“It’s about to rain heavily, are you sure you still want to go back to school this evening?” Chigozie Azuka heard her mother’s voice vibrate through the walls of her room. She threw the last content of her bag on her blue flowered bed sheet which matched the light blue walls of her room, giving the room a welcoming feel. She shouldn’t have come home.
She drew in a strong breathe. Her shoulders relaxed. The curtains were pushed to the right of her window and tied into a knot at the bottom, enabling her get a clear view of the sky through the half open window. The sky had since lost its glow and the sun was gone. She stole a look at the clock – 5:34pm.
The skies grew darker with each passing second. Should she still go back? It was Valentine’s Day and she had no intention of spending it alone. She smiled, remembering the details of the day. She was about entering the departmental office to defend her final year project in front of four stern looking professors when her phone had buzzed. It was a simple text message from Peter Okon that read ‘please be my valentine…I’d love to spend today with you….my place this evening.’
She couldn’t help the smile that ran across her lips after she’d read the message. Peter was an old flame, though they’d tried to date in the past they never really worked out but they’d remained good friends. Ever since she got the message, her thoughts had been on him all day. Yes, they had their differences and there had been a lot of drama but they always found a way of working it out. They had met in her fourth year through a mutual friend at the library. After reading, he offered to walk her to the hostel. The conversation was easy and effortless. She had felt so free with him; it was one of those rare first time conversations you feel as if you’ve known for a long time. After that day they communicated more through chats.
He was her first and only ‘almost’ real relationship. Before entering the university she had made a promise to herself to stay focused on her studies and put off any form of relationship till at least final year when she was sure of graduating with a good result. Distractions of any kind weren’t welcome. She kept telling all the boys that came her way no, but Peter was different. He slowly stole his way into her heart. She fell in love with him without even knowing. They hardly went on dates, though he did ask her out a few times but she never really wanted to go out. She needed it on a low profile. She didn’t want anyone in her business or rumours flying about. She had always been a private person. It made her life easy. No judging from others or people trying to use information they had about her personal life to make her life miserable or a living hell. She knew the pain and anger the socialites in her class went through and the humiliation of having their stories on the lips of every gossip in class. She wasn’t cut out for that or strong enough to deal with such. Her studies were top priority. She prevented him from visiting her in the hostel. The times she went to his hostel she made sure he was home alone and his friends weren’t around. While she stayed in the school hostel, he stayed off campus in one of the student communities close to the school.
The pain she felt the day she discovered he was in a long distance relationship with another girl had crushed her. She had never felt such pain before. It was a good thing on the long run. She had almost broken her promise. She was torn between following her heart or turning her back on all her morals and all she stood for.
It hurt, but it was inevitable. She couldn’t be the reason for another girl’s heart break. She bore the pain and moved on. Months of silence between them past until recently when he called to tell her he broke up with his girlfriend and wanted her. It was too late. She had already moved on and regained her focus. Drama followed after as usual, but somehow they worked through it and became platonic friends. He still loved her and she knew it. She also cared about him deeply but she didn’t feel the same way anymore. The fire and spark was no more there. Then again, two of them together was never going to work. She became sure of that during the periods they had issues. They were both strong headed and not afraid to speak their minds. If they ever dated, they were sure going to burn down the house someday.
All through her stay in the university she never went to any party except her fresher’s welcome which turned out a total catastrophe and a waste of time. That helped underpin her conclusion that parties were an absolute waste of precious productive time. Drunk lads making a fool of themselves. She wasn’t social. She was nicknamed anti-social by her colleagues. She had never celebrated valentine all her twenty one years on earth.
Today she had an opportunity of changing that. Just Peter and She alone; it will be a quiet one and the issue of sex wasn’t going to come up. Peter understood her and also respected her stand on pre-marital sex. He never pressurised her when they were trying to work things out. He was a special guy. It was such a shame they never became more than friends. At time she blamed herself for it.
Today she was going to feel the valentine love. Finally she was going to have a life! After four years in school, it made perfect sense that it was the last day of all her academic activities it would happen. A flash of lightening, followed by rumbling sounds in the sky few minutes later brought her back to reality.
Her hands rested on her waist. There was nothing to think about. She had sent him a positive reply and she wasn’t going to stand him up. Today was her day and not even the storm was going to ruin it for her. Today she was going to celebrate her first valentine.
She stripped and made a dash to the bathroom. She was out within five minutes. The quickest shower she had ever taken. Her stomach revolted. She had not eaten anything since morning. She scanned through her wardrobe, snatched a light green tank top and blue skinny jeans. Three minutes later she was out the front door, waving good bye to her worried mother who just stood watching her. She threw on her jean jacket over her shoulders. She waited for a motorbike. Her hand worked her long dark wavy hair into a pony tail.
Moments passed and still there was no motorbike and everyone seemed to have disappeared into their homes. She made giant leaps down the lonely road. Sounds of louvers being shut mixed with the roar of wind filled the air. She reached for her phone. Her fingers ran quickly over the key pad. She waited for the sound of Kelechi’s voice at the other end. She needed to inform her she wouldn’t be coming to her hostel at Ekosodin that night.
She had been staying at Kelechi’s place ever since they finished their final papers. The school had closed the hostels after the examinations. All final year students had to stay back to finish up with their project work. The silly school didn’t have the empathy to let them remain in the hostel.
She communicated with Kelechi amidst heavy breaths. She had a long way to go. Her house was a bit far from the school, though it was along the street directly opposite the university, but down the street.
She kept telling herself she was doing the right thing and it was worth it. Her first valentine celebration. She needed this. After the longest fifteen minutes of her life, she was finally at the school gate. Fortunately there were still shuttle buses rendering service. She walked briskly towards the loading bus. It began to rain slightly.
The ever busy basement was desolate. She signalled the driver to stop, paid her fare and began the long walk towards Osasogie where Peter’s hostel was located. The ground was mucky. She joined the few others, mostly students who were making their way to their various hostels in a light jog as the intensity of the drizzling increased.
She was a little soaked by the time she got to his gate. It had been a while since she last visited him but she still knew the route to his home all too well. She would never forget the large big gate in front of his three storey hostel. Good thing his room was on the ground floor. She had exhausted her energy jogging.
She took a deep breath before pushing the gate. Wet hair strands stuck to her face, the rim of her trousers were wet and stained with muddy soil. It didn’t matter. She was here and that was all. She grabbed her jacket closer at the neck, as she made her way to his room.
Loud music vibrated through the hostel. She could hear voices cheering also. ‘Valentine hostel party’. She sneered. She entered the dark narrow veranda of the ground floor which separated opposite rooms along the hall way. She didn’t know his exact room number but she had a technique of knowing his room. It was the third room form the main door post by the left. She guided her way down the dark hall way, sliding her hands on the wall. The walls vibrated. The music became louder with each step she took.
Where was this music coming from? She got closer to the third room. She refused to believe it was coming from his room. Maybe it was the adjoining room. The moment she stood in front of his door, her fear was confirmed. She could hear their loud voices cheering above the loud music.
The day was already dark and the rain was still drizzling. Entering his room wasn’t an option. She was wet and the herm of her trousers was grubby. More disturbing was the fear of entering into a room filled with people she knew. She brought out her phone and dialled his number. It rang several times but no one answered. Of course! How can he hear his phone ringing.
This wasn’t happening to her. She rested against the wall. What should she do now? The only person she knew in the hostel or around there was Chike, her classmate. A guy she barely spoke three words to all through her stay in the university.
She made slow steps towards the gate. She had no choice but to wait till the rain subsided, then she’ll quietly go to Kelechi’s hostel. Kelechi would definitely have a lot to laugh about when she hears her story. By now she knew Kelechi and her pastor friend will be having the time of their lives. She knew they were an item even though Kelechi kept denying it. Was there really wrong with two mature Christians dating? This wasn’t secondary school for crying out loud, anyway that was their business.
A figure covered the door way.
“How dare you do this to me!” She yelled.
Peter gave her a blank stare. “What are you talking about?” He asked.
“I thought you said you wanted to spend today with me ALONE” she spat out, emphasizing the word alone.
“Oh that! I’m so sorry, Chike came back and decided to throw a little party after his project defence.”
“You call that a little party? How many voices did I hear? Seriously you are unbelievable”.
He stood still, looking at her. He obviously didn’t get the gravity of what he had done. She hated when he acted clueless and didn’t take things too seriously.
“Wait, pause…if it’s really Chike hosting the party how come it’s holding in your room?” she shot him a questioning look.
“His room is scattered and he doesn’t have a sound system so to avoid all the stress of moving my speakers and deck we decided to just hold it there. Did you think I was lying?” he asked.
“Don’t even try to turn this around.” She was too tired to start an altercation. She started making her way slowly towards the door again. She was tired and hungry. If only the rain would subside. She thought silently. She didn’t believe what was happening. So much for her ‘happy first valentine’.
“Where are you going?” he asked gently.
She pushed his arms which were beginning to rest gently across her shoulders. “You ambushed me! You know I don’t like parties.” She kept walking.
He pushed past her and faced her. “I’m sorry. This is what will happen. Come to Chike’s room. We’ll both stay there while the party’s on, alright? I’m truly sorry.”
She let him lead her towards Chike’s room which was on the upper floor right above his room. There was still hope for a good valentine celebration after all.
Books were scattered on Chike’s bed, cd plates lay around the red rug, clothes pushed into the closet tried to force their way out. She looked for a free space to seat. She recognized his suit and trousers he had worn earlier scattered on the bed. She pushed them to the upper end of the bed.
“I’ll be back, let me check on them” and with that Peter ran off before she could protest.
She sunk her head into her palms.
She paced around Chike’s room. What was that sticking from beneath his bed? A G-string? Gross! What if Chike walked in now? He had never met her in the hostel all the times she had come visiting Peter. She always made sure he was not around. So it’s now the last day of school, all the reputation she had suffered to build will come crumbling down? This was too much for her to handle. She had to get out of there quickly.
She turned just in time to see the door knob move.
She stood inert.
“I changed my mind, no need checking on them.” Peter announced half way into the room.
She sighed. What a relief.
“I’m leaving.” She didn’t wait for his response. She walked passed him. She had better left now. No one had seen her yet. Imagine what people will remember her for if they knew she was at a boy’s hostel at this time of the night. She would be branded a hypocrite forever. That would never be her story.
Peter kept talking as he made his way behind her. She was not listening. Luckily, the rain had subsided. She reached for her phone and dialled Kelechi’s number. She informed her she was on her way. The ground was worse. Muddy soil littered everywhere.
“I knew you were going to do this” Peter said after her. “I don’t know why you are so messed up. Why can’t you have a life just for once?”
What an asshole! She cursed silently. She kept walking. He had ambushed her and he had the audacity to complain. There was no point going into any sort of argument with him. He lived for drama and to night she was going to make sure he didn’t put her in one of his episodes.
One wrong step and she almost hit the wet soil with her buttocks. Her right hand held on tightly to the pole of a nearby store shade. Peter was watching her. She could feel his eyes on her back. Screw him!
She regained her posture. Her arms wrapped around her stomach. The cold wind blew. She increased her pace. Thank God for street lights. It was already late and she knew she had a long walk ahead of her. If she was lucky she would catch a cab inside school to Ekosodin gate. She kept walking, singing aloud amidst shattering teeth, trying to kick out thoughts of what had just happened. She was the only one on the road save for a few cars that drove past at intervals.
Lightning flashed which was accompanied by a loud roar from the thunder seconds later, sending shivers down her spine. The skies gave in and the rain came pouring down. Few steps more, she was drenched. She kept using her hand to clear her vision. There was no bus insight when she got to the school’s second gate. She expected it. She continued her lone walk, increasing her pace. She didn’t care about the mud or puddles. She walked in and out of them freely. All she needed was to be inside a warm room and out of her wet clothing.
Thitry three minutes past eleven, she was at Ekosodin gate. Good thing Kelechi’s apartment was close to the gate. She heard her phone beep. It was a text message alert. She didn’t need a sorcerer to tell her the message was form Peter. She ignored it. There was no way she could read it under the rain.
She wished she had said more to his face. She wanted to scream at him. Run her nails over his flesh. Do something to make him feel same way he had made her feel.
She placed three hard knocks on Kelechi’s door. Her clothes were dripping. She was so engrossed in her thoughts she had forgotten to squeeze out the water before stepping into the house.
Kelechi opened the door to a shivering image of her friend. “What happened?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Chigozie replied. She entered the room which was poorly lightened by a little candle stick placed on a table. The power was out. She could make out Emma’s figure on the bed. He was still around? Hmm… She made for the bathroom.
She came out few minutes in a towel. Took a change of clothes from her bag she kept in Kelechi’s cupboard and went back in. When she came out, Kelechi had fixed her a dinner of fried plantain and beans. Just what she needed. She said hi to Emma, whom she knew was probably happy the dim light was there to hide his face. He must be dying from embarrassment. A pastor spending the night alone in a girl’s room. If Peter hadn’t messed up who knows what they would have done in her absence?
He couldn’t say he didn’t notice the weather before it started raining. She chuckled when she realized she had judged him the same way she would have been judged by everyone if Chike or someone she knew had seen her at Peter’s hostel. What was she even thinking in the first place? There was going to be Valentine’s Day next year and the year after and many others. It was not a must she celebrated it while in school. Look all she had put herself through.
She told them her ordeal as she ate. She trusted Kelechi. She wasn’t the type to go spreading her story. After her meal she lay down on the bed. Within seconds she was fast asleep. The rain had stopped falling.
Her lips parted. She could feel tender lips against hers, taking her lower lip in smooth slow moves. They were soft and succulent. Peter!
The kiss went deep. Her gown was pushed upwards. Rough strong palms moved across her flesh. Was she dreaming? She opened her eyes. The place was dark. The kiss was going deeper.
She sat up quickly.
His hands pressed against her lips as he sat up also. “Shhh… don’t wake Kelechi” he whispered.
“Oh my God!”
Kelechi was fast asleep at the other end of the bed. Emma was at the middle while she was at the side of the bed against the wall. What time was it? What was going on? Is this a dream?
Emma tried to get her to lie back on the bed. This definitely wasn’t a dream.
“Kelechi wake up!” She pushed him aside. She tapped Kelechi hard on the legs, waking her up.
“What’s going on?” she asked, stretching.
After hearing each person’s side of the story, Kelechi paced across the now silent room. The power was on now. She stood looking from Chigozie to Emma. Both looked at her as if she was a god about to pronounce judgement on them. She looked at Emma, he was a pastor and she doubted he could do such a thing. He had never shown any sign of cheating before. In his defence he had said it was Chigozie who kissed him and tried to unzip his trousers. She had only woken her when he rebuked her and tried to turn everything around on him.
She gazed at Chigozie. They had been friends since first year. She knew she was a good person but with what she told her earlier about going to a boy’s house it was obvious she really didn’t know her well enough as she once thought. Who would believe Chigozie of all people, ‘Mrs Anti-social’ would leave her parents house under the threatening storm to spend valentine alone with a boy? Who knew what else she was capable of?
She straightened up. “Chigozie I want you out of my room this moment.”
“What!” Chigozie stared at her friend. “Are you serious? So you are going to believe him?” she glanced over at Emma. He just sat there quiet, looking like a saint.
“I have known Emma for a long time and I know what he is capable of, but as for you. I thought I knew you but after your story last night”….she trailed off.
“Please just leave my house before you try and ruin my relationship.”
“Wow! Finally you admit you guys are actually a couple”. Look at the time; it’s barely twenty three minutes past four, where do you expect me to go this night?”
“That’s none of my business. I can’t sleep feeling safe in the same room with you. Please leave. You can come later in the day to pick up your things. After I housed you, this is how you repay me? Is it my fault your valentine rendezvous didn’t go on well as you planned?”
Chigizie knew it was going to be futile reasoning with her. Kelechi was in love. She looked over at Emma hoping to get some sympathy from him. He could at least talk to Kelechi. The night was cold and staying out would be really unhealthy but all she saw in his eyes was an empty soul. How could he be this cruel? So much for a pastor!
She picked her phone from the table and walked off. She nosily removed the door bolt and slammed the door behind her. There was nowhere to go. She sat by the door, her knees raised to her chest with her hands wrapped around her legs. The cold air stung. What if armed robbers came? Or a rapist?
She shook her head violently as if to shrug off the thoughts. No one would go about trying to rob after last night’s downpour; moreover the gates leading to the stair way was locked.
She remembered the text message she had received earlier. She reached for her phone which she had placed by her feet. She was right. The text was from Peter.
It read ‘I had so many other persons I could spend today with but I decided to spend it with you because I thought you were special but you just had to ruin it as always.”
What nerve! How dare him? Was he so drunk he didn’t realize he actually lied to her that it was going to be just them? There was no use replying him. Anything Peter in her life was over. He and his drama can go to hell!
She sat in the cold, waiting for the first sign of daylight. She brought this on herself all in the name of ‘I must celebrate valentine’. This indeed was one valentine she would forever remember, the next time anyone asked her out for valentine she was sure going to think twice.