It was only the roof of Princess Alexandria Auditorium (PAA) that was seen from a distance at sunset. Students had fully occupied the seats in the canopies outside the auditorium, some argued over their standing-spaces, those that were sitting now complained that they wouldn’t get any view of what would be projected later; consequently, they stood when the programme commenced. Some jostled in the crowd, in front of the auditorium to get a view of the programme of events through the windows, stood firm at their spots for hours till the programme ended, sweating profusely, so as not to he displaced by the thousands of the people jostling in the crowd. Someone’s armpit brushed Kate's face, the sweat touched her upper lip, and she tasted it. She bent, and spat, unsure of where her saliva had landed. There was a force from behind, she practically didn’t control her movement, she held her purse tightly while the pressure from the crowd almost carried her to the entrance of the auditorium, where the security men were, randomly flogging the students with a whips made of horse-tail whenever the door was pushed. One of the whips hit Kate faintly on her forehead, while the boy in front of her growled in pain. The door had been opened for the Vice-Chancellor and his wife to enter the auditorium that was already occupied by students – that had no empty seat left, but the reserved ones for university top senior staff and the awardees.
Kate waited for a few minutes for a bit of calm amongst the students and the security men at the entrance. She recalled how her boyfriend, had seduced her when she was already set to go to the auditorium by 6 pm. He told her that the event would commence at 8 pm, and she would go there to waste her time where there always would be reserved seats for the awardees. They were in bed for over an hour before Kate started walking down to PAA. Just immediately after the University anthem – event opening – was sung, Kate knocked at the door gently, and, loudly. The security man opened the door very slightly.
“I am Dike Kate Adaku, I’ll be receiving my award.” He kept mute, and began opening the door slowly until Kate’s slim body was able to pass through. Students came closer, and the force came again from back, the door was jammed immediately Kate passed through, not minding whether he had hit someone’s face or not.
She was delighted that there were a few reserved seats left. Her awards were many: from the Best Graduating Student in the school, to her faculty, to her department, General Studies unit, and other numerous awards given to her by the state and federal government and private-owned firms.
Her boyfriend, Uche, later came for the awarding ceremony, but stood outside, and struggled to get a view of what was projected. He waited for her in his black Nissan at the library gate. After accepting much congratulatory wishes from staff and a few students, she met Uche in the car.
“You just came?” She asked in a disapproving manner.
“No, I watched everything. I’ve been outside.”
“But, you’re a staff. Aren’t there reservations in there for staff?”
“Do you know if a-third of the university staff attended this, not even a single student would be seen inside PAA.” He chuckled. “And I’m just an assistant lecturer.”
Uche saw Professor Tobi approaching towards him and stepped down from the car. “Good evening, Prof.”
“Uche, it’s good to see you.” He replied while walking to the other side of the car where Kate was. His face hadn’t changed a bit, except for the goatee that had disappeared. His body now looked bigger, too. “Kate? Kate.” He reached to open the door that was ajar. She noticed this, and hurriedly shut the door.
Uche looked in oblivion, and noticed that Kate had shut the door on Professor. “Kate! What’s that? This is Prof. o.” Kate didn’t answer, but stared at Professor through the window. He bent his face towards the window looking at her eyes, as though he was searching for something. “Kate!” He screamed louder.
“He’s my father. Get me out of here.” Kate said. He started the ignition, while Professor ran to the other side, perhaps, to prevent Uche from moving.
“I’m so sorry, Prof.” He drove off.
While he was driving towards Zik's flat, he noticed how moody Kate was, but said some funny things that ended up to something that irked her. She kept mute. The only thing left was to remind her of sex they would have again that night. He had discerned how Kate often initiated sex, after the first day she had sex – with him, in his father’s car. “You know, I’ll give you my special gift at home.” She said nothing, yet.
When they got home, Kate kept her countenance stolid. She lost appetite, and retired to the bedroom, while Uche called off a soiree with his few neighbours – something that would’ve taken place for Kate’s great academic achievements.
Kate woke up at night, and started thinking of her father. She felt happy that she had seen him, again. She wished that she had touched him there, even if it were his fingers. She was happy that she still had a family member living; she wasn’t alone. Simultaneously, she felt that she would have stabbed him right there. She thought that it was expected that she hated him, and would look stupid if she had any affinity for the man that abandoned her and her mother – she thought. When she was in bed, she reminisced the awful way she and her mother was forgotten: how her grandmother – Professor’s mother had sent her mother away from their family home when she was barely pregnant with her, when Professor was doing his doctorate in the US, how he. married another wife that his mother had always wanted him to marry, how he. seldom visited his mother to give her allowance for a few years after he returned from US, and later disappeared into thin air. Their family house was rented out, and the lawyer in charge of the property wouldn’t give their location. Professor, too had quit his lecturing work at the state's university, and she didn’t know where he had found another work. Then, Kate was 10, they moved to a self-contained apartment, and it was that period that she got sick often, coupled with her asthma attack: her mother often gave her turmeric and garlic juice, mixed with honey for the asthma; extracted juice from scent leaf and utazi leaf – gangronema latifolium – a climbing shrub with a heart-shaped leaves that has a characteristic sharp, bitter and slightly sweet taste for malaria and typhoid. What pained her most was her younger brother – who was often anemic, whom her mother had with Prof. died after her mother couldn’t provide adequate care for him, but to cook pigeon peas for him. She struggled with her mother who was a mushroom secondary school teacher – a low tier school teacher – a job that she could afford to get with her Teacher's Training Certificate. Barely when Kate completed her secondary school education, she lost her mother to a car crash – a bus accident on a minor road when she was returning from school. It was then that she started living with Uche's parents – their landlord, whom she worked for as sales rep in their pharmacy for two years. Later, with their help, she enrolled in the university where she was able to secure a scholarship that put her through her studies. Though she usually came back home during long vacation to work in the pharmacy.
The next day after the convocation ceremony ended, Kate began her celebration – where she served her friends, and friends of friends, food and drinks, at the department of Economics – where she had graduated from. Before it ended, Professor located her in the building, where her stand was, and took a seat, waiting for Kate's celebration to end, so he could give her a thousand and one reasons he left his family.
Kate was the female version of him: same eyes and brows, long face, pointed nose, and their diastemata were catchy. They had identical dentitions, too. But Kate’s resemblance with him was now wearing make-up: her long weave-on covered her big ears, her mascara made her brows darker, the bronzers and foundation tanned her face, and the contour made the nose more pointed. When Uche started working on a publication with Professor, he had watched his looks closely, and later told Kate that she looked like Prof. Tobe, but Kate brushed it aside.
Uche served his friends drinks that came to celebrate his girlfriend’s graduation, so when he realized that Professor had come, he served him stout, and was about to dish jollof rice and chicken for him.
“Just serve drinks only. You are not really good at sharing food.” Kate said Uche. She took the plate, and walked towards Professor. He was scared that she might pour the food on him, and pretend that it had happened inadvertently. And she actually did – no pretence. His milk shirt was stained, and others there who were in anything related to Faculty of sciences – who knew Professor Tobe – the Chemistry god looked in bewilderment.
“Kate, sorry. I do not want to ruin your celebration. I hope to see you later,” he left. Uche held her and rubbed her shoulders gently, shoulders that he could barely feel, deep inside and well covered by the over-sized convocation gown that looked like avulture's wings. She sat in one of the chairs, and Uche served till the celebration ended.
Professor trended on almost all the class WhatsApp groups on campus. Some said that he slept with her, and had influence on her being the Best Graduating Student, while some said that Prof. had been sleeping with her, and took care of her expenses in school, did something so despicable, and came to ask for forgiveness. Others, especially those from the faculty of sciences said that he had gone there to eat rice because his childless wife had refused to cook at home.