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Sweet Sixteen- JAMB EDITION 3

“A cute thing you’ve got there,” he said as I hugged him. “Daddy, story, story,” I said in a sing-song as we sat on one of the concrete benches that were arranged around a black and white chequerboard on the floor.

It was not really a board, but a raised cement platform on which giant black and white chess pieces mounted guards on opposite ends as if waiting for their marching orders. This was where students, mostly boys, gathered to play chess during the weekends. I told Dad how I got the teddy bear. “This boy, what is his name?”he asked, smiling.

“Bobo,”I answered. “Bobo, is that his real name?” “No, his real name is Tokunbo,Tokunbo Alabi.” “Okay. Where do you thinkTokunbo got the money to buy this gift for you? Did his parents give him a special allowance to buy Valentine’s gifts for girls?” I said no, I didn’t think so. “So, could it be that Tokunbo took part of his pocket money to buy the teddy bear?” “Yes, most probably,” I answered.

Dad got up slowly and walked towards the chess board. He picked up one of the pawns and moved it two steps forward.Then, he turned to me. “You see, Aliya, there is nothing wrong in giving or receiving gifts. But usually, especially in this kind of situation, when someone feels he has done you a favour, he would normally feel you owe him something. Sometimes, he could even, maybe, expect you to return the favour.” He walked to the other end of the chess board and moved the knight. As he retraced his steps, he asked, “So, this boy, what do you think he wants from you?”

I said I didn’t know. “He said he likes me. Maybe he wants me to like him back?” “So, do you like him back?”He moved another pawn. “N000,” I answered, drawing out the ‘0’ and shaking my head. The truth is I liked Bobo also. He was very funny, so I liked talking to him. But that was all.

I never thought of him as more than a friendly classmate. He was not as smart as Akin, but certainly not as rascally too. In that department, Akin was the clear gold medalist. Dad smiled broadly as if he knew more than he was actually saying. Then he came back to sit beside me.

“You see, Aliya, maybe you don’t know yet what that question really means. But that is not even important now What is important is that you should never put yourself in a situation where you would feel obliged to do anything because you feel indebted to someone.

Anybody who gives you something because he wants something from you in return is not good for you. No money in the world, no gift in the world is enough to buy you; because you are priceless. In any case, the two of you are still too young to understand what that kind of relationship entails. But I will want you to remember, Aliya, that no relationship between two people can survive if it is based on material

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