‘You look ravishing, I must say!’ He said as he walked closer and extended his hand for a handshake.
Mrs Cole immediately felt young again. Pastor George always made her feel like a young lady in her early twenties. She could not contain her excitement; her wide smile gave her away too quickly. ‘Thank you Pastor,’ she replied as she shook his hand.
‘Oh, Please, call me Ben. My name is Benjamin George but my friends call me Ben and I believe I’m permitted to refer to you as my friend, right?’ He asked with a smile.
‘Well, I suppose.’ Mrs Cole wasn’t sure how to respond.
‘So, how are you?’ He asked.
‘I’m fine, thank you.’
‘No, I don’t want the cliché response everyone gives their pastor. How are you doing, really?’ He repeated himself. This time around, in a more serious tone.
For a split second, Mrs Cole was tempted to open up to him about all that was going on in her home. After all, he was her pastor but she quickly brushed the thought aside. She didn’t want him to see her or her home as a mess.
‘Well, things have been quite challenging but I’m doing okay,’ she told him.
‘Hmm, “okay” doesn’t seem good enough for me. You want to talk about it, say over lunch whenever you are free?’ He offered.
Mrs Cole thought about it for some seconds and replied, ‘Nah, that won’t be necessary. Thanks for the offer though. I’ll be just fine. Do have a great week ahead.’ She politely found a way to end the conversation and left without waiting for his response.
As she walked towards the car, she pondered on what had just happened. ‘Lunch with Pastor George? Heaven knows that’s an offer I would have jumped at if I wasn’t married.’
Mrs Cole was a very beautiful woman in her early fourties. She had always been the envy of many men. Despite being a mother of three, she had a lovely stature and always took good care of herself. It’s a pity her husband never admired her and all the compliments she got were from strange men.
Back in her university days, Funke was the cynosure of all eyes. Although she never made her looks a priority, she still always appeared beautiful in whatever she wore especially when she went for lectures. She wasn’t really an outgoing person and had only a few friends. It was never news to her when she was told by any of her friends that a particular guy liked her or showed interest. As a matter of fact, she always had the same response, ‘These guys should just leave me alone.’ She’d say with little or no interest whatsoever.
‘What do you mean they should leave you alone?’ Racheal, her then best friend asked her on one occasion, while they remained seated in the lecture hall after an afternoon lecture.
‘Racheal, but you of all people know how I need to focus on my studies and have good grades. I’m the first child and my parents pay through their nose to send me to school. I cannot afford to ruin all this by hanging out with these guys,’ she explained.
As the conversation went on, one of their course mates walked up to where they sat and greeted her. It was obvious the guy in question was there for her, he barely said a word to Racheal throughout the five minutes he spent blabbing. He went on speaking endlessly about himself, from his name, to where he was from, to his hobbies, his likes and dislikes and on and on he went until Funke stylishly cut him short and told him politely that she had somewhere to be. That was the excuse she used to escape his endless chattering.
She stood up and signaled to Racheal for them to leave.
‘I can drop you off wherever you are going even if you want me to drop you in America, I will,’ the guy said, in a desperate last attempt at being witty. He was obviously distracted by the beauty and presence of the lady he had always admired; he didn’t realize he wasn’t making any sense and unfortunately for him, he would not have been anything close to Funke’s type even if she had one.
Funke didn’t find his half joke, half trash-talk funny at all. ‘Thanks, but we are fine. We already have an arrangement,’ she told him and walked towards the door of the lecture hall.
As soon as they got out, Racheal who had been silent all along said, ‘Na wa for that guy o; E no even get chill. No comma; no full stop. He was just pouring like tap wey no get control.’
‘I dey tell you, guys though. They are all the same,’ Funke didn’t seem interested one bit.
‘Haba, why would you say that? Have you paused to take a look at the guys that like you? Have you ever thought of giving them a chance?’ Racheal asked.
‘Shey you did not see that one ni?’ she pointed out.
‘Abeg, leave Dotun alone jare, that one should go and park well. I’m talking of Arnold. That guy makes sense die,’ Racheal tried to convince her. ‘You are lucky I am not you, Funke; these guys won’t have suffered this much. You need to see how Arnold always calls me and chats me up just to ask about you. That guy really likes you, Funke.’ Racheal told her.
‘See Racheal, the guy is not even a Christian; I’m not interested Racheal. Plus Dotun o plus Arnold o, I don’t want,’ Funke made it clear.
‘But no one said you should marry any of them. Just give them a little attention that is all.’ Racheal still tried convincing her.
‘Nope, it’s not happening.’ Funke replied as she continued walking, without giving more than a casual glance towards her companion.
‘I’ve heard you o. So where is the arrangement you said we had? See how we are trekking like someone that is in search of employment’ Racheal said.
‘Ehn, let’s keep walking. We will get a cab at the school gate. I’d rather take public transport than enter that guy’s car,’ she said without mincing words.
‘That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to tell you. See, listen to me!’ Racheal tried resuming her speech with renewed enthusiasm. She tapped her shoulder as she further made her point, ‘We really don’t have to suffer like this. You don’t even have to date any of these guys just allow them to spoil you a little, then when you are satisfied, let them know you are not interested. Is that one hard?’
Funke paused and peered at Racheal strangely, ‘you are joking right?’
‘I’m serious, Funke. It’s really not that much of a big deal. You won’t be the first lady to do it or do you think these guys are ready to get married and settle down? Look, all I’m asking you to do is use your beauty. Even the Bible says that wisdom is profitable to direct,’ Racheal told her.
Funke continued walking and stated through gritted teeth, ‘I’m no longer having this conversation, Racheal. If you want to date any of them, please feel free. My mind is made up.’
‘It’s ok o; I cannot sha force you,’ Racheal replied and ended their discussion of the issue.
That was first semester 200 level. By second semester 400 level which was Funke’s final year, things were still very much the same except that she was now opened and more receptive to guys but still maintained her standards. She was determined not to settle for just any Tom, Dick or Harry.
She was a Christian and knew she couldn’t date a guy who wasn’t. That was her number one criterion. Others such as good looks, warm personality and so on followed closely on her ‘list’. She was not really keen about him being wealthy; she wasn’t going to turn a guy down just because he didn’t have a car. She knew every guy had a potential to be rich on the long run and those that were rich could lose it in the twinkle of an eye.
She kept scrutinizing guys that came her way until she narrowed them down to one; Emeka. Emeka was three years ahead of her in school. He had graduated from engineering two years earlier but had never stopped liking her and showing her how much he cared for her. On many occasions, he’d buy her gifts and bring them to her on campus. He’d always call to check on her and she knew that he really liked her. The feelings were mutual but she still wanted to be careful in making her choice.
After she graduated from school, she finally decided to say ‘yes’ to Emeka. She was so excited about her decision and after about two months decided to tell her parents the good news. But alas, she got the shock of her life from their response.
‘Funke after all we did for you, this is how you choose to repay us?’ Her mother started.
‘Mummy what are talking about?’ Funke couldn’t fathom why her parents were displeased with the seemingly good news she had just delivered.
The atmosphere in the sitting room that afternoon was really tensed. Her father remained silent as he rhythmically tapped his right foot on the floor.
‘Can someone please tell me what I have done wrong?’ Funke asked. ‘I have lived my whole life to please you. I didn’t have a boyfriend in school; I graduated from accounting with a good second class upper, I didn’t get pregnant or anything like that. What else do you want from me?’ She said not realizing she was beginning to raise her voice.
‘Will you stop shouting at us, are we your mate?’ Her mother snapped.
‘I’m sorry, I didn’t know my voice was raised,’ she said, still upset.
‘Funke,’ her father finally broke his silence.
‘Sir,’ she replied.
‘What is your full name?’ He asked.
‘Olufunke Owojori,’ she answered, wondering at the relevance of that question.
‘An Owojori can never and I repeat never marry someone from another town let alone state. Not to talk of tribe,’ he informed her.
‘What?!’ Funke couldn’t believe her ears. She felt a wave of heat flow right from her head to her feet and immediately, she began to sweat profusely. ‘Nobody ever mentioned it to me,’ she told them as she stood to her feet.
‘Now we are mentioning it,’ her father told her and added ‘I don’t know what or how you want to tell this Emeka or whatever his name is now but let this be the last time you mention him to us. Is that clear?’
Funke paced back and forth in the old, sparsely-furnished sitting room. She didn’t respond.
‘If you like don’t hear, go ahead with the relationship and you cease to be our daughter’, her father stood up and went inside.
‘What?!’ Funke turned to him the moment he said it. ‘Ha daddy’ she broke down in tears as she watched him leave. ‘Mummy’ she turned to her mum who was still seated on the tattered cough. ‘Mummy please help me beg daddy’ she pleaded.
‘Your father has spoken, you know he doesn’t repeat himself. Don’t make him do as he has said. You have younger ones who are looking up to you. You, of all people must lead by example,’ her mother stood up and went inside too.
Funke remained in the sitting room and cried. Just then, her phone rang; she looked at the caller’s ID and saw it was Emeka. The mere sight of his name made her cry even more. She didn’t pick the call. He called two more times and left her a message which read thus:
“Baby, I’m already at the restaurant, what’s going on? You usually get here before me. Hope you are okay? How did the meeting with your parents go? I can’t wait to hear the full gist.”
She read the message but didn’t reply. Instead, she turned off her phone. She didn’t want more messages and text from him. They only broke her down more.
Emeka tried calling her again and realized her phone was off. ‘What could be happening?’ He wondered. ‘Maybe her phone battery went flat.’ He told himself. He was always positive and optimistic in his thinking. He waited another 45minutes and when she didn’t show up, he left. He called a few of her friends to ask if they had heard from her but got the same response. None of them had spoken to her and when it was getting embarrassing, he stopped calling them.
To be continued. Read Part 8 Now Here
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