Korede watched his sister walking towards the school opposite the barber shop where he and his father frequented. His mother had told him to spy on his sister and even though he had grudgingly agreed, he realized that his mother’s suspicion had been right. His sister was sitting under a tree in the large school compound kicking stones with her foot, laughing and talking with Lanre Williams. It was evening and the compound was deserted. His sister was supposed to be at the flour mill waiting for the dried yam pieces his mother had earlier dropped off at the miller’s.
Korede shook his head in disappointment and wished that he was older. He would have gone over to them and dragged her all the way home. His admiration for Lanre turned to contempt, it was now clear to him that he had no good intention towards his sister. He watched the two of them talk some more and part ways then he followed his sister again as she went on her original errand and headed back home. Walking close to her he said:
“So you went to see him.”
Jumoke jumped. “Korede! What… what are you talking about?”
“Mummy was right.” He said sadly. “You had another plan. She knew you would go to Lanre.”
“Korede please… you can’t understand but very soon you will be old enough to know how it is.”
“How what is? Mummy said you should stay away from him! Why are you following him around?”
“I like him!” she yelled. “I like him and you can’t understand that!”
Korede shook his head sadly. “I have to tell Mummy…”
“Korede please!” she held his hand. “Please! Okay, I promise I won’t go to their house again!”
“No Jumoke, you’re lying to me.”
“No! I’m not lying, I promise I won’t got to their house except Mummy sends me there.”
“And you won’t meet him elsewhere?”
“I won’t! Just promise me that you won’t tell Mummy.”
Korede sighed. “I promise. But Jummy please keep your promise.”
As Korede walked away towards his room, Jumoke exhaled in relief. Heaven only knew what her mother would have done if Korede told on her.
“I’m so glad we’ve finished our exams.” Jumoke said to Remi as they lay on the former’s bed.
“I’m glad too. Now I can do whatever I want and go wherever I want!”
Jumoke smiled sadly. “Well I can’t go anywhere.”
“Is that why you’ve not been coming to my house?”
Jumoke sighed, she had hoped that Remi would accept her explanation of being too busy preparing for the exams as her reason for not being at her house.
“My mum thought I wasn’t serious with my books, so she said I should stay at home and read.” She lied.
“But you haven’t come to my house since we finished our exams.”
“I’ll come, as soon as I find the time to. My mum always gives me work to do.”
“You’re lying Jumoke.” Remi said to her and turned to face her. “Why don’t you tell me what is really going on?”
Jumoke looked away and slowly told her all that had transpired with her mother concerning Lanre.
“She just doesn’t get it.” She concluded.
“So she thinks that my brother is a bad influence? That he just wants to use you? My brother would never do that to my friend.”
“Exactly! I mean, we’re family friends! Would Lanre do something silly when he knows that our parents know each other?”
“Don’t mind your mum, I guess she’s just being careful. My brother is harmless.” She smiled. “He misses you so much.”
“I miss him too.”
They were silent for a while.
“Do you want to see him?”
“We can arrange something.”
“Doesn’t have to know. You two can meet at a hotel.”
“Hotel! Remi are you crazy? People are going to think I’m a prostitute or something. What if my parents’ friends see me coming out of a hotel what would I say? It’s a bad idea.”
“Calm down! You’ll go in a disguise. I’ll get you a wig and some clothes. You won’t even recognize yourself”
Jumoke stared at her friend, unsure of the plan and very uncomfortable with it. “I don’t know Remi… I don’t want to get into trouble. My parent would be very a…”
“Nobody will know. Trust me.”
The perfect opportunity for the plan presented itself when the JAMB results were released and both girls got permission from their parents to go and see it.
“Let’s go to the JAMB office first.” Jumoke said.
“No, let’s wait until you’ve seen Lanre then we’ll go. It’s better that way.”
And so they went into a restaurant and changed into their disguise in the toilet. Remi had been right, Jumoke could not believe how grown up and different she looked. When Lanre saw her he was speechless.
“Wow…” he eventually said. “Come in.”
The three sat together for a few minutes before Remi got up.
“I’m meeting Gbemi at the market.”
“Why didn’t you say that before?” Remi queried. “We could have come here another day.”
“No, you’re not coming with me.”
Jumoke stared at her. “You’re going to leave me here?”
“I‘m coming back right now. I didn’t tell Gbemi about our plan and I don’t want her to know. I’ll just go and help her to pick the clothes she wants to buy and then I’ll come back. I won’t take long at all.” She smiled. “Relax! My brother will take care of you.”
Jumoke sat stiffly as Lanre shut the door.
“So it’s just you and me, without any interruptions.” He said walking towards her.
Jumoke smiled stiffly.
“You look scared. Why are you scared?” he sat beside her and held her hands.
“I’m not scared, I’m… I’m angry.”
“Because Remi left you?”
“She should have told me that she was going to meet Gbemi. We would have planned this for another day!”
“I don’t understand why you’re angry. Aren’t you happy that we’re alone? Finally we can talk and hold hands without being scared of someone seeing us. Aren’t you happy that I can do this?” he asked, as he began stroking her palm with his thumb.
Jumoke’s bladder suddenly needed to be emptied. She shifted uncomfortably and tried to alienate her mind from what she was feeling. Slowly she withdrew her hand.
“Stop it…” she said in a broken voice.
“What is it? You didn’t like it?” he whispered in her ear, holding her arm gently.
Jumoke shrugged it off. “Lanre please! I didn’t come here for this. I just came to talk.”
Lanre withdrew from her immediately. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I thought you wanted this.”
“No Lanre, I’ve told you I’m not that kind of girl.”
“I’m sorry.” Lanre said full of disappointment. “Alright…” he said vaguely and stared at the wall.
Jumoke wriggled her fingers and regretted agreeing to Remi’s plan.
“So what do you want to do?” he asked.
“I don’t know…”
“Do you want to play a game of cards?” he reached for his backpack.
She laughed. “No.”
“Alright… do you want to dance?”
She looked at him.
“It’s just a dance, I promise.”
They danced for a while to the music playing on MTV, singing choruses and rapping verses. Exhausted and sweaty they lay on the bed and argued about who the better artist was, 50 Cent or Sean Paul. Jumoke was finally comfortable with Lanre, their hands were intertwined and they cracked little jokes with each other.
“I’ll miss you when you go back to school.” Jumoke said.
“I know, I’ll miss you too. Are you sure you can’t talk to your parents about letting you school abroad?”
She laughed. “You’re just like your sister! I’m very sure that my parents are not going to send me abroad, so stop asking me about it.”
“I’m sure they’ll at least let you do your masters there… I’ll be waiting for you…”
“You’ll be waiting for me. For four years?”
“Yes, don’t you want me to? You mean a lot to me.”
Jumoke looked away, unsure of how to respond. She hadn’t known him for long but she knew that she would miss the way he paid attention to her and the way he made her feel.
“Come here.” he said pulling her into his arms. “We’ll see each other soon, I promise.”
She tried not to cry.
“I’ll come home for Christmas. I’ll be home before you know it.”
A lone tear slid down her cheek and he wiped it with his thumb and kissed her nose. “I’ll be home before you know it. I care a lot about you.”
Feeling overwhelmed by sadness she stroked his chin and allowed him to litter her face with kisses. Nothing else mattered but the moment in which the young man and the girl expressed their passion for one another.