Ilemona had just got back from the market and was about to start preparing supper. The sun was going down and Baba would be back home soon. He didn’t like it when he had to wait for his evening meal. She had to hurry. The little children in their family compound were playing with an old car tyre, taking turns to move it around with a stick while the older children where playing Whots. They had started to argue that Ocheja had cheated in the card game and they would have to start a new game. Ilemona smiled as she watched them squabble. She missed the times when her and her best friend, Unugwa would argue over matters as trivial as this. But Unugwa was now married and living in Lokoja with her husband. The news of Unugwa’s engagement had come as a shock to her. Unugwa had never mentioned that she was getting married even though she had known about it for a long time. Ilemona had not understood it; she still didn’t. They told each other everything. She had told Unugwa when she started having her secret meetings with Oyidi under the cashew tree in her father’s farm. They were coming back from Iye Ele’s kiosk when Unugwa broke the news.
‘I am getting married Ile’, she said looking down at the reddish earth. She examined the sand like someone who was seeing it for the first time. She sounded defeated.
Ilemona laughed. She believed that this was one of Unugwa’s jokes. She had once lied that she was pregnant for Adejo, the pastor’s son. Ilemona was so worried that she didn’t eat for days. She could only think about what Unugwa’s parents would do to her. Her father was a retired soldier and she was an only child. They were about to graduate from secondary school at the time. But what could have inspired this new lie? Perhaps it was the Mexican soap opera they usually sneaked to watch through Baba Enejo’s window. He was the only one with a functioning television in Odu-Ofomu. The love interests got married in the last episode.
‘Please stop this Unugwa. Your lies will get you in trouble someday’, she said as they approached the rusty red gate that led into Ilemona’s compound. But Unugwa said nothing. Ilemona looked at friend’s face and it became clear that this was not one of her petty jokes. Her lips didn’t twitch as they usually did when she was telling her cynical lies. She wasn’t blinking really fast.
Ilemona was speechless. They had been making plans to go to university together the following year. After hearing Laraba’s incredulous stories about Dugbe Market, they had decided that they were going to go to the University of Ibadan. They had never been outside Kogi and they were going to use this opportunity to do so. Unugwa clearly had other plans.
‘I’m sorry Ile, I didn’t know how to tell you. I didn’t want to hurt your feelings,’ she pleaded. She was fiddling with the pack of Tom Tom they had bought from Iye Ele.
Unugwa never really wanted to go to university. She had simple needs. All she wanted was a man who could take care of her and with whom...