“Two hundred and eight-three!” Mr Oludare said sitting up in his chair.
“Yes sir.” Jumoke replied.
“That’s my girl!” he shouted and pulled her into a big hug. Jumoke laughed and tried not to feel stifled.
“We are going to celebrate this.” He beamed.
“Yes we must!” his wife concurred, smiling at their daughter with pride.
“So what did your friend score?” Her father asked.
“Remi scored two fifty and Gbemi scored two twenty-nine.”
“Well, they’re not going to use it.” She replied. “Their mother has been drumming it into my ears that they’re going to study abroad.”
“Funke loves to brag.” Her husband said sadly and shook his head. “I just hope it doesn’t get her into trouble one of these days.”
“Look let’s forget about that! Whether or not Jumoke studies abroad, I know she will make something good out of her life.” she said and looked at her daughter. “Are you alright? You look a little dull.”
“I’m fine ma. I just feel a little tired. It was really sunny today and we stood on the queue for a very long time.”
“Sorry dear, why don’t you go and rest?”
Jumoke happily retreated to her room and sat on the bed slowly. She had spent most of the afternoon and evening thinking about what she had done with Lanre. Remi had returned ten minutes after they had put their clothes back on and apologized for being late.
“You look dull.” She said to Jumoke. “Are you alright?”
“Yes, can we go now?”
“Ah ah but I just got here!”
“My brother is alone at home, if I don’t get home on time he’ll wonder where I’ve gone.”
“Alright let me drink this first.” She said and reached for the bottle of malt that had been sitting on a stool.
Jumoke shifted uncomfortably in her seat, trying not to scream at her friend. She felt Lanre’s eyes on her but she couldn’t look at him. They had left immediately after Remi was done and she remained silent on the way home.
“Did my brother do something to you?” Remi asked as they reached the junction where they would part ways.
“You shouldn’t have left me.” Jumoke simply said and walked away.
As she sat on the bed now she realized how angry she was with her friend who seemed to have led her into a trap.
I should have stopped him. She thought over and over again and wished that she could take back what had been done. Sleeping with Lanre had been entirely consensual but she had not been ready for it and now she regretted it and resented him with the whole of her being.
How had things deteriorated so fast? She had only intended to go and spend some time talking and flirting with him just a bit. Why had she allowed herself to be so weak?
I care a lot about you. His words had melted her resolve and carried her straight into his arms. She thought of the pain of the intercourse and the one she felt even as she sat down.
Had it been worth it?
“Why are you so quiet? Are you regretting it?” he had asked after it was over and she was getting dressed. “Didn’t you want it?”
When she started to cry he got angry.
“Stop crying! I didn’t force you did I? You’re making me feel bad, like I forced you or something. Jumoke!” he shook her shoulder. “Please stop crying, you’re making me feel bad!”
She lay back on the bed gently, stared at the celling and wondered if she could ever face him again. Losing her virginity was painful but the shame she now felt was even greater. She wondered how she could lift her head up again when she had lost a cherished possession to a boy who didn’t seem to understand how much she had valued it.
The fact that she had scored very high on her JAMB exam was no consolation. It didn’t matter to her that she had accomplished a great feat.
Remi stirred her rice around in her plate and watched her brother pouring himself some water. Ever since the rendezvous with him two days, Jumoke had been distant. She hadn’t come to her house or come to the phone when she called her home. The more she thought about it, the more she concluded that something had happened between her brother and her friend while she was away.
He had also said nothing about the meeting. It was almost as if it hadn’t even happened. How was she to know what to do with her friend if neither of them were talking to her? She looked at her plate and stirred the rice around again. The juicy piece of chicken in the middle of it did not appeal to her.
“So you’re not going to tell me what happened between the two of you?” she said to Lanre who was wiping his mouth.
“There’s nothing to tell.” He said coolly and avoided her eyes.
“What do you mean there’s nothing to tell? She’s not talking to me and you’re acting like you didn’t meet with her. What’s going on?”
“If you have any questions, ask your friend.” He said and walked away.
Just then, their mother came in and looked back and forth between both children.
“Nothing!” Remi said and got up from her seat.
Jumoke was staring out of the window, slowly washing the plate in her hands. It had been two weeks since her encounter with Lanre and she still couldn’t get over the event. She knew that Remi had been trying to reach her but she had been too angry to talk to her. Besides, talking about the event wouldn’t change what had happened. At church earlier in the day, the youth coordinator had talked on and on about purity, it was almost as if the woman knew what she had done.
“Young ladies, don’t let anybody take advantage of you. Don’t let anyone coax you into something you will later regret. You know we women are easily moved by words, but don’t let their words get to you! Your body is precious. Cherish it!”
Lanre had not contacted her, she hadn’t seen him nor heard from him since that day. Was she so easy to discard? What happened to all the words of affection that had lured her into sleeping with him?
“Jumoke!” her mother called touching her arm and she jumped.
“Oh! Ma! You scared me ma.”
“What are you thinking about?” her mother asked.
“Nothing? And you’ve been staring outside the window for several minutes? I’ve been watching you. What’s wrong with you these days? You look sad.”
“Nothing Mummy, I think I’m just worried about the future.”
“What are you worried about?” she asked amused. “There’s no way you won’t gain admission into OAU, you have a very good score.”
Jumoke nodded in agreement and hoped that her mother would let her be.
“Are you sure that is all?” Mrs Oludare sensed that there was something her daughter wasn’t saying.
“Yes ma. I’m just looking forward to school…”
“Dear!” Mr Oludare called from the sitting room. “Your friend is on the news!”
“Ehn? Which friend?” Mr Oludare wondered and hurried out of the kitchen.
As Jumoke continued washing the plates she could hear her mother talking excitedly about Mrs Davis, her professor friend.
Remi and Gbemi saw Jumoke walking towards her home, she was several yards away from them but they could see that she was walking slowly with her head bowed.
“Why is your friend walking slowly? Is she afraid of going home?” Gbemi teased.
Her sister didn’t respond, she was debating with herself on the wisdom of going to talk to her once and for all about what happened. She had come to the conclusion that her brother had done something to her friend and she felt guilty because she had not only suggested that they go to the hotel, she had left her there with him. But what if Jumoke gave her the cold shoulder like she had been doing? Would she not look like a fool?
“I’m going to talk to her.” she decided.
“Why? Remi you’ve started this nonsense again! If she doesn’t want to talk to you, why do you want to force her?”
“Gbemi you don’t understand…”
Remi couldn’t think of talking to her sister about whatever may have happened between Lanre and Jumoke. She wouldn’t understand it, and might even ridicule Jumoke. She desperately wished to talk to her sister about what was weighing on her mind but she knew that this would be a mistake.
“I won’t wait for you and I’ll go home and tell Mummy that you delayed us.”
“Ah ah Gbemi! Let me just go and talk to her!”
Remi looked at her sister and back at her friend who was still walking away slowly.
“I don’t know what to do about that boy.” Mrs Fasheun said to Mrs Oludare at their usual spot beside the orange tree. Dinner had been cooked and served and the women now had time to talk about their day and family problems.
“I’ve told you, you’re too soft on him.” Mrs Oludare responded. “Korede wanted to start doing that too but I beat the fear of God into him.”
“Hmm… I’ve told you my problem with that. You know Folahanmi is our only son. His father would not even allow me to raise my voice at him talk less of spank him.”
“I’m sorry for you.” The other woman responded sarcastically. “Do you know that if he turns out to be an irresponsible child, his father and everyone else would blame you? Do what you need to do! So what if he was your only child? You would give him the cane and ask him to spank you?”
Mrs Fasheun sighed, it really wasn’t as easy as her neighbor assumed it should be. Her husband was explicit about his wishes for their only son, he was to have everything he wanted.
“He is my heir.” He constantly said. “His head must not ache!”
Her husband didn’t value their three other children who were girls and doing quite well. The situation made her unhappy and she decided to change the topic.
“Congratulations on Jumoke’s admission! She told me yesterday.”
“Yes o! She’s now a big girl. My daughter is a university undergraduate!”
“She’s changing so fast. Yesterday when we spoke she even looked a little fatter and fairer. Boys are going to be all over in school.”
“I observed her complexion too. I just hope she’s not been using those bleaching creams to make her skin lighter.”
“I don’t think so. She just looks very relaxed. You know she’s just eating and sleeping now that she’s finished secondary school.”
“In fact my sister, I spend so much on food in this house!”
“Let us just be grateful that we even have the money to feed them.”
They continued to converse about their children’s eccentricities, and Mrs Oludare made a mental note to further observe her daughter’s complexion and confirm that she wasn’t using a bleaching cream.