THERE ARE RATS IN SHOPRITE
Kemi was sort of unusual.
That is, in a place where it was as though every girl had baggage and so on, she was a breath of fresh air. When asked, she would smile and say; “I like guys. Sure they lie. Sure they cheat. And we women don’t?”
That is not to say it was easy to be with her. Far from it, in fact.
But she had a friendly way of letting guys down easily – and so even after getting nowhere with her, there were a lot of guys who would do nearly anything for her.
And so it was that Kemi sailed through the first three years of her university education and it looked to a lot of concerned citizens that she would graduate without at least one boyfriend. And then she was in her final year and it looked like a done deal.
That was; until Chika.
Now it is important that you understand; it was not as though Chika was particularly handsome, it was not as though he had something in particular that none of Kemi’s previous suitors had. But there was some measure of sincerity in his declarations – and I honestly think that was what Kemi saw that made her give him a chance.
Of course, she did not tell me anything.
So there they were, two people who suddenly found a reason to spend time together; Chika, happy to be the guy who got to take Kemi out on occasion; Kemi, hiding a lot of what she was feeling behind her Oral B smile. She turned down his gifts, never loaded the credit he bought her, so it was not as though he was her ‘maga’ or ‘mugun’ or whatever term properly described ‘sucker’. She liked him, so she kept him around.
Then came the day school closed for the session and they were graduates. Everybody planned to travel – to forget about school and school related stuff, at least for the next two months or so. Chika desperately wanted a commitment from Kemi, because at this point his feelings had become serious. He needed to know.
So they agreed to meet in their home state, at the newly-opened Ikeja City Mall.
That day, Chika was determined more than ever to get a ‘yes’ from Kemi. He was well-dressed, the fact that he was no longer an undergraduate reflecting clearly in his carefully-chosen attire. Honestly, he looked very well put together – like a hundred naira note. He looked good.
Kemi had always been a looker anyways, and that day was no exception. But there was a different radiance about her smile, a radiance even Chika recognized and acknowledged as a positive sign. His usually jumpy-self had no choice but to calm down.
And so it was, they spent the better part of the day walking up and down the corridors of the shopping mall, enjoying each other’s company. At first, whenever Kemi wandered into a store and picked up a dress or shoes, Chika felt his heart rate increase and he mentally checked his account balance. But after a while and it became clear she was just window-shopping, he relaxed and began to enjoy the moment.
Moments later, they stopped at the ice-cream shop at the second entrance and Kemi ordered three scoops of three different varieties. Chika gallantly attempted to pay for it but Kemi refused so adamantly – you would think there was more to it than just ice-cream. The girl behind the counter who collected the one thousand naira note from Kemi winked at her, and Kemi smiled back…a mischievous smile.
They left the store, Chika somewhat quiet. Kemi offered him a serving from her ice-cream, and as he opened his mouth she shoved the spoon against his nose, smearing his nose with cold cream. She burst out laughing as he scrubbed his nose and snorted loudly, startling several other people. He saw Kemi laughing and he chased after her suddenly.
It was a short chase. He caught up with her just round the corner opposite the Swatch shop and pinned her against the wall right beside the jewelry shop. She almost spilled her ice-cream, laughing hard as he crushed her in his arms. The next thing that happened came right out of a Hollywood movie.
For some reason Chika could not explain, he kissed her. Probably it was her nearness, or maybe the fun he had been having, or maybe the fact that he was yet to have done it, and ‘no time like the present’ as the saying goes. Whatever. He sha kissed her sha, and while Kemi did not resist, she did not exactly respond either. After a few seconds of such an obviously one-sided kiss, Chika backed away feeling as though he had just made out with the back of his hand.
Some indiscreet giggling from a couple of girls watching from across the aisle did nothing to make him feel better. And so he walked away, head hanging while Kemi straightened her dress and followed, still eating her ice cream.
Chika was done. In fact, he was about to tell Kemi he was leaving when she laid a hand on his sleeve, looked into his eyes with that beguiling way of hers and told him she needed to buy some stuff for the house. He followed her into Shoprite.
As they headed into the superstore – specifically towards the baskets, Kemi’s phone rang. She quickly dumped the half-eaten ice cream into a wastebasket and picked the call, indicating to Chika to help get a basket. He got to the basket stand, and as he tried to pull a basket free while carefully watching Kemi out of the corner of his eyes – he heard a small squeak near his hand.
He looked down and behold, there was this fat rat looking at him out of large beady brown eyes.
Now as I had said earlier, there was nothing particularly special about Chika. In fact, for emphasis’ sake he was one of those guys who could not kill a chicken. The sight of blood scared him.
So imagine his reaction, finding a rat staring at him calmly in a place where there weren’t supposed to be rats. He froze with shock, opened his mouth and yelled;
“RATS! THERE ARE RATS…IN SHOPRITE!!!!”
Kemi, who had been speaking with her mother on the phone calmly hurried over, took the basket from Chika’s hands, and in the midst of the stunned silence handed the basket to one of the attendants. And then she turned to her shamefaced escort and…you guessed it; kissed him.
The poor shoppers looked as stunned as I felt; having shock after shock handed to them. In fact, the silence within was so complete that a few people who were passing looked in just to be sure there was nothing wrong. And then, slowly, people started to move again.
They got married not too long after; don’t ask me why or how. I am only the writer of the story after all, and not the chronicler of their lives. I was at the naming ceremony of their first child, and even though Kemi refused to tell me anything, I am almost sure she agreed to marry him the moment he screamed, ‘there are rats in Shoprite!”
Women. Who can understand them?
Happy New Year people! Welcome to the best year of all our lives.