Efe looked around the Hall Two common room and wondered if it was time she packed up her books. The people in the room were much less than when she arrived, and like most others, Nneka had left earlier. Efe stayed because a month to exams, she still lagged in the recommended reading. She was bored by her courses and daydreamed about America.
A frisson shook her, and she sneaked a glance over her shoulder. It felt like someone staring, and she guessed the guy she just started seeing was at it again. He did all he could to get her attention, following wherever she went. If she left and came back, he also left and returned, and then spent half that time just looking at her as if he had never seen a girl. Well, he’d succeeded in his devices, and she’d noticed him.
Many times, she had to force herself to stop dreaming about his handsome looks and concentrate on her books. Once, he almost caught her studying him, but she turned away just in time. Brushing him out of her mind, she decided to study further.
An hour later, as people continued to leave; the chair beside hers became vacant. Debating whether to pack up, she felt someone take the vacant seat. Goose bumps prickled over her skin when she looked at the newcomer. Golden brown eyes gazed back at her, and her heart began to cartwheel inside her chest.
“Hello,” her new neighbor said. “Are you done?”
“No.” Efe replied, surprised at the normalcy of her voice. Her breath had hitched as his rich baritone stroked her senses. Up close, he passed for beautiful. His skin glistened and the mark in the middle of his brows set off the flaring, well-sized nostrils and thin upper lip. She turned away from the temptingly full lower lip, biting her own lips. Pulling her bag into her lap, she dug through it, not searching for anything in particular. She wanted to avoid the eyes which felt as if they could see her thoughts.
Efe went back to her books but couldn’t bear sitting beside him for long. Her heart pounded in her ears each time he turned towards her. After thirty minutes, she packed up, stacking the library books in the table corner.
“Oh, leaving?” he asked.
“Yes, it’s getting late.” Efe got to her feet and picked her tote.
“It is late,” he corrected. “Let me walk you back to the hostel.”
Efe wished he wouldn’t, yet she hoped he would. She remained silent as he also stood up and followed her out of the study room.
“You didn’t expect that I’d allow a beautiful young lady like you walk into the night alone?” he asked, as they walked out into the car park.
Her nose itched at the flattery, and she fought the urge to touch it. “But you….”
“No excuses. I am tired, and it’s time I returned to my own room too.” His smile lit up the night, “I am Kevwe Mukoro. Do you always read in that common room?”
“I read here with my friend sometimes, but she left early today. It’s also nearer to my hostel than the library, so I can walk back alone.” Efe avoided saying her name, finally wiping her nose. Too bad there was no such relief for her racing heart.
Silence stretched, as the kerosene lamps and candles filled the air with choking smoke. “Buy bread and moi moi here…” a couple of fast-food hawkers still loitering in the hostel car park chorused.
Some popcorn was pushed into their faces, but she refused his offer to buy a pack, finding herself tongue-tied for the first time in her life. It wasn’t even as if he’d propositioned her, but her wariness of male students was high. She racked her brain for something safe to fill the silence. When he asked which hostel, she said Osasogie Estate, not wanting to tell him the specific hall where she lived.
“Ah, I’m also going that way to BDPA Estate.” Kevwe asked. “Do you stay in Osasogie Hostel itself, the one in Jowitz and near the AP filling station?”
He obviously knew the area well. Efe nodded to his questions, and when he said he also often read in the common room, she couldn’t stop another nod. She bit her tongue when his teeth flashed.
“You know?” he asked, “You always looked serious. I didn’t think you noticed me.”
She closed her eyes and pinched her nose. They strolled past the suya mallam, whose kebabs sizzled as he grilled them over a banked fire in the stone ring beside his kiosk. The smell of charcoal and roasted meat filled the air, soon joined by the noise from the patrons at the Dreams cafe. The revelers sang at the top of their voices, and she walked faster out of habit. That place had a terrible reputation for drunken fights that usually ended with someone in hospital. She slowed down when the tall figure beside her matched her step for step. Efe was glad of his presence, but a sigh of relief still escaped her when the Jowitz sign appeared.
“So what’s your name?”
“E… fe… E… Ife…” she stammered, heart hammering in fear that he’d catch her lie.
“Ife?” He smiled at her, “that’s pretty and suits you. What…”
“We’re here,” Efe cut in once they were in front of her hostel, leaving him with the false name. “Thanks for walking me back… goodnight.”
“Goodnight, and sweet dreams,” Kevwe replied.
Efe tried to hold on to the dregs of her composure as she walked away. He was still there when she turned to close the gate. Once inside, Efe ran up the stairs and all the way down the corridors to her room. She closed the door and leaned against it, letting out a sigh with her eyes closed. Her two roommates stared back at her when she opened her eyes, but she ignored them, and walked to her bed.
“Who is it, what’s wrong?” asked Jane, the outspoken one.
“Nothing,” Efe replied. “I’m just tired.” When they went back to their books, she undressed and got into bed. Meeting Kevwe Mukoro had shaken her, and something told her he would be a part of her life.
From Myne Whitman: I am an author of Nigerian romance novels. My husband is the love of my life and we live in Seattle, USA. Here on informationnigeria.org, I’ll be sharing excerpts from my second novel, A Love Rekindled. You can also find me and more of my writings on;