It was 4:00am already, I had been waiting, and I hardly closed my eyes all through the night. For the first time in months, I felt it necessary to say good morning to my God without sleeping off at it. Quickly and of course with much excitement I ran to the bathroom, I was going to be an undergraduate starting from today. I had set aside a dress the night before, a fuchsia pink laced dress and a beautiful grey fedora hat to match. I could have stared at the mirror forever but for dad that called my attention. There was so much to take but immediately I got into the car, I couldn’t help but stop back tears. The journey was quite eventful because it seemed like I wasn’t going to come back home in years as my mom insisted on sitting with me, I thought she was going to pour out a whole scroll of advice stored up for the day but all she did was just settle herself beside me smiling while my uncle sat in front talking to my dad.
As we drew closer to the border separating Nigeria from The Republic of Benin, she dipped her hand into her bag and pulled out a gift, it was wrapped in a green wrapper with a blue ribbon. I waited patiently, at least I pretended to be, for her to give it to me but she just kept on smiling. We got into a car park and then my dad got a cab to take us to the university itself.
The cab drove past the Nigerian border and finally I was in a different country, the difference was clear, from the bill boards all in French. Thoughts of having a new kind of life here flew back and forth, thoughts of being away from mum and dad and my siblings even if it was going to be for a month and a few weeks.
I was quickly pulled from my world of thoughts when the cab drove into the school gate, my university, Houdegbe North American University Benin. The cab stopped in front of the female general hostel. My dad couldn’t go in, so mum helped me pack my bags into my room while I finished up my registration. I rushed back quickly to catch up with my parents, it was quite unusual but I strongly felt that my mum didn’t want to cry and she didn’t want that from me too. She kept on smiling, and at the point I had forgotten about the gift due to the tensed feeling I had, she held out my hand and placed the gift in my palm. I wish I held unto her for some little words but she couldn’t even stare. Mum and dad said goodbye, they got into the cab and headed back for Nigeria.
I was expecting the worse as I climbed the stairs to my room. I wasn’t even expecting a smile from my three other roommates. Well, it saved me for not even my presence could stop the great discussion they were having when I came in. I moved straight to my part of the room while getting the “not-from-the-heart” hi(s). The girls kept giggling over one issue or the other, I noticed. Then my part had to come in; a phone was passed around, I guessed it was for the fair one of them, I heard my name and was pretty shocked because we didn’t exchange names, they didn’t look like they had time for that when I came in, I thought probably my mum told them. Well, the fair-skinned roomie of mine called my attention, I remember clearly her words, ‘M’ore please could you come over for a second’, I did and she introduced herself as Sola, the rest did too; Juliet and Remi.
Then came the reason I was called; to check out the picture on her phone (Sola’s), I just kept staring at it and suddenly she dragged her phone from me and smiled saying I liked the guy in the picture, I did oppose but it seemed more like they weren’t listening again so I took that as a sign to retreat to my compartment.
I did retreat and made sure to keep the gift away from their eyes so, I tucked it under my pillow, they didn’t even notice. I just couldn’t wait for when they’d all be asleep, at the expense of my own sleep, I was willing to wait. As the night drew near, I didn’t have to beg them because they all went to somewhere and didn’t seem like they were coming back any sooner by their preparations. I made sure they were gone and then paced about like a thief just to be sure once more that no one disturbed my gift-opening process. I brought it out, unwrapping it carefully; I felt it was something extremely important especially from the method with which my mum wrapped it. And to my biggest surprise, it was a Bible. I didn’t know if to cry or laugh, I just kept staring at it, I opened it and at the bottom right corner was written “to my darling daughter” but it was my grandmother’s handwriting, I thought saying to myself “but grandma is dead, she died a year ago, I’m sure it’s her handwriting, it can’t be mistaken”. I felt an urge to call my mom but didn’t know if to, it was 10:00pm, I didn’t feel like troubling her, I shifted it to the nextday.
I had checked my time table, I had lectures starting by 8:00am, I left for the class, and I called mum in the pretense of asking for her blessings since it was my first day at school. After the necessary greetings, I asked for her blessings, she didn’t even ask if I saw the gift, it didn’t stop me from asking anyway. Being a usual character she had, I knew within me that she was smiling over the phone and I asked why, she replied, ‘dearie (as she always called me), you’d know sooner or later’, I broke in and said anxiously, ‘who is it from’, she replied, ‘dearie, you’d know sooner or later’ and then she hung up.
As the days passed I took my studies seriously, I barely ever had time to sit in the hostel. Sola seemed to notice, she encouraged me and I felt like I was having a demi-mum right here in school. She always made mention of how guys in school were that I had to be careful, I took her word to heart. She used this as an avenue to know if I was a virgin, I disclosed to her that I was and Wow! She was not surprised but yes, she was happy like she had won a lottery on my behalf. She made mention that she had always thought of me as one and that I confirmed it, if only I knew what it meant.
Few weeks later, the news of freshers’ party went wild around school, pretty much different ones were organized, I was invited to different ones but I didn’t deem it fit to go to any. As I sat outside the hostel looking at nothing but shooting stars, Sola, Juliet and Remi approached me. With the natural “hi-hi”, Juliet and Remi went upstairs but Sola stayed back saying she wanted a favor from meand she wanted me to promise to grant her the favor, I really shouldn’t have but I did. Her favor was for me to accompany her to a freshers’ party organized by some of her close friends and she didn’t want to go alone.
On that faithful night I went with her to the party…