The more she tried to dodge him, the more he pursued her. Even when she refused to talk to him, he would keep on talking as if he’s enjoying her stoic silence. It got to an extent her friends started mocking her over his constant presence around her. They christened him her ‘lover boy’.
One evening she came out of the female hostel gate to see him loitering around, waiting for her, incensed, her blood boiled over, and her temper erupted, she walked up to him. "Why are you stalking me?"
He saw the anger brimming in her eyes as always, and smiled to douse it. “Actually, I was waiting to see you, since you banned me from coming to your room….” He shrugged. She had almost chewed him raw the day he visited her without invitation, in front of friends and roommates she told him off in a not so pleasant manner. He had to respect her privacy; there should be a limit to his foolishness.
“Now what, can’t you take a no from a girl and push on?”
“That’s not the way to talk to a guy who is trying so hard to court you.”
"Haven't it occur to you that I don't want to be courted, especially by you?" she retorted.
His eyes gazed at her lovingly, a look that drove Ifeoma crazy and chipped at her resistance. Fred watched the play of emotion in her eyes, and knew her hostility was thawing; just a matter of time, and his man-hunt or rather his woman-hunt bait would catch its prey. A fleeting wisp of a smile appeared on his face.
He wondered how long she would continue to deny the spark kindling between them. It’s being three months now since they met and he had been going after her. Can a woman be this obstinate?
“How about we go to the student centre for a drink and a talk?”
She shook her head. "I don't think there is anything else you will say that will make me change my mind," she said with thinly disguised anger.
“Probably so, but for the sake of civility just humour me.” A brooding look replaced his smile.
“If I oblige, will you promise to stop stalking me?”
“You will have your wish fulfilled soon because I'm going to be away for a month."
A startled look jumped into her eyes. Fred noticed and tried to arrange his face into a benign expression. She could fight him all she wanted but he knew she would miss him.
“Where are you going to be for a whole month?”
“Can we sit down and discuss it over some bottles of drink?”
“Okay,” a grudging acceptance as she let down her guard a notch and followed him to the centre.
The moment they sat down, she faced him. "So, you will leave school for one month to do what, what of class work and assignments?"
“Calm down, I told you over some bottles of drink, and the drinks haven’t arrived yet.”
She flicked her hand in the air impatiently. “I don’t like waiting for information.”
“You have to wait and you have to be friendly and smile to get the information.”
Indignation flared in her eyes, Fred smiled. “So, what will you drink?”
“A soft drink will do.”
He went to the counter and came back with a soft drink and a melt; he uncorked them and handed the soft drink to her. After a few sip, she eyed him wearily.
He beat her to the question. “How hard have you been banging the typewriter and decoding the shorthand?”
Her lips tumbled into an unrestrained smile, “Not easy, but my quiz scores are not bad.”
“I’m happy to hear that, but I will be happier if you smile more when you’re with me and be a little friendlier.”
Anger flickered in her eyes, Fred held up his hand. “Calm down Ify, I just want us to be friends; there is no harm in friendship. It will be more fun for you to relax around me, smile and be cheerful than to be constantly on your guard, I’m not an ogre, just a guy who happens to like you so much and trying so hard to let you know that.”
She raised her eyes to the ceiling in silent exasperation. “Can’t you understand? I don’t want you! I don’t want to be hurt; I don’t want any man trampling on my heart.”
“Why? Something I did or didn’t do or from past experiences?”
He listened as she explained her reasons for not wanting an intimate relationship with any man yet.
“Okay, we can take it one step at a time. I’m not hot on commitment too.”
"Yes, so I have heard through campus grapevine, you're the type of guy I have been warned not to get close to or I will be stung for life."
“You’re too intelligent to judge me based on what you heard about me. Why not keep your biases aside and get to know the real me.”
"Really? You mean there is more to you than the stories flying about campus as the crowned prince of heart breaker."
His mouth lifted in a sexy smile. “I don’t break hearts.”
Ifeoma swallowed and looked away. He looked so dashingly handsome and rakish, her heart and brain cells quivered, a part of her wanted to shred her sanity and be adventurous, go wild and follow her heart desires.
She was melting and didn’t like it, of all guys to fall for; it has to be one with a reputation, one who had left a trail of girls heartbroken. She had fought so hard to keep her distance from him. “Honestly Fred, I like you as a person -", before the smile could completely take over his face, she added quickly. “But I don’t want a relationship with you.”
He looked deeply into her eyes; he could see the fears, the uncertainties, and the struggles. “Ify, what are you afraid of?”
She stared at him, a contemplative look on her face. He leaned toward her a little. “Life is a risk you have to combat with and it requires lots of mobility and dexterity don’t let fear keep you static and steamroll you out of the joy, the happiness and the fun of living and loving. You deserve that much in your life. Give yourself a break and embrace love.”
A smile cracked through her frosty face. “You’re big grammars and psychobabble talk will not melt my heart. I don’t want to be hurt; I don’t want to put my heart in the hand of a Romeo who will make mincemeat of it.”
“Trust me. Give me a chance to prove to you that I’m not really a Satyr as girls made me out to be.” For once his confident smile was replaced by an earnest plea that cut to her heart.
She studied him through narrowed eyes; for how long would she keep fighting her emotion and hiding it behind anger at his audacious pursuit. It would be foolish to keep pretending he didn’t appeal to her. From the first day she laid eyes on him, her heart had never been at rest, and she knew he would never give up. She realised for some time now she had stopped seeing him as simply a man pestering her life, but a possible relationship in bloom.
As the thought rolled through her head, her stomach became a ball of jumbled quivering nerves, lifting her drink she took a sip. "Well, your one-month absence will give me enough time to categorise and analysis my true feelings for you."
The smile that waltzed through his face snuck past her last defence, and she knew she had lost the battle when her cheeks dimpled convulsively into a smile.
“Not before then?”
“Nah, remember, one step at a time.