5. Storm Over Paradise
The following morning I got up quite early still thinking of how best to apologise over the previous day’s incident. So I decided a call would be the best way to clear the air. Sonia must have been still in bed because she sounded groggy.
“Hello, sorry to wake you so early. Are you still in bed?” I asked, trying to sound apologetic.
“Yea, am still in bed. It’s ok though. Might as well get up because it’s time.”
“Okay, just wanted to apologize verbally for yesterday’s gaffe.”
“Aaaw! Told you its no big deal. Or is it?” She teased.
“No no. Of course not.” I stumbled.
“Yes, sure. So what’s your plan for the day?” I tried to change the topic.
“Nothing major, my finals are around the corner, so am preparing for them. Lots of reading and consultation to do. How about you?” She asked.
“Coincidentally, we also got CATs coming up in a few days.”
“Is that right? Raj doesn’t seem bothered at all.”
“Probably because he does lots of reading at school.” I said defensively.
“You are covering up for him. I know so don’t try to deny it.” She teased.
“Whatever you say, gotta go now. Was nice talking to you Sonia”.
“Okay. Nice talking to you too. Bye bye Edwin and do have a lovely day” She signed off.
After a light breakfast, it is always light anyway, I packed a few books and headed to class. The exam mood seemed to have engulfed everyone and guys were huddled in groups, some discussing while some were busy updating their notes. Raj wasn’t odd from the rest because he came in all serious, exchanged a few pleasantries and retreated into his own academic cocoon. Afternoon came and we both decided to call it a day. I left for the hostels while Raj went to town to run some errands for his father. I would have joined him but I wasn’t in the mood.
Once in the hostels, I had a quick shower and decided to reward myself with a short power nap (after all the studying). Half an hour later, I woke up to Christine’s text:
“Hey, come downstairs…nice movie coming up.” Her company was welcome anytime so I lumbered downstairs and plumped myself next to her in the T.V. room. To my dismay, the ‘nice’ movie turned out to be one of those stereotypical Nollywood affairs where old actors take the role of school children and lots of witchcraft is involved. I didn’t even pretend to like it so I whipped out my phone and checked out some Whatsapp messages that had come in a moment back. Coincidentally, Sonia’s text came in instantaneously.
“Plans for the afternoon handsome?” Read the text. The ‘handsome’ part of it surprised me a bit.
“Just chillin’ beautiful one” I jumped right into the flirty mood.
“Am done with the day’s chores, mind if I drop by…I hope you are at the hostels.” She inquired.
‘Now this is tricky’ I thought to myself.
“Yea, am in the hostels and no, of course I don’t mind.” Went my reply.
“Okay, be there in a few.” She texted back.
I realized she had changed her profile photo so I tapped it to zoom and ogle better. She had taken the selfie from an elevated angle. Her pouty lips plus the slightly bent head only enhanced her attractiveness. The photo stoked up a desire to see more of her photos. Naturally, her Facebook profile became my destination-and it didn’t disappoint. She had inundated it with lots of them, mostly taken in their sprawling lawns, magnificent house , and a few at school.
Something funny must have taken place in the movie because Christine broke into hysterical laughter and turned to me, perhaps expecting I was amused too. It is then that she realized my attention was fixated on the phone. The elation on her visage slowly faded as she immediately leaned over and tried to reach over the phone. I instantly hit the home button to minimize everything but she had noticed the photos with her hawk-eyed glance.
“Who is that? Let me have a look.” She commanded.
I tried to put the phone away but she had already yanked it from my hands.
“It’s no one…er…actually she’s my friend Raj’s sister.” I answered defensively.
“And what business have you going through her photos?” She shot, cursorily looking at them and gazing at me contemptuously.
“Ummm…I was looking for a photo Raj, her and I took a while back.” I tried to defend myself but she was not convinced.
As if the heavens had conspired against me, Sonia’s Whatsapp message came in. Christine must have read it in the notification bar because she stood up, threw the phone at me and walked away quickly.
“Am at the gate.” The message read.
I stood up, a little confused on whether to go after Christine, or go meet Sonia. I assumed Christine had gone to the girls’ section so I sauntered towards the gate to meet Sonia. She was there indeed, looking regal in a purple sari, a red handbag, and pink ornamented flip flops. I was about to extend my hand to greet her but she had already opened her arms for a hug. I readily engulfed her dainty body in a delicate hug, taking care not to squeeze her too tight. I saw Christine at the far end as I was extricating myself from this surprise embrace. She had a pained expression and quickly looked away when our eyes met. I hesitated a bit but Sonia had already started on the flight of stairs.
“Are you gonna stand there or see me to your room?” She joked.
“Oh, sorry.” I quickly followed her up and opened the door.
Thankfully, almost everything was in order, save for ruffled bedding in all beds. She plopped herself on Rashid’s bed-it was nearest to the door-and exhaled as if she had run a marathon.
“So how’s everything, nice to see you after so long.” I tried to act at ease.
“Fine fine” she replied nodding. “Lots of revision obviously, but everything is fine.” Indeed she looked fine-and happy too.
“How about you? You look ill-at-ease.” She took me by surprise.
“Ah, really? Am fine actually.”
“If you say so. I brought back the novel.” She said reaching for her handbag.
“It’s really captivating but left me in some serious suspense.” She added, handing it over.
“You’re a quick reader.” I noted as I took it and placed it on the reading table.
“Mind some coffee?” I asked as I reached for the rusty water heater.
“Yea, I do mind. Coincidentally I just had some before coming here.”
“Just a cup.” I cajoled
“No, am okay. Really.” She persisted.
“If you say so.” I said as I dejectedly put it back into cupboard.
“I got something for you though.” She said, handing me a Nakumatt shopping paper bag she had fished from her handbag.
“What is it?” I asked, surprised.
“Open it.” She quipped with a mischievous grin.
I opened it up and there was a box of caramel chocolate, the size of a shoe box.
“Goodness! You shouldn’t have!” I exclaimed, my eyes almost popping out.
Chocolate is a favorite so I tore the box open and threw a piece into my already salivating mouth.
“Mmmm…this is really good.” I said savoring the sweetness. I extended the box to her but she stood up shaking her head from side to side.
“No, it’s yours and yours alone.” She said pushing it back to me. “Am sorry but I’ve got to go now. I texted dad that am on my way home…he’ll start calling any time now. She added making for the door.
I shrugged and followed her out. I saw her to the gate, expressed my gratitude and hugged her goodbye, naturally this time.
Christine was still at the entrance to the girls’ section. Our eyes met but she turned around and immediately disappeared into the corridor. I felt bad about how hurt she looked and felt I needed to explain that Sonia and I were just a good friends.
I tried to call but she would not pick up, so I decided to text.
“Please pickup, we need to talk.”
“There’s nothing to talk about, am not you plaything.” She shot back almost instantaneously.
“Calm down, she isn’t my lover.” I tried to console her.
We texted back and forth until I ran out of my subscription of text messages and airtime. Yet, she only seemed to get more vexed. I had no choice but to let the matter rest until we met again.