Moving with the right crowd in his first year on campus did much to introduce him to the sporting community within and amongst federal universities in the country. In his second year on campus, he was already at the level where the Vice Chancellor of the school knew him by name. His dean was a big fan of him. His lecturers all knew him. He was one of the very few students that was encouraged to chase his athletic career over his academic one. They didn’t let him neglect his studies though. Individually and collectively, they all made sure that his results never went below average. Even if it meant rescheduling tests and exams for his sake while he was away on competitions. Or deciding to ignore class attendance on days when he wasn’t present because he was busy training. He was a jewel of the school. And even outside the school, he was recognized as far as FUTMINNA and UNILAG and OAU and UNN and every other university that had something worth bringing to the sports scene. He had toured half the country moving from one competition to another. On the UNILORIN campus, King was a big deal.
But King had his issues…..
A mummy’s boy from the onset, King was very soft hearted and very soft spoken. The only time you could ever use the word ‘aggressive’ to describe him was when he was chasing down a ball, or throwing one. And even that was always sportsmanlike. He was just that way. King’s issues started at home. An only child of a big business mogul that ended up being cocky and overconfident, eventually pissing off the wrong people. Those people then proceeded to punish him with everything and anything that they could. Within a year, Mr. Olawale went from being a millionaire with multiple streams of income to a man that was now dragging his feet through the streets of Lagos, lucky that he didn’t end up dead, or worse, in jail. Mr. Olawale then turned to alcohol and gambling. He believed that the only way he could get back to his former status was if God (or anyone of the multiple gods, if they cared about him) smiled at him and changed his fortune through a betslip.
The only thing he had was his house. Not the one that he had bought on the Island, not the several ones he had built or had been gifted. No. those ones were gone. He was only able to keep this one because he bought it in his son’s name. Something he had done out of a jocular suggestion from his lawyer then. But some things couldn’t change. The way people looked up to him for money and connections would never end. His mother, his sister, his cousins that he had promised to put through school (and he was actually doing it), his wife that was always nagging him for downsizing to a small house on the mainland that the rooms didn’t have air conditioners. She complained that they had to sell all their cars, she complained that they couldn’t order food from her favourite vendor, she complained that her gold necklaces hadn’t been replaced in a year, she complained that they had only one housemaid now, and she kept complaining…
Often drunk and angry that his betslip didn’t win him anything, Mr. Olawale wouldn’t think twice before hitting his wife. It started with slaps when she was being excessively rude and nagging, then it moved to dark circles around her eyes, and belt marks on her back on places that clothes could cover.
In another three years, she had become docile. The beating had taught her to keep her mouth shut, and her head bowed. But he didn’t even care about that anymore. He beat her whenever he felt like it now.
Young King saw this happen first hand, occasionally receiving his fair share of the blows. His mother would often come to his room and hold him with tears in her eyes and tell him that he was the only hope of his family, and he should not be angry with his father. She always portrayed him as loving and kind during these sessions and this confused the young King because she had scars to prove otherwise. As he got older, he wasn’t able to stand the constant beating of his mother. He would escape to the nearby field to watch people play ball. Football was an escape for him, but basketball was what fuelled him. He preferred going to the basketball courts that was a longer distance away, sometimes being there hours after practice had ended, or before it even started. He was never late for practice, and he was never too sick to show up. Even if just to watch.
But that was just at home. The screams of his mother couldn’t reach his ears in school, could they??
In school, King was doing fairly okay. He had a space in the sports hostels, he only had to pay about #1250.00 to the school for that, and he was covered throughout the session. He didn’t need to get a place off campus this way. But he still had one. He used this place to host parties for his teammates and close friends, usually after competitions. It was invites only. The only other person who knew his place was his girlfriend. Sade.
Sade was a rather simple girl. Her plans in life revolved around getting a degree, getting a job, and then quitting the job to take care of her family. To the average person, this sounded very narrow minded, but for Sade who had grown up with a single mother that worked nine to five, or till she got the job done. Going on numerous trips and getting transferred to several branches all over the country, she just wanted to shower her family with all the love that she didn’t get, and she really went about it that way.
She and King had met in their first year, and had become an item ever since. The loved, they fought, they took cuddly pictures, bought gifts for each other, and she spent weekends with him when school work wasn’t weighing her down. It was a regular campus relationship.
And like any regular campus relationships, it usually ended in a few different ways, and they were dealing with a more common one. Pregnancy.
King was bothered that she was pregnant. The trajectory his life was on would be shifted tremendously if a pregnancy came into the equation. But he was more concerned for her. The bulk of the problem was hers and he knew it. If they kept the baby, her schooling would be affected if not ended. If they got an abortion, it was her that would bear the risks if something went wrong. Not to mention that those were illegal. And there was also the stigma of having had an abortion. The way he saw it, the repercussion of whatever action they took now would affect her much more than him, and this made him very uncomfortable.
And so while he sat there in class, staring at the lecturer, feigning attention, he wasn’t really there. His mind was far away. Far far away. He loved Sade, but he did not want to be the reason anything bad happened to her. She had given him a lot already.
At 9:47, the class ended. The lecturer let the students have the remaining fifteen minutes of his time so they could get something to eat before they resumed to a long day of school. It was a lie though. The old man was purging and had to use the toilet in his office before he made a mess of himself.
The students trooped out, wanting to get as much as they could from the remaining 12 minutes before their next class started. Femi’s seat was at the edge of the long chairs they used. He was blocking the way out for those who wanted to leave. From the other end, they were squeezing King in and he was in turn trying to tap Femi. Femi who was fast asleep didn’t respond on time. A random guy from the other side shouted “she e n fun omo l’oyun ni ibeyen ni?? E je ka koja now!!”
[Translation: are you getting a girl pregnant there?? Let us through please!!]
This statement, so innocently said, stung King. Immediately, he turned and slapped the guy that talked. Twice. One for either side of the face. A small scuffle ensued and it didn’t seem like King was going to stop till he saw blood. The girls around were screaming for them to stop, but not actually making any effort towards stopping them. The guys nearby were too engrossed in the entertainment to break them up. They wanted King to beat the guy up. It was only Femi that was bold enough to King in an arm lock from behind and held him there till he cooled off, promptly ending the fight. From there, everyone went their separate ways. Femi decided that he had had enough to do with school for today. He would rather get proper sleep in his room, on a proper mattress.
King too realised that he had messed up. He decided the best plan of action was to go out of campus and clear his head. He would probably just play some Asa and then sleep off. That was a good plan.
Then he got there, and found the door unlocked. Opening the door, he found his girlfriend barely clothed, passed out, and with blood on her thighs that was too much for it to even look like it was her time of the month. He didn’t know he was in trouble till he checked her and she wasn’t breathing.
His girlfriend was dead in his room.
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