ELEVEN YEARS AGO
“Move Mofe, just move and ignore the chick,” Eric, his cousin said as he tugged on his shirt but Mofe couldn’t move. He was transfixed to the spot, staring at Ezinne and contemplating going over to where she was seated.
They were on their way home as they were both done for the day and had a game of basketball in the estate, they were going against long time rivals from another estate and they couldn’t be late . They had taken the shorter route to the school’s main gate which had them walking across the school park which was otherwise known as ‘the lovers garden’. The name explained it all but Ezinne didn’t look like she was meeting a lover there. She looked troubled, her books and handbag placed beside her on the bench, head looking downwards, she seemed to be lost in her thoughts and Mofe found himself wondering what might be the problem.
It had been two weeks since the encounter in front of the house and they had conveniently stayed out of the other’s way since but seeing her like this, he just couldn’t bring himself to leave without knowing what the problem was.
“Eric, look at her, she is troubled,”
“and how is that your problem?”
“Mofe! you have started again, you owe this chick nothing, why you acting like you do? let’s go home now, we have a game and we will be benched if we are late!”
Mofe sighed, just then she looked up and their eyes met, he made his decision “Eric, abeg just give me five minutes to find out what the problem is, then we will be off.”
Eric shook his head in exasperation. “Un-freaking-believable!”
Mofe couldn’t just walk away, Eric would never get it, he didn’t know it would haunt him if he didn’t get to know what the problem was. He already had a guilty conscience pricking him for the past two weeks because of how he’d talked to her that night.
He approached where she was seated as they held each other’s gaze. He had missed those light brown eyes, especially when they held humour in their depths, not like now. Now they were shooting darts at him.
“Hi,” he said when he got to her, mentally bracing himself for the verbal attack she would unleash on him, he probably deserved it.
“Hello….Mofe,” she said, her gaze blank and her voice dead of emotion, “can I help you?”
“Actually ….you look like the one who could use some help.”
“She frowned “excuse me?”
“You’ve been staring into space for the past few minutes with a worried expression …… care to share?”
“Why…how…how does my problem concern you?” She stuttered with a frown, clearly confused.
He shrugged “I want to see if I can help.”
“Did I ask for your help?”
“Don’t Zinnie me! after the way you acted the other night and then began ignoring me for the past two weeks, you are here telling me you want to help me with my problem? ”
“okay, I’m sorry for the other night, I might have taken things a bit too far and acted a bit rude because I had been pissed.”
“I apologised over and over about it but you didn’t even hear it, I sat down on the grass outside your gate, waiting for you to get back, emphasis on ‘waiting’, I ‘waited’ till you got back but I guess that didn’t matter since you didn’t ask me to, in the first place.
I got that you were angry that night, fine but ignoring me after wards like I didnt exist, after all this time we have been together, I didn’t get that part and now you are here once again asking to know what’s wrong like nothing ever happened.”
Jeez, when she put it like that, he felt like the bad guy.
“Zinnie, he sat down on the bench opposite hers “I have been pissed with you, I worked my butt off on your project and when you left me there to wait, it felt like you were taking my work for granted…..and then you now offered to pay for my work. I didnt tell you I needed to be paid for it….”
“He did,” She chipped in pointing at where Eric stood “He told me others paid for you to do theirs.”
He looked back at Eric who looked greatly displeased, jabbing a finger at his wristwatch in a gesture that told him he was wasting time. Mofe ignored him, turning back to Ezinne.
“I didnt ask you to pay me, did I?”
“No but then, I knew how much work you had put into it, you deserved some sort of reward.”
He had to smile, he’d been rewarded, everytime she’d been pleased, her features brightening up and the time they’d shared together, all that had been his reward and he was okay with it.
“I asked to help with it in the first place, didnt i? I came to you, not the other way around….consider it a sort of volunteer job. Just like now.”
Her brows creased lightly, “Why?”
“Why… What?” He asked.
“Why are you always so eager to help me out all the time, asking for nothing in return?”
He shrugged, because he was a ‘love jones’ where she was concerned?….”I don’t know but I just can’t walk by knowing you are in some sort of fix.I just want to help if I can.”
“Your friend doesn’t seem like he can hang around much longer.” She nodded in Eric’s direction
“He’s my cousin and he will wait.”
“He doesn’t like me much, does he? The looks he’s giving me, like I did something horrible to him in a past life.”
More couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped him at her exaggeration “ Forget him, just tell me what’s bothering you.”
Her face took on a serious expression as she spoke“It’s CS 422, Dr. Franca’s course, I wasn’t able to submit my term paper.”
“What? How come? That was since the middle of the term.”
“Totally IK’s fault,” She started, IK was the course representative “He forgot mine behind and when I took it to her later, she told me she wasn’t accepting anymore. I got IK to explain to her that he left it behind by mistake but she didnt even listen. You know how she can be, said IK was lying and I’d bribed him or something.”
“Wow, its a four credit load course and you could get a carry over because that term paper…”
“It’s the continuous assessment, I know… and a carry over would mean an extra year, don’t you think I know that? That’s why I am worried as hell? I have been begging this woman since then, I was just preparing to go to her office again.”
“Okay then, what are you waiting for? let’s move!” He got up.
“Move where?” She asked uncertainly, getting up slowly
“To her office, where else?”
“You are coming with?”
“How about your cousin?”
“Oh!” He had totally forgotten Eric for a while, he turned and he could sense Eric’s anger from where he stood. He wouldn’t hear the last of it that evening, he was going to miss the game.
“He doesn’t look too good,” she muttered.
Mofe sighed as he held his cousin’s gaze, gesturing that he had to go with Ezinne, Eric shook his head with a disapproving look before he turned to leave.
“What’s with him anyway?” She asked knowing there was something amiss.
“Nothing, he’s just sort of……..” he searched for a word, “uptight and reserved.”
She shrugged, taking his explanation “I’m parked over there.”
Ezinne felt littler than a pea in the presence of Dr. Franca Asenokhai, the woman was a bully and for some reason hated females. She seemed to be in love with Mofe though, she had watched him charm her to bits since they had entered her office. Sweet talking her and even playing with her one year old daughter who was in the office with them.
“So you are asking me to accept your term paper now when others submitted theirs at the beginning of the term?”
It had actually been at the middle of the term but Ezinne didnt want to go into such technicalities with the woman. She just nodded her head profusely hoping the woman would accept it this time. Mofe had already done the ground work of pleading on her behalf and was now, cooing and ahhing to the little kid who also seemed inlove with him, you could tell by her consistent gurgling.
“You know what, I dont have time for this right now,” She got up from her seat and Ezinne’s heart sank. “I have a staff meeting right now, when I’m back, we’ll discuss it.
They would discuss it? Ezinne felt a glimmer of hope, this was better unlike before when she hadn’t bothered listening to her and had asked her to leave her office.
“You will stay with Isabel till I get back.” She said to her and Ezinne wasn’t sure she had heard right.
She was about to say something when she got a warning look from Mofe to keep quiet and she instantly swallowed all she had wanted to say.
Dr. Franca turned to Mofe “M.J, will you also be here when I return?”
Mofe got up, carrying the baby so comfortably on one hand “No ma, I have somewhere to be.”
“Okay then, dont be a stranger.” She told him with a sweet smile.
Mofe gave her his boyish smile, Ezinne suspected he had practiced that smile a million times in front of the mirror. It was so perfect and could melt the stiffest of hearts.
“I’ll try not to, ma.”
Ezinne turned on him immediately the woman was out of the office “What the hell, Mofe? How am I supposed to babysit an infant?”
“Relax…. she is over a year old, not much of an infant.”
Ezinne looked from him to the baby and back, all she could see was a plump round faced little being of whom she wasn’ t sure how to manage.
“I dont know the first thing about babies.”
“Then I guess you’ll learn today?”
“So not funny, Mofe.”
“I’m not laughing, I have somewhere to be or I might have stuck around.”
“But why did you stop me from telling Dr. Franca that I couldn’t do it?” She asked with an unsure glance at the kid who was now leaning dangerously close to her.
“You couldnt do what? Have you forgotten that you came here to beg her to receive your term paper, so that you could have your C.A scores, so that you wouldn’t get a carry over, so that you wouldn’t repeat a year? Or would you rather repeat a year than babysit this cute little angel?” He asked tickling the baby as he said the last part.
She rolled her eyes, he did makes sense but she didnt know the first thing about babies “Atleast stay with me, please.”
“Nope, got to go!” He said suddenly shoving the kid at her.
In her confusion, she grabbed the kid to herself, “Mofe…. what do I do if it begins crying?”
Mofe was already at the door “I don’t know…sing to it?” He shrugged “by the way, you owe me!”
“Owe you for what?”
She didnt get an answer as he closed the door behind him, leaving her alone with it. What did she owe him for, she thought he didn’t want any sort of compensation.
Sighing resignedly, she looked at it and it stared back up at her, it’s plump features suddenly transitioning into an open mouthed smile, two bottom teeth popping out.
Ezinne smiled back, hoping the staff meeting wouldn’t take too long.