Originally published on Smashwords, Toasting Her is the story of David Njoku, a shy and studious 20-year old, who believes he has found the girl of his dreams. The only problem is that he has never actually spoken to her. To complicate matters, David learns that she might be embroiled in a nasty scandal on campus. Will he overcome his shyness and pursue the girl he has fallen in love with?
I will be sharing the entire story in parts here on Tuesdays. To kick things off, here’s Part 1. Enjoy!
Mama Ruka’s canteen was packed as usual that Thursday morning. It was a well-known fact that if a person made the mistake of coming after 10:30 am to buy food at her stall, he or she would have to wait for close to an hour to even get inside. An incredibly long queue would have formed outside her stall, and this was the lunch crowd. The dinner queue was far longer, more boisterous.
Funny enough, Mama Ruka did not serve breakfast.
On a regular day, the queue would start piling up before 10:00 am, and one wondered if the people on the queue had jobs, seeing as they were trying to buy lunch so early in the day. No one asked the other, so they just speculated.
The long wait time notwithstanding, people came from as far away as Ajah to buy food from Mama Ruka’s canteen in Akoka. The student body as well as faculty members of the University of Lagos formed the core of her clientele, which was expected: her canteen was located on their campus.
David Njoku, a 200 level Mathematics student at UNILAG was familiar with the peculiarities of Mama Ruka’s canteen. He was what one would describe as a frequenter as opposed to a regular. As a frequenter, he visited the canteen 3 – 4 times a week, usually for lunch. The regulars came in more than 10 times a week, excluding weekends.
Being the savvy businesswoman she was, Mama Ruka, a jovial, well-proportioned woman in her early 40s, made sure she was familiar with her customers’ tastes, whether they were regulars or frequenters or first-timers.
In the midst of the chaos that raged within the stall, she still found time to greet each customer warmly, inquire about their day, their families, and launch into animated and exciting discussions on topics selected from an assorted list: the hot weather, neighbors’ pussy cats, the price of petrol, Boko Haram, inflation and occasionally, adultery. In short, they talked about everything under the sun. Or at least, under the Nigerian sun.
Adultery was not on David’s mind that morning. Having just returned from a painfully boring lecture, his mind was blank. But by the time he joined the queue around 10:48am, he got an earful of gist that should have been labelled “for mature audiences only.” As could be expected, the queue had formed in front of Mama Ruka’s stall and it was growing longer every minute.
There were at least twenty people ahead of David on the queue. Of that number, two men who were directly in front of him provided a little entertainment while he waited in line. From their shabby appearance, he surmised that they were non-teaching staff members or more specifically, “errand boys” attached to a particular department or faculty on campus.
They were engrossed in an intense conversation that was so loud that David was sure the next 10 people in line would have no trouble following their gist. The decidedly savory parts of the conversation were prefaced and punctuated by wild gesticulations that were just as interesting to watch as it was to listen to the content of their discussion.
“The lecturer don off im cloth o. As im wan knack de girl, na so those cult boys break the door–” said the man in the blue shirt and brown trousers.
“Ewooooo! Why dem no lock de door now? Which kain rubbish be dat? Person wey go dey do dat kain tin suppose get key to lock door,” his friend in the green and yellow ankara shirt and trousers observed, as if there was a training manual for committing adultery, which the lecturer had failed to read. His friend hissed and continued.
“Siddon dere, dey yarn say im no lock door. Na responsible man be dis? If to say he dey consider wetin he dey do well well, he suppose do am for im office?”
“Wait o. Na wetin you come dey talk? Say e for better make dem go hotel?”
At this point, the man in the blue shirt who was telling the story to his friend got slightly annoyed with his friend’s hotel suggestion. But, he quickly forgave him and completed his story.
From what this man heard, the night before, a lecturer had been caught literally with his pants down in his office with a female student. After weeks of threatening to give her a failing grade for his class if she did not give in to his lustful advances, she finally gave in. The class was one she needed to pass to graduate, and the lecherous lecturer was the only one who taught it.
Unknown to him, her cousin was a member of one of the deadliest secret cults on campus. Up to that time, she had kept this man’s threats away from her cousin’s ears. But seeing herself in a tight fix, and after hearing rumors that another female student had given this same lecturer Herpes, she decided it was time to bring her cousin into the picture.
Knowing the reputation of that particular cult, she made it clear that she did not want the lecturer killed. She just wanted him to learn a painful lesson. Her cousin had told her that he could not make any promises, but he was certain the lecturer would change his ways after they had finished with him.
On the night the lecturer had picked, the girl’s cousin and his friends – five men altogether – waited for the lecturer to go to his office in the company of his supposed victim. Then, they waited outside his door waiting for the girl’s signal. It was the word “oya.”
As soon as she gave the signal, they burst into his office, cameras and camcorders recording his irreversible moment of shame. Of course, the lecturer knew it was all over at that point, and began to plead for his life. But the cultists ignored his last-minute repentance and beat him within an inch of his life. According to the man recounting the story, the cultists actually thought they had killed him.
But the man miraculously survived.
“E no go try dat kain tin again, lai lai!” the storyteller exclaimed.
His friend was not so optimistic.
“Some people no dey learn their lesson quick quick like dat. He fit try am again,” the other man observed.
David hissed inwardly. He wished his lecture had ended earlier. That way, he would have arrived here before the dreaded queue formed and would not have to listen to this silly story.
Lecturers and students.
Was there anything new under the sun? His stomach growled in response. The answer was a plain “No.”
Inasmuch as he would much rather have listened to someone recount the details of the Manchester versus Chelsea match he had missed the week before, there was something in their conversation that had piqued his attention: the name of the girl at the center of the whole drama. Her name was Sade.
– to be continued –