I was born into a family of three children and I was the only girl. As a first daughter of Igbo heritage, I am the Ada but my parents called me Pamela, Pam for short. I was the middle child. My mother paid more attention to me as the only female child while I was very pampered by my father.
“Why is Pam crying?” my father will call out once he steps into the sitting room and hears me cry. His love and attention made me very mischievous. My mother knew how to control me. She made sure I learnt how to do house chores, cook, wash clothes and generally take care of the home at an early age. She was a traditional mother who insisted that girls needed to know all this. I didn’t have a choice but to obey; my father couldn’t stand in her way when she wanted to discipline me.
She didn’t allow me to go to the boarding house like my brothers. “She has to stay home for us to monitor her closely. She is a girl. My only daughter.” My mother would say whenever the matter came up. There was no escaping it. I went to school from home. It was not so bad. My father dropped me off every morning while I came back with my friends after school.
I heard tales of girls meeting with boys and I wondered what they did. They joked about it and called me “holier than thou”. I was curious but at the same time, I was cautious. My mother had always warned me about being friends with boys and allowing them to touch. She would call me into her room very late at night and beg me saying, “Nne, you are my everything. Please don’t put me to shame. Don’t do anything with boys. Don’t be alone with them. Don’t let them touch you. Do you want shame to kill your father and I? If you get pregnant, I will kill myself. I won’t be able to withstand the shame. I beg you in the name of God, leave boys alone.” I wanted to know what boys and girls did but at the same time, I didn’t want to disappoint my parents.
S.S 2, on Valentine’s Day, for the first time I received a Valentine gift. It was unexpected because I didn’t know any boys and I wasn’t close to any. I was in a girls’ only school so my interaction with boys was mainly with my brothers, their friends, neighbours and relatives. It wasn’t that boys never tried to ask me out, rather they were scared of my parents and elder brother. My brothers won’t agree to deliver notes to me. It was that bad.
A card and wrapped gift were placed on my table. Initially, I thought it must be an error but when I saw my name boldly written on the card, I knew it was mine. I should have been excited but I was more surprised and curious to know who sent it. My friends were begging me to open the card but I felt it should be private. One of them snatched it away from me and opened it. It was from Kolade. I was surprised. I knew Kolade, he was a friend of my brother. He was an undergraduate in the University of Lagos. He only visited whenever Kevin was around. He never paid attention to me or rather I never noticed. I took the card from her and read the content which said,
When I see you, my heart skips a beat.
When our eyes meet, I get weak in the knee.
When you smile, I sight the sun on your lips.
When you speak to me, I die and resurrect all at once.
I can’t tell you this in person but I speak from my heart, I love you, Pam. I always have and I always will.
Kolade (Kevin’s friend)
I was forced to open the gift at this point. There in the wrapper was a big fluffy cuddly teddy bear and a box of chocolates. I was still wondering if it was the Kolade I knew or another person. The Kolade I knew was quiet; he hardly spoke to me so why was he interested in me? How can he say he loved me? Can you love someone you don’t interact with? I had many questions but had no answers.
“Pam you are quiet. Please describe this guy to us. He is so romantic. Teddy bear and box of chocolates? Omo, you didn’t tell us you had a boyfriend.” Lauretta spoke excitedly.
“I don’t have a boyfriend” I answered firmly. I had to calm down to explain, “He is my brother’s friend. We don’t talk. I wonder why he sent this to me.” I answered her.
“He has told you what he wants. Is he handsome? Sexy? A dresser? Rich? Drives his own car? Tell us about him.” Tricia chipped in.
For the first time, I thought about Kolade. He was a tall guy. No, Kevin was taller than him. He was gentle. I knew he was dark in complexion but if he was handsome, I wasn’t too sure. Kevin claimed he was very intelligent. He is an only child from both parents. His parents were medical doctors and worked in Saudi Arabia. He lived with his grandmother who doted on him. This was as much as I knew. He had hardly ever spoken to me. I thought for a moment. Yes, he had. He was the only friend Kevin had that ever said thank you whenever I entertained them. That was all I had ever heard him say. So, why was he interested in me?
I wasn’t “current” like my friends. My mother insisted I dressed in a particular way covering up all my body. I never wear revealing or hugging clothes so what was the attraction. I never considered myself beautiful, so why would he be interested?
My friends announced to the other girls that I got the best gift. My teddy bear was very beautiful and cuddly. It was obviously very expensive. I could see all the envy in the eyes of the girls. I didn’t need that.
“Are you sure she didn’t gift herself? We don’t know her with any boy; she claims to be holy so how come?” One of the girls blurted out.
“She is not on your level oh. University boy is the one dying for her. Look at the teddy bear and chocolate, these ones are special.” My friend Lauretha responded.
“What will a university boy find in this girl? She is not fine and she is old school. Why would he want her?” Another girl asked.
“He finds her attractive. Didn’t he see all of us and went for her? Maybe he is not looking for a cheap girl….” The fight started. I was not interested. What bothered me was why he sent me the card and gifts. How will I take them home? My mother will kill me if she finds this.
“What are you thinking about Pam? Is it what those girls were saying? Ignore them.” My best friend Lauretta comforted me.
“No. Where do I keep these things? My parents must not see them.”
“Bring them; I will keep them for you. Let us eat the chocolates.” She offered. It was the best suggestion.
After school, we stepped out of the gate. I was shocked to see Kolade standing beside a car waiting. I didn’t know what to do. I thought of ignoring him and leaving but I felt it would be childish. I walked past him mouthing a greeting.
“Pam, come here. Where are you going?” Kolade called out to me with a smile on his face.
“I am going home. My friends are waiting for me.” I answered him.
“Did you get my gifts?” he asked,
“I did. Thank you. Although I don’t know why you sent them.”
“Didn’t you read the card? I meant every word there. Let me take you out. We can talk better there.”
“No oh. I can’t go with you. My friends are waiting.” I walked off to join them. Kolade followed me. He greeted them saying
“Hi ladies, I want to take your friend Pam out for a drink and snacks but she wouldn’t come. Can I take all of you out for snacks and drinks? Your friend will feel comfortable if you are with us.”
“Yes please” Lauretta answered speaking for others. Three of us entered the car. My friends insisted I sat in front with him although I was uncomfortable doing it. I was scared. I had never been that close to a guy all my life apart from family members.
He introduced himself and my friends were also introduced to him. They made conversation in the car. I was quiet throughout the ride. He bought us snacks and drinks. I refused to buy anything. I was uncomfortable. He insisted and bought me Schweppes bitter lemon and chicken pie. While he chatted with my friends, I looked at him closely. He was not the Kolade I knew. Kolade was quiet and hardly spoke when with the boys. This Kolade was friendly. He looked different too. He was lighter than I thought and he was not bad looking at all. When he smiled, a side of his lips twitched. I didn’t realize I was staring until he looked directly at me and winked. I wished the ground would open and swallow me.
“Let us excuse you two so you can talk. We are on the other table.” Lauretta said picking up her tray while the Tricia followed suit. There was a panicked look on my face but she cautioned me with her eyes. What kind of conversation would we have?
“I am sure the gift and card got to you as a shock. I had to do that. Pam,, I have known you for many years now. I want to make my intentions known. I have liked you for a long time and I have been nursing the idea of letting you know. I didn’t earlier because Kevin is a friend but now I am sure of my feelings for you. I haven’t met a girl like you before and I would want to spend the rest of my life with you.” Kolade said looking me straight in the eyes.
“I don’t understand. Is this a prank? Is Kevin testing me or something? Is he using you to check if I am now wayward?” I asked in a confused state.
“Kevin is not involved in this. This is between us. I haven’t told Kevin yet; I know how protective of you he is. This is me coming heart in hand to you professing my love for you.”
“I don’t get it. We are not close. I don’t know you that well and you don’t know me too. I am a small girl in secondary school and you are a university undergraduate. How can you claim to be in love with me?”
“I know it is confusing to you. Let us start as friends. Let’s get to know each other. The only way we can do that is to spend time together. I can pick you up after school during this strike. And drop you home. When Kevin comes back, I can come around more often. Let’s just try. I am not in a hurry; we have our whole lives ahead of us.”
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