“You’re going to Remi’s house again?” Korede asked.
“Yes, I’ve finished my exams so I can relax.” Jumoke replied.
“Alright just be careful.”
She laughed. “I can take care of myself Korede.”
Korede had something on his mind. “I thought you said you wanted to stop being friends with Remi?”
“Yes I did, but it has to be gradual. I can’t just stop being her friend.”
“Why? Just stop going there.” Korede shrugged.
Jumoke shook her head and combed her hair. ‘It’s not that easy.”
“Yes it is.” He retorted.
“You can’t understand.”
He exhaled sharply and observed that she was wearing a new dress. “Isn’t that the dress that Aunty Rebecca sent to you?”
“Yes it is. Does it look nice on me?”
“Why are you wearing it?”
“I’ve been keeping it in my wardrobe all this while and it’s a nice dress. I have to wear it before it gets too short for me! You’ve not answered my question.”
“So why are you wearing it now?”
Jumoke turned to look at him. “Why are you asking me all these questions? Are you older than me?”
Korede shrugged and went out of the room, feeling disappointed in his sister because he now realized that she was dressing to impress someone- Lanre.
Gbemi came into the sitting room and immediately changed the channel. Jumoke glanced at her once and then looked out of the house through the window. Her friend’s grumpy sister did not deserve her attention. Gbemi looked at her from the corner of her eyes and noticed that she was looking good. What could make the usually uptight Jumoke look fashionable?
“Who made your dress?” she asked haughtily.
“I don’t know, it was given to me.” Jumoke answered not looking at her. If Gbemi didn’t want to be her friend she wasn’t willing to be hers either.
“So it’s a designer dress?” Gbemi didn’t want to believe that Jumoke could wear something she would, it didn’t belong on her.
“I don’t know.” Jumoke replied tiredly.
“How can you not know? Can’t you read the label?”
“If you want to know, come and read the label now!” She retorted and stared angrily at the television.
Just then Remi came into the sitting room and sat next to her. “Jummy! Sorry I kept you waiting. I wanted to quickly take my bath.”
“Can we go out?” Jumoke asked.
“You don’t want to watch TV? I have some new films…”
“Maybe later, let’s just go out for now.”
“Okay…” Remi looked at her friend and then back at her sister, was it not possible for them to have a conflict-free moment?
“My Dad wants us to go and school abroad.” Remi said to her when they were outside. They were seated in the garden, drinking juice.
Jumoke set down her glass and stared at her friend. “But we planned to go to…”
“I know, I want to school in Nigeria too but my Dad just suddenly changed the plans… Jummy… I’m sorry… But can’t your parents send you abroad too?”
Jumoke laughed dispassionately. “My parents are not poor but I’m sure they’re not planning on sending me abroad now. Do you know how much it costs?”
“Well they can take a loan… I mean people do it all the time…”
Jumoke shook her head incredulously at her friend. “You want my parents to take a loan to send me to the same school with you, while your parents are debt-free?”
“No I didn’t mean it like that… I just think we can persuade them to let us be together…” Remi couldn’t understand why her friend was making such a big deal out of the matter, friends did whatever they could to sustain their friendship didn’t they?
Jumoke took a sip from her drink. “Well, my parents are not sending me out of the country, that I’m very sure of.”
“Hello ladies.” Lanre said good-humoredly, tapping the back of his sister’s neck.
“What do you want Lanre?” she asked with mock annoyance.
“Can’t I just say hello to my sister?”
“And since when do you just come and say hello?”
“Now I’m hurt.” He replied with his hand on his chest.
“Well,” she said rising up. “I’ll pretend to go and get us something to eat, while I give you two some time to do whatever lovesick people do.”
“Ehn? I’m not lovesick o!” Jumoke replied bashfully.
“It’s true!” Remi replied mockingly, flicking her hand dismissively and walking away.
“Hi.” Lanre said to Jumoke, and sat in his sister’s place.
“Hi.” She replied, shifting uncomfortably in hers.
“Am I making you uncomfortable?”
“No! Why did you ask?” she smiled uneasily.
“You’re adjusting yourself…”
“Yes, I’ve been sitting for too long on one spot.”
He smiled. “How are you?”
“I’m fine.” she replied, staring blankly at a rose petal.
There was an awkward silence between them in which Lanre thought of the fact that he was going back to school in about six weeks. He had made little progress with this enigmatic girl who filled his dreams.
“You know I’m going back to school very soon right?”
“Well, I guessed so.” She shrugged.
“I wish we could be together.” he said holding her hand.
Jumoke smiled. “Well we both have to go to school.”
“Yes we do. I just wish that you could come to my school…” He started to caress the back of her hand with his thumb.
“Did Remi send you to me?” She laughed uncomfortably, pretending not to feel what he was doing.
“What are you talking about?” Lanre wondered.
“She just told me that your Dad is sending the two of them to school abroad, she wants me to come too.”
“Is that bad?”
“No it isn’t, but I don’t think my parents can afford it. We were talking about it just before you came.”
“She’s going to miss you.”
“I’ll miss her too.”
“What about me?” He inched closer to her. “Won’t you miss me?”
She laughed and snatched her hand from his. “Of course not!”
“Yes, you’ll miss me!” he laughed triumphantly while she rolled her eyes.
Remi returned with a tray of cookies. “I hope I gave you guys enough time?”
Lanre got up and took a few. “I’m going out to see Harry.” He said to his sister then bent to whisper into Jumoke’s ears. “Spend some time with me.”
Her ears tickled with the warmth of his breath, but she shook her head and tried not to laugh.
“Lanre go away and stop disturbing my friend. Na wa o!”
“Alright ladies, see you later.” He replied with a wink and left.
“So what’s the deal between you guys?”
“There’s no deal. He’s just being silly.”
“Please! You think I didn’t see him holding your hand?” She laughed. “And you’re blushing!”
“I’m black, I can’t blush.”
Remi laughed. “On a serious note though Jummy, are you people together?”
“No! We’re just friends!”
“Okay, what did he just tell you?”
Jumoke smiled self-consciously. “He said something like spending time together… I don’t know…”
“Oh my God Jummy you really like him!” Remi said excitedly.
“No I don’t… I don’t mean I hate him but…”
“You’re stammering! You like him!”
“It’s good! You people can even get married you know? Then we’ll be sisters!”
Jumoke sat up sharply and stared at Remi bewildered. “Let’s talk about something else…”
“Think about it! You’ll be Jumoke Williams, isn’t it nice?”
“No Remi, please let’s talk about something else.” She said, not willing to hope for what could probably not be. “I’m sure your brother is not thinking about that.”
“With my brother, you never know!” Remi said and handed her the tray. “Eat a cookie before your face gets any redder!”
Jumoke was alone at home; Korede was in school and her parents were at work. She looked at herself once more time in the mirror before going to get the door.
“You look nice.” Lanre said when she opened the door. He looked down her body slowly and smiled, the girl seemed to be getting more beautiful.
“Do you want to stand outside?” Jumoke replied gibingly, feeling embarrassed by his action.
“You look really beautiful!”
“Please come inside before someone sees you!” She said, pulling him in and shutting the door.
They sat on the couch and pretended to talk about university. Lanre’s hands were itching to touch hers but he feared her reaction and she desired to sit even closer to him but didn’t want to appear forward. Deciding to take the bull by the horns, he reached for her hand and started to stroke her fingers.
“Must you always touch my hands?” she asked.
“You have very beautiful hands and a smooth skin.”
“Thank you…” she said in hoarse voice as the effect of his caress began to make her feel suddenly warm “Lanre…”
“Shh…” he put his lips on her neck and kissed them gently.
But Lanre was finally grateful for the opportunity he had been looking for. He let her hand go and slid his up her waist.
“Lanre… stop it!” she yelled at him when his fingertips creased the contour of her breast. “I’m not ready…!” She slid away from him. “And I’m not that kind of girl!”
“I’m sorry I thought you…”
“No, I don’t want it.” She replied looking away.
“Hey… Jummy…” he pulled her chin to face him. “I’m sorry.”
“Okay.” She replied bashfully.
Later that night, Jumoke’s dreams were filled with the memories of her encounter with Lanre.