by Dawn Wilson
The class erupted in laughter. Opus was at it again, cracking the place up as usual. He was after all, the designated class clown however, where others made up for their lack of looks by having to be witty and funny, Opus had it all going for him. Looks, height and that razor sharp wit.
She sat at the “house of lords” so coined because that was where the mischief makers sat. It had been the standing tradition in the Nigerian Law School Lagos campus for many years. While the effico ones aka the “we know it all” sat at the front of the class and earned the moniker “House of Commons.”
One would wonder however why a reserved conservative young lady such as herself would choose to be seated at the “House of lords” seeing as she was neither a trouble maker nor a rabble rouser. The truth? Deep inside, she yearned to be. She longed to be the one at the center of jokes. The one causing raucous uproar and being famed for it but, fear. Well, not necessarily fear but low self-esteem.
Having spent years under a heavy handed father and an over bearing mother, she had learned to fly under the radar often keeping her thoughts to herself for fear of any form of verbal backlash and so, with that she grew into what some would call a nerd. A book loving, music ‘centric’, isolated and shy individual who wanted to reach out and help people so she decided to become a lawyer.
It however seems a curious mix for a shy almost introverted person to want to be a lawyer right? Well, for this turn of events, we have the good Lord to thank who blessed her with quiet determination. What she wanted, she usually went after so long as it did not involve any form of social interaction in acquiring it so, she pursued her dream.
Once in a while, life saw her break out of her shell momentarily to do something bold and outrageous like singing before a crowd, however, one bad review or snide comment often ensured she retreated swiftly into the comfort zone, safe and free from ridicule, criticism or scrutiny. But, she had it in her to be great, she knew this but the choke hold of her father’s often harsh words and the awful put downs from her mother had her in its vice like grip. It was going to take a miracle to break free.
Now at the home stretch of her dreams, with her finally making it to the Nigerian Law School, it would seem that fate decided a change was in order and stepped in. Day one of law school, an error on her bank draft for school fees payment would see her frantically trying to correct the error so as to make it on time for classes. The administrators of the school were pretty strict on registration and class attendance but try as she could, it was either one thing was wrong or the other and finally after battling each road block, the bank draft error was corrected and she was free to go.
The auditorium was massive as she silently trudged in to find the place packed full. Every seat in sight taken and she had to keep searching while eyes followed her every move. Dressed in the mandatory black and white ensemble she stuck out like a sore thumb being the only person standing and walking about in search of a safe haven to sit.
Finally, a marshal led her up to the “House of lords” when it became clear she was becoming a distraction and that was that. Seated high up several days later she noticed Opus who sat four rows away from her. Funny, charming and quite intelligent and it seemed everyone was drawn to him. She sighed deeply for he would never notice her and she turned her attention to Miss Fashaki the civil procedure lecturer.
Most days after class, she stayed indoors while other students met and dined at “the ala carte” a restaurant on campus grounds where students were expected to eat at, as cooking in the hostel was seriously frowned upon and was grounds enough to get a student kicked out of law school. Others stood at their various balconies washing or gisting or doing whatever caught their fancy. The hostel was alive with noise and activity. While she, was holed up in her room. Her roommates thought her a little odd but did their best to tolerate her. Many times, they let her be because making small talk with her often got awkward pretty fast so they limited their interaction to school related things. Talking about the law and courses they were taking were the only times she lit up with excitement so they only went to her when they had tricky legal issues that required her keen mind.
On this particular day, dizzy with hunger and too much reading, she decided to head out to eat something and just as she stepped out and turned from locking the door, she came face to face with Opus. Damn, he had the most amazing hazel eyes she had ever seen. They looked like fire when the sun hit his face just right. “Good afternoon” she murmured quickly lowering her gaze as she practically streaked past him heart thumping. The incident was soon forgotten after that.
Monday, a day we all love to hate found Lola (yes that was her name) rushing to beat the 8am deadline for class. At 7.45am she was usually in line to sign the attendance register for class (believe me, The Nigerian Law School does not play with attendance which forms 40% of ones assessment to be eligible to take the bar exam) but today everything was all topsy turvy so she practically had to race to beat the time.
Signed in, seated and slightly out of breath, she awaited the Company law lecturer Mrs. Adebiyi. A super cool ultra-chic lady whom she had a lady crush on. Soft spoken, oozing confidence and a commanding presence, this was the type of woman Lola wished to be but that debilitating fear held her firmly in its throes.
She searched for her other crush Opus in his usual spot but found his seat taken by another. Frowning a little she wondered if he was alright but that thought was quickly forgotten when Mrs. Adebiyi stepped out on the stage and began to lecture. Today was about directors, their powers, scope of duties and whatnot. Next thing, in walked Opus who on seeing his seat taken quickly went up the steps stopping beside Lola. “Excuse me” he said in a crisp British accent. “Can I go in?” heart thudding she stood to let him pass. “Goodness gracious, Opus is seating beside me.” Nothing Mrs. Adebiyi said from that point on made any sense. Her mind reeled as she took in the scent of his perfume. He had his hands on the table as he leaned forward to listen to the lecture and she watched those tapered fingers as they moved once in a while. He had lovely skin she mused noticing he wasn’t wearing a wedding band as some law students were already married. Suddenly he turned to her and said… “Sorry, did you get that?”
“Oh my goodness? Get what? What is he talking about?” her mind raced yet having no idea what he was referring to she had to ask “get what?” “Never mind, she’s repeated it.” And with that, he went back to listening to the lecture. The classes after that were a blur as Opus chose to remain seated beside her for duration of the day. For Lola, class ended the very second Opus sat down with her.
All work and no play as the saying goes and soon, it was time for a one hour break which Lola was thankful for hoping that Opus would seize that as an opportunity to mingle with the other British-Nigerian students who were referred to as “bar part 1” students because they schooled abroad and had to go through more courses to catch up with their Nigerian counterparts. Usually, this exclusive group chose to stay a close knit group but Opus did not move. This was going to be a really long day for Lola.
Opus decided he would busy himself on social media and so time ticked slowly by with both of them refusing to stand up. In Lola’s case she feared she would do something embarrassing so it was safer to stay seated. Suddenly Opus turned to her saying “urm yeah, you dropped this the other day.” Lola’s head spun. He was talking again. Opus was talking and to her?! She looked at what he held out. It was a two hundred naira note. Aha, so that’s where that went. She knew she had been two hundred light and had wondered if her roommates had gone through her stuff and taken her money the other day.
“Thank you” she said as she took the money pocketing it inside her blazer. “What is your name?” he asked. “This is not going to end well” thought Lola as she became tongue tied forcing Opus to take her note book in search of her name. “Lola” which he pronounced like Barry Manilow in the song “Copa Cabana” she still said nothing. “My name’s Opus. I am from River State but I live in London. I just came in to complete my dream of being a lawyer.” Still she remained silent.
“Come on!” say something Lola prodded her tongue. Stop being an idiot and say something. When she heard the words “good, good” coming out of her mouth, she wanted to hide under the table. “Kai, Lola she thought. What the heck does “good good” mean? Now he is going to think that you are a prize idiot.” Her inner Lola chided so she quickly blurted “erm yes, dreams. I have dreams too.” “Jesus! Lola waaaay to go. Are you now Martin Luther King?! You have dreams?! Quick say something smart!” Inner Lola screamed. Then she stumbled on a plan. “Pretend he is a client what would you do? For a minute Lola was silent then she turned, stuck out her hand and said “hi, I’m Lola and yes, it has always been my dream to be a lawyer too.”
From that day on, Opus sat beside Lola. They became really good friends too. Sharing notes, eating together and spending as much time as the hostel administrators would allow in a co-ed facility but Lola wanted more. Every time he playfully held her or they casually brushed against each other she wanted more. Every time he looked at her whilst explaining some legal concept or listening to her own explanation, she wanted more. Every time she saw him toasting another girl and telling her sweet nonsense she burned because she wanted more but fear… so she stayed his friend, content to have the precious little moments they spent together.
Opus on his part was fiercely loyal and protective of Lola. His seat beside her was his seat permanently and God help any guy stupid enough to venture near that seat. After one or two altercations, the entire class came to know that particular seat as Opus’s seat so if one ever needed directions to find Opus, the class would quickly refer you to the seat using Lola as its landmark.
Life continued same as always with Opus and Lola dancing around each other in enduring friendship. One being open and friendly and the other hiding a secret and it worked…for a while. One evening, Lola walked in to find Opus making out with some girl. Usually she would make some light hearted joke and all would laugh but today, Lola was irritated by it all and instead made a snarky comment which drew an upraised eyebrow from Opus. With the tension in the room clearly obvious, the girl left the room unsure of what had transpired.
“What just happened?” Opus growled clearly annoyed at the fact that the “meat” he had been about to eat had been rather unceremoniously removed from his mouth by Lola. “What do you mean by what just happened? She fired back. I came in and she chose to leave. How is that my fault?” “Seriously, Lola?! She just chose to leave or that silly comment you made earlier wasn’t the reason she up and left? Look, if you are having a bad day, I would rather you stay away till you feel like being civilized.”
Lola reeled stunned “so now, I am uncivilized ehn? You that quarrels with people because of seating space and I am uncivilized?!” Exasperated Opus stated “Lola please just go. Let’s talk later.” With that, he held the door open for her to leave. Lola stormed out barely managing to hold back the tears threatening to spill down her cheeks. In her room, she covered her head with her pillow and bawled like a baby glad for once that her roommates were nowhere to be found.
No friends to confide in, no one to seek advice from so she turned to her inner Lola. “Why can’t you just tell him how you really feel?” inner Lola asked crying along with her. “Why are you so afraid? After all, what is the worst that could happen? The highest thing is he will say no?” but the prospect of having to face Opus was terrifying and so she continued crying which was the only thing she had the power to do without fear.
The next day, Opus returned to his former seat much to the surprise of his friends and the entire class. It was like the biggest thing in history had happened. Everyone noticed. Some who were that stupid questioned Lola if they had had a quarrel. It seemed many were happy that the so called happy couple had “broken up.” Class was hard that day for Lola and so was the next day after that, and the next.
Friday morning, Lola came to the decision that she was not going to go to class that day and informed the hostel administrators that she was feeling ill. After providing proof by going to the school clinic and pretending to have a fever, she was allowed to lie in for the day seeing as it was already the start of the weekend. She lay in bed feeling sorry for herself and shedding tears. With sounds of life returning to the hostel after classes, Lola pretended to be asleep as soon as her roommates stepped in.
“Lola, how your body?” asked one roommate who gently shook her awake to make sure she was still alive and was startled at how red and puffy her eyes were. “My goodness?! Lola look at your face! Are you sure you shouldn’t go back to the hospital? You look like death!” Lola gave a wane smile assuring her that all was well. “When I get sick, I cry easily. Dunno why. Don’t worry I will be fine.” Came her ready lie. “Okay oh” came the roommates reply. “If you are sure.” And with that she backed away leaving Lola to close her eyes in self-pity. The day pretty much passed by uneventfully after that with her roommates leaving her alone to her devices.
Sunday morning with everyone away at one church gathering or the other, Lola sat alone staring at the floor and moping when there was a knock at the door. There was no point to ask who it was. It was a communal co-ed hostel so Lola went to the door expecting to find a hostel administrator or some random student seeking an extra bucket for washing but opened to find Opus standing at the door. Quickly scanning the area she dragged him inside as male students were not necessarily allowed into female rooms.
“What do you want?” she hissed as soon as she closed the door. “Good morning to you too Lola I see you are still in your uncivilized mood. I just came to check up on you seeing as you weren’t in class on Friday but I see I shouldn’t have bothered.” He turned to leave. “Say something!” screamed inner Lola. “Say something now or he is going to go!” Pride welled up inside Lola as she battled with her thoughts. Opus had reached the bathroom door at this point, clearly headed for the main door when Lola blurted out “wait, don’t go and then the words came tumbling out. “I am sorry. I didn’t mean to act the way I did. I was just angry. You never notice me. It’s like you don’t see me. I look like one of the guys to you and you don’t know that I have loved you for so long.”
The silence was deafening as Opus whirled around stunned at all he had heard. Lola was panting hard like she had just participated in a 100 meter dash. Still, Opus said nothing and Lola’s heart sank. This was exactly what she had feared. The worst had happened. She should have kept her big mouth shut. She turned to face the window so that Opus wouldn’t see the tears that were now flowing freely. This time, the tears did not wait and fell fast and free. She did not see Opus cross the room but started when he held her and gently turned her around.
“Why are you crying?” he whispered. I am still here and I am not going anywhere. “Did you mean all you just said?” but Lola was crying so hard it was now impossible to respond so he hugged her tight and Lola died in his arms. “Not a kiss but a hug” she thought. “He clearly wants to be just friends” and so resigned, she stopped crying. He let go of her the instant she stopped crying. Gently wiping her face with his handkerchief and when her face was presentable, he dropped his lips to hers and kissed her catching her off guard.
It was a shock at first to have his lips on hers but when she realized what was happening, she gave into it. His lips were soft and his kisses gentle as he parted her lips finding her tongue. A low moan escaped her as she pressed him firmly to herself as the kiss deepened with both of them frenziedly tasting each other.
Pushing her onto her bed, he lay on top of her as they writhed in each other’s arms. Lola kissed him with all the pent up passion she felt and he took as much as she gave while giving in return. Soon their clothes were in a pile on the floor.
“Chai, his body is gorgeous” thought Lola as she gazed at all that was him. Smooth muscle toned skin she was a little distracted when he slowly entered her and she winced. He stopped in shock “Lola, are you a virgin?” she smiled shyly but he was too far gone to stop. Consumed with emotion he plunged deeper as she cried out equally consumed with her need for him.
He was a skilled lover. Bringing her to the brink of madness with each stroke all the while whispering in her ear “Lola, I love you. Lola I love you” till they both slid into mindless oblivion clinging to each other as wave after wave of ecstasy ripped through them. Panting from what they had both done, they lay spent in each other’s arms when the sound of students returning jolted them back to reality. If caught, it would mean automatic expulsion. Quickly getting dressed with Lola pulling off the bed sheet to hide what had happened, Opus kissed her deeply before bolting from her room seconds before her roommates returned.
Excited, Lola spent the day reliving what had happened. It had been magical, special even. She was glad she had waited to give herself to someone she really loved and who loved her back then, doubt entered her mind. What if it didn’t mean as much to him as it meant to her? What if she was just another conquest, another notch? With that scary thought, Lola decided to go to the library to read to get her mind off her fears but nothing entered her brain as she worried about what she had just done. Only time would have the answer that was for sure.
Monday morning, Lola is seated in her seat in “the House of lords” when some guy comes in and sits down beside her. She says nothing it is after all a free country. Suddenly as if by magic, Opus materialized and says to the young man…”my friend, get out of my chair” it doesn’t take a soothsayer to know that Lola and Opus were back together again and when he sat down silently taking her hand under the table, she knew. She knew that love had found her at last.
Feature image from rockwellprints.org