ABOUT THE BOOK
The loss of Victoria Brown’s father places
her at the mercy of her stepfamily who
are bent on making her life miserable.
Turning her into a pitiful maid, they force
her to live a modern day reenactment of
Cinderella. But they don’t know that
where there’s a Cinderella, there’s a Fairy
Godmother and a Prince Charming who
would do anything to bandage the
damage in her life.
When an arrogant new student shows up
in class, Victoria hates him at first sight.
She seeks to avoid him, but finds herself
partnering with him in solving a mystery
revolving around a ghost. And against her
will, sparks fly.
Life takes a turn that rips her off her
innocence and places her stepmother as
her footstool. Once, she’d wanted a
chance for love, but all she wants now is
revenge. And not even her Prince
Charming can stand in her way.
Will she follow her heart and let love win,
or will she follow her head and be a slave
“Do you not care at all about your life,
Somewhere close, a bell jingled. The
richness of this sound filled my ears and
wrapped me in a tingling cloak. To
everyone else, the bell only served to
usher in eight hours of sitting down,
watching men and woman flaunt their
expertise. But to me, the ringing bell
meant much more. It officially announced
eight hours of undisturbed freedom.
For the next few hours, I would enjoy
relative bliss, breathing in unadulterated
air. But, in a while, my time would be up.
I would hear the closing bell. The same
sound that brought me comfort would
snatch it from my grasp without any
qualms, and against my will I would stuff
my books into my backpack and drag
myself back home, into the rusty old
arms of slavery.
Slipping through the school gate, I started
toward the two-story building standing
tall and prestigious in my line of sight.
The building’s red bricks gave off a
western setting I admired. Since its
founding, Western High had won several
awards for its unique ambience and
physical environment, organization, staff
quality, and exceptional student
performance. To top it all, they delivered
this package at a price affordable for the
exclusively rich who could spend millions
on one child’s educational concern and
yet, their pockets would not groan.
A disquieting silence embraced me as I
made for the stairs. I squinted at the
pitch-black leather wristwatch Amarachi
had bought me last session. 9:37am and
ticking without mercy. I shook my head at
the person I’d been forced to become.
Who would believe I woke up by 4:30am
I would do anything to stop being late for
school. But each day, I ran in long after
the corridors had emptied its occupants
into classes. Victoria Brown, the award
winning latecomer in all of Western High.
People would always talk. The facts
never mattered to anyone. They only
wanted someone to be the object of their
derision. And at Western High, I fit the
bill in ways more than one.
Gripping the ornate wrought iron handrail,
I mounted the stairs leading to my class.
My lower back felt like a rock had been
placed on it. After the arduous chores I
had been forced to battle with for four
hours, and the glaring distance I walked
to school, maintaining a proper posture
posed a challenge I didn’t know how to
The damp fabric of my white long-sleeve
clung to my torso. I couldn’t be happier
our uniform had a navy blue waist coat to
hide my hopeless perspiration. How would
I survive the day when I had already died
from the start?
A throbbing pain in my head caused me
to halt. My headache had awakened. For
the past few days it had become an
unwanted best friend, coming and going
as it saw fit. It would persist, hammering
as hard as it dared. Sometimes, I feared I
would never escape its clutches.
“Heeey, easy!” a deep and unfamiliar
voice said from behind me.
I didn’t need to turn to know my abrupt
halt had almost caused ‘him’ to crash
into me. Apologizing for the
inconvenience would be in order, but his
next words stopped me cold.
“What are you? Sleepwalker or zombie?”
Anger welled through me, swelled like a
bubble and threatened to burst. Everyone
knew me as the greatest latecomer ever,
but the terms ‘sleepwalker’ and ‘zombie’
had never been heard. Had those become
my new tags?
Amidst my wounded pride, his voice
swirled around in my head. From his
accent, I could tell he was no Nigerian.
With its syrupy r’s and e’s, it was
A familiar throbbing in my head jolted me
out of my thoughts. Gripping the straps
of my backpack, I whirled around to
descend the stairs, but found myself
staring at an emerald-eyed boy I had
never seen before. His skin, a flawless
olive shade, held a glow to die for. Silky,
raven hair, styled in a spiked faux hawk
pulled me in, bringing to mind those
celebrities on TV. For a moment, I gaped.
He probably believed I gawked at him
because I’d never come face-to-face with
a foreigner, but then he would be a fool
to think that, because we had over a
dozen of them in our school.
A sudden wave of self-consciousness
swept me over as my gaze fell on his
finely sculpted nose as opposed to my
average Nigerian nose. How did he
breathe with nostrils barely as wide as
My gaze traveled along the length of his
slender build. Although he stood one step
below, I noted he lingered on the tall side,
probably three inches taller than my
hopeless 5’4. My gaze lingering on his
face, I mentally shook my head at the
generous spray of stubbles framing his
high cheek bones. I looked forward to the
look on his face when our principal asked
him to get rid of his facial hair.
A familiar pinching sensation in my nose
overwhelmed me, severing my thoughts.
A sneeze forced its way out, jerking my
head forward and almost knocking it into
‘Mr. White’. I hadn’t seen that coming, at
least not until the final moment. Gross.
If I hadn’t been fast enough to pinch my
nose while I sneezed, all hell would have
broken loose. And in his face. It would
have been a really snotty moment. Double
An apology would be in order, but I didn’t
give myself a chance. Tugging at my
collar, I descended the stairs, taking two
at a time. I could feel Mr. White’s gaze
bore a hole through me. Other than being
a zombie and a sleepwalker, I had also
ended up becoming a clown for his
entertainment. How awkward could our
encounter get? Sneezing didn’t make a
crime, but doing it in someone’s face did.
Musing over the mess I had just made of
myself caused me to fall sick all over
again. I needed the sickbay. Class could
wait. I needed something to quell the
throbbing pain inside my head. And apart
from that, I needed to stay away from
Mr. White. Amarachi would laugh so hard
when she heard of my recent blunders.
Two in a row. Just perfect.
I walked as fast as my back ache
permitted. As luck had it, no teachers
were in sight so I didn’t have to answer
to anyone for loitering during school
hours. We had Literature—a subject I
could easily understand—for first period,
so missing this class would not affect my
performance. Or so I hoped.
A wave of calmness stole me over as the
sickbay hit my line of sight. I traipsed
into the room, an uncertain smile flitting
across my face to match the nurse’s
welcoming smile. Clad in a smart white
gown, she sat behind the counter, reading
an Awake! magazine.
“Good morning,” I said.
Advancing toward the counter compared
to walking down an aisle. A pathway
stretched between the counter and the
door. On each side of the room stood
three petite beds, dressed with blue
covers and matching pillows.
“Good morning,” the nurse said, her smile
accentuated by dimpled cheeks. “You
really don’t look well. What’s wrong?”
I resisted an urge to roll my eyes. Of
course I didn’t look well, else I wouldn’t
even be here. Something on my face
must have alerted her. She dropped the
magazine on the counter and walked
around it to meet me.
“It’s nothing much,” I said. Before I could
utter another word, the back of her palm
greeted my forehead.
“There’s no fever.” Heaving a sigh of
relief, she touched my neck to double-
“It’s just a headache,” I said, sneezing
into a checkered handkerchief I had just
pulled out of my backpack. “And catarrh.”
“Aww. Poor thing. You’ll be fine in no
time. Paracetamol should do the trick.”
It amazed me how she never failed to
obey the laws of phonetics. She would
definitely fit as an English teacher. Had it
never occurred to her?
“You speak just like an English teacher,” I
“What?” she asked. “Nurses don’t get to
speak good English?”
Definitely not the response I expected.
What did I expect? Thank you? Mentally, I
kicked myself. I definitely should have
stayed silent. Sue me.
“No, sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. I
was just saying you, uhm…” I trailed off,
gesticulating frantically as though it
would help complete my statement and
save the awkward moment.
She waved off my incoherent comment
with a strained laugh. “Don’t kill yourself
there. Yeah, I get that a lot.”
Easing myself onto a bed, I watched her
return to the counter. She plucked a card
of Paracetamol out of its carton and cut
out two tablets with a pair of scissors
lying idly on the counter.
“And then you’ll need this for that catarrh
of yours.” She placed another drug beside
the Paracetamol. Turning to the C-Way
dispenser behind her, she grabbed a
disposable cup. But then she turned to
face me, a quizzical look on her face. “I
take it you had breakfast, yes?”
My stomach rumbled in response to her
question. I had nothing for breakfast.
Breakfast only came after chores. And
today, like every other day, chores took
up all my time, making breakfast a no-no.
With a subtle shake of my head, I
supplied the answer to her question and
waited for an outburst.
“What?” Her voice rang out. Although I’d
seen that coming, my headache flared in
response. I slammed my eyes shut,
allowing the throbbing in my head slide
back into my zone of tolerance.
“You want to take drugs on an empty
stomach?” she asked. “Do you know how
harmful this practice is? Do you know it’s
just as harmful as this headache, and
other sicknesses we run from?”
With half-closed eyes, I watched her go
on and on. It couldn’t be that bad. Why
did she react like I’d tried to commit
“Don’t just sit there gawking at me. I
don’t administer drugs to people who
haven’t eaten. Go find something to eat
first, and then come take your medicine.
They will be on this counter waiting for
you.” Her voice had a tone of finality. She
obviously thought this to be for my good.
What then did she think of the raging war,
a Clash of the Titans reenactment inside
She sank back into her chair and picked
up the seemingly fascinating magazine.
Seconds stretched into minutes and she
seemed oblivious of my presence. My
stomach rumbled again, reminding me of
my task to fill it.
“Can I just use the bed?” I asked, hating
the sudden dryness of my mouth. The
nurse raised her eyes to look at me. She
cocked her head, a wordless statement
that she hadn’t quite heard me.
“I mean, the cafeteria won’t attend to
students until recess,” I said. “And I really
can’t go to class in this state. My head is
pounding so hard I won’t grab anything
they’re teaching. Please, I’d just like to
use the bed for a while. Surely the
headache will subside. It comes and goes
everyday anyway.” I snuffled, gluing my
handkerchief to my nose. Curse my runny
The nurse raised her neatly trimmed
eyebrows at me. “It comes and goes
“Yes?” I said. Why did she seem
“Two weeks,” I roughly estimated. I
wanted out of this question and answer
session. I needed a pill to quell this
headache. And since I couldn’t have that,
I could use a moment of undisturbed rest.
Settling for less had become my thing
The nurse seemed genuinely scared.
“And you don’t attend to it? Do you not
care at all about your life, Victoria?”
My lips parted to let out an answer, but I
sealed them shut. I would not tell my life
story to a stranger. I’d visited the sickbay
a number of times, and the nurse had
been a staff for as long as I could
remember, but I still considered her a
stranger. And even if I managed to tell
her my story, she would probably doubt
its genuineness. And if she did believe
every word, it wouldn’t change anything
because she had no power to do
anything. She could only sympathize with
me. And I didn’t want that.
I pushed aside her inadvertently hurtful
question and lay prone in bed. Sleep
would find me and steal me away from
the unbearable headache. Even though it
would only last a moment, it would
definitely be worth it.
Heavy eyelids glided over my eyes. The
room and everything it held disappeared
around me as I slipped out of
“Victoria!” an indistinct voice called. A
gentle tap on my shoulder followed
The unrelenting pounding in my head and
an emptiness in my stomach greeted me
as I slid halfway into consciousness. My
eyes lazied open and I saw the nurse
standing beside me, an A4 sheet in her
hand. How long had I been asleep? An
Handing the paper to me, she said, “The
cafeteria will let you eat once you show
them this permit.”
I bolted upright in bed and grabbed the
paper, too eager to read its content.
To the cafeteria:
I know it is against the school rules to
attend to students during this hour. But
our students’ health is our priority.
Please, kindly attend to Victoria Brown so
she takes the drugs I have administered.
Decorated with white and navy-blue
stripes, just like my four in hand necktie
and flare skirt, our school logo stood
proud beneath the complementary close.
“Earth to Victoria?” Fingers snapped
between my eyes, flaunting purple polish
on artificial nails.
“Thank you,” I said, grinning.
My walk to the cafeteria went
undisturbed, save for the sun’s ruthless
intensity and my sneezing and snuffling. I
felt like a walking tank of boiling water.
Actually, saying I walked would paint a
wrong picture of the situation. I didn’t
walk. I tottered.
It stunned me how my health had
deteriorated in the blink of an eye. Hadn’t
I walked to school this morning in near-
perfect health, with fatigue and headache
being the only exception? Why then did I
feel so sick all of a sudden, unable to
take one step without faltering?
As though my sudden sickness couldn’t
ruin my day on its own, Sir Aaron’s voice
pierced my eardrums, bringing my
struggle of a walk to an abrupt
intermission. “Hey, you!”
My insides churned at the menace in his
high-pitched voice. The very same voice
policemen reserved for catching thieves
red-handed. Why did it have to be Sir
Aaron of all people? This man had a face
of stone and a heart of rock. To top it all,
he had a voice that could melt iron.
Holding my hands behind my back, I
turned to face my least favorite teacher.
“Good morning, Sir.”
“It’s barely even eleven and you’re
already loitering,” he said. “Is this the
example you’re setting for your juniors?”
With every word he spat out, my stomach
tightened. I craved to be away from him
so I could finally breathe fresh air. I could
feel my blood getting hotter by the
second. No, I don’t mean it as an
idiomatic expression. Literally, I could feel
the hotness of my blood, a sickening
feeling that had only arrived a moment or
two ago. I blamed the orb of fury burning
intensely above me.
Too sick to speak to the man before me,
I presented the nurse’s permit in his face,
silencing him. Hopefully, for good. His
quietude stretched over a few moments.
And in this little time, my headache
seemed to aggravate.
Plucking the note out of my grasp, Sir
Aaron drew it close to his rather wrinkled
eyes. After a moment too long, he said,
“Hmm. Sorry about your ill health.”
Learning is an everyday process. And in
my final year in Western High, I
discovered Sir Aaron, the most feared
teacher, had a fraction of a heart. Wide
eyed, I stared at him, noting how the look
on his face transformed from irritation to
sympathy. And for the most part, he
wasn’t faking it.
I let out a mental sigh. I should be in the
cafeteria already. But here I stood, stuck
with my least favorite teacher, and at the
mercy of the ferocious sun.
“What’s wrong with you?” he asked. “How
bad is it?” Had his voice softened in
reality, or had it only softened in my
I opened my mouth to tell him about my
headache, but then I reconsidered. The
man standing before me had a heart of
stone. He could consider headache and
catarrh too trivial for a nurse’s permit,
and that would implicate the kind nurse.
While I still conflicted about how to
answer him, the back of his palm rested
on my sweaty forehead. Genuine fear
washed him over. “You’re burning. You’ve
got a fever.”
“Whatfever?” The words flew out of my
mouth without warning. I had a fever?
The nurse had checked my temperature
an hour or two ago and found nothing. So
where did it come from?
“Quick, go attend to your illness.” He
returned the note like he would burning
coal. I turned to leave when he spoke
again. “And Victoria—”
What? He knew my name? Impossible. He
had never called me by name, but always
barked out a ‘you there!’ or a ‘yes?’
“Be sure to get well soon,” he said.
He walked away, leaving me to continue
my floundering walk. I had a fever. I
touched my neck to be certain.
Underneath the back of my palm, my skin
burned with the power of a thousand
suns. That explained why I felt like a tank
of boiling water. How wrong I had been to
blame it on the sun. Poor sun.
Two realizations dawned on me. Number
one, I had malaria. I didn’t need a test to
know it. The symptoms were all there.
First, the persistent headache. Then a
runny nose. And now fever, accompanied
with a cold I’d never paid attention to
until now. These symptoms had become
a part of me. For the past four years,
they would come up every now and then,
but I’d never had a chance to treat them.
My stepmother never saw me as worthy
of medical care.
After persisting for a week or two, the
symptoms would walk out of my life, and
I would be good as new. I hoped this
time would be no different. But for how
long would this go on? This sickness had
been gnawing at me for far too long,
accumulating day after day. It likened to
a pile of books being topped with more
books with each passing day. One day,
that pile would not be able to take in any
more books, and it would collapse. If I
didn’t get treatment sometime soon, I
would break down just like that pile of
books. Each time my good health slid
from my grasp, I always looked forward
to the inescapable breakdown, but it
hadn’t struck yet. It stood around the
corner, calculating, waiting for the right
time to knock me off my feet.
My second realization concerned Sir
Aaron. We had all been wrong to paint
him as a monster. A fraction of him knew