Does Love Really Matter?

Childhood sweethearts, Jola and Samuel meet after five years of being apart. Concealed feelings begin to resurface, but their parents are not the ones who stand between their love this time around. Samuel as the Black Bear leader stands as a wall between their love and future. Is love enough to move through?

The second our eyes met, my heart started beating hard. None of us pulled away from the intense eye contact yet. It was like we were competing on who would break first. Samuel kept chewing his gum like he always did- for some weird reason, it turned me on. It was Samuel- everything he did always turned me on. He could be writing on a piece of paper, and I would be so focused on his hand movement. I guess that is what love would do to you. 

Internally, I was screaming at those brown eyes fixated on mine. It had been a long while since Samuel looked at me like that. It’s like the entire world didn’t exist. How do I put this? It was like the students in the library had ceased to exist. I exhaled, hoping he would come over to my table and speak to me. The corners of my lips twitched, suggesting a smile. Instead of it being inviting, it threw him off guard, and he looked away. He quickly injected himself into the conversation his “best friends” were having. 

My shoulders slumped in defeat. I glanced back to the history book in front of me. I needed to focus anyway- the test tomorrow would not pass itself. I noticed my friend and roommate, Derin, smiling sheepishly at me. That could mean one thing. I narrowed my dark eyes at her,” What is it?” “You and cultist boy.” Cultist boy. I resisted the urge to shout at her and insist on her calling him “Samuel,” which was his name. “His name is Samuel,” I mentioned in a soft tone. “But to everyone, he’s the black bears' leader, so…” She rolled her eyes,” Only you know him as Samuel, Jolade.”

I glanced back at Samuel, the tall and dark man in my life- the only one that I had ever loved. Derin was right- only I knew him as Samuel. To others, he was the Head Black bear of our university gang. 

Samuel and Head black bear were very different people. One was sweet; one was vicious. One was my childhood love; one was the final year student at Dera university who decided to run things in his favor; he didn’t care if anyone got hurt if anyone died…. I was afraid that I didn’t matter also. 

Six years ago, Samuel and I were the best of friends- well, the friends that slowly moved to lovers. Our romance started in secondary school, where we treated the back of the school and my father’s storeroom as our meeting place. Our own “Igi orombo.” I was new to the school, and he offered to show me around. It was crazy how a boy wanted me to feel welcome in a new environment. People said he had ulterior motives, but I didn’t believe it. There was so much honesty in his eyes and gestures. We grew so close. 

Life struck, and we were not able to attend the same university as we had planned. My father, a military man, was transferred to Abuja, and I had to attend a university close to the family. His mother would not let him live miles away from her, so he was stuck in Lagos. I had tried to tell my parents that it was best I stay in Lagos and be independent. My father, “The rich man,” wanted me to go to the best university, A.K.A, the richest and most popular. I couldn’t fight a stubborn man and a woman who backed up his decision every time. So, I moved. Like my mother said, fate brought us back together. 

Goosebumps rushed through my skin when I recall the night of February 13th, 2015. Once the imagery of Samuel kissing me filled my head, I sighed and shut my book. Derin narrowed her brows at me,” What happened? You’re not studying anymore?” I noticed Samuel stand up from his seat; the urge to rush to him filled me, but I chose to ignore it. Samuel, or rather the black bear leader, would not hesitate to humiliate me in the library in front of all these students. “I think I’ll just go to the room and relax.”

I stepped slowly into my room. I was hit with a strong stench of weed and cigarettes. I paused in my tracks, taking in the smell. The words of Derin filled my head “The black bears usually show up at hostels and rape girls. If you smell weed, run.” Fear instantly paralyzed me. Was one of them here to rape me? How did they get in? Why did they choose me? Were they here for Derin or me? Multiple unanswered questions roamed my head. I spun around, hoping to make a run for it, but a familiar voice stopped me. “Jola.”

The voice brought about vibrations in my body. I turned around to face Samuel in my room. In his hand was a rolled-up joint. I stayed in my spot, scared of his intentions. “What do you want?” Fear was evident in my tone. I didn’t want him to know I was afraid for my safety and his feelings. I didn’t need him feeling like he was a monster, even though he was. “Nothing.” His evasive self shrugged. “How did you get in?” I asked. He shrugged again. What could I threaten this boy with? Maybe call campus security, but I am aware those shameless men are on his payroll. 

“Why won’t you say something?” I asked, finding the courage to move. I dropped my bag by the sofa and crossed my arms,” What’s wrong?” He shook his head,” Just trying to find the right words.”Good.” I nodded,” I won’t stand to be insulted like the last times we interacted. So, do not call me a golddigger, a spoilt brat, or a bitch. Ashewo, slut, I won’t stand for it”. I had to be firm.“Okay.” He agreed,” I won’t.” Great! This was Samuel, not the black bear leader. “It’s been a minute.” He started. I moistened my lips before saying,” Yes, but I didn’t think I would be in the same school as you, and you would not talk to me. I believe there was a time you could not do without me.” “A long time ago. There is something called time.”

“Don’t blame me for leaving.” I know that’s what it was about,” I was 17. I’m not as independent as you. I was supposed to be with my parents. They needed me. My mother needed me.” “It’s fine.” He started walking towards me. “It’s fine?” The last time we spoke about it, he called me out for not being with someone like him- someone poor, someone with no bright future. He said I didn’t care about him and only cared about money. Lots of hurtful words were exchanged. Even if it was a month ago, it still hurt. “I know you transferred here to be close to me.” “Not necessarily.” I had to burst his bubble.” I had to leave my rich university because my mother could not pay for it. Things were really hard after my father died.” I explained to him again, hoping he would understand. “Things were hard. We had to sell properties.” I let him know my story from grace to grass. “I understand. I’ve been there before now.” He smiled, which nearly took me off my feet. “My father died a long time ago.” He reminded me,” Unlike you, we’ve seen enough tough times.” I nodded,” I’m sorry.” “Are you Nigeria?” He stood in front of me.” You have nothing to apologize for, except for the last time we spoke… You are insulting the cult, my brotherhood. The men that have been there for me since day one.” I scoffed,” Samuel, you’re playing a dangerous game. Cultism extends school grounds. These people will hold you for life, and everything you did here will reflect in the future. Do you understand me?” “They have been there for me.” He chose to hold on to that fact. 

“You will die.” I reminded him of the repercussions,” Nobody escapes this. I don’t want to judge you, but it’s something you have to think of. Leave the cult. For your sake and also for us.” There was still an us, I hoped. He exhaled and ran his hand through his loose dreads,” Let’s not talk about that. I came here to talk about you and to apologize for the last time. That’s all, to talk about us.” He didn’t look at me when he said so. “There’s no us if there is a cult.” I made it clear. I wouldn’t be engaging with someone who hurts other people for a living, who extorts people, and who makes people fear. That’s not the ideal man I prayed for. “Then we have nothing to discuss.” He briefly decided. We kept staring at each other with no words. I hoped that he would want to talk more, but nothing.

What he did next blew my mind. He rushed over to me and grabbed me by the face. I was terrified at first until his lips met mine. It took me off guard as his lips moved against mine. He was finally kissing me. I wasn’t dreaming; it was finally happening. The last time I felt his lips were four years ago, and it was an innocent kiss, not too much movement. This particular time reminded me of when we were 16 and recently grew corrupt. We had heard and seen a lot of things that we wanted to happen to us. We locked ourselves up in the restroom and chose to engage in “foolish” behavior, my mother called it. Oh, I can still remember it like it was yesterday. I was so scared; my heart was beating so hard against my ribcage. The erotic gaze in his eyes scared me, and I wondered if I would keep up with whatever he planned to do to me.

“We need to go and study,” I told him in a subdued tone. He nodded, but I bet he didn’t hear a word I said. I leaned against the cold wall, and it further sent shivers down my spine. “Are you going to kiss me?” I asked innocently. He nodded and closed the space between us. It was not going to be all kisses. His hands cupped my face and brought it closer to his. The kiss was nothing like what we had done before. His mouth covered mine, and his tongue found its way into my mouth. French kissing is what it was called, but Derin always described it as Yama-Yama sloppy kissing. Kinds that are shown on those telenovelas I was not allowed to watch. I figured out his rhythm in kissing me and joined in. It was weird, uncanny to how people would have someone else’s tongue in their mouths. But it turned me on so much. In the quiet bathroom, all that could be heard was our, well, my throaty moans and our lips smacking together. It was beautiful.

Presently, Samuel had moved to my neck, further arousing me, which took me to another point in my life where we were together. It was his 17th birthday, and he had come to spend it with me as my parents were still out to work. Samuel taught me things that I never thought I would love. It was the first time I ever received and gave oral sex. I slept that night, thinking I was the filthiest person on earth, but afterward, it became a part of us. We were dirty little children. Samuel left my neck after marking me for sure since that’s what he loved to do. He returned to my lips. That kiss….. He kissed me as though he was starving, and I was the only source of food in a desert. He angled his head to the other side, switching to a french kiss immediately. I held him close and kept my lips busy, diving into his.

Just like when we were children, we did not care about anything. I didn’t care that the door was left unlocked and a visitor could come in; I didn’t care that our work could be heard or seen. I didn’t care that his nibbling and kissing would leave shameful marks on my body for the world to see. 

I did not care about anything. I’m sure he didn’t care too. His buddies were probably the last thing on his mind. That night we made love- not for the first time, but it reminded me of the first time. It was just as passionate, gentle, and amazing. He whispered, “I love you.” “You’re so beautiful” to me as he went into me. He caressed my body, most especially my breasts, which he had always loved. And luckily, Derin didn’t show up to ruin my good time. 

The aftermath of sex was just as I expected. We stayed naked in each other’s arms, not speaking, just caressing each other. We had several things to say, I know, but no one found the courage to start. I needed to know what this meant. Are we finally a couple, or is it a hidden kind of romance? He let out a sigh which indicated he was about to speak.“You can’t tell anyone about it.” He said. I didn’t pick an offense in it because I knew what it would attract. Being with me publicly could bring about problems. If anyone wanted to hurt him, they would pick on me- internal or external enemies. We both didn’t want that.

There was a solution. He could leave the cult, and we could face the world together. Even though it was risky, it was possible. He could say goodbye to the black bears for the rest of his life. “You could leave the cult,” I told him. He shook his head,” Not an option.” Why was he so stubborn? Was death a repercussion if one aims to jump out? Why wouldn’t he choose me? “This love is impossible,” I told him as if he didn’t already know. “Yes.” He agreed. “What do we do about it?” I was kind to find a solution, but I wasn’t sure that there was one. He wasn’t ready to try, and I wasn’t willing to go through this alone.

He just looked at me. I wished the words “We will get this through” came out of his mouth. Perhaps, he would promise me that he would leave the cult and be someone great like his mother prayed for him to be. Instead, he pressed his lips to mine, giving me one final kiss and getting up from the bed. “If only this was easy, Jola. If only.” That was the time I realized that love was not enough. Our love was never enough.

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