Onyinye waited for Stanley in the middle of the Quadrangle of the Faculty of Engineering. She had only waited for ten minutes but she promised herself that if he failed to show up in the next five minutes, she would leave.
Stanley came earlier than that, and when he appeared around the bend that led to one of the laboratories in the faculty, he was sporting a smile that was only outshined by the bright yellow of his T-shirt. Onyinye refused to acknowledge the light fluttering in her chest. She was still angry with him for drugging her drink and only agreed to meet him because her phone would not stop ringing with his calls.
â€œHi, so I am here, what?â€ she said, her tone clipped and business-like when he reached her.
A couple of watts dropped from Stanleyâ€™s smile.
â€œDonâ€™t tell me you are still angry with me after everything I have said?â€
â€œI am not angry,â€ Onyinye said but her tone belied her words.
Stanley sighed and then looked back to scan the quadrangle for a more secluded spot to continue their conversation. It was three oâ€™ clock. Students loitered about the quadrangle, standing in groups and discussing loudly among themselves.
â€œLook, there is no way to talk here,â€ Stanley said, turning back to Onyinye. â€œLetâ€™s find somewhere, maybe the Lagoon front.â€
Onyinye shook her head.
â€œNo o, thank you, so that you will go and drug me again abi? I am fine here.â€
â€œWhy are you still bringing that up now?â€ Stanley asked, his upper body slumping in defeat as if weighed down by the reminder of the drugging incident. â€œI have told you sorry now.â€
Onyinye shrugged. â€œOnce bitten, twice shy, you canâ€™t expect me to trust you again just like that.â€
Stanley sighed again.
He watched Onyinyeâ€™s face for some seconds, and then deciding that he saw nothing there to suggest that he repelled her, he switched the books in his left hand to the right one before reaching cautiously for her left hand. He waited. She did not resist like the other time. He was relieved.
â€œCan we go now?â€
Onyinye tried to remain aloof.
â€œI saidâ€¦.Lagoon Front.â€
They left the Faculty of Engineering together and began to walk to the Lagoon Front. They were a few meters away when three boys stepped into their path, their faces grim and unsmiling. Stanley released Onyinyeâ€™s hand and nodded at the boys. The boys nodded back.
â€œLetâ€™s see,â€ the stocky, dark complexioned one of the three said, the words escaping thin lips that barely moved.
Stanley turned to Onyinye.
â€œI am coming.â€
Onyinye hugged her bag to her side as Stanley and the silent three walked a few steps away. Onyinye noticed something odd as she watched the foursome confer among themselves. It was their shirts. They were all wearing yellow.
It was evening. The activities on campus had wound down considerably with only a trickle of students hanging around faculty buildings. The sun had long retired behind gray clouds and darkness promised the pair of lovers trying to fit into the niches on the walls of the campus buildings the cover they craved. Eno was sitting on one of the concrete slabs in the garden located between Senate building and the Faculty of Arts when she saw a familiar face. It was the new girl that had moved to the room beside her room. Her name was Joy and her love for high fashion had earned her quite a reputation among the girls at their hostel.
It was whispered among the busybodies at the hostel that Joy was a runs girl who never spent a day in class even though she was a student of the department of History. It was also said that her sophistication was borrowed and that under the faÃ§ade of aristocratic mannerisms was a rough personality whose childhood was spent in gutter ridden streets of Mushin. Eno dismissed the stories. It was hard to imagine that the oval faced, smooth skinned Joy with her breathy small voice and whiter than white eyes was raised by anyone but rich influential parents. She liked Joy without knowing why and today as Joy walked towards her, iPhone in hand and dressed in a green roll sleeve T-shirt and black skinny jeans that showed off her perfect figure, she decided that she and Joy would be friends.
Joy must have recognized her too because she smiled as she took the space beside Eno.
Eno smiled and nodded at her.
They spent some time staring at the occasional passerby until Joy turned to her again.
â€œYou are Eno right?â€
Eno was surprised but in a pleasant way. Who would have thought that one of the most popular girls in her hostel knew her name?
â€œHow did you know?â€
Joy shrugged, her smile turning mysterious.
â€œI just know.â€
They said nothing after that and then Joy received a call. She waved Eno goodbye and walked off in the opposite direction. Eno was still smiling long after Joy had left. She had a new friend.
Onyinye was trying to confide in Eno about Stanley and the trio that had accosted them on their way to the Lagoon Front when loud voices outside their room door distracted them. They scrambled from their beds and sought the reason for the noise. They found a group of girls standing outside the passage when they poked their heads through their door. The conversation was morbid and painted frightening pictures.
â€œSo they found her body?â€
â€œThey cut off her head.â€
â€œAnd her tongue.â€
â€œI heard they removed her breasts too.â€
â€œSo that means she is dead?â€
â€œIru Ibere osi wo ni eleyi nâ€™ beree? No, she is alive. Donâ€™t you know people can walk around without their heads? See question.â€
Eno and Onyinye joined the crowd, but no sooner had they joined the circle did the girls begin to drift away from the spot they had been standing. The two roommates returned to their room wondering who the unfortunate girl had been. They stopped wondering when Pero returned from lectures.
â€œDid you hear?â€ she said, dropping her bag and two bulky text books on her bed. â€œDid you hear about the Folake girl in Yemisiâ€™s room?â€
Pero told Eno and Onyinye the story she had picked from the porters downstairs, of how Folake, an I.D carrying non-Unilag student had gone out with a friend for a private party organized by a business man in Ogun State. Their bodies had been dumped on the road the following day and they had been missing some parts.
â€œI heard that it was through their I.D cards that they recognized them.â€
The girls continued discussing Folakeâ€™s unfortunate end when a knock sounded on the door. They all jumped in fright. The conversation about death and headless bodies had taken its toll on them and amplified their sense of fear. Recovering from their fright, they exchanged looks of amusement before Eno left her bed and walked to answer the door. Their evening caller was Joy and she appeared nervous in her pink satin nightdress and a face full of make up as she stood before Eno.
Eno smiled, stepped back and opened the door wider.
Joy shook her head, curls of her short dark blonde weave bouncing around her face.
â€œNo, I am fine here. Can I see you for a minute?â€
Eno pulled the door shut and followed Joy out into the corridor.
â€œAre you free this evening?â€
Eno wasnâ€™t thinking when she nodded her head. Her mind had gone temporarily blank. She was more preoccupied with finding out where the conversation was leading to than paying attention to the answers she was giving.
â€œGreat,â€ Joy said, her eyes twinkling with delight. â€œThank God.â€
The door of the room at the end of the corridor opened and two girls emerged. The latest corridor occupants leaned against one of the walls of the corridors and settled in quiet gossip. Their presence seemed to disturb Joy who stole a furtive glance at them and then grabbed Eno by the hand.
â€œLetâ€™s go to my room.â€
They went to Joyâ€™s room. Eno was impressed by the clean, elegant room with three single beds and a beautiful white wall paper with butterfly designs covered the wall. Gold embroidered sheer curtains hung from the windows and while the floor was beautified by a mint green rug. Joy led Eno to the bed with a flat screen LG television sitting on a cupboard beside it.
â€œWill you like to go out with me?â€
â€œGo out with you?â€
Eno was stupefied. She shook her head.
â€œI donâ€™t understand.â€
Joy laughed in her breathy likable voice.
â€œDonâ€™t be scared. It is just a small meet up. I want you to meet someone.â€
Eno wasnâ€™t sure what answer to give Joy. As much as she liked the girl sitting beside her, the idea of going out with Joy made her uncomfortable. She played with her nails and tried to weigh her options.
What would her roommates think if she went out with Joy?
What if it was just a normal party, not like the s3x party Pero had gone?
What if the rumours were true and Joy was really a runs girl?
â€œPlease,â€ Joy said, shifting closer to Eno and taking one of her hands. â€œYou are the only one I could think of for this party. You wonâ€™t regret it, I promise.â€
The desperation in Joyâ€™s voice made Eno forget her concerns. She began to ask questions about the party. Joy answered them all.
The party was a small one and would be attended only by four people â€“ Joyâ€™s boyfriend Lekan, his best friend Funsho who had just come from London and the two of them.
The venue of the party was Lekanâ€™s living room.
Lekan lived in Gbagada.
They were sleeping over at Lekanâ€™s place.
â€œWait,â€ Eno said, raising a finger up when she heard the last answer. She entertained reservations again. â€œErmâ€¦I am not too sure. I donâ€™t think I want to spend the night at your boyfriendâ€™s place.â€
Joy smiled in understanding and then gave her right thigh a light squeeze.
â€œDonâ€™t worry. You wonâ€™t have to do anything.â€
Eno went back to her room where her curious roommates were waiting. She told them everything. Pero shrugged,
â€œIt is a small party. At least, it is not runs.â€
Onyinye had a different opinion.
â€œWhat?! It is still runs. What are you going to be doing with a guy you just met? Why do you people like taking risks like this? After hearing what happened to Folake, you still want to go and meet strangers. See, Eno just tell her no.â€
Eno remembered the look of excitement on Joyâ€™s face after she had agreed to go with her to her boyfriendâ€™s place and shook her head.
She pulled her half full bucket of water from under her bed and went to the bathroom for a quick bath. Joy came for her after an hour. Eno left her room wearing a deep blue sleeveless zip front top that Onyinye could not stop criticizing for the way it exposed a sizeable amount of her cleavage and a black denim leggings. She completed the look with a blue and white mesh chain stacked stretch bracelet. Preferring understated fashion in her blue jeans cut offs and a plain T-shirt, Joy complimented Enoâ€™s looks.
â€œYou are so pretty. Funsho is going to like you.â€
The gathering wasnâ€™t a party in the conventional sense of the word, but Eno was expecting that. What she tried to get used to, was the very public show of affection between Joy and her boyfriend Lekan. The two had been glued to each other since she and Joy made their entrance. They were currently entangled in the sofa across Enoâ€™s own, lips locked in a passionate kiss. Eno sat woodenly, doing her best to ignore the lip feasting going on a few feet away. There was another problem â€“ the man at the other side of the living room, still except for the slight movement of his body every now and then. He was handsome with a clean cut profile and a conservative air that made it difficult to relate with him. After a very formal introduction, he had said little else, preferring to sit in the shadows and watch her. Someone tapped her and Eno started. She looked sideways to find Joy peering into her face.
â€œAre you okay?â€
Eno tried to smile but ended up with a grimace.
â€œWe are going to sleep,â€ Joy said, eyes drifting towards the silent stranger beside Eno. â€œFunsho will take care of you.â€
Her hand firmly clasped in her boyfriendâ€™s own, Joy left Eno with her date to watch a Mohawk wearing SoundCity presenter flash funky hand gestures at them from the television on the wall.
â€œDo you want to sleep now?â€
Eno turned to see Funsho lean forward in his seat. His face was scrunched up with purpose. She shrugged and lowered the empty can of Malta Guiness she had been holding to the table. Standing up to his full height and towering over Enoâ€™s five feet six inches with six more inches, he picked the television remote control from the arm rest of the chair and turned off the television. He led her into a passage, turning off the lights as they went. Enoâ€™s heart was in her mouth.
What if Joy lied?
What if the party had been a cover for runs?
Funsho stopped suddenly before a door and she almost bumped into him.
He gave no response to her hastily offered apology but merely pushed the door open and waited for her to walk through it. Eno swallowed hard.
â€œAre you sleeping here?â€
Funsho frowned and shrugged.
His answer was contradictory but when he closed the door behind him, Eno realized what the sum total of his strange reply had been.
Eno remained standing where she was as Funsho strolled to the bed. He sat on it and waited. Eno rushed to clarify things.
â€œErmâ€¦are weâ€¦.I am notâ€¦.we are not doing anything. I am not here forâ€¦for that.â€
Kicking off the gray flip flops on his feet, Funsho laid back on the bed.
Eno looked back at the door.
â€œIs there another room?â€
â€œYeahâ€¦a store. Want to sleep in it?â€
Left with no other option, Eno walked to the bed and sat at the edge of it. She sat there for several minutes until her back began to ache. There was no sound from the other side of the bed and she decided to risk a backwards glance to check if Funsho was asleep. He was not. His eyes were hooded and watchful when they met her own. Bubbles formed in Enoâ€™s stomach and she cursed herself again for her stupidity.
I should not have followed Joy.
She pointed to the single line of recessed lights above them.
â€œCan you please turn them off?â€
Funsho obliged her request and flipped the light switch beside the bed, plunging the room into darkness. Eno found the courage to settle back into the bed but made sure to hang to the edge.
â€œAre you going to sleep in those?â€
Eno turned her head a fraction. â€œHuh?â€
â€œYour clothesâ€¦.you want to sleep in them?â€
Eno faced the wall again.
Sleep did not come easily to Eno. Anxiety and fear made sure she continued to stare at the wall, creating worst case scenarios in her head until she began to see herself being thrown away from a fast moving vehicle, breasts and other parts missing. Somewhere between imagining the harrowing ordeal of falling under the ritualistâ€™s knife and plotting means of escape in the event that her nightmare became a reality, Enoâ€™s eyelids began to lower. Sleep found her and whisked her away to a place of darkness and quiet.
Eno woke up with a moan. Something was gliding down her body and causing every nerve in her body to come alive. She reached for the thing and found that it had fingers.
A human hand.
Someone was touching her.
The realization hit her like cold water. She struggled to sit up but the body pressed to her own made movement difficult.
â€œWaitâ€¦what are you doing?â€
Funsho moved upwards to meet her. Even in the darkness, Eno could see that his eyes were clouded with passion.
He remained where he was, legs caught between her thighs, one hand dipping into the band of her leggings again. Eno struggled against his hand, shoving against him with all her strength.
Funsho withdrew his hand from her leggings and moved his body slightly away from her own but Eno was not completely free. The other half of his body still pinned her to the bed.
â€œPlease get off me.â€
â€œCould you just chill?â€
â€œNo, I canâ€™t. Please stop. I canâ€™t do this. I donâ€™t know you.â€
Funsho breathed and warm breath fanned Enoâ€™s neck.
â€œOkay, can I kiss you then?â€
Eno started to say no but Funshoâ€™s mouth closed over her own in the next second. At first Eno was limp with inaction as his tongue gently moved in her mouth, and then she was galvanized to action, but her action shocked her. She kissed him back.
What am I doing?
She tried to stop herself but Funshoâ€™s kiss stirred up dormant passions. She clung to his shoulders as he began to move against her, his erection hard against her thighs. Something tugged at Enoâ€™s mind and she began to realize her mistake. She broke the kiss and resumed her resistance.
â€œWe canâ€™t. I am sorry.â€
The faint light from the approaching dawn made it easy to see the frustration on Funshoâ€™s face as he pulled away.
Eno shook her head.
â€œI didnâ€™t plan for this. Sorry.â€
Funsho exhaled and flung himself back to his former space on the bed. Eno fumbled with the button of her leggings and fled to the bathroom to recover from the unexpected seduction. In the bathroom, Eno paced the pink and blue linoleum of the floors, reliving the kiss with Funsho. She let herself feel shame.
She had responded to a kiss from a complete stranger with wild abandon.
â€œGod, I am so ashamedâ€ she groaned, washing her face with the water that ran from the faucet on the toilet sink. â€œI canâ€™t face him again.â€
But she faced him when he knocked on the bathroom door, seeking her audience. Under the revealing florescent lights of the bathroom, Eno saw from the groves between his eyebrows that he was a man that rarely smiled.
â€œSorry about that.â€
Eno looked away from his eyes and studied the lines on the floor.
â€œDo you have a boyfriend?â€
Eno looked at him.
In the room, he showed her a picture in his wallet. It was a dark skinned girl with a pretty smile and close set laughing eyes. Eno felt a weird sinking feeling in her stomach. She left without collecting his number. He did not offer it.
Eno told her roommates about Funsho.
â€œWhy didnâ€™t you scream?â€ Onyinye asked, a frown of annoyance on her face. â€œI hate guys like that. You canâ€™t just jump on a woman without getting her permi â€“â€
â€œDonâ€™t forget she was on the same bed with him,â€ Pero said, cutting Onyinye off. â€œThe guy must have been tempted.â€
Onyinyeâ€™s harrumphed at Peroâ€™s defence of Funsho.
â€œThatâ€™s nonsense. Stop excusing loose men.â€
She turned to Eno again.
â€œAnd you, you better watch your friendship with Joy. You know she is a runs girl right?â€
Pero shook Enoâ€™s arm to get her attention.
â€œDid he give you his number?â€
â€œOh,â€ said Pero.
â€œYou see?â€ said Onyinye.
Her friends left Eno after that, returning back to the business of preparing for their lectures. Eno slipped out of the clothes she had returned with and wore clean ones. She ran into Joy on her way to her department. The other girl greeted her warmly and eyed the books in her arms.
â€œGoing for lectures?â€
â€œSo have you heard from Funsho?â€
Joy was surprised. â€œReally? Why?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know, but it is fine. You knowâ€¦he has a girlfriend.â€
â€œHe told you that?â€ Joy said, her jaw growing slack.
Eno nodded, wondering about Joyâ€™s reaction. The other girl shook her head and said nothing for some minutes. Eno frowned at her.
â€œFunsho does not have a girlfriend. The one he used to date died last year.â€
Eno stared at Joy but saw something else â€“ the picture of the smiling woman in Funshoâ€™s wallet. She drew in a deep breath and collected herself, and then said goodbye to Joy.
â€œI think he likes you,â€ Joy called as she walked away. Eno did not reply. She was bothered. She had almost slept with a man who walked around with the picture of his dead girlfriend in his wallet.
Why did she attract only the weird ones?
MEANING OF YORUBA WORD USED IN STORY
Iru Ibere osi wo ni eleyi nâ€™ beree â€“ What kind of stupid question is this one asking?
Umari Ayim is the author of â€œTwilight At Terracotta Indigoâ€ and â€œInside my Headâ€. She blogs at www.umariayim.com/