"You and Peter be giving us crush goals." Gbemi said the next day. We were sitting on the cemented bench under the mango tree. By we, I mean Gbemi, Adam and me. It was break time.
"Crush what?" I asked, drawing my ear closer to her. I was sitting between the both of them.
"Crush goals." Gbemi replied. "You both are so cute together that I just feel like having a crush that would crush on me back."
"First of all, I've not told you that I'm crushing on Peter and secondly, speaking of crushes, do you have one?" I asked Gbemi.
"Nah!" She dragged it, scrunching her nose and the side of her lips curved upwards. "I'm so over guys."
"Why?" Adam immediately asked. He had been quiet since we had our seat on the cemented bench.
"All of them are the same— cruel and heartless. I don't trust them. Look, I just hate boys. End of story."
"Wow! That means you hate me?" Adam asked, placing his hand on his chest as though he was hurt.
"I said I hate boys." Gbemi stated again and it took some seconds before I could get what she actually meant. "Are you a boy?" She asked and I swatted her arms as we both laughed.
Adam didn't. He looked slightly offended.
"I was just joking Adam. Someone cannur play with you?" Gbemi asked in a singsong voice.
Adam rolled his eyes. "You indirectly insulted me Gbemi and it's not funny. I don't like that kind of play." He said with a serious tone.
"I didn't know. Oya sorry." Gbemi apologized. I, on the other hand, was still trying to stifle my laughter.
"Whatever." Adam rolled his eyes and looked away.
Gbemi stood up from where she was sitting and walked up to him. "Oya sorry na. You're a boy. What am I saying? You're a man, a real man." She said, touching his cheeks and then she looked at me and we both burst out in a peal of laughter.
"Daniella, stop making me laugh." Gbemi said, trying hard to stop herself from laughing.
"Who's making you laugh? Abeg, I dey laugh my own o." I defended.
"Your laugh dey make my laugh to dey laugh." Gbemi said in a pidgin English that I didn't quite understand and the three of us burst into a peal of laughter.
Adam's laughter was the first to subside. "You're so funny Gbemi." He shook his head.
Gbemi walked back to have her seat and our laughter died down. "I hate boys, but you're not inclusive Adam because you're different." Gbemi said.
"But why exactly?" I asked, narrowing my eyes. The mood was now sober.
Gbemi exhaled deeply and fiddled with her fingers. "I've never told anyone this before, so what I am about to tell you guys should remain a secret between the three of us. Is that clear?" She asked.
"Yes ma!" Adam and I said simultaneously.
"Okay when I was very little..." She trailed off as she squeezed her eyes closed and exhaled. "I'm not so sure I can say this."
I placed my hand on her thigh. "Talk dear. Your secret is safe with us." I reassured her.
"It's not really about that. I trust you guys but... I just don't like thinking about it. I try so hard to clear the thought from my mind."
Adam and I remained silent lost in our thoughts. I had no idea what was going on in Adam's mind, but for me I was thinking of the possible reasons why Gbemi might not like the male population. Could it be that a guy broke her heart or that she was raped? What could the reason be? I was curious to know but I didn't want to force it out of her. If she decides not to open up about it, then we had to respect her decision.
"I was just eight years old." Gbemi said soberly. "I can vividly remember that day like it happened yesterday. My parents were not around. It was only my younger bro and I that were at home. We were actually living in a compound with some neighbors. So on that day, we were playing football together and then I accidentally kicked the ball and it hit one of our neighbor’s apartment door. That was actually our favorite neighbor. His name was Ezekiel. As far as I'm concerned, he's dead to me. Then he usually bought us cheese balls and chocolates, that's why we liked him. So when the ball hit his door, I wasn't scared. He actually lived alone. With a free mind, I ran to get the ball and then he came out of his apartment. I remember greeting him and he smiled at me toothily. He then looked around the surrounding and told me to come in. I asked why and he said he wanted to give me cheese balls. I was so happy and naive also that I followed him into his house. I remember he locked the door and sat on the chair in the living room and then asked me to sit on his lap and hug him. Though I was young and naive, something felt strange about his request, so I refused." Gbemi took a deep breath and cracked her knuckles before she continued.
"Then he promised to buy me a lot of cheese balls and chocolate if I did what he asked. Hearing that made me happy and I did as he requested."
As she said that, Adam and I exchanged looks and then turned to look at Gbemi again.
"Then he pecked my lips. I smiled and asked why he did that. He said he liked me and that he was going to marry me and that he had told my parents about the marriage." Gbemi said, making Adam and I chuckle.
"It's funny right?" Gbemi smiled, "Well the end of it isn't. Anyways I believed everything he said and then he started to kiss my lips. Not the tongue to tongue kisses though. Afterwards, he unzipped his trousers and took out his already hard and raised dick. Believe me, I was scared. Something told me it wasn't right, but what could I do? I was young and naive. Guess what he told me to do next?" Gbemi asked rhetorically. "The stupid man told me to stroke his dick. I refused and he threatened to beat me and not buy me cheese ball and chocolate if I don't do it. Out of fright, I did as he requested and then he put his dick in my mouth and told me to suck it like I suck my lollipops. I knew that wasn't right, so I bit his dick and ran towards the door to escape but unfortunately for me, the door was locked. He came after me and slapped me hard across my cheeks, carried me and threw me on the chair. Then he raped me." Gbemi voice faltered with her last statement.
Unconsciously, tears streamed down my eyes and Gbemi covered her face with her palms and cried on my shoulders. I clasped my arms around her to console her.
"I sincerely feel your pain but it's all in the past now. It's okay." I said.
"It's not okay!" She said in between muffled sobs. "Men are wicked Daniella."
"Not all men Gbemi." Adam said, "I know what he did was hurtful but one man's act shouldn't fix the perspective on your mind that all men are devils. Some are actually angels, at least think of the man that got married to your mum."
"Adam is right." I chipped in.
"When a man that I assumed to be an angel raped an eight year old girl, what else do you want me to think again? I don't even know a good guy when I see one. All of them just appear to be devils to me. I simply can't trust guys anymore. And don't bother trying to talk me out of the perspective." Gbemi withdrew herself from my arms and wiped the tears off her face.
"I would. I mean, why would you generalize something that a single person did? Come on! It's like saying all Catholics are sinful just because you heard the pope was found fornicating." Adam pressed on.
"Adam, this isn't helping at all." Gbemi said.
Adam shrugged, "Okay o. Anyways, just like you were abused when you were little, so was I."
Gbemi looked at him with surprise and curiosity. "How? Do you mind sharing?"
"No, I don't. I've actually told Daniella before and I believe that you're also trustworthy."
Gbemi looked at me. "He has told you before?" Her voice was lower as she asked.
I nodded my head in affirmation. Afterwards, Adam began to narrate his ordeal with his gay uncle to both of us. Gbemi kept exclaiming, but since I had heard the story before, I didn't express any form of surprise.
"What? That's appalling!" Gbemi exclaimed, scrunching her face in disgust. "That man is nasty. He deserves to go to hell."
"I know, right!" I said.
"So you see, you're not the only one with a terrible past." said Adam.
"And you see, it's still a guy that did that to you. Like I said before and I'd continue to say, men are wicked."
"You’re entitled to your opinion." Adam said and then hit my lap slightly. "Abeg, let's go to the class before the break is over."
The three of us stood up from the cemented bench. I adjusted my skirt, Gbemi stretched, while Adam properly tucked in his already tucked in shirt.
"Wait, let me pluck some mango." Gbemi said as she took a small stone from the ground and aimed at a mango on the tree. The stone hit the mango and it fell on the floor with few leaves. She ran towards it and picked it up. Removing the sand from it, she said, "I'd wash you at home."
"Please pluck for me.” I begged. Plucking mangoes was something I knew how to do very well. In fact, I could climb trees, but today, I just didn't feel like it, so I wanted Gbemi to do it for me.
"Let's go to the class abeg." She said.
"Wicked girl." I hit her buttocks and ran. She chased after me.
As we were climbing the staircase heading to our class, Charles and one other tall guy were walking down the stairs, so we collided. The guy kept going down, while Charles stood in my way. I moved to the right to excuse him but he blocked me. I moved left, he did the same.
I sighed exasperatedly. "What is it Charles?" I asked, Gbemi and Adam had reached the heading of the stairs. "Please wait for me o." I told them.
"No don't worry, be going. I want to have a word with her." Charles said, holding the handrails. Adam and Gbemi walked off.
"Word with me? What do you want Charles?"
"Guy you're coming or you dey toast babe?" The other guy that was walking with Charles asked, as he climbed up to meet us.
"I dey come." Charles said in pidgin English and then the guy walked off. Charles turned to look at me and a smile danced on his face. He had a really cute smile.
"What? Why are you smiling?" I cocked one eyebrow as I asked.
"You're too beautiful, you know?" He complimented and I found it cheesy. "Your beauty is killing me softly." He touched his chest as he said it.
"Stop it please." I said coldly.
"What's the matter? Why are you cold on me?" He asked.
"I'm tired of standing. I want to go to my class please." I said tiredly.
"Is that why you're like this?"
"Duh!" I rolled my eyes.
"Yes I've been meaning to ask you, why is that Peter guy always acting up whenever I'm around you?"
"I really don't have an answer to that. Why don't you ask him?"
"Is he your boyfriend?"
"Can I be your boyfriend then?" He asked and a smile tugged on his face.
"Sorry?" I said, not like I didn't hear him the first time but I just wanted to be sure I heard right.
"You heard right. I want you to be my girlfriend." He stated clearly.
I touched his neck with the back of my hand. "Oh I see you're sick. Why don't you go to the hospital instead of joking around here?" Sarcasm was laced in my statement.
He lifted one of his eyebrows. "I'm not joking and I'm not sick. I really like you Daniella and I want both of us to be a thing."
Just as he said that, the bell rang indicating that the break was over. Hallelujah!
"Break is over. I have to be in class." I said and brushed past him.
He held my wrist, stopping me. I turned to look at him. "I'd give you time to think about it and please let your response be positive."
"Okay. Now can I go to my class?"
He let go off my wrist and I walked off to the class. Many students walked into the class with me. I pushed my bag from my seat and sat down.
"Would I be prying if I asked what Charles told you?" Adam asked, lifting his head from the novel he was reading.
"You know I don't understand your English. What's prying?"
"To be nosey... To... Never mind. What did Charles tell you?" He asked, hitting my shoulders lightly.
"He asked me to be his girlfriend."
He gagged, stifling his ensuing laughter. "And your response?"
"The bell rang before I could reply."
"What would have been your response, if the bell had not rung?"
I shrugged and gave him a duh look. "No."
"But he gave you chocolate?"
"My wristwatch o!" Ayo, the class captain, exclaimed. "Who took my wristwatch from my locker?" He asked aloud, earning the attention of everyone. Nobody responded. Some boys started to laugh and I heard something like "God has catch you today."
"This is not funny o." Ayo said. "I bought that wrist watch one thousand naira."
"So it’s because of one thousand naira wristwatch you're shouting?" Peter, who was chatting with his friends, spoke up and many heads turned to look at him.
Ayo was going to attack Peter when Mr Nnamdi, our class teacher, walked into the class. "Break is over guys! Stop disturbing the whole school."
"Sir!" Ayo spoke up. "During break hours, I kept my wristwatch under my locker only for me to come back and not find it."
"You mean your wristwatch is no longer in your locker?" The teacher asked for clarity.
"Yes sir!" Ayo sounded frustrated.
"Have you asked the class?" Mr Nnamdi asked.
"Yes, that's what I was doing before you walked in."
"And nobody confessed that he or she took it?"
"Search their bags." Mr Nnamdi instructed. "Everyone bring out you bags now."
Everyone did as told and Ayo started to search everyone's bag. Who could have stolen his wristwatch? Whoever it was deserved to be punished severely. When Ayo got to Adam and I seat, he searched my bag and I wasn't bothered because I wasn't the thief. Now I'm sure you can imagine how shocked I was when he brought out a wristwatch from my bag.
"Looks like I've found the thief." Ayo said.