Change.

It’s such a simple word, yet, it seemed to define Yemisi’s entire existence.

Growing up, she was a loudmouth who radiated an unreal brand of confidence wherever she went. As a student in primary and secondary school, she was not the smartest or the best at anything, but she always believed that things would work out for her and they usually did.

In retrospect, she might have been using ‘it’ back then, but it wasn’t until her first year in university that she met her first real stumbling block in life. As a student of Art History, it was compulsory for Yemisi to take a philosophy course in her first year.

At first, she had no idea that her lecturer had a problem with her and no one could blame her. Yemisi was a joy to be around and no one seemed to be able to get enough of her.

Being blessed with such an infectious personality and the looks to go along with it, she was a little narcissistic and self-obsessed. This made it all the more surprising to her when she failed her first two semester tests in philosophy. After the initial test, she assumed that she needed to try harder but after the second, she decided to approach Mr. Lasisi in his office.

It didn’t take long for her to realise that her ‘failure’ was a deliberate attempt by Mr. Lasisi to lure her into exchanging sex for a passing grade. Yemisi was devastated.

“Report him to the authorities.” Some friends said.

“It’s just sex, Yemisi. Give him what he wants.” Others said.

“We can get some final year boys to put the fear of God in him.” A few more suggested.

She had a lot of friends.

Yemisi decided to wait it out till the end of the semester, believing that if she gave it her best shot, he would give her a ‘D’ grade and let it go. She was quite naïve.

At the end of the semester, Yemisi stormed into Mr. Lasisi’s office after seeing the glaring red ‘F’ printed on her score sheet.

“What can I do for you, Miss Badejo?”  He asked, still staring at his notes, almost like he was waiting for her to come in.

“Sir, I just saw my result and…”

“If you have any complaints, you can file an official complaint through the student council. It will pass through the appropriate channels and after that, we can consider remarking your script.” He said with a straight face.

“This…this is not fair…” She said, her voice filling the small office.

“Life is not fair, Yemisi and we can’t always get what we want. I have accepted that. You should also accept your fate.” He said.

The creases on her face became more prominent as her hands began to shake.

“MEN LIKE YOU ARE THE WORST! YOU SHOULD JUST DIE!” She barked.

His eyes widened and he slammed his hands on his desk.

“What…did you say?” He said slowly.

“I said you should die!” She yelled again before storming out.

“Insolent brat! You will never graduate from thi…” She heard him say as she walked away until he was out of earshot.

That night, Yemisi fell very ill and was rushed to the hospital. She stayed there for a week and came back to school to hear the most shocking news. Mr. Lasisi was dead.

Apparently, he hit a tanker on his way from school the day she saw her result. According to reports from people who were at the scene, he drove into a parked tanker, reversed his car a considerable distance and lunged head first for a second and final blow.

Two weeks after, Yemisi was spending an afternoon at her neighbour’s place during the semester holidays.

She yelled, “BE QUIET!”, at the dog because he kept barking while she was trying to sleep and he went silent immediately.

Yemisi spent the rest of the week battling a fever and an unbearable headache, forgetting all about the dog. A week before she returned to school, she heard from her mum that the dog had died a few days back. He has suffered a laryngeal paralysis which stopped him from barking and eventually led to a breathing obstruction.

These two isolated events started planting a crazy idea in Yemisi mind.

‘Maybe I’m the one doing this.’ She thought.

***

When she returned to school, she began to try to use ‘it’ and she slowly started to learn how to control it. At first, she suffered headaches and fevers for a few days but as time went on the side effects began to reduce.

She learnt three major things about this new ability. The first was that it was directly linked to her emotions and she needed to get her emotions under control. Whether it was anger, love, lust, greed, envy, joy, pain or compassion; positive and negative emotions could trigger it.

The second thing she learnt was that it only worked when she made definite statements or commands. Even if the statements simply suggested a particular course of action, as long as it is not phrased as a question, the listener will heed to the suggestion and carry out the action. The third thing she learnt was that the effects of one command could not be reversed by another command.  

Her time in university went by like a breeze and she used this new gift to her advantage at every opportunity. She did not need to use it a lot because her natural charisma did the work for her eighty per cent of the time. However, that extra twenty per cent was also vital.

After graduation, she got a job at an art gallery as the assistant curator and she was doing pretty well for herself. She rarely needed to use her ability here since she had no annoying lecturers, shady friends, nosy neighbours or loud pets to worry about.

Yemisi quickly fell into a routine that had her spending a bulk of her time at the gallery and little time at home. She didn’t mind though as she loved her job. For a few months, there was nothing remarkable happening in her life, however, all of this changed on the night of the annual exhibition.

For the occasion, she wore a black knee-length bodycon dress which accentuated her curves perfectly. She also carried a matching black satchel and her long dreadlocks were packed neatly and accessorised with silver jewellery that matched her ears.

“You caused quite a few heads to turn today.” Her boss said to her halfway through the exhibition.

Three men walked past them and one of them tripped on a tripod while staring at her.

“I take that back. You’re still causing head turns apparently.” She said.

“Let’s just be grateful that he did not damage the camera.” Yemisi replied.

They both giggled.

Yemisi loved her boss, who also happened to be the owner of the gallery and head curator. She was a woman in her mid-forties who still radiated with the passion of a twenty-year-old. She was so trendy and fun that Yemisi often had to remind herself that she was speaking to a woman twice her age.

“How are the guests responding to the art?” She asked.

“The ones I’ve spoken to have been mostly positive. The artists are also quite engaging, so it helps.” Yemisi replied.

“What about that guy?” Her boss asked, pointing at a man in a deep blue bumper jacket with their backs to them, facing a painting.

“He’s been standing there for a while. I don’t think he has interacted with any of the artists either.” Yemisi responded, a little surprised at herself for knowing that much about his presence at the event.

“Go talk to him, let’s know what he thinks.” She said.

Yemisi walked towards him and stood with him in silence staring at the painting he seemed so enthralled by. The painting showed the black silhouette of a man on a white background. The man was hung upside down and was bleeding into the open beak of a blue pigeon. It was one of Yemisi’ favourite pieces at the exhibition.

“You know why I hate exhibitions?” He asked.

Yemisi flinched as she did not expect him to speak to her.

“Why do you hate exhibitions?” She replied

“I can’t stand all the exposition. People should be allowed to interpret art however they deem fit.” He said.

 “Well, you have a point. One of my favourite art quotes is by Bob Ross. He said…”

“If I paint something, I don’t want to have to explain what it is.” They both said together.

He chuckled and looked at her for the first time.

“My name is Brian.” He said, stretching his hand.

He had a raspy edge to his voice that made every word he said sound minty sweet. They stood at about the same height but she was obviously a bit taller because she had her heels on. He had an intensity in his eyes and an odd goatee that made him look like a much older man.

“Yemisi.” She replied, shaking his hand.

“So if you hate exhibitions so much, why are you here?” She asked.

He smiled at her.

“It’s simple really. I love art a whole lot more.” He replied with a smile.

Yemisi flushed and swiftly turned her attention back to the painting.

She spent the rest of the evening working and doing her best to take her eyes off Brian. He waited for her till the exhibition was over and asked her out to dinner.

They spent the night at a nearby restaurant eating pizza and getting to know each other better. Yemisi had never felt this type of connection to another human being before and for the first time in her life, she felt like someone understood her.

After the night of the exhibition, they hung out a couple of more times and in a month, they started dating.

***

Six months into the relationship and Yemisi still couldn’t believe how much she had lucked out by finding Brian. This did not mean that they didn’t have their own fair share of disagreements but they always managed to pull through.

For Yemisi, the real challenge was stopping herself from using her ability on him. In the first month of the relationship, she used it on him a couple of times because she didn’t trust him enough yet and was too used to getting her way. However, she was slowly beginning to learn that relationships were about compromise and she was learning to trust that he cared about her.

Her current predicament was that she didn’t know how he really felt about her. She knew he cared about her and she had no complaints about the relationship so far, but wanted to know where his head was at.

These thoughts started forming in her head three months into the relationship and she had managed to keep them under wraps for another three months. At this point, she felt like she was about to burst and she needed to do something about it.

Thankfully, her birthday was in a few days and she had planned the perfect evening for them. The gallery had an open garden behind it, where her boss occasionally hosted parties for her exclusive guests. Yemisi explained the situation to her boss and she gave her the space to use freely.

It was a Saturday evening and she spent most of the day cooking, buying drinks and decorating the space with beautiful string lights and mats. She also got a projector and a whiteboard where she planned to show his favourite movie, The Breakfast Club.

Brian arrived a little late because he had to work but that didn’t stop them from having a perfect evening. He insisted that he wanted to watch the movie first and Yemisi was happy to oblige.

“Thank you so much for this.” He said, planting a kiss on her cheeks.

She served food and wine for both of them and swallowed nervously.

‘You can do this Yemisi’ She thought to herself.

She watched him for a bit while trying to figure out how to ask what was on her mind.

“Baby? Are you okay?” Brian asked, staring intently at her.

“It’s just…” She began.

He stopped eating and stretched his hands to hold hers.

“What’s wrong? Did I do something?”

“No, you didn’t. It’s just that, we’ve been together for six months now and I don’t know how you feel about me.” She said letting out a long breath when she was done.

Brian was frozen on a spot and opened his mouth to speak twice but the words failed him. Yemisi removed her hands from his.

“You’re never speechless, Brian. What are you not telling me?” Her eyes were wet already.

Brian sighed.

“Yemisi. I was just taken aback by your question because I never would have thought you would ask that.”

“Okay. I understand. But I’m asking now.”

“Baby. I like you and care about you very much. More than I’ve ever cared about anyone in a long time. If I didn’t, we won’t be sitting here right now.”

Yemisi wiped her eyes and hugged him.

“Thank you for saying that, I needed to hear it.” She said and took a sip from her cup of wine.

They ate in silence for a bit. It wasn’t the uncomfortable kind, this one was soothing and reassuring.

“I have one more question.” She said.

“Shoot.” Brian mumbled in between chewing off flesh from a chicken wing.

“Do you love me?” Yemisi asked.

Brian chewed extra slowly staring at the ground the whole time.

“Yemisi, love is complicated for me. I know that I like you enough to be with you but, I…”

“But I love you!” She blurted out cutting him off.

Brian paused.

“Those words carry a lot of weight for me, Yemisi. I have some bad experiences that have made it very difficult for me to just say them. Still, I can promise you that I am not wasting your time and that what we have is very real to me.” He finished.

Her eyes were darting around frantically and her breathing became heavy and uneven.

“Are you saying they don’t carry any weight for me?”

“Yemisi, calm down. You know that’s not wh…”

“NO BRIAN! SO WHAT HAVE WE BEEN DOING THESE PAST FEW MONTHS? YOU HAVE TO LOVE ME!” She yelled with red wet eyes.

“Yemisi, please calm ldo…” Brian began.

“YOU MUST LOVE ME! YOU MUST!” She said sobbing with her palms in her hands.

“…wn.”

Brian’s pupils dilated and his eyes open wide.

“…I must…I must love you. I love you, Yemisi. I do!” Brian said.

She immediately realised what had happened.

“No…no….no…. no.” She mumbled as her tears turned into wails.

Brian’s face sunk like he was in an eerie dreamy state.

“Why are you crying baby? I just told you that I love you. Let’s finish this dinner and head out.” He said pulling her in for a hug and wiping her tears.

Yemisi pushed him away.

“No! Not like this…I didn’t want it like this…I want to take it back.”

She fell to her face with her clothes soaked in tears.