The knock woke Bankole, although he didn’t realise at first, while he lay still in the silence that was breeched only by the screech of crickets. Then he heard it, and he knew what had awoken him: a single knock, like that of someone afraid that someone would actually answer.
“Bankole?” A whisper.
His heart sank.
He already knew who was knocking. The problem was, he knew she knew that. But this was how things were now: nothing was certain anymore. Without a word, he got up, tied the thin wrapper he used as a blanket around his waist, his singlet tucked into it, and unlocked the door to the room that was his entire place of abode.
Tomiwa stepped back when he opened it, glanced up at him, and down again. He stepped aside, and she walked in and sat on the bed. He shut the door, but stood by it, which, given the size of his room, left about two feet between them.
Her head was in her hands, elbows on her knees. Crying, he thought.
“You came to say goodbye.” His voice was flat. It was either that or he started crying himself.
She nodded without lifting her head. In the silence that followed, he was aware of the crickets again. Then she sniffed, dragged an arm across her face, got to her feet.
“I have to go.” Her voice was still only a whisper. “Before anyone notices.”
“I understand,” he said, still in that flat voice. She glanced up again and then down.
“I’m sorry,” she said, in an even smaller whisper, her hand unconsciously straying to her belly.
He felt the anger then, as he thought again how unjust the world was. But he said nothing: no point giving expression to a helpless fury.
The question without answer. Having being forced into sex, why forced marriage to her abuser?
She reached for his hand, kissed him. He could taste salt as he kissed her back. “I will call it by one of our names,” she murmured.
The names we dreamed of, when we still dreamed. He understood. Her way of taking something for herself. She kissed him again, lightly, and slipped out. He watched her go down the path to the big hut, and turned back into his own.
The crickets drowned out his low sobbing.
A friend challenged me to write a rurally set love story that ended in heartbreak in 2 hours and no more than 400 words. This was what I came up with. Like it? Bring on the claps.