Previously on EZE RETURNS TO SCHOOL…
“This is such a bad idea,” Ibuka said as we walked to class.
The morning was slightly blustery, with a mild Harmattan squall rustling through the foliage and whipping against our faces and clothes. Every intake of breath reminded me of Christmas, and I felt my insides hollow out with a feeling with homesickness.
“Eze, are you listening to me?” Ibuka’s voice ripped through the image of my mother ladling my plate with spoonfuls of the richly garnished fried rice she loved to prepare only on festive holidays.
I blinked my attention back to the present. “What – yes, I am. And stop saying that. It’s a good plan.”
“Yes, it’s a good plan –”
“I’m still surprised you approve,” Joseph interjected, grinning at Ibuka from my other side.
“I am not a pastor, Joseph,” Ibuka sniffed. “Mike Onwubiko did not deserve the humiliation Eva Obanya gave to him. So of course I approve of any plan that teaches her a lesson.”
“So what are you now saying?” I queried.
“It’s a good plan, but it’s a bad idea for you to execute it.”
“Because you have a girlfriend.”
“I don’t have a girlfriend,” I objected, even as Anulika’s smile ghosted before my mind’s eye.
Joseph was laughing as he said, “He doesn’t have a girlfriend. His application letter is still under consideration.”
Ibuka ignored me and held my attention with a beady stare. “Whether you like it or not, as things stand now, you’re not available. And girls talk, so Eva may already know that.”
“Anulika is not like most girls. She’s a very private person.”
“Have you met her friend, Amaka?” Joseph cocked a brow at me. “The way that one talks, she makes CNN seem like they don’t know what they are doing.”
In spite of myself, I chuckled at that. Ibuka joined in as well, before seizing Joseph’s words.
“You see? That’s exactly what I’m saying! Amaka has most likely blabbed to the entire girls’ hostel that Anulika has you on hold concerning your interest in being her boyfriend.”
“I can just imagine the headline she’ll lead with,” Joseph said. He stopped walking and struck a feminine pose – hips thrust to one side with his left hand placed on it, while a limp-wristed right hand was raised in the air. Then he proceeded in a scratchy mimicry of Amaka’s falsetto, “Hmm, Scholastica, have you heard? My friend, Anulika is a big girl o. Imagine how she is playing Eze, that our former class captain, like football, left kick, right kick, corner kick, offside, but never ‘It’s a goal’.”
Ibuka and I were already chortling by the time he was done with his skit.
“Come on,” I protested mirthfully, “Amaka would not be friends with Anulika if Amaka blabs her business to all the girls. She’s too private. She may tolerate Amaka being a general loud-mouth, but she won’t tolerate her being a loud-mouth with her business.”
“But you told us how Oby told you the other night that Chisom wanted to initiate you with sex that she knew about how Anulika likes you,” Ibuka pointed out.
“That’s because she’s like Anulika’s bunkmate or something,” I countered. “They are in the same dorm. And remember, Eva is in Unity House. They are not in the same House to begin with, and they move in different circles.”
“Hmm, girls’ hostel is like a global village o. Those girls can like to gossip.”
“Look, let’s just leave me to take the risk, okay? Besides, if I approach her, and she confronts me with what she knows about me and Anulika, I’ll just back out. And Joe can take over.”
“I just hope you know what you’re doing.” Ibuka didn’t seem convinced.
“Speak of the devil…” Joseph said as we got to our classroom block and became immersed in the whites-and-blues moving this way and that.
Walking toward us on the pavement was Eva in the midst of a bevy of her friends. They were chattering, a hubbub that turned into a fit of giggles when one of the girls pointed at the skulking figure of Mike Onwubiko as he approached the block from an adjacent direction. Mike stopped walking when he noticed their caper and shot an impotent glare at them before turning and shuffling back the way he came.
My face tightened with annoyance and renewed determination. “Okay, Ibu, I don’t care what you have to say. I’m doing this.”
I stood, flanked by my friends, as Eva and her posse drew close to us. There was a flurry of “Excuse me” as they began moving around us.
“Eva, please, may I speak with you?” I said with a bright smile that felt like a burden the moment it was anchored on my face. I really didn’t like this girl.
She seemed taken aback. We were that kind of set-mates who knew of each other but had never spoken to one another before. Her brows lifted a bit as she pointed to herself. “You want to talk to me?” Her friends hung around her like sentinels, curiosity ripe in their expressions.
I swept a look over them and then returned it pointedly to Eva. “Alone, please?”
“But your own friends are here,” the girl on Eva’s right bridled, gesturing at Joseph and Ibuka.
“We were just leaving,” Joseph said, switching on a dazzling smile at the girl. “And if you’ll just come with me…” He turned a bit and crooked his arm at the elbow, while wagging his brows at her.
The girls broke out in giggles as the one Joseph had addressed stepped forward to slip her hand in the crook of his arm.
“Ladies?” Joseph cooed.
And the girls promptly surged forward, drifting away with him, with Ibuka bringing up the rear and rolling his eyes at the attention Joseph was getting.
I shook my head amusedly and refocused on Eva. She was smiling and staring wistfully after our friends. When she realized my stare was on her, she said, “Your friend is funny o. I’ve always heard about him, but I didn’t know he was this charming.”
“Yea, that’s Joe for you. But he’s unavailable.”
She looked startled by that. “He is?” Her gaze fleeted disbelievingly from me to Joseph and then back to me. “I didn’t know that. Who’s his girlfriend?”
“One girl like that,” I said airily. “But I’m available, and I was wondering if you’d like to go for Social Night with me.”
She regarded me with some surprise. “What makes you think I don’t already have someone I’m going with?”
“But you don’t.”
“Is Joseph going?”
“Yes. With his girlfriend.”
“Who is she?”
“I told you – one girl like that.”
“You don’t even know your best friend’s girlfriend’s name?” A slight sneer sat on those words.
“You can always find out when you come to Social Night with me.”
“When?” Her brows cocked below the bangs of her braided hair.
I sighed. “Ok – if. If you come to Social Night with me. Will you?”
She raised her right forefinger to her mouth, resting the elbow of the hand on the left arm which she’d placed across her midsection. She contemplated me for a few seconds before saying, “What if I say no?”
“Then I’ll go and ask another girl.” I shrugged, effecting nonchalance, while my mind screamed: Say yes! You have to say yes!
“Maybe Joseph will see that I’m available and then come and ask me.”
Just then, peals of laughter erupted from the corner where our friends had gathered on the pavement. I smiled wryly. Joseph must have said something particularly charming to the girls.
“Why are you smiling?” Eva said, glowering.
“Because I told you, Joseph will not ask you because –”
“He’s already going with one girl like that – I heard you.” Her expression was peevish as she chewed a bit on her nail. Then she snapped, “Okay yes, I will go with you. But better don’t take that as allowance to ask me to be your girlfriend.” She wagged a finger at me, and I stared at her, suddenly fighting the urge to laugh in her face.
She frowned, clearly unsettled by my quick capitulation. “You can ask if you want o. But it doesn’t mean I will say yes right away.”
“Okay.” I nodded.
“Okay.” She nodded too.
“Alright,” I said with a serene smile.
She narrowed her eyes at me, not sure if I was making fun of her. Then she hmphed and stalked her way past me.
My friends immediately noticed that our exchange was over, and broke away from the girls. On their way back to me, they walked past Eva, who was headed toward her friends.
“Hi, Joe,” she called out with a coquettish wagging of her right fingers.
“Hi, Eva,” he responded without looking at her.
“Well,” Ibuka began the moment we were together, “did she agree?”
“She did. Although I think she’d rather go to the dance with you, Joe.” I said this with no rancour.
“Of course she does,” he said, tugging at his collar with some braggadocio. “Everybody wants a piece of the Joe.”
“Don’t speak of yourself like some snack. It’s disgusting biko,” Ibuka chided with a chuckle. “So, Eze, did she know that you have a girlfriend?”
“I don’t have a girlfriend.”
“He doesn’t have a girlfriend.”
Joseph and I responded at the same time.
“Whatever. Did she know about Anulika?”
“No. She was even asking me not to toast her while asking me to toast her.”
Joseph guffawed at that. “Umu girls! So she pulled that ‘I don’t want but I want’ stunt with you.”
I was shaking my head with amusement. “It was so desperate.”
“And sad.” Ibuka turned to watch the girls disappear into the SS1A classroom.
“Wait, you’re not feeling sorry for her now, are you?” Joseph said.
“Of course not.”
“Good, because she deserves what Eze plans to do to her.”
“Yes, she does,” I affirmed.
“May God forgive us our trespasses,” Ibuka said solemnly.
“Even when we do not forgive those who have trespassed against us,” Joseph and I chorused, before all three of us dissolved in laughter.
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