Fortune favoured  Funmi in more ways than one. She was ravishing,  gifted, and came from a high-profile family. She was 20 and in her final year at the university.

 

Besides her delightfully curvaceous figure, Funmi’s beauty lay in her infectious, serene smile. The broader she smiled, the deeper her dimples, the charmer her oval–shaped face. And when she spoke, the velvet in her voice could melt the stoniest of hearts. One reason many found her company so irresistible. Same reason scores of guys on and off the campus pressed for her attention. But she was wary of the wiles of men and so she treaded gingerly. ‘’I’m sorry’’,  she often told the intending ‘Romeos’, ‘’I’m not ready for any relationship’’.

 

Yet, Funmi kept a space in her heart for Femi-a 300 level Economics student. Wole, 26, was an orphan. Though bright and intelligent, he faced a lot of rigours to keep himself in school. Before he secured a security job off-campus , he was laundering for some gilded students who paid next to peanuts for his strenuous service. He also got ‘contracts’ of writing term papers and other assignments from his lazy course-mates, and he was often rewarded in cash and sometimes in kinds. For all he cared, he was ready to take on any odd job, so long it fetched him something, no matter how small, to keep his dream in sight.

 

If there was anything Wole treasured most, it was his admission into the university. It wasn’t plain sailing. But for divine providence and sheer mercy of fate, he would have been back in the village, farming his life out. For one, he got the admission letter late, almost four weeks after the resumption date. Again, his uncle who saw him as a powerhouse of cheap labour would not brood him(Femi) abandoning his farm for whatever reason. ’’I don’t have money for such an ill-timed ambition’’.  the uncle bellowed when Wole went to him for financial assistance. Eventually, Wole was able to raise some money from friends and well-wishers. But on getting to the admission office, he was informed that admission has been closed for the session. Stunned, he didn’t know when beads of tears began to cascade down his cheeks. He was in this distress when a petite lady emerged from the office of the admission officer and beckoned him from the pavement where he sat, sniffling. He rushed to her and lo, and behold, she said: ‘’Let me have your papers. I’[[ help you’’. It was a little short of miraculous. Just as if he was in a trance. But the reality dawned on him when the lady later asked him to go and pay his fees at the bursary.

 

Ever since this particular experience remained etched in Wole’s mind. It kept coming back over and over, mostly in his solitary splendor. It kept coming back over and over, mostly in his solitary splendor. What if that lady had not called me? He wondered. Then I would have gone back home dejected, shame-faced. And my uncle-…that uncle  who was too ready to enslave me for life would have  had

 

something to gloat over. Deep in his heart, Wole resolved to shun every baiting razzmatazz on campus, to study hard and become the leader of the pack. At least, he thought, this will justify the value he attached to the near-miss chance of attending a university.

 

And truly, he held on to his dream in spite of his morale-sapping circumstance. Really, the likes of Femi are easy to identify in higher institutions. They hardly have time for carousal or frivolity. Some have taken it too far, finding themselves on the fringe of a recluse. No friend, no fun, only books and books only. Most of the time, it is either they are in the lecture theatre or grinding away at the library. If not, they may be having a group discussion, analyzing, and debating passionately. During exams., they hardly go to their rooms except in the wee hours of the day. Just for a brief snooze. And before the cock crows thrice, they are off again to some hide-outs for ‘early morning communion’ Food. Man shall not live by bread alone…..

 

Such was Wole’s breathless schedule until one evening when he passed out from hunger and exhaustion. He was coming from a round of marathon swotting, suddenly he started feeling drawn and dizzy, his legs seized with cramp and pulsating pains.  He staggered towards a mango tree.  He was about to sit under the tree when a spasm of sharp pains ripped through his stomach. The pain was so intense. He couldn’t stand it. Down, he fell, breathing laboriously.

 

His books were scattered all over the place. Luckily  Funmi and her friend, Rita, were on their way to the chapel when they saw  Wole slumped to the ground. Though they didn’t know him from Adam, they were sure he was a student. So they rushed to his aid and took him to the clinic with the help of a lecturer that was driving by at that time.

 

Wole opened his eyes in the clinic the following morning.  He turned his head slowly towards the window and his eyes met that of Funmi who was sitting a few paces away from his bed. She smiled at him but he could only stare back. Instinctively, he looked away, His gaze roving steadily around the clinic. Funmi stood and walked close to him.

 

‘’Hi’’, she crooned him a syrupy tone, ‘’how ‘re you feeling now’’?  Femi didn’t have the strength to respond. He was just looking at her. ‘’My name is Funmi. Funmi Williams. I’m in the English Department’’, she introduced herself warmly. Dr. Okon, my friend and I  brought you here yesterday when you fell near the Faculty of Arts’’. Wole closed his eyes briefly, trying to recapture the incident. He opened his eyes again.  He wanted to say something, his tongue seemed not to move. But Funmi

could figure out his intention.’’No, you don’t have to talk’’, she said, ‘’just save your strength  and get well first, okay?’’ Wole gently nodded his response and fell back to a long, deep sleep.

From this incident, one thing rolled into another and a relationship sprouted between Funmi and Wole. Funmi  found in Wole certain rare qualities she longed  for in a man:

 

‘’ The guy’s well-bred, level–headed, calm and God-fearing’’, she once confided in a roommate. On his part, Wole discovered there was more to life than a blind, mono-track academic pursuit. Though still in the focus of his goal, he created time for leisure. And he spent much leisure in the company of Funmi. She was urbane, gregarious, and outgoing. But she noticed that Wole was every inch different. He was rustic, shy, and rather uptight. She then took it upon herself to groom and polish him to her taste. And it was so wonderful how malleable he turned out to be.

 

However, Funmi’s friends could not understand what she saw in Wole, and so they tried hard to put a damper on the relationship. Whenever, wherever they saw her with Wole, they jeered and sneered. The two were regular butts of their jokes. ‘’That  Funmi of a girl’’, blurted one  of the friends, ‘’must have her head examined. I mean what does she want with that … that ‘’Mumu’’ boy; that boy with one shirt, one pair of jeans, half sandals’’?  Some of them laughed at the remark, some giggled, while some simply hissed. A weird tomboy among them also chipped in local English(pidgin),’ make una no blame  Funmi o! Na so love dey wantintin’’. She continued in her usual antics, ‘’when the thing don catch body finish, head  fit scatter o. Person go see black  call am white; see red call am yellow. Abi na lie I talk?’’ Everyone burst into a pearl of laughter.

 

Despite all the tongue–waggings, Funmi remained unruffled. ‘’I have every right to go out with whoever  I like. And that’s nobody’s business. , she exploded when some friends accosted her on the affair. To spite them the more, Funmi went to the buttery with Wole one cool evening. She ordered a bottle of Coke and a sandwich. Sitting astride Wole’s kneel, she ate and fed him with her bite-portion of the sandwich They all sipped up the drink from the same bottle, mouth after mouth. All eyes were on them. Giggles and ululations flew around. Many abandoned what brought them to the buttery and watched the lovebirds. Wole was visibly abashed and uncomfortable. But Funmi was really enjoying the ‘show’, knowing full-well that her message was getting across to her ‘audience’  loud and clear. And it worked!  The affection display certainly worked. Right after it the rain of rumours and idle-tales fizzled out.

The relationship had been on for close to three months, yet Wole kept his trick of survival from Funmi’s knowledge. He found it rather shameful to tell her he was working as a guard off-campus. The girl kept wondering where he normally goes in the evening and wouldn’t return until the following morning. Or has Wole joined an armed bandit? Maybe, he’s a cult member! She became apprehensive. Out

of curiosity, one evening, Funmi trailed  Wole right from the campus to the gate of the building he was manning. All along. Wole didn’t know someone was hot on his tracks. Few minutes after he entered the gate, Funmi crept behind it and peeped through an opening at the side of the gate until she saw him entering a sentry box. Some minutes later,  he emerged, fully dressed in a typical security garb, holding a short baton. He switch on all the security lights and started moving around, checking every nook and cranny of the house for any hidden danger.

 

After he was satisfied with the position of things, he returned to his post and sat down. He brought out a cellophane bag from under the chair he was sitting on. He opened it and brought out a dog-eared textbook. He folded the bag back and started riffling through the book.

 

Funmi patiently waited and watched every step, every movement of Wole made inside the house. She wanted to be convinced of the exact nature of Wole’s mission in the place. And sure, she saw it all. She knew it all. Completely bowled over with emotions, her eyes already misted with tears, she left quietly.

 

Back to the campus around, 5.00 am the next day, Wole was completely flagged out and drowsy. He got to his room and clambered to the top of the bunk., moving his steps by stealth so as not to wake up his room-mates. He hardly mumbled his prayers before he dropped off snoring.

 

It was Funmi’s rap on the door about a quarter past ten that jolted him from sleep. Yawning, he opened the door  for her and she went in,’’ Wole, how was  last night’s guard?’’ She asked bluntly, riveting her luminous eyes on him. Caught off guard, Wole was speechless. He was just blinking at Funmi like a boy caught stealing a piece of meat in a pot of soup. He sat down on the edge of a table and sighed deeply. ‘’Those bunch of loud-mouthed busy-bodies are at work again! He thought miserably. They‘ve gone to tell Funmi about this thing. But.. but for Pete’s sake can’t some fools mind their damn business? Must they always make other people‘s affairs their headache?

 

Funmi kept watching Wole’s wry face as he was lost in those raging thoughts. She knew deep inside her  that Wole didn’t  want her to know anything about his job. ‘’May be I’ve  gone too far, too hasty  in getting to know  his privacy’’. She thought ruefully. She walked  up to him and wound her arms around his neck. ‘’I’m  sorry’’, she whispered. ‘’I didn’t  mean to pry. ‘’I was only being curious. That’s why  I followed  you to the place yesterday.’’. Wole  darted a puzzling look at her  on hearing this. He couldn’t  believe her. ‘’Yeah, I went there with you but you didn’t see me’’, she reassured him   weakly. ‘’Well, now that  I know, now that I’ve seen what  you ‘re going through ‘’, she drew a breath and blinked  away

 

her tears. ‘’ I  promise  to help  in whatever way I can. I- I pro-mi-se ..’’, she broke off as she lost the fight against her running tears. Wole held  her closer as he too could no longer contain his emotions.

 

When Funmi got home after  her finals, she discussed Wole with her mum. The mum later spoke with Funmi’s father about the young man. Being  so large –hearted and compassionate, chief Williams(Funmi’s Father) agreed  to sponsor  the rest  of Wole’s education. But he did more than that for Wole. After completing his youth service, the chief recommended him to a bluechip accounting firm and he was offered an immediate appointment.

 

Meanwhile, Funmi’s affair with Wole continued to wax stronger. She was fond of him and he too could hardly do without her. They went to functions together, paid visits to friends, and did all other things jointly. There was even a time  Wole had to travel to the north for some assignments. Funmi couldn’t bear his absence after one week. She feigned ill hastily worked out a sick leave to enable her to jet out to join him.  Funmi’s parents realized that closeness. So they were not surprised when their daughter told them that she would marry Wole. Having known him for some time, they had no misgiving in giving their consent to the marriage.

 

The wedding took place. It was marked with elaborate fanfare and glamour. Since Funmi was the only child, her parents were unsparing in spending on the nuptials. Chief  Williams footed virtually all the expenses. ‘’Save your money for other things, he told Wole. ‘’This wedding is my exclusive responsibility and I don’t want to share it with anyone’’.

 

Family friends, relations, colleagues, and other people from all walks of life graced the occasion. The couple were so flooded with gifts that at the end of the ceremony, some of the presents were given out to other people for lack of space.

 

But four years after the wedding, the couple remained childless. Funmi suffered three miscarriages. The doctor diagnosed her problem as a pelvic infection.  She was treated, yet the problem remained. Quite a fortune was spent in seeking help from herbalists, prophets, palmists, star-gazers, and a whole lot of the pack. But no solution. In the midst of this heat, her father had an accident on his way from a tour. His spinal cord got damaged, and he was confined to a wheelchair for months. He later died, willing the estate to Funmi and her mother.

 

At this point, Wole’s faith in Funmi’s chances of giving him a child was at its lowest. After much thought and brooding, coupled with pressures from his relations, Wole caved  in and veered  into an affair with

Sandra, his Secretary. The relationship resulted in the birth of a baby boy. Funmi got wind of this and it provoked a showdown between  Wole and her.

 

The fight only deepened the crack in their matrimony. Wole no longer come home as he used to do and whenever he did, their conversations were in sullen monosyllables. Friends, close associates, even Funmi’s mother intervened, but to no avail.

 

The situation utterly devastated Funmi. She was simply world-weary. Whenever she cast her mind back to all she had done for Wole: how she picked him from the gutter and made him what he was,  how she remained faithful to him in spite of the winks she got from solidly responsible men, her tears flowed on and on. God! Is this all I get for keeping marriage vows? Do I really deserve this meaningless from Wole afterall my sacrifice and support to make him a success? She felt hurt, cheated, and miserable. To keep her sanity, she packed and went to stay with her friend, Rita. For more than two and a half years, Wole did not bother to ask of her.

 

She later met Dan, a marine Engineer, at a birthday party. The man was so crazy over her that he couldn’t wait to take her to the marriage registry. But  Funmi was being cautious,’’ once bitten, twice sensible!  Dan eventually proved to her in every way that he wasn’t some Dan Juan, that he was for real. So they had a quiet wedding. Just  few friends with Funmi’s mother were in attendance. And as God would have it, Funmi got pregnant the following year and gave birth to a baby boy.

 

Events later revealed that Wole was not the real father of the baby Sandra claimed she had for him. The baby was for her ex-boyfriend who was taking legal actions to claim back his child.

 

Wole was left high and dry. Within the period he deserted Funmi, he lost his job and found it too humiliating, too late to reconcile with her. He was indeed back to another cycle of misery while Funmi was having a swell time with her newfound love.

 

Both of them were truly rewarded

 

By-Samson  A.  Fagbemi

By TheInterviewsNigeria

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