I’m in the middle of reading and dozing when Toro knocks on my door, and enters. I fold the page on my John Grisham novel and sit up. Most evenings I read, and I like to be alone but she’s my neighbour, and she’s been a lot of help to me, I must confess. She cooks and shares with me.
The principal of Abagboro High School gives accommodation to student teachers on the school premises, which is great. It’s quiet and lonely after school hours but I like it. The accommodation is not much but far better than what we’d have gotten if we rent in the village.
Here at least, each room is en-suite, and there’s a little kitchenette for cooking. Mine is dry and dusty. My bathroom has a shower and toilet shank and nothing more. I am still grateful. It’s better than what I had in Lagos, in some way. A government grant had been used to build the accommodation, which is about the most modern building in the village.
Two blocks were built and some teachers live in one block. Our block has four rooms but only mine and Toro’s are currently occupied.
Toro sits on the edge of my bed pushed against the wall in the small room. She tries to be friendly but I’ve never had close girl friends. She smiles and takes the John Grisham from me.
“What are you reading?”
I shrug. “A time to kill.”
She gasps and draws herself closer. “I watched the movie. The black man who killed two white boys for raping—”
“Hey don’t tell me, I just started it.”
She laughs. “Sorry. It’s a good read. You’ll like it.”
I smile. “I like it already.”
“I could do with a good book right now. It’s so boring in this village. I hate it.” She stretches and relaxes against my wall, which looked so awkward because now she is more in the bed than me.
I stand. I’m not all that comfortable around women. At twenty-one, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to get women’s attention but I’m not interested. I’m more into my work, and my family. Raised by a single mother, my sister and I have always had it drilled into our heads to focus on education and career, first.
I walk to my single wardrobe and open it. “I have another Grisham here. The Chamber.”
“I’ve read it.”
I squat in front of my rucksack full of novels. “Let me see. Do you read Baldacci?”
I hear the groan of my spring bed, and sense she has moved only a second before she crouches behind me. I feel her at once. All of her softness engulf me. If I straighten, I’ll push her away and I don’t like the sound of that.
“No, you don’t or no you haven’t.”
Her hand rests on my hip. “No, I haven’t. What’s it like?”
Her pointed chin rests on my shoulder. “Like Grisham I guess. Here.” I need to stand. Without being cheeky, she adds pressure on my back. I have to get Toro out of my room. She’s a beautiful woman. Fair-skinned as well, and slender, curvy. She wears her hair in a stylish funk around her oblong face. Her best attributes are her bosom. Much as I hate to admit it to myself.
She presses that amazing part of her anatomy on my back. I ease up, taking her with me.
“Here, you’ll like this one.”
“First Family. Hmm.” She moves away, taking her musky scent with her. “What’s it about?”
I choose not to join her on my bed. I lean against the wardrobe. “Read it. Hey, if I tell you why would you want to read?”
She laughs. “Makes sense.” She sighs. “Have you had any dinner?”
“Left over from yesterday. Then I marked the scripts for my students’ exams.”
“That yellow girl who came to the staff room with you.” She purses her full lips. “What did she want?”
I shrug. “She—” Suddenly I’m unable to say what I did. More for Bisi’s sake. I don’t want Toro to see her as a cheat. “Nothing really. Can I remember? These girls come to ask all sorts of funny questions all the time.”
“Hmm. Just be careful. I hate these village girls. They are so rotten. You’ll be shocked.”
I can still feel Toro’s imprint on my back. So who’s rotten? “I don’t bother myself with them.”
“Just be careful. Especially that one. And that village head’s daughter. You’ll be shocked what I hear about them.”
I didn’t want to know. “I will be.” I scratch my head. “So what did you have for dinner?”
“I’ve not eaten. Thought we’ll eat together.”
“Well, I’m hungry.” She stands. “I may come back with my food if this novel doesn’t hook me.”
I smile. “Fine. I’m not getting to sleep for another two hours or so.”
She checks her mobile phone. “Ah, two hours. This is almost eight. I should be asleep if the book—”
“Doesn’t hook you. It will.”
She waves and leaves. I heave a heavy sigh. Toro’s been giving off all these signals since the first day we met a month ago but pressing herself on me like that? A bad sign.
I’d better get my act together and let her know her place.