Excerpt for Prisoner of Love by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Published by

Qudus Oko-Osi


Though inspired by a true life story, most of the places, events, and names of organisations herein are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The names and characters are completely fictitious. Hence, any resemblance to any persons or organisations is entirely coincidental.


Copyright © 2017 by Qudus Oko-Osi


Smashwords Edition License Notes

Thank you for downloading this e-book. This book remains the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be redistributed to others for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to download their own copy from their favourite authorized dealer. Thank you for your support.


Cover Design by

Karo Oforofuo




Table of Contents

Dedication

Acknowledgements

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

About the Author

Connect with Qudus Oko-Osi



Dedication

To my lovely wife, Glory and my wonderful son, Jason.



Acknowledgements

First and foremost, my heartfelt appreciation goes to the Greatest Author in the universe, Jehovah God for making this a success.


I am equally grateful to my wife, Glory Oko-Osi for her support, understanding, patience, and encouragement during the period of writing this book. I also thank my elder brother Idris Oko-Osi, his wife, Mercy Oko-Osi, and my uncle, Francis Oyeyemi for their thoughts and contributions.


Plenty thanks to Mr. Chukwuma Osondu, Yolanda Osondu and Joche Osondu for taking their time to read and critique the work and Karo Oforofuo for her expertise and unquantifiable support.


To my fans and all those who will read this novel, I say a big ‘Thank you’ for your support.


Love you all.



Chapter 1

TOMIWA LAWSON CAME OUT of his apartment fondling his car keys as he walked towards his crimson-coloured Toyota Camry car parked outside his three-bedroom flat. It was a bright Saturday morning and the sun was beginning to rise. He looked very attractive in his light blue T-shirt with a bold white embossed ‘Timberland’ inscription at the front which he wore on a dark pair of well-cut jean trousers and a nice-looking pair of snickers. Why wouldn’t he look attractive? This was not just any other day neither was it just any Saturday likewise. It was going to be one of the greatest Saturdays of his life! He had recently asked a beautiful young lady out and that was the day he was to get an answer to his proposal.

He had taken his time to dress exceptionally well that morning. Though Tomiwa had a good dress sense, that morning was a bit different. He had stayed longer than usual in front of the dressing mirror paying attention to every detail and ensuring that everything was applied in the right proportions. After dressing up, he had tucked his hand into his pocket and brought out his precious lip balm which he normally carried everywhere in his pocket. He had applied it on his lower lip and then rubbed it against the upper one just like a lady would do with her lipstick. This he masterfully did until the jelly substance was evenly spread on both lips, giving them an appealing glow and softness that enhanced his charming look even more.

Granted, he hated to admit that he was handsome, he couldn’t agree less this time around that the reflection he was seeing in the mirror was an image of a really good-looking chap—the kind of man any lady would long to have! Satisfied with the image staring at him from the mirror and full of confidence, he had picked up his car keys and headed for the main door leaving the air filled with the scent of the perfume that had become his signature. The perfume was so unique to him that people had always thought it was custom made for him.

Now outside, he took a thorough scan of the car that was literally glittering in the early morning sun. Thanks to Kunle, one of his younger siblings, who had done a good job cleaning it. He adjusted his pair of pink-tinted medicated glasses and nodded in approval for a job well done by Kunle. Without wasting any more time, he entered into the car and turned on the ignition. The engine at once roared with a sound like that of a faithful slave ever ready and willing to serve his master. He turned on the stereo and the huge rear speakers blared out his favourite Nigerian hip-hop songs which he normally referred to as ‘Naija Gbedu’ or ‘Gbedu’ for short. He then turned his attention to Kunle who was standing close by still holding the small towel with which he cleaned the car in his hands. All along, Kunle was standing at a corner, smiling while watching his elder brother savoured the beauty of the sparkling car. One could easily see the look of satisfaction—an expression of someone happy and pleased that his job had been well appreciated—radiating all over his face.

Kunle was a tall dark-skinned, well-built young man in his mid-twenties. He was the tallest in the family and soft-spoken. He was fondly loved by his friends and others in the neighbourhood who usually called him by different aliases. Why wouldn’t anyone love him anyway? He was gifted with so many talents that he was labelled ‘house of astonishing talents’. He could repair different kinds of electronic gadgets, make different types of furniture sets and could draw fairly well. What made this remarkable was that all of these were natural talents. Even so, it wasn’t the fact that he had numerous talents that made him so loved but his comportment and willingness to help whenever he could.

“Kunle, good job.” Remarked Tomiwa giving him a thumb’s up sign and added in their native Yoruba tongue, “Ba mi si gate yen.” meaning ‘open the gate for me.’

“Okay big bros.” Kunle responded and added before hurrying to open the gate, “Mehn, you are looking so sweet this morning.”

Tomiwa winked at him, a gesture by which he meant ‘Thank you.’ He reversed the car out of the gate, made a quick sharp turn like a bullion van driver, stepped on the accelerator and zoomed off leaving a cloud of dust and the blast of his ‘Naija Gbedu’ in his trail as he nodded to the rhythm of the music blazing out of the powerful speakers.

Tomiwa’s love for music, especially Nigerian hip-hop songs, was unparalleled. Everyone that knew him knew that he preferred music to food. He had often been heard saying that if he was imprisoned without food he would survive if granted access to music but wouldn’t last long if deprived of music, even if served the delicacies of kings and nobles—such was the depth of his love for music! He knew the lyrics to almost all the popular songs by heart and was usually one of the first to buy any new releases. He also enjoyed reading his favourite music/entertainment magazines which he bought regularly to keep abreast of happenings in the entertainment world.

He spontaneously sang along any songs he heard so masterfully that his colleagues at work never ceased to wonder how he came to know so many songs given that their job as bankers was very demanding and barely gave room for other things. Whenever there was an argument about a particular song or information about an artiste, his colleagues and friends knew where to turn. Who else could settle such disputes other than Tomiwa whom they already perceived as an authority in the field? He was always on hand to give all the information needed to put such disputes to a permanent end.

Tomiwa who was in his early thirties was a young man with a complexion somewhere in-between fair and dark. Though very handsome, he didn’t consider himself one for he loved being modest and humble. He had a well-shaped nose and a lovely pair of lips that hid an attractive set of teeth. This added to his charm whenever he laughed. He looked so much younger than his age but exhibited the maturity of those much older than him. He got his youthful stature from his mother who looked fifteen years younger than her age when she died a few years earlier.

Additionally, he was blessed with such elegance, charisma, comportment, and intelligence that he commanded the respect of his peers, colleagues, and superiors at work. He was not only hardworking but very humorous. He could come up with jokes and stunts that could crack any ribs no matter how hard. He knew how to light up any environment and make those around him forget their worries whenever he so wished.

One of such moments was whenever his colleagues referred to his slim frame. He would throw up a drama of some sort calling himself a ‘lepa with flavour’ (meaning slim with favour). He would take a few steps with an exaggerated gait and gestured as if to say, ‘check this good looking dude out’. Then he would add in a sexy voice, “This is what the girls are dying for mehnnn!” This usually got everybody laughing. He was also familiar with the ways of women. He knew the names of various female hair styles and makeup kits. He could tell the difference between Mary Kay, Mac and other nameless cheaper face powder brands by merely looking at a lady’s face.

He would be the first to notice if any female colleague had a new hair style, say its name and give a lovely comment such that the ladies were always looking forward to his compliments whenever they visited the beauty salon. He was vast in the knowledge of women and their ways that one would mistake him for a womanizer or a flirt but those close to him knew far better than that. They knew he was a chaste and morally upright man who never womanized or flirted. He neither used alcohol nor smoked too. This was attributed to his religion which he held so dearly and partly to the upbringing by his parents.

Talking about his sense of humour, an instance was what happened one Monday morning after their Weekly Performance Meeting. The meeting had just ended and people were just making their way to their respective offices when Tomiwa raised his voice, “Oh, Jeeeez!” Everybody in an instance turned their attention to him wondering what just happened. He walked up to a female colleague named Kemi. Kemi had her hair made over the weekend and she was looking radiant. Such splendid hair style and radiance would never escape Tomiwa’s compliment. So, he continued:

“Kemi-Kemo…” He liked making names sound funky especially when he was ready to crack a joke. “This Ghana Weaving of yours is Oleku ooo. In fact, it is tungbaski!” and taking some funny steps that got everybody laughing he moved toward another female colleague and continued with his witticisms.

“Wow! Amaka Baaaaby, how long did it take you to make this One Million Braids?”

Both Kemi and Amaka were seriously blushing by the time Amaka answered with a childish smile, “Hmmm … about eight hours”

“Eight hours? Oh, Jeeeez! No wonder it is debeski! I’m sure you must have gotten a special kiss from your hubby when he saw this hair…”

“Hmmm?” Amaka interrupted.

“What?! Are you saying he didn’t? Then he has committed an offense against the state by breaching one of the salient provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

By the time he finished everybody was already drowning in laughter not just because of what was said but how it was said—the drama and antics accompanying it. Acts like these made him fondly loved by all but more by the ladies. He was actually a ladies’ man because every lady loved his company.

One thing about him that usually got people laughing was his regular use of the phrase ‘Oh, Jeeeez!’ which was an exclamation of some sort to him. He had a very funny way of using the phrase. He would draw the ‘Oh,’ and end with a strong emphasis on the ‘Jeeeeez’. It was so part of him that some nicknamed him ‘Mr Jeeeeez’. Whenever anything happened, like abrupt power outage, for example, he would shout “Ooooh …” and before he could finish it, everybody including his superiors would scream in one accord, “Jeeeeez!” following it with a resounding laughter.



As he approached a group of policemen on a stop-and-search operation, he became a little bit apprehensive. He knew what delay stopping him could cause—the process of checking his vehicle particulars one after the other, checking the booth of the car, and asking for his fire extinguisher, Caution sign etc.—And today wasn’t the day to be caught in such delays. He had already spent some time in the traffic lock-down caused by the operation and any further delay would not be nice for him. He was, however, happy when the policeman that waved him down cursorily scanned the car and motioned on him to go. It appeared that the policemen employed some elements of psychology in randomly choosing who to stop and he was among the fortunate ones. Others who were not as fortunate were stopped and lined in front of police patrol van parked on one side of the road and were subjected to the time-consuming process. This created a bottleneck that caused a slow-moving traffic on the other lane available for the motorists. As annoying as the resultant impediment to free flow of traffic was, such activities were necessary once in a while to maintain the security of the metropolis.

By the time he checked the rear mirror, he was alarmed at the length of the traffic trailing behind him. “Mehnn! This hold-up is getting out of hand ooo. Well, I think operations like this are necessary once in a while to keep us safe; that’s if it’s done effectively anyways.” He said to himself and as if not to bother his head with the activities of the policemen, he shrugged his shoulders and continued nodding his head to his music.

The rest of the journey was constantly interrupted by more traffic hold-ups here and there. Some were caused by traffic lights installed at cross roads and others caused by bad roads, broken-down vehicles or vehicles that had hit each other, and their owners arguing and vomiting all sorts of vocabularies over minor scratches. Acts like these could be very irritating seeing educated people behaving uncivilized and making fools of themselves while obstructing free flow of traffic for others held up in long queues behind them. One would begin to wonder what the insurance policies all motorists were required by law to have on their vehicles, and that many of them carried about in the safe boxes of their vehicles were meant for.

Such hold-ups provided young boys and girls with the opportunity to hawk all sorts of merchandise. Boys selling Gala sausage rolls and cold drinks were frequently seen running after moving vehicles in the traffic either trying to make sales or to collect the money for the ones they sold just before the vehicles started moving. There were also ladies and under-aged girls hawking oranges and apples arranged like a pyramid on metal trays balanced on a round piece of cloth on their heads calling out in sweet voices, “Buy your orange … sweet orange.” One could also see newspaper vendors and men selling mobile phones, phone accessories, and wrist watches. Those who were smart knew better than to buy such phones in traffic unless they had excess cash to throw away. Young men of northern descent selling assorted candies and chewing gums strapped to a big board with rubber bands were also a frequent sight in Lagos traffic. The truth was that there was nothing one couldn’t get in Lagos traffic—they were like one-stop supermarkets. And there was no better place to observe first-hand the hustle and plight of the less-privileged other than Lagos traffic!

Before long, he saw the towering gates of the University of Lagos, popularly called Unilag, a few meters ahead. As he drove through the giant gates, he allowed himself to be immersed in the beauty of this great school. The architectural designs were breath-taking. Students could be seen walking on both sides of the long stretch of palm-lined and well-tarred road leading to the Senate Building. Some of the girls were scantily cladded. There were also boys with sagging trousers and big headphones plugged to their phones or MP3 players swaggering along the road. The class of cars driving past clearly showed that this was a school where the sons and daughters of the rich attended.

He navigated his way to the parking lots before the Lagoon Front. It was already 10.30 am and the sun was getting hotter. So, he had to look for a shed to park under. Fortunately, there was a space for one more car under an almond tree a short distance away that was huge enough to provide shed for about three cars. Without hesitating, he drove right under the tree and parked in the vacant space. There he was at last! He had finally arrived at the place where his fate would be decided! She wasn’t there yet so he waited uneasily in the car.

Different thoughts began to wage a strong war in his head. If there would ever be a World War III, it seemed that it was going to start right there in his head! ‘What if she says no? Ah! Would that mean all my troubles would be in vain?’ Just then a voice in his head rebuked him strongly, ‘Shut up and be positive!’ At this point, the thoughts were becoming more and more violent in his head that he began to wonder how long more it would take before his small skull exploded.

In order to divert his thoughts to something else, he picked up the latest edition of his favourite entertainment magazine he had in the car. Although his eyes were intently fixed on the magazine and he kept flipping through the pages, the truth was that he wasn’t seeing anything at all…. The pages had suddenly become blank! He decided to drop the magazine—really there was no point straining his eyes over what he couldn’t see let alone read.

When he looked up he saw her approaching some distance away. There she was, the lady who had made him spend more time than necessary in front of the dressing mirror that morning! Their eyes met and she smiled at him. It was her usual captivating smile. It sent a kind of current down his spine and immediately his heart skipped a few beats; not because he was afraid this time, but because he was completely swept away by the beauty that was walking towards him. Who wouldn’t have lost control of himself with such amazing beauty? Not even kings and dignitaries would have been able to resist the force of her beauty any more than a helpless man would resist the current of a raging tsunami sweeping his feet completely off the ground. It was often said that ‘beauty is in the eyes of the beholder’ but hers was the kind of beauty that made a baloney of that saying—for even a blind man wouldn’t deny it!

She wore a dark flowery blouse on a black skirt with complementing accessories that enhanced her delicate beauty—a pair of dangling gold earrings with a matching pendant hooked to a gold necklace glittering round her neck, and a black leather wrist watch to match. She made her hair into short curly braids. She was an inch taller than him and very fair in complexion with a slightly pointed nose that gave her the look of someone born partly to a white parent. Her beautiful eyes rested under a pair of well-trimmed eyebrows. Her lips and dentition could qualify for those of a model on the catwalk. One of her most powerful assets was her smile. So captivating was her smile that even hearts made of stone would find her irresistible. She was also endowed with a gorgeous shape with all her features in proportions perfectly right for her size. God, in His artistry, must have spent extra hours in majestically sculpting her into the damsel she was. She had such elegance, glamour and aura around her that made anyone seeing her wipe their eyes clean to be sure they weren’t having a supernatural encounter with an angel.

The beauty Tomiwa saw that morning reminded him of how they met and the events that got them to this stage …



Chapter 2

IT WAS A SUNNY Wednesday afternoon. Tomiwa, who was taking a distance learning course at the University of Lagos, had left his office that afternoon to complete his registration for a new academic session in the school. Being a Wednesday, he wore a starched light blue shirt and a pair of customised cufflinks which had the bank’s logo crested on them. That was the dress code for his bank for Wednesdays. He left his jacket and tie in the car so as not to look too officious. He joined a queue to collect the receipt of his school fees which he would need for the other stages of the registration process. Unknown to him, two beauty eyes had noticed him from one of the inner offices when he arrived to join the queue.

A few minutes later he was through and was heading to the Registrar’s office when he heard a voice behind him, “Excuse me.” He realised it was the voice of a lady who was smiling at him by the time he turned around.

“Yes? Good afternoon.” He answered, squeezing his eyes a little trying to remember where he knew her.

“You are in Accounting Department … 300 level … Class C. Right?” She asked.

“Ye … Ye … Yes.” He answered struggling to hide the shock in his eyes and still trying to remember who she was but it wouldn’t click—he was still unable to place it. Unfortunately for him, she sensed the surprise in his eyes and seeming to be enjoying the ‘game’, she smiled and continued, “You also work with Hero Bank, don’t you?”

“Yeah!” This time he was completely caught unawares and could no longer hide the surprise. ‘Who the hell is this lady?’ He thought to himself. His heart began pounding heavily. How could a total stranger know so much about him? Was someone stalking him? He, however, picked up himself almost immediately and forced out a smile.

“But how come you know all these information about me, if I may ask?”

“That’s simple.” She smiled again. “Today is Wednesday and you are wearing a light blue shirt with a pair of Hero Bank cufflinks. That’s Hero Bank’s dress code for Wednesdays. I know this because I am also a staff of Hero Bank. And I know you are in Accounting Department because we are in the same class—I’m also in Class C.” She explained fluently.

“Oh, I see.” He sounded relieved now; the tension suddenly disappeared.

“How come you know me so well and I don’t even have the slightest idea of who you are? So funny.” And without waiting for her response he answered the question himself. “Well, maybe it’s because I don’t attend classes regularly.”

“Same here. I only do once in a while too. It’s just that I have seen you a couple of times in class on those occasions I came around. You know how our job is now? We don’t really have time.”

“You are absolutely right.”

“Anyway, my name is Rachael and I’m with Surulere Branch.” She introduced herself, stretching out her hand for a handshake.

“I’m Tomiwa Lawson; Ikeja Branch. It’s my pleasure meeting you.” He replied as they shook hands. Something suddenly crept into his mind. “Hmmm … where you at Yaba College of Technology, Accountancy 2004 set?”

“Yes, I was.” She replied a little puzzled. Is the table turning already? She began to wonder.

“Full Time?” He chipped in.

“Nope, I did part-time.”

“Oh-oh, you resembled a classmate of mine and I thought you were her but we were full-time students.” He explained.

“Well, that’s a coincidence. It’s my pleasure meeting you too.”

“So, have you collected your receipts?” He enquired.

“No oh, don’t mind them jare. They asked me to check back next week. That means I can’t proceed to the next stage till then.” She answered a little disappointed.

Eyah! Sorry. I just collected mine.” He said consolingly.

“That’s nice. It means you are now a step ahead of me.” She quipped and added, “Oh, I gotta go. Take care.”

“Bye.” He said waving at her as they parted ways. He kept wondering how strange the world could be at times. How could a lady he had not even noticed before know so much about him? He didn’t bother asking for her phone number because he never thought of pursuing the friendship any further. It was simply a chance meeting and it was to be left at that. Nothing more! After about another two hours or so, he was through for the day and headed back to the office.

It was later that Tomiwa got to know that Rachael had noticed him immediately he joined the queue and found him irresistible. So, she couldn’t help but muster up the boldness to walk up to him to strike a conversation at least. Surprisingly, that was uncharacteristically her. She had never taken such a bold step before because she was the shy type. As a matter of fact, as she parted ways with Tomiwa, she could hardly believe that she of all persons had just done what she did! Had anybody told her few hours before then that she would walk up to a guy on her own volition, and initiated a discussion she would have shrugged it off as nonsense. ‘Where on earth did that courage come from?’ She wondered. “Wow! That guy must have gotten some powerful magnetic pull in him that made me defy the shyness in me!” She said to herself in an undertone still a little puzzled. As she lingered on the thought, other things slowly crept into her mind and gradually she forgot all about the young man that made her head spin in circles.

Some days later, Tomiwa found out that he had not been able to forget the lady as easily as he thought he would. But still, he had no intention of starting a relationship with her. Hell no! He couldn’t marry anyone outside his religion and he was sure Rachael didn’t belong to his religion. At the same time, he couldn’t explain why something inside him kept drawing him to her. But how could he contact her even if he wanted to? He didn’t collect her contact details the day they met. This desire was strange even to him because he wasn’t the type that got easily carried away by women no matter how beautiful. How could this be different?

While he was still thinking of how to contact her, he stumbled on a brilliant idea. Didn’t she say her name was Rachael and her branch was in Surulere? Perfect! He could use the office intra-mail to search for her name and then send her a mail! But wait a minute. He didn’t even know her surname and there were about four branches in Surulere. ‘What happens if there are several Rachaels in the system?’ He thought. Nevertheless, without waiting to be overtaken by the negative thought, he opened his mail box, type ‘Rachael’ in the search box and hit the search button. The search returned three names in no time: Rachael Jackson, Rachael Omotola Alakija, and Rachael Ngozi Nnamdi. How was he going to solve the puzzle? He let out a heavy sigh and sank back into his seat rubbing his chin with his forefinger as he stared at the computer with his eyes a little squeezed. It was the posture of someone trying to decipher the secret to a puzzle.

After thinking for a while he resorted to using the elimination method. At least, all those jargons they taught them in Mathematics back then in school could be put to a practical use for once! He had often wondered what correlation the mathematical jargons had with the real world but now he had found one. He concluded that the lady he met couldn’t be a Yoruba lady given her look and accent. Hence, she definitely was not Rachael Omotola Alakija. But she could be any of the remaining two. Further complicating the matter, both of them had their branches located in Surulere! He was stuck once more.

He opted for Rachael Jackson after much deliberation. He composed a mail introducing himself as the boy she met some days earlier in Unilag. He said he wanted to find out how she was doing and if she had been able to collect her school receipt. He wasn’t sure what the response would be like since he wasn’t even sure if he was sending it to the right person in the first place. He sent it anyway—it was worth trying.

The much awaited response came about ten minutes after he sent the mail. Actually, those ten minutes were like ten hours to him. He kept checking his mail box every minute with great anticipation and every time the reply wasn’t there he felt great disappointment. It was understandable how happy he felt when the reply eventually dropped into his inbox. He became happier when he read it and discovered that he had sent it to the right person! The response showed that Rachael was very excited to hear from him. Perhaps, she too had been thinking of how to get in touch with him. She was surprised at how he managed to reach her and didn’t hesitate to ask in her response.

He responded to her mail immediately. Nothing was more important at the moment; every other thing could wait. He explained that all he did was to take a calculated guess and teased, “Well, I just believed that even if you were the wrong person the worst that could happen was that you would stretch your hand out of the monitor and land a dirty slap on my face, and I would have rubbed the cheek. You wouldn’t have shot me anyway. Would you?” She found his mail so amusing and said as much in her reply that followed. She was already finding him interesting. For the rest of the day, they kept exchanging mails talking about different topics. They talked about their ‘Residential Programme’ and their forthcoming examinations, the time-table of which was already out. They also talked about when they would commence their respective leave from office so as to be able to attend the programme.

The ‘Residential’ period was usually a four to six weeks period when the distance learning students, most of whom were matured married men and women, were camped on the campus for intensive lectures. It normally climaxed with the sessional examinations. The school authorities included this in the programme so that the distance learning students could have a feel of campus life.

About a week later, the ‘Residential’ period came and the distance learning students moved into the various hostels assigned to them. The period used to be very intensive and stressful. Lectures could start as early as seven o’clock in the mornings and continued till late in the evenings with only one hour break. It was also the period when tests were written and various group assignments were given. Students would clog the library and classes reading over the night especially when the examinations started. It was usually especially stressful for the likes of Tomiwa and Rachael who would hardly have recovered from the stress of their tedious work before having to grapple with the intensity of the period. Also, they usually had more to cover because they would have missed many of the regular lectures. Nonetheless, the period came with its own side attractions like shows, sporting events, and parties too.

In no time, the examinations started and Tomiwa and Rachael wrote most of their papers in the same hall. Yet there wasn’t time to see each other because there were so much to do and cover. The schedule was really tight. However, as the examinations neared their end, the schedule became more and more flexible allowing time for some social activities.

One particular afternoon, Tomiwa was sleeping in his bunk after writing a paper earlier in the morning. He was very tired because he was awake all night burning the midnight oil. He was suddenly awakened by the noise and vibration of his ringing smart phone. He picked it up and his eyes shone with excitement. The sleep disappeared instantly. It was Rachael.

“Hello …” He answered, “How was your paper today?”

“It was fine … and yours?” Responded the beautiful voice on the other side and then continued, “Tommy, can I ask you a question, please?”

“Well, feel free provided you are not asking for my head.” He teased.

“Ah-ah! Tommy, you know I’m not that wicked.” She chuckled.

“Okay ooo, I’m just pulling your legs anyways. Please go ahead, I’m all ears.” He replied smiling.

“Tommy … hmmm … I just want to know what your religion is.” She asked.

“I am a Christian … and why did you ask?” He asked, sensing the great anticipation in her voice.

“Nothing really. Just being curious.” She replied and continued after a brief pause, “If you don’t mind … what denomination of Christianity?” When Tomiwa told her she screamed with joy. Tomiwa could picture her jumping up and throwing both hands in the air like someone who just won a lottery. Overwhelmed with joy, she spoke the next set of words so quickly as if the words would vanish if not spoken in time. “Do you know that I’m one of your members too?”

“Woooooow! Seriously?!” That was what came out of Tomiwa’s mouth. He was too surprised that he wasn’t sure if he was truly awake or still sleeping and perhaps dreaming. He had to pinch himself before he realised that he wasn’t sleeping. This was actually happening!

“It was Uche that told me but I didn’t believe him … we were just talking when he mentioned it.” She was breathing heavily now. “I … I … I … said it couldn’t be true and I asked him if he was really sure it was my Tommy … oh, sorry … the Tomiwa I knew. He said, ‘Yes, the same Tomiwa that works with Hero Bank.’ At that point, I … I … just picked up my phone to confirm from you.”

Tomiwa didn’t need a soothsayer to know that she was obviously happy at the news. He too was extremely happy. This singular news could be a great game changer for both of them. It could redefine the very direction of their relationship. Little wonder they were both excited about the news. This might be the beginning of good tidings. Before now, though the two of them had come to like each other, they never believed the relationship could go beyond ordinary friendship and classmates because of likely religious difference. But with this news all that might change.

“Oh, Jeeeez! This is amazing. Do you know it never occurred to me that we could be members of the same religious organisation? I’m so happy knowing that you are my spiritual sister after all.” He laughed as he said it.

“Yes ooo, same here. I have to go now. Talk to you later.” She concluded and ended the call.

Tomiwa went back to sleep but his eyes could not get hold of sleep. The thought of Rachael and the news he just heard had forced the sleep out of his eyes. Lying on his back with his hands clasped behind his head and eyes fixed on the spinning ceiling fan above his head, these thoughts kept lingering on his mind. He was still thinking about her when something flashed across his mind like lightning. With one swift acrobatic movement, he jumped out of bed and shouted without realising it, “YESSSSS! Finally, it has clicked. I get it now!” Fortunately for him, he was the only one in the room otherwise his roommates would have thought he was losing his mind due to the stress of the last few weeks!

He picked up his phone and dialled Rachael’s number. The phone didn’t connect and after a long time, he heard a female voice from the other side, “The number you are calling is not available at the moment. Please try again later.” As sweet as the voice sounded it actually irritated Tomiwa.

“Oooooh, Jeeeeeeezzzz!!!” He tried again and this time around it didn’t connect at all…. All he heard was a beeping sound. “Jeeez! What kind of crazy networks do we have in this country?!” He just couldn’t take it anymore. “Ehn? What if this was an emergency; a matter of life and death? Is this how these people would mess one up?” He was becoming restless when he tried it again and this time he heard a sound: Cring! Cring!! The phone was ringing. He smiled.

“Hello, Tommy is anything the matter?” Rachael answered when she picked the call.

“Nothing really. You just asked me some questions, right?” He replied.

“Right.”

“Good. It’s now my turn to ask questions. Hope you don’t mind?”

“No, please go ahead.”

“Thank you. You said you were in Yaba College of Technology, Yabatech, 2004 set, right?”

“Yes.”

“You also said you studied Accountancy, part-time. Correct?”

“Very correct. I said so.”

“Could you by any chance be the beautiful Rachael that was Sister Abigail’s younger sister?”

“Yes, I am.” She answered surprised.

Wonders would never end. The whole thing was taking an interesting turn. At first, she was the one who seemed to have all the information about him when they first met. A few minutes ago, she learnt that they were both members of the same religious organisation, which was highly coincidental. And now the table had turned. He was the one who seemed to have all the information now and she the surprised one! So, he had known her after all and she was not a stranger he had thought she was the first time the met.

Tomiwa continued, “This is wonderful. Do you know that it just clicked now? We were together in Yaba College of Technology. Remember those late nights of rehearsals for our send-forth party then? We were together.”

Rachael was dumb-founded. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Her eyes were almost bulging out of their sockets with surprise. All she could do was to cover her mouth with her hand in amazement as she listened to him.

“I remember you composed and directed a song for the party and I was one of those that performed the song for the event. Oh, poor me, I remember going off key several times and you had to correct me.” He paused to laugh at himself but suddenly realised that she had been quiet for some time. He wasn’t sure if she was still there.

“Hello … Hello … Rachael, are you still there?”

“Yes, I am.” She answered in a low voice. “I’m just too surprised to talk.”

The feeling that gushed within the two of them was indescribable. It was a mixture of excitement and strong attraction to each other. The recent revelations had just ignited in them something either of them could describe. It was like a burning fire shut up in their bone marrows.



Chapter 3

MEANWHILE, THEY HAD ONE more paper to write which would be in the next four days. That gave many of the students the opportunity to go home—to run away from the hardship of the campus, at least, for some days. Tomiwa and Rachael too went to their respective homes to cool off for the short break. They really needed the rest. The period had taken a toll on them. They both planned to return to the campus on Thursday, a day before their final paper.

In no time, Thursday came and both of them returned to school. They were both looking refreshed. Spending three days at home outside the harsh campus environment was seriously beneficial. They decided to meet at a fast food restaurant outside Queen Amina hostel by 6.00 pm. Good enough, Queen Amina Hall was just a few blocks away from his hostel and was Rachael’s hostel.

By 5.30 pm he was already dressed and ready for what was going to be their first date. Somehow, it was as if six o’ clock wasn’t going to come. He fixed his eyes on his small table clock as if his life depended on it. He needed to be sure that its hands were actually moving because it seemed that the time was ticking painfully too slow that evening. ‘Is this not the same clock that runs like Ussain Bolt when one is preparing for examination and needs the whole time in the world to prepare? So what’s wrong with it this evening? Has Ussain Bolt suddenly broken his legs?’ He wondered.

After what seemed like forever, it was 5.55 pm so he strolled down to the venue. By the time he got there, she was already waiting for him with a bottle of Pepsi Cola—her favourite drink—in front of her. When she caught sight of him, she let out her powerful irresistible smile and he smiled back. He made his way to the empty chair directly opposite hers and sat down placing an order for both of them.

“You are looking sweet.” He complimented her and added, “You must have enjoyed your brief stay at home.”

“You can say that again. Oh, home sweet home. You needed to see how mummy pampered me with food.” She responded with a chuckle.

“I don’t need a Prophet Elijah to tell that to me. I’ve got eyes and I can confidently tell you that these lenses of my mine are still sharp. I can see you are looking fresh and pretty as ever.”

“Really?” She rolled her eyes, took a sip of her Pepsi and continued with a smile, “You aren’t looking bad either. You’ve freshened up too.”

“You know I didn’t realise how much I had missed my bed until I got home. Even my pillow rejoiced at seeing me. And lest I forget, Billy, my dog, sent her greetings.”

“Tommmmy! There you go again. You and your funny talks.” She said laughing. “Anyway, how’s Billy doing? Poor dog, she must have really missed you.”

“Yes ooo. She was practically crying when I was leaving this morning. I felt so much pity for her that I almost stayed back.”

As they were enjoying the company of each other, unknown to them, a giant green grasshopper had perched on her left arm just above the elbow. Suddenly a young lady sitting a few tables away from them saw it and screamed pointing to the grasshopper, too petrified to utter a single a word. She was jittering as if she was seeing a ghost. On seeing it, Rachael too screamed then froze holding her breath tightly like someone who had a pistol placed on her temple. What is it with ladies and little insects like cockroaches and grasshoppers that they start melting like ice-cream at seeing one?

Tomiwa leaned forward and said in a low voice, almost a whisper, “Close your eyes.” She obeyed immediately like a child in the face of a cane-totting teacher. Then with one swift movement, he swiped the insect off her arm. She opened her eyes panting heavily holding her chest with both hands as if her heart wanted to jump out.

“Oh, Jeeeez! I never knew you were such a coward.” Tomiwa teased. “I now know how to deal with you whenever you make me angry. All I need are two giant grasshoppers and perhaps one or two cockroaches to keep them company; that’s all.”

“You are not serious, Tommy.” She said with both of them laughing heartily.

The highlight of the evening came when Tomiwa told her that he had something to show her. He then brought out an old folded white-turned-brown paper from his pocket and handed it over to her.

“What is this?” She asked.

“Why not open it and see for yourself?”

When she unfolded it, her eyes shone in amazement. It was Tomiwa’s copy of the song she wrote for the sent-forth party in Yabatech about four years earlier. He had kept it safely and had brought it when he went home. She couldn’t believe her eyes.

“Wow! Where on earth did you dig this out?” She enquired.

“Well, let’s just say I’m good at keeping valuable stuff. I guess this proves me right when I said we did a song together back then.”

She was touched. She clung to the paper like someone who just found a priceless artefact that had been buried for ages; it was a memorable souvenir. They both sang out the song together and this brought out the sweet memories of that period—the nostalgia was great. The rest of the evening was marked with talks, whispers, smiles, and laughter. They really enjoyed spending the evening together; it wasn’t one either of them would forget in a hurry. It was already quarter to eight and they both got up to go back to their hostels to prepare for their paper the next day.

Eventually, the examinations ended. The end of the session party came and went in grand style. Tomiwa and Rachael were soon back at work. They started communicating more and more engaging in live chats using the chat engine called Communicator installed on every system in the bank. They chatted during the day and made phone calls during the nights. They simply couldn’t have enough of each other. Tomiwa who was also an artist and loved writing was very good at playing with words. He was an expert at constructing texts that could make even princesses go gaga. He could actually paint pictures with words and she was enjoying every bit of it.

With time, the chats started turning from plain to romantic. Phone calls started getting longer and gradually crept to odd hours and eventually all night calls. They were increasingly becoming fond of each other. It was one of those mid-night calls that lead to a discussion that almost caused the first upset in the yet-to-be-born relationship. That night he tactfully asked her if she had anybody in her life and he was pleased to know that there was none. He then asked about her genotype. Immediately the question was asked, she grew cold; her countenance dropped and sorrow filled her heart.

She knew that Tomiwa must have been an ‘AS’ at best for him to be concerned about genotypes. A person with ‘AA’ genotype wouldn’t bother his head about that. She knew that might be the end of the beginning—the end of a relationship that had rarely begun! Tomiwa was her dream guy and she couldn’t bear the pain of seeing him slip off.

“I don’t feel like talking about it now.” was her response. Tomiwa got the message instantly. A cold shiver ran down his spine menacingly that he almost froze. The same fear and sorrow that overtook Rachael were consuming him also. They ended that night’s call without much enthusiasm unlike nights before. Neither of them could sleep that night. They were each rolling from one side of the bed to the other. Time made the torture more miserable when it chose to drag itself sluggishly along making the next morning seemed forever in coming.

The next morning, they met on Communicator and began chatting as usual. They discussed the issue of the genotype extensively. Their fears were confirmed as it turned out that both of them had ‘AS’ genotype, putting them at risk of bearing children with sickle cell anaemia if they married each other. At long last, they succeeded in rationalizing the matter to the point that they concluded that love was all that mattered, and love was strong enough to surmount any obstacles no matter how tough—love could bear all things.

Things soon returned to normal and the daily routine of chatting and mid-night calls continued with a renewed momentum. They were gradually becoming lovebirds yet none said anything to the other. Then one chilling night in March, there was a heavy downpour doling out massive doses of lightning and bolts of thunder. The cool breeze that followed was pleasant and refreshing. The weather was one of those that could awaken the romantic prowess in anyone. Tomiwa and Rachael were having their mid-night call as usual and were undisturbed by the raging downpour of the night. Tomiwa felt that there couldn’t be a better time to ask her out. It was time to take the bold step and the weather was just right for it. The way he did it was simple but spectacular. He remembered a scene in Big Daddy, a movie he saw years back and decided to adopt the approach. He started by telling a story:

“Story, story.”

“Story.” She replied without having any hints of what he was up to.

“Once upon a time.” He continued.

“Time, time.”

“So many, many years ago, there once lived a male rabbit in the animal kingdom. Meanwhile, the colony of the rabbits was the most developed and civilized in all of the animal kingdom at that time. They had a sophisticated and organised system. They had schools, markets, and firms …”

“Ah! Tommy! When did rabbits start going to school and building markets?” Rachael interrupted laughing. She was enjoying the story all the same.

“Oh, why did you interrupt my story?”

“Sorry. Oya continue, I’m listening.”

Tomiwa continued, “The male rabbit happened to be attractive in form and actually wore a pair of glasses. He was working with a money-lending firm and had a crimson coloured bicycle. In those days, bicycles were the most popular form of transportation in the rabbit colony. One day he met a very beautiful female rabbit who worked in another branch of the same money-lending firm and attended the same professional class with him. They became friends, very good friends at that …” He paused and asked Rachael, “I told you that the rabbits were very sophisticated, right?” Rachael said, “Yes” and Tomiwa continue with his story…

“The rabbits were able to develop a device from dried leaves and bamboo trees that they could use to communicate with each other. So, both the male and female rabbits were always talking at work during the day and at home at nights…”

“Hmmm … Is that so?” Commented Rachael who at this point had known that the rabbit story was referring to the two of them but had still not understood where the story was heading. So, she continued to listen attentively as Tomiwa went on…

“Then one night there was a heavy rainfall accompanied by lightning and thunderbolts while they were both talking and the male rabbit suddenly paused and asked in a low voice, ‘Female rabbit, would you make me the happiest rabbit in the universe? Would you spend the rest of your life with me? What say you, female rabbit?’” Tomiwa said this part of the story with much flare and feelings that gave life to the entire story.

Rachael was shocked. Tomiwa had just asked her out with a rabbit story! She was shocked not because she wasn’t prepared for this but because the unconventional way he did it caught her completely off guard. She was very happy that the much awaited moment had come at last. But she hid her excitement and decided to play along with the rabbit story. She said …

“And the female rabbit asked the male rabbit, ‘What are your intentions, male rabbit? You need someone to call your girlfriend?’”

Tomiwa replied, “No, female rabbit. I ask not for a casual boyfriend-girlfriend relationship but a relationship with commitment and the goal of marriage. I want you as my wife.”

With that, Rachael decided to bring it back to the real world outside the rabbit story.

“Tomiwa, you know what? You can be a mystery at times” And not wanting to sound easy-to-get she continued, “Well, I’m sure you weren’t expecting an instant answer. You know I will have to think and pray over it first.”

“Okay. I was expecting you to say that. So, how long will that take?”

“Hmmm … just give me a week. Today is Friday, right? Okay, let’s make it next week Saturday but this time it’s not going to be over the phone or in an ancient rabbit story. It has to be face-to-face, you and me, Tomiwa and Rachael.”

“That’s fine by me. So, where and what time will it be?” Tomiwa asked.

“Hmmm … Unilag, Lagoon Front by 11.00 am. Will that be okay by you?”

“Perfect!” He said and added jokingly, “I can survive one more week. After all, I didn’t die all this while.”

They both laughed and wished each other good night. There was nothing else to be said. There couldn’t have been a better way of ending that spectacular night!

A week thereafter, Saturday came knocking. That was the same Saturday that he had stayed longer than usual in front of the mirror. It was the Saturday he drove all the way to Unilag and found a parking space under the huge almond tree at the Lagoon Front. It was the same day that the sight of her beauty sent him to the memory lane and he reminisced about the day they first met …



* * *



He was still wallowing in this thought when she got to the car. It was her greeting that startled him back to the present!

“Oh … y … you … are here. Good morning.” He said having established himself in the present. “Come inside, please.” He added pressing the ‘unlock’ button to unlock the doors.

“Sorry that I’m a bit late … Have you been waiting for long?” She apologized.

“Hmmm … Not quite long. You’re welcome.” And with a wink, he continued, “Wow! I must say that you are looking quite gorgeous! Are you sure an angel is not missing in heaven or something?”

“Mm-Hmmm? Thank you anyway.” She replied with a bright smile. She entered and sat down on the passenger seat next to him. She brought out a hankie and dabbed her face to absorb the tiny beads of sweat that had formed on her face. After she settled down, Tomiwa brought out the packs of ice-cream, drinks, Jollof rice and chicken he bought from a Chicken Republic outlet on his way. There was no way he could have left the ice-cream and Pepsi out of the menu because he knew she really loved them.

They decided to stay in the car. The sun was already high up in the sky and outside the car was really hot. Even the garden by the lagoon would have been hot too. Hence, the car was just alright for them. Since the air conditioner was on, it was cool in the car and they could listen to soft music as they discussed. They treated themselves to the ice-cream, tasty meal, and chilled drinks as they discussed general things. After enjoying the food and drinks, the time came for the big talk!

Immediately she began to talk, the atmosphere in the car changed; everywhere became tensed. The tension and uneasiness that surrounded her got Tomiwa worried. His heart began pounding like a locomotive train. It seemed that things wouldn’t go his way after all. Her tension-filled eyes were just too scary for him. Someone with a good news wouldn’t wear such a frightening look—that kind of look only echoed bad news!

“Tommy…” She began slowly without any enthusiasm, “I have thought deeply about your request and prayerfully too. After much careful consideration…” Then she paused and looked at him with heavy eyes, “My answer to your request is …”



Chapter 4

MY ANSWER TO YOUR request is …” Then she paused again.

At this point, Tomiwa held his breath waiting for the bomb shell to drop off her mouth. ‘This is it!!!’ were the words dancing azonto in his head at that moment!

“I think …” She continued, “I … say … YES!”

Tomiwa heaved a sigh of relief. It was the kind of soothing relief experienced by someone whom a very big boil in his anus just burst letting out a thick yellowish pus. He almost jumped out of the window with excitement. However, the relief was short-lived by the time he heard her next words! His heart raced to his mouth and it began to pound heavily again.

“But …”

‘Ah! But again? This babe will commit murder today ooo! It’s like she has perfected the act of increasing one’s heartbeat exponentially!’ He thought. But he listened with all his attention focused on her.

She went on, “But … I don’t know if you will still stick to your decision by the time you hear what I’m about to tell you.”

“I’m all ears … please go ahead.” Tomiwa said becoming a little confused.

“Well … I … I … I don’t know how you will take this…. My last relationship was a disaster and I’m still yet to fully recover from the effects of the breakup…. Since it happened … I … I … have not been able to love any man till I met you and there is nothing I want more than being with you…. But sometimes I wonder: what of if I am not capable of loving the way I should again? What of if I become consumed by that feeling of irritation I used to feel against men? What of if I’m not able to reciprocate your love the way you deserve? I’m not sure you will want to go ahead with the relationship after knowing that the woman you love so much may not be capable of reciprocating your love the way you deserve even though she’s struggling hard to.” She said downcast.


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