Closer than you imagine

Ayo couldn’t wait for school to be over. To her, the time was getting slower by the minute. She knew her mates were talking about her and she could not wait to get out of the class. Throughout the rest of the lesson for that day, she paid less attention. She just wanted to get home. Not only did she want to avoid them, worms are beginning to bite at her stomach. All thanks to her timid self for making her lunch spill. At that moment of thoughts, she heard the jingle of the bell.

“At last, it’s 2 O’clock,” Ayo stated.

“Are you in a hurry to get home?” Bukky asked curiously.

“Not really.” She carried her backpack and lunch bag.” I just want to get away from school.” She walked past Bukky briskly on her way out of the classroom. After she left the class, she went to stand by one of the school buses on which ‘School Bus 3’ was written boldly. She has been told earlier by the cashier that she would be boarding the bus; another reason she was excited by the jingle of the bell.

Ayo entered the bus and chose a seat at the far corner. She was thankful the bus was still empty when she boarded. She wished the bus driver didn’t have to wait for other students and drop her first. Then, come back for the rest later. But she knew, that’s never going to happen. However, she was surprised to see Bukky and Bayo coming towards the same bus she was in. ‘Maybe they live along the road’, she thought. She dreaded the idea of Bayo living close to her house.

Bukky was the first to enter and was surprised to see Ayo also. “Oh! What a coincidence!” she exclaimed. “So you live around Unity Estate also?”

“Yes.” Ayo tried to sound as surprised as her. ‘How did she know that?’

“I know because Bus 3 goes towards that area,” Bukky revealed after seeing the surprised look on Ayo’s face. “My house is at Plot 10, Johnson Avenue.” She sat down beside Ayo.

“Really! Mine is Plot 11. Same Johnson Avenue.”

“Is a lie!” Bukky turned to look at Ayo. “So, we live in front of each other? As in we are street mate,” she cried excitedly.

Ayo nodded her head while trying to comprehend Bukky’s spoken English. She feigned a smile instead but it soon turned into curiosity when Bayo entered the Bus. She turned to look out the window, away from Bukky.

• * * * * *

“Esther, are you not going home?” Mr. Badmus demanded as soon as he got out of his office and still saw Mrs. Cole, busy with the computer in front of her.

“I would” – she punched a few keys on the keyboard – “right after I finish with this.”

“Okay.” He rubbed his hand on his chin. “Do you mind if I wait and give you a ride home, since we live just a street from each other?”

“I wouldn’t want you to bother. I could be delaying you.”

“That’s true but I’m not complaining.” He moved closer to her desk.

“Okay, I give in” – she raised both hands – “just give me a few more minutes. Please.” And resumed punching in keys on the keyboard.

“Okay,” he said smiling. His mind drifted away – Since the first day Esther walked into his office seeking employment, he had always felt something for her. But he didn’t know what it was. He still nurses the pain of his wife’s death from 5 years. How could he be so friendly to another lady? – He wondered.

“And I’m done.” She stood up and picked her bag. “Let’s go” – she tapped Mr. Badmus lightly, interrupting his thoughts – “have you been sleeping?”

“I guess I was.” He feigned dizziness before getting up from where he was sitting. “Let’s go.”

They left the office afterwards.

• * * * * * * *

It was half past two by the time Bukky and Ayo alighted from the school bus. As soon as they were alone, Ayo took the opportunity to ask Bukky a question that has been bothering her mind since Bayo entered the school bus.

“Bayo” – she looked in the direction of the moving bus – “does he live around here?”

“Why do you ask?” Bukky queried.

“I saw him earlier in the school bus and he’s yet to alight.”

“Yes, he live in the next avenue, Badmus Avenue”, Bukky said. “If I’m to be exact” – she pointed towards Ayo’s house – “his house should be at the back of your own.”

Ayo grunted. “Do you mind if I lend your English textbook, so I can copy the question to the assignment?”

“Don’t you have the textbook?” Bukky was shocked. “I think all JS 1 students are suppose to have the textbook.”

“My mother doesn’t have enough money to get me the required textbooks,” Ayo responded honestly.

“Okay. I will bring my own to your place later. We can do it together,” Bukky suggested. “I don’t understand the question.”

“I will bring my own to your place later,” Ayo mimicked. “Do you even know our apartment in that house?” She pointed in the direction of her house. All the while they have been standing in front of Bukky’s house.

“Ehn and you will tell me.” Bukky hissed. “Which one is that one now?”

“Sorry.” Ayo smiled. “It’s just the first apartment to your left.”

“Okay.” She turned to leave but Ayo stopped her.

“You were saying something about not understanding the question.” She held onto Bukky’s bag. “Have you studied it?”

“See” – she removed Ayo’s hand from her bag – “Life is too simple to worry yourself about studying especially English and mathematics.” She left Ayo at their gate and went inside their apartment.

Ayo ignored her and left for their own apartment. She went straight to the kitchen and brought out garri from the cupboard as that was the only food at home. And she needed to quench her hunger. It was becoming unbearable. She soaked it in water, added the little sugar she could find and drank it hungrily.

After the light meal, she brought out a storybook from her school bag and opened it. She smiled and remembered Bukky’s word – ‘Life is too simple to worry yourself about studying…’ She smiled again and afterwards slept off without reading a word in the book she was holding. All she dreamt about was a fun filled evening when Bukky arrives.

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