I attend the church on Sunday morning as I normally do and sit at the back because I got there late. The fun at the Erin Ijesa was just what I needed to lift off some of my burdens. Steve and Toro quarrel throughout the fun trip and for the first night in a week, I sleep without the x-rated vocals. Though I suspect I heard some in the early morning.
When it was just Toro and me, we attended the local Pentecostal assembly together but with a new lover who cares nothing about God or decorum, Toro has stayed back.
The pastor mercifully preached about something else, and not sin. I enjoy the service, but guilt embedded inside force me to go in search of Ajao.
In the spirit of reconciliation, I buy a loaf of bread and some biscuits, and a bottle of coke. This should appease the hot-headed stoner.
Most of the huts in the village are made of mud. A few are plastered with cement, and painted, like Mr. Akande’s house. Bisi’s house however has old mud bricks and thatched roof almost falling off and they live in the inter part of the village where the poorer people live. Bisi is under a huge guava tree, bent over her math textbook.
For a moment, I just study her while she’s oblivious of my presence. Her long dark hair falls over her bent face.
I lose my voice for a second. How she affects me. “Bisi?”
She jumps up. “Tisha. Good afternoon, sir.”
“Good afternoon. Did you go to church?”
“Yes sir. We go to Catholic.”
“Okay.” I look around. How do I ask for Ajao? What’s the point of reference? I don’t know any other members of her family. Wish I did.
I shove my hands in my pocket. She stares at me, wondering what I want, I guess.
“Can I sit?”
This girl will kill me with her beautiful eyes. Her lips part, and I have to look away.
She scoots and gives me space on the ground. I smile at her, appalled at how sweaty my palms feel, and dry my throat is, and heavy my heart beats.
“You live alone?” I chuckle. “With your parents, I mean.”
“Yes sir. Ah, no, sir.”
Good. She’s nervous too. Of course I doubt it’s for my reason. “Okay, yes you have a brother.”
“Ajao. And my sister, Bimpe, and my other sister, Titilola.”
“Ajao is your only brother?”
“No. I have big brother in Ife. He’s mechanic. Dauda.”
“Okay. So where are your other siblings? I see only you and Ajao in school.”
“Bimpe and Titilola small. They are primary school.”
“They’re in primary school.” I smile at her. I’m in love with her. No doubt about that. She nods. I know she won’t make the mistake again. She’s so hungry for knowledge.
A loud female calls from behind the hut. “Bisi!”
“Ma!” She stands. “My mother. Calling me.”
“Okay. Greet her for me.”
“Yes sir.” She runs into the hut.
I pick up her math textbook and look at it. Since Kenny came, he’s taken over teaching the senior classes so Toro now teaches the junior ones alone.
Bisi’s notebook is very neat. The lessons Toro marked are full of corrections but I notice a change from Kenny’s teaching and marking. Bisi has improved.
My silly mind tells me there’s rivalry between Toro and Bisi. So silly. I sigh and rest my back against the tree for a while. If only things were different. If only she was Toro, or someone else, not my student. I’ll be drooling after her all over the place. The thought brings a lazy smile to my lips. Ah Abbey Ilori, in love with a village girl. A proper Lagos city boy. I still can’t believe it.
I remember what brought me, and I stand up. If Ajao sees me here, he will feel angry. I would too.
I walk back to the road, looking left and right. I have no idea where Ajao is. But I don’t want to leave the bag of peace offering I brought for him with Bisi. That will be suspicious. I am tempted to give the bag to Bisi but on what basis. I can’t have an affair with her. I dare not, much as my body yearns for it.
I decide to pass by the stream, maybe I’ll see Ajao. Two boys run into me, and the nylon bag tears, and the bread falls.
“Don’t you look where you’re going?” I curse. “Useless boys.”
“Ah, Tisha. Is you?”
I look at the face of the one who spoke. It’s the speaker of the three who assaulted me. I swallow and move forward quickly. He laughs at me and his friend joins in. I will find out who he is. I want to find Ajao first, and now more than before. If the boy is my friend, we kill two birds with a stone. He’ll keep my secret and help identify this insolent boy. I know he’s not in any of my English classes so he’s probably not in school but he’s an indigene of this village.
Close to the stream, I hear a sound of the water in a funny way and walk over to check. Ajao stands a little off the banks and throws stones into the stream, his small bag of stones hung around his neck.
I walk over. He turns at my approach.
“Tisha, hope nothing again o.”
It is a war cry in my ears. I put on my best charm. Time to win a soul.