“Who?” Her wide, eager eyes made me
flinch. By telling her the story of my life,
would I not be making a mistake? “Holding
back now, are you? Hey, I told you my story,
did I not? It’s not a story I share with
random people. But I told you because you
seemed genuinely interested in why I chose
to be a nurse instead of being like you said,
an English teacher.”
“You did it for your sister.” Now I saw why
she cared so much about my health.
Simpering, she nodded. “She wanted to be a
nurse. And besides, I don’t want what
happened twenty-one years ago to happen
ever again in this school. This is a great
school, and the people who work here need
to have the right motive. I don’t see anyone
else more qualified to be the school nurse.”
With a rather forced giggle, she went on,
“And about the English thing you mentioned,
I have always had an interest in English and
Literature. I have even published two books.
The first is a collection of poems. Most
nights, when I can’t sleep, I get up and light
a candle. And yes, I light a candle for real,
even if there is NEPA light. Writing by
candlelight has become my own personal
ritual. For this reason I named it ‘By
Candlelight’. Whatever is in my head at that
moment finds itself as another beautiful
work of literature in my collection of poems.
“And the second book is a novel called A
Robber’s Heart. It’s about a thief who jumps
over a fence to steal, but his landing is
pathetic and he ends up with a broken leg.
He is taken in by a teenage girl who hides
him in her room, and a father-daughter bond
blossoms between them. A bond that not
even her mother can sever.”
“Wow!” I said, mesmerized by her delight in
Literature. I also had a thing for Literature,
but had never reached the point of
developing a story. Maybe sometime I could
give it a try. I could write the story of my
“Can I see your books sometime?” I asked.
“Of course,” she said. “But first, tell me
what I need to know. Why were you crying,
and who is bent on making your life
“Miserable?” Of course I lived a miserable
life and two people engineered this misery.
But when had I mentioned this to Stella?
“You mentioned that please, sorry and
forgive me were the only words they made
you say,” she clarified. “In other words,
some people are trying to make your life
miserable. So who are they?”
More than once I opened my mouth to
speak, but I could not find the words. If I
replied her strategic question, I would
directly be telling her my stepmother and
Cynthia were making my life miserable.
I could not say that. No, not now. What if
they found out somehow that I had spoken
about them? I would be dead in a split-
“I’m sorry,” I said. “But when you put it like
that, I don’t know how to answer.”
Stella rolled her eyes. “There you go again
with being sorry.”
“Sorry.” The moment the word left my lips, I
realized I had done it again. “Just pay no
mind to how pathetic I am.”
“So you were going to say something?” she
“I wasn’t crying because of my sickness,” I
said. “Well, not directly.”
“But it had something to do with it, yes?”
“You asked if I didn’t care at all about my
“Yes. And I’ll ask you again. You’ve been
sick for how long, two weeks and you just
do nothing about it? Who does that?”
“Actually, it’s been four years.”
“You have been sick for four years?” she
half-shrieked. “But why? I don’t get it.
You’ve been sick for four years and you
don’t do anything about it? Your mum and
your sister, do they not know this?”
“To understand the whole thing, you need to
know the story of my life.” I knew my
answers would lead me to tell the story I
had tried so hard to escape.
I led my mind away from frightening
thoughts and told myself I could do this. I
would tell Stella the story she craved to
hear. Perhaps after I did, I would feel the
weight of the world fall off my shoulders.
“I have time,” she said.
I squinted at my wristwatch. 11:18. Two
minutes into the forty-minute recess. I had
spent my entire morning in the sickbay and
had missed all four periods.
Shoving off these thoughts like unwanted
clothing, I willed my mind to focus on the
story I had to tell. “I never knew my mum.
She died a few hours after giving birth to
me. My father hired a nursing mother to
care for me. In no time, he saw the need to
marry her so she would legally be my
mother. And then they were wed.”
“I’ve always supported your father’s wise
decision,” Stella said. “This way, you won’t
know what it feels like not to have a
mother. It’s a horrible feeling.”
If only she knew. Soon enough, though, she
“Four years ago, my life took a turn I hadn’t
seen coming,” I said. “The very day my
father resumed duties after his recovery
from an accident, the bank was robbed. And
he was shot to death.”
I could remember vividly. Cynthia and I had
only just returned from school to find two
policemen at our door, delivering the cold
news of father’s death. I could still
remember my stepmother holding Cynthia
and I comfortingly in her arms while we all
“It only took a few days for the people I
held dear to show their true colors.
Everything changed dramatically. When
someone shows you their true colors, don’t
try to repaint them, or you’ll be stabbing
yourself all over with many pains. Back then,
I was naïve, too innocent and inexperienced
to know that. I thought there was a mistake,
and that my family needed time to grieve,
after which the gap between us would
bridge. But I was wrong. Dead wrong.”
“I don’t understand,” Stella said.
“My stepmother and her daughter make the
whole world believe they love me,” I said.
“But they don’t. Cynthia has always seen me
as her biggest rival. I tried to make her
realize the loopholes in her reasoning, but
my efforts only filled her with untamed
aggression. But still, I believed her childish
jealousy would fade as she grew. I believed
she would grow into a reasonable person
and her love for me as a sister would
supersede all. But time laid my flawed
reasoning before me. In horror, I watched
my sister’s jealousy grow along with her.
Her love for me—or at least something close
to it—completely faded, replaced with an
intense hate I could not fathom. She regards
me no more than she would a maid.
“They have turned me into a servant in my
father’s own house. They make me do all
the work in the house all by myself. Every
day I wake up by 4:30 in the morning, but
they overwhelm me with chores and I
always end up late for school. And they
make me do all of these on an empty
stomach. I could go a whole day without
food and no one would care. They find fault
in everything I do. And even when there are
none, they fabricate faults and abuse me.”
At this point, relying on mere words to tell
the story would be a grave mistake. I undid
the buttons on my jacket and did the same
to my white shirt.
“What are you doing?” Stella asked.
“Allowing my scars tell a part of the story,” I
said. “They will speak to you and tell you
more than words ever could.”
Taking off my shirt, I let Stella’s unbelieving
eyes explore the length of my torso. My
body had become an art gallery on which
different work of arts were displayed. Some
of which were recent, stinging me when I
showered. Baring myself to her brought an
uneasy sensation to my stomach, but I
didn’t dwell on this.
“Oh my God!” she cried. “Such evil! Oh
I remained in position, giving her an
undisturbed view of my back, letting her
drink in the details of my abuse.
“I can’t believe your stepmother did this to
you!” The sympathy in her voice wounded
me. Once again, I burst into tears.
“She should be a mother to you! How could
she do this to you? You are like a child to
her! She should love you like her own!” My
grief intensified with every word she said.
Snuffling, I reached for my handkerchief and
brought it to my nose.
“That woman is evil!” Stella’s
straightforward remark startled me. Evil,
perhaps, but that woman remained my
Speaking about our broken relationship to
another person brought a cloud of guilt
resting upon me. In a way, I felt like a
traitor. Negative emotions fought to
overcome me. And to an extent, they won,
sagging my heart into dense darkness.
Weren’t family issues meant to remain in
the family? My stepmother had even said so
‘What happens in this house stays in this
house. Do you understand?’ She had pulled
my ears so hard I feared I would lose them.
And I had never dreamt of disclosing her
wrongdoings to anyone but Amarachi. If
mother learnt about this, I would not live to
see the next day.
Stella placed a comforting hand on my
shoulder. “I’m sorry about the things they
make you pass through. I thought these
things only happened in Nollywood. Oh
heavens! Whatever happened to humanity?
I picked up my uniform and clothed myself.
“After my dad’s death, they made me stay
home. They told me to forget school. They
said school was not for everyone. And
whenever I told them I wanted to continue
my education, they would abuse me and tell
me I was cursed. They told me I was an evil
child, and for that reason my parents died.”
Stella’s brows furrowed. “They made you
leave school? I thought…but…I heard…” She
shook her head. “This is just evil. Pure evil.
During that period, news spread that you
quit school because you could not face the
world after your loss.”
“They made everyone believe I quit on my
own because I was too weak to get over my
father’s death. For almost a whole term I
stayed home, doing chores 24/7. And then
one day, Cynthia returned from school,
talking about an annual scholarship exam. It
would cover a student’s school fees till
graduation. To pick up the registration form
and the study materials, I needed to pay an
application fee. With tears in my eyes I
approached my stepmother. I begged her to
pick up the scholarship form and study
materials for me. I understood she didn’t
want to spend money on me, and with the
scholarship, it could be achieved. I believed
in myself. I knew I could pass the
scholarship exams. But she laughed at me.
She and her daughter.
“I snuck to school the next day to tell Sir
Amadi I wanted to sit for the exam. I
wanted him to help with the fee. But to my
surprise, he called my stepmother and told
her about my intention. Although he had
good intentions, that was the worst step
ever. I returned home only to receive the
beating of my life. Most of the scars you
saw, they came from that day.”
“So how did you register for the exams?”
“I confided in Amarachi. I am forever
indebted to her. If God hadn’t intervened
through her, I would have been a school
drop-out. Do you see all the things I pass
through every day? They treat me like snot.
They always remind me I don’t belong in
their family. They tell me I’m an outcast,
and make me pass through unimaginable
“This won’t go on like this, my dear.” Stella
rose to her feet, a fierce determination
written all over her face. And although I
knew she had my best intentions at heart, it
frightened me to watch her roam the room
with that look on her face. “It certainly
won’t go on.”
“What can be done?” I asked.
“You are going to have a blood test done, as
soon as today,” she said. “And your
stepmother will have to pay for the
expenses. I will make sure of this.”
“That’s not possible. She’d rather die than
take responsibility for me.”
Stella smirked. And I knew she had a
sinister plan. But what?
“Those wings you think you’ve grown…I’ll
Acknowledging my presence, my classmates
quieted as though a ghost had just walked
in. Had a pin dropped, it would not go
unnoticed. They no doubt stared at my
maladroit gait and how my arms didn’t
swing human enough when I walked.
Shaking off the thought, I advanced to the
seat I shared with Amarachi at the far end.
Sat quietly on the right side of the seat,
Amarachi flipped through the pages of the
textbook before her.
“Speak of the devil,” someone half-
For fools like Adamu, silence remained the
best answer. Responding to his taunts
would only encourage him, and I didn’t want
that. Even worse, we could end up
exchanging words. I would rather play the
fool than stoop so low to exchange words
with the king of fools.
By ignoring him, he would eventually get the
message that I had more important things to
do than let his juvenile delinquency bother
me. I hoped sometime soon he would,
because I didn’t know for how long I could
contain my indignation.
He chuckled, his throaty voice an insult to
my ears. It didn’t take long before his fellow
fools joined in the chorus, banishing the pin-
drop silence. Amidst the laughter and
incoherent comments, a wolf-whistle pierced
Amarachi’s eyes told me to ignore them.
Once I plopped down on our seat, she
slammed shut her textbook and shot me her
undivided attention. “Oh my God, Victoria!
You really killed it today! I had already given
up on seeing you!”
“Killed what?” I asked, my brows knitting.
“The late coming thing, stupid. This is the
latest you’ve ever been. This is just as good
as staying home.” Punctuating her words
with a giggle, she obviously hoped I would
laugh along and forget our classmates’
There goes nothing. The realization that she
had failed at making me laugh stole away
the gleam in her eyes.
“I spent all morning in the sickbay,” I said.
“poo,” she muttered. Searching my face, she
shook her head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t even
notice. You really don’t look well. There’s
this look in your eyes. And stupid me, I
mistook it for that look you get when you
don’t have enough sleep.”
“Actually, that look is in there too,” I said.
“It’s a mix of both.”
“What’s wrong?” she asked. “Do you feel
I nodded, letting a stiff smile stretch my lips.
“I’m good as new. There’s nothing to worry
Once the words left my lips, my nose tickled
and I sneezed, killing the little conviction
Amarachi might have had. Just great.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” she asked.
“Yup.” I would hate it if I killed her mood for
good. Who said I had to afflict people with
melancholy everywhere I went?
“You did not go for lunch?” I asked.
“What’s the point? I’m not even hungry.”
“Look how proud she is,” I said. “You won’t
admit that you didn’t go to the canteen
because I wasn’t around and you would feel
awkward going there without me.”
Clicking her tongue, Amarachi glanced at
her wristwatch. “There’s not much time left
now. Break is almost over. Commerce test
is almost upon us now.”
I grimaced. “Sorry about that.”
“Now tell me. Why so late today? I need to
hear all of it. Did that witch of a stepmother
make you fight a bull or something?”
“Amarachi!” I warned, pressing a finger to
my lips to shush her.
“What? She’s a witch and you know it. I’m
sure she does that mirror mirror on the wall
thingy and the mirror for sure mentions you
as the fairest of them all. That’s why she
always gets up on the wrong side of bed
and tries to make your life miserable. That
evil wolf in woman’s clothing.”
“Stop, please. She’s still family. It’s not right
to talk about her like this.”
Disbelieving, she shook her head. “Doesn’t
she remind you of those really evil fairy tale
Of course she did. But it didn’t feel right
speaking about my stepmother in that
manner. And besides, walls have ears.
“She’s the evilest of them all, that woman,”
Amarachi said. “She and that daughter of
Without thinking it, I conjured an image of
my stepmother in my mind’s eye and placed
it beside a mental image of the Evil Queen.
Similar cat eyeliners stretched along their
eyelids, delivering the perfect dramatic look.
Taking my hand in hers, Amarachi said,
“You, my Cinderella, are going to make it in
life, trust me. You will find your fairy
godmother, and then your glass slipper will
lead you to your Prince Charming who will
take you to his castle, and wedding bells will
I felt heat rush to my cheeks at the mention
of my Prince Charming. “Oh stop it.”
In a way, Amarachi’s words made sense. My
life fit the bill as a modern day Cinderella. I
had lost my parents, and had a stepmother
and a step-sister who saw me as nothing
but a maid, making me scrub floors day and
night, just like Cinderella. In my case,
though, we had no Lucifee. Thank God for
I thought back to Stella, her warmth and her
sweet smile. Had I found myself a fairy
I mused over her reaction to the story of my
life and her determination to help me. We
had agreed to meet after school. Questions
crowded my mind. But try as I might, I could
never decipher the plan she had so tactfully
constructed. I just had to wait and let time
My classmates had delved back to their
various pointless conversations. A few boys
argued about a football match they had
watched the previous night, and how
Christiano Ronaldo missed a penalty. Some
girls discussed fashion and other irrelevant
things like entertainment and crushes.
Although I didn’t plan to listen, my ears
picked up some lines from their
Pleased that they had more important—
although totally worthless—things to do than
mock me, a lazy smile crept to my face.
“You’re not going to believe this!” Amarachi
squealed, cutting off my line of thoughts.
Her eyes twinkled like stars in the midnight
“Tell me already,” I said.
An ear-to-ear grin stretched her lips. “Well,
uhm…I came to school this morning to find
this really cute guy in class.”
Taking a breather, she bit her lips to keep
from squealing. “When I say cute I mean
super cute! He’s really cute, like the cutest
I’ve seen off TV. He’s like a hot celebrity
step out of TV or a fashion magazine.”
“That’s it?” My interest had given way to
indifference, killing Amarachi’s excitement.
But it only took a moment for the gleam in
her eyes to return.
“He’s white!” Slamming her palms into each
other, she squeezed them and let a beam
spread over her face.
White? Mr. White and I were classmates?
My heart sank. I did not want to be in the
same class with that boy. Something about
him gave me the creeps. Did he stare at
everyone else the way he stared at me?
It stunned me how my best friend drooled
over a guy she barely even knew. I couldn’t
picture myself doing that. Totally gross. I
could imagine how that pompous white guy
felt at the moment, having every girl in
school on full crush mode.
With folded hands, I shook my head.
“Pathetic. He’s not the first foreigner here,
Amarachi pouted. “Look at you acting all
indifferent. Every girl in school is talking
about just how cute he is.”
I rolled my eyes. “Don’t include me.”
“Trust me, you’re only like this because you
haven’t seen him. I mean, wow. Victoria,
that guy is a stunner! Have you ever seen
such brilliant green eyes?”
It stunned me how she believed I would
hurriedly activate crush mode once I saw
him. I had already crossed paths with him,
and although for a moment I’d stared, it had
triggered nothing in me.
“There’s nothing extraordinary about that
guy,” I said.
She giggled at my indifference. “Just wait
till you see him. He’ll knock the air out of
your lungs. Oh, I haven’t even told you.
Guess where he sat when he walked in?
Right here, on our seat. To be precise, he
sat on your side of the seat. I told him the
seat was already taken. He just turned and
gave me this weird look as though I’d
spoken to him in Swahili. Even though the
look he shot me totally weirded me out, it
was really amazing staring into those
emerald green eyes. You know, Eddie
Redmayne kind of eyes.” Her eyes burned
“Goodness, Amarachi!” I chided, my voice
dropping to a near-whisper. “I can’t believe
you’re like this over some guy. It’s not like
he’s the only white guy in this school. We
already have a number of them in class.”
“Four in class,” she counted. “Now five.”
I continued as though she’d never
interrupted, “And we have them littered all
over our school.”
“Twenty five,” she said. “You call that
Once again, I ignored her counting. “What’s
so special about some lanky, green eyed
Her eyes widened. “What? You saw him?”
“Mh-hmm.” When would this end? I did not
want to be a part of this conversation.
“Oh my God!” Grinning from ear-to-ear, she
rubbed her palms together like a fat cop
would at the sight of free burger. To paint
the complete picture, lips licking would be in
order. “Tell me everything! Look at you,
letting me do the whole talking while you
have some story to tell. Out with it. Did he
speak to you?”
“If he spoke to me, would it help with the
problems I face at home?”
“Yes.” She stuck out her tongue. “I haven’t
heard his voice but I can only imagine how
beautiful it sounds. I mean, with a face like
that. Good heavens.”
“His voice is nothing special.”
“Oh my God!” she said. Heads turned in our
direction and while this made me slightly
uneasy, Amarachi didn’t seem to care. “He
spoke to you? I need to hear it. Tell it and
tell it all!”
“It’s just the pretty face. His personality is
crap. We met on the stairs and he said I
was a sleepwalking zombie. Can you beat
how lame he is?” A transitory silence fell
upon us. Amarachi gazed at me, wordlessly
demanding the untold story.
“There’s nothing to tell,” I said.
“I can’t believe he’s an a-s,” she said, her
voice tinged with uncertainty.
“Yeah, they come in different sizes and
“No. I mean I can’t believe he’s an a-s like
for real. Maybe he has some twisted sense
of humor and you understood it all wrong?”
“Yeah right,” I said, rolling my eyes. I didn’t
care about his sense of humor. He had hurt
me with his unseasoned words, and that
said a lot.
The rest of our classmates hustled into the
classroom, feet shuffling as they headed for
their seats. Waking over to our seat, a girl
waved at me.
“Vicky, so you’re in school,” she said.
“Hello yourself, Confidence.” I slid
Amarachi’s textbook to my side of the desk
and buried my face in it, warding off more
comments from Confidence. I knew though
that it would be impossible to read.
Wherever she went, quiet left.
Casting me into her abyss of non-existence,
she rested her full attention on Amarachi.
“That new guy probably doesn’t like this
“That’s the new guy’s loss.” Amarachi
feigned nonchalance. Or had she suddenly
lost interest for real?
“Didn’t you see the look on his face,” an
Ethiopian girl named Rose cut in. “The way
he grimaced like he’d been placed in a
“He only sat down for five minutes,”
Confidence said. “And then he just got up,
grabbed his bag and was gone.”
Rose chuckled. “You’re saying five minutes?
Two minutes at most.”
“The look on Sir Thomas’ face though,”
Confidence said. These girls shamed me. So
much fuss over some white guy, as though
he had fallen from the sky. Pathetic.
“Maybe this was the wrong class and he
figured out only after Sir Thomas had
already begun his boring lesson on
simultaneous equation,” Amarachi said.
“Who knows, maybe he’s a junior.”
“Today’s math lesson alone was strong
enough to make him say ‘oh no no no,
wrong class.’” Confidence ended her
statement with an overdone American
More stories @ www.chorusman.com
I tried to focus on the book before me, but
every line I read disappeared into an
unknown chamber in my head. I needed a
little bit of silence but the girls’ stupid talk
about some white guy didn’t give me a
chance. They needed to take their hopeless
desperation to another corner. My stomach
churned with every word they spat out. I
didn’t know for how long I would be able to
contain the rage burning so intensely within
me. I glared at the book, unleashing my
aggression upon it.
“Are you girls seriously stressing over that
guy?” a boy asked. I made no attempt to
bring his name to mind. “I saw him drive out
“He drives to school?” a girl asked. I found
myself awaiting an answer. No student
drove to school. Over here, 18 stood as the
legal driving age, and I doubted Mr. White
had crossed over to adulthood. It wouldn’t
surprise me if an exception had been made
for him though. This country, after all, is
characterized by bribery and corruption. The
authorities would sure give special
treatment to the angel who had fallen from
“He drives a Range Rover Evoque
Convertible SUV,” Cynthia chimed in. I
hadn’t noticed her come in. Sat on a desk in
front, she faced the class. Her school
uniform, well-pressed by ‘yours faithfully’,
clung to her like a second skin. As typical of
her, the first three buttons were left undone,
flaunting the fullness of her cleavage. My
gaze darted to her crossed legs. She sure
enjoyed how her skirt showed radiant, fair
skin. It bothered me how teachers didn’t
speak to her concerning her dressing. In the
past, they had, but now they just paid no
attention to her as though they had been
“Guys, please!” Amarachi snapped, startling
me. “No offense, but can you guys take your
conversation someplace else, or better still,
just drop this whole drama? It’s getting
really sickening. I’m trying to study for
Commerce test. I mean what’s the big deal
if he’s white? Does he have white blood?
Abeg I hate nonsense.”
Cynthia glowered at her. “Are you speaking
to me in that tone?”
“Last time I checked you weren’t my mum,”
Amarachi said. “So I can speak to you
however I please. Okay? And anyway, I
wasn’t even talking to you, so drop it.”
Springing to her feet, Cynthia stomped in
our direction. She had fire in her eyes. From
experience, I knew things would turn ugly.
Amarachi rose to her feet, her ferocity
matching Cynthia’s. I rose as well, ready to
sandwich myself between them if the need
arose. I looked to where Confidence had
been, but she had fled to a safe corner.
Coward with a confident letter C.
“Tell me to my face what you just said,”
Cynthia demanded, stepping in toward
Amarachi. How did we get into this mess?
Amarachi held no trace of fear, and it
bothered me, because she would not back
down. Cynthia wouldn’t either. Shoulders
squared, Amarachi held Cynthia with her
flaming gaze. A deafening silence had fallen
over the classroom. Everyone watched,
eager to see things get ugly.
Amarachi opened her mouth to speak, but I
cut her off before she even began. “Let it
Amarachi turned to me, and I seemed to be
the object of her aggression. But it only
took a moment and my pleading eyes
softened her gaze.
“I am not you,” she said, regarding me with
a sorry look in her eyes. “I will not let her
intimidate me. She pays school fees. I do
“Fight! Fight! Fight!” our classmates
chanted, rocking their fists in the air and
drumming their desks.
“Look here, girl” Cynthia said, jabbing her
pointer toward Amarachi. “I don’t know what
you think you are, but those wings you think
you’ve grown, just watch out, because if you
ever get on my nerves again, I’ll cut them.”
She moved her pointer and middle finger
like a pair of scissors. I could almost see
the rush of adrenaline filling her with
Our classmates kept chanting. “Fight! Fight!
“I’d love to see you try,” Amarachi said, her
eyes trained on Cynthia in the most ominous
way. Malice crackled in the air around them.
Nancy and Precious had taken their position
beside Cynthia, ready to fight. Cynthia’s
crew no doubt viewed themselves as
invincible and too hot to handle, demanding
respect everywhere around school. Or at
least they hoped they did. They had even
gotten a name for their crew — the triple
“Hey!” Nancy warned. She opened her
mouth to say more, but Cynthia held up her
hand to silence her.
“I can handle her just fine on my own,”
Cynthia said, her voice spiced with venom,
her eyes threatening harm.
“Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!”
Amarachi stood at akimbo. “You’re all bark
and no bite.”
“Stop!” I begged, pressing my palms to my
ears. “Please stop!”
Everyone occupied their seats, filling the
room with hushed voices. Only one thing
could evoke such reaction from my
classmates — a teacher’s presence. I looked
toward the doorway and found Sir Aaron
walking in, his textbook and a bottle of
water in his hands. Simultaneously,
Amarachi and I sat down.
Giving us the middle finger, Cynthia returned
to her seat, Nancy and Precious with her.
Sometimes I wondered if those girls got paid
for being her bodyguards. Like maidens
serving a princess, they went everywhere
with her and did all her bidding.
The class prefect hammered his desk with
his fist — an order that we all stood up to
greet Sir Aaron. “Good morning, sir!” we
Sir Aaron gestured for us to sit. Shuffling of
feet extinguished the silence as we returned
to our seats. But in the blink of an eye, it
passed away, restoring silence to its place.
Placing his textbook and water on Cynthia’s
desk, Sir Aaron walked to the board and
wrote a four-letter word that turned my
stomach to ice: TEST.
“Tear out a sheet of paper and write your
name,” Sir Aaron said, turning to face us.
“Remove from your desks your books and
any incriminating material. If pen and paper
aren’t the only things on your desk, you’re
He swept his eyes around the classroom to
make sure we all complied. Returning to the
board, he dropped the bomb:
Write short notes on the three speculators in
the Nigerian Stock Exchange Market and
explain how they expect to profit from their
Indistinct chatters sailed around the
classroom as everyone tried to voice out
their hopelessness. Once Sir Aaron whirled
around to face us, the voices faded.
“You have twenty minutes or less,” he said.
“Time starts now. If you talk to your
neighbor, you’re wrong. If you turn your
neck, you’re wrong.”
I copied the questions into my paper and
stared at the board, blank faced. Answers
eluded me. I glanced around to find
everyone in a similar state.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Cynthia said.
Frantically, she raised her hand. “Sir!”
“Yes?” Sir Aaron said.
“I believe there has been a mistake. Is this
question ours like for real? I mean, when did
you teach us these things?”
“Did I not conclude our previous class by
asking you all to go home and read about
the Nigerian Stock Exchange market?” Sir
Aaron asked. “Here you all are, staring at
me like a bunch of idiots. Oh, and just for
the record, this test is no joke. It makes up
ten percent of your continuous assessment,
so you best give it your all.”
“All or nothing,” Amarachi said. We
exchanged hopeless gazes.
Shaking my head, I whispered, “We are so
“Victoria!” Sir Aaron called.
My heart thumped wildly in response. Heads
turned in my direction. I could see the
mockery in their eyes. Sir Aaron had
apparently caught me speaking. That spelt
the end of my test. What difference would it
make anyway? Even if I had a whole day, my
paper would still be blank.
Sir Aaron picked up his table water and took
a sip. “How’s your health now?”
What? He had only called to ask about my
health? Unbelievable. Rubbing my forehead
for no reason, I stared at him, totally
forgetting the question before me. Amarachi
kicked my feet, jolting me back into reality.
“I’m fine, sir,” I said. My face paled as I
looked down at my paper. Failure stared
back at me.
Seconds stretched into minutes. Twenty
minutes passed with a hissing sound.
Sadness clouded my features as I submitted
my paper. I sat there on my seat, present
but absent. My mind wandered off into the
unknown. A feeling of nothingness had
taken dwelling in my heart.
Sir Aaron provided the answers to the
question on the board. “The three
spectators in the Nigerian Stock Exchange
Market are the bull, the bear and the stag…”
I watched him speak, but the noise in my
head tuned out the rest of his words. My
head swelled with too many thoughts,
tossing me into the deep dark sea of gloom.
I had never been this helpless concerning
my academics. I felt crippled. This didn’t
Twenty minutes into the next class and I
still couldn’t get over my failure in
Commerce test. What would Sir Aaron think
of me when he picked up my script and
found it blank?
“Tell me what I just said,” Madam Charity
said, her eyes trained on me. Holy cripes! I
hoped she’d spoken to the girl in front and
not me, but her eyes stayed locked on mine.
The girl in front turned to look at me. She
seemed just as confused as me. My
indifference toward Madam Charity’s
question forced her to her feet. “You were
“Not you, Flora,” Madam Charity said. “Yes,
Victoria? We don’t have all day.”
Words eluded me. My performance in Sir
Aaron’s test had filled me with rue-
cheerlessness, making it impossible to think
of anything else. And here I stood, about to
make another fool of myself. I would always
remember this day as my worst school day.
“Excuse me, madam Charity.” Cynthia’s
voice severed the silence. I glanced at her
seat and found it empty. I had been too
engrossed in thoughts to notice her
absence. With a smug smile, she stood in
the doorway. Folding her arms, she cast me
an unsettling glance. “But the principal
wants to have a word with her.”
“That should be after this class,” Madam
Cynthia stomped her feet. “It’s urgent!”
Sir Amadi’s voice screeched over the
intercom, “Victoria Brown. Report to my
office in one minute or less.”
Madam Charity gave me a subtle nod. “You
I had just been saved from Madam Charity’s
question. But the smug smile on Cynthia’s
face as I advanced toward her made me
shudder. Although I had no idea why I had
been summoned, I knew one thing. Trouble
had found me.