My name is Fatima. When I gained admission in 2015 to study Microbiology, I and my family were overjoyed. It was my third time applying, and the only successful time. Baba threw a feast to that cause. Abdulrahman, my elder brother immediately volunteered to sponsor my education. But who was he kidding anyways? I was going to be a scholar of the Kebbi state scholarship, so what education was he gonna sponsor? Mama on the other hand was absent-minded to the whole jubilations and hasty decisions, because she was engrossed in her litany of praises to Allah.

The night to my resumption, Mama sent for me very early in the morning. She was sitted in the sitting room, and I was in my room deeply asleep.

‘Fatima!’ She yelled. This woman didn’t care if it was midnight and neighbours were probably tucked in their blankets.

‘Fatima!!!’ She yelled again. I woke up, sluggishly traced her voice to the sitting room. As I walked, I thought to myself that since this was the eve of my resumption, I should have all the rest I can.

‘My head is paining me.’ I wanted to respond, but my Mum was a skeptic. She could tell a lie from the truth and vice versa, and since I didn’t want added ‘wake-time’ and a lecture on the dangers of lying, I reluctantly surfaced at the sitting room.

Mama was sitting on one of those long couches that served as a bed for us, whenever cousins visited and had a sleepover.  Directly opposite her was a stool. The same one I sat on a day before, while grating carrots. It was seated in between her legs and there was something farmiliar about the position and the look she had on.

‘Shit!’ I cussed, when it dawned on me.
The last time Mama’s forehead was that squeezed, and nostrils inflated, was when Abdularahman (my brother) picked a date for his wedding. She sat him down on the same stool and gave him an eight-hour talk on what she titled, ‘The two types of rings in marriage: The wedding ring and sufferRING.’

My admission was my own wedding date, and whatever she had to say would be my own marriage counsel. I braced myself for it. Will I tap out like Abdulrahman did, when he threatened to call off the wedding if Mama doesn’t let him sleep?

‘Sit’ Mama beckoned, pointing at the stool. The minute I sat, Mama went haywire with her lecture.

‘Remember you’re coming from somewhere and have a name to protect,’ She began, then advanced to a topic that only made things awkward.

‘Boys! Run away from boys. They will say anything to get in between your legs, but don’t believe them. Run away. Boys are liars. You will only end up hurting yourself.’

I wanted to ask her if her husband, my father was a liar too, but I knew better than to, and I liked my left cheek the way it was.

She went on with her lecturing for more hours, and with each passing minute, it only grew more awkward. It was only when Baba intervened and pleaded that she allowed me catch some sleep, did she stop. Mama was no doubt, extra but I never doubted her love for me either. I thanked her afterward and went to savour the measly hours I had before daybreak.

Daybreak had me fully ready for the trip to UDUS. My bags were packed already, my credentials filed. Baba offered to drive me to Sokoto, and I was glad it’d give us sometime together. Because truth be told, I was gonna miss him the most.

When we arrived the soil of UDUS, and beheld the gigantic, ‘SHUN CULTISM…’ sign, Baba pressed his brakes and brought the car to a halt.

‘Go on with the registration, while I take your luggage to your Aunty Zee’s house.’ He said to me.

‘I will miss you, Baba.’ I replied as I opened the door and stepped out. He handed me my file through the window, and whispered, ‘And I you, Fati’ before he zoomed off.


Here was I, a newbie in a strange place. I had only known Sokoto (Aunty Zee’s place), but never UDUS. The only thing close to family that followed me around that day, was Dad’s strong cologne, he rubbed off on me as we hugged.

I walked aimlessly, fitting into the ‘Jambito’ character perfectly, asking a 1001 questions and seeking directions even to places I had no business with. The way things went that day, I’m still surprised I never inquired from a stranger my name.

Somehow, I was able to offset the basic registrations like accepting the admission, paying the fee, and creating a student’s account but was stuck at the issuance of confirmation letter stage.

‘Your account cannot be accessed. Go to MIS and rectify it.’ The examiner said handing back my credentials.

‘MIS?’ I asked, as I collected them over the bar.

‘Yes, MIS. And please step down, you’re blocking others.’ He replied coldly.

I filed back my credentials and was very close to hissing, before Mama’s words rang in my ear: ‘You’ve a name to protect.’ then I apologized instead. ‘Sorry.’

MIS. MIS in my head sounded like the acronym of a secondary school or something. It was until a samaritan explained it to mean, ‘Management Information System’ and gave me directions, did I find my way there.

When I got to MIS, I entered the conference room and met a bunch of people inside. I mistook them as members of the staff, and greeted them individually. ‘Good Afternoon, Sir’ ‘Good Afternoon, Ma’ ‘Good Afternoon, Sir’ ‘Good Afternoon, Ma’… In so much servility. The reception was cold again, as most of them giggled. ‘What’s wrong with these people?’ I thought to myself.

Only one amongst them seemed cordial, so I fought my pride and approached him.

‘Good Afternoon, Sir.’ I said.

‘Afternoon, Ma.’ He replied with a very welcoming smile.

‘My name is Fatima. I’m a fresher. Please is this MIS? I was told to come here and rectify my student’s account.’ I asked.

‘Oh! Wow! Yes, this is MIS. Don’t mind these people,’ pointing toward those who had giggled earlier, ‘they are freshers like you, with a similar complaint. I’m Bello by the way, 400l Computer Science.’ He once again unveiled his charming smile.

Bello had the kind of looks that made concentrating difficult. To say he was handsome, would be disparaging his angelic features. He was an absolute definition of grace. His brow was full, eyes sparkled like gold, and was the kind you wouldn’t mind being drowned in, and the lips that produced his kind words, did so in an accent that made my heart turnoninown. Have I mentioned he smelled nice?😉

I tried so hard to pull myself together, but just as how a metal cannot just up and leave a magnet, so did I fail woefully.

‘So… What exactly is the problem?’ Bello asked breaking into the trance his looks sent me in. Embrrassed, I explained what the examiner had said to me about the account. He offered to check it for himself.

‘I’m not actually the tech guy here. My friend is. He went out to get something. But I kinda know a thing or two.’ He said as he checked out the account on one of the opened laptops before us.

‘There you go, done!’ He said after he had finished. ‘You can go back to the centre now.’

‘Thank you so much.’

I was so grateful, that when he requested for my number I gave it to him without a second thought. He then asked if I could find my way back to the auditorium. Honestly, I couldn’t, but I lied I could. He had seen too much vulnerability already. I still had some dignity, you know? I thought to myself.

I thanked him again, and made for the door. When I stepped out, outside seemed like a puzzle, whose pieces were alien to me. I didn’t know from where I had come, or where to go. I stood watching, earnestly hoping my brain would figure it out. But it didn’t.

‘Are you sure you know where the auditorium is?’
Bello appeared from nowhere.

‘You know you can just admit you don’t, and I will walk you there.’
He added.

‘Okay, I don’t. You win. Happy?’ I replied smiling too.

‘To be your escort? Of course, I’m happy.’

Bello walked with me to the auditorium, and I learnt that he was a sweet talker. We spoke about almost everything. Ranging from religion, to modernity, to fashion, to the entertainment industry, to education in Nigeria, and he always had witty contributions to every topic. He was such a gentleman, knowing what to say and when it was needed most. And the words of my mother about boys were slowly distancing themselves.

When we arrived the confirmation centre, he remained with me, cheering me up until the entire process was over, and when it did, he escorted me to the bus stop and offered to pay my bus fare.

‘Thank you! You’ve done enough already. Aren’t you going home yet?’
I asked, as I turned down the offer.

‘Not yet. Still got some things to do.’ He replied.
‘See you around, Fati and welcome to UDUS.’ He added as he turned and walked back into the school.

‘Run away from boys’ Mama had warned. But my body at that moment yearned for nothing else, but Bello.

The next day, I got a call from a strange number. I reluctantly picked the call and the voice at the other end was a farmiliar one.

‘Rise and shine, Danfodite!’ He said.

‘Bello? Good Morning.’ I hastily replied.

‘Yes, it’s me. What are you doing, say 3PM?’

‘Errmm, I don’t know.’ I lied, because I knew exactly what I was doing by 3PM. Nothing.

‘You know what? When you’re done with your lectures, just give me a call.’

‘Alright. I will.’ I replied before he hung up.

I looked forward to the meet, so much that all through my first two lectures as an undergraduate, all I did was stare at the clock and hoped it could tick faster. And when the lectures were finally over, impatience didn’t let me wait another minute before giving Bello a call.

He arrived almost immediately. When we saw each other, I noticed he too was as glad to see me, as I was to see him. Or maybe I was simply telling myself that. He took me to ‘Students’ Choice’ restaurant and gave me a treat. Afterward, we walked the nook and cranny of the school, getting to know each other the more.

I learnt that he was the last of six children in his family, and lived in an apartment within the University. I also learnt that my heart was growing fonder of him with every mile we completed. Worse, that I liked it. When it was evening, I told him I had to return home lest my Aunt became worried. He saw me off to the bus stop, and remained until I boarded.

‘See you some other time, dear.’ He said, as he turned to leave.

Dear. I was his dear. I found myself blushing.

The days after were more of virtual convos, and phone calls. We both had so much lectures to attend to, that spared no time for a casual meeting.

One Morning, I woke up to a text from him.

‘I was wondering if you could come over to my place, so we could spend some time together. Plus, it’s the weekend, lectures cannot pose a problem, you know?’

Come over to his place? Were we there yet? Does this mean he likes me? But he has not even said anything of such. So much questions that needed answering. I was more curious than careful, so I accepted.

His apartment was a mirror of himself. Simple yet elegant. It was beautiful, and neat. His bed resembled what what had never been slept on, and the sheets were properly tucked in.

‘Welcome to my humble abode.’ He said, as he ushered me in.

‘Make yourself at home.’ He added, while he opened his fridge and brought out soft drinks. He then took out cards from a cupboard beside the fridge. We both played the cards, and shared the drinks too.

After we were both spent from playing cards, Bello sought permission to go shower, then I requested for his phone to see if he had files I’d like. His phone was literally a mobile cinema, and being a movie junkie, I was not goan leave without sending some.

I quickly scanned the room for my phone, and when I couldn’t see it, decided to dial it with Bello’s.

I typed my digits on his phone, and a phrase kept popping up. I cleared and retyped, still the same contact name. I couldn’t believe my eyes, and my heart wanted to believe that I had gotten the number wrong. So I fought back the tears and dialed anyway. It went through. My phone rang.

I stretched out my hand and picked up my phone. ‘Bello dear’ was the one calling. The same Bello who had my number saved as, ‘New Catch’ like I was some sport. I quickly erased my contact from his phone. Stood up and left with mine. While walking, I cried bitterly and the words of Mama rang in my ear, over and over again: ‘Boys! Run away from boys… You will only end up hurting yourself…’ overshadowing Bello’s voice as he called out to me.”😭😭😭


1. Do you think Fatima is right to have left without allowing Bello explain himself?
2. Do you place any value on how your contact is saved on your lover’s phone?

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