When we were Young Part 2 – by Abidemi Adebola “Sometimes our best love moments
“Sometimes Love makes you do crazy things”
This is a true story. The real names of the characters have been replaced with others.
The year was 1999- a year shy of the millennium. The setting was Obafemi Awolowo University Ile -Ife, reputed to be the most beautiful campus in Africa. Though arguable two decades after, but there was no denying the architectural splendor and masterpieces that adorned the citadel of learning.
It was the second semester examination for the freshmen in the faculty of technology. The whole week had been an arduous task of writing two examination papers daily for the students. They were now nearing the end of the week and fatigue had set in dreadfully from late nights and over worked brains.
Two young lovers in the same faculty were writing examinations at the same hall. The hall had a decent capacity and could seat over 100 candidates comfortably and it was often the venue for general faculty lectures or examination sessions.
Daniel and Phoebe were crazy in love. They were inseparable like a pea in the pod and shared every moment together after lectures. Both of them basking in the throes of love were a skinny lot – Leggy, wide-eyed and in the twilight of their teenage years.
Phoebe was in particular love struck! The very definition of that phrase described how she felt. Every thought centered around Daniel and nothing else mattered. However, the same could not be said of Daniel. But he loved her enough to fight for her- that much he demonstrated in the latter part of this story. She was not a particularly stellar student, but if there was any space unoccupied by fantasies about Daniel, it wasn’t filled by her academic experience.
Daniel was top 1% in his department, smart, charming and a sweet talker. He was easy to get along with, quite agreeable and showed untainted care every time they spent together.
During the academic session and in preparation for the examination, he had spent time putting Phoebe through on courses she found dreadfully difficult. He enjoyed teaching Phoebe, but while he was at it, she fantasized about his touches, his soft kisses and everything in between.
Daniel had no airs, he was unassuming and was often too selfless for his own good.
That afternoon during the examination, his selflessness almost cost him the paper. He had allowed one of his classmate to take a peek at his completed answer sheet. But sadly enough, this did not go unnoticed even in the crowded hall.
The Supervisor whose eagle eyes roamed the hall in search of just that sort of infraction, descended on Daniel and his partner as though he caught a thief, seizing their answer sheets amidst quiet pleas and shameful submission. They still had 30mins till the examination was completed.
That moment, other candidates looked in the direction of the disquiet and Phoebe looked up too only to catch a glimpse of her embattled boyfriend. For the rest of the examination, she could no longer concentrate on the questions she was struggling to solve as she looked on in solidarity. She was transfixed in that position with her pen stuck in between her boney fingers while her heart was beating as though it would break free of her rib cage. Her eyes locked in on the love of her life as everything around her froze.
She just couldn’t write, nothing made sense. And for the rest of the examination, she wrote nothing more.
She didn’t dare tell Daniel about it, but she shared her concern and disapproval of his willingness to always help others when it could cost him so much. Of course, he assured her he would steer clear of trouble makers as they prepared for the last couple papers.
Phoebe is your typical freshman with little or no experience about life far away from home. In the complex university social life, there was just too many distractions to keep her away from being focused. She had few friends though and Ngozi was one of them.
Ngozi was matured and acted more like a “school mother” than a colleague to Phoebe. She had curves in the right places, a cute and pretty face that attracted an awful lot of attention within and outside the campus. She was the cynosure of all eyes wherever they went and Phoebe was a sharp contrast. You know what they say about a pretty girl surrounding herself with less prettier friends to accentuate her beauty. Theirs was a classic textbook case.
When the examination results were published weeks later, Phoebe was on the “Advised to withdraw” list. Her results for two consecutive semesters were so abysmal that she was one of the 43 students asked to withdraw that year.
She was devastated and inconsolable. Daniel was shattered and heartbroken. They had barely known each other for the last 12months and their budding relationship was going to be truncated by the school senate that signed off on the “purported list“.
Phoebe cried all day, refusing to eat and talked with no one. It was indeed a sad day.
How was she going to return home to her retired and aged parents, even after she had attempted JAMB repeatedly every year for 3 years, that she had spurned her best chance to get a quality education. Every time she thought about it, the decibel of her wailings went up a notch. No one could understand why her cries increased in intensity after a moment of respite just as her body reverberated rhythmically from the prolonged discomfort of crying.
She was the last child of her aged parents and the only girl, there was an expectation of her and it looked quite certain that she was going to cause more pain to her parents with the news than to herself.
Daniel promised to find a way around it. He couldn’t bare to see her cry so hard.
But even when he made that commitment, he had no idea how he was going to fix it. He had to say something, anything to calm her down.
His closest friend Uche was also his roommate. They were in the same department and shared a lot in common. They were both high fliers in the department and had a vibrant social life on campus. They rocked parties both within and outside the campus, whether they received invitation or not. They dressed in heavy timberland boots and wore neck chains like typical “Lagos boys”.
Daniel confided in Uche. He needed some sort of advice and a quick solution too.
Uche had a brilliant suggestion. Rather than returning home to her parents, she could remain on the university campus while she sat for the next entrance examination JAMB or the equivalent for polytechnics colleges around the University. Sounded like a workable plan, Daniel thought.
Osun state is reputed to have the highest number of higher institutions in Nigeria. It shouldn’t be so difficult to get into one of the schools they both agreed.
Unfortunately, the last JAMB exams was only a few months back and would take another 8months before the admission forms were back on sale. But the forms for the Polytechnic colleges was only just closing at the time he tried to get the forms.
Fortunately, Daniel got the forms and talked Phoebe into filling the forms. He carefully explained the options available to her and convinced her it was her best and only chance. If everything worked out fine, she would be resuming as a student in a Polytechnic within 3 months. But Phoebe was more concerned about being in schools within close proximity to Daniel. She wanted to be anywhere near the love of her life. He mattered most to her because she never felt that way with anyone all her life. This was special and she was going to keep it.
With the forms properly filled and submitted, they had opted for an examination center within the Ife town, only a few minutes away from the university campus.
She settled for a polytechnic in Ire town that offered a course closely related to computer science that she had been initially admitted to study in the Obafemi Awolowo University.
But she was in no frame of mind to prepare for this exam. She was too far gone and couldn’t concentrate enough to commit anything she studied to memory. She tried hard, but every time she attempted the mock exams she failed woefully.
Daniel was beginning to get really worried and concerned for his girlfriend. He knew that once she failed the entrance examination, the chances of getting into school faded with every passing year.
Phoebe couldn’t be bothered. She soon stopped studying and focused on making Daniel happy.
Daniel soon realized he was in a quagmire. One in which he had to think of a way out before it got too sticky. What he felt for Phoebe morphed into pity. Love found a new meaning as he started to feel sorry for his girlfriend and considered her a responsibility he had to make good.
Few weeks to the entrance examination, while discussing the situation with Uche, he concluded that Phoebe was in no state to write the entrance examination. He was convinced that she would fail woefully and this would compound his problem. Already, she was getting too needy and being a wet drag. He needed her to get back on track and that could only happen if she got back into school.
Uche’s response was quick and almost without thought.
“You will have to write the examination for her. No doubt you will pass the exams, afterall you are in your sophomore year”
It was clear that Daniel didn’t have plenty choices. He couldn’t entrust anyone else to write the exams on his girlfriend’s behalf. And since he grew up in Ife, he was quite comfortable finding his way around the town. He was going to write the examination himself he concluded. He asked Uche if he could count on his support to accompany him to the venue of the exams. He needed more than just his courage to see this through. Uche was glad to be of help and they both agreed to see this important task through.
They were the “Love Henchmen”
A week to the examination, Phoebe had travelled home to tend to her ageing mum who had been bed-ridden for a few weeks. She was going to be with her folks till the examinations ended. There was no mobile phones that year and so contact was rare and unlikely.
That same week, Daniel and Uche stumbled on a silver lining in their quest to write the examination.
Remember Ngozi?-Phoebes good friend? She had met a young attractive man who happened to be in town to supervise the entrance examination into Polytechnic. The same examination that Daniel had planned to sit for. He was the lead supervisor at the Government Girls School Ife- the exact venue that Phoebe had been assigned to write her exams.
What a fortunate coincidence! Daniel and Uche had visited Ngozi at her room in the girls’ hostel to find any news of Phoebe and her mum’s health. Instead they met a love struck Tunde who was wooing Ngozi and would do anything to make her happy.
The young teenagers taking advantage of the love scene, then engaged Tunde about Daniel’s plans to sit for the examination in Phoebe’s place and would like to have his help in making sure they would go unnoticed. This was as Ngozi robbed her soft palm over Tunde’s chest as he listened to the boys. Reason and logic took leave of his senses as he started considering the possibility of helping Ngozi’s friends.
He collected relevant details of the subject papers to be written and copies of the examination slip from Daniel.
Everything was now set.
On the day of the examination, the Love Henchmen found their way to the examination center. A school whose boundaries and grounds were well-known and common to Daniel. He had rummaged through the grounds and farmlands surrounding the girls school while playing “catch” with his friends as a young boy many years earlier.
They both joined the throng of examination hopefuls as they crowded every space within the school premise awaiting pre-examination checks and the arrivals of the examination papers.
Daniel and Uche looked out for Tunde. They had first caught a glimpse of him when they arrived and they couldn’t find him almost 30minutes afterwards. Uche suspected that he was having cold feet and was tactically avoiding both of them.
He then set out to find Tunde around the examination halls. It didn’t take long to find him huddled behind some of the invigilators.
Uche beckoned on Daniel who had followed him on his search and they both accosted Tunde, asking why he was suddenly hesitant after they had agreed on meeting that morning to set out a proper plan.
His voice came out in stutters as he pleaded for a little time to figure out a concrete plan. He suggested that rather than stay in assigned classrooms, Daniel should sit for the examination in a common hall where other candidates with one glitch or the other would be allowed to sit for the examination. Daniel sensed foul play especially because such candidates often had their results cancelled due to widespread cheating. He wasn’t going to gamble with this one chance that Phoebe had to get back into school.
Tunde reasoned with him and agreed to place him in one of the class rooms he would have to invigilate himself. But Uche and Daniel had other plans.
When it was time for the examination to start, Daniel found a comfortable seat in the classroom and Uche took a seat not too far from him. They had agreed to write the examination together!
The plan they had conceived had both of them writing the papers for Phoebe so in the likely case that either of them got caught as a “mercenary“, the other would stand a chance of finishing the papers. They had also reasoned that Tunde could easily sell Daniel out to his invigilator-colleagues out of fear, but were also convinced he couldn’t have imagined that Uche was also sitting for the same examination.
And so, on this fateful Saturday both boys sat with bated breath on two separate rows in the same classroom writing the same papers for the same candidate. They started by solving the mathematics sums as efficiently and swiftly as they could manage. Every minute counted. Whilst Daniel started off with English, Uche started off with Mathematics. They had only three subjects to write.
Mid-way into the examination, two male and fierce-looking invigilators suddenly appeared in the classroom. They scanned the classroom deliberately and started to walk towards Daniel. Their pace quickened as they walked towards him. It was clear that Tunde had snitched.
In one quick move, Daniel jumped out of the wooden chair onto the top of his desk to the amazement of the two invigilators and from one desk, he hopped to the next until he was at the open window leading into familiar terrain. Whilst the invigilators struggled to weave in between the rows of wooden desk and chairs, they watched regretfully as Daniel jumped into safety throttling towards the school fence. He was gone!
Uche had completed two subject papers already at this time and he knew it was only a matter of time before they figured that he was also in the same classroom.
He was midway into the third paper when the two stern looking invigilators requested that all candidates should present their examination slips. The slips had passport photographs of the candidates and this was a sure give away.
This move was to ensure that no other candidate was sitting for the candidate whom Tunde had snitched on.
Uche wrote as hurriedly as he could. His time was up. Luckily the invigilators started the checks at the farthest end of the classroom.
By the time they approached Uche’s row in the classroom, he got up quietly to submit his answer sheet. He was done!
When he approached the wooden table in front where submissions were to be made, he held his breath as the invigilator didn’t bother to check his slip. As soon as he walked out of the classroom, he looked around for signs of Tunde, but everywhere was quite and empty as the examination was still in progress.
Silence enveloped the entire school premises as he avoided walking across the school assembly ground towards the exit gate.
The sooner he caught the nearest public bus back to the campus the better for him. He couldn’t wait to celebrate his bravery and success with Daniel.
With the examination done, they waited two full months for the results.
When it was published Phoebe had scored very high that she beat the cut-off mark for the computer technology course Daniel had applied on her behalf. And with this she gained admissions to study at the Ire Polytechnic.
The Love Henchmen had saved the day. Phoebe future was now secured and safe.
PS – Phoebe went on to complete her OND and HND from the Ire Polytechnic and graduated before Daniel and Uche.
Her relationship with Daniel ended even before she gained admission into Ire Polytechnic. It was strained due to their different academic commitments and increase workload from the demands of sophomore year.
She started her freshman year at the new college heart broken and sad. This drove her to focus on making the best use of her second chance.
She went on to get a really good job after serving out her one-year NYSC programme.
Daniel and Uche remained best of friends even after graduation and went on to write many more daring exams with riskier circumstances.
Perhaps one day, they would share their adventures.
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