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Free Bird

“Hello.”

I didn’t respond.

“Hello, Laura?” His voice was louder on the phone this time.

“Hello.” My voice was hesitant, like I was forced to answer the call.

“How are you?”

“I’m fine, thank you.”

“Please can we see today? I’ve been looking for you all over the school. Came to your department but you weren’t there—”

“Why do you want to see me?” I interrupted him.

“I want to talk ”

“Talk about what?”

He hesitated, then, “When we see—”

“See, Nonso, whatever you want to say to me, just go ahead and say it here and now. I don’t have time to see anybody, biko.”

“Please just let us see. Just this once. I really want to talk to you in person. I want to look at you when I say it. Please just once and if I’m not making sense you may wish not to see me anymore.”

I thought about it. Should I let him meet me again with his sugar-coated mouth? I knew what he wanted to see me about and I was definitely not ready to hear any of that. What to do?What to do?

“Please…”

“Okay. I’m in school now. If you can wait, then I’d see you around 5pm after our rehearsals.”

“Thank you, thank you so much. That is fine. I’ll meet you then.”

He hung up.

***

The first time I met Nonso, it was magical, like something out of the ordinary; at least that was how I saw it then.

It was at the fresher’s night party held during our first year, my first time of attending an outdoor night party… and definitely my last.

The event wasn’t so interesting to me; I was only there to support my classmate who was contesting for Miss Unizik. I probably wouldn’t be there if not for that single reason. They were mandated to sell table tickets for the event as part of their tasks, and that was the way I ended up on the VIP table with some of our classmates as we had to contribute and pay to assist her. The table had only groundnut, two malt drinks and a bottle of N500 red wine.

“Hi.” Someone tapped my shoulder from behind. I looked back. “I love your dress,” he said, followed by display of an amazing sparkling dentition.

“Thank you.” I smiled and tried to turn but he wasn’t done.

“I’m Charles, Nonso. What’s your name?” He stretched his hand for a handshake.

Now that was unusual. Unizik guys weren’t this courteous. At least from what I’ve seen for the past two months and few weeks I’ve been in school. All they did was stop you on the road and boom, they’re blabbering about how they think you’re cute and they like you, bla bla bla. This guy was just different.

“Laura… my name,” I responded with a smile

I couldn’t stay till the end of the show. I pleaded with Loveth to escort me back to my lodge as I couldn’t walk the lonely road of Ifite by 12pm in the midnight alone.

As we made to exit the school gate, I noticed someone running after us from the party arena at Garuba Square. He came up to where we stood, breathing heavily. It was Nonso, the guy at the party.

“I nearly missed you. When did you leave? You didn’t even say bye.”

“Sorry, I want to go home already. I’m not comfortable here at all.”

“Same with me. This party is so boring. I just don’t want to walk home alone. That’s why I haven’t gone home yet.” He was calm now but still smiling. Does he always smile like this? “Where do you stay?”

“Me?” I pointed at myself.

“Yes, but before that, this is your friend I suppose?”

“Ah, forgive my manners. Ehm, this is my friend Loveth. Loveth, meet Nonso. We met at the party.”

They shook hands.

“So where do you live?” He was facing me squarely now.

“Yahoo Junction.”

“Oh, that’s close. I live there too. But farther inside. At Our Lady’s.”

“I know Our Lady’s.”

“So do you mind if I join you guys?”

I hesitated.

“Ehm, Laura since your lodges are close to each other, why not go with him so I can return to the party? Ipud wants to perform now and you know I love his music. Please,” that was Loveth. This girl is so stupid. Imagine leaving me with a complete stranger.

“What do you say?” Nonso joined her.

“Okay… no problem.” What else can I say?

Loveth hugged me and ran back to the party while I continued the journey with Nonso. We were quiet for sometime.

“So Laura, what department are you in?”

“Theater Arts.”

“Ah… so you can dance?” He seemed excited.

“Dance kwa? I act o. Is it dance they do in Theater Arts?”

“I usually see them dancing whenever I pass by Arts Faculty. Are you in 100 level?”

“Yes.”

“Oh… okay. You’ll know soon.”

There were some moments of silence.

“How about you?”

“Me?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I’m a Law student. 200 level.”

“Wow, that’s great. I wanted to be a lawyer but I didn’t reach the cut-off mark, so I opted for Theater Arts in my second JAMB exam. Acting is my second passion after Law.”

“That’s fine. You can still change to Law if you do well in your first year.”

“Yes, my dad said that.”

By now, we’ve gotten to Yahoo Junction. We entered the street and continued walking down. Some Hausa men were seated by the left discussing in their language. They must be the Okada riders because their bikes were kept by the side.

“That’s my lodge.” I pointed towards a three storey building by our right.

“Oh.” His countenance changed

“What is it?”

“I didn’t want this to end so soon. It’s been really fun with you.”

“Sorry.” I didn’t even know why I was apologizing.

“It’s alright. Can I have your number?”

“You’re running oga, calm down.”

He laughed. “C’mon, we’re friends already nah, right?”

I sighed. “Okay, give me your phone let me put it.”

“Here you go.”

“Ehm… before you go, I must say you have a very nice smile.”

I blushed. “Thank you.”

That night, he sent me a message on WhatsApp and we started talking. We talked deep into morning and I liked every bit of it. He asked if I had a boyfriend and I told him no. He sent me a voicenote where he was shouting, “Praise the Lord!” like someone that just won a lottery. I laughed.

I liked him instantly. He was very calm and seemed to know how to treat a woman. And his talk? Ah… he could fill your head you with his sweet words and make your head swell like agidi jollof. Everytime we talked, I would always laugh or smile sheepishly. His words sent butterflies to my stomach.

And that was why the first night I visited him, he was able to lure me into having sex with him. When I resisted, he told me I shouldn’t be scared of anything, that he loved me so much and would never do anything that would hurt me. I believed him.

After that day, we did it again, and again and again. He asked me to be his girlfriend and of course, I accepted. We were already in a relationship so why not make it official?

The moment we made the relationship official, I started noticing some changes in his behaviour. He stopped call like he used to; if I call him, he would not answer and would later claim he was busy. It was like he was avoiding me. I would visit him in his faculty and he will drag me out of the building and take me to somewhere else… like he was hiding me from someone or some people. Could it be he was embarrassed to show me to his friends?

While all these were happening, his constant demand for sex never stopped. I was getting uncomfortable. I wasn’t a sex machine that he would use to ease off whenever he feels horny. I stopped going to his lodge and subsequently started avoiding him too.

The climax of it all was the day a message dropped on his phone while I was checking something on the Internet. I dislike checking my partner’s phones even if I suspect they’re cheating. This is because I might not bear what I might see if I do that. But that day, the message was so tempting. I opened it and my my eyes popped out in shock. Apparently, Nonso had been cheating on me with someone in his department. They even send nude photos to each other!

I cried my eyes out when I got home that day. Oh… how I’ve been a fool!
I trusted this idiot. I loved him like I never loved anyone else. I gave him my body, something I’ve never done before. I paid his school fees after he claimed he was robbed. I overlooked his ill treatments on me. The previous day, he had slapped me because I confronted him about this same girl after I bumped into them kissing in the class. I overlooked everything, hoping I would make this work. What exactly have I not done?

When I called him and ended the relationship that night, He said okay.

It’s been one month now and now he was calling me so we’d meet? He must be a joke. But let’s see first.

***

“Nonso, please just go straight to the point. My classmates are waiting for me so we’d go home together. I don’t have all the time in the world.”

He’s been beating around the bush with long stories of how he has missed me.

“Okay Laura, what I’m trying to say is that I want you back in my life. Since you left, my life has been turned upside down. I’m so sorry for what I did. It was the devil. I already broke up with Blessing. I never loved her, I didn’t know what came over me, please. I’m so sorry babe, please come back to me.” He was crying this time. Like real tears.

OMG, sometimes I would wonder why this boy wasn’t in Theater Arts department. He was such a good actor and I can see that very well now.

I looked at him crying and shook my head.

“Please stop that you’re embarrassing me.” I’d noticed people were looking at us.

“I’m so sorry, just accept me back. I promise I will never take you for granted anymore. Please!”

I looked at him and felt pity for him. He’s really a great guy, but he just doesn’t know what he wants. Maybe he felt that because girls like him a lot, he can just play around with anyone and nothing would happen. I just knew at that point that I must say something to him.

“Please just listen to me Nonso. First, I have nothing against you. I forgave you even before I left you. So if it’s about what you did, don’t worry it’s long forgotten.” I noticed a ray of hope spread across his face. “What you did taught me a great lesson. Sincerely, I owe you a lot of gratitude because you taught me something no one would have. You taught me to love and value myself more. Before I thought my life depended on other people. What they think about me, what they say about me and all that, but after you did what you did, I cried for a week and consoled myself. Then I took time to rebuild the broken pieces of my life. I decided to love and appreciate myself more and I’m proud of the woman I’ve become today.”

I paused. He was just staring at me expressionless. Was he bewildered?

“See eh, right now I don’t think your love or anyone’s can make me feel special anymore because I’m already very special. Look at me, take a good look at me and tell me if I look hungry or in need of anyone’s attention? No, I don’t. I’ve made my decision that no one will ever make me feel bad anymore. So for now, I don’t need any boyfriend in my life. I’m going to keep working on myself, building myself and my brand; and when I see the right person, that person that really deserves me, I’ll know and then, maybe I’ll be ready to enter into a new relationship. But for now, I’m sorry. I’m comfortable and I like my life the way it is now. I’m at peace with myself and that’s all that matters. Sorry to disappoint you.”

I walked away while his face was casted on the ground. He looked dejected.

“Laura…” he called after me, with a faint voice

“Yes?” I turned.

“At least, can we still be friends?”

I smiled.

“We aren’t enemies.”

I walked away with my friends as we made our way towards the bus stand.

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