“She’s been going all around Facebook,
speaking of her huge crush on that new
Iraqi guy who thinks he’s Sherlock Holmes.”
“Now I’m hollow. Ho-ho-ho-ho-hollow.”
I probably made one or two mistakes with
the tune, but that didn’t stop me from
singing the song that had overwhelmed me
ever since the show.
Standing behind the parapet had become my
weekday ritual. It thrilled me to watch the
sun peek through the clouds; to see a new
day unfold. In a few minutes, the now
graveyard-quiet building would be filled with
life and hyperactivity, bringing an end to my
quality time with nature.
Raheem’s song played on in my head:
Burn. Burn. Burn out
On a highway to yesterday
In the absence of words, I hummed the rest
of the song till the chorus came up again.
“Now I’m hollow. Ho-ho-ho-ho …”
A pair of palms clamped down on my eyes,
forcing a gasp out of my mouth. Even
without turning around, I could tell who it
“And I thought Farah was the only one who
murdered my song,” he teased. Peeling his
palms away from my eyes, he leaned
against the parapet.
“Hello yourself,” I said. “It seems you
survived your fanbase attack.”
“Aye,” he said. “You left me there to die,
“My bad,” I said.
“Did you like my performance?” he asked.
“Yes? No? Maybe?”
“I didn’t like it,” I said. “I loved it.”
“That’s a blessing. I shouldn’t have sang the
first song, though. In the middle of it, I
realized that by performing that song, I’d
given Farah a story to tell.” He seemed
depressed, although he tried hard to hide it.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
His brows knitted. “Sorry?”
“Oh.” He looked away.
Feeling a presence behind us, we turned
around to see Cynthia scowling at us. She
looked like she could fight a bull. And win.
Without a word, she stormed off into class.
“What’s up with her?” Raheem asked.
I wish I knew. “Don’t try to understand her.
I’ve failed at it for years.”
“Wow,” he said. “Okay. Warning heeded. And
about Jameela, you don’t have to be sorry
now, do you?”
“I’m just sorry she hurt you,” I said. “You’ll
move on with someone new though.”
“About moving on, yeah, I already have. And
about moving on with someone new, I doubt
that. They’re all the same.”
“You shouldn’t think like that,” I said.
“How then should I think?” he asked, running
his fingers through his hair in a frustration
that melted my heart. “I said it once and I’m
saying it again. They are all the same. If
you disagree, what can I say? I don’t
possibly expect you to be on my side
anyway. You’re one of them.”
“Not all girls are like that,” I defended. “If
one person hurt you, that doesn’t mean
every other girl would. As our faces differ,
so our personalities differ. We all are
different individuals. Do not generalize or
you’d be making a fatal mistake.”
“So, not every girl is like that?” he asked.
“I want you to prove to me that not every
girl is like that,” he said, his voice decidedly
slow, making every word sink.
“What?” I scoffed. “How? How can I possibly
prove a thing like this?”
A look of disappointment spread across his
face “If you don’t want to, it’s fine. But then
I’d be having a wrong perception of your
kind, and it would be all your fault because
you didn’t even try to alter this perception.”
“I already told you we are different
individuals,” I said.
“And I already told you I want proof,” he
“How on earth …” I paused midsentence as
realization sank in. “Wait, there’s only one
way to prove this. Am I wrong in thinking
that this is your way of asking me on a date,
“What?” Raheem exclaimed.
“You are trying to get me to date you, aren’t
you?” I asked.
Raheem rubbed his chin in a way that could
make any girl’s heart dance flip-flops.
Problem is, I wasn’t just any girl.
“Am I?” he asked, winking at me.
“Pretty much looks like it.” I feigned oblivion
to the flutter of butterflies in my stomach.
“Don’t get any ideas,” Raheem said. “If I
wanted to date you, I would come out open.
This is me wanting you to prove something.
And what if I was actually asking you on a
date? What if I was asking you to help undo
the emotional wreckage Meela caused?”
“You wouldn’t,” I said. “Did Farah come?”
“Yes,” Raheem said. “Hmm. Nice try,
though. But I must tell you, it isn’t so easy
trying to change topics when you’re with
me. Alas! It’s impossible. Unless, of course,
I’m in support of you changing the topic.
And in this case, I obviously haven’t even
thought of that.”
“First period will begin in a few moments,” I
said. “Let me go say hi to her. Sophomore,
Heaving a sigh, he gave in. “Yes. Science
An indistinct conversation drifted to my
hearing as I approached Farah’s class.
Filtering the voices, my ears picked up
Farah’s. “Really, you guys should go see the
movie sometime. My brother acts like he’s
made of stone, but he totally loved the
movie. And that says a lot!”
Standing in the doorway, I watched her
gesture away with her heart as she
conversed with two of her peers. The girls
waved me hello. Farah turned around to see
the object of her friends’ attention. A grin
broke out on her face and she jogged
toward me. Once within range, she wrapped
her arms around me as though we were
bestfriends separated by the Iraqi war.
She pulled away from the embrace, but
didn’t let go of my hands. “This school isn’t
the boring hellhole I thought it was! Raheem
really does paint horrible pictures of
everyone and everything. Well, except you.”
I led her away from the door, giving room to
those streaking into the classroom. “Except
Farah clicked her tongue and waved off my
question. “Never mind that. Seriously,
though, school’s so cool. I mean, I met this
girl called Harmony, and then there’s Mandy,
another girl who left Iraq. She wasn’t in my
former school though. Guess what? I think I
have found my new bffs. They’re so cool.
They love the same stuff I love.”
I smiled at her excitement. “I’m happy you
love the school.”
“Alright, I just came to say hi. We’ll see
“During recess?” she suggested.
“Yeah,” I said. “Have a nice day.”
Waving her goodbye, I advanced toward my
classroom. Thoughts of Raheem’s proposal
overwhelmed me. Raheem Kadir had asked
me on a date. He wanted me to help undo
the emotional wreckage Jameela had
When he’d told me about his dad’s stay in
Iraq, an almost irresistible urge to comfort
him with more than words had tugged at
me. And now, the same emotion
overwhelmed me when I thought of what
Jameela had done to him.
I could understand his devastation. He saw
every girl as the same. Manipulators. Liars.
Cheats. And I couldn’t blame him. Most girls
were that way. But I wasn’t. I could never
hurt one’s feelings on purpose. And he
probably knew that already.
He’d asked me out under the pretense of
needing proof. I could say yes under the
pretense of wanting to prove this to him. I
liked him after all, and he seemed to like me
too, at least to an extent.
A distance away, Cynthia approached Alex
with open arms. “Alex dear.”
“Don’t touch me,” Alex warned. Putting out
a hand to stop her, he stepped away as
though she had a transmissible disease.
Cynthia’s shock mirrored mine, and that of
all other students hanging around the
“What?” she said, her voice barely a squeak.
“I mean, are you alright?”
“It’s over,” Alex said, his voice cold as ice,
his face hard as stone.
“What?” Cynthia asked. “You’re kidding
Alex laughed mockingly. “I’m certainly sure I
want nothing to do with you.”
“What has come over you?” Cynthia asked.
“Figure it out.” He turned to leave, but
Cynthia gripped his arm.
“Are you sure about this?” she asked.
“I’ve never been surer of anything in my
life,” Alex said.
Cynthia’s features hardened, matching
Alex’s. “Okay. So, you’ve made your choice.
Well, okay. You should have told me sooner,
though, instead of ignoring my calls,
snubbing me and all. You’re tired and want
to walk away, I will not hold you back. If you
think I am going to cry and beg, you’re
mistaken. At the snap of my fingers, I will
replace you. Just watch.”
“I’m actually expecting that. Being the s–t
you are.” Once the words left his lips,
Cynthia’s palm flew to his cheek, slamming
“You’ve disrespected me enough by doing
this in public,” she said. “Don’t disgrace me
further by calling me names. I don’t even
know why I agreed to date you in the first
place. You’re a worthless piece of poo I had
to tolerate every single day—”
Cynthia stopped mid-sentence, gasping with
surprise as Alex’s palm flew towards her
face. She slammed her eyes shut and s—-d
in a breath, waiting for it to land. But when
moments passed, and it didn’t, she yanked
open her eyes to find Alex’s hand
suspended in midair with my hand gripping
“Don’t you dare hit my sister,” I said to Alex.
Dragging her gaze to meet mine, Cynthia
shook her head and walked away, shoving
off one or two students. Amidst many eyes
staring at me, I could see Raheem’s. He
stood a few feet away, his poise as though
ready to spring to my aid if Alex raised his
hand at me. I prayed it didn’t come to the
point where Raheem would fight over me. I
Alex detached his hand from mine. “I can’t
believe you’re defending her.”
“I can’t believe you tried to hit a girl,” I shot
back. “What’s up with you? I’ve never seen
you this way.”
“That sister of yours deserves that and
more,” he said. Although his voice had
softened, it still burned with suppressed
fury. “But then, I’m glad you stepped in just
in time. I wouldn’t want to be the one to do
that. But one of these days, trust me,
someone will, and you won’t be there to
“What happened?” I asked.
“What happened?” he mock-echoed. “She’s
been going all around Facebook, speaking of
her huge crush on that new Iraqi guy who
thinks he’s Sherlock Holmes. That guy
doesn’t even seem the least interested, but
Cynthia won’t stop dreaming. Her posts on
Facebook make me want to puke. She’s so
shameless, it breaks my heart. It’s a pity
you’re related to someone like that. I don’t
want anything to do with her anymore.
She’s a pathetic spoilt brat who has neither
manners nor decency. She doesn’t even
know how to cook. Instead of going around
repainting the slutty image she’s made for
herself, she should find ways to make
herself useful. I’m done.”
His fury raged on as he stormed off, leaving
the witnesses of his outburst to stare at
me. One by one, they withdrew from the
scene. But Raheem remained.
Sighing, I glanced at my wristwatch. I’d
been standing outside the staff room for no
less than fifteen minutes. Sir Aaron had
asked me to meet him after school. If he
didn’t show up within the next five minutes,
I would be gone.
My mind drifted to Raheem. All day, I’d
managed to stay away from him. I didn’t
want him continuing our discussion about
proving something. If he did, and got to ask
me again, I didn’t trust myself enough. For
this reason, I had to stay away from him,
lest his sinfully pleasant green eyes pull me
into something I wasn’t even prepared for.
“I almost forgot I asked you to wait,” Sir
I turned around to face him. “Good
“How are you?” he asked.
“I’ve kept you waiting for so long, so I don’t
want to take much of your time. Wait here.”
He disappeared into the staff room and
returned almost immediately with a
“Stella wants you to have this,” he said.
“Okay.” I received the package with a smile.
“Please tell her I said thanks.”
Sir Aaron smiled back. “I think in a few
moments, you’ll be able to do it yourself.”
“What do you mean, Sir?” I asked.
“Never mind me,” he said. “And Victoria?”
“If ever you need someone to talk to, you
have me. Stella told me to take over from
where she stopped. I know your stepmother
and her daughter are bent on making your
life miserable, and you’re uncertain about
what direction your life will take now that
Stella’s gone. But not to worry. I am here. I
will keep you safe as long as you keep me
updated. It will be alright, my dear.”
I looked away hiding my unease. I’d never
thought I’d have this conversation with Sir
Aaron. I could speak to Stella and Amarachi
about the dramas in my life. But not Sir
“Okay,” I managed to say.
He placed a firm hand on my shoulder. “Be
He laughed. “Oh now, that’s not an order.
You totally sounded like a military man. Or
Sir Aaron had a sense of humor? Amarachi
would be shocked to hear this.
“See you tomorrow,” he said.
I watched him head for the staff room. He
had barely walked out of sight when I felt a
pair of eyes burning into me. I raised my
head and found someone staring intently
from the upper floor. Precious. She smiled
at me and walked away.
I knew from experience that an enemy’s
smile means evil. It only means they have
something hurtful on their mind. Foes have
an inverse relationship. When one rejoices,
the other grieves.
Shoving Precious out of my mind, I stuffed
the package in my backpack and turned
towards the stairs. Raheem stood a few feet
away. Something about his posture and the
look on his face told me he had not moved
for at least five minutes, and that was just
enough time to overhear my discussion with
Sir Aaron. From where he stood, he couldn’t
have been able to see us. But I had no
doubt he had heard every word.
He confirmed my fears. “I. heard.
My temper flared at his confession, but
somehow, my voice didn’t get past a
whisper, “How could you listen in on our
conversation? You know it isn’t right to
eavesdrop, and yet you do this, knowing
more than you should. Didn’t you think about
how I’d feel about you breaching through my
“I was looking for you is all,” he said. “And
besides, you know just as much about my
family. You know about my father’s
situation. My story with Jameela. My uncle.
Farah’s loss of hearing. My very useless
cousin. These are things I don’t want people
knowing of. At least, not all at once. But
somehow, you know all of that and more.
Besides, friends don’t hide things from each
“You’re right,” I said. “Friends don’t hide
things from each other. I guess I
“Are you ready to leave?” he asked.
“You don’t have to give me a ride.”
“I don’t have to. But I want to. Come on
now, Farah is waiting in the car.”
“You really shouldn’t worry about me,” I
insisted. “I’ll walk home. I want to stretch
“Then that exercise is going to have to wait.
Do you not see the weather? It’s going to
rain anytime soon.” He tilted his head back
to view the gloomy sky.
“Rain is my best friend,” I said.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said.
“Hey, if you think I’m going to ask why
you’ve been avoiding me all day, then stop
worrying. I cross my heart, I won’t ask. Just
let me drop you home, and then tomorrow
when you see me, you can continue from
where you left off avoiding me.”
“I’m not avoiding you,” I said. “I just… Okay,
fine. Let’s go.”
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I really didn’t mean to
listen in on your conversation. Considering
that you were meeting with Sir Aaron, I
knew you’d leave for home late. And I didn’t
expect Cynthia to wait for you, because she
left without you on Friday and—”
I cut him off. “It’s okay.”
“Are you sure?” he asked, his eyes never
leaving mine. “Sure it’s all good?”
We dismounted the stairs and made for his
car. I walked past him and hopped in before
he could offer me his help. Not exactly
pleased, he shook his head and settled in
the driver’s seat. Beside him, Farah buried
her attention in her tablet.
“So, I’ve created your Facebook fan page,”
Farah announced once Raheem started the
engine. “Soon, your fans will come flocking
at your page, demonstrating their support by
smashing the like button!”
“You think I give a hoot about a dumb fan
page right now?” Raheem asked.
“Hey, it’s not dumb. And yeah, I figured out
you’d react this way, so don’t worry. Leave
it all for your proactive little sister. We are
both admins. Don’t worry, I’ll do all the
“Whatever,” Raheem said.
Farah smacked his arm. “Hey? What’s
wrong? You just seem so off today. Both of
you. A bush pig hit you on your way here?
Vicky, did you two have a fight?”
“Farah, when will you learn to mind your
own business?” Raheem asked.
“Eat the silence,” Farah said. She turned to
look out the window. Almost immediately,
she returned her attention to him. “Hey,
guess what? That little show you did in that
cafeteria, the whole world loves it. It’s
YouTube’s top hit.”
“What?” Raheem asked.
A smile spread across Farah’s face. “Yeah,
you killed it back there. The video’s superb.”
Playing the video on her tablet, she cranked
up the volume and held it high for all to see.
“I’m amazing, I know,” Raheem said.
“Though I must confess Highway To
Yesterday is incomplete without the band.
All the instruments work together to bring
that song alive. But I performed it with only
a guitar. It’s by miracle the song wasn’t
ruined. Though, a closer look at it shows it
really is lacking.”
“I don’t see how it lacks,” Farah said. “And
you, Victoria? Isn’t the song super great?”
“It’s cool,” I said.
“You see! She loves it! Everyone does! Else
you wouldn’t be having this much views on
“I still say it’s lacking,” Raheem said.
“Create a new band then,” Farah said. “You
came up with Impaling Sedation. You sure
can form another. But remember, MJ wasn’t
in a band, but that didn’t stop him from
being a legend.”
Raheem yawned. “Yeah, thanks for the
“If you want to start a new band though, you
should consider signing me up as your
“Not even in your dreams,” Raheem said.
Did Farah sing that bad?
“Okay, I’m kidding,” Farah said. “Why choose
me when there are tons of girls in school? I
met a few. They’re fit. One of them even
looks like a Goth kid—”
“I’d rather give up on music than have any
girl play in my band,” Raheem said.
“So you really are forming a new band?”
Farah asked. “Awesome! You really
shouldn’t involve a girl if you don’t want to.
Like, despite the absence of feminine touch
in Bring Me The Horizon, I love that band
anyway. And besides, I wouldn’t want to
suggest you something that’d hurt you
tomorrow. I can’t believe I talked you into
signing up Meela as your lead singer. If only
I’d minded my business—”
“When do you ever stop talking?” Raheem
“When I’m not breathing,” Farah said.
“Well, that can be arranged,” Raheem said.
“You fiend.” Farah turned around, hitting me
with her full attention. “What’s wrong,
“I’m fine,” I said.
“Are you sure? I mean, you don’t look fine to
me. Wait. Did my brother offend you in
anyway? I know he’s a bit of an a-s
sometimes and he doesn’t think twice
before letting his ego take the best of him,
but don’t let his words get to you. He has a
How could I tell her I wanted to stay away
from Raheem because he’d asked me to
prove to him that not all girls were like
Jameela? How could I tell her I was the one
Moments later, Raheem pulled over beside
my street. Waving them goodbye, I stepped
out of the car. “Thanks for the ride.”
Farah waved back. “Bye. See you
More stories @ www.chorusman.com
I walked home, bracing myself for an
episode with my stepmother. The open gate
told me I had no cause for worry. At least,
not until later. My paranoid stepmother
never left the gate open, so I figured out
Cynthia was alone at home. She obviously
wanted to save herself the humiliation of
opening the gate when I knocked.
I stepped into the house and headed for my
room when smoke from the kitchen wafted
to my nostrils. I shrugged off my backpack
and sprinted to the kitchen. Coughing and
sneezing, I pushed through the smoke and
found a burning pan atop our gas cooker.
Turning off the gas cooker, I tossed the pan
in the sink and assaulted it with cold water
from the faucet.
Cynthia brushed past me to open the
backyard door. She coughed hysterically. I
turned off the faucet and joined her in the
backyard, where we coughed our chests out
and sneezed our noses out as though in a
I paused for a breather. Cynthia had come
to help me? Sure, she’d almost burnt the
house and I’d come just in time to help her.
But still …
Shaking her head, she burst into laughter. A
laughter I couldn’t understand. A laughter
so transmissible, it conquered my initial
shock and stole me over. For the first time
in years, I laughed with my sister.
Her cough returned, bringing our awkwardly
perfect moment to a sighable end.
“You should return to your room now,” I
said. “Stay away from the smoke and all.
Look how you’re coughing.”
“I get it,” she said. “I’m coughing like an
Did she just talk to me? I had to speak
again. To make sure this was for real.
“How do you make omelets? I just wanted
something I could eat along with my
“You made indomie?” I asked.
Unbelievable. I dashed into to the kitchen to
see for myself. She really had cooked today.
All thanks to Alex. And we were getting
along, thanks to the burnt omelet. So, for
good developments to occur, bad things had
to happen first? I wished I’d known this from
“You probably think it’s horrible,” she said.
“The taste, I mean. Considering that I’ve
never cooked. You’re welcome to try it.”
“No,” I said. “I’m sure it’s fine.”
“No,” she insisted. “Try it. Maybe then you
can go tell that idiot I’m not entirely
Oversized onions and tomatoes blocked the
indomie from my sight. But still, I could tell
the noodles had spent eternity in the pot.
Not wanting to let her down, I grabbed the
fork she offered me and dug into the pot.
Only after I’d moved the extravagant
vegetables out of the way was I able to get
food on my fork.
Cynthia stared expectantly. Impatience
fought to take the best of her. She nodded,
wordlessly ordering me to get on with it.
And I did. The most horrible food on planet
earth spread its saltiness over my tongue.
I spat out the defilement from my mouth.
“You were not to add salt!”
Seething, Cynthia folded her arms. “What do
you know? Salt is the primary seasoning.”
“Salt is essential when cooking other meals.
But not indomie. Did you not see the
packaged seasoning it came with?” Spotting
the seasoning on the floor, I picked it up and
waved it in front of her wide open eyes.
“Here. It’s called seasoning. One part
seasoning, other part, chili! With this you
don’t need salt. How can you not know
Tears pooled around her eyes. If I could, I
would take back my words. “I’m sorry. I
didn’t mean to—”
“You have five minutes to make lunch,” she
said. I watched her storm out of the
I had just ruined a once in a lifetime chance
of getting along with my sister. Grunting, I
slammed my palm into my face. “Seriously,
Victoria, you are an idiot sometimes.”
Grabbing two super packs from the carton, I
set to work. Moments later, I smiled at the
beautifully garnished dish I’d made. I set
Cynthia’s on the dining table and headed for
her room, hoping for a chance to apologize.
The scene in the passageway caused me to
halt. My schoolbag had been emptied of its
contents, which included my books and the
package Sir Aaron had given me. The
package had also been emptied. Two books
laid on the floor. Though unfamiliar, I
recognized them to be the books Stella had
written. ‘A Robber’s Heart’ and ‘By
An empty phone pack stood beside the
books. A few naira notes took up a few
inches of the floor. And in the midst of them
all, Cynthia crouched, brandishing an Infinix
“Precious told me she saw you with Sir
Aaron after school,” she said. “I told her you
would not ruin our family name that way.
With a man old enough to be our father.”
“He didn’t buy me the phone,” I said. “If
that’s what you’re thinking.”
“Your fairy godmother did,” she said,
gesturing to a letter lying across the floor.
“But why? What do they see in you? First,
Amarachi. Then, Stella. And then Raheem.
Raheem who won’t even look at anyone
else. How is it possible he has eyes for you?
And now, Sir Aaron? He too has become
your friend? What do they see in you?”
“I…I don’t know.”
“Mum was right,” she said. “You are a
witch. You’ve cast a spell on them. That’s
why they’re all crazy about you. Because
it’s out of the ordinary that anyone would
actually want to be your friend.”
“If I were a witch and knew how to cast a
spell, you’d be the very first person I’d bind
to myself. Anyway, your food is ready.”
I outstretched my hand for the phone, but
she stepped back. “Don’t even think for a
moment that we will allow charity in this
“Let me tell you a story of two men,” I said.
“One is rich, and the other, poor. The rich
owns many sheep and cattle, but the poor
has nothing but one small female lamb. He
feeds it and cares for it with the little he
has. This small female lamb becomes as a
daughter to him. One day, the rich man has
a visitor. But he refuses to slaughter any of
his numerous sheep and cattle to prepare a
meal for the visitor. Rather, he takes the
poor man’s lamb and prepares a meal for
She rolled her eyes. “Your point is?”
“You are blessed with a mother who loves
you, and lets you get away with your
extravagance. You have everything you
could ever need. This phone doesn’t even
compare to the ones you use. And yet you
want to take it away to spite me? Okay. If
that’s what you want, keep it. Keep
everything. But know that you are no
different from that rich man who showed no
Seething, she tossed the phone at me. I
caught it with a smile. A smile flitted across
her face, and then she stormed off.
Someday, she would call me ‘sister’, and I
could feel that day fast approaching.