Nenye came everyday, and the more I spent time with her, the more the words kept flowing freely from my mouth. She had gotten better with the three subjects we treated: maths, physics and chemistry, and it made her very happy. We started revising other subjects too, asking each other questions. Although we hardly spoke in school, I was happy we were getting close as friends. She sat with her usual friends and hung around with them, while she said "hi" to me whenever we happen to cross paths.
One Saturday, Nenye surprised me by coming by 2:00pm instead of the usual 4:00pm.
"Hi Nenye," I smiled on seeing her. "what are you doing here?
" I asked stupidly instead of letting her in.
"Will you let me in?" She pushed my chest and made her way in and plopped herself on the bed.
"Sorry about that, I was just surprised." I sat on the bed and stretched out my leg. "Do you have somewhere you would be at four? "
"No." She looked at me strangely. "I didn't come for lesson, I just came to see you."
Oh! But you see me during lesson. I wanted to say.
"But we will do that later," Was the words that came out.
"Maybe we should'nt even do. In fact, today is lesson free day. What were you doing?" She turned my laptop to face her.
"Watching a movie," I said staring at her. She was very beautiful today, with her simple gown and her hair packed up. She hardly wore makeup except few times at school and they were very simple. She really knew she was naturally beautiful. But does she know what she does to me? I bet she doesn't.
"Why am I surprised?" She played the movie I had paused and checked the name. "Walking tiger." She turned to me. "I thought you read evey seconds."
"No, come on!"
"Maybe except the time you eat, take your bath, sleep and listen to the lecturers"
"No Nenye, I watch movies too..."
"You don't visit friends, friends don't visit you, you don't go out, no social life whatsoever?"
I lowered my eyes not knowing what to sat. "I--just..."
"Why are you so shy?"
That was too direct and it rendered me completely clueless of what to think.
"Yea," I looked up.
"You are getting shy with me now."
"See Nenye," I summoned up courage. "It's just me," I spread my arms. "I don't know how to help it. Abel and Etim are my friends, they visited once before."
"And have you visited?"
"Come on Thomas, you never try, that is just it. The boys are playing ball today and you didn't join them. So how will you make friends? Have you ever played football before?"
I laughed at that. "Come on! Yes I have, with my brothers and few friends from secondary school."
She eyed me and shook her head. "You are just too shy, over shy they worry you. Okay, let's watch the movie. She lay on the bed with her stomach and I had no other option but to do the same. This was the first and it made me glad she had not come for lesson. I was not really concentrating in the movie, Nenye being so close was doing something to my senses. When we were done, she stretched and smiled. "The movie is good."
"Will you eat?" I suddenly remembered my manners.
"What did you cook?"
"Really? Go and bring it."
"Is that your favourite?"
"No, but I will like to taste a boy's soup. Oya osiso!"
I smiled as I stood up.Thank God I could cook.
"This is good" She said as she tasted the soup."
"You are really a good cook. Wait, what are you not good at? Don't worry I know" She said before I could say anything.
I smiled at that. I knew what she was about to say.
The weeks that followed brought Nenye and I closer and closer. We silently agreed that Saturdays wouldn't be for studying. She cooked in my house sometimes and we ate together and I walked her to the hostel everyday. Now, the real problem was saying the three words that had Iodged itself in my throat. It refused to come out. I was scared, really scared. Scared of what she would say, scared of what she would not say, scared of what it might do-destroying the friendship we had built. But it might not be so I reasoned, and I would never know if I don't say it. But I had to say it anyways, for it was getting harder to contain the words in my heart and I was scared it would come out unexpectedly.
Sunday evening, Nenye and I were laughing and discussing. I was no longer shy around her and could say virtually almost everything I wanted to. I was laughing at what she said when suddenly Nenye came closer and started removing my glasses.
"Wha--t" I tried stopping her.
"Wait," she removed my hands. "can't you see without them?"
"I barely see."
She had finally removed the glasses and peered through them.
"That's not good," I warned.
"I know." She kept the glasses far from the bed and turned to me, "Can you see me?"
"Yea I can, but I'm straining my eyes and it gives me headache."
"Try not to strain and try if you can see me."
"I can't help not straining."
"I love your eyes." She suddenly said and I found myself staring straight into hers.
I love yours too, I wanted to say but found it difficult as she came closer and touched my eyes. I had to close them.
"It's small and it makes you cute."
She thinks I'm cute. That made my heart began beating erratically. She removed her hands and I opened my eyes to see her picking up the glasses. She fixed them back to my eyes and sat down back.
"So you think I'm not cute with the glasses?" I asked.
"Did I say so?"
"Literally you didn't, but I heard clearly what you did not say."
She looked at me and laughed. It was pure elixir. I felt like catching the sound and moulding it into my heart.
"You know you are cute Thomas even with your glasses, and then your dark skin makes it all the more better."
Oh God! What is she doing to me? I felt like I was floating in the air. I should say those words, they were fast pushing their way out of my throat.
'What?" She asked as I kept staring at her. I took a deep breath and had to stop myself from adjusting my glasses. I instead took her hands and still staring into her eyes said the words.
"I love you Nenye, so much," I repeated myself. Her countenance changed immediately as she freed her hand from my grasp.
"So now what? You want to be my boyfriend or what?" She took the words from my mouth. I didn't like the tone of her voice, but I answered anyway.
"Yes--If that's what you want. I just want to let you know how I feel and I really wish to be your boyfriend."
"How do you think that will work? She sounded frustrated.
"Do you have a boyfriend?"
"That's not the point" She wouldn't look at me. "I... It's just that you are not really my type-- I mean, I see you as a friend..."
I didn't hear more of what she was saying as my heart slammed against my chest wall beating so fast. Something lodged itself in my throat causing inscrutable pain. I was fighting tears as the words kept repeating in my head.
"Thomas." I heard as she touched my lap.
"No it's okay." I shifted so her hand fell. "I get it."
"You shouldn't really have said that. I need to go." She waited a little, maybe for me to say something. When I remained silent, she took her purse and left. And that was when the tears began falling.
What have I done? I have sent her away, I have made her reject me. It hurts, it hurts more than when I had broken an arm.
I lay on my bed as her voice kept beating a drum in my head. So I wasn't her type? Yea of course I knew, I wasn't like other boys. No girl had ever looked at me twice. But I thought Nenye was different! I thought I stood a chance since she accepted me as a friend! So I was only good for the books? But what was that nonsense about how cute I was? I... Oh God, let this just be a dream.
I closed my eyes tightly and my heart constricted at the same time in pain. Nenye...
Nenye avoided me like a plague. She never came to say hi to me again and never chatted me up. I too kept my distance, hiding my pain behind my glasses. I spent a lot of time reading my books, but it kept reminding me of Nenye. Watching movies did not help, every lady seemed to look like her. Even cooking was no different, for we did almost everything together.
Why does it hurt so much? Why did I allow Nenye come close? I should have just known I was just a pawn to her success, no girl could ever love me, why did I forget that?
But then I had never been in love before, I never knew I was going to fall-so hard.
One Tuesday, we all struggled as usual to enter NSLT-5 for chemistry lectures. I had sat down when a girl sat down beside me and I immediately caught a whiff of her smell. I turned immediately and found myself staring at Nenye's smiling face.
I immediately turned my face. What is she doing here? She usually use the other door. I found it hard to concentrate throughout lectures, I couldn't wait to leave. Immediately after the class, I stood up to leave when Nenye stopped me with her hand.
I looked at her.
"Can we talk?"
"We are having lectures the next minute you know that. And what is there to talk about? I continued outside the class not once looking back.
I was drifting in and out of slumber when I was spurred awake by a knock on my door. I was shirtless because of the heat and didn't bother putting on a shirt thinking it was one of the neighbors. I opened my door and stopped short-It was Nenye. I saw her eyes stare me over as she tried to hide a smile.
"What are you doing here?" I asked rather coldly.
"Can I come in?" She asked instead. I hesitated a little before opening the door wider. She entered and I caught a whiff of that smell again that rubbished my senses. I took a deep breath trying to collect myself before closing the door. I went to my bed and put on my shirt, Nenye was already sitting on the bed. I sat far away with my back resting on the wall and looked at her.
"Thomas," She called my name that way she usually does that did things to my heart. "I'm sorry for the way I treated you, I really am."
"No Nenye, you did nothing wrong. It's not your fault that I am not your type."
"No Thomas," She was shaking her head. "I was wrong, you are my friend and--and--I--I shouldn't have said that. Can you forgive me?
"It's okay Nenye, I don't hold anything against you." Well, that was a lie, I knew that much. But Nenye was not to blame, I knew that too.
"Do you still like me?"
"I said do you still love me?" she was looking straight at me.
"Why are you asking me this Nenye? Why...?"
"Because I like you Thomas."
"What!" I muttered. Have I heard well?
"Yes, I really do." She was looking down at her hands on her lap, but she looked up again. "I really missed you, and it's not because of how you are helping me. I miss our time together."
"You really like me?" I tried not to show the excitement in my voice.
"Yes and I want to be your girlfriend."
"But--don't you have a boyfriend?"
She looked at me and laughed. "no."
"What about all those boys?"
"Thomas." I saw her try to shift closer but stopped.
What was I doing? I was supposed to be holding her now, but I was still glued to the wall like a mugu.
"They are just my friends."
"Okay." I was still staring sheepishly at her. Then I felt her touch on my thighs. It was ethereal. And that was when I felt all restraints letting me go.
"Oh Nenye!" I held my arms wide opened and she practically jumped inside. I fell on the bed with her on top of me. We were both laughing. "Oh God, I have missed you so much."
"Me too." She removed my glasses and stared into my eyes.
I flipped her over so I was on top. Her smile was so radiant as I stared at her. I then did what I have never imagined doing in years to come-kissed her.