Kathy? this is for you... I think
I heard the rustle of leaves first before I become aware of the approaching footsteps. I looked up and watched in trepidation as the sounds draws nearer. Although I couldn't yet see who it is, I know that it could only be one person. I thought of jumping down from the branch I am sitting on and making a run for it before she shows herself, but I know I won't dare. I waited almost in dread and fear as she finally clears the small bush and shows herself.
She stood there studying me for awhile. I couldn't raise my eyes to hers. I've been avoiding her for the whole of two days. It feels like I haven't seen her for years because I used to spend my whole time with her -- either at her house or in mine. Or we will both sneak out here, to our 'secret spot' to whisper about nothing to each other.
"Will you come down here?" she asked
"No. I want to stay here." I replied
"Okay then," she said.
She made her way to the foot of the tree and start removing her shoes.
"What are you doing?" I asked alarmed
"I am coming up." she replied calmly
"You'll hurt yourself, you know you can't climb."
"Then it'll be your fault, after all that's what you want, in' nit?" she responds as she made to start the climb.
She's been back in Nigeria for 3 years now, yet her British accent still remains strong. Quickly, I swung off the branch and hung swinging for a few seconds before jumping down. Immediately I hit ground, I ran to her and held her from climbing the tree. She turned immediately in my arms and hugged me real tight to herself.
Few minutes later, we were back at her house and in her room. The silence between us was so tense I could feel its weight. It feels strange because that never happens with us; we always have something to talk about and the silence, when they occur are usually comfortable. Whenever we are together, either she is telling me about London or I am telling her about Nigeria or about our town. But, 2 days ago, all that changed. As I looked at her as she pretends to read a novel, my mind flashed back to the 'kiss'.
2 days ago, while she was saying goodnight to me, she kissed me. She used to kiss me all the time -- all over the face, but never on the lips. But, that night, she gently held my face in her hands and ran her lips over mine. I think that what really surprised us and left us speechless was not the fact that she kissed me, but the ferociousness with which I returned the kiss. My first ever kiss, coming from my best girlfriend. I was shocked. When the kiss broke on its own, I panicked and pushed her away from me and ran home. I stayed away from her since then, although the kiss has never left my mind.
"You know I. J., if you keep staring at me like that, you will soon bore a hole through me." She said without looking up from the novel she is holding. I blushed and quickly looked away from her. Once again, I thank my God that my skin color makes it impossible for her to see my blush.
"Why did you kiss me?" I asked her
"What are you saying? I kiss you all the time." She replied.
"But not like that and never on the lips. Why now?" I persisted
"Why are you so bent on my giving you an excuse for that? Do you need a reason to feel how you do? Do you need to make excuses for the way your heart is beating right now that I am looking at you?" I could feel my young nineteen year old heart double its pace as she said that.
"Are you telling me that you didn't enjoy it or that you don't ever want me to kiss you again?" she continued. As she was talking, she slowly starts leaning towards me that by the time she finished, she was so close that I could feel her breathe on my face. I could hardly breathe. My heart is pumping so ferociously in my chest that I thought I could have a heart attack. She stares at my lips and I stare back at hers longingly. I felt my lips part in anticipation under her heavy gaze and hers parted almost simultaneously as well. Then, she leaned in and claimed my lips. The kiss of 2 days ago was a mere prelude to the main thing.
She kissed my soul. I could feel her lips tug at my heart every time she sucked on my lips. She pushed her tongue into my mouth and uses it to caress my whole mouth. I was gasping so hard and clinging so tight to her. She leaned back and pulled my shirt off. Her hands immediately grabbed my small breasts and start squeezing and fondling. They were hardly a handful but they are quite sensitive to make up for their size.
Gently, she pushed me down and slid on top of me. We resumed the kissing. She slides down my body to suck on my small tits; and that's the position we were in when the door bursts open to reveal her grandma. She gave a small shout when she saw us, then; she pulled me from under her and slapped me severally on the face. She was kind enough to allow me pull back on my shirt before dragging me to my house. All the while her grandma was hitting me, she just covered her head in her arms and hid her face in her pillow and never make a sound. As her grandma pulled me away, I called her name in shame but she didn't answer.
***** *********** *****
I stared out the window of the plane as it flew over whatever city we are at. I still can't believe I am going back to Nigeria after almost nine years of living in the U.S. I wonder how home will be like, how those I left behind will be faring. I came into Nigeria a few hours ago and immediately took a connecting flight going to my state. In 10 minutes, the plane will land and I'll have to find a taxi that will take me home. I still can't believe I am here. Two weeks ago, I wouldn't have imagined being back in Nigeria now. I hadn't planned on coming. Even when my mom called to remind me of my grandpa's funeral, I still didn't want to come back. Then, Lillian called and mentioned her name and marriage in one sentence; and that's all it took. Next thing, I am making reservations and buying tickets. Then, I called my editor/ agent cum manager to tell her of my intended travel to Nigeria—which of course came as a surprise.
After what happened with her nine years ago, I resented her for deserting me and allowing her grandma to make me out into a villain; who is out to devour her grandchild. She aided her grandma in shutting herself away from me. I remembered that when her grandma left our house, my grandparents started freaking out trying to understand what happened and to know what they will tell my parents. They couldn't understand why I wanted to force my best friend into bed. I couldn't explain, so I ran back to her house to get her so that she will come and tell them that it's okay because we both felt it. I knocked till my hands hurt. I know she was in there, she simply hid from me.
The next day, I went back again to tell her that my parents have finally decided that I should go and stay with an aunt in another city. I knocked till her grandma came out and told me that I am no longer welcomed in her house. I ran to the bush, to our 'spot'. I climbed the tree and sat on the low branch and waited. I cried my eyes out waiting but she didn't come. I left as it started getting dark. Early the next morning, just before I left to my aunt's house, I gave my cousin Lillian a letter containing my aunt's address and phone number, to deliver to her.
For the first few months, I stayed in my aunt's house always in anticipation that the next letter or call might be from her. But she never called nor wrote. It was Lillian who finally forced me to accept the fact that I've been violated. After the usual heart ache, I pushed her off my mind and get my life back on track. I won the scholarship, travel to U.S for my university education, got my degree, did my masters program and become a writer.
For awhile in school, I dated guys until I got fed up and decided to be truthful to myself. I switched to girls. I even had a couple of relationships that lasted for more than 6 months. I have two books published and the third one due to hit the market in a few months. I was convinced I was doing well until Lillian dropped the bomb on my laps. I realized I needed closure. I need to know if she really felt the way she convinced me that she did or did I force her into kissing me? I need to see her again one last time. I need to let her know what she did to me, how she hurt me. I need to look into her big brown eyes one more time and see the resentment I know she must have felt for me.
I got off the plane and cleared my bags. Then, I walked out and got myself a taxi. I gave the driver my address and watch him load my bags. Lillian had offered to come and pick me up but I had declined. It felt so good to be back home. I am already enjoying the ambiance and the feel of the fresh breeze on my face as I enter the taxi and closed the door. I leaned my head back on the head rest as the driver got on and start the taxi. I close my eyes and released a huge sigh. Immediately my mind flashed back to the first day I met her.
I was sixteen when I first saw her. My grandma had sent me over to our neighbor's to get something for her. Our neighbor is a middle aged widow whose only son has been living in London for the past 20 years. As I got there, I curtseyed to greet the woman, and then I told her what I wanted. She said okay and went in to get it. As she entered, the door opened again to reveal the most beautiful girl I've ever seen. I was transfixed as I saw her standing there. We both stared at each other. She had a tiny smile on her face while mine clearly showed fear. We stared at each other till our neighbor came out to hand me the stuff I wanted. I still find the voice to thank her as I took my leave.
Immediately I cleared the compound, I ran and didn't stop until I got home and found my grandma. I told her that there is a 'white girl' in our neighbor's house. She told me that it's probably her granddaughter. I was so intrigued. I wanted to go back just to look at her one more time, but I refrained from doing so. Two days later, she entered our house. I was all alone; my grandparents had gone out to the market and Lillian had gone out too. I just graduated high school, that's why I was home on a school day. Imagine my surprise when I opened the door and see her standing there smiling. I was scared that I started shaking. She boldly reached out and took my hand and gave me a hand shake. She told me her name is Elizabeth and I told her that my name is Ijeoma, but, she couldn't pronounce it very well, so I asked her to call me I. J. for short. She asked if I could show her the village and I accepted. And that's how our friendship began. I showed her everywhere I know and taught her everything I know of our culture and traditions. Very soon, we were inseparable. I became her teacher as she struggles to learn our local language. I also interpret for her; which only confuse her the more and make her laugh because most times, I interpret verbatim. Until I learn to just tell her the general meaning of what was said instead of giving her the meaning of every word in the sentence.
I remembered the first time she gave me a peck. Then we just discovered 'our spot' in the small bush. So, as usual, we got talking. She started telling me about her life in London, how London is so different from Nigeria, how bad she wanted to go back, how much she missed her friends. I tried cheering her up by telling her that she might still go back someday.
"I. J. be real, it's been almost a year that I've been stuck here. I don't even know where my dad is, he just dumped me here with his ma and disappeared.'' She lamented
"He has engagements. You might still come back." I consoled
She looked at me for awhile and then sighed heavily.
We sat in silence for a while.
"What of you?" she finally asked taking my hands in hers.
"What of me what?"
"When are you going back home?"
I know she wasn't talking about me leaving the bush and returning to my grandma's.
"This is my home." I replied
"I know. I mean returning back to your parents,"
"I don't think I'll be going back," I respond
"Why is that?"
I doubted within myself whether to tell her or not. I know she sensed the animosity I feel towards my parents and she's been dying to find out what it is. Every time she shifts the topic to my parents, I always manage to shift it back to other topics almost immediately. But now, I finally decided to tell her.
"They sent me away.'' I answered with my head bent.
"They s... how do you mean?" Elizabeth asked, obviously confused. I could see she is also shocked. Her mouth was hanging open. I wanted to laugh except it wasn't funny. From the look on her face, I know she is hoping that I am mixing up my words again.
"They sent me here, away from my friends. To stay here with my grandparents and learn some manners as they put it."
"Why would they do that?" she asked still shocked
"They said it's good for me but I know it's to save face. You see, I was messing around with a guy in my street. They get to find out about it and asked me not to see him again. The guy wanted to marry me; so I continued seeing him. They all believed I was having sex with the guy, so, to prevent any unwanted business; they packed me up and sent me down here. It so happens that they did it the actual day I planned on sleeping with the guy."
"How old were you?" she asked
"It happened 2 years ago. I was 15."
"Jesus! You wanted to get married at 15? That's too young. In London, you..."
"I know." I said cutting her off. "Even down here, 15's too young for marriage. I didn't even like the guy. I guess I was doing it just to spite my parents. Just being a typical teenager." I concluded.
She looked at me and smiled a little. I always marveled at her beauty. It used to hit me with full force anytime I look at her. As I look at her, I could see she still has something on her mind.
"What is it?" I asked her
"Do you really like me?" she asked
"Yes, I love you." Her question surprised me but my answer shocked us both. This is the first I said it out loud. I could feel myself blushing and I thank God once again for my skin color. I am not very comfortable with revealing my feelings. I was surprised at how easily it slipped out and she must be too because she looked away from me before continuing.
"Don't leave me." She almost pleaded
"Leave you? I asked confused
"Don't go. Every one that matters to me leaves sooner or later. First it was my mom, and then my dad dumps me here and left too. I need to know if...if..." she stopped and angrily swapped at a tear rolling down her right cheek. I rushed to her and embraced her tightly.
"Eliz, I won't leave you. Ever. I am even scared that you'll be the one to leave someday. I won't go anywhere. If you need me, I'll be there. I promise." I said choking up too.
She held my face in her hands and gently ran her lips across my fore head.
"I won't leave you too." She whispered to me. That was the first time she kissed me and also the first of many to come.
When the taxi pulled up at home, I got out and settled the bill, then, I dragged my two bags inside. Lillian was the first to see me. She gave a small shout as she pointed at me, then the other saw me and shout too as they ran up to hug me. I feel happy to see my family once again. My 3 brothers all look huge and tall. None of them is less than 6ft in height. I've always known that I'll be the smallest in the family but seeing them now, I feel like a dwarf at my 5ft 9'' flame.
After the hugs have gone round, I sat with them and answer their questions about my health and why I didn't tell them I was coming home and if I am still going back to U.S. After some time, a group of women entered, probably for condolence visit. I curtseyed along with the others to greet them. They were happy to see me. When they are finally seated, I used the opportunity to drag Lillian away from the others.
"So, what's going on?" I asked in my language. It felt so nice to speak it again after nine years.
"Nothing. We are just getting ready. Tomorrow is the funeral. Grandpa has been buried since, because he didn't want to stay in the mortuary." Lillian replied smiling. She knows that's not what I am asking her. I can see she is taunting me, probably enjoying my misery.
"How is she?" I asked boldly.
"She who?" she couldn't even keep a straight face.
"Lillian!" I said gritting my teeth.
"Okay...okay," she replied laughing. "She is fine. The wedding is not until 3months." She continued.
"But you told me she is getting married?" I quipped
"Yes, I did and she is. They just have to shift the wedding because she said she wants to walk down the aisle and not roll down it."
"Roll down the aisle, how?" I asked
"After the accident..." she started
"The accident?" I said cutting her off.
"You didn't know?"
"How the hell would I've known?" I roared. Lillian stepped back and looked at me silently for a few minutes as I try to control myself.
She nodded. "Well, she had a terrible car crash. She sustained a compound fracture or whatever it is called. She couldn't walk for months after she left the hospital. She was in a chair, then, she started using crutches, then a crutch. And recently, she could walk without her crutch but she fell down the stairs 2weeks ago and she is back to the chair again." Lillian concluded.
"My God! Why didn't you tell me all this," I ask visibly shaking.
"Because." Lillian answered gesturing at me, obviously to include my physical reaction to the news. I don't blame her for not telling me. I probably wouldn't have made the journey in peace. It wasn't enough that I couldn't wrap my brain around the idea of her getting married.
"Where is she?" I ask
"She is at home."
"Here?" I ask and Lillian nods her head, yes.
"I want to go and see her. Can I go and see her?" I asked. Lillian shook her head sighing.
"I don't know. Can you handle it?" she asked in reply.
"She is my friend..." I cried. I can't handle that Eliz suffered all these things and I wasn't here for her and to think that I promised her that I will never leave.
"Ijeoma listen, she is not your friend. She made that fact perfectly obvious by betraying you. She left you hanging. She let you to bear the blame for her actions, alone. She shut you out in the cold. She would have stood by you, but not her. No." Lillian reminded me.
"But she was young. She didn't know what she was doing." I said trying to defend Elizabeth.
"She was 20, a year older than you were then. She knows perfectly well what she was doing. I know you told yourself that because you can't imagine her as she truly was." Lillian replied.
I looked at Lillian. I know she is saying the truth but I resented her for telling me that. She is the only one I told what really happened between me and Elizabeth that day and she is the only one in my family that knows that I date only women now. She is really understanding and supportive but she almost hated Eliz for what she did to me. As I stood looking at Lillian, I felt the tears sting my eyes. I nodded at her and entered my room.
"I am sorry. I didn't mean it like that." Lillian called after me.
As I entered my room, I noticed it's been cleaned. I walked to the bedside drawer and opened it. I removed the small purse that Eliz gave to me all those years ago. I opened it and inhaled, it still smell of her a little. I held it to my chest and tried to hold back the sob. I failed woefully and the sob escaped in a wail. I fell into the bed and cried like a baby. I heard Lillian calling me outside the door but I ignored her. Then later, I heard my mom calling me too and I ignored her as well.
When I opened my eyes again, it was dark outside. I flip on the light and look at my watch. It was a few minutes after midnight. I am so tired and my eyes felt puffy and stings a little from crying too much. I got up and pull off my clothes, then I lay back again naked and minutes later, I slept off.