Dear Lord, let me fill this new part of my life with good news and more love to you.’ he bowed and said within closed lips. Grace arrived home from church with a light feeling around her belly. She didn’t know why she felt that way but she could guess. ‘What came over me?’ she wondered as her mind went back to the exchange of words and the letter he gave Jerry. ‘Why did I even write the letter?’ the questions brought smiles to her face while her heart felt funny. ‘And why did I run away after giving him?’ she laughed heartily and shook her head. ‘Hope he won’t misunderstand.’ She wondered but it was only a fleeting thought.
She tried and succeeded in telling herself that it was nothing to worry about. But as she realized she really wasn’t going to see Jerry for over three months, a slight worry washed over her heart. She squeezed her brows and tried to dispel the worry. ‘When I also begin my final secondary school certificate exams, I will have little else to worry about.’ she thought. ‘I won’t even miss him at all.’ Grace was right. A week after the Sunday, she resumed secondary school and the academic work, practical sessions and assignments rushed at her without warning.
She became preoccupied with other things besides Jerry and slowly, his face drifted to the subconscious. From the first day Jerry arrived on campus, he knew he would have little time for anything else besides his course work. He hadn’t even settled into his new room in the school hostel when he heard from a classmate that there would be a test on the first Friday of resumption. His sleeps became shorter and his days became even more shorter. And so, Jerry had no time to think of Grace and her beautiful smiles. II. It took over seven months after that Sunday before Jerry and Grace saw each other again and it seemed the time of silence that passed or the hectic rigour of academics had doused the special connection they had initially felt. But for whatever reason it was, their conversation didn’t flow the way it once did though they never had enough time to really talk. Nevertheless, when they shook hands, both of them still felt conscious of each other’s touch of fingers. They exchanged phone numbers and promised to keep in touch before they departed.
The next day, Jerry left for school while Grace also travelled out of the state to visit an aunt after she had finished her examinations. Despite their promise, neither called the other for the rest of the year. And when Grace also gained admission some months later, the two young souls didn’t speak to each other for two full years. Because the academic calendars of their different schools overlapped, the few times Jerry visited home, his holidays never coincided with Grace’s. It went on that way for yet another two years. Grace studied a four-year course and graduated with the best result in her department after the duration of four years. On the first Friday she spent after arriving home, Grace was walking along her street when she spotted a tall guy backing her and heading the same way she was. His hair was cropped low and his shoulders were broad, he walked with large steps and his face never looked right or left. Though his physique didn’t resemble anyone Grace knew, she felt an incomprehensible familiarity towards him and a voice in her head suggested that she must see his face.
Grace walked a little quicker but still, she couldn’t catch up with his large strides. A busy road lied ahead and the strangely familiar guy stopped for the traffic to reduce and give enough opening for people who waited cross. It was while the young man waited that Grace was able to catch up. She also planned to cross the same road, so she stopped a short distance to his left. Grace tried to look indifferent and not look sideways at the guy but she could not. Bit by bit, she turned her head ever so slightly, one shift at a time until she could see his face. And at that exact time, he also turned his head to watch the traffic coming from his left. Jerry knew the computer engineer promised to see him by 5pm, so he started to walk fast when he realized it was already 4.30. On the night of the day he submitted the final copy of his undergraduate project and defended his research, his computer hard drive had crashed and most of his files were lost. When he couldn’t repair the drive and restore the lost files in school, he had decided to bring it home in hope that the reputable engineer his dad had recommended would be able to find a solution. As he waited for the busy traffic of the market road to abate a bit, Jerry couldn’t imagine losing the files he had stored away on his hard-drive. His index finger tapped his left knee as he waited for a speeding car coming from the left side of the road to pass. He was determined to cross the road right after that.
Jerry felt the young woman beside him was taking glances at him and he decided to return the favour. He turned his head fully and looked into the face of the lady. He squeezed his brows. And then, his lips parted. Jerry’s voice spoke before his mind could react to the pleasant surprise. ‘Grace?!’ he shouted her name before he realized he might embarrass her. ‘Grace’ he called again in a low voice. Grace was both surprised and elated when she saw Jerry staring into her face. She wondered why she didn’t recognize him earlier. But before she could say anything, he had called her name twice. His laughing face mirrored hers and she couldn’t believe she was seeing him after over four years. ‘Jerry!’ She called and took his outstretched hand. The handshake lingered longer than it should but neither of them let go. Jerry drew Grace away from the midst of the bystanders waiting to cross the road and he didn’t know if he should hug her. He decided not to do so and held her hand instead. Her fingers dropped into his palm and he smiled into her eyes. ‘It has been how many years now? Four?
Jerry said. ‘Almost five.’ Grace corrected. ‘Are you sure, I thought I saw you before you went to school.’ ‘Yes, you did. That was over four years ago.’ ‘Are you serious?’ Jerry wondered and shook his head. ‘It didn’t seem so far away.’ ‘We are growing old o; things have really changed.’ He added and both of them laughed. Grace realized he was right. Many things had changed about him. He had truly ‘grown older’. His confidence was much more higher than she remembered, and his eyes never left hers the way they always did when they were teenagers. And there was also something about him that she was seeing for the first time. His voice was thick and his manner of speaking was quaint. It was the first time any guy would hold her hands that long but she didn’t feel uncomfortable at all. Trying to distract her thoughts, Grace decided to ask questions. ‘Have you stopped attending our church? I never saw you anytime I came home.’ She asked. Jerry laughed again and the sound of his laugh made Grace’s mind wander to paths they had never gone. ‘I should ask you same question. I think our academic calendars were run in different cycles. That’s why we couldn’t see each other.’ Jerry answered and led them farther away from the road. ‘Besides, my parents now head a new church location closer to our house.’ he added when the sound of the passing traffic had reduced appreciably. ‘So what finally dragged you home?’
Grace asked again. And yet again, Jerry laughed. ‘What do you mean ”drag me home”? It is you that didn’t come home since all these days. Serious student.’ he added. ‘I am not a student o. I am a graduate.’ Grace said in humour. ‘What?!’ Jerry looked sincerely surprised. ‘You are done with school too?’ ‘Yeah. Four years has passed. My course is done.’ she replied. ‘So, you and I eventually finish school the same year.’ Jerry shook his head mockingly as he spoke. ‘You that was still reading multiplication tables when I gained admission.’ Both of them laughed and Grace removed her right hand from his palm before playfully hitting Jerry’s shoulder with it. The two of them stood and talked for the next ten minutes and their legs never complained. Jerry forgot about his precious hard-drive and immersed himself into the heartiest conversation he had ever had.
The intensity of the sun above them decreased sharply and the clouds thickened, warning of an imminent downpour before both Jerry and Grace agreed it was time to part. They exchanged phone numbers again and it was only after they had both saved the digits that they realized they had been in possession of each other’s contact all the while. ‘You see…, and you didn’t even flash or call me.’ Jerry quickly said before Grace had the chance to accuse him. They both laughed. ‘What about you, Sir Engineer? Your phone can’t call abi?’ Grace returned. They agreed they were both at fault and Jerry promised to call this time. ‘Don’t worry. I am a man now. An Engineer. I won’t disappoint all the Engineers in the world by meeting such a lovely lady and not try to stay connected to her.’ Though he looked solemn as he spoke, the way his lips shook made it obvious he was trying hard not to laugh. They both laughed afterwards but in the midst of the humour, both of them sincerely hoped they stay connected for a long time. As they went on different paths, Grace looked back only to see Jerry was also looking back at her. They smiled and returned their faces. They turned and their eyes met a second time before Grace turned a corner and went out of sight. III. Jerry arrived at the computer shop but when he reached there, he couldn’t recall if he flew there or ran or walked.
He just knew he was having the time of his life with Grace, he felt a lot of emotions he was a stranger to, and then he left her and was at the shop. While he headed to the shop, either on wings or legs, he knew his mind was elsewhere; in a place of bliss and sweetness. There had been a time in his undergraduate days when he had thought he had gotten over his feelings for Grace; but the events of that evening brought him back to reality and the truth was clear as day- he had never stopped loving her. Jerry recalled the first day they had shook hands and it seemed the single memory opened the floodgates for an ocean of feelings to erode his mind and spirit. Twice, it took all his willpower to not turn back and offer to walk with Grace home and prolong the sweet time. And as he sat on a chair in the engineer’s shop, though the state of his hard disk memory was being determined, all Jerry could think about was the fresh memories of his time with Grace. Grace arrived home and went straight to her room.