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Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Dangerous Glance (2) long shadows



    ***
   Some years later...
 Stephen Benjamin, Dele's son, was with two of his close friends as he walked to the Faculty office with trepidation in his belly. 

 Five weeks before, he had completed his final exams at Rockwell University; he had put in his very best and now he could only just hope the results would justify his efforts.

 His two friends sat in front of the Faculty Officer while he stood. The results were in sealed envelopes and the officer quickly extracted the ones for his friends. He watched as his friends opened their envelopes.

The first one broke into a wide smile and mouthed to him. “Second Class Upper.” Stephen slapped him on the back. “Congrats!” His other friend opened his envelope and shrugged. “2:2”. Stephen smiled and gave him a thumbs up.

 “Did you say your name is Stephen Benjamin?” the Faculty officer asked. “I can’t seem to find your results. It should be here, they are arranged in alphabetical order.” 

 He looked confused and took a moment to think. “Hmmmn? Okay, I think there should be another batch of B’s.”

 He found it, with Stephen’s envelope right on top. Stephen took it. He didn’t have the boldness to open it there. He turned and quickly walked out of the office into the open space outside. His friends ran after him.

“What’s your problem men?” one of them said. “Open this envelope, joor!”
He took a deep breath and tore open the envelope.

The slip of cream paper inside read...“We are pleased to inform you that you have successfully
completed the academic requirements for a Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering, and you are hereby awarded a certificate with First Class Honours.”

Stephen exhaled. The enveloped dropped out of his hand as he punched both fist to heaven. “Yes! Thank you Jesus!”

His friends picked up the letter. “Waoh! Waoh! Waoh!”
Their noise drew the attention of some other students and they gathered round. 

 Spontaneously, they lifted him high and marched around the
Engineering block. “For he’s a jolly good fellow....”

 ***
Stephen waited outside the female hostel. Life was good and everything was on track. The next stage was his master’s degree in the United States just like his father had promised.
He saw Susan first before she saw him. 

 Quickly he walked up to her and wrapped his arms tightly around her with a throaty laugh.
She hit him on the shoulder, and pushed him back so she could get some air. “Take it easy; Mr First Class.”

“I’m just so happy,” he said, unable to take the grin off his face.
She was smiling too. “I know. God is really faithful. I haven’t stopped thanking him all day. I was borderline and wasn’t so sure what would happen but then I made a 2:1.”

 “Let’s go for a walk,” he said, and took her hand in his.
He fell in love with Susan a year ago. They had been classmates and casual friends when they started University together but then the two of them were assigned to a project at the beginning of their final year and a deeper friendship began.

He led her to a bench in the centre of the University Park, beside a shrub of red roses. Their results was what he had been waiting for. Now that that was out of the way, he hoped they could take their relationship to the next level.

“Susan, can I tell you something?”
She sat up straight and looked into his eyes.
“What?”

“Do you know that you are my first love?” She smiled.
“It’s true. I’ve read about love, watched it in movies, but I never really understood it before I met you.”

“Awwww...” Her smile wobbled.
“You complete me. Every day, I pray that God should keep you for me. I don’t know what my life, my future, would be without you.”

Susan sniffed and suddenly a dam of tears rolled down her face.

He watched. She looked so beautiful. Somehow, he loved the tears; they gave him hope.
He put his hand deep in his pocket and brought out a ring which he held up to her face. 
“Susan, will you marry me?”

“Stephen?” she said, through her tears.
“I’ve thought about it long and hard. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I promise you, I will be the best husband you can ever have, so help me God.”

The tears fell harder. He wanted to hold her but was afraid that would just spoil the beauty of the moment.

He handed her his handkerchief with his left hand and watched as she cleaned her face.

She looked up to him. “Aren’t we too young? You are 20, I’m 19.”

“No. We have found what takes many people decades to discover. I’m not saying we should get married tomorrow, let’s just commit.”

She broke into a smile that looked like sunshine after the rain. She stretched her left hand towards him. “Yes! I will marry you.”

Carefully, he slipped the ring onto her middle finger. “And I will always love you.”

 ***
“Dad, all I’m asking for, is that you meet them.” Stephen was sitting on the edge of the sofa
opposite his father.

Dele’s face was a mask of confusion. “Why the rush? I will meet them when you are at a good enough age to get married. Only a foolish man will marry off his son at twenty.”

 “What’s the meaning of that? You are not marrying me off. I want to get married,” stated Stephen.

“You are too young, Stephen. After your Master’s degree and when you complete your Youth Corps, we can talk about it then. But surely not now. You used to be a focused young man, but now this girl has gotten you distracted and messed up. That’s one of the reasons why I think she might not be right for you.”

“You’ve met her. You told me she’s a nice girl. What has changed?”

“You introduced her as a friend, not as a proposed wife. She’s just a baby. What will her parents think of your mum and I?”

“Her parents have agreed to the introduction. Or why else would they give us a date?” He moved closer to his father and gesticulated passionately with his hands. “Ok Dad, lets meet halfway. 

My major fear is that I’m going away for one and a half years. Anything can happen during that time. What happens if she meets someone else? At least if our parents meet, then that is some formality and it will give me some peace of mind.”

Dele was battle weary. He could never really resist this son he loved so much and who had done him proud. “Fine. But you will be the one to convince your mother. Let me know if she agrees.”

 ***
Dele Benjamin did feel a little uncomfortable as he sat with his wife at the luxurious dining room of Susan’s parents. They were not bad at all and they did try their best to make him relax.

Lunch was good and Susan’s mum gave them detailed stories of Susan’s growing up years. She seemed to be a bit of a tomboy and by the time they were through, he quite understood how his son had fallen for her.

After lunch, they sat around the lounge of their living room. Stephen and Susan excused themselves, something about them wanting to talk beside the swimming pool.

“I really admire your son,” Susan’s mom said, “he’s such a focused young man. He knows what he wants and is committed enough to know how to get it. And it’s quite impressive that he made a first class.”

“Thank you," Dele’s wife said. “And it is very easy for us to reciprocate the compliment. Susan is a very good girl. You have done a good job with her.”

  ***
Monday afternoon, Stephen was in school to process his transcript; one of the requirements to finalise his Master’s degree admission. He was halfway through the process when he realised he had left the e-mail address of his contact on his other phone at home.

No problem, his Dad was on vacation and would help him get it. He sat in a quiet spot along the faculty corridor and dialled his number. Dele picked up the call on the first ring.
“Hi Dad.” 

“Stephen?”

“Pls I need your help. I stored an email address on my other phone and I need it now to process my transcript. It should be on my bed. I’ll hold on...”

A minute later, his Dad was back on the line. “Got it so what do you want?”
“Pls check the contacts under US Case File...”

“Phone is locked.”
“Sorry, my password is ...Susan.”

He heard his father chuckle on the other end. He smiled too; he knew what he was thinking.

“Case File. Tamara72@uncl.com”
Stephen took note.

 “Thanks Dad. See you later.” 

 Dele was about to drop the phone back on the bed when Susan’s picture on the screen saver caught his attention. The girl was so very attractive, beautiful, dark. 

 He studied her face, then without thinking, sat back and clicked on the phone gallery. There were hundreds of pictures and videos and half of them were of Susan.

He scrolled through with a smile fixed on his face. The pictures reminded him of when he first met his wife and how much they couldn’t take their eyes off each other in those days.

 He shouldn’t really be snooping through, but the pictures gave him an interesting insight into another side of his son’s life.

Suddenly, he froze as his eyes locked onto an image that he had stored away in the dark recesses of his mind. What was her picture doing on Stephen’s phone? It must have been taken 19 years before, about the last time he saw her...

  Omowunmi.

 To be continued
cc : Dupe Olorunjo


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