The sun was already setting as Nadia trudged along the boulevard. It was seven o’ clock, but the neighborhood kids were still out on the street, playing or sitting around swapping stories as they stalled or ignored their mothers’ calls to come in for the evening meal. A group of adults was gathered outside Mr. Okafor’s house obviously taking advantage of the cool evening breeze, a remnant of the good weather from the Atlantic Ocean. Mumbled replies welcomed her as she greeted them; Mr. Okafor was also in their midst, and he smiled proudly as he broke a kola nut and crunched half in his mouth.
Nadia shrugged, finding it strange but unable to delve into adult business at the moment. Strange, because on Tuesdays Mr. Okafor would already be at work at the National Electric Company on the other side of town where he worked into the early hours of the morning. He would also be driving into the boulevard as they left for school on Wednesday morning, honking his horn and nodding as they greeted him. Strange, also, because he [PEH1] had certainly gotten friendlier these past few months, as if he had won the lottery.
There were many guesses in the neighborhood as to why: his wife had just opened a bigger store at the local market selling provisions and other household wares; he’d finally gotten the supervisory position he sought so earnestly at the electric company; the community association just recently made him treasurer; and his oldest son, Anthony, graduated from university with honors in the United States and was coming back home to Nigeria for some quality family time before returning to commence his master’s program in engineering. All these were theories, but nobody knew the truth behind his most recent happiness.
Nadia ran into two of her friends, Chioma, and Ngozi, both playing marbles on the sidewalk.
“Nadia, do you know your father is at home?” said Chioma. She was fifteen years old, but wise beyond her years.
The kids knew Mr. Yakub, Nadia’s father, very well, and for good reason. When he came walking down the street, they dispersed like spilled water, dodging into their own homes and any nook and corner they could find. Mr. Yakub was a no-nonsense man, and he disciplined everybody’s kids like his own whether the parents liked it or not.
He favored an authoritarian parenting style and demanded that all the females in his household cover their hair at all times. Despite modernism, a lot of Muslim households in Nigeria still required headscarves to be worn by their women. Of course, Nadia and her sisters wanted to be fashionable like other females their age and had resorted to all kinds of ways to be like their contemporaries without incurring their father’s wrath.
They would cover their hair before leaving the house, take it the scarf off after a couple of yards, go about their business, and put it back on a few yards from the house when coming back.
“Are you sure?” Nadia asked the two girls.
“Yes, Nadia,” Ngozi, the most talkative of the lot, answered as Nadia draped a brown floral scarf over her head.
“Thanks. See you later,” Nadia said, picking up her pace.
She was tired, hungry, and eager to eat dinner. She was so engrossed with trying to secure the scarf that she didn’t notice three males walking in her direction. All of a sudden, she found herself smacking against a hard body.
“Oh, sorry!” she apologized immediately as she looked up into the face of her victim.
He was almost a good head and a half taller than her. He steadied her with his hands and would not let go immediately. She couldn’t help but notice how handsome he was. His square jaw was masculine yet tempered by lips that were parted in clear surprise as his clear brown eyes looked into hers, as if trying to decipher a mystery by looking into her very soul. She could discern a tiny scar just above his right brow, and the little gap between his two front teeth only added to his sex appeal. For a moment, they seemed lost in time, lost in each other’s gaze, until his two male companions coughed in amusement.
She came down to earth at once, pulling back. “I am so sorry!”
“It’s OK. It’s OK.” His hands were strong yet gentle on her arms as they steadied her. She tingled from the contact as alien warmth suffused her body.
She stepped back suddenly as if burned. He was easily six feet tall, and his very white teeth was a sharp contrast to his ebony black skin. His hair was in a low box cut, and she could see the vein in his neck as if magnified. Even her senses were heightened. He had on a white T-shirt, and his jeans were a dark blue rinse color. A simple gold necklace complimented his casual look. The evening breeze wafted his cologne into her nostrils. It was masculine, musky, and it smelled wonderful. She breathed in sharply, confused and alarmed.
He watched her with narrowed eyes, taking in her appearance in one sweeping motion, and extended one of his strong hands that had burned her earlier, but she refused.
“Are you all right?” his voice was deep, gentle, and genuinely concerned.
“Yes. Yes, I am. Bye.” She glanced briefly at his friends’ still amused faces and walked briskly away from them. Soft laughter followed her, but she didn’t dare look back, afraid she would run back into his arms just to experience that warm feeling once more.
Dinner was in progress when she got home. Her mother was busy with the soup, and the youngest wife, Rashida, was pounding yam in the mortar with all her might. It wasn’t an easy task to make pounded yam for a big family of fifteen: her father, three wives, and twelve children in total. But she had signed up for it, marrying into a household as big as Mr. Yakub’s, who was proud of having three wives. Nadia’s mother, Basrat, was the first wife with five children. Nadia was also the family’s firstborn. She had four siblings: Jaleel, Rakhya, Hadeed, and Zayed. The second wife, Reeskat, had four children: Ahmed, Khaeera, Alee, and Rasheed. At twenty-five, Rashida the youngest wife was barely older than Nadia herself. Her children, Miriam and Suleman, were the youngest children in the house.
As Nadia went about her chores in thethat evening, her mind was unsettled. All she could think about was the man she had bumped into earlier. Her body warmed up whenever she remembered his touch, and she prayed silently for God to forgive her for thinking such dirty thoughts, especially about a man she barely knew. Certainly, she had never met anyone like him. He didn’t look like he belonged around here.
After much wondering, she came to the conclusion that he had to be the one and only Anthony Mr. Okafor had been doting on. He certainly looked like a decent guy, but, sigh, she couldn’t afford to think about him, or any other guy, for that matter. Her father was very strict, even as he warned his daughters whenever he lectured them after morning prayers for them not to marry outside the household religion. Well, that took care of Anthony right there because Mr. Okafor and his family were staunch Catholics. Secondly, she still had to graduate from high school, whereas Anthony was on his way to a master’s degree in another country. Thirdly, there were so many “worldly” girls in Festac Town, he wouldn’t even give her the time of day. She doubted if their paths would ever cross again.
At this that point in time, the only thing Nadia wanted to do was finish school, pass her post-secondary exams, and get admission to study medicine at the University of Ife or the University of Lagos. She couldn’t wait to get out of secondary school and begin college life because she was actually older than most of her classmates, who turned eighteen after they graduated. The family had moved around a lot in her younger years because her father worked for Siemens and would transferred every year or so to another state in the country.
He always would move all the family with him, believing staunchly that families need to be always together if a coherent household is desired especially with as a large household as his. However, these moves sometimes came with consequences, and Nadia was held a class back from her real grade when she was thirteen.
She was troubled though because her father had been so adamant that she enroll in a correspondence writing course from the Writing School of England. Nadia started writing children’s stories purely as a hobby and for her friends’ entertainment at the age of nine. Her father had taken interest and encouraged her, but she didn’t want to make a career out of writing.
She had grand ideas about making a difference in the world and believed being a doctor would create a pathway for her to do that. Time would tell.
As soon as the evening prayers were over, she ate dinner, took a bath, and retreated to the backyard of the bungalow for to enjoy athe late night breeze before bed.
“Nadia, have you seen Anthony?” her younger sister, Rakhya, said excitedly as she joined her on the bench, her eyes wide with excitement. “Oh, he is sooo handsome!”
“Hmm…” Nadia raised a brow. Rakhya could be dramatic at times.
“Really? That is all you can say? Oh my God, he was walking the streets today with his friends, and all the girls were just gushing over him. He answered when we said hi and waved to us. Do you know that he bought his dad a new car? And Nkechi said he brought so many goodies back from the US. I am going over to their house tomorrow!”
“Why?” Nadia asked, unwilling to disclose that she had indeed met him or that he had any effect on her, too. “You and Nkechi don’t really like each other.”
Nkechi was Anthony’s younger sister, aged fifteen, attended the same school with them but acted like she was better because she came fromwent to a private school. Besides, she wore glasses, and anybody who wore glasses was seen as super-smart and special. On reflection, Nadia had come to the conclusion that this was so because some households just couldn’t afford to get prescription glasses for their children or that a lot of children did go to school blind because eye tests were never conducted in schools.
“Well, today at school I decided to make up with her, and she invited a couple of us to her house tomorrow. I just want to catch a glimpse of Anthony. He is sooo fine!”
Nadia sighed and shook her head. Rakhya was the outgoing one, always hanging out with friends. Though they had two years between them she suspected that her sister was already dabbling in things she had no business doing, just because of the company she kept. She loved going to the picture studios [PEH2] and had been in several fights even, most of which their father was not aware of because their mother was always covering for her.
Nadia knew she did not have time for kissing ass in order to see Anthony. Nothing pleased Nadia more than curling up with a good book and reading into the wee hours of the morning, sometimes even forgetting her chores. Her friends were few but very close, and she spent time with them also, but the last thing she would do was run the streets [PEH3] or start seeking out some guy because he just came back from the US.
“All right, Rakhya, have fun but don’t come crying when you find out he has a girlfriend. What makes you think he’d even look at you? You’re just sixteen!”
“Hmm…age doesn’t matter.” Rakhya smiled, swished her skirt, and stuck out her tongue. “You’re just jealous because I am going to their house tomorrow, and you’re not.”
Nadia sighed again, shaking her head and smiling as she watched her sister go. “These little girls…”
In the quiet and solitude, Nadia’s mind wandered, wishing she was just a child again without a care in the world. She looked forward to life after high school but was still scared of the unknown.
From a faraway place in her subconscious, she divvied up [PEH4] random memories from her childhood. One particular incident stood out, and she laughed at herself as she remembered bygone days of innocence.
Next day after dinner, Rakhya gushed about going to Anthony’s place, how nice he was, how wonderful his family was, all the goodies they got from him (chocolate bars, candies, and T-shirts), and how she couldn’t wait for him to ask her out. Nadia listened to her with semi-interest, eager to know yet afraid to show that Anthony had gotten under her skin. She had spent the whole day at school daydreaming about him. She just couldn’t get that charming smile off her mind, and the tingling sensation of his touch still lingered. Every time she thought of him, goosebumps rose on her arms. It was a scary yet delicious feeling.
“Are you not going to see him?” Rakhya asked.
“Why should I?”
She shrugged. “So, you can get chocolate and a T-shirt, and you can give them to me if you don’t want them.”
Nadia laughed. “I trust you, Rakhya. Ever the opportunist.”
“You know me. I like to mingle,” Rakhya replied. “Anyway, they’re having a party for Anthony on Saturday, and we have been invited. It’s going to be a big party to celebrate his graduation.”
“I am not going.”
“Suit yourself.” Rakhya said. “I already know what I’m going to wear. My purple and gold gown, and I’ll borrow one of mom’s necklaces.”
“What about your hair? You’ll probably be the only girl at the party with her head covered.”
“I don’t care. I already told Mom, and she’s buying me a gold shawl tomorrow. It will match nicely with my dress, and I’ll walk like a princess, like Cinderella…” Her voice tapered off dreamily.
Nadia sighed in exasperation. She left her there sister dreaming about Anthony and went to bed.
Sleep did not come easy that night. Saturday was only three days away. She so much wanted to catch a glimpse of Anthony once again, though everything in her common sense told her that was not a good idea. She had never been the slightest bit interested in the boys around her because none fascinated her enough to engage her in thoughtful conversation. She loved intelligent men especially when they combined it with wit and humor. She wanted a Prince Charming like the ones she read about in the romance novels she swapped with her friends.
And she also wanted a career for herself. She loved her family but felt her mother and stepmothers could do more for themselves if they were more educated. None of them worked outside the home, and Nadia believed her father took advantage of that. Her father was a nice man but sometimes he wasn’t nice to his wives at all. Nadia didn’t blame him, though. The wives bickered too much over little things, and it was enough to drive even her crazy at times. Nadia wanted more than this mundane yet chaotic existence. She wanted an intelligent, funny, handsome, Prince Charming who would come in from nowhere and whisk her away on his powerful horse into the sunset. Dreams.
Nadia loved to learn and usually stayed after school to study because the house was always full of raucous children running around. Fridays in particular, she liked the most because only a few people were on the school grounds, and the principal let them stay until six pm. She had her favorite place to study, and there she was after school, engrossed in logarithms when she heard her name called softly.
“Nadia.” That voice. She looked up, surprised to find Anthony standing over her desk. He was looking even more handsome than she remembered. He was wearing a short-sleeved shirt, light blue, worn over dark blue jean shorts with brown loafers. The gold chain was still around his neck, and he was alone. And she couldn’t take her eyes off his legs. They were strong and solid, If not that he was a manhe hadn’t been a man, she would have thought them beautiful. “Hi.”
Nadia was apprehensive not because he was there, and they were alone but because she didn’t trust herself around him.
She gulped as words tried escaping her mouth. “How…?”
He smiled as he grabbed a chair and sat beside her. “I believe we are yet to be properly introduced. I know you’re Nadia, and I’m Anthony.”
He extended his hand, and this time, she did not resist. She welcomed the warmth because it was so beautiful what she felt as they shook hands. She wondered if he felt it too because he kept her hand in his for a minute.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Studying, as you can see,” she replied. “I like the quiet. And what are you doing here, by the way? Last I heard, you already graduated from college. You certainly [PEH5] don’t need to be mingling with us high schoolers anymore.” She felt more confident as she found her voice. “And the security guard wouldn’t like it if he found you here.”
“I know. I was wondering, isn’t it dangerous, you being here all alone by yourself?” He looked around. “There’s hardly anybody in the compound, and the security guard is outside the gates.”
Nadia shrugged. “I know I’m safe here. It’s a school for God’s sake, and there are usually a lot of us, but because it’s Friday a lot of students went home early.” She got up and packed her books. “And it would be a good idea if I did the same.”
“Please don’t leave because of me.” Anthony stopped her. “I didn’t mean to bother you. I just wanted us to talk. That’s all.”
Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Talk about what? If you think I’m one of those girls, you must be—”
“Geez, calm down. I don’t think anything. I just want to be friends!” he exclaimed. “Why are you so defensive anyway? Your sister is definitely friendlier. She came to the house the other day, and she’s all open and easygoing.”
“Then go talk to my sister!” Nadia replied, infuriated. “In case you’ve forgotten, you invited yourself into my domain.”
He laughed. “Such big words! Nadia, I just want to talk to you, OK?” His voice softened. “Let’s be friends?”
“What’s the point? You’ll be going back to the US soon anyway,” she stressed, looking into his eyes. And at that moment, she could see herself in them. She had zero dating experience, but she had never seen the tenderness in Anthony’s eyes before. “I’m too young for you!” she snapped, bringing herself back to the present. “And we’re from totally different backgrounds.”
“Wow! Wow!” Anthony’s laugh was loaded with warmth. “What are you talking about Nadia? It hasn’t come to that yet, OK? Can we sit down and talk for a minute? I like you a lot, OK? I want us to be friends.”
She shook her head in futility. “I don’t know what it is with you wanting to be friends. How can we be friends when you’re only here temporarily?” She reluctantly sat back down. “It’s almost six, and I need to be getting home before evening prayers start.”
“Where’s your scarf?”
“My scarf? You don’t expect me to wear a scarf to go to school, do you? Even my father knows better. Policy is policy. His freedom stops where the school gates begin, actually. The school only allows uniform [PEH6] caps on campus.”
“You are a spitfire of words, aren’t you?” he said amusedly. “I like you a lot. I’ve heard a lot about you—”
Her eyes narrowed in suspicion. “From whom?” Nadia was a very private person, but no amount of privacy could hide everybody’s dirty linen; it was part of the fabric that wove the boulevard together.
“Don’t worry, I have my sources. Are you coming to the party tomorrow?”
“’Cos I don’t want to, don’t see the need to, and I have a math exam on Monday, I have to study very hard for over the weekend, so I don’t flunk. I’m having problems with graphing equations, and it’s driving me crazy. This new teacher Mr. Phillips ‘supposedly’ studied in the United States, and he says he doesn’t want to spoon-feed us, but God, he’s making things worse. He starts explaining and then goes, blah, blah, blah.” She stopped talking when she noticed the look on his face. “What’s funny?”
“You, going on and on about Mr. Phillips. I can help you, you know.”
“I’m an engineering major, in case you haven’t heard.” He raised his brows in pride. “A little bit of math won’t kill me, especially if I have to tutor a student like you.”
Her eyes lit up. “Really?”
“Why not? We can meet up tomorrow, and I’ll teach you an easy way to solve graphing equations. Two to three hours should be enough.”
“But tomorrow is your party. You’ll be too busy.”
“Trust me, if I had a choice, I wouldn’t attend the party myself, but I have to make the old man happy, you know. Besides, the women are taking care of all the preparations, . all All I need to do is show up. If you want, we could meet up here at ten in the morning and be done by twelve, but only if you will attend the party.”
“So, there’s a catch.” She tapped her fingers on the desk. “You know, I’m showing up at the party ‘appropriately dressed,’ right?”
“So? You are beautiful with or without the scarf Nadia.” His eyes swept her up and down. “Come naked if you want to. I won’t mind.”
“Just teasing. God, you’re something else, . I won’t pounce on you in the midst of everybody you know[PEH7] . Come on, let me walk you home.”
“You’re certainly fearless because I know you’ve probably heard of my dad, and you don’t care.” She adjusted the straps of her messenger bag, glancing at him from the corner of her eye. “You don’t care, do you?”
He shrugged. “I respect my elders, as long as they respect themselves. I’ll walk you some distance, and you do the rest yourself.”
They fell into step easily, side by side, greeting the security guard on their way out the school gates. “Why are you doing all this? I am sure you have a hoard of girls clamoring for your attention.”
“You wouldn’t believe, Nadia. Sometimes I have to turn off my phone just so I can have so quiet time. Nigerian girls can be very persistent even in the face of rejection. It’s ridiculous, some people I do not know from Adam or Eve ask if I remember the time we went on breaks together or walked back from school together or sang in the school play together[PEH8] .”
“That’s the nature of human beings, you know. You are very attractive, successful, and smart. Of course, people would want to be around you. Just accommodate as you can and let go gently. It’s a small world, even if you live in the USA.”
“Wise girl.” He touched her arm gently, sending that tingling sensation down her body again. “I like you a lot. Do you like me?”
They were almost at the beginning of their street. Nadia’s house was among the first row of houses while Anthony’s was further down. The boulevard was comprised of three-bedroom bungalows side-by-side on either side of the street, and children were still playing outside. A few of them stopped to wave at Anthony as they walked by. He had become a kind of celebrity because he came from the US.
“Is this OK?” he enquired as they neared her house. “So, we meet tomorrow at ten, where?”
“At the primary school, a few blocks away from my school. I’ll be in the very first classroom near the entrance.”
“You’ll be there?”
“Sure, I really need a good score to boost my math grade.”
“All right.” He stood looking at her for a moment, not caring about the prying eyes of neighbors who saw them together. “Later,”.”
“Bye,” Nadia’s smile was wide as she watched him walk ahead of her.
“Nadia!” said Chioma. “What are you doing with Anthony? Wow, girl, you are fast. I thought you weren’t into guysboys[PEH9] ?”
Nadia sighed. The girl had a way of materializing from nowhere. “God, can’t a girl catch a break around here? Boyfriend?[PEH10] Oh no. wWe’re just friends Chioma. That’s all. Before you start blabbing to everybody.”
“I’m not a blabber!” Chioma retorted hotly. “I just like disseminating information.”
Nadia shrugged. She knew better! “All right keep this information to yourself, though I know that it’s impossible. We’re just friends, really. Where’s Ngozi?”
“Gone to the market with her mom. So, what were you two talking about?”
Nadia pretended not to know. “Me and who?”
“Why you and Anthony, of course. I have two eyes, you know.”
“Hmm…,” Nadia said. “Are you sure it’s only two eyes ’cos you see everything. Nothing is going on,”
“If you say so.” Chioma walked with her almost to the entrance of her house. “All right, are you coming to the party tomorrow?”
“Why is everybody talking about this party? Yes, I’ll try.” Nadia said bye to Chioma.
Nadia’s father was outside on a chair. “Good evening, Daddy.” She could feel a tension in the air as he watched her narrowly. She touched her head, just to make sure her scarf was there.
“Nadia, what are you doing with that boy?” he grated.
His question stopped her in her tracks. “That’s Mr. Okafor’s son who just came back from the US, Dad. He was just introducing himself to me.”
“Remember, they are not Muslims,” her father stressed.
“Yes, Daddy,” Nadia said quietly.
That was all her father cared about. Not that she was too young to even be having any kind of conversation with Anthony or any other man in the first place. Not about Anthony’s character as a person and a man, but only about Anthony’s religious denomination. Sometimes, she believed her father would let one of his daughters marry the devil himself if he converted to Islam!
Her father used to be a very loving dad. Even though he was not the affectionate type, he used to let them know how much he valued education and would love to see them all go to college. Sometimes after morning prayers, he would lecture the family, stressing on the fact that even though he had a lot of children, he wanted to show society that having lots of children does not mean one couldn’t take proper care of his family. However, things changed when he joined an Islamic sect that did things a bit different from the usual daily prayers. He was stricter on the children especially and leaned more toward the more traditional way of doing things. Nadia was apprehensive of her future after high school.
Anthony was already waiting when she got to the study location on Saturday morning. He was sitting on a step watching cars pass by.
“You look so normal,” she commented. “One wouldn’t think you just came from the US. Maybe by the way you talk, but you blend in nicely.”
“Really?’ He flashed her a smile, looking at her all over. “You look nice.”
Nadia had taken her time getting dressed that morning, leaving her mother wondering as she watched her in askance. Nadia was never one for frivolities. Her mother had seemed skeptical when she told her she was going to the primary school to study for an exam. She had chosen a flowing floral gown in red, white, gold, and blue, and adorned her head with a matching blue scarf. Her father was against his daughters painting their fingernails, but her feet were well pedicured and thrust into white sandals. Though she didn’t like wearing too much jewelry, she loved earrings and had them in every color one could imagine. To complement her dress, she had on blue dangling bangles to match the head tie.
“I hope you are a good teacher.” They walked into one of the classrooms, and she brought out her study guide. “At least better than Mr. Phillips.”
“Why don’t you guys tell him you don’t like his method of teaching?”
“Tsk, tsk! He would never listen. He says that is how math is taught in the US. Anyways, all I need to do is get an eighty on this exam, and I’m good. I can’t wait to be out of his class. I thought I was doing pretty decently in math until he showed up and turned everything upside down!”
For the next hour and a half, Nadia listened attentively as Anthony instructed her on the simplest ways to solve graphing equations, and she steadily began to grasp the concept. He was indeed a good teacher. He was patient with her, willing to explain the same problem five times if he had to until he was sure she understood what he was trying to do.
Around eleven-thirty, he suggested they take a break. “All work and no play…” He closed the study guide and turned to her abruptly. “Tell me about yourself.”
“Nothing much to tell really. I am sure your sources have told you everything.”
“Just on the surface, and there are no ‘sources.’ What are your dreams, your ambitions? Do you want to travel someday, marry, have kids, what are your career goals?”
“Anthony, I’m just eighteen, barely out of high school. What career goals? Right now, I just want to be able to pass the JAMB and get admission into a good university…” Her voice trailed off softly.
The Joint Admission and Matriculation Board exam, similar to the American SAT, was a make or break for every student. Students could be the smartest and still score ridiculously low. Nadia didn’t know how the Board scored the tests, but without it one couldn’t get admission to any public university in the country. People graduated and sometimes waited two years to get into college just because they couldn’t pass the JAMB exam. To her, the system needed a better standard of tests. Until then though, every high school graduate was at the mercy of the almighty JAMB.
“Will your father let you go to college?” he asked pointedly. “I’ve heard quite a bit about him, too. He certainly has his ideas about this religion thing.”
“I don’t know. I don’t really want to think about it.”
“You could come to the US.”
“How?” She looked at him as if he was crazy. “I would never get a visa. Eighteen, unattached female with no responsibility in the world.”
“Well, I’m going to promise you one thing, Nadia, right now. Anytime you make it over there, I will take care of you until you get settled, OK? That’s a promise.”
Nadia didn’t doubt him for a minute. In Nigeria, everybody in the neighborhood was like a brother or sister, and it wasn’t uncommon for people not totally related to engage in acts of kindness like they were[ .
“I’m not a pessimist, so I will take you up on that offer. What time is it?”
“Quarter till twelve.”
“We need to be going. My mom says she wants me to run some errands for her when I get back.”
“Sit down, Nadia.” He pulled her down as she started to push the chair back. “We’ll leave soon, OK?”
“Why do you have so much interest in me? I mean, you are going back the US soon, aren’t you?”
“I don’t know. There’s just something about you…I can’t put a finger on it myself. You are so fresh, so intelligent, you say what’s on your mind, and you don’t pretend.”
“Pretention is stupid. Just be you and people can either take it or leave it.”
“There you go. That’s my Nadia.”
“I’m your Nadia?” She fought to hold back her laughter. “Is that how it happens in the US? Have you even asked me if I wanted to be your Nadia?”
She was joking of course, but Anthony took it seriously. He moved closer to her and took her hand in his and looked deeply into her eyes. “Do you want to be my Nadia?”
“Even if I agreed, it would be foolish of me because the distance is too great. How do we go on dates? On a fighter jet every other week back and forth between wherever you live and Lagos?”
“Why can’t you just answer with a yes or no?” He seemed frustrated, all of a sudden.
“Anthony, you’re twenty-three, and I’m eighteen, OK.”
“OK. I’ll come back next year and marry you.”
It was her turn to laugh. She threw back her head in amazement. “Are you serious?”
It wasn’t uncommon for families to arrange marriages [PEH12] for their sons living in diaspora but the Okafors and Yakubs were not that close. Unless, of course, if Anthony insisted. And even if so, religion would kill the vibe. Mr. Yakub would never allow his daughter to marry a Christian because that was automatic conversion to the Christianity. Life was so unfair sometimes.
“Yes, Nadia, I am serious. Why do you find that funny?”
She didn’t have an answer for that. Even if she did, he wouldn’t like it. “We really must get going.”
“Yes.” This time, he didn’t stop her. “So now you must keep your end of the bargain and come to the party this evening.”
“All right. A bargain is a bargain.”
They fell in step naturally again, as if they were meant to be, but he turned her toward him suddenly and planted a light kiss on her mouth before she could stop him and hugged her tightly afterward. Electric shocks reverberated through her slim body as she came in contact with his hard frame. But she loved it and wanted it. Her arms went around his waist as she laid her head on his chest.
“Thank you,” his voice said above her head.
“For a nice time, even though we were studying.” He planted a kiss on her forehead. “Let’s go before Mr. Yakub starts raising hell.”
“My father is not that bad,” she protested. “He has a big household to run, and he must devise whatever means necessary to keep his household together.”
“I reserve my comments.” He smiled at her as they walked back home.