Yes, I know it’s long overdue and I said I would and …. and ….
Okay, not quite.
I finally finished editing and putting it together, so there’ll be no more gaps. The other parts will be up on Thursday and Friday. Seriously.
And I wanted to share the book cover with you. Like it? Hate it? Don’t think it fits the story? Was that the Veronica you pictured in your mind? Share your thoughts either way.
Enough blabbing. Here’s the book cover, followed by Part 3. Enjoy!
Read Previous Episodes here
* * *
Seni did not hear anything else about Veronica from Dele’s lips. It was as if he deliberately avoided mentioning her name in Seni’s presence. She began to second-guess herself.
Maybe she shouldn’t have told Dele anything.
But how do you stand by and watch a person you love get hurt?
As yet, Veronica had not done anything to hurt Dele, but Seni knew it was coming. She was still wondering about this one evening, a few weeks after the “Vero-inspired” conversation she had had with Dele. She was completing the last leg of her journey home from JAMB lessons by foot. When she was within two minutes of the house, she decided, on an impulse, to go and visit her friend, Nancy. It was Friday, and even though she knew that she had to study over the weekend, she also knew that her parents were less strict with their “you-must-study-everyday” rule on Fridays compared to other days. Her spur-of-the-moment plan was to go and borrow a few movies from Nancy and watch them over the weekend.
Nancy, who was three years older than Seni, had an enviable collection of books and movies. As an only child, she regularly got monetary gifts from her parents and relatives, and the money usually went towards a seemingly bottomless list of items she adored. At the top of that list were books and movies. She even had a DVD player in her room, something Seni plotted and planned to get as soon as she could save up enough money to buy one.
Even as she headed to Nancy’s house, she thought of that DVD player. Almost immediately, the picture of someone’s face appeared in her mind. The image was so repulsive that she hissed in disgust. That person was none other than Boye, her brother’s friend.
A year ago, after she had graduated from secondary school, and had returned home, Seni noticed Boye’s sudden interest in her. Sudden, yes. It was sudden because prior to this unwanted attention, and while she was still in secondary school, coming home only for holidays, Boye either ignored her or sent her on errands.
Perhaps, it was the change from seeing her for short periods of time, a few times a year, to seeing her for uninterrupted and extended periods that had caused Boye’s change of heart. Or maybe it was that she was now perpetually in mufti. But the more she thought about it, she ruled that out as a possible explanation.
“It has to be my body,” Seni finally concluded one day. That was the only thing about her that had really changed.
Being a late bloomer, she was still flat-chested and had the body of a pre-pubescent girl, as she got to her mid-teens. It was around that time that she had moved back home from school. But now, the one year she had spent at home, seemed to have set off a chain reaction in her body. It was like her body finally understood that it was time to catch up with her mind, that it was time to actually look more mature and not just sound that way.
Whatever it was, she had seen her body magically transform from boyish, boring, “ignored-by-boys” to curvy, hot and sexy. It was like she just woke up one day and BAM! She had a butt. Not just a regular, forgettable butt, but a well-rounded, “look-at-me-turn-around-and-look-at-me-again” butt, the kind that compliments a sepe sepe figure 8. Her chest also got the memo, and she finally discarded those awful bra-tops, replacing them with real bras.
“Sepe Sepe Figure Eight!” Boye had exclaimed one day, when he dropped by unannounced as usual. His eyes had danced all over her body and Seni was reminded of a fox staring at a chicken coop.
All those drumsticks …
She could swear she saw drool falling carelessly from his mouth too, but that was not easily verifiable from where she stood. It was that day that Seni finally understood that she was a woman. It was also the day she started to get very uncomfortable around Boye. But that was just the beginning.
Boye was just a year older than Dele, making him 23, and yet he was not enrolled at any university or polytechnic. Like Dele, and like Seni herself was experiencing first hand, he had failed JAMB year after year for 5 years. Boye had watched as younger and luckier students gained admission to universities all over the country, while he was stuck at home, getting older but not necessarily wiser. He lived just a few doors away from them in a neighborhood that was unapologetically middle class. The ongoing JAMB nightmare notwithstanding, Boye was a notorious womanizer, and most people in that neighborhood knew it.
Seni often wondered what women saw in Boye. After watching him closely for a while, she narrowed it down to one thing: charm. Boye was charming, well-mannered for the most part, average height, with passable looks. He was certainly not ugly, but he was also not strikingly handsome by any means. If Seni could have assessed him objectively, which she could not, she would have admitted that his lips received the most compliments. Not his face, not his eyes. Just those two red, sexy, and possibly very kissable lips.
When Seni happened to see him toasting girls, or as happened just as frequently, girls toasting him, that singular feature received the most compliments.
“Boye, Boye, fine boy, no pimples. So how many girls have you kissed?” she heard one girl say to him one afternoon when she went to buy soap from a nearby mallam.
“You mean today or since the day I was born?” Boye replied.
What a flirt! He was probably going to say something else, until he saw Seni. As soon as he saw her, he quickly changed the topic.
There had been countless times when she had overheard those types of conversations involving Boye and some girl, so she had made a mental note to avoid him. As yet, he had not made any move.
But that changed when she turned 17 and Boye really took notice. He started to look for excuses to visit their home more often, and he timed his visits to coincide with the hours of the day when he knew Dele, her brother, would be in school. Ironically, he would come and say he wanted to “hang out” with Dele, a 300 level student at the University of Lagos. On those occasions, after telling him that Dele was not at home, a fact he had verified from the obvious absence of Dele’s car in her parents’ compound, he would attempt to toast Seni. His attempts were laughable at best, but she knew that they worked on some girls or else he would have dropped those lines and picked up much better ones.
The lame pickup lines Boye kept rolling out convinced Seni that men assumed women had no sense at all. Maybe certain men …
Boye’s strategy might have worked on other girls, but Seni was far too shrewd to fall for him. She was tempted to report Boye’s wiles to her parents or even to Dele, but after Dele had told her to back off Veronica’s matter, she had consciously avoided him. Telling him about Boye would not go down well. Her parents nko? They would simply adopt a stricter approach and might even forbid her from visiting any friends. In short, if Seni spoke out, she would get blamed for Boye’s behavior, and the blame game would be played against her using comments like “your clothes are too tight” or worse yet “stop wearing trousers,” as if skirts and dresses offered women some kind of immunity against unwanted toasting. Men chase women, shikena!
Besides, as Seni reasoned, if she could not handle Boye here at home, how would she deal with the deluge of desperate guys who would target her once she started living on a university campus? Would she report all of them, one by one, to her parents and Dele?
“I must learnt to fight my own battles. The world will never be rid of unwanted male attention, men who don’t take “No” for an answer. I just have to learn to deal with it once and for all.”
And with that, Seni started plotting how she would stamp out this pest called Boye.
To tell the truth, the ideas that came to her mind at first were childish. One idea was to set him up and have her parents overhear the rubbish he was saying. She decided that that plan could backfire. Boye could simply change his strategy from harassing her at home, to way-laying her on the street, something she had been spared for the time being.
After much deliberation and self-consultation, she decided to turn his number one weakness against him: women. And Seni knew just what to do. The plan was to be executed the following Monday, which happened to be Boye’s birthday.
What’s that saying again about the best-laid plans? Seni was about to learn a valuable lesson.
Nancy was one of those talkative, self-absorbed girls whose character was a direct product of over-indulgent parents. Although she was older than Seni, the latter was far more mature than her. From the moment Seni entered the house, Nancy’s mouth was working at full speed.
“Oh baby! Ah, where did you get that top? I just love it! I saw a similar one in one kain catalogue like that that my cousin brought from jand. Speaking of which, did I tell you I’ll be janding soon?”
“For real?” Seni asked, trying to sound like she actually cared. She was on her knees, digging through a pile of DVDs jumbled together in a carton.
“Yes, for real. My father said these Naija schools are just full of crap. I mean, all the strikes and everything and–”
“Really? But you’ve attended only Naija schools all your life, so what does that make you? A product of crap?” Seni said, flinging Top Gun aside. She had seen that movie four times already, and this weekend was not a Top Gun kinda weekend.
“Oh, come on, Seni. You’re too serious. You know what I mean now. Anyway, I’m going to take my SATs or A-levels … Or is it O-levels? I don’t even know which one yet. I don’t know why they can’t just accept my WAEC results. These oyinbo people with all their shakara sef. I’m not sure I want to go–”
“You mean you haven’t decided where you’ll spend the next 4 or 5 years of your life? Na wa for you o.”
“As long as it’s not in this useless country sha. Even Ghana sounds good. I heard they have good schools there, even better than these Naija schools, and my cousin–”
“Oh Lord! Not another cousin!” Seni groaned under her breath.
“What was that? You better not be abusing me o, eh-hen,” said Nancy. “Haven’t you found a movie yet? You dis girl, you’re slow o!”
And with that Nancy shoved Seni out of the way and with alarming speed and admirable agility, pulled out three DVDs: Mission Impossible, Notting Hill and Gladiator. Seni was already mumbling something about not liking action movies that much, but Nancy dismissed her with a loud “Shut up and take them!”
“I should start charging you for all this borrow-borrow!” she added.
Seni smiled. The large collection of movies belonging to Nancy alone, some of which were stored in other rooms in the house, were enough to start a video club, but she knew it would never happen.
“Oya, gist me now … I’m sure you have gist,” Nancy demanded as she handed the movies to Seni.
“There’s no gist for now, but maybe by Tuesday sha. I’ll see you then.”
She was about to turn around and leave when Nancy blocked her exit.
“What is going to happen between now and Tuesday? You better talk o! In fact, I demand payment for these movies. You must pay me with gist.”
Without even waiting for Seni’s reply, whether it was a Yes or No, Nancy dragged Seni to her bed, made her sit on it, and she herself planted her butt in a chair facing Seni and waited.
For someone who was that talkative, Nancy became really quiet at the anticipation of gist. Seni knew she had no choice. She told Nancy details of Boye and his constant harassment.
“By harassment, you mean he’s trying to sleep with you?” Nancy asked.
“If only! He wants that and boyfriend rights,” Seni replied, punctuating her response with loud hissing.
“Is he crazy? He’s your brother’s friend now. He should be trying to protect you from other–”
“Predators? For where?! He’s too busy being one himself. A real fox among the chickens.”
“You got that right. With this your fly-away hair, you resemble real chicken…”
Seni picked up a pillow and flung it at Nancy, but she missed as Nancy quickly scuttled out of the way. The girl’s reflexes sha …
Resuming her position on the chair, Nancy continued in between bouts of guiltless laughter.
“But it’s true now. Who told you to go and cut your hair?” said Nancy.
“Ask me o! I told them to cut Anita Baker for me, and this is what they did to my hair,” Seni said referring to her hair, which looked more like glorified punk than a short, layered haircut.
“If I knew short hair was this difficult to maintain ehn, I wouldn’t have bothered. Which reminds me … when you go … in fact, if you go to emmm … B & U, that salon near UNILAG, don’t let that new girl touch your hair. You can see the monstrosity she has done on my head. I mean, how do you mess up Anita Baker?”
“Na your fault now. You should have told her to plait suku for you. She couldn’t possibly mess that up.”
“Me? Suku? God forbid. It’s on my list of blacklisted hairstyles. But it might fit villagers and market women like you!”
Now, it was Seni’s turn to dodge Nancy who did not bother looking for an object to haul at her friend. She just launched forward and pinched Seni’s arm. The howling and yelping that followed satisfied Nancy that her revenge was successful.
“Oya sorry now,” Seni pleaded, seeing Nancy about to launch another round of painful pinching. Seni was sure that a second pinch would leave a scar on her arm. She silently thanked God that Nancy was not her mother. This was what Nancy’s children could look forward to.
Nancy accepted Seni’s impromptu apology and settled down to hear the rest of Seni’s gist. At the end, Seni told Nancy of her plan to crash Boye’s birthday and embarrass him there. Nancy laughed at the vagueness of Seni’s plan and declared that it was not even a plan.
“For someone who likes girls that much, it might be a huge turn on sef. Omo, you’re just wasting your time. I think you should tell your brother and parents and fashi all this Miss Independent nonsense,” Nancy advised.
“Tell my mum, you mean. You know I can’t be telling my father about boys. That’s just asking for trouble. If it has nothing to do with me passing this JAMB, he doesn’t even want to hear it. Plus he’s always away on some business trip. Anyway, I think you’re right about telling mummy and Dele, but I’m not sure it will work.”
“Well, if at first you don’t succeed–” Nancy began.
“–Hire thugs to finish the job?” Seni asked beaming with mischief.
“Nope! You already know the answer jare.”
The sound of a car horn blaring, followed by the sound of the metal gates swinging open, announced the arrival of one or both of Nancy’s parents.
“Oh, mummy is back!” Nancy squealed, abandoning her visitor and bounding down the stairs with the carefreeness of a puppy. Seni took that as her cue to leave. She greeted Nancy’s mother on the way out and declined her request to stay and eat something. She needed to get home quickly was the excuse she gave the woman, and with that she hurried home. Nancy’s advice weighed heavily on her mind all the way home.
Seni made it home before it got dark, but did not escape her mother scolding her for “branching” on her way back from lesson. Telling her that she only went to visit Nancy did not help matters. Her mother gave her a long lecture on how if she hung out with people who had actually passed JAMB, she might get lucky and pass it herself. Of course, her mother’s fears stemmed from the fact that Dele had been stuck at home for a few years, trying to pass the same exam, before he got admitted to the university. Seni believed that her own case was different, but thought it was wise to keep her optimism to herself.
“Actions speak louder than words,” she reasoned. “They’ll take me seriously when I produce results not just talk about producing results.”
That weekend, Dele did not come home. He spent the weekend squatting with a friend on campus to study for an upcoming exam. It was not till the following Monday that she saw him again.
– to be continued –