Ajao insists I follow him home with the roast bird, sure his mother would want to appreciate me. I find nothing wrong in that and silently pray Bisi will be in front of the house. Seeing her in school has gradually become not enough. I am approaching a fevered pitch, and each day seem more difficult than the last.
It’s been a month since I was flogged at the stream and nothing has been heard from the state department concerning Toro’s application. I’m not sure she wants to leave now, anyway.
Bisi is not in front of her hut, and my stomach sinks with disappointment. Lately, I dream of her waking up beside me. I see my hands comb through her curly locks. I see us in the stream, swimming naked.
“Good evening, Maami.”
Ajao’s voice tears me out of my mind-roam. He rises from where he prostrated to greet his mother.
I bend slightly as is the culture. “Good evening, Ma.”
Bisi’s mother’s accent is worse than her daughter’s. “Tisha, welcome o. Ajao, you brought Tisha to our house?”
“He killed this big hawk, Maami. And we roasted it together. And he now said I should take all of it.”
“Ah, Tisha.” The older woman goes on her knees.
I rush to catch her. “Ma, please. This is nothing. I don’t cook so it will just get bad.”
“You don’t cook? Then Bisi can come and help you to cook.”
I swallow at the prospect. “Ah no ma. Bisi should face her studies.”
“Ah, Tisha. This is too much.” She looks at Ajao. “Let me see the bird.”
Ajao unwraps the old newspaper with the bird inside. “See Maami. It’s a big bird.”
“Ah Tisha! Ah thank you, God bless you.” She laughs. “Take it inside.” She turns toward the entrance of the hut. “Bisi! Bring the bunch of bananas I cut at the back this morning.”
Ajao runs inside with the roasted bird.
I know the banana is for me, and I long to see Bisi. Still. “Let me take my leave, ma.”
“Ah Tisha, wait please.” She stands from the low bench from where she’d been shelling melon seeds. “Bisi!”
She has a considerable backside, which I notice Bisi is already developing. Someone once said you should look at your girlfriend’s mother to know how your girl will look at that age. It doesn’t always work, but in this case, I think it will. I hope it will.
Bisi comes out with a bunch of ripe bananas.
Her mother sighs. “Aha, take it and follow Tisha.”
“Ma, thank you very much. Bisi doesn’t have to follow me.”
“No, let her carry it behind you.”
Has the older woman sensed my heart’s greatest desire? I bow, thank her again, and get on the way. Eager to be alone with Bisi.
She walks behind, which makes it impossible to converse. I don’t want to be forward but really, I think I will have to let her know my feelings. It will scare the daylight out of her. Or maybe not.
When we get to the border of the school premises, I slow down. I don’t want her near my room. The others would not understand especially after Toro’s few insinuating comments to me about her.
“I think you should go back from here, thank you,” I shove my hands in my pocket.
“Okay sir.” She hesitates because I make no move to collect the bananas from her.
“I think your spoken English has improved.” I smile. “Though you’ve still not mastered ‘ch’ I wonder why?”
Bisi shrugs and looks down.
My hand moves without my permission and I tilt her chin up. “Don’t be shy with me, Bisi.”
Her beautiful eyes widen. Her skin is as soft under my touch as I imagined it to be. I rub my thumb over her jaw despite the warning alarm in my brain. I could lose all six months of practical work if the department finds out I am in a relationship with any of my students but this moment is too good to pass up.
It is semi-dark, and quiet, and anyone who would recognize us would have to come close.
“I will teach you, Bisi.” My thumb touches her lower lip. “I can teach you many things.” I continue to stroke her. “I’m sorry I beat you that day.”
My voice is hitched in my throat. O God, help me walk away from here.
“I have to go back, sir,” she says with a small voice.
It is louder than the early morning alarm in my ears. I take an uncertain step back. “You should.” But I still don’t take the bananas from her. I’m angry I have to leave her. Angry she has to be my student at this time, untouchable, unreachable.
She holds out the bananas to me. “Take sir.”
I take the bananas and to my shock, Bisi turns and runs. I feel ashamed. I can only imagine the extent of the fear I read in her eyes when I caressed her chin. What must she be thinking?
I turn and walk slowly to my room. I imagine I will spend a long time under a cold shower tonight.