused look on his face but stood patiently with his arms by his sides until she was done hugging him and when she finally released him, he concluded his introductions “Julia, this is Chichi, a course mate of mine, Chichi, Julia” he concluded with a lump in his throat. Julia pointedly ignored the hand Chichi proffered and took a seat on the other end of the bench, leaving just enough space for Ade to squeeze into.
Ade stared at the seating space Julia had created for him and then looked at her face. She stared back at him until he shifted his gaze, then she cleared her throat and said mildly “a bottle of coke would be nice”. Ade nodded dumbly and walked away from the two girls to get the bottle of coke. When he got back, Julia shifted some more to create more space for him to sit and this time he took it. After a few moments of awkward silence filled by both Chichi and Julia sipping their cokes, Chichi stood up “Okay I guess I’ll be seeing you around.” Julia responded before Ade could think of an appropriate response “Bye” The fake smile was in place and so was the high pitched voice. The awkward silence continued and then he felt the splatter of water on his neck. It had started to rain, few and far between but heavy drops.
“Oh no not again” this was the first thought that crossed his mind as he flashed back to the day the whole situation had started. “I should have gone home that day” his train of thought continued “but today, I am going home”
“I hope we can get to my place before this becomes an outright downpour” she interrupted his train of thought.
“Oh you will get home before it starts, I’m sure I’ll get to my place before then too”
“Don’t be silly” she interjected “you know that’s not possible”
“Still I need to go home”
“You don’t need to do anything, lets rush to my place, I promise I won’t bite, I also promise not to get pregnant this time, you know it’s safe anyway, and...”
The rest of her speech was drowned by sudden heavy downpour and they raced to her place.
At her place she trailed water through the apartment into the bathroom and came back into the living room a few minutes later, wrapped in a towel, he was standing by the door in a pool of water that was still dripping off his clothes. She walked right up to him and pulled off the towel covering her body and held it out to him. He stared at her face, and then he did a quick once over; she had had nothing on underneath the towel, he thought to himself that he had never actually realized how perfectly molded her petite body was. He felt ashamed as the thought crossed his mind and he mentally tried to shake the image of her naked body off his mind.
It was as though she could read his mind as she gave him a coquettish smile and walked away. Ade towelled off his body- he refused to remove his shirt this time but tried to dry himself off as best he could while still wearing his wet clothes. Ade had a feeling of dejavu as she later walked back into the living room and up to him this time fully clothed and holding two mugs of steaming cocoa in front of her.
He accepted one of the mugs from her and finally took a seat while she threw a quizzing look at his damp clothes. She shrugged and once again disappeared into her room. This time she emerged with a heavy duvet and a bed sheet. He watched as she placed her mug of cocoa on a stool, spread out the duvet on the living room floor, wrapped herself in the rather large bed sheet and then curled up on the duvet. When she was done, he sat there, staring into his cup of cocoa and praying fervently that the rain should subside.
He didn’t know what the sound was at first, he was also disoriented for several seconds, not knowing where he was. When he finally realised where he was, he looked towards the source of the sound that had woken him. Julia’s shoulders shook as she sobbed. Ade got up from his seat, glanced at the walk clock- it was well past midnight and he could still hear the rain pouring, he walked to where Julia lay on the duvet, lay behind her and wrapped her in his arms. He didn’t say any words to her; he had no idea what to say, so he simply held her till the sobs subsided, till he eventually heard regular breaths indicating that she had fallen asleep, and till the sound of her breathing finally lulled him to sleep too.
Stay tuned for Episode 14 next week Friday.
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