We ended up not reading the book he came with, which I knew was going to happen as there was no way I was going to read any book with my heart pumping as it was. We spent the first five minutes staring at each other and like moth to light, we were locked in a love embrace. It wasn’t like the embrace I would give my mum for bringing me a pot of homemade stew. It was an embrace only two lovers can understand. Our lips met in a soft kiss. At first it was like testing the waters gingerly and finding it so warm we waded further in. The kiss was slow at first but the tempo increased as our tongues sought each other. It was a mind blowing kiss which I never had before. Slowly, we separated. I ran my hands down my hair to straighten it out and also as an excuse to find something to do because my hands were shaking. Slowly, he took my hand and led me to the bed. I sat on the bed while he took the chair. All these while, we hadn’t said a word to each other. Thanks to heaven, Kemi, came back with the cups and spoon for ice cream.
“You are beautiful”, he said. I was tongue tied.
“You don’t have to say anything, you know. I have endured loving you from a distance and I was damn sure you were made for me. That, kept me waiting for this moment”, he said.
Oh! Was all I could mutter.
“Nene is usually a chatter box, which am sure you know also”, Kemi said as she got up from the bed. She took my cup of ice cream which I didn’t touch and with, “I’ll leave the two of you and go deal with the ice cream”, she carried the bucket of ice cream and left.
‘So, how long have you been watching me?”, I asked.
“From the first day you signed up for Economics class and pissed professor Odion off when your phone rang in the middle of him outlining his ‘3 Don’ts’ which included not bringing phones to the class”, he said.
I laughed from the memory of that, remembering how embarrassed I was as the man went off on how irresponsible it was for students who couldn’t pay their school fees themselves to own mobile phones.
“I haven’t been able to take my eyes off you since then. I started asking around and I got to know you are a major in International Relations. I also know that you are the Course captain. You love hanging out with your friends Kiki and Kemi at “The spot” where you don’t miss your rice and a bottle of chilled coke which Andy, the waiter reserves for you because he likes you and …..
“Ok, that’s way too much information. Are you a detective or something because you will have me looking over my shoulders after today”.
“I am Kene Menaks. Fourth year Petroleum Engineering student. Will you be my friend, Nene Ochuko?”
I stared at him for like 60 seconds and answered, “I need a drink”.
It’s been a year and half since that day and we have gotten closer than Siamese twins. We were voted the best couple at the Engineering honors night out. I endured the 6 months alone when he went to do his internship. I endured his snoring at night and loved him even more when he had bad dreams in the nights and snuggled closer to me. We had our moments though, like when I wanted to sleep over but he wanted to go for his monthly ‘only men meetings’ . I never understood why he kept it all secret and never discussed it with me but in his most gentlemanly manner, he would make up the next day with exciting treats that blew my mind. It was on one of those nights that we made love. He had called to say he was sorry for blowing me off the night before and would love for us to have lunch, a late lunch. I agreed and decided to meet after classes in front of his department. I was surprised when I saw him leaning on the guava tree that in front of my department. “Hey bunny, my lectures ended earlier so here I am”, he said as he pulled me into his arms and gave me a kiss. His mouth had the coffee taste from the coffee sweets he always took. Never saw a guy take that much sweet. It got me hungry, not for rice and a bottle of coke but for more of that adrenalin that rushes to my head whenever he kisses me. I can’t remember how we got it through lunch and back to his room. I did remember vividly that, Akon’s “Hold my Hand” kept repeating itself on the DVD player. His strong hands massaged and reached into my forbidden zones and took me places that I never knew existed. His tongues roaming, drew out several moans and ahs from me as he gently broke down my defenses and took me into the garden of love where only two hearts beat as one.
When my best friends started talking about the ‘other life’ of Kene, I didn’t want to believe them. I wanted to be left in my fantasy world where nothing went wrong .Even though I saw the signs, I turned the other way.
It was the “baton change” period, the period fraternity guys handed over leadership to their successors. Kene’s “only men” meetings turned to a weekly thing. Luckily for me, I was preparing for my exams so I didn’t bother myself much. I spent most of the time with my girls in our room studying. One of such evenings, he came and spent two hours just watching me read. It was cool at first but when he started bringing customized teddy bears with “Kene loves Nene ” on it, I knew something was up. As I was seeing him off one night, he said he was going to be away for some time and thought the teddy bears would take his place while he was gone. I laughed and asked him when he became all mushy.
“I love you Nene and I would never do anything to hurt you.”
“I know K. You have said that more than 20 times in 3 days and it’s becoming stale. Now tell me, what is the problem?
I can be a mother hen when I wanted to be but today, I had to be principal Nene to get some words coming from ‘My heartache.’
It’s about our “only men” meeting. It’s not what you think it is.
“I have got all the time, so shoot”, I said.
He started to talk but then, his phone rang and as he reached into his pocket to bring it out, his eyes caught on something and he shouted, “duck”, as he pushed me down on the floor. My head hit the floor and I blacked out.
Maybe this was how it felt to be dead. I was only seeing darkness and I tumbled down deeper into it. I was comfortable just falling, following the different noises that I was hearing, safely down the pit. I fell into a puddle of water and woke up with a start. I couldn’t make out the faces that were peering at me but they were friendly faces. Someone had a bucket of water and was asking if he should bring another one because I was closing my eyes again. Another said no, that they didn’t want me to be colder than I already was. That was when I realized that I was shivering; no, trembling was the better word. I was trying to recollect what happened and where I was but, I couldn’t.
A familiar voice saying, “thank God you are okay ,” made me open my eyes and I saw Kiki and Kemi looking at me closely. I tried to talk but the only thing I could say was, “Kene” and closed my eyes.
When I regained consciousness, my friends said that I had been falling in and out of consciousness for three days. The only thing that kept me going was the intermittent water I was drinking. They said I clutched the teddy bears so hard and kept calling, “Kene”. Someone from Kene’s apartment brought a portable DVD player and said they were directed to bring it to me if I fell sick or something and Kene wasn’t there. When Kemi pressed the play button, it was Akon’s ‘Hold my hand’ that sang out. I tried to ask Kemi what happened that night but she always said that I wasn’t strong yet. I knew she was hiding something from me. Kiki on her part couldn’t stop fussing over me like I was a sick child. I got so tired of them treating me like a baby that I demanded to know what was happening from them or get my information outside. They looked at each other and Kemi said, “Kene was shot”.
“Kene was shot”, echoed and re-echoed in my head and I wanted to scream but I knew I was going to blow any chances of hearing more if I did, so I held it in.
“What happened?” I asked in my meekest voice.
“He is a frat boy, Nene. The coolest of them. The best. He sought for a way to tell you but he didn’t want to lose you so, he never did. The baton change came and he was supposed to be the successor, but he turned it down because he didn’t want to become more entangled because of you’, she said.
“It’s not entangled anymore, I muttered under my breath. How on earth did he think I wouldn’t understand? At least, it would have saved us this awkward moment. I am so angry now but I am tired and I want to reserve the little strength I still have to scream at him”, I said.
“I want to see him”, I said.
“It’s not a good idea now”, my friends said. You have to regain your strength before you see him.
“I will only regain my strength when I see that son of a bitch and give him a piece of my mind for not believing in my love for him”, I said with such finality that they didn’t argue anymore.
We took a cab and went down to the school hospital. The wards were filled with students that had been wounded because of the several fights that had been going on in the campus.
“I want to warn you though, kemi said, he is “incommunicado”. “Of course, who would want to talk after been shot at”, I interjected chilly.
“No Nene, I meant… but she didn’t have to finish it because we got to Kene’sbed. He was lying on his back looking straight at the ceiling unblinking. He had a lot of wires connected to his chest and through his nose. The monitors were beeping in a steady tone. I stopped at the foot of the bed and couldn’t go further. I nearly turned back. Just then, the doctor came by and asked if I was family and I nodded. He tried to explain that the bullet grazed his neck but unfortunately, it touched a nerve and that has short circuited the flow of signals to his head. He said he would be connected to the machines till he was past the danger zone before they would take him in for surgery. My heart ached. Again . It wasn’t from the the demi god laid down before me but from the fact that I was being denied an opportunity to be mad at him. I looked at him, not knowing if he knew I was there. I called his name but he didn’t budge. I shook his leg and it dropped lifelessly. Once again, I wondered if this was what it meant to be dead. I pulled a chair and sat down beside him. I don’t know how long I sat there because I must have dozed off. When I opened my eyes, it was dark. A nurse was standing near the bed adjusting the drip bag.
“The subconscious can hear, you know. He wouldn’t feel you are here but he can hear you” she said as she squeezed my shoulders.
I pulled my chair closer and after some moments I said, ‘you know I want to hit you, but I can’t. You are already serving your share of the punishment but I can do this. I bent down and gave him a kiss, a long one. ‘There”, I said as I ran my hands lovingly over his face.
‘I know you felt that’, I continued as I took his hands in mine. You can’t keep away from your bunny for a long while because she needs you. My life was fine and simple before you came but you have made it beautiful and complicated. I seriously don’t know what you are still doing on this hospital bed because you have a whole lot of explaining to do, that is, after you have held me and loved me like you never left. I am not going away in a hurry because you, my heartache, will come out of this and together we will pull through this stormy night till the sun comes out in the morning. I laid my head on his stomach because that was the only place that didn’t have wires fixed on them. I think I dozed off again because I woke up with a start.
I knew someone was looking at me. I know that look so well already. I looked up into Kene’s face and broke into a smile. His eyes were boring into mine and his mouth was twitching into that grin that caused my heartache from the first day. I knew the worst was over as I squeezed his hands and mouthed, “I love you “ as a tears ran down my face.