12 Days Of Christmas – Day 6

 

It’s Day 6 and thus the midpoint of 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS and I hope you’ve been having fun so far. Another day, another Team member, and today it’s my pleasure to welcome back Banky as he serves us something sumptuous.

Enjoy.

P.S: Look out for “The Task” after the story – It holds the key to unlocking Day 7.

** *** *** 

//Noel//

November 2010

When the skies went gray, everybody knew it was going to rain. It was day 3 of the 3-week camping of the NYSC and Corp members were queued up on the parade ground like refugees awaiting their daily rations of food. These set of ‘refugees’ were not lined up for food; they were on queue for their Bicycle Allowance; an insulting sum meant to offset Corp members’ transportation cost from their respective abodes. As measly as the amount was, the queue was not showing any sign of reducing. No one wanted to miss out on the largesse.

“Ol’ boy, which kain rain be dis o?” I heard Chucks, my UNIPORT friend, sigh from behind me.

“I tire o,” I replied, “not after e don nearly reach our turn.”

We were three spots from the cashier handing out the N1,500 cash under a canopy. We had been on queue for the better part of two hours, shuttling and hustling our way forward. That the amount was more than enough to cover the evening’s drinking expenditure at the popular Mammy Market kept me. After all, my one aim in camp was to drink to stupor every evening till the end of camp.

“God won’t let it rain,” came a velvety voice like some retired chorister’s amongst a mass of music-illiterate congregation during Praise-Worship. There was something innocent and true about the voice that caught my attention. The voice had come from the lady standing immediately in front of me, the one from my platoon who had begged me few minutes back for space.

“Sister, I like your belief,” I began as she turned around to face me, “If it does not rain till it gets to my turn, I promise to be in church on Sunday.”

Up until then, I’d not been in church for almost a year. And curiously, I didn’t miss church. No. What was there to miss? I made sure I listened to Pastor Sam Adeyemi every now and then; I’ve got a massive playlist of gospel songs on my phone and to cap it all, every Sunday morning, until I came to camp, I enjoyed ‘free’ sermon from the church opposite my house. I never had to pay any offering nor bothered about tithe. I was simply –well- enjoying free worship!

“Are you serious?” the lady’s face brightened like some electric bulb suddenly infused with electricity.

“Yes I am. ‘Cos as it is, I don’t see this rain not falling soon,” I answered, my gaze raised towards the fast-gathering clouds up in the sky.

“Ok then, we have a deal. If it doesn’t start raining till your turn, you’ll come with me to the fellowship this evening…”

“This evening? I thought I said Sunday.”

“No, you don’t have to wait till Sunday, there’s fellowship every evening here in camp. We’ll go together.” She answered, a deep probing search emanating from her eyes which I suddenly found to be pretty. Her looks were unnerving and I turned to look at Chucks for some help. The Port-Harcourt boy grinned and shrugged.

“Ol’ boy, you don enter am.”

“Ok then, deal.”

Her smile brightened more to reveal a chubby face made more exciting by the braids she wore in a bun. I was beginning to wonder what kind of girl fate had thrown my way.

“By the way, my name is Noel; I know yours is Bayo.” She said and offered her hand. I wasn’t surprised she knew my name: I was one of our platoon’s troublemakers. I was the leader of the group of guys who went to parade with liquor hidden in water bottles. I was the most vocal of the lot and was already the platoon’s football team captain.

The rain held up long enough for me to collect my Bicycle Allowance and find my way to the entrance of the hostel where Noel waited for me.

“It starts by 6.30pm at the chapel. Let me give you my number so I can keep in touch with you,” she said as soon as I walked up to her.

***
I went for the fellowship an hour behind schedule. Not that the fellowship held any attraction to me, I merely went to honour my word. My arrival ensured I met the latter part of the programme. As I stepped into the chapel and quietly slid into the chair closest to the exit, I wondered if I really needed to defend any word. After all, our politicians promise every day and break it as soon as it is convenient for them to do so. My friends were already at Mammy, drinking and partying the evening away while I sat at a corner of a fellowship, listening to the NCCF Papa’s charge on time-keeping.

“Öga, do quick jare,” I said to myself in voice a little too loud because the guy seated next to me with his girlfriend corroborated with an “Abi o.” Thankfully, the service was over in the next five minutes. After service, I searched frantically for Noel, so she could see I came, but she was nowhere to be found. Confused, I pulled out my phone and dialled her number.

“Hello Noel,” I heard myself shouting on the phone, an overpowering din of noise cackled through the earpiece.

“Hello.”

“Where are you?”

“I’m at Mammy. Please who am I speaking with?”

“Mammy?!” The shock of her location made me ignore her question completely. “Were you not the one who invited me to fellowship this evening?” I asked incredulously.

“Oh! Bayo! I’m so sorry. I didn’t save your number that time, I’m sorry. Yeah, I am supposed to be there but when I got there around that 6.30pm, no one was there. And I thought I should just find something to munch here at Mammy and I forgot the service. I am so so sorry.”

I was angry but there was something nudging at my heart, keeping me sane and coherent. Somehow, I could feel the depth of her apology over the phone and knew she meant it.

“Ok, no problem.” I whispered, against my manly wishes.

“Are you there now?” she asked.

“Yes, but I’m about leaving; the service is over.”

“Oh, okay. I’m sorry Bayo. But, er, what’s on your agenda for the rest of the evening?”

“I should be with my guys at Mammy, I’m on my way there now.”

“Really, then I’ll meet you at that coffee entrance and we’ll hang out. I hope your friends won’t mind sha?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Ok then, see you.”

As I cut the call, I wondered what was wrong with me. A lady stood me up? A whole me: Adebayo Samuel Adigun aka ASA? Did the Spirit overpower me in just fifteen minutes of being in Church? I searched the deepest recesses of my sane mind, but I could not find the right answers. Until I saw her a few minutes later, chatting with a smallish girl by the coffee stand ahead of me.

She wore a white, snug-fit v-neck shirt. Her khaki short was well above the knees and revealed long legs that made an appendage somewhere in between my legs stir. When she saw me approach, she half-dragged her friend towards me and introduced her. My brain didn’t register her friend’s name; I was still in shock at the sudden realization of the exquisite beauty Noel exuded. I wondered why I didn’t notice her that much when she came to beg for space on the queue. Was I drunk?

***
We strolled leisurely towards Aunty Kemi’s shed at the Mammy Market.

Aunty Kemi’s was our preferred drinking joint for one sole reason: she allowed us drink on credit! When drinking was all you did in camp, the incentive of drink-and-pay-later is too good to ignore. Add that to Aunty Kemi’s heavy bosom which always threatened to break free of her flimsy tops, and wide, round hips that reminded you of nothing but sex. We (the gang) needed no persuasion to stick to the joint. Chucks was even scoping her already, hoping he’d get a break. We all hoped he would. A night with such massive eye candy would garnish boys’ hangout for weeks.

For reasons I never thought possible, I panicked when I saw our table few metres ahead of me. The familiar sight suddenly looked unsightly and demeaning. Noel was midway into her gist about how she was forced to read medicine in the University by her parents when I instinctively slowed down.

“What’s wrong Bayo?” she asked innocently.

“Er, er, nothing.”

“What is nothing? Don’t tell me that, I’m not a small girl o.” She added and tugged at my arm.

As she prodded me on what the matter was, memories of my ex broke into my thoughts like an unwanted thief.

“Bayo, when are you going to stop drinking?” Bisi had asked that Saturday morning. I was just waking up from another beer-induced night of drinking and the hangover that threatened to blow my brains was taking its toll on me.

“You came home late yesterday, brutally drunk and incoherent! This has to stop Bayo; it must stop.” I could barely hear Bisi’s words but my eyes could clearly see her shapely figure looming over me, both arms akimbo. She was naked save for a pair of g-string panties she had on. As she spoke, her full bosom heaved up and down with stark anger that rather than sober me up was actually exciting the junior me down there. I got up and made to reach for her breasts but she stepped back, her eyes red with anger.

“I’m going to break up this relationship if you do not stop drinking.”

“I’ll stop baby, I will.” I answered and made for the breasts again. She shrugged me off.

“When Bayo? Everything is abnormal with you when you drink: the sex, the sleep and the snores. No Bayo, no.”

“I’ll stop after camp Bisi.”

“After camp?! So you’d still drink in Camp?”

“Of course, what else is there to do?”

I regretted the words immediately I said them. Bisi had had enough. She suddenly turned around and started getting dressed. In five minutes she was fully dressed: a low cut mini gown over a leggings and she was good to go.

“Goodbye Bayo. I wish you the best of luck.”

“Bayo?” Noel’s voice snapped me out of my reverie. “What’s the matter?”

I didn’t realize I had stopped in my tracks. I shrugged off the thought and proceeded towards the table, muttering ‘sorry’ to a baffled Noel. Though I approached the table with seeming nonchalance, my heart pounded wildly in my chest. Somehow, I was anxious to know what Noel’s stance would be about my friends and the sheer number of conquered bottles that dotted the table like houses in an aerial shot of an unplanned neighbourhood.

My guys received her well when I introduced her. We had been in camp for just three days but myself and some guys from my University had quickly established a clique of sorts with some other fellow-minded guys from other schools. Our common denominator was alcohol and we made sure we went back to the hostel drunk every night. Some of the boys smoked cigarettes but I detested the tobacco stick like a dog would a cat. I’d rather drink and drink and drink. Alcohol (and marijuana, like Chucks would say) gets you high but pray, what does cigarette do?

“Whooaaa! Guess who came to dinner with the boys? Sister Noel!” Chucks, my Uniport friend cooed like a matured chicken as the assembly bursts into spontaneous applause.
Noel smiled broadly, her perfect dentition confirming that distinct prettiness I had become aware of.

“Well, I am not a Sister to start with, the only Sisters I know reside in the convent; my name is simply Noel,” she corrected with a smile and took a seat.

“Noel then. Welcome to our clique.” That was Seye, the tall, gangling one from some private university in the east..

“Thank you. I hope I wouldn’t disturb your evening in any way.”

“No, no, no. If you don’t mind the cigarette smoke and the beer, you’ll be fine.”

“Okay then. I don’t mind. I just wanna sit and watch you guys do your thing.” She answered innocently throwing me a look that unnerved something deep inside of me. Did I hear her right? I found it difficult to reconcile the pretty lady that had invited me to fellowship with the one seated at the sinners’ table, giggling and gisting the evening away.

“So what’s good?” she asked, oblivious of my thought. And the discussion started. In the course of the discussions, when guys got to know she read medicine, they got excited and started throwing various questions at her. In all of these, I could barely hear one word of the discussion; I was just content sitting there, nursing a bottle of my favourite Star lager beer, and watching Noel take on their questions one after the other, like the star act in a family sitcom. And I was the audience, one whose attention drifted in and out of the sitcom.

“Bayo, I have known you for three years now, right from my first year. And since then, you’ve been promising me you’d stop drinking, but no, you are still drinking. Why Bayo? Do you love me at all?”Bisi asked one cool evening as we prepared for the Final Year party of my set. She was two years my junior and we’d been dating for almost three years.

“God’s time is the best,” I answered sarcastically. She ignored my sarcasm and started crying…

“Ol’ boy, are you alright?” It was Chucks who had noticed my barely half-empty bottle. “You never drink your beer reach anywhere and you’ve been here for over ten minutes? Wetin dey happen?” he asked, concerned.

Amongst the clique, I was the fastest drinker: I usually drank at least two bottles in five minutes. Before Diminishing Marginal Utility set in, I would have drunk like three/four bottles in ten minutes. But that evening was different, I was distracted by a lady i’d met less than three hours earlier.

“No, nothing. I am fine.” I answered in a huff.

Seye broke into a smirk from down the table. “Chucks, leave am joor. Maybe e dey try do gentleman for Noel.”

The whole assembly burst into laughter and to my embarrassment, Noel joined in with a slight smile. I felt embarrassed and unable to defend myself.

“Don’t mind them Bayo, you and I know it’s not about me. So ignore Seye’s comments.” She squeezed my hand as I nodded to her after managing a dry smile.

They left me to my thoughts and continued their talk. I saw Noel enjoyed every bit of the evening. She’d ordered a barbecue and a bottle of malt.

“Ok Bisi, let’s strike a deal. I’ll stop drinking before camp.” I held her hands, looked her in the eyes and made the promise. Camp was just over a month away and I was already counting down the days. She stopped sobbing just then and searched my eyes for whatever. Maybe she saw what she wanted, for she hugged me tightly after with effusive outbursts of ‘thank you’. We ended up making love instead of going for the dinner. Lovemaking with Bisi was always something else.

“I really need to go now.” Noel was getting up from her seat, her arm linked in mine, willing me up with her. “I am on duty at the clinic tonight and already, i’m late. I have to go now.”
The words spurred me back to the present and I stood with her.

“Thank you guys for the wonderful evening. I really enjoyed myself.” She gushed with appreciation as they all bade her goodbye.

“I’ll quickly see her off guys, be right back,” I said and followed her out of the noisy Mammy.

We walked side by side into the night accompanied by the dropping temperature. As we strolled, the constant brushing of our bodies sent sparks of excitement down my spine. But I ignored it. What could I have done?

“So what have you been thinking of, Bayo? Don’t tell me it’s nothing cos I know it is something.”

“Er, well, I have been thinking of my ex.” The urge to tell even the simplest lie left me. There was something enchanting about her that made me always tell the truth when I was with her.

“Hmmnnnn, ex? What about her?” she asked, her arms linked once more in mine.

“She doesn’t like me drinking.”

“Oh, really? That’s normal. Most girls don’t like their guys drinking.”

“Yeah, do you belong to that School of Thought?”

“I don’t really care.” She shrugged, and smiled. “Drinking in itself is not the issue; it is the consequence of it that’s the wahala.”

“Really?”

“Uhn uhn,” she answered and nodded slightly. “So why did you break up with her?”
“She broke up with me. Couldn’t cope with the drinking.”

“Oh, so you couldn’t stop drinking for her?”

“Well…”

“Well what?” she asked, stopped and held my gaze. We were close to the clinic and the repulsive smell of antiseptics and drugs oozing from the clinic made my stomach turn.

“I tried Noel, but maybe not enough.”

“So you let her go?”

“Kinda.” I shrugged, “There’s no need forcing a relationship that isn’t working.”
She sighed, then smiled.

“Well, we’ll talk tomorrow. I really am late. Do enjoy the rest of the evening.”

She gave me a hug, stepped back, held my hands and smiled.
The last I saw of her for the night were a pair of long legs strolling down the corridors that led to the clinic.

***
For the next couple of days, we got closer. From lunch to hangouts with the boys, we became inseparable. Other boys on camp began to give me the cold eye. I was the guy that came from nowhere to ‘snatch’ a babe many wanted. I didn’t care, I was just having the fun of my life.

I gradually forgot about Bisi and Noel became the centre of my days.

Then came the day of the opening match of the Camp Football competiton. As skipper, I had been active in selecting the team and was satisfied we had a great chance of progressing.

The entire length and breadth of the field was covered by Corp members who had been waiting for the tournament to kick off. As we went on the field, I saw Noel amongst my clique at a side of the field. When she saw me, she jumped up and clapped.

“Go ASA!”

I smiled and jogged on the field.

A football match is typically 90 minutes. Mine ended in 12 minutes.

I was playing target man upfront alone and had rose to contest for the ball with a tower of a central defender when I felt a blow to my mouth. I fell to the grass and I could hear the ref’s whistle go off. As I sat up on the turf, I felt something in my mouth. I fingered it and saw blood. My lips had been burst by an elbow. My game was over.

***
I spent the next two days in the Camp clinic with Noel by my bedside. Though the injury didn’t feel that serious, I enjoyed the time off camp duties it gave me. And of course, Noel.

My guys ensured they checked on me every morning after parade and then every evening before going to Mammy. Noel practically cancelled her shift and was at my bedside all through.

I felt loved and pampered. I knew I wanted her but I was yet to ask her out properly.
When I was discharged the second evening, I drew strength from her laughter and did the needful.

“Do you have a boyfriend?” I asked.

In all our chats, I had avoided anything romantic. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself by being too forward. Yet, I knew I had to ask. Who does she always chat with on phone and smile intermittently? Who does she always excuse herself to speak to every now and then? There had to be someone.
She didn’t take much time to answer.

“Well, I do. He is Chude, works with PWC. He should be in camp on Sunday. I’ll have to introduce you guys.” She answered innocently.

I felt the tears gathering in my eyelids.

“Oh ok,” I said as I choked back the tears, “I’ll be delighted to meet him.”

“I have told him about you too. He is looking forward to meeting you,” she answered and smiled. “So now that you are fine, what’s the plan for the evening?”

“I want to sleep.” I blurted out. Truly, at that moment, all my head sought was my pillow.

She must have sensed something wrong because she stopped instantly, looked me in eyes and whispered: “Are you okay?”

I nodded.

“I need to go now,” I said and left.

As I left her standing, it suddenly occurred to me the following day was Sunday. Chude, Noel’s boyfriend would be coming to Camp.

***
My phone was switched off the entire day.

Feigning illness, I excused myself from the clique and stayed indoors. I was not going to get introduced to any guy. I was determined to mourn my loss privately…

***
December 2016

I cannot remember who shared the invite on to my timeline. But I remember doing a double take when

I saw it.

Archibong Noel hooks Chude Ejiofor.

With needless trepidation, I scrolled down the invite to read the details. Noel was getting married on the 20th of December; exactly 5 days to Christmas.

Slowly, I sat back in my chair and blinked back the tears that threatened to embarrass me in front of Kemi, the customer service lady I shared office with. Then I remembered the beginning. The dreams that were aborted by fate; the joys that made me the toast of friends and foes alike; the sheer fun and mad pleasure; I remembered everything.

It all started with the first signs of rain.

 

The End.

***

The Task:

Indicate Your Presence In The House For “12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS By Expressing Yourself In The Comment Section.

= We need a Minimum of 12 Responses to Unlock Day 7 from the Grinch’s hold =

The Ginger:

It’s 6 days down – 6 more to go – Don’t stop ‘gingering’ the Team – Let’s make it happen!

***

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25 thoughts on “12 Days Of Christmas – Day 6

  1. I love this story. Great piece Bankole. Bayoshould have tried though...you never know if you dont try..

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  2. Ooooooooooooh! So sad, unrequited love dey pain like mad.................. nicely done Banky.

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