© Oselumhense Anetor, 2017
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
This ebook is purely a work of fiction, all characters, places, and situations described herein are either used fictitiously or merely figments of the author’s imagination.
+234 816 425 4347
It was the first day of lectures and Maria was excited. She looked at her face in the mirror for the umpteenth time. She had to look right. She knew she was extremely beautiful; a gift that made her narcissistic. She was overly concerned about herself and what people thought of her looks. She was also highly impressionable, wanting to please her peers. Today, she didn’t want anyone to think she was not a happening babe. University was for mature minds, and she needed to make a good first impression. She applied more flush on her cheeks and lined her eyelids with her dark lead pen. She wanted to look a bit mysterious and serious. No one must know she was barely seventeen. No one must think her a baby. Not today, not ever. She sprayed mint into her mouth and breathed into her cupped palms. Her breath was fresher. Good!
Maria looked at her face in the mirror one last time. Her pink coated lips looked fuller, ready to drip. Her flushed cheeks looked smoother but older. Her fake eyelashes blinked with exaggerated gusto, like the dolls found in mega supermarkets. Her earrings extended way down, caressing both sides of her neck. She thought she looked sexier and more appealing. No boy would resist her charms now. She patted her braids and smoothed the many strands that fell across her shoulders down to her waist. She was good to go. As her right pink-sneakered foot stepped outside her hostel door, an idea came to her mind. She came back to the room, pulled off the red t-shirt she’d worn over her black fitted leggings and settled for a pink lingerie top with ribbons. This was a see-through material. She wanted everyone to be able to see what she had underneath the top. Satisfied, she looked at herself in the mirror one last time and left the hostel.
Ejemen was the first at the Lecture Hall. She had come directly to class from morning mass. The Assistant Chaplain was young and lively, unlike their boring elderly parish priest back at home. She already preferred school to home, for many reasons. Now she could finally rest from her nagging parents and the endless chores and responsibilities she had to shoulder as the first daughter. School was bliss. Ejemen looked around the large Lecture Hall. It looked like a theatre of sorts, with rows and columns of seats arranged as in a stadium. The further one sat from the podium, the higher the seats got. As she continued to look around, the hall began to fill up with students. Young boys and young ladies of different shapes and sizes poured in from all six entrances. Soon, there was not a single seat left.
“What’s your name,” the young lady by her side asked.
“Ejemen!” She blurted out. The fair skinned lady looked like she’d dropped out of a fashion magazine. Ejemen suddenly became self-conscious. Her simple blue gown began to seem worn and old. She wondered why the young lady wore such a transparent top to class on a Monday morning.
“Oh, that’s great.” The other lady said. She made a funny sound with the chewing gum in her mouth. “I am Maria.”
“Maria?” Ejemen asked incredulously.
“Yes, dearie. That’s my name.”
“Are you by any chance Catholic?” Ejemen asked again.
“No dear. My parents are though. They are Knights of St Columbia or something like that.”
Ejemen couldn’t help herself. She laughed so loudly that other students looked in their direction. “You mean Knights of St Mulumba?”
“I guess so?”
“Wow!” Ejemen was nonplussed. “You seriously didn’t know the right name? Wait a minute. What church do you attend then?”
“I go to the Catholic Church, but I don’t consider myself a Catholic. I go there simply to please my parents. Their mass is so boring. I don’t understand a thing of what they say or do.”
“Are you baptised?” Ejemen asked Maria. She wanted to be sure.
“No. I don’t think so.”
“You don’t think so?” Ejemen began laughing again. She was having a wonderful moment.
Maria didn’t quite understand what was happening. Why wasn’t she sitting with girls dressed like her? She had thought sitting next to a shabbily dressed girl would better bring out her radiance. But there was a confidence about Ejemen. She wore a little make-up. She had a hair cut like a boy’s. She wasn’t that beautiful. Just those normal dark-skinned faces anyone could overlook. And she didn’t look like someone who spent too many hours in front of a dressing mirror.
“Why are you laughing again? Is everything funny to you?” Maria was getting angry.
“Oh sorry, dear. Please pardon me. I shouldn’t be laughing. It’s just that…”
“Never mind. I am a Catholic as well. That’s why I was a bit surprised that you don’t know much about your parents’ church.”
Maria looked at her well-polished nails. “So do you have a boyfriend yet?” It was time to change the topic.
“What?” Ejemen’s mouth fell open.
“Close your mouth before a fly jumps inside o. You mean you don’t have a boyfriend?”
Ejemen’s face turned a bright red. “No, I don’t have a boyfriend. I don’t need one.”
“Oh my God! Are you kidding? You mean you’ve never kissed a guy or something?” Maria smiled like a little demon. This was her field, not faith and religion.
“No, I haven’t.” Ejemen was getting more and more uncomfortable. She shifted in her seat.
“Don’t tell me you’re a virgin o.”
Ejemen could feel the fire inside her cheeks. She began perspiring from inside her pores. “Oh my God. Girl! You’re a virgin?” Maria didn’t know she had spoken out loud until she noticed the overwhelming silence. She looked around and saw over one hundred faces turned in their direction.
Ejemen thought she’d die of embarrassment. Just then, the lecturer walked in.
That evening, Maria made her way to Igbinedion Female Hostel. She wore an oversized grey t-shirt that extended to her thighs. The shirt struggled to cover the white bumshort she wore underneath. She wasn’t one to apologise to people, but she had seen so much hurt in Ejemen’s eyes earlier, that she felt she had to apologise properly. After lectures, she had tried to speak to Ejemen, but she had walked away without so much as a backward glance.
“O baby, how far na?” A boy with dreadlocks asked as she walked past him.
Maria smiled. There was no need to respond.
“My name na buggy boy. O baby. Can I have your number?” The boy shouted after her retreating back.
Maria kept walking. She didn’t have time for broke campus boys. She walked away from the tarred walkway onto the path leading to Igbinedion Female Hostel. The security lights cast long shadows across her path. Maria brought out her Blackberry Passport and switched on the flashlight app. Soon she was behind the hostel. She had taken a shortcut. Going through the front would have taken too much time; the time she didn’t have. She intended to walk in, apologise and walk out. She had a party to attend later. She didn’t want to be late.
Ejemen kept thinking about what had happened earlier. She had never felt so humiliated her entire life. Was it such a crime to be a virgin? She couldn’t understand why Maria had looked at her as though she were some bush girl or something. She had made up her mind to stay away from that girl for the rest of her life. She was a bad influence.
“Is this Ejemen’s room?” Ejemen’s head jerked towards the door as the question filtered into her ears.
“Yes?” Bukky her roommate responded to the question. Her bunk was closest to the door, so she had answered it when the knocks sounded.
Ejemen was already making her way to the door as Bukky looked at her as though for confirmation.
“Yes, Bukky. She’s my new friend. My course mate. I’ll just be a minute.”
Bukky nodded and went back to her bed. Sola her bunk mate was already fast asleep. So was Ejemen’s bunk mate, Uyi.
“How did you find me?” Ejemen asked Maria as soon as they were out on the corridor.
“Can’t I come into your room at least?” Maria had innocence etched on her pretty face.
“My roommates are sleeping,” Ejemen argued. “I don’t want us to bother them.
“Bukky is awake na.” Maria insisted.
Ejemen attempted to say something else but thought better of it.
“So? Am I coming in or not?” Maria pressed further.
“Can we just go to the common room instead?” Ejemen pleaded.
“Common room? Like seriously? At this time of the night? Abeg abeg. Babe, see ehn, make we just talk for here I beg!”
Ejemen was silent.
“Erm…,” Maria cleared her throat and continued. “About today, I want to say I am so sorry. I never meant to embarrass you like that. I only wanted a friend, you know?”
“It’s okay.” Ejemen felt good inside. “I felt very bad, but it’s a wonderful thing that you came all the way here to apologise to me. Trust me, I won’t hold it against you.”
Maria smiled. This went easier than she expected. A thought suddenly struck her. “So will you follow me out tonight?”
“Out to where?” Ejemen glanced at her wristwatch.
“Not far. Just outside the school gate. Supreme Hotel here in Ekpoma. One lecturer, I met in school today is taking me there.”
“A hotel?” Ejemen’s hands flew to her mouth instinctively. “With a lecturer? No, please. It’s a bit late and I have to read.”
“Okay, here’s the thing. I don’t really like the man but I need to go out you know. The man is willing to spend money, so why not help him? But I don’t want to go alone. And you’re the only good friend I’ve made so far. My roommates are just jealous and saucy. Come with me please?”
Ejemen didn’t like this at all. She had never been to any hotel during the day, not to speak of late at night. But she couldn’t let Maria go out on her own. Not with her attitude and her choice of clothes. She’d probably get raped or something. She was like a ticking time bomb.
Maria sensed the hesitation on Ejemen’s face. She decided to exploit it. “Please na. Just be with me tonight, so that the lecturer won’t try anything with me.” She went down on one knee. “See, I just want to make it up to you. Okay, here’s the thing. You could be my mum for tonight, okay? What do you say?”
Ejemen thought long and hard. This was her first day at school. But it’s not like she was going out with a boy or anything. She was only going to make a friend safe, right? “Okay, I’ll come with you.”
“Yesssss!” Maria jumped up from her uncomfortable position. She hugged Ejemen very intimately as though she’d known her forever. “I so love you right now. God bless you for real.”
“Wait a minute. On one condition o!” Ejemen quickly interjected.
Maria let go of Ejemen with a slight frown on her face. “Name it.”
“On the condition that we come back before 11 pm.” Ejemen glanced at her watch again. “It’s almost 8 pm already.”
“Done. Let me call him right now.” Maria brought out her phone again. She raised an arm, signalling Ejemen to be quiet. “Hello, sir… It’s me, Maria. I’m coming with a friend tonight… Yes. She wants us back before 11 pm… Yes. Okay then…”
“What did he say?” Ejemen was anxious to know.
“He said it’s fine. We’ll be back before 10 pm if we can leave in a few minutes.”
“Okay then.” Even as Ejemen agreed to the request, something told her she shouldn’t have.
Ejemen kept glancing at her watch. She had made up her mind that she hated hotels as soon as they drove into the place an hour ago. From the gate down to the hall where they sat, there were lots of young people with styles of dressing she never believed possible. She hadn’t known there were so many Marias in the world. Was she supposed to play ‘mum’ to these ones as well? She saw more exposed flesh than she saw clothes. Men and boys sat around tables in semi-dark corners smoking and drinking. They had young ladies draped all over them. Ejemen had felt so odd as they walked into the hotel reception. It was even worse inside the hotel lobby. Ejemen couldn’t eat the long roasted fish they brought, neither could she drink the whitish substance they called Smirnoff Ice. She wondered why no one drank Malt or water here, and why there was no real food like rice or beans.
“Maria!” Ejemen shouted above the noise. “Maria!”
Maria leaned over as she tried to hear what Ejemen had to say.
“It’s already past ten o. Let’s go please.”
Maria leaned towards the lecturer, whom Ejemen earlier learned was Dr. John Ebiuki, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts. After some minutes of interaction between them, Maria leaned back and shouted, “Just a little more time, please. He said we’ll leave soon enough.”
After some more rounds of drinking Smirnoff Ice and eating fresh fish pepper soup, Maria knew it was about time they returned to the hostel. But she was so tipsy she could barely think straight. She had taken too many cans of the drink. Thank God she came with Maria.
“Maria!” It was Ejemen again.
“Please sir, we have to go back now,” Maria said to Dr. Ebiuki as she struggled to get up. Her head reeled as the alcohol took over.
The man put a hand around her waist to balance her. “Oh, it seems someone had too much to drink today,” he said as he got up as well.
Maria felt the cold night air on her face as they got outside the hotel. She felt like throwing up but she suppressed the feeling. She removed her lecturer’s hand from her waist and leaned on Ejemen instead.
The man made no objection. He walked straight to the car and opened the back door for Ejemen. Then he attempted to open the front door for Maria.
“I’ll stay with Ejemen behind please,” Maria insisted.
The man agreed. He got into the driver’s side and drove out of the hotel.
Many minutes later, the car came to a stop. Ejemen had been so busy looking after Maria she didn’t realise they were not in front of their hostel.
“But sir, this is not our hostel please,” Ejemen remarked in a worried voice.
“I know,” Dr. Ebuiki responded. “It’s the lecturer’s quarters. Tonight, you’ll stay with me.”
Ejemen panicked. She looked at Maria who was already fast asleep.
Ejemen considered her options carefully. She could run off into the bushes and not look back till she got to her hostel block. But what about Maria? She couldn’t leave her here. Perhaps she could try reasoning further with the lecturer. She shook her head in the negative; that didn’t seem likely. Well, she had to wake Maria up first. Ejemen shook her friend vigorously. This was hardly the right time to be sleeping. Maria stretched, looked around and belched loudly; her breath reeking of alcohol and fish. Ejemen opened the door of the car to let in fresh air. She wasn’t about to go into the lecturer’s quarters with a man she barely knew.
“Sir, could you please help me with my friend?” Ejemen was getting angry. Why was the man standing there like some idiot? She was sure he had planned this from the onset.
“Oh sure.” The man helped Maria out of the car. But as soon as Maria’s feet touched the ground, she threw her head forward and vomited all over him.
“Oh God!” Dr. Ebiuki jumped backward instinctively. But he was too late. His navy blue t-shirt was soaked in vomit. “What is wrong with you girls? Bring your friend inside yourself. Let me go change my clothes. Okay?”
“Yes, sir,” Ejemen responded meekly. She was grateful to God for little miracles. Maria was a genius. “Maria!”
“Yes?” Maria responded in a voice laden with sleep.
“Can you run?”
“I want to sleep… take me home…” Maria’s body went limp.
Ejemen looked at Dr. Ebiuki as he went through the entrance of the ground floor of the lecturers’ quarters. She bent her knees slightly and lifted Maria onto her shoulders. She straightened out and realised to her delight that her friend was lighter than she expected. Maria was not even as heavy as the loads of firewood she often carried many kilometres from their farm on sunny afternoons. Ejemen looked ahead at the door Dr. Ebiuki had left open, then she looked at the dark silhouette of bushes all around. She wasn’t afraid of the darkness. She sometimes followed her Dad hunting on moonless nights. This was nothing. But she didn’t know this place. They could easily get lost in the darkness. Nonetheless, she made up her mind in seconds and ran as fast as she could towards the bushes, shouldering her self-imposed burden.
Maria looked into the casket. Her mother’s face looked back at her with closed eyelids. Her skin was very pale; much paler than she had been two days before. The mortician’s efforts hadn’t done much to hide the effects of cancer that had gently but purposefully eaten her up. The long navy blue dress they wore her made her look deader than anyone cared to admit. Maria looked at her five-year-old brother Ehis, who could not understand what was going on. But he knew enough to realise something had gone terribly wrong with their mum. The tears continued running down her tender cheeks. She sat there on her Dad’s laps, in the company of family and friends, yet she felt so alone. The tears running down her cheeks turned into torrents. The waves filled up the room and swallowed up the casket with her mum inside. She began throwing up again…
“Maria!” Ejemen’s voice broke into her dream. “You’re vomiting again?”
Maria opened her eyes. She had been crying in her sleep. And yes, she had vomited all over Ejemen’s shoulders. Diverse night sounds filtered through her semi-conscious mind. Ejemen gently put her on the ground.
“Where are we?” Maria managed to ask. Her head wasn’t tingling as much as it had earlier. The effect of the alcohol was waning. “Honestly ehn! I don’t know like that o! Dr. Ebiuki took us to his house instead of our hostel. He wanted us to sleep there.”
“What!” Maria couldn’t quite understand what was happening. “Why would he do that? Are we close to the hostel?”
Ejemen gathered her breath. She didn’t want to tell Maria they were lost. That would make her panic. “We’re very close to the hostel now sha. Don’t worry. It is well.”
“Ejemen, I am so sorry…” Maria started. “I just wanted us to have a nice time…”
“Maria stop it. It’s not your fault. Let’s get to the hostel first.”
“Okay, let’s go.”
Ejemen placed an arm around Maria and urged her forward. She hoped the end of the path would offer them some hope.
The man saw two figures walking along the bush path. He wondered where they were headed at that time of the night. He let them walk ahead, then he began following them behind, careful not to be discovered.
Dr. Ebiuki came out wearing another shirt. He looked around but couldn’t see the girls. He walked some distance along the tarred pathway leading to the lecturers’ quarters. After some minutes of frantic searching, he brought out his phone and dialled Maria’s number.
“Nobody wey no fit to make am o. Nobody wey no fit to make am o, broda…” Maria dipped her left hand into the hip pocket of the bumshort she had on, bringing out her Blackberry Passport. She looked at the screen. “Blessings follow me, follow me follow me, Alubariga follow me…” the phone continued ringing loudly in the stillness of the night. “It’s Dr. Ebiuki o,” Maria said, stopping. Then she turned to Ejemen. “Should I pick?”
“Nooo. Don’t pick o. Just let it ring. That stupid man? He wants to know where we are. Let him die in uncertainty. Nonsense!” Ejemen heard a sound; like feet stepping on dry twigs. Was someone following them?
“Nobody wey no fit…” Maria cut the call this time.
“Maria,” Ejemen whispered. “Can you hear that?”
“Please switch off your phone and listen carefully.”
“Switch off my phone? Why?”
“Ooooh, Maria just do it na, please. I’m sure someone is following us.”
“Jesus!” Maria ducked behind Ejemen instantly. “Are you sure? Ewooo!” She quickly switched off her phone as they both waited in the darkness.
“Wait dia!” A voice called out from the darkness. “I say stop dia!”
Both girls froze as the figure of a man suddenly materialised from the bushes.
The man moved closer to the girls. What were they doing in these bushes at this time of the night? He had followed them closely for some minutes, not sure who they were. But when their phone rang, he had been able to make out their faces from the glare. They were just girls. But he had to be careful even with girls. He knew from experience that girls could be cultists. Maybe these ones were returning from their meeting. That’s when he decided to confront them.
“If you move I go blast una face, I swia.” He said as he moved closer to the girls, his gun held steadily in front of him. “Identify yorsefs. Quick!”
“I am Ejemen, a first-year student of Mass Communication.”
“Maria. Mass Com. as well. Are we thieves? Why are you pointing a gun at us like that?” Maria asked, still hiding behind Ejemen.
“Be quiet,” Ejemen whispered.
“Why?” Maria retorted. “Do you know who he is?”
“My name na Sunny boi. Na me be de oga security guard wey dey patrol dis area. I don follow una since for ghost mode as una run pass my post. Oya begin talk.” Sunny barked, pointing his gun menacingly at their faces. “Whia una dey come from for dis time for nite?”
“We went to a party. Can’t you see?” Maria began.
“Shhhhh!” Ejemen hushed Maria. “Sorry, sir. We were forcefully taken to the lecturers’ quarters by Dr. Ebiuki. My friend was a bit drunk…”
“I am not drunk,” Maria cut in.
Ejemen cleared her throat. “Erm, as I was saying, my friend here was a bit dizzy. So I carried her and ran off into the bush when the lecturer…”
“Hol am!” Sunny remarked. “Na Oga Dr. Ebiuki? Oghenemen! Chai! E do. I believe una wella. Dat guy na baaad guy! But una sure say una no be cultists?”
“No oooh!” Both girls screamed in unison.
“Okay. But make una no dey follow dis lecturers up and down, una hia?”
“Yes sir,” Ejemen replied.
Maria made no response.
“You no hia wetin I talk?” Sunny adjusted the beam of his flashlight to capture Maria’s face. Then he let the beam travel her figure from head to feet. “Hmmm. No wonder. See as you dress like small ashawo. And you say lecturer force you? If no be dis ya friend ehn,” he gestured towards Ejemen with his gun which was now hanging limply by his side, “I for leave you for dis bush. Nonsense!”
“You wan talk?” Sunny moved closer to Maria. “Talk na make I hia.”
“I no want talk sir.”
“Good! I for say. Oya, make una follow me. Una don loss since. I go carry una go una hostel. Which hostel una dey sef?”
“Igbinedion!” Ejemen said.
“Arewa!” Maria added.
Sunny looked at both girls. “Wait o. Na different hostels una dey sef. No wahala. Follow me.” Sunny pointed his flashlight on the rough narrow path they had been walking on. The rays illuminated their surroundings clearly. He slung his dane gun on his right shoulder and strode purposefully ahead.
Maria and Ejemen followed closely behind.
Bukky couldn’t sleep. She had been reading, trying to burn time. She looked at the clock again. 12 midnight! Jesus! She had been trying to call Ejemen but her number wasn’t connecting. She smelt trouble as soon as Ejemen told her she had agreed to go out with Maria. The girl didn’t strike her as someone with good character. She had tried discouraging Ejemen, but Ejemen had insisted they’d be back by 10 pm, and that she was only going to keep Maria put of trouble. If only Ejemen had listened to her advice.
Bukky stood up from her bed instantly. “Who’s there?”
“It’s me Ejemen.”
“Jesus! Ejay!” Bukky drew back the bolts from the lock and threw open the door.
“I know,” Ejemen said as she saw the look on Bukky’s face. “I’ll explain.”
“Bukky Bukky!” Maria called out in a cheerful voice as she waltzed into the room behind Ejemen. “How nice of you to wait up for us.” She opened her arms in a bid to hug her.
Bukky stepped back. “Please don’t touch me!” She turned towards Ejemen, “and what is she doing here?”
Ejemen sighed. “She will have to stay here till morning. We couldn’t go to her hostel.”
“Relax na Bukky,” Maria said. “I’ll not eat up your roommate…”
“Nobody wey no fit to make am o. Nobody wey no fit to make am o, broda.” Maria looked at her phone. Dr. Ebiuki was calling again. She wondered why she had switched her phone back on?
After lectures on Tuesday afternoon, Maria walked into the office of the Dean of the Faculty of Arts. The place looked so ordinary. Two leather seats, excluding the one the Dean sat on, a table; some old books no one probably ever opened on a shelf too old to stand upright, and an iron cabinet at a corner. Dr. Ebiuki sat on his chair reading, or pretending to do so; Maria wasn’t certain. She had gotten a piece of paper from a fellow student as she waited impatiently for lectures to be over. She opened the paper and read the inscription, “See me in my office after lectures – Dr. Ebiuki.” She hadn’t bothered telling Ejemen she was coming here. There was no point. Not after yesterday. Maria continued staring, wondering why the place looked so ordinary. She had expected more. “May I sit down?” She asked when she realised Dr. Ebiuki wasn’t about to offer her a seat.
“Sit if you must.” Dr. Ebiuki said curtly. He stood up and walked around the office table towards her, looking through her short transparent gown. Something caught fire in his groin.
Maria sat but got up almost immediately. Why was he coming towards her?
“I thought you wanted a seat? Dr. Ebiuki asked.
“I’ll just stand sir,” Maria responded, trying to put some distance between herself and the man.
“So what happened yesterday? Why did you refuse to take my calls.”
“Sir, my friend said you took us to your house when the plan was to drop us off at the hostel.”
“Oh please, Maria. Don’t give me that crap. Were you supposed to get drunk the way you did? I figured it was best I took you to my house instead of the hostel. With you vomiting all over the place, did you seriously think I would let you return in that condition?”
“Let me finish,” Dr. Ebiuki cut in. “What kind of man do you think I am? I wanted you both to use the spare bedroom in my apartment. I would never take advantage of a new student now, would I?”
“I guess not sir,” Maria responded.
“So why would you let your friend risk your life like that? You vomited all over me, and before I could go get a change of clothing you were both gone.” Maria attempted to speak, but Dr. Ebiuki raised up his hand for silence. “Please don’t interrupt me when I’m talking.”
“What if these cultists had done something to harm you. Or you had fallen into the hands of armed robbers or something? Then everyone would say I put your lives in danger?”
Maria was confused. The man looked genuinely vexed. And now that she considered it, it did seem like he was right. She knew Ejemen could have overreacted in a situation like that. “I am so sorry about yesterday sir. I truly am. It won’t happen again.”
“Well, I was so worried. You know how much I like you. Please don’t come with your friend next time we have a date.”
“I won’t sir.”
“Good.” Dr. Ebiuki walked closer to Maria. “Now that we have an understanding, how about a peck on the cheeks as a makeup gift to me.”
Maria smiled. “No, sir. I’m good sir.”
Dr. Ebiuki further reduced the distance between them. He was so close Maria could smell mint on his breath. “A peck has never been known to kill anyone now, has it?”
“I guess not sir.” Maria was getting repulsed by his breath on her face.
“So what do you say?”
Before Maria could respond Dr. Ebiuki held her and kissed her full on the lips.
Maria took a few steps back. Then in a flash, she stepped forward and gave him a resounding slap. The sound ricocheted all around the office. “Don’t you ever in your entire life try that nonsense again sir.” Mad with rage, she turned and left the office, leaving the door Ajar.
Many minutes later, Dr. Ebiuki still instinctively held a hand to his left cheek. In his fourteen years of lecturing, he had never been slapped by a student. Let alone a fresher. He was most certainly dreaming.
“Can you imagine that idiot kissed me today?”
“He what?” Ejemen jumped up from the concrete pavement she and Maria sat on. They were in front of Arewa hostel later that evening.
“Yes o my dear.” Maria continued. “Sit down.” She tapped the flat surface Ejemen had been sitting on. “There’s no need to jump up like that just yet. Maybe he took my dress style to mean I’m available.”
“Maria, you see now?” Ejemen sat down. “Why won’t you dress a bit more erm…”
“My dear,” Maria cut in. “I can decide to walk around naked for all I care. That’s not a reason for anyone to think they can just do whatever they want with me. O girl, before you so much as touch me, I must permit you.”
“So why do you go around dressed so seductively if you don’t want the attention?”
“See ehn, babe, don’t get me wrong o. I love it when men fall for my beauty. So I give them something to drool on. But you see, you don’t dare touch me. Except I really like you.”
Ejemen couldn’t quite understand what Maria was saying. “So what did you do?” She asked.
“I slapped the living daylights out of him na. What else?”
“You what?” Ejemen screamed, jumping up again. Some girls close to them looked in their direction.
“What?” Maria asked the girls. They looked away instantly.
“Seriously, Maria,” Ejemen whispered, as though scared of being overheard. “You slapped him?”
“Yes, I did.”
“You’re so in trouble o.” Ejemen was worried for her friend. “You slapped your lecturer.”
“Helloooo. Ejay. Are you listening? The guy kissed me without my permission. What am I? A sex object or something? Can’t a lady be accorded some respect in this campus?”
“What if he comes after us?” Ejemen asked. They were only two days old in Brosli University.
“My dear,” Maria began. “Wait till I tell my Dad what happened. We’ll see who comes after who.” Maria got up. “Babe rest. Make we go inside, I have a date with a final year student I met today.”
“Another date?” Ejemen was nonplussed.
“Yes na. Will you come?”
“God forbid!” Ejemen whispered fiercely. “No, be me and you.” As she followed Maria into the hostel, she couldn’t help wondering who her friend really was.
Maria looked at her face in the mirror one last time. She had made sure to expose her cleavage all the way down. The small shirt she had on had only two straps that ended in a fanciful butterfly knot just below her bust. Her belly button was exposed, as well as everything else down to her waist. She wore a short grey skirt to compliment the shirt. She had abandoned her usual bum shorts tonight. She intended to lure the final year student she was going out with into sleeping with her at the end of their date. She really needed to have sex. She was addicted to it. She disliked boys and men, but she loved sex. There was nothing she could do about it. She patted her blond wig and turned sideways, admiring her rear view in the mirror. Satisfied, she glanced at her sleeping roommates and left the room.
Chuks wore a simple white Nike t-shirt over a dark blue Jeans. The ankle boots he wore belonged to Emeka his roommate. He wanted to impress the beautiful young lady he met in school today. He was a final year student of Mechanical Engineering. It was time to get into serious relationships. Something had struck him about Maria when they met earlier. Although she dressed quite seductively, he could tell she had a side that was worth getting to know better. On the surface, she seemed very cheerful and carefree. As Chuks waited in front of Arewa hostel, he thought about the one place he’d take her.
Maria walked out of her hostel. Her stilettos made clicking sounds against the asphalt as she cat walked onto the pathway where Chuks stood waiting. He was directly in the line of the glare from the streetlight in front of her hostel. Maria inhaled sharply. She felt the adrenaline rush through her veins. Her heart raced faster as her confidence faltered. Phew! He had not been this handsome earlier today na. What had transformed him into such a dashing dude? His hair glowed, an effect made possible by the rays of light falling directly on them. He was tall and muscular. Maria noted the muscular arms he crossed over his chest. Maybe he constantly worked out? He looked darker tonight than he’d been during the day. She didn’t mind.
“Hello,” Maria whispered when she got close enough to him.
“Hi,” Chuks replied. He couldn’t look directly at her. His eyes kept straying to all the wrong spots. She was already so beautiful. Why dress so scantily? “Are we set?” He managed to ask after some seconds of uncomfortable silence.
“Yes,” Maria responded. “Where’s your car?”
“Erm,” Chuks began, “we’ll get a cab at the gate.”
“Holy Jesus!” Maria screamed. “So I’m supposed to trek from here to the gate? Are you kidding?”
“Oh no, dear. We’re not trekking.” Chuks replied calmly, smiling. “I’ve booked a shuttle that will take us to the gate. He’ll be here any minute.”
Maria smiled as well. Chuks was too gentlemanly. He reminded her of her Dad.
“So,” Maria said, breaking the silence, “how old are you?”
Chuks coughed uncomfortably. What kind of question was that? “23.” He responded. “You?”
“Weren’t you ever told not to ask a lady her age? Are you from the moon?”
“But that’s so not fair,” Chuks complained.
“What’s not fair?” Maria retorted. “I asked your age, you told me, like the gentleman you are. Then you asked mine, and I refused, like the gentlelady I am. Seems pretty fair to me.”
Chuks smiled again. “Impressive.”
Maria bit her lower lip. Why was he smiling like that? Desire rose in her system. “Where are you taking me?” She asked, changing the topic.
“It’s a surprise.”
“I hate surprises.”
“You’d totally love this one,” Chuks remarked confidently. “The cab’s here,” he added.
Maria let herself be led to the cab that seemed old to her, even in the darkness.
“Peen! Peen! Peen!” The old Nokia phone shrilled noisily.
“Ejemen o! Your phone don start. Ehen!” Bukky said, laughing at her roommate.
Ejemen cast Bukky one of her mind-your-business looks and walked from her reading table to the socket beside her bed. She unplugged the phone and looked at the amber lit screen as the call came in the second time. Maria? What was it this time?
“Yes, Maria. It’s me na. What’s wrong?”
There were only cackles and shuffles at the other end.
“Maria? Are you crying? Jesus! Where are you?”
“Please, can you come?” Maria’s voice pleaded.
“Oh, sure! But where are you?”
“I’m in front of my hostel.”
Ejemen cut the call as she stood up. She slipped her feet into her bathroom slippers and ran outside the room.
Bukky stared at the open door, her face enveloped in surprise.
“Maria what happened na,” Ejemen asked as soon as she sat by Maria on the concrete pavement in front of her hostel.
“What do you mean nothing? So why are you crying?”
“I just wanted to talk to someone.”
Ejemen couldn’t understand. “Did the guy hurt you or anything?” She asked.
“Oh no. Nothing like that.” Maria sighed. She wiped her face with her handkerchief. “Ejay. In my entire life, I’ve never been treated like this by any man.”
“Heeey!” Ejemen exclaimed, her hands flying instinctively to her head. “Maria talk to me na. What happened?”
“Chuks refused to sleep with me.”
“Jesus.” Ejemen jumped up from the pavement.
“Don’t shout Jesus here jor. Oooooo. I’ve never felt so confused in my life. He took me to this eatery where everyone was dressed very corporate. We were the only ones looking so odd. He treated me like an egg even though everyone kept staring. I’ve never felt so odd in my life.”
Ejemen listened with rapt attention. “So?”
Maria was silent for some seconds. She looked lost. “He didn’t even drink alcohol. But he let me drink two cans of Smirnoff Ice. When I wanted more, he refused. He wouldn’t let me. On our way back, I tried touching him and all that.” Maria glanced at Ejemen, “You understand me right?”
Ejemen nodded. She understood perfectly.
“He just kept removing my hands and smiling at the same time. Jeez! It was so frustrating.”
“Wow!” Ejemen whispered. She didn’t know men like that still existed.
“Yes oooh! Me, Maria. Even a good night peck, he refused. I practically threw myself at him. Lie lie. E no gree.”
Ejemen was a bit confused. “But that’s good na. What’s in all this to cry about na?”
“Ejay! You won’t understand. All the boys and men I know want sex. They always want sex. This is the first person I’ve met that’s different. He told me he would love to see me again. He said he sees something special in me. He said he’d stay with me until he discovers what it is…”
Ejemen held Maria as she began to cry again. She was more confused than ever.
Somewhere else, in Oyegun male hostel, Chuks lay on his bed, unable to find sleep. He was in love.
Prof. Modestus Igbodaga, the Vice Chancellor of Brosli University was a dark and short no-nonsense man in his early sixties. He had had a carefully trimmed long beard as far back as anyone could remember. The silvery hair on his head combined with the beard to make him look the Professor he was. He was always dressed in a flowing Nigerian made agbada. Many said it was odd that a University Chancellor was consistently dressed in native attire. But the man seldom cared. He had not gotten to his current position by bootlicking and corruption. He had worked very hard. It was sheer merit that made him wield so much power and influence, even among senior lecturers of the Institute.
“What do you want in my office young lady?” Igbodaga asked as the female student opened the door and hovered just inside his office.
“Sir, there’s something I would like to discuss with you, sir.”
Igbodaga removed the large, gold-rimmed reading glasses from his face as he looked at the young lady properly. “You want to talk to me? Dressed like that?”
“Erm, sir I…”
“I don’t care who you are my daughter. Simply go back, dress respectably and come back. I’ll be waiting for you Miss eh?”
“Maria Sir. Maria Ojiesebholo.”
“Ojiesebholo? Wait a minute! Are you Sir Fred Ojiesebholo’s daughter? The one he spoke to me about before your admission?”
“Holy Moses!” Igbodaga exclaimed. You were such a child when your mum died. I was there at the funeral. I knew your mother. There was none so noble and true. God rest her soul. My God! You’ve grown so big and beautiful. How is your father?”
“He is fine sir.” Maria was yet to meet any of her Dad’s friends that weren’t aware she had lost her mum when she was barely three. It was always annoying. And they always had to remind her as though she could ever forget.
“Hello now, don’t think I’ll let you sit down dressed like that. Whatever it is you want to talk about can wait until you get a change of clothes, “ Igbodaga eyed Maria again. “you’re in dire need of it,” he added.
“Yes, sir.” Maria shut the door and went outside the office.
Igbodaga took his cell phone out of his breast pocket, scrolled through the contact list and dialled a number.
Sir Fred Ojiesebholo was at a Board meeting with the Managing Directors of various branches of his multimillion dollar livestock company scattered all over the country when the call came in.
“Excuse me gentlemen and ladies”, he said as he pressed the speaker button on the intercom directly before him on the conference room table. “Mary?”
“Sir, there’s a Prof. Modestus Igbodaga of Brosli University Ekpoma, on line one,” the secretary’s voice echoed through the conference room. “I told him you were in a meeting but he insisted… I am so sorry to bother you. He said it’s about your daughter…”
“Put him through.” Ojiesebholo would take a call concerning his daughter any day. She was his only child; the only beautiful memory he had left of Anita, her mother.
“Gentlemen and ladies,” Ojiesebholo nodded to his Board of Directors, “I need to take this please,” he said, as he walked out of the conference room into an adjoining office.
There was shrill laughter at the other end of the phone. “Will you shut up there? How can you be calling a whole Professor of a Federal University of Nigeria a mosquito? Ehn?”
Ojiesebholo laughed out loud; a deep throaty bass rumble. Igbodaga’s voice was as shrill and loud as he remembered it. It was perhaps the one thing about him that refused to age. “And how can you be telling a Knight of the Roman Catholic Church to shut up?”
“Ahhhh,” Igbodaga exclaimed. “You failed to mention that you’re also the richest Catholic Knight in West Africa.”
“Come on now, we both know that’s not true. Anyway, I hear my baby girl has taken her trouble to you?” Ojiesebholo asked jokingly.
“Well,” Igbodaga’s voice seemed hesitant, “she hasn’t done anything. It’s just that she came into my office just now, dressed very seductively. You know children of nowadays. One needs to keep an eye on them. I wasn’t quite comfortable with her dressing so I asked her to go and change into something more respectable. She wanted to talk to me about something. I don’t know what it is yet. Besides, I seized the moment to finally put a call through to you. I hope you’re doing great?”
“I am fine my friend. The stress here and there. You know? The usual.” Igbodaga heaved a sigh. “I wasn’t aware she still dressed that way. I thought she’d outgrow it. Please do get back to me when she comes to you again. Okay?”
“Oh sure, I’ll do that,” Igbodaga said. “You may now go back to your meeting. I just wanted to let your secretary realise that even the richest men can be bothered by Academicians like us.”
“Abi? Alright, Mosquito. Oh sorry. Prof mosquito. Take care of yourself. And when next you come to Benin, please visit.”
“Yeye man,” Igbodaga said. “I’ll take you up on that.”
“Please do. And don’t read too many books. Your bald head can’t take any more.”
Igbodaga was still laughing when he dropped the call.
Sir Fred Ojiesebholo kept holding the receiver long after the Professor cut the connection. He was disturbed; deeply disturbed.
Ejemen saw Maria come out of the Vice Chancellor’s office. She left the chair she had been sitting on at the reception and walked towards her. “How far na? That was quick o.”
“Mtchew!” Maria hissed. “The old man didn’t even listen to me sef. He said I should go and wear something more appropriate. What’s wrong with this one?”
Ejemen looked at Maria; she was struggling so hard to prevent the laughter that threatened to explode. “Nothing my dear. You look perfect,” Ejemen said, now laughing heartily.
“Shuo! What’s funny?” Maria asked, frowning.
“Seriously?” Ejemen asked, eyes wide open. “I no tell you? My dear, you got what you deserved. I told you to wear a longer skirt, but you refused. Toorrrr! See your shirt sef, e no go even size my small sister for house.”
“Whatever!” Maria pouted. “Well, let’s get to it then. My Dad’s classmate is trying to make a Rev Sister out of me.”
“What?” Ejemen shouted. “Wait o! Is the Vice Chancellor your Dad’s classmate?”
“Yes na. Dey there!”
“Osenobulua mhen nan!”
Chuks waited just outside Arewa hostel. He had seen Maria and her friend earlier, but they had gone into the administrative block. After a few minutes, he had seen them trekking to the hostel area. He had quickly dashed to his hostel to get the gift he bought for Maria that morning. It was a gold medallion of Mary, suspended on a gold coated chain. The medallion had a single inscription underneath, “Virgo Maria!”
Dr. Ebiuki sat in his office later that Wednesday afternoon. He was still pondering what to do with the young lady that had so fearlessly slapped him the day before. He would cook up something. He would make sure she paid for her effrontery. She would soon know what it meant to reject a lecturer’s sexual overtures. His office intercom began to beep. He picked up the receiver and yelled, “Dean, who’s calling?”
“Igbodaga. Come to my office, please? And why are you yelling?”
“Nothing Prof.” Ebiuki lied. “I thought it was my secretary again.”
“Okay then. I have some documents you need to go through right away.”
“Okay, Prof. Right away Prof.” As Ebiuki left his office, he made a mental note to tell the Vice Chancellor about one Maria who’d had the guts to slap him.
“Did you by any chance ask a young lady called Maria out a few days ago?” Igbodaga asked as soon as Dr. Ebiuki came into his office for the second time that afternoon.
“What? Me? I did no such thing.” Ebiuki lied. He hoped his lying face was sincere enough. So the tiny brat came to report him? He made up his mind to deal with Maria squarely as soon as he was out of the Vice Chancellor’s office.
“Forgive my manners,” Igbodaga continued. “Please sit down.” He motioned to one of the leather chairs in his office.
“Thank you, sir,” Ebiuki muttered as he sat down. He needed to sit. His knees had suddenly lost all power to bear the weight of his body. The room got hotter. He tried hard not to show the sudden discomfort he felt.
“I’m sorry I asked that way,” Igbodaga said, rubbing his palms together. He needed to make the picture clearer to Dr. Ebiuki. “I’ll tell you a few things, then I’ll ask again. If your answer remains no, then we will see what happens from there.”
“Sir please don’t just call me and accuse me like this na. You didn’t even ask me what happened.” Ebiuki said in self-defence.
“My friend,” Igbodaga said calmly, blood pumping through his veins, “I asked you a simple question. It was not an accusation. At least not yet. You see, I am an elder. I was long in the academic circle before you. I have also experienced these young people more than you have. When I ask a question, I expect to get a direct answer. Not a shabby attempt at self-defence. So please calm down and let me finish, okay?”
“Yes Prof,” Ebiuki whispered fiercely through gritted teeth. What did he do to the girl that she was already talking to the Vice Chancellor? Who was she?
“As I was saying,” Igbodaga continued, “Maria came in here and accused you strongly. As you are well aware, we have a disciplinary committee in this University that handles all cases of sexual assault. But I wanted to talk to you first. Maria is a first-year student of Mass Communication in this University, just so you know which Maria I’m talking about. She is here because her Dad specifically requested that she schools here in Nigeria. She had already gained admission into one University in New York. I can’t recall the name of the place. Anyway, she is the daughter of a good friend of mine. So you can see she’s not your everyday campus girl. She has spent almost every summer holiday of her life in different countries of the world. So please find a place in your heart to begin to take her seriously. For your sake, I hope she drops this case. Besides, if she so much as mentions this to her father, you’d be out of office before you’re proven guilty. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“Yes, sir,” Ebiuki replied. The anger in him had disappeared. Fear began bubbling to the surface in its place. He struggled to maintain a confident poise.
“So did you ask her out?”
“Oh yes, Prof. I remember now. You know I come across many students, I was a bit confused. I just wanted to assist her. She looked like a smart child, but she was also dressed negatively. So I just took her for a few drinks so that I could correct her manner of dressing.”
“Oh please,” Igbodaga said, exasperated. “Did you need to take the lady out to talk about her dressing?”
“Well, not really. But I wanted to be civil.”
“So why would you even lie about it in the first place if you did take her out. Why couldn’t you just say so?”
“I’m sorry my Prof. Like I said, I wasn’t too sure the Maria you were talking about.”
“Was there another Maria you previously turned down? I don’t quite understand you. It’s absolutely important that you be as sincere as possible. Do you understand? If I can’t have your word, I have nothing.” Igbodaga could see Dr. Ebiuki was hiding something; he didn’t like it at all.
“I am being very frank Prof.”
“So where did you take her?” Igbodaga asked, deciding to push on.
“Sir, this is my personal life you’re prying into. Do I really have to say that to you?”
“Dr. Ebiuki. Please don’t use that tone of voice when addressing me. I am your Vice Chancellor. We’re having this conversation in the first place because your so-called ‘personal life’ has jumped into my office. I didn’t come to school today intending to have this manner of conversation with the Dean of the Faculty of Arts of a Federal University. So if you don’t mind, kindly tell me where you took the young lady.”
“I took her to a hotel,” Ebiuki replied reluctantly.
“To a hotel?” Igbodaga rose to his feet. “Are you out of your mind?”
Ebiuki was surprised at the outburst. He was a senior lecturer for Christ’s sake, a member of the University’s Senate. Why was the Vice Chancellor questioning him as though he were a child?
“So what happened next,” Igbodaga asked when he had calmed himself enough.
“Well, nothing. We came back before it was late. And I brought them back to their hostel.”
“Not to your own quarters?”
“No, sir. How could I take them to my quarters? She was with a friend. They didn’t sleep in my place. They were so drunk, I had to drive them straight to the hostel.”
“Dr. Ebiuki,” Igbodaga explained, his patience wearing thin. “I didn’t ask if they slept over in your place. I asked if you took them to their hostel.”
“Yes, sir. Like I just said, I drove them back to their hostels that night.”
Igbodaga took note of the discrepancies in Maria’s account as compared to the one he was currently listening to. “So, did you attempt to kiss her on the mouth the next day in your office?”
“Oh no Prof.” Ebiuki attempted a smile. It was a woeful failure. He ended up grinning like a guilty monkey. “I never attempted to kiss her sir.”
“Would you like to repeat that please?”
“I said I never attempted to kiss her. I wasn’t even close to her that day in the office.”
“I asked you again because this is the bone of contention. Are you certain you never kissed the lady.”
“I am certain Sir. God is my witness.”
“Why would she cook up such a story against you then, I wonder?”
“Why? Ebiuki laughed sarcastically. “Because she’s a rich spoilt girl, who drinks, probably smokes and dresses like a prostitute. That’s why. Prof. don’t tell me you believe her over me o. It’s my word against hers. Do you really think she’d get anywhere with this?”
Igbodaga thought about that for a second. He knew the Dean was right. But from what he was seeing, it was also clear the Dean had been telling him many lies. He wasn’t a fool. “Do you want me to channel this matter to the disciplinary committee then?”
“Absolutely sir. I agree I asked her out. I am sorry. I shouldn’t have. But I never drove them to my quarters, neither did I attempt to kiss Maria.”
“Very well then.” Igbodaga sat down. “Are you sure this is what you want?”
“Yes sir,” Ebiuki said with more confidence. He knew everyone on the disciplinary committee was corrupt. They would never dare charge him with anything.
“Are you very certain Dr. Ebiuki?” Igbodaga asked yet again.
“Sir please don’t make it seem like I’m lying sir. I have told you the truth.”
“Alright, Dr. Do have a nice day.”
“Thanks a lot, Prof.,” Ebiuki said as he rose from the chair he’d been sitting on.
“Greetings to your family.”
As Dr. Ebiuki left his office, Igbodaga picked up his phone and dialled a number.
Later that night, Chuks went to Arewa hostel. It was just before 8 pm. The temperature had dropped significantly, making the air a bit chilly. It was always that way in Ekpoma, especially during rainy season. It had rained that evening, so the cold was considerably worse tonight. Chuks made considerable efforts to avoid the dirty pools of water all over the place. But he stepped into a puddle just in front of Arewa hostel. He had been looking ahead at Maria, who was just then coming out the front door of her hostel.
“Watch where you’re stepping,” Maria called out.
But it was too late. Chuks splashed droplets of water all over the place as his right foot made contact with the puddle. He was grateful he hadn’t put on his leather palm slippers. He had chosen a high Puma slippers instead, because of the wet ground. “It’s not a problem dear,” Chuks said, smiling. He bent down and assessed the damage.
“Don’t worry. You be salt?” Maria asked, smiling. “You’re lucky you’re on shorts.”
Chuks raised his head. Maria wore a large pink t-shirt, which left one shoulder exposed. The shirt ended just before her knees. His heart raced faster. His nose caught a whiff of the perfume she wore, it reminded him of flowers. He noticed with pleasure that Maria still had her pendant around her neck. It seemed she really liked it.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Chuks said, embarrassed. “I didn’t mean to.”
“It’s perfectly okay. Why do you have to be such a gentleman? Can’t you tell I’m so into you already? Come on!”
“Erm… Should we take a stroll? Where’s Ejemen by the way?”
“Ejemen went to class to read. And yes! We should stroll. But just on the tar o. I beg.”
“Okay. On the tar then.”
“So tell me,” Maria began. “Are you gay?”
“What? Me? God forbid! Why?” Chuks was obviously nonplussed.
“Why did you refuse to kiss me the other day? Don’t you find me attractive?”
Chuks was silent.
“Talk to me please.” Maria pleaded.
“I find you very attractive Maria. In fact, I can’t explain what I feel for you just yet. It’s so powerful.”
“So, why don’t we just take what we both want already?” Maria asked.
“Maria,” Chuks turned Maria’s face towards his. “I could kiss you right now. Or even do other things to you. But I have this deep respect for you. I can’t explain it. I know you like me too. Franky, it would hurt me to think that what we feel for each other is only physical. I’m not just attracted to your body, I’m attracted to your person. I want to get to know you.”
Maria was lost. She had no idea what Chuks was saying. Why the sermon? “Chuks, will you kiss me or not?”
“Yes dear, I will. But not here, and not now. Let’s get to know each other first. Do you mind?”
“I mind. But I guess I can wait a bit. So what do you want to know about me?”
“Everything!” Chuks said excitedly.
As they walked away from the hostel, Maria began talking about herself. She was surprised she could talk that freely to someone she was yet to know fully.
“Peen, Peen, Peen.” Ejemen picked the call. It was so like Maria to call late at night. “Maria. How far?”
“Are you back from class?”
“Can you imagine? Dr. Ebiuki just called me. He was talking trash. I recorded everything he said. I’m in front of your hostel. Come out I beg.”
“Come out jor.”
Ejemen cut the call and went out of her room.
Sir Fred Ojiesebholo left the office just before 6 pm. The meeting had taken too long. He usually preferred short Board meetings, since he was a very busy man. He could tell fatigue was setting in from the pain in his eyes and the ache he felt inside his head. He needed a bath and plenty of rest. His personal assistant took his suitcase from him as he stepped out of his office door. It contained some documents that could not wait until the following morning. They both walked down the long hallway to the lift, which was at the far end. His personal assistant tapped ‘1’ on the lift switchboard when they were inside the enclosure. The lift hummed to life as it smoothly glided down to the ground floor from the tenth.
“Father we declare, that we love you… ‘Mosquito’… we declare our everlasting love for you.” Ojiesebholo knew who the caller was even before he brought out the iPhone 6s from the left inner pocket of his navy blue Tuxedo. The particular manner in which the electronic voicing application pronounced ‘mosquito’ in-between the rings, brought a smile to his lips. He tapped the button on his Bluetooth powered earpiece as he replaced the phone in his Tuxedo.
“Hello,” Igbodaga’s voice echoed from the other end.
“Fire on Mosquito. I am at your service.”
“Come, will you stop this degradation?”
“No problem Prof. Forgive me please.”
“Happy now?” Ojiesebholo avoided bumping into a young dark lady at the doorway from the ground floor lobby to the car park.
“Yes. So about Maria…”
“She came back to you right?”
“Yes. Look be calm, okay?”
“What is it?” Igbodaga asked as he got into his shiny black 2015 Lexus GX 460. “Hope she’s not in some kind of trouble?”
Maria walked straight to Ejemen as soon as she came out of her hostel. She gripped her left arm and began pulling her away like one would do a reluctant sheep.
“Babe, easy. You want to break off my arm?” Ejemen complained.
“There’s just so much gist. No time I beg.”
“Ehen? Begin talking na. Do you have to drag me all the way to your hostel? Dem no dey fit talk the talk for here?” Ejemen argued.
Maria was silent. She just kept pulling Ejemen till they got to Arewa hostel.
“Maria o, “ Ejemen pulled out her arm from Maria’s firm grip. Her wrist felt warm and numb. She rubbed the spot gently, trying to restore the proper flow of blood, “so what’s all this drama about?”
“You know I don’t trust those girls in your hostel,” Maria began, “and it’s not like I trust these ones too, but your hostel is not as conducive as mine. There’s no space like this,” Maria spread her arms wide, indicating the large space in front of Arewa hostel.”
“Okay?” Ejemen just wanted Maria to get to the point.
“And Chuks is also here,” Maria announced in a happy voice.
“Chuks?” Ejemen eyed Maria inquisitively.
“Hello Ejemen,” Chuks greeted her, stretching out his hand.”
‘More like a good night,’ Ejemen muttered, as she shook Chuks. She was wondering why he was still outside a female hostel at that time of the night.
“We think you should listen to the recording,” Chuks said.
“We?” Ejemen was amazed.
“Oh, relax Ejay!” Maria said. “I told him everything. In fact, I think I may have told him more about myself than I’ve told anyone all my life.”
“Wow!” Ejemen exhaled.
“Come on! Stop acting like my mother already. Chuks is really nice, and I probably like him too much. He has a lot of sense as well.”
Ejemen looked from Chuks to Maria, then from Maria back to Chuks. They were holding hands and smiling like her younger brothers did whenever they found a rabbit hole in the farm. She could tell they were happy “I can see that much has happened in my absence.”
Maria put an arm around Chuks’s waist.
“We’ve been getting to know each other,” Chuks explained.
“So I guess I’m the only one that hasn’t listened to this recording?”
Maria and Chuks nodded simultaneously.
“Here!” Maria stretched her Blackberry Passport towards Ejemen. “Take a listen.”
Ejemen eyed the phone suspiciously. She took it from Maria and carefully inserted the earphones in each of her ears.
Ebiuki ran through the dark woods. He could not tell in what direction he was running or what exactly he was running from. But he knew he had to keep running. He fell face down. He dared not look behind him. Picking himself off the wet earth, he began running again. Suddenly he came to a large clearing in the middle of the forest. Silvery moon rays fell on a group of people in the middle. Reassured he wasn’t alone in the bush, Ebiuki walked closer to the group. They had their backs to him and he couldn’t see their faces, but he could tell they were ladies in long gowns. He walked even closer and touched one of the ladies on the right shoulder. The girl turned round, her neck jerking out of her body in the process. Suddenly, the shrill cries of babies filled the air. Ebiuki turned around and began running again. His foot struck a tree stump and he fell. The bodiless head flew across the air and drew close to his face on the ground. He peered into the bloodshot eyes. It was Maria.
Ebiuki woke up to the cry of babies. He had been having a nightmare. He looked around and realised he was still at the hospital. He had slept off in the waiting room. Realisation dawned on him as the events of the night came rushing back. He had had to rush Julie his wife to the hospital. Labour pangs had seized her just before midnight. He had fallen asleep why waiting at the room before the Labour Room. Ebiuki glanced at his wrist watch. ’4: am?’
Ebiuki got up from the hard chair he’d dozed off on. The young doctor’s smile could only mean one thing.
“Congratulations sir,” the doctor said, shaking Ebiuki’s hand. “You’re the father of a healthy baby boy.”
“Yes!” Ebiuki clenched his fist and shot it into the air like someone who had won a jackpot. He had completely forgotten all about Maria and the nightmare.
Maria left the church feeling new. She hadn’t known mass could be that interesting. She had been irresistibly drawn to their young and dynamic Assistant Chaplain. His homily reminded her of Broadway shows, music concerts and stand up comedy. He had a way of relating the scriptural passages to simple everyday stories. And his voice was heavenly. He had the whole church laughing this minute and sober the next. Maria decided she had to meet the priest one on one.
“Ehen, Ejay,” Maria said, as soon as Ejemen came out of the church, “does the Chaplain see people after mass.”
Ejemen looked at Maria. She had practically had to drag her to mass this morning. Maria had been very reluctant even though it was a Sunday. Now she wanted to talk to the Chaplain? Wonders will never end.
“What is it? Is my make-up too much?” Maria asked. “What about my dress? Is it too short?”
“Hey heeey!” Ejemen exclaimed. “He’s a priest o. You hear?”
“Come on Ejay. Don’t talk like that na. Do you seriously think I’d try to seduce a priest? Didn’t you hear what he said at mass? I just don’t want to make a bad impression, that’s all.”
“Wow! Maria! Are you sure?”
“Are you taking me to see him or not?” Maria asked.
“Me? Ejemen looked around to see if someone else was there.
“No, me. Are you not a member of the choir? Come and introduce me to him jor.”
“He sees people without introductions,” Ejemen said. “You can introduce yourself when you get there.”
“Ejay! Are you not the one that forced me to church today? Now I’ve fallen in love with God and I want to meet his priest, and you’re reluctant? Come and finish what you started o.”
Ejemen didn’t know what else to do. She took Maria towards the sacristy.
Fr Efua Olumhense left the sacristy in the midst of many young people. He was a young man in his late twenties, and being around young people made him look even younger. He had been a Catholic Priest only for a few months and St Peter’s Catholic Chaplaincy in Brosli University Ekpoma was his first assignment. He found the young people interesting. They were always asking him questions; from very simple ones to the outright bizarre. He always had to be on his feet.
“Father, can’t you stop smiling? You wan put people for trouble?” One tall mass server asked him.
“Father, your voice ehn, e no get part two o.” Another person said behind him.
“Good morning Father.”
“Ejemen, good morning dear.” Fr Efua said. “Your psalm today was lovely. You should sing more often.”
“Thank you so much, Father. We’re learning from you na.”
“Learning from me ke? I pray o. Who’s the pretty lady behind you.”
“Maria meet Father Efua Olumhense. Father, my friend Maria.”
“Maria?” Fr Efua wanted to know her surname.
“Ojiesebholo Father. Maria Ojiesebholo.”
“The Ojiesebholo?” Fr Efua asked, looking at Maria closely. “Is Sir Fred Ojiesebholo, the owner of Ojay International Livestock Group of companies your Dad?”
“Wow! And we’re seeing her daughter for the first time at the Chaplaincy? Come on Maria! A pretty lady like you, daughter of a prominent and very generous Knight of the Church should be here often. Right?”
“Right Father,” Maria said. She was suddenly shy; an emotion she had not experienced in a long time.
“So, we’ll continue to see you here now, right?”
“Right Father,” Maria said again.
Ejemen looked at Maria with eyebrows raised. This was getting interesting. She hadn’t even known Maria’s Dad was so popular.
“Thank you so much for bringing Miss Maria to us. We’re very grateful.”
“You’re welcome Father.”
“Erm, Father?” Maria shifted from one foot to the other.
“Yes, my dear?”
“How is it that you preach the way you do? I mean seriously. I’ve been to Catholic Churches in Europe and America and I’ve not heard it this good before. Are you for real?”
Fr Efua smiled. “I guess I’m for real. It’s just God my dear. He must have known I love talking and he decided to give me a call.”
“You see?” Maria said excitedly. You’re doing it again.”
“Oh never mind Father. By the way, why choose the priesthood over marriage? It baffles me. You’re so gifted.”
“Honestly Maria, it’s a secret.”
“Come on Father. Tell it to me already.” Maria pleaded.
“You really want to know?”
Fr Efua lowered his voice significantly. He cupped his mouth with both palms and whispered into Maria’s left ear, “God seduced me, I had no choice.”
Maria started laughing. “He didn’t.”
“Oh yes, Maria. He did. Why else would I be here?”
Ejemen knew Maria was chatty, but she was seeing a whole new chatty Maria. It was like she wasn’t ever going to leave Fr Efua alone.
“Hmmmmm. I’ll think about that Father.” Maria said.
“Please do. Let me run along now. I have another mass. Do take care of yourselves young ladies.”
“Yes, Father,” Maria said.
“Ejemen, make sure we see Maria all the time, okay?”
“Yes, Father,” Ejemen replied.
“Wow Ejay,” Maria said as they walked away from the sacristy, “you should have told me the priest here is so cute.”
“And you should have told me your Dad was known all over Nigeria.” Ejemen fired back. “So you’ve even been to Europe and America? How come you behave so much like a bush girl?”
“Na you be bush girl!” Maria said, hitting Ejemen on the head.
“So you’ll be following me to daily masses now?” Ejemen asked.
“Absolutely,” Maria said. “Wake me up tomorrow morning please.”
“Hmmmmm. Na wao!”
“Don’t give me that look jor. I’ve told you I love his homilies. Is that a crime?”
“No, o. It’s not.” Ejemen said.
“Good. Can we go now?” Maria began walking to the path leading to the hostel blocks.
“So what will you do about Dr. Ebiuki?” Ejemen asked, changing the topic.
“Oh na, Ejay! Are you trying to spoil my Sunday?”
“Tomorrow is Monday na. We’ve been waiting since Wednesday last week. Are you going to give the recording to the Vice Chancellor or not?”
“Not without meeting Dr. Ebiuki first. I told you this already.” Maria replied. “He was not in school on Thursday and Friday. If he comes tomorrow, I’ll play the evidence to his hearing before giving it to the VC.”
“Maria, you’re too stubborn. Why not give it to the VC without playing it to Dr. Ebiuki’s hearing? Why are you looking for trouble?”
“Okay, okay. If I don’t see Dr. Ebiuki tomorrow, I’ll give it to the VC. Happy now?”
Ejemen made a face and walked on ahead of Maria.
“Wait jor. Where are you going?”
Maria couldn’t wait to call her Dad. A lot had happened in the last few days that she felt was worth telling him about. She wasn’t a daddy’s girl, so she seldom called him. She had also told him many times not to call her that often. She wasn’t a baby; coupled with the fact that she was still angry with him for insisting she remained in Nigeria for her tertiary education. As she got to her hostel that Sunday morning, Maria threw off her church clothes and jumped on her bed. Her roommates were yet to return from whatever Churches they attended. Perfect! She needed the peace. Her roommates behaved funny. For some reasons she couldn’t fathom, they regarded her as someone on the high road to hell. Not that they ever said it to her face, but they had such a ‘holier than thou’ attitude that was hilarious. She didn’t blame them. She was certain she’d get to heaven before the three of them. She sometimes wondered if they had carefully bribed someone to put them in the same room. She was unfortunate to be the odd one.
“Hello daddy,” Maria said. She could hear a rustle at the other end.
“Hello my baby,” her Dad’s voice responded.
“Are you back from church already?” Maria asked.
“Guess what daddy?”
Ojiesebholo held his breath. Mosquito had told him not to talk to her about the sexual assault complaint. He had said he would handle the whole issue Maria had gotten into with a lecturer following the University’s disciplinary principles in such situations. Was Maria in another kind of trouble now?
“Dad guess na. Why are you quiet?” Maria asked again.
“Erm, you know I’m never good at guessing. Come on! Be nice and tell daddy what happened.”
“I went to church today.”
“Wow! You did?”
“Yes, Dad. I so did. It was awesome.”
“Oh! Hope you’ve not started going to another church, now that I’m not there to watch over you?”
“No, Dad. Relax! I went to the Catholic Church inside the University. It was beautiful.”
Ojiesebholo took the phone away from his ears and eyed it for a second before returning it to his ear. Was it Maria talking or someone else?
“You went to a Catholic Church? Unforced?”
“Oooo! Daddy, I met this priest in church. He preached so well. I think I’ll start going regularly.”
“Wow. That’s my girl. God is indeed wonderful. Your mum would be so proud.”
“I think I’m in love.”
Ojiesebholo’s hands went to his head for a second. Not again!
“You’re in love again?”
“Come on Dad. I know what you’re thinking.”
“Remember Ohio? Erm, what’s his name again?”
Maria laughed out loud. “Wilson. His name is Wilson.”
“Ah haah! That’s the one. You were so convinced you loved him. You were just fifteen. He was stupid enough to believe you, and you left the poor white kid heartbroken two weeks later. Remember?”
Maria laughed again. She remembered the whole thing so well. It was December 2014. They had lodged at the 21c Museum Hotel in Cincinnati. The next day her Dad had taken her to the Contemporary Arts Center and the Aronoff Center for the Arts. As they moved from one art gallery to another, they had run into Wilson’s family. It was love at first sight, or so she thought. Fortunately, they were lodged in the same hotel. Later that day, they had gone off by themselves and gotten lost trying to navigate all 156 stylish rooms and suites in the hotel. Wilson had come on too strong and tried to touch her too intimately. She had had to call off their teenage relationship. What she told her Dad later had been her abridged version of what had truly transpired.
“Baby? You’re not talking.”
Maria gathered her thoughts together. She heaved a sigh. “No Dad”, she said. “This is different. Chuks is very different from Wilson. He’s more mature and smart and he wants to get to know me better. He’s a final year student of civil engineering and he’s Catholic as well.”
“Come on baby. You almost sound like you’re getting married. Don’t worry. Just concentrate on your studies and leave boys alone.”
Maria smiled. Very typical of her Dad.
“But you did say you went to church. That’s a big plus for you. What do you want me to get for you? Anything. Just name it.”
“Erm, nothing. Oh! I have a friend here. Ejay. She was the one that even pushed me to church. So get a phone exactly like mine for her.”
“A lecturer tried to kiss me.”
“What?” Ojiesebholo shouted, feigning surprise. He didn’t want his daughter to know that her Vice Chancellor had already given him full details of her recent activities.
“And he also threatened me,” Maria continued. “I recorded our conversation. I want him to lose his position. He is not fit to be Dean of a Federal University. Do this for me and I’d be the best daughter ever.”
“I’ll see to it. No one assaults my daughter and goes free. Don’t worry dear. Be a good girl and avoid these lecturers. They’re terrible people.”
“Okay, daddy I love you.”
“I love you too my dear.”
Dr. Ebiuki came to the Faculty of Arts early enough on Monday morning. He had a broad smile on his face as he made his way up the flight of stairs leading to his office.
“Good morning sir. Congratulations sir.” His secretary greeted him with enthusiasm. She was a plump and dark woman in her mid-fifties. She had worked with the University for two decades.
“Good morning Madam B. How are you?”
“Very fine sir. Hope Madam is fine sir?”
“Yes, ma’am. She is.”
“And the baby?” Madam B asked. “The baby too,” Ebiuki replied. He wondered how the University Staff always got to hear everything about them. He smiled at her and walked into his office.”
There was an internal memorandum on his desk. It was a reminder in view of their Senate Meeting scheduled for the next day. He glanced through quickly, then sat down to attend to the paperwork that had piled up since his absence. As he opened the first file his intercom began beeping.
“Dr. Ebiuki please,” he said after pressing the speaker button.
“Good morning Prof.”
“Good morning Doctor. Congratulations. Heard your wife delivered safe and sound.”
Ebiuki rolled his eyes at the ceiling. So some people had been praying for complications? “Yes sir, God had been faithful.”
“Good. Please if you’re not too busy come by my office at midday.”
“Do have a nice day Doc.”
“You too Prof.”
The Euphoria of being the proud father of a newborn dissipated as Ebiuki realised he was back to school and Prof Igbodaga’s ‘wahala’.
Dr. Ebiuki had many thoughts on his mind as he made his way to the Vice Chancellor’s office at midday. The white shirt he wore inside his dust brown jacket was soaked at the collars with sweat. He could also feel the tingling sensation as beads of sweat trickled down his spine. He usually considered himself a very courageous man. Why then was he perspiring so unnecessarily? His heart beat had increased in tempo as midday drew closer. Even now he could hear it beating frantically inside his chest. He managed to control himself. He didn’t want to get a heart attack over kissing a girl. He had done more serious things to students before. Those ones never complained. What was wrong with Maria? He didn’t know why the Vice Chancellor suddenly carried the matter on his head as though she were his daughter. Maybe her father had bribed him. Yes! That had to be it.
“Come in, “ the Vice Chancellor’s voice shrilled from inside his office as Ebiuki knocked on the door.
Ebiuki didn’t want the receptionist to notice his discomfort. So, he threw her a smile as he turned the door knob gingerly and went inside the Vice Chancellor’s office.
“Good day Prof.,” Ebiuki greeted, closing the door behind him.
“Good day Doc,” Igbodaga replied. He wasn’t happy at all.
“You wanted to see me?”
“Yes, I did. Please sit down.”
Ebiuki took a seat directly opposite the Vice Chancellor.
Igbodaga reached into his desk and pulled out a Blackberry Passport device. Stretching it across the table, he asked, “do you recognise this device?”
“No sir,” Ebiuki said curtly.
“Please look again.”
Ebiuki looked at the phone again. What was the Vice Chancellor up to? Was he just supposed to say he recognised Maria’s phone? “No, sir. I certainly haven’t seen that device before,” he insisted.
“Okay. This phone belongs to Maria. She came to my office just minutes ago and told me you called her over the weekend and threatened her. I didn’t believe her. I couldn’t believe her.”
“Sir,” Ebiuki began.
“Please let me finish,” Igbodaga cut in. “As I was saying, Maria brought out this phone and played a recording to my hearing. I had to believe her story afterward.”
“What recording?” Ebiuki jumped out of his seat.
“Please sit down,” Igbodaga admonished. “You’ll definitely need your strength for this.”
Maria ran into Chuks as she left the Vice Chancellor’s office.
“And why is she coming out of the Vice Chancellor’s office?” Chuks asked. He was very smartly dressed in a light blue well-ironed shirt, tucked into black trousers.
Maria smiled. “Are you stalking me?”
“No!” Chuks exclaimed. “The last time I checked, my faculty was closer to the Admin Block.” Chuks looked around. “Yours is farther down the road. So the right question is, Maria, are you stalking me?”
“That’s so unfair. Come on!”
“Seriously. Hope you’re not in some kind of trouble?” Chuks asked.
“No. Not really. Erm… It’s a long story.”
“My lectures are over for the day,” Chuks smiled again. “I have all the time in the world.”
“I’m going to the Chaplaincy,” Maria said. “I don’t want to bother you.”
“I was just going there myself,” Chuks said, folding his hands across his chest. The book he had under his armpit fell off. He quickly bent down to pick it up.
“Come on! Why would you be going to the Chaplaincy at this time?” Maria asked.
“I could ask you the same thing,” Chuks replied.
“You first,” Maria insisted.
“Okay. We have a meeting with the Chaplain.”
“Excos of CES,” Chuks said.
“Ooooh na. What does that even mean.”
“Catholic Engineering Students.”
“Why didn’t you just say so?”
“That would have spoilt the fun na,” Chuks said, his smile enveloping his features. “Oya, your turn.”
“Well, Ejemen said the Chaplain sees people in his office between 9 am and 1 pm from Monday through Friday. So I decided to go and see him,” Maria explained.
“May I ask why?”
“Why?” Chuks pressed further.
“Because you’re not a priest na. Haba!”
“Is this somehow connected to the Dr. Ebiuki, VC thing?”
“Not really. I just gave the VC the recording though. He was so shocked. Seriously I want to see Fr Efua for personal reasons. I need to ask him questions.”
“Okay.” Chuks was pleased Maria wanted to see the Chaplain. He had Ejemen to thank for that. “Where’s Ejemen.”
“You know Ejay na. She refused to follow me to the Vice Chancellor’s office, saying something about not being my school mother and all that.”
Chuks laughed out loud. “She said that?”
“Don’t mind her. She didn’t want to tell me she was on. I could tell though.”
“She was on what?” Chuks asked.
“Her period na. That time of the month. Hellooo!”
“Alright then, let’s start going Madam,” Chuks said, quickly changing the topic.
“Shhhhh,” Maria placed a finger on her lips as she made the sound. “Who’s your Madam?”
“So you had the guts to report me to the VC? What were you thinking?”
“Sir, I had no choice. You shouldn’t have tried to kiss me.”
“Will you shut up your mouth? Are the first girl a lecturer attempted to kiss?”
“Sir, I’m not some sex slave…”
“Shut up my friend! Did I do anything to you? Did I touch you? What’s in an ordinary kiss that you’re going around blabbing your mouth? Do you know who I am?”
“You’re Doctor Ebiuki, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts of Brosli University, Ekpoma sir.”
“Clap for yourself. You think you’re smart eh? I’ll deal with you in this school.”
“You can’t do anything to me, sir.”
“You think your rich father can come here and save you from my hands? Look, let me warn you. Better go back to the VC and tell him how much of a prostitute you’ve been. Better go and withdraw that case before I show you the stuff I’m made of. Was I the one that told you to be dressing anyhow and seducing married lecturers up and down?”
“Sir please if you don’t have anything else to say, excuse me…” The recording stopped abruptly.
Igbodaga picked the phone off the table. “The voice on the recording does sound like yours. The lady was smart enough to mention your name inside the recording. I told you to be honest with me. And I remember asking you to plead with her to withdraw the case. Is this your idea of a plea?”
“Prof. you mean you believe this recording?” Ebiuki said, his voice sounding strange even to his own ears.
“No Doc. I don’t believe the recording. I believe you instead.”
“Thank you so much, Prof…”
“Doctor John Ebiuki,” Igbodaga began in a voice that seemed like that of a Judge in a law court delivering a sentence, “I’ll advise you to prepare your defence when coming to Senate Meeting tomorrow. Tomorrow’s meeting will be your trial.”
“What?” Ebiuki jumped out of his seat again. “A Senate trial over a kiss?”
“No. A Senate trial over a lying, deceitful, and morally depraved principal officer of Brosli University.”
“Prof. you can’t do this to me. My wife just put to bed.”
“Doctor John, please leave my office.”
“Prof. please consider my years of dedicated service to this institution.”
“Congratulations on your new baby. Good day.”
Ebiuki stood there considering how wonderful it would be to strangle the tiny old man.
“Father, that’s the story of my life. Now I feel guilty for taking Doctor Ebiuki to the Vice Chancellor. I even made my Dad promise to deal with him. Somehow, my mind keeps telling me I should have forgiven him or something, that I’m to blame for everything.”
Fr Efua looked at Maria. “My dear, you were very wrong to date your lecturer. It’s not just that he’s a married man, it’s against professional ethics. But you were not wrong to report him. He’s your superior. He has the responsibility to protect you even from yourself. Thank God the Vice Chancellor is doing something about it. Students need to be protected from people like him. But please don’t expose your body. It’s not right.”
“I know that Father. I just really love it when men drool over my looks. It makes me feel some superiority over them.”
“No dear. Look how beautiful you are, even without make-up. And your beauty is better enhanced by these clothes you’re putting on than the bum shorts and transparent shirts you mentioned. You have nothing to prove to anyone. You’re perfect just the way you are.”
“My boyfriend said that exact same thing.”
“You have a boyfriend?” Fr Efua was amazed.
“Relax Father. It’s not what you think. He’s so gentlemanly he should have been a priest. Seriously, he’s really helping me. Chuks is a holy boy.” Maria said, laughing.
“The one hovering outside my window?”
Maria laughed again. “Yes, Father. The one hovering by your window.”
Fr Efua coughed loudly.
“Don’t cough o. You’ve officially become my school daddy. Be ready for me.”
Fr Efua smiled.
The gentle morning breeze blew over Maria’s frame. Then a sudden gust of wind sprayed strands of hair all over her face. She shook her head vigorously to clear her face of the strands. She couldn’t remember when last she had sat under the gentle rays of the morning sun and simply enjoyed the moment. She had come to the University stadium for exercises that Saturday morning in the company of Chuks and Ejemen. Chuks was a footballer, so he loved coming here daily to exercise. But today, he had decided to take her and Ejemen along since it was a Saturday. He had said something about the health benefits of exercising and stuff like that. It had taken them a lot of time to convince Ejemen to come with them though. Ejay hadn’t seen the need to exercise, but here she was now, running like a horse all round the stadium. Maria continued sitting under the shed adjacent to the open field, completely exhausted after running only two laps.
Dr. Ebiuki had been sitting inside his new office trying to prepare lecture notes. He felt so frustrated. How could the Senate depose him of his portfolio? He had not even completed the first year of his four-year renewable tenure. He couldn’t even remember the last time he was inside a classroom. The Post Graduate students had been doing that for him. Now he was supposed to begin lecturing all over again? To add salt to injury, the Senate had made Dr. Mrs. Ebanegbeta Atausi the new Dean of the Faculty of Arts by unanimous decision. Why couldn’t they get someone else? Why give his position to a woman; one who had been his assistant for that matter? Ebiuki gave up trying to research for his lectures the following Monday. He would just go there and recycle old knowledge. If the institution wanted him back in the classroom like some regular lecturer, then they should be ready to deal with his rusty lecturing methods. He was determined to stay away from all young ladies for the time being. He was sure the Senate wanted a way to totally disgrace him. He would not fall prey to their pranks. Henceforth, no female student would be allowed into his office. He would begin to act like the disciplinarian he used to be.
Dr. Ebiuki checked his wrist watch and got up from his hard wooden chair. It was almost midday. He threw his hands in the air and stretched like a lazy cat. He had to go home. He had a wife and kids to take care of. It was weekend for God’s sake. He took one last look at the shabby room they called an office. Then he grabbed his bag and went out, slamming the door behind him. As he turned the key in the lock, he cursed the day students like Maria were admitted into Brosli University.
Maria was getting tired of sitting down like a lazy cow, while Ejemen and Chuks did all the running. Over the past few days, she had had to make some adjustments to her dress sense. It was not as though anyone had forced her to. She just felt the need to try new things. She wanted to stop being so rebellious and revengeful for once. She still missed her make-up kit, but Chuks preferred her natural face without all the painting, and she finally had to agree she cared so much more about what Chuks thought of her than she did about the make-up kit. Her Dad had been shocked but delighted when she asked for new clothes the last time they spoke. She still loved wearing the big transparent t-shirts and bum shorts occasionally, but she made efforts not to go to public places with them anymore. There was no point. Chuks never took her to joints. She was in love with the most caring guy on campus; someone who never tried to take advantage of her. So she wanted to make him proud. Even if it meant compromising a bit. Maybe one day, he’d finally agree that the mutual getting-to-know-each-other-better was complete. Then she’d get the opportunity to be more intimate with him. She was determined to wait, no matter how long it took. But then the homilies had been very disturbing. If anyone had told her she would suddenly become a regular church goer, she’d never have believed it. But these homilies her Chaplain preached every morning were deeper than life. No one in their right senses could ignore them. Maria continued watching Ejemen and Chuks from where she sat. Ejay would never stop acting like a man. How come she had the strength to keep running all over the field?
“Ejay!” Maria hollered. She cupped her mouth with her palms and called again, “Ejay o!”
Ejemen stopped running. She looked over at Maria who had started walking towards them on the open field.
Chuks stopped as well. “Here comes the lazy girl,” he whispered.
“I’ll tell her you said that,” Ejemen said, laughing at Chuks.
“I use God beg you o. You wan kill me?” Chuks pleaded.
They walked down towards Maria.
“I thought you’d never stop,” Maria said when she came close to them.
“I was waiting for Ejemen to get tired o,” Chuks said.
“And I was trying to prove a point,” Ejemen added.
“Abeg,” Maria said. “I know na. I’m the lazy cow abi?”
“Na you use your mouth talk am. What’s that with you?” Ejemen asked Maria.
“Oh, this?” Ejemen brought out the package from behind her. “Happy birthday Ejay.”
“Wow! You remembered?”
“No, I forgot. Open your gift jor.”
Ejemen struggled with the gift wrapper with trembling hands. When she saw the small brightly coloured carton, she couldn’t believe it. “Oh my God! Oh, my God. Maria. A Blackberry Passport phone? Oh my God!”
Maria and Chuks smiled at the priceless expression of joy on Ejemen’s face.
“Thank you so much, Maria.”
“Thank my Dad instead. He was the one that bought it.”
“Chuks thank you so much. Help me thank Maria jor.”
“Maria thank you jare,” Chuks said.
Maria dragged Ejemen aside. “Seriously Ejay, as you turn twenty-one, I hope you’ll finally attract a boyfriend who’ll be bold enough to disvirgin you.”
Ejemen blushed to her toes. “Jesus Maria. You’re so baaad. I pray you get baptised soonest.”
Maria took off as Ejemen chased her back towards the shade.