The Sun Must Shine (Episode 4)

— Unique love stories —

IV

Six months after George’s resumption as a driver, he almost got into trouble. He had waited for Ruth, but it was past her lecture time, and Ruth hadn’t come to him. He paced her faculty’s quadrangle where he always waited, and he thought of what could be wrong. After some minutes, he walked into the large faculty building and walked to her class. Her class was empty. At the faculty’s wide hallway, he saw Benita speaking to a middle-aged man in blue suit. He moved to ask Benita, but he didn’t. He left the faculty building and walked to the car.

He had just sat on the driver’s seat when his phone beeped. It was a message from an unsaved number. He opened the message box and read it. George, this is Ruth. Meet me at your house. His jaw dropped as he stared at the text of the message. He dropped the phone on the dashboard and hissed. “This girl is really strange. How did she get to know my house?” he said. He started the car.

When he got to the long dirty public house where he lived with his mother, he prayed that Ruth hadn’t really come there. Some children played in the sand in front of the house. He inhaled as he walked past the front yard to the narrow hallway of the house. Their room was the third on the right side of the hallway. Opened wooden doors faced themselves along the corridor like warring housewives. Their kerosene stove was near to their room’s door, and Ruth squatted beside their kerosene stove. She was turning the boiling soup on the stove. He walked to her and felt like yanking her ears. “Ruth, what’s the meaning of this?” he asked.

— Unique love stories —

“I’m cooking for your mother,” she said. She turned to him and smiled. He’d have appreciated her one million watts smile, but it made his heart beat faster then. Her father would kill him. “Since you’ve refused to let me come close to you, I felt I needed to be close to your mother. You can’t leave the poor woman alone all day with no food, she isn’t hardhearted like you.” He grabbed her hand, looked at her sternly and pulled her up. She smiled. “Even though I’m a feminist, I still believe women should be treated nicely.”

He released her skinny hand. He looked at her, concerned. “We’ve to go, Ruth. It’s past your lecture time.”

“I’m not going until I finish cooking this food. After I serve the food to your mother, I’ll go.”

“You shouldn’t be doing this, Ruth. It isn’t right.” He wasn’t looking at her. “Your father will not like to hear of this. Benita will not like it, too. This your behavior contradicts what you always talk about.”

She looked at him, his sincerity surprised her. Their eyes stuck together, hazel and brown, starring at the other. She said, “When the heart calls you to go beyond your boundaries, you will do anything. There is a knock on your heart, George, open and accept the knocker.” George looked away. He walked out of the hallway to the front yard. Ruth watched him go, and she felt for the first time in years as tears formed in her eyes. She sniffled and wiped the tears with the back of her palm. She stood there for some minutes starring at nothing in particular.

A fat woman walked up to her and touched her slender shoulder. “Miss, the soup on the stove is burning,” the woman said. When Ruth turned to look at the woman. The woman had a surprised look. “You’re crying. Do you’ve a problem?”

She blinked and waved her head. “No,” she said. She moved to the stove and turned the soup on the stove. She couldn’t believe she was doing that. She had never cooked since she was fifteen. She only cooked then because her mother had insisted she learned how to cook. She had never cooked for anyone outside her family. And she had never felt what she felt with him. She sniffled.

— Unique love stories —

V

Benita and Favor couldn’t believe what they heard from Ruth. Favor looked at Ruth thrice to be sure she wasn’t drunk or under the influence of a bad drug. They sat in their class. They were the only ones in the class. The lectures for the day were over.

“You aren’t serious, right?” Favor asked. She looked more disturbed than Benita.

“She is serious, of course. You must have been a fool to have not noticed how she looked at him. How she hung to him and laughed like a teenager,” Benita’s said, her voice was loud.

“Does he know how you feel?” Favor said.

“I don’t know, but I think he does,” Ruth said. She closed her eyes, inhaled, and opened her eyes. “He is the first man in my life who wasn’t touched by my beauty, or my father’s wealth. He doesn’t jump on my every word. He treats me like a human.”

“So much for being a feminist!” Benita said.

“Look, Benita, you don’t have to judge me. I’m a woman, I can love. It isn’t my fault that I found the man I loved.”

“Think, girl, he’s your driver,” Favor said. “D-r-i-v-e-r. Driver. He isn’t up to your class. Your parents would be incensed. Besides, you’re from Bazi tribe, and he is from the Dumong tribe, your different tribes do not relate well.”

“What attracted you to him?” Benita blurted. “He isn’t cute. I really wonder what the reason is. You’ve hardly noticed good men on campus, and suddenly you’re dying for your rugged and ugly driver.”

“He isn’t ugly,” Ruth said. She exhaled, and looked at the clock on the wall, close to the white board in the class. “He isn’t entirely ugly.”

Favor nodded, smiling. “He isn’t ugly to me. He is attractive in his own way. However, he isn’t up to the top men on campus. There are men who your father would die for you to date. The Minister of Finance’s handsome son for instance. He is rich, handsome and intelligent. He is from your tribe.”

“You should stop this!” Ruth stood. “We’re supposed to think differently from other Biberians. That’s why we are friends, right?”

— Unique love stories —

“This your love interest won’t pose any problem to us, but to your father. Rich men in Biberia expect their children to get married to the children of the other rich men from the same tribe,” Favor said, she tilted her head. “There is this stereotype among rich men that poor men in Biberia are always desperate to marry rich young women. Your father is extremely rich, and you’re the only child, this makes it terrible.”

Benita scoffed. She would be pleased to know that George despised rich people like she did, that was if she ever wished to get close to him. She hated men who looked well-built, they reminded her of her father.

Ruth looked at Favor. “I see reason with what you’re saying, Favor.” She rubbed the smooth desk in front of her with her right palm. “I don’t know why I love him. I respected my feminist reason since we started this friendship, but he overwhelmed me. He didn’t even approach me. I’m the one who is going after him.”

Benita waved her head. “He overwhelmed you because you let him do it,” she said. She paused and looked at the clean louvers window. “Why don’t you use him?”

“How?” Favor and Ruth asked at the same time, and with the same surprised look.

“Since he is your driver, you can control him. I mean if your love for him works, and he agrees to love you, you control him,” Benita said, smiling. The two other friends didn’t smile. They stared at her. “Don’t you see? This is the ample opportunity for you to control a man.” She laughed. They stared at her and wondered if she was serious, and she was serious.

Ruth hissed, picked her hand bag and began to walk away. “What did I say that is wrong?” Benita said. Favor smirked. Ruth got to the wide door of the class, and turned back to look at her friends for a moment. Benita had a surprised look. She left the class.

As George drove her home, she thought of the conversation she had with her friends. She wanted to visit his mother’s secretly again that day, but the conversation left her with little strength to go there. She appreciated the way his blind mother blessed her and prayed for her. And although George warned her severally to stop going to his house, she still went there every day with different food items. She made sure she cooked enough food that would last the whole day for them. His blind mother had smiled on her fifth visit, placed her wrinkled hand in Ruth’s hand and said, “I can sense it. You love my son. He’s a very difficult boy, but he is good. He might seem difficult, but he isn’t. He will surely change towards you.” She touched Ruth’s cheek. It was that day that Ruth believed blind people could see more than the people who had working eyes.

— Unique love stories —

After that visit, George had looked at the rear view mirror  and said, “Thank you, Ruth.” Her heart skipped. Those words had prompted her to tell her friends.

When the car got towards their gate, Ruth looked at the short coconut trees beside their high compound wall that had jagged bottle pieces on top. “George, do you know that I love you?”

“What?” he said. He marched on the break. The car eased to a stop. He turned to look at her. The face cap he wore hid half of his face. He removed it  and stared at her.

“You don’t know?”

He took a deep breath, dropped the face cap on the dashboard and looked at her eyes. “I sensed it, Ruth. But how can you love me? I am a nobody. We’re different. We’re from different tribes, different backgrounds. There are so many good men on campus, who have been admiring you, I think they’d be better for you.” A car behind them blared its horn.

— Unique love stories —

“I love you, George. I don’t care about the philosophy of love of this country. I just want you to tell me that you like me, at least,” she said. George looked at her. She sounded desperate. “I’m ready to pay for your education. I want you to complete your education.”

George turned. He marched the accelerator, and looked at the rear view mirror. “You’re in a fantasy world, Ruth. Love doesn’t work that way in this country,” he said. She sighed.

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