“Holy Mary! Won’t you come down for fireworks?” Folashade teased. I glared back at her and continued to ascend the stairs. I despised my elder sister’s hurtful sense of humour. She knew it was the second Christmas in a row that Iʼd be ‘available’ for our familyʼs Christmas fireworks display ritual and not tooʻpleasurably engagedʼ. It used to be my favorite time of the year because this ritual was done in the company of the Olukoya’s who had been our neighbours for ages. I got into my room and started tidying up. Christmas carols were blaring on the
sound system downstairs. This was one of the things that never failed to induce the ‘Christmassy’ feeling. However, John Legend was all I wanted to hear this time so I listened until a knock interrupted me. The person who walked in was the one that made all my previous Christmas days ʻspecialʼ. Right from our
secondary school days, we set aside Christmas, to experiment on just how much chemistry we had.
Today five years ago, T wore a tailored suit and a fuchsia bow tie to compliment my fitted knee-length dress that had me looking ʻhotter than Julyʼ, according to my father. He looked more appealing than I had remembered. It was our usual Christmas lunch with the Olukoyas that day, after which the two families sat together to open presents. I opened mine first. It was an immaculate white lab coat with my name monogrammed in blue; ‘FUNKE .A. ADESANYAʼ. I
wore it and strutted around as the adults lauded me, chanting compliments about their ʻbaby pharmacistʼ who had just chosen to study the five year course in the university of Lagos. T, on the other hand, had been had been chosen to study Industrial chemistry for four years. It did not take too long before everyone was done unwrapping their presents. What usually followed would be the fireworks display as the sun began to set. I always made to follow the crowd outside but he grabbed my hand from behind and spoke a language that made words appear totally useless, urging me to follow him over the fence and into his room. He is Tunji Olukoya, and that Christmas; his room was the laboratory where our experimenting finally gave us an explosion. There was red all over the white sheets and all we could hear after were our heartbeats and heavy pants. Though we never discussed what happened that day, I understood I was no longer worthy of Folashade’s ‘Holy Mary’ title. But what did I care? It did not stop. At every given opportunity we relived moments of the explosion. Then, I was convinced that was all I wanted to do for the rest of my life and it was my heaven on earth. I dared to think that someday the ʻhusband an wifeʼ title our families gave us would evolve into a marriage, because we were best of friends. Or so I thought… So, four years after, we were still having an affair under our trusting parents noses. Shade even caught us once, in my family living room, lost in John Legendʼs ʻLets get liftedʼ. She taunted me endlessly after that, with comments about how lucky I was that my dad hadnʼt come inside the house with her. But as close as that was, it only heightened our excitement because we continued where we were most likely to get caught, regardless of the fact that Tunji never replied my “I love you’s” with more than a kiss or smile. Of all the years of the affair, the fourth was most challenging. I tried not to think about life after his graduation. I tried to enjoy every moment we spent together but in a particular month that year ʻAunty roseʼ decided to play peek-a-boo with me. Tunji and I went crazy over the news, but a friend of his offered a solution for our ʻlittle problemʼ. When we got there, the friend handed me a concoction I downed. I went to ease myself shortly after, only to find that I downed the concoction for nothing. Weeks after, I had recurring stomach cramps. I was scared because I knew my womb was damaged. At the end of November, we finished our exams. He was a graduate and I still had a year to go but both our parents arranged a colossal graduation party for Tunji. The night of the party, he knocked ‘his’ knock, which I knew very well. I opened the door smiling, beaming with pride. After all, my baby had graduated and he did pretty well too. I already envisioned the night beforehand. I expected the usual, maybe a little more intensity. But nothing hurtful. However, T saw something different, so he broke it off in a short sentence. He mumbled something about facing reality. I just nodded and watched him walk out before slumping onto my bed. I was present at fireworks display for the first time in four years that Christmas but as bright as the skies were, that was my bleakest Christmas.
The day he left for England to study for his masters, I didnʼt go to see him off. I needed to adapt to the void he left in my heart and between my legs.
This Christmas, Ahmed the gateman came in carrying luggage and an ʻoyiboʼ beside him. She was the girl in the photos Tunji had been sending our parents. ‘Sheila’ or was it ‘Shania’? A half-caste and fellow masters student. I did not wait to understand exactly what was going on, so as greetings were flying around the room I made for the flight of stairs. It was Tunji Olukoya that walked in today. There he stood, looking like a present Santa had delivered specially into my room. Before I could say a word, he drew me close and whispered “she don’t have to know” in a failed attempt to sound like John legend. I laughed very hard as my response rang in my head. Ha. Ha.