I will just go right out and say how much I can’t stand Bryan’s dad. How can you make your wife get her pregnancy terminated simply because the baby is a girl? I have said a prayer or two about this marriage angle that Maa Rakia seems to be bringing in. Can the poor girl just make it into medical school first? 🙄 Also, what is Kesewa thinking, ‘catching feelings’ for Chukwuma? Were we not all here when he was slapping you all around the place? We were just praising you for straightening your crown in Queen Kess . Don’t go and make the wrong choices, okay?
The university never sleeps.
That was one of the things Ernestina learnt when she joined the Christian Fellowship Choir. The very first time the MD suggested an all night rehearsal, she looked at him like he had 6 heads.
All night rehearsal?
Mama would have a fit if she knew that I was out of bed after 9pm, and to make matters worse, in the company of men. I can almost hear her saying, ‘I sent you to school to get a degree, not to audition for Music Music’.
She went for the rehearsal, not to spite Mama and her over-protective tendencies, but because she really liked being part of the choir. One of the Level 300 ladies overheard her singing in one of the bathroom stalls and had invited her to come for just one rehearsal.
She had never heard more beautiful singing- and everyone looked like they were having so much fun. Her favourite thing was that they sang both contemporary and classical music. It was the perfect marriage for her delighted musical ears. Growing up, her strict choir master father banned any type of music that did not involve sight reading from music sheets covered in crochets and semi-quavers. Her lullabies were composed by Beethoven. The first time she heard Celine Dion was when she went to secondary school from the radio set her school mother smuggled into the dormitory. It was magical! She started humming non-classical tunes to herself when Daa was out of earshot.
Being at rehearsal was her happy place. Voice training, the aerobics meant to get their blood pumping, the hardly ever appropriate jokes the male voices cracked every 30 minutes, the struggle with the midnight mosquitoes, the very light Milo the welfare team brought in an ice chest for 1am snack time, the cautious visits to the washroom in pairs with a flashlight- she loved all of it.
Her absolutely favourite thing was walking back to her hostel at the crack of dawn. The very first time, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir kept her company because she didn’t want her mind to wonder if someone was going to kidnap her or rob her. She was surprised to discover that there was a whole tribe of late night companions to keep her company. There were the Biological Science students coming back from a group discussion, the Law Students who hid in tutorial rooms to cram the judgement of an important case in their heads, the Drama students returning from their rehearsals, the club goers, the ‘night workers’, the watchmen and cleaners taking over shifts, the FitFam guys heading out for their jogs and brisk walks, the prayer warriors coming from their all nights or heading out for early morning evangelism. There were also the food vendors who were carrying hot pots of hausa koko, beans, kenkey, freshly baked bread and pastries to their selling spots, ready to feed the hungry university community who were still turning in their beds.
‘Well, I hope he is handsome at least.’
Bonsu’s laugh echoed through the empty hall.
‘Shh! Someone will hear us. I don’t know if you have heard but I am trying to get into medical school.’
‘Well, incoming Doctor, I don’t know if you have heard but I am very powerful in these parts. How else are we sitting in the Commencement Hall at 2am in the morning, talking about your marriage proposal? Is it even a marriage proposal if your mother delivered it over the phone in flawless Hausa?’
Sala picked up the pen on the seat next to her and threw it at Bonsu.
‘You are not helping.’
‘Actually, I am. I am doing my most annoying edition of Bonsu in hopes that you will be too busy juggling being annoyed by me and studying to have time to worry your head about Ibrahim Kilba’s son.’
‘I am supposed to go home and meet him. What if-‘
Her voice trailed as her mind wandered through the thousand corridors of her brain.
‘I can think of a long list of what ifs. What if he had bad breath? What if he expects you to be a stay at home mum? What if he doesn’t want you to become a doctor? What if- Sala, breathe. Sala, look at me.’
Bonsu pushed Sala’s books aside and lowered his face until he was face to face with her. She was breathing heavily.
‘Look at me and say this after me. 1, 2, 7, 11, 39, 18. Say it Sala.’
‘1, 2, 7 -11….’
‘You can do it. 1, 2, 7, 11, 39, 18.’
‘1, 2, 7, 11, 39, 18.’
Her breathing normalized.
‘You are okay. You are okay. Everything is going to be okay, Sala.’
‘How did you do that?’
‘Well, you did say you have panic attacks from time to time so I started looking for things to do when you do have one around me. Apparently the mind cannot panic and mention numbers that are not in chronological order at the same time. When you focus on the numbers, your mind forgets to panic. Or something like that. It is not like I care or whatever. I just don’t want you to die or anything.’
‘Why do you always do this? Downplay your smartness or your affection for someone or something. There is always ‘or something like that’ at the end of anything smart you say, like you don’t want it to be obvious that you are smarter then they think you are. And anytime you say something nice or thoughtful, you throw in a ‘you know, whatever.’
This time, it was Sala’s laugh that echoed through the empty hall.
She had not yet met Ibrahim Kilba’s son. All she knew was Maa Rakia and Ibrahim Kilba had decided that an arranged marriage would be best for their ’empires’. He had a extensive import business and Maa Rakia was confident that controlling all aspects of the trading business was the way to ensure that nothing took them by surprise. She still had no idea how her medical degree fit into all that.
Bryan stopped to catch his breath.
Night time running usually cleared his head. The gentle breeze, the seeming silence, the lights, the lack of human interaction, the fact that he could go anywhere so long as the security guards were asleep. If he timed it right, he could also even get a few good shots of the sun rising. Running had become an inevitable fix for him. Anytime he spent time with his father, he left more scarred, more upset, more defiant.
I hate him. I hate this life. I hate living like this.
He let out a scream that shocked his own ears. The anger he felt every time his father tried to control his life was almost suffocating. It made him think of doing extreme things just to get back at him. Sometimes, just sometimes, he felt like ending his own life because he was so sure that his father would stop at nothing to make him and everyone else a mere pawn in his game.
Joan tossed in her bed and checked the time.
She absentmindedly noted that Sala wasn’t in her bed, but that wasn’t odd. She was known to study at very odd hours. She also noted that Kess was not in her bed. Stacy was in her bed, muttering softly to herself.
Poor girl. These nightmares are still worrying her.
When she was in secondary school, Joan had to get used to night terrors because her school mother used to have very violent nightmares that always resulted in her waking up with screams, covered in sweat.
She looked up at the ceiling and started counting backwards from 1000, avoiding the real reasons why she was awake.
Barima and Nii Okai.
Funny how my demons have caught up with me.
She could almost hear Nii Okai telling her not to ‘claim the demons’. Bless his soul.
The repercussions of ending things with Barima were slowly rearing their ugly heads. Since the semester was coming to a close, the things that Barima usually took care of were suddenly staring her in the face- her school fees, her hostel fees, clothes, makeup, pocket money. She had never really lived on the money her father sent her because it could not support the lifestyle she preferred. On the other hand, she wasn’t sure if she was ready to let go of that life.
Barima still kept contacting her, asking her to quit playing games and call her back. He had given up on threatening Nii Okai with law suits because even that was not getting him Joan’s attention. He kept sending texts, showing up at odd hours, calling her phone, sending her food and flowers- everything he knew that would typically work. The thing was she was no longer the girl he used to date.
That girl vanished the day she allowed herself to fall for Nii Okai. She had never been loved so simply and so purely. The wit, the sheer innocence in his eyes, the way he looked at her like he could not believe someone like her could be in love with him, she had never met anyone like him. He was willing to do anything to make her happy, even if it meant compromising on his beliefs.
At first it was just the kissing, but now they were getting dangerously close to having sex. Every time they made out, they would promise each other that it won’t happen again, of course until the next time they were alone in a room. She knew that he would never have done this if it wasn’t for her, and even if he would, she didn’t want to be the reason why he ended up doing it. That was why she wanted to break up with him. That was why she could not sleep. She kept rehearsing what she could say possibly to him without hurting his feelings.
It is not you, it is me.
Naah, that is what happens in the movies. A bad movie to be exact.
You deserve better.
Come on, Joan. Do better.
I don’t think I am the right girl for you.
Goodness. How do the boys do it? No wonder they just vanish or send a text or cheat on you, so they don’t have to do it themselves.
Somehow she knew that when morning came, she had a tough call to make.