It was mid afternoon when I finally struggled out of bed. What had roused me actually were the voices that I heard coming from the front part of the house. Of course that was Garuba, there was no mistaking his distinctive voice. Abu and Ukpong too. They seemed to be reminiscing over the events of last night and were talking loudly, especially Abu, whose voice suggested exultation at how successful the party had been. I threw on some clothes and stumbled down the corridor. Entering the front room I saw that Ukpong and Abu were on the sofa, Abu lying sideways across it with his head cradled in Ukpong's lap. Garuba sat across from them facing the entrance from the corridor, so it was he who saw me enter before the others knew that I was in the room. Garuba looked up at me and grinned, but I couldn't help noticing the look of concern in his eyes, although he was trying to hide it perhaps so that Ukpong and Abu would not notice how really worried about me he had been. I said hello to all of them and went and sat next to Garuba, wishing that Abu and Ukpong were not present.
Abu said something to the effect that they had decided to leave me to sleep off the effects of my alcohol binge from last night and Ukpong asked how I was feeling now. I tried to smile and said that I felt a bit better than in the morning when I'd first got out of bed. Garuba remained silent. He had arrived at the house when I was still asleep and they all had agreed that it was best to let me sleep, so he had sat down with my house mate and her boyfriend. Still saying nothing Garuba took hold of my hand and abruptly rose from his seat, pulling me up with him. Then holding my hand he muttered that he wanted us to talk, so grinning at Ukpong and Abu he excused us and led me down the corridor to my room, pushing me inside ahead of him. He pushed the door shut behind him and leaned against it with his back. I turned around. There was a look on his face that I had not seen before. His eyes were communicating a message and I knew instantly what the message was. My dear Garuba was hurt. I turned my head downwards towards the floor, feeling ashamed and genuinely sorry that I had brought upon him this crestfallen feeling. Still he said nothing, so I said "I'm really sorry". At this Garuba asked in a quiet voice, "Tell me, how are you feeling? Are you alright?"
"Yes, I'm fine", I said meekly, as I stepped closer to him. Garuba reached out for me, pulling me even closer until our bodies were pressed firmly together, our arms wrapped tightly around each other. Then Garuba whispered into my ear, "I really do love you, you know..". I was overcome with emotion and the only reply I could muster was to say again how sorry I was, tears coming to my eyes. Garuba released me and cupped my face in his hands, then with a finger he wiped a tear from my cheek. His face was only inches from mine and as I stared into his eyes I whispered, "I love you too, will you forgive me?". He remained silent but pulled me close again and we just held each other, standing there quietly by the door for I don't how long. It was a very intense moment and we would have remained there for even longer, had there not been a knock on the door. Ukpong was at the door asking if we would be interested in having something to eat. She was just going to put together some lunch from the food that was left over from last night's party. I looked at Garuba and he smiled, nodding, so I replied to Ukpong through the closed door in a loud voice, "Yes, thanks." It was good that I wouldn't have to worry about food for me and Garuba for now.
In the meantime, I thought I really should shower and freshen up so I asked Garuba if he would join Abu in the front room while I went into the bathroom. Afterwards, all four of us sat together around the kitchen table and had the most delicious jollof rice and fried goat meat as we talked. And it was at this meal that I noticed for the first time those knowing looks that were exchanged between Ukpong and her boyfriend. Garuba seemed oblivious to it, but instinctively I could tell that Abu and Ukpong had already worked out the true nature of the relationship between Garuba and me. I wondered for how long they had known, because it didn't seem to me that knowing that Garuba and I were lovers, had caused them to treat us differently than they had done before. Abu and Garuba still seemed to be the best of friends, and Ukpong was still as sweet as ever. Later, in the car as we drove away from the house and into town I mentioned this to Garuba, but he just brushed it aside and said that I was imagining things..
After our lunch together, Abu had had to leave and return to Jos where his job was and where he lived during the week. Ukpong's friends Yetunde and Jumoke had arrived at the house shortly afterwards and in a whirlwind of loud girlie chattering, all three women had left the house together. Garuba and I were alone for the first time that day and for a while we just sat quietly, close together on the sofa, cuddling. We then thought we should go into town for some air and we eventually wound up at the Police Officers' Mess, where Garuba said he played squash sometimes. It just so happened that as we drove into the car park of the officers' mess building, Garuba spotted Usman's BMW and so we parked alongside it. We had not yet left the car when I heard a familiar voice calling out to Garuba. "Alhaji Garuba, ya ya de?" I had been in Bauchi long enough to know the traditional Hausa greeting, but it was the voice...that voice, Usman! Lord! What is this?
Garuba stepped out of the car, as while still inside I turned around in my seat and looked through the rear windscreen. I saw Usman in his sports kit with a squash racket bag slung over his shoulder, gesturing with his arms towards us. It was dusk and apparently he was just leaving, having spent the afternoon at the mess. Not surprisingly Audu was close behind him, and together they both walked across the car park to where Garuba and I were. Usman struck an impressive figure, I thought, but quickly looked away. I got out of the car as they joined us and we shook hands all round, Usman sweaty after his squash. Garuba and Usman immediately struck out in their friendly conversation, in Hausa of course, so naturally Audu and I were left together, again. And seeing Audu now was like meeting a long lost friend, although it was only the previous night that we had met for the first time. Audu was his usual sweet self, but obviously he knew nothing of what Usman and I had done in the dark the night before. And although Usman and Garuba both knew of it, there was no indication that they would let it affect their friendship in any way.
Usman in his ebullient manner suggested that since we were all together, we should head to Audu's place. I thought it was a good idea and would have loved us to, but Garuba frowned slightly and I was surprised when I heard him explaining that we had other plans and that perhaps we could do that on another day. Inwardly I wondered what these plans were that he was talking about, since as far as I knew we had made no plans at all. Anyhow Usman and Audu drove away, waving at us as they went by. Garuba and I got back into the car and just sat there saying and doing nothing. His mood had changed. To diffuse the situation, I put my hand on his hand and softly said, "Lets go home ..". He turned to look at me, giving me that naughty look that excites me so much, the hint of a smile on his lips. He turned on the ignition and reversed out of the car park and on to the Yelwa Road, and then turned the car in the direction of my house. The drive home would take only about 15 minutes but as we drove it seemed like forever. And I silently hoped that we would still have the house to ourselves when we arrived..
Author's note: I am aware that there are those who only recently became readers of this blog. For their benefit I have posted links to all the preceding parts of this story as posted on the blog previously. Garuba, Garuba 2, Garuba 3, Garuba 4, Garuba 5, Garuba 6, Garuba 7, Garuba 8, Garuba 9, Garuba 10, Garuba 11, Garuba 12, Garuba 13. Alternatively you can click HERE to see all the parts on one page.