Shouts and slashes echoed through the late April afternoon, bouncing from the neighbors’ backyard to Ada’s bedroom. She stretched out on her unmade bed, trying to lose herself in Purple Hibiscus and ignore the party going on next door.
Her final exams were coming up, with graduation a month away, and even though she intended to go to Covenant university by late September, the grades still mattered to her. But every time she turned a page, some girl would scream or some guy would shout, or another splash would tell her someone had jumped in the pool, and it just reminded her how very hot her room was and how very alone she was this weekend.
Throwing her book aside, she tugged the window open to let in some air, glaring at her neighbor’s luxury balcony and well-trimmed lawn. Beer bottles littered the grass, banging bass shook her floor, and sleek wet bodies in swimming costumes dove into the pool.
Her eyes swept the area for the twins. They won’t be hard to miss: tall, muscled, powerfully built, moving with an easy confidence that made her sick with envy.
Her gaze stopped at a guy sitting on a chair, beer in hand, surrounded by laughing girls. Hard to tell from this distance whether it was Wale or Tunde. Up close, she would know the difference right away: the cleft in Wale’s chin, the dark spot on Tunde’s left cheek below his eye, were obvious signs to anyone who knew them well.
But she hadn’t been up close to them in years, and she couldn’t say that she knew them well. Anymore.
The twin on the veranda looked up from the gathering of girls, sipping his beer. Suddenly, his eyes met hers. Shock went through Ada. God, she was in her underwear because it was so hot, and spying on her neighbors’ party like the anti-social that she was, and he had seen her!
She ducked down below the window, her heart beating fast. Maybe he hadn’t seen her. Maybe he had seen her, but he hadn’t noticed her white lace bra and the cleavage spilling over the top.
Once her heart slowed down, she crawled along the floor and maneuvered back onto her bed. No way would her hand slide into her panties just because a pair of sexy eyes had melted her insides. Tossing aside her glasses — oversized enough to look nerdy — she squinted at her laptop, trying to motivate herself to bang out another 500 words before she took a break.
But she couldn’t forget the eyes that had just met hers. Heat curled through her body that had nothing to do with embarrassment.
Shaking her head, she closed her laptop. How pathetic could she get? Saturday afternoon, sunshine so gorgeous it hurt, and she was alone in the house with Purple Hibiscus and her half-written paper for company, ignoring her friends’ texts because schoolwork came first, while her parents spent the weekend at the village, and the twins, home from Ogun state for the holiday, took advantage of having the house to themselves.
Themselves, and twenty other people.
Ada could hear her mother’s excited voice in her head: “When you go away to the university, the twins will practically be your neighbors again! It’ll be almost as good as having them next door. They can get you settled into campus life.” Ada didn’t have the heart to remind her mother that their schools were an hour apart, and no one would be helping anyone get settled — except in her parents’ imaginations.
She sighed, taking a long swig of the tea on her desk and rubbing the sweat over her face and neck. It hadn’t always been like this. Ten years ago, she would have been the one splashing in the pool with the twins or playing football with them in their compound while Wale gave her encouraging tips and Tunde teased her mercilessly about her lack of skills. Growing up, they had been in and out of each others’ houses all the time.
Three years older than she was, the twins had always looked strangely identical, with brown eyes, broad dimpled grins —and wildly different personalities.
Wale had been friendly and easygoing. Ada smiled, remembering how he had always taken the time to explain the rules of any game they were playing with total patience.
Tunde, on the other hand, had attacked her relentlessly with balloons during the hot afternoons, dumped ice down her shirt at family picnics, and put fake spiders in her bed when she slept over while her parents were out of town, the holiday before she began secondary school.
She had quickly learned that with Tunde, survival meant one thing: fight back, fight harder. If he dumped ice down her shirt, she would dump it down his trouser. Spiders in her bed? She retaliated with a caterpillar in his eating bowl — a live one. And even though she had been scared of Tunde, she worshiped both the twins when she was little.
Ada kicked at her sheets restlessly, running her fingers through her sweaty hair and pulling it off her neck. She couldn’t pinpoint when things had changed. She just knew that she had gone the studious route, the twins had gone the popular and outgoing route, and once they had started secondary school, her path stopped crossing theirs completely.
She had always been on the shy side, but as she got older, it got worse, not better. She hated the way she got tongue-tied with boys, and now the twins were definitely boys. Tall, good-looking, and confident; always off playing football and having dates with girls and going out with their friends.
Or so she heard when their parents got together for dinner and she was the lone kid at the table, politely answering questions about her grades and achievements.
By the time she was in secondary school, her friendship with the twins felt like a hundred years in the past. They ran in completely different circles. Wale and Tunde were football stars, always on the field practicing or pumping iron in the gym.
She found a niche in the literary field and stayed up late at night working her way to the top of her class. Wale at least called out a hello the rare times that she passed him in the halls, and she tried her best to say hi back without breaking into a sweat. Tunde ignored her completely now.
It wasn’t hard to pick up on the gossip about the twins, though, and she knew that Wale was a reasonably responsible student, voted “Most Likely to Succeed” and busy with school activities, while Tunde was giving his parents one headache after another.
End of SS2, he and some other guys had been suspended for pulling a prank on their biology teacher that involved more frogs than anyone should have access to, and his mother complained he was partying every weekend and doing the bare minimum to keep his grades up in order to go to university.
Ada laughed now, remembering all the rumors she had heard about Tunde in high school. Knowing him, every word was true: the girls, the pranks, the been rude to teachers, the partying. But she couldn’t help feeling warm, remembering what had happened last week, after the twins had gotten home from university for the holiday. She had run into Tunde in the supermarket, and right there, he looked her over and smiled at her.
Turning timid, she whirled around and marched off to the aisle, where she pretended to be choosing just the right bag of oranges until she could be sure he had left the store. He had been laughing at her, no question.
Leering at her dress, her hair, and her glasses while the giant bags of chips in his shopping cart rustled mockingly at her. So why were her breasts tingling, her hard nipples telling her they could still feel his eyes? She didn’t even want to think about what she had done in bed late that night as she pictured Tunde unbuttoning her dress in front of the milk and eggs. Of all the people.
But she had to admit: if she was sprawled here on her bed now, listening miserably to the good time next door and thinking about all the parties she had skipped because she feared the drinking and noise and what might happen with the wrong guy; the times she had left, uncomfortable, when her friends lit up weed at someone’s house; the hard fact that she was twenty and had never, ever kissed a boy because she was terrified to get close — she had to admit that she was also incredibly, undeniably, inescapably horny.
And this wasn’t anything new. She wondered what the guys at school would say if they knew that the shy girl who wore her long dresses buttoned all the way to the collar, wouldn’t dream of getting less than an A, and kept her arms crossed over her breasts when talking to anyone male had fantasized about fucking most of them. In pairs, or separately, or in front of an audience. She had spent her birthday money on a high-quality dildo that arrived in a plain brown package, and god, that thing was good. It only made her long for the real deal even more.
The doorbell startled her. Quickly, she grabbed a nightie, pulled it on over her black bra and panties, and ran downstairs, belting the light gown tightly before she opened the door.
One of the twins leaned against the doorframe, wearing a pair of blue swim trunks and a big smile. Ada blinked, her eyes darting away from his long body, then back. His smile was so welcoming that she began to relax. This was Wale. The cleft in his chin — and the friendly smile — didn’t leave any doubt.
“You’re all alone this weekend,” he said. She caught a whiff of beer on his breath, but he didn’t seem drunk — just relaxed.
“You’re not.” She couldn’t help sounding rude.. She had a life too. Wale didn’t have to assume that she had no friends — even if she was avoiding them right now to study.
“You shouldn’t be, either. Come on over.”
“No,” she said quickly.
“No?” He raised his eyebrows.
“I’m studying for my exams. Not all of us are done with school.” God, why oh why did she have to get bitchy whenever she managed to talk to an attractive guy?
But Wale just smiled more broadly. “All the more reason to come over. You need a break. Mom said you’re going to the university. We should celebrate.”
Her heart was pounding, just like it had when he and Tunde had taken her to school almost four years ago. No. She couldn’t handle the party next door. Twenty people, she didn’t know, university students, drinking and yelling and laughing. Her throat went dry just thinking about it. And here was Wale, looking at her expectantly.
“Why are you inviting me over when we haven’t talked in years?” she managed, doing her best not to stare at the floor — though she really, really wanted to. Wale may have been attractive in secondary school, but now he was gorgeous. His face was more chiseled, his body more filled out. His eyelashes were thick and dark, and a soft line of hair divided his hard abs and disappeared into his swim trunks. She forced her eyes to stay on his face.
He looked up at the doorframe, then back at her. “Can I come in?”
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