The rain had slowed to a drizzle, and she was regretting wearing a jacket out, the inside of the car was getting warm. She leaned back into the car seat, silently willing her sweat glands to not act up. She would take it off, but it would be too loud in the pervasive silence that neither of them seemed to want to break. She glances at him quickly, and he too is leaning against his seat, easy smile on his face. But she knew he was a bit tense, his fingers gently drumming against the steering wheel.
She wondered how much longer it could go on, the only sound being the light taps against the roof, and the occasional student walking across the parking lot.
“Liz…”, his voice seems unnaturally loud in her head, and though she knows he wasn’t shouting, she flinches. He doesn’t notice. “Liz… You wanted to talk”
She turns to look at him now. His eyes are closed, and his fingers are stilled. “I do.. I do want to talk with you…”
He smiles, but he doesn’t turn to look at her, “I’m here, I’m listening”
you know what i want to say, you k n o w… “Uh, yea.. It’s important.. I’m not going to say it twice”
“Owk.. Go ahead”
“Owk… Here it goes…” But the words don’t come out and she tugs at her jacket, cursing Ree for convincing her this was a good idea.
“just t e l l him, Liz! if i felt the same way i would too. Gone are the days, men had to be the fore-runners in the game of romance.” Ree’s laughing as she says this, but the idea was planted anyway.
“Hey..” She turns and he’s looking at her now. His eyes are serious, but kind, and she gets lost in them for a bit, almost missing his next words, “It’s owk.. It really is.”
The door next to Liz is suddenly jerked open and, “Hey Ryan! I’ve been looking around for you..aaannd Liz.. Hey.”
“Hey Chris,” she smiles back, partly relieved by the interruption. “I’m literally about to leave, so you can talk with Ryan…”
At this, Ryan reaches over and clasps her hand, “Liz..”
“No, we can talk later,” she reaches over to hug him, ignoring the gear pressing against her tummy, she repeats in his ear, “we can talk later.”
She waves as she leaves, walking backwards, dragging her feet slightly so she can watch him drive away. Standing in the car park for a while, closing her eyes to the cool aftermath of the rain. The sudden blaring ringtone from her phone is loud, and she’s slow to answer it, wanting to prolong this small moment of seeming peace.
The call cuts and starts over again, and she reaches into the pocket of her jacket unwillingly, already anticipating the name that would be blaring on the screen… Ree
“Hello”, she tucks the phone into her shoulder, and hugs herself, willing the sudden chill away.
“Hey!!” Ree’s reply is sudden and loud and, Liz jerks her phone away from her war, unsure if she should bother scolding her friend. “Hey. . Can you, Can you hear me? Where are you? Are you done with it then?”
“I’m at the carpark. . And no. No, i haven’t told him”
There’s a shuffle, like Ree’s phone was being jerked around, and she’s whispering in the background. Another shuffle annnd, “Hey, Liz.. I’m coming down then. We’ll be going to my house right?”
“You’re with Ebuka? Say hi for me.. ”
Ree laughs as she agrees, and her voice takes on a warm tone as she relays the message. There’s laughter as the call is cut.
She’s gone through Oruka twice on her playlist before she sees Ree run out of the college building, weave in slight disarray and ready smile on her face. She barely comes to a stop in front of Liz, and after the loud reunion,they set off walking towards the main gate.
They pass by Pav 1, and there are a crowd of students in front, seeming to wait for a wait. A few still hold onto umbrellas, as if expecting the rain to to start up again. Some are seated on the stone seats, barely covered by the shade, laughing over the antics of a classmate, and “oh, abeg, how much dat lecturer won take sef?” Makeshift stalls line the roadside, consisting of tables with biscuits, coolers with cold drinks l, pastries carefully laid out and covered with film, and the hawkers are taking full advantage of the crowd, shouting out their goods, trying to draw in customers.
Ree stop to buy roasted groundnuts and Gala, and Liz wonders again hiw she manages to maintain a slim figure, her diet some weeks consisting of little more than junk food. She subconsciously squeezes her sides and refuses the offer of groundnut with a smile that doesn’t reach her eyes.
Ree notices, but doesn’t say anything. They’ve had the conversation a thousand times. Hidden under the sheets in Ree’s room. Ree holding a crying Liz in the toilet behind college. And now she’s accepted it’s something her friend must work out by herself, but she reaches out to hug her anyway, ignoring the recipient’s protests.
“Why didn’t you tell him? It’s super obvious you know.. How h e doesn’t get it is a mystery to me…” They’re at the gate now, waiting for a car to stop so they could cross.
Liz doesn’t say what she she suspects. That he knows. That he understands what ahe means to say, and though he doesn’t feel the same, wants her her to walk the long mile. She doesn’t know why she thinks that, so she’s silent.
The bus stop is busy with stalkers and taxis, people emptying out and entering. Prices being haggled. As, Ree tries to call a taxi, Liz moves back towards the wall, and oh, madam. Sorry o. I don’t want to buy anything. Let me just make a quick call eh.. It takes a few rings before he picks and,
“I love you. That’s what I’ve been wanting to say. I love you… ”
Liz believes she would never forget this moment. The loud noises in the background fade out. Ree standing near a taxi, hand on an open door, worried look in her eyes. The feel of the phone, gripped tight in her hand, and the silence on the other end.