Fri. Jul 12th, 2024




“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

B-b-b-b-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

was. “Raheem.”

“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,

didn’t you?”

“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?”

“About Jameela.”

“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.


“Prove it.”


“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,

Raheem Kadir?”

“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.”

“Me too.”

“Alright, I just came to say hi. We’ll see


“During recess?” she suggested.

“Yeah,” I said. “Have a nice day.”

“You too.”

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

wasn’t Jameela.

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

stop them.”

“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

Aaron said.

I turned around to face him. “Good

afternoon sir.”

“How are you?” he asked.

“I’m alright.”

“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?”

“Yes, sir?”

“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

strong. Okay?”

“Yes, sir.”

He laughed. “Oh now, that’s not an order.

You totally sounded like a military man. Or

woman. Whatever.”

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

my legs.”

“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

pure heart.”

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

hurting him?

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 @


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

fierce competition.

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

the start.

“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

Hot 4.

“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

his visitor.”

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.



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