The queue in front of Patricia had thinned and only two people stood before the lecturerâ€™s door, but Patricia wasnâ€™t paying attention to the queue. She was more interested in the conversation between the girls standing a few steps away. The taller of the girls was shaking her head at the moment, short weave bobbing around a face contorted with indignation.
â€œMe I canâ€™t allow it o! No lecturer can chop my thing and still fail me. Lai lai.â€
The other girl, light complexioned and portly, wore a sad face. Patricia noticed her lack of make-up and faded black Bootcut Jeans worn over a dull pink blouse as the other girl continued venting.
â€œThe man is just a dog. He must sleep with everything in skirt. That was how the other day the dean caught him doing a married woman in his office.Â Â Stupid man. Go and report him jorâ€¦â€
The light complexioned girl noticed Patricia and nudged her friend. The tall girl turned towards Patricia, eyes gauging the distance between them and then turned again to her friend to resume their conversation but this time in a low tone.
Patriciaâ€™s attention was diverted from the girls to the lecturerâ€™s office when the door opened and the young men who had entered the office while she listened to the conversation between the two girls, walked into the corridor, identical frowns on their faces and hands gesticulating wildly as they strolled past her and headed in the opposite direction. Patricia drew in a deep breath, counted to five and knocked once.
â€œCome in,â€ came the gruff command from the other side of the door.
Patricia walked into the lecturerâ€™s office and closed the door behind her. Mr. Adebayo was behind his desk, his expression severe and forbidding as he flipped through a newspaper.
â€œGood morning sir,â€ Patricia greeted, knees bending slightly as she drew level with his table. She got a barely audible grunt in response. â€œSir, I ermâ€¦.I am here to check my last semesterâ€™s result.â€
Mr Adebayo straightened away from his table, his expression now taunting.
â€œPatriciaâ€¦.Patricia Ayodele? Am I correct?â€
Patricia nodded. â€œYes sir, you are correct.â€
Still smiling, Mr. Adebayo grabbed the edge of his table with both hands and pulled himself closer to his table. He picked a sheaf of papers and held it out to her.
Patricia collected the paper where the words â€˜Languages and Linguisticsâ€™ sat at the top in bold letters. She began a short search through the alphabetical list for her name. She found her results in seconds. She raised her head to the lecturer.
â€œYes, D,â€ Mr. Adebayo said, elbows propped on the arm rest of his chair and chin resting on linked fingers. â€œYou seem to have a problem with the score.â€
Patricia remembered the last examinations and how easy the questions of this particular course had been.
â€œButâ€¦sir, I read for the course and I am quite sure I answered the questions correctly.â€
Mr. Adebayo dropped his hands away from his chin and smirked.
Patricia nodded slowly. â€œYes, sir.â€
Mr. Adebayoâ€™s chair squeaked as he shifted in it.
â€œSo, what are you insinuating Miss. Ayodele?â€
Patricia was beginning to doubt the wisdom in challenging the scores as she replayed the conversation she heard between the two girls while waiting outside Mr. Adebayoâ€™s office in her head.
â€œI am waiting for you Miss Ayodele.â€
Patricia looked at the dull surface of the lecturerâ€™s old table.
â€œI see,â€ Mr. Ayodele said, stroking the scraggly beard on his chin. â€œSo you donâ€™t have a problem with your score?â€
Patricia swallowed. â€œNo sir.â€
The lecturer eyed the front of Patriciaâ€™s blue cuff sleeved shirt.
â€œYou can talk to me o,â€ he said, a half smile appearing on his face as he leaned back into his peeling leather swivel chair. â€œI can be lenient. What do you want me to do for you?â€
Patricia was shaking her head when someone knocked on the lecturerâ€™s door. The man stopped smiling and sat straight in his chair, his face assuming the serious expression that had greeted Patricia when she first walked into his office.
The door opened and Patricia saw the face of the light complexioned girl that had been discussing outside with her friend appear through the crack of the open door. The head went up and down.
â€œGood afternoon sir.â€
Mr. Adebayo relaxed back in his seat and scowled.
The girl slipped through the crack and closed the door.
â€œSir, I want to see you.â€
Patricia stepped back for the girl as she moved towards her, hands held out in front of her.
â€œSir, you asked me to come yesterday but your office was locked.â€
Mr. Adebayo shrugged. â€œI was busy. So what do you want now?â€
The girl cast a sideways glance at Patricia and then fumbled with the strap of her cream hand bag.
â€œI wanted to talk to you about ermâ€¦.the project.â€
The girl moved forward, almost tripping over her feet in the process.
â€œThe one you asked me to see you for.â€
â€œBut you can see I am busy at the moment.â€
The girl blinked a few times without saying anything. Patricia thought she saw the girlâ€™s eyes fill with tears.
Mr. Adebayoâ€™s eyes darkened with anger. â€œWhy are you still here? I just told I am busy, and you are just standing there. Go and come back tomorrow.â€
The girl shuffled to the door with slumped shoulders. Patricia backed away, falling into step with the girl. She did not want to be alone with Mr. Adebayo any more. She was stopped in her tracks by a door slamming in her back. She turned and saw the girl stepping away from the door and bending one knee in greeting.
â€œGood evening sir.â€
Another lecturer strolled in. It was the bespectacled and very respectable Mr. Ajayi. He held a phone to his ear as he entered, eyes narrowing as they settled on Patricia and the girl beside her. Patricia nodded in greeting and made her escape. The girl was close behind her. At the corridor, she left her with her friend who was waiting for her. Patricia hurried past them, resolving to be content with the score Mr. Adebayo had given her. Anything was better than ending up as one of his victims.
Pero sat with her boyfriend on the terrace at Ember Creek, Ikoyi. The place was crawling with people. Clinking glasses, laughter and voices filled the atmosphere as people relaxed from their hectic schedules. The soft melodious music coming from the sound system added to the soothing ambience. Joe was telling her a story about a party his friend had attended the previous week. It had been a pool party and the host had provided attendees with entertainment that included a busload of scantily dressed girls from the University of Lagos and Olabisi Onabanjo University. The host drunk and excitable had promised cash to any girl willing to spread her legs for alcohol to be emptied inside her.
â€œâ€¦so the girls lined upâ€¦.â€
Pero gasped and shook her head.
â€œAre you serious?â€
Joeâ€™s expression was grave as he nodded.
â€œSo did he give them the money?â€
â€œI didnâ€™t ask Chike.â€
Pero sipped from her Chapman drink.
â€œThat is scary.â€
â€œIt is,â€ Joe said, nodding in agreement. â€œI wonder why any girl would want to debase herself just to earn quick bucks.â€
Joeâ€™s words struck a chord with Pero. They were an uncomfortable reminder of her escapades. She toyed with her straw as Joe checked his wristwatch.
â€œIt is getting late,â€ he said, looking up at her. â€œWe should be leaving before the traffic gets worse.â€
Pero began to reach for her bag but stopped when she recognized the man staring at her from the next table with a lascivious smile on his face. Her heart began to beat erratically. She grabbed the strap of her bag.
Joe made to stand up but just then, a man strolled to their table and hailed him. Pero stood shaking between the two men as introductions were made. She kept her eyes fixed on Joeâ€™s shoulder, refusing to meet the eyes of the man who continued to stare at her, his eyes mocking and suggestive. She prayed inwardly for her boyfriend not to the man and for the conversation he was having with the friend he had introduced as Femi to be over. When the banter between the two men began to stretch into minutes, she excused herself to the bathroom. She found the bathroom empty and leaned on the door after she closed it. She placed a hand over her heart and drew in deep breaths to calm her beating heart. Her stomach turned as she remembered her encounter with the man.
â€œHow much is this?â€
â€œWhy two k?â€
â€œHow much was I supposed to give you?â€
Pero remembered the shame she felt as she stared speechlessly at the man, bag in one hand and door handle in the other. She had been on her way back to school after meeting the man in a rundown motel in Surulere.
â€œHow much now?â€
The taunting quality of the manâ€™s question made things worse for Pero. She shook her head.
â€œI canâ€™t remember.â€
â€œAnyway, I donâ€™t have cash on me. If you collect cheques, I will be happy to sign one for you.â€
Pero had turned away from the man and the crumbled Naira notes he held out to her. Throughout the day, she had stayed without eating any meal until Yemisi after hearing her story took pity on her and loaned her four thousand Naira to survive for the week.
Now he was here and Pero had the irrational fear that he would approach her and try to strike a conversation about their encounter. She waited in the bathroom for several minutes until she decided that she could risk facing the consequences of her past actions. When she returned to the table, she found it empty. Joe was not there. Neither was his friend. Across her, the ghost from her past continued to flash the same leery grin at her. They faced each other for some minutes. The man waved at her and mouthed hello. Pero did not respond to his greeting. She turned on her heel and went to meet the boyfriend she knew would be waiting for her at the car park. There would be no runs again for her. Meeting the man from the motel had shown her how bland her former life had been.
Patricia walked into the room and met Tola still on the phone with his father. He was wearing a frown now. She perched on the bed, eyes following him around the room.Â Â He walked out of the room after some minutes of pacing. Patricia sat alone in the room and wondered what Tola was discussing with his father. She found out when he returned to the room.
â€œDeji made some statement to the man,â€ he said, sitting down on the leather sofa in the room with a sigh. â€œAnd now he is asking questions.â€
Patricia felt her stomach tighten.
â€œWhat did he tell him?â€
â€œNothing direct. Just how he thinks you might be after my moneyâ€¦.â€
He stopped and shook his head.
â€œNever mind. Itâ€™s just nonsense talk.â€
Patricia found it hard to dismiss the conversation. She was curious. Had Deji told Tolaâ€™s father about the night she met them at Ikeja?
â€œTell me what he said.â€
Tola shook his head in refusal, his eyes going to the phone in his hand.
â€œExcuse me,â€ he said to Patricia, standing up from the sofa again. Patricia waited another agonizing ten minutes to hear what the latest call had been about.
â€œHe is upset,â€ Tola said, brows dipping in annoyance. â€œI donâ€™t get what the whole issue is about.â€
Patricia suddenly wanted to go back to school. She stood up from the bed and approached her overnight bag in the corner of the room.
â€œWhat are you doing?â€
She turned to Tola. There was a puzzled look on his face.
â€œI want to packâ€¦for school.â€
Patricia did not say anything. She just continued to fold her clothes into neat halves, setting them on top of each other in the small Gucci overnight bag Tola had bought for her. She heard him leave the sofa and approach her. He touched her arm lightly.
â€œYou are leaving because of my dadâ€™s call?â€
Patricia shook her head.
â€œI just want to go back to school.â€
Tola held on to the hand that was reaching to push a green chiffon top into the bag.
â€œI donâ€™t want you to leave.â€
Patricia pulled her hand out of Tolaâ€™s grip but she did not go back to her packing. She turned to him instead.
â€œTell me exactly what your dad said.â€
Tola frowned. â€œIt is not necessary Patricia.â€
â€œIt is to me. I want to know what Deji told him.â€
â€œNo,â€ Tola said tightly. â€œI am not talking about it.â€
â€œFine,â€ Patricia said, turning her back to him again. â€œI am going back to school then.â€
Tola sighed. â€œSuit yourself.â€
Patricia finished her packing and changed into a gray floral T-shirt and light blue skinny jeans. Tola was back on the sofa, fingers moving over the screen of his Samsung S4. Patricia stood bag in hand in the middle of the room, undecided about her next actionâ€¦.
â€œYeah, bye,â€ Tola said without looking up from his phone. â€œYou can tell Samson to drop you off.â€
â€œYou are not going to drop me off?â€
Patricia left the room. She walked past Tolaâ€™s driver who was standing with one of his security guards. She barely heard the greetings that followed her. Tolaâ€™s estate was quiet, the roads snaking through it empty of cars. Patricia walked until she began to feel her feet ache. Outside the estate, she stood waiting with her bag for a long time. Finally, a taxi appeared on the road. Patricia stopped it. Once inside, she laid her head on the top of the backseat and closed her eyes. She didnâ€™t belong in Tolaâ€™s life. There was no use staying.
Eno walked with Joy out of the hostel and approached the men in the black BMW. One of them was Funsho. He came out to meet her, eyes cautious as they ran over her. They found a place behind the car to talk. Under the dull evening light, Eno saw that he was even more handsome than she had initially thought. He said little. They stood in awkward silence until she remembered his dead girlfriend.
â€œSo how is sheâ€¦.urmâ€¦.your girlfriend?â€
She saw something flash in Funshoâ€™s eyes before he nodded.
â€œShe is okay now.â€
â€œI am not sure I understand.â€
â€œWhat donâ€™t you understand?â€
â€œYou said now.â€
â€œI know what I said.â€
Eno abandoned the topic and did not say anything more. Funsho reached for her hand.
â€œSo do you have a boyfriend?â€
Eno thought of lying. Despite his good looks, Funsho had an intensity that scared her.
â€œSo do you?â€
Funshoâ€™s smile took Eno by surprise. His teeth were white and beautifully aligned.
Funsho shrugged. â€œNothing. I just want to be sure that there will be no boyfriend breathing down my neck.â€
Eno wanted to remind him about his girlfriend claim but she found out that she could not. She knew the story. There was no need to force the truth out of him.
â€œWould you like to hang out some time?â€ Funsho asked, eyes going to the front of the car where Joy and Lekan stood laughing together before returning back to her. â€œAlone?â€
Suddenly breathless, Eno found herself nodding. Funsho gave her another breathtaking smile.
â€œNice,â€ was all he said.
Later that night when Joy came to the room to see her, Eno told her about Funshoâ€™s proposition.
â€œAlone?â€ Joy said, a curious frown on her face even as her lips turned upwards in a smile. â€œDid he have to say that?â€
There was a lull in conversation after that. The girls stumbled through the topic of the recently concluded University games before Joy used the excuse of a shower to leave Enoâ€™s bed.
â€œI smell trouble,â€ Onyinye told Eno when they were alone. â€œThis foursome thing is going to go wrong. Be careful.â€
Eno did not argue with Onyinye. She thought about her decision to see Funsho again.
Was she making a mistake?
Pero left Joeâ€™s car after a long kiss. She walked with gay steps into the hostel, eager to return to her room and share her experience of meeting the motel man. She met human traffic in the corridor where Yemisiâ€™s room was. She was sucked into the crowd as she tried to make her way to her room. The crowd carried her and dropped her in front of Yemisiâ€™s door. Pero eyed the closed door. She found it strange that the door was closed. Yemisi and her roommates were famous for leaving their activities for the whole hostel to gape at. Pero battled with her curiousity for some minutes.
Why was the door locked?
She decided to put her journey to her room on hold and knocked on the door. There was no answer at first, but when she tried the second time, the door opened slightly. A pair of heavily lined eyes peeped at her through the small opening. The eyes widened with recognition and then the door opened.
â€œI am good,â€ Pero answered as Yemisi ushered her into the room and closed the door after her. The room was empty. Pero stood in front of the door and watched in surprise and alarm as Yemisi limped to her bed. Yemisiâ€™s ankles were swollen and appeared in a bad shape.
Yemisi touched her left ankle and winced.
â€œI fell down.â€
â€œWo, Pero, itâ€™s a long story.â€
Pero sat on the bed opposite Yemisiâ€™s own.
â€œI donâ€™t mind. Tell me.â€
Yemisi rubbed her knees, face tightened in a frown.
â€œIs it not that idiot Mercy?â€
Pero didnâ€™t know who Mercy was and she did not ask. She waited for the story to continue and it did.
â€œAfter we agreed to meet some guys who said they wanted to do foursome, she went there and said she didnâ€™t want to do again.â€
Yemisi paused and exhaled loudly. Pero studied the lines around her mouth and thought how much she had aged since the last time they saw.
â€œSo what happened?â€
â€œI agreed to do them ni.â€
â€œAnd they didâ€¦.and didâ€¦and did not want to stop.â€
Pero got the picture and sighed.
â€œSo what now happened?â€
â€œI jumped from the upstairs balcony.â€
â€œYou left the men in the room and jumped from the balcony?â€ Pero asked, unable to make sense of what Yemisi was telling her. â€œWhy didnâ€™t you ask them to open the door for you?â€
â€œWhat is this one saying?â€ Yemisi said, a look of irritation crossing her face. â€œDid you not hear when I said they did not want to stop?â€ Yemisi stopped frowning and sighed. â€œ Gbogbo awon Okunrin to ma n lo cocaine yi won daÂ Â .â€
Pero shook her head as her friend hissed loudly.
â€œSorry. Have you gone to the clinic?â€
â€œNo. I will just use rubb on it.â€
â€œBut what if you broke something?â€
Yemisi looked down at her legs and shrugged.
â€œIt will heal.â€
Pero sat with Yemisi until her roommates began to trickle into the room one after the other. She left then, promising to check up on Yemisi the following morning. She knew she would not keep her promise. Yemisi, like the Motel man was part of the life she had said goodbye to.
Patricia had a change of heart when she got back to school. She should have stayed back to talk things with Tola. This was the thought in her mind when she called Tola. He picked at the last ring.
â€œI am sorry.â€
Patricia heard music and laughing female voices.
â€œWhere are you?â€
â€œYou have friends over?â€
Patricia experienced a pang of jealousy.
â€œFriends I know?â€
They ended the call without saying goodbye to each other. Patricia stood up from her bed, determination on her face. Onyinye lowered the novel she had been trying to read to look at Patricia as she walked to her cupboard.
â€œWhere are you going?â€
Patricia was in Tolaâ€™s place in the next one hour. When she knocked, a woman opened the door. She raised well arched eyebrows at Patricia.
Then she smiled.
â€œNice to meet you again Patricia.â€
Meaning of Yoruba Words Used In Story
Bawo ni â€“ How are you?
Gbogbo awon Okunrin to ma n lo cocaine yi won daÂ Â â€“ All these men using cocaine are not good.
The writer Umari Ayim is the author of â€œTwilight At Terracotta Indigoâ€ and â€œInside my Headâ€. She blogs at www.umariayim.com/