Thu. Jul 11th, 2024

Threatened

.

Continues..

“Turning her back on everything we’ve been

taught is like spitting on father’s grave and

it worries me gravely.”

***

Cynthia and I dismounted the stairs to the

ground floor, our footsteps the only sound

within earshot. From the gleam in her eyes,

I could tell our meeting with Sir Amadi

would be unfavorable to me. The thought of

being in his office, queried about God-

knows-what clenched my stomach into a

fist.

I let curiosity take the best of me.

“Cynthia?”

Without turning to look at me, she said,

“Yes?”

“Why does Sir Amadi want to see me?” I

asked.

“Ask me again,” she said. Quite the reaction

I had expected. When it came to me, and by

extension Amarachi, she seethed for no

apparent cause.

A whiff of cold air hit me as she stepped

into the office. I made to follow, but an

abrupt slam of the door caused me to

flinch. I bumped into a junior, knocking a pile

of 2A exercise books out of her

unsuspecting hands. The books scattered

across the floor.

“poo,” I muttered. “I’m really sorry.”

“It’s okay,” the girl said, her mice-like voice

perfect for her petite figure. Her name

skipped my mind. Diana? Dora? Doreen? I

could only remember it started with a D.

“Are you hurt? Did the door hit you?”

“No, I’m good.” I joined her as she knelt to

pick up the CRS assignments. My eyes

caught a name on one of the books. Doreen

Chukwu. “That’s yours?”

“Yeah.”

Done arranging the books, I handed them

over. A smile lit up her innocent face.

“Thanks.”

“Don’t mention,” I said, returning her smile.

A chilling air embraced me as we stepped

into the reception, making up for the sun

that had roasted me moments ago. Placing

the books on the receptionist’s desk, Doreen

waved at me and made her exit.

“The principal is with someone at the

moment,” the receptionist said, barely

looking at me. “Please have a seat.”

Gesturing to the chairs a distance away, she

returned her focus to some paperwork she

had been attending to.

Cynthia glared at me as I moved to sit. Her

eyes warned me to place a safe distance

between us. And I did. I sat across from

her, giving her the distance she needed. A

glassware center table stood between us,

solidifying our gap. It held a number of

magazines I could pass time with. I picked

up a sports magazine featuring Bayern

Munchen and Barcelona on the cover page.

My gaze darted to Cynthia. I ached to bridge

the gap between us. Not just here on this

chair, but also at home. I wanted us to go

back to being family. Was that too much to

ask?

Sat majestically with her legs crossed,

feigned innocence painted her as

approachable. I told myself I could speak to

her. She wouldn’t bite, after all. She would

only glower and bark, but she could never

bite.

The receptionist answered a phone call,

giving me the opportunity I needed to speak

to Cynthia without anyone eavesdropping.

“Cyn,” I called.

Cynthia dragged her gaze to meet mine. I

would do anything to soften the stony look

she always reserved for me. Once, she had

even given me a sound warning in class,

saying that only a selected few were worthy

to make a pet name out of her name. And

now, even without a word, I heard that

warning over and over again.

“Mh-hmm?” Her indignation pulled me out of

my thoughts.

“I’m sorry about what happened in class,” I

said. “It should never have happened.

Forgive me. And Amarachi.”

She rolled her eyes. “Don’t waste your time.

Your apology is worthless.”

“It won’t happen again,” I said.

“Save your apology for mother. Let’s see

what happens when she finds out you asked

that good for nothing friend of yours to

insult me.”

“No. You’ve got it all wrong. I—”

“Why am I even talking to you?”

“We are sisters?” I said. Had she forgotten

so easily?

Her gaze softened. But I knew better than to

be hopeful. Venom crept to her face.

Spreading like wildfire, it clouded her

features.

“I’m not your sister,” she said.

The coldness of her stare told me she

meant every word she had just said. It

stung. Her words, her action and inaction,

they all stung.

A woman walked out of Sir Amadi’s office.

Cynthia leapt to her feet and dashed into

the office, almost knocking into the woman.

Side-stepping, the woman turned to look at

Cynthia, her eyes cursing.

“Hey!” the woman said.

“Sorry,” I said, waving. I lazied into the

office to find Sir Amadi in his seat, leaning

leisurely against the backrest. Cynthia sat

across from him, calm and composed as

though the office belonged to her.

I s—-d in a shaky breath and advanced to

Sir Amadi’s desk, my nerviness highlighted

with each clumsy step I took. Standing

behind an empty seat beside Cynthia, I held

my hands behind my back. I would not sit

until Sir Amadi asked me to.

Sir Amadi closed his eyes as though

forgetting we had come to see him.

Moments passed and he remained in

position. I feared he had fallen asleep.

And he had. But I trusted Cynthia would do

something to get the sleeping man’s

attention. Cupping her palms over her lips,

she let out a loud, throaty cough. And it

served its purpose.

Sir Amadi’s eyes lazied open and he

adjusted his round, geeky spectacles.

Acknowledging my presence, he said, “Sit

down.”

“Thank you, sir,” I said, sitting down.

“Your day is good so far, classes are fine?”

he asked, to no one in particular.

“Yes,” Cynthia said.

“And you, Victoria?”

“Yes, sir,” I said.

“Perfect.” He seemed satisfied. He made to

speak again, but the telephone on his desk

rang, cutting him off.

Raising his pointer in a ‘one minute’ gesture,

he answered the call. “Yes.”

His eyebrows twitched as he listened to the

person on the other end. Sighing, he rubbed

his temple and muttered something

incoherent. “I can’t believe I forgot about

this meeting. Once they come, usher them

in. I’m not exactly busy at the moment.”

He ended the call and regarded us with a

rather sorry look. I knew the message all

too well. He would ask us to return to that

boring hellhole of a reception and wait till he

concluded his meeting with his highly

esteemed guests.

“Wait in the reception,” he ordered. “I’ll get

back to you when I’m done.”

“But sir!” Cynthia whined.

“Or you could just return to class and come

back some other time.”

Without a choice, we returned to the

reception. I trained my eyes on the door,

wanting to see whoever had caused Sir

Amadi to disregard us. Moments passed and

the guests hadn’t arrived. Sir Amadi could

have just attended to us while he waited for

them. His meeting with us couldn’t have

taken more than ten minutes. But here we

were, waiting for heaven knows how long. I

picked up another magazine from the table

and flipped through, letting my eyes feed on

the high definition images.

The door creaked open and I lifted my eyes

from the magazine. A woman stepped in.

She seemed to be in her mid forties. High-

heeled boots clicked on the floor, perforating

the silence. A figure loomed behind her.

Recognition hit me, tightening my face into

a scowl. And I’d thought he wouldn’t return

to this school. What did he want?

My mind traveled back to our first

encounter. I looked away, hiding my face. I

would not give him the satisfaction of

mistaking me for one of his many fan girls.

It would destroy the remnant of my badly

burned ego.

“Welcome, Mrs. Kadir,” the receptionist

squealed like a teenage girl. She sprang to

her feet, stretching her pepper-red lips with

an overdone smile. Her eagerness to speak

to the woman and her son irritated me

beyond imagining.

“Oh, hello,” the woman said. “Is the principal

in?” She gestured to the main office. Her

accent told me she had lived away from

Nigeria for way too long.

“Yes,” the receptionist said. “He’s been

expecting you.” She moved away from her

desk and toward the principal’s office to

usher in his guests.

Cynthia bolted to her feet, her excitement

alarming me. Wearing a smile, she reached

out to shake the woman’s hand. “Good

afternoon.”

The woman took Cynthia’s hand. “How are

you, darling?”

“I’m—”

“This way, Mrs. Kadir,” the receptionist said,

holding open the door.

Mirroring his mother’s steps, Mr. White

advanced toward the office, but Cynthia

outstretched her hand for a shake.

“Hi,” she said.

Her eagerness killed me inside. It hurt that

she let strangers see the beautiful side of

her, but left me to her dark side. Why would

she give her smile to someone who didn’t

deserve it? He would sure toss it into the

gutter. I, on the other hand, would cherish

it.

“Uhm…hello?” The white boy stared at

Cynthia’s outstretched hand. He let it hover

in the air for a few seconds. Reaching an

obvious decision, he moved his hand.

Disappointment and a mix of rage danced

across Cynthia’s face as he stuffed his hand

into his pocket.

“I’m Cynthia.” Puppy-eyed, she looked down

at her hand for a few moments before

withdrawing it. Surely, a boy had never

refused her a handshake. Her lower lip stuck

out, unable to hide her broken spirit.

Fighting back the negative emotions that

fought to humiliate her, she kept her

wavering smile in place.

“Raheem,” Mr. White muttered. Being in a

conversation with Cynthia seemed to irritate

him. And regardless of this, Cynthia smiled

on. This side of her stunned me into

jealousy. I had thought she had zero

tolerance for bullshit.

I wished to be in Mr. White’s place. I wished

my sister spoke to me with that gleam in

her eyes. I buried my face in the magazine,

hiding the hurt in my eyes.

“Raheem,” she tested the name on her lips,

savoring it like she would a tasty dish.

“Raheem Kadir, I suppose?”

Raheem scowled at her like he would a

pestering kid he held back from screaming

at. Cynthia groped for words to fill in the

conversation gap.

“Welcome to Western High,” she said.

Raheem joined his mother in Sir Amadi’s

office. He hadn’t even taken a glance in my

direction. Relief washed over me. I hated

his arrogance. What serious student started

school six weeks into session?

Raheem Kadir? His name seemed Arab.

Iraqi perhaps? Afghanistan or Indian? His

accent didn’t strike me as Indian, so I

scratched it off the list.

I shook off these thoughts. I didn’t care

where he came from. Since when did I

become interested in getting to know him?

Cynthia could do this, considering how she

gushed over him. I would not share her

task.

My gaze followed her as she returned to her

seat. The dreamy look on her face made me

wonder what thoughts revolved around her

head. I didn’t have to wonder, though. I

knew just how sickening her thoughts were.

I knew she would try to date him. She would

dump Alex for Raheem, the guy who had

hurt her feelings just as he hurt mine.

Although she tried to hide her hurt, I knew

his coldness stung. My being around to

witness her shame made it sting twice as

much.

Now I hated him twice as much as I already

had. Hurting me had done nothing to satisfy

him, and so he had gone ahead to hurt my

sister as well. This all happened on his first

day at school. What would happen

tomorrow, and the day after it? Before the

week ran out, his reputation as a jerk would

sure precede him.

“Mum, can you believe this man?” Raheem’s

disembodied voice pierced through the

silence.

“Are you implying my son is not worthy to

be a student here, Mr. Amadi?” Mrs. Kadir

said.

“You best stop putting words in my mouth,

Mrs. Kadir,” Mr. Amadi said. “In this school,

we have standards, laws, principles and

codes that every student must adhere to.

Styles of dressing and grooming must

convey modesty and soundness of mind to

give us a reputable image in the society.”

Inwardly, I danced a victory dance. My

principal would not let them intimidate him.

“Mum, I can’t stand this,” Raheem said.

“Here now he says I am adorned with all

immodesty. C’mon, let’s go. It isn’t worth

it.”

“You shame me, Mr. Amadi,” Mrs. Kadir

said. In my mind’s eye, I could see her

shaking her head, disappointment flitting

across her face. “And I thought by coming

here my son and I were making the very

best decision. And here now, not even one

consideration is made for a person who has

crossed several seas to be here.”

“We have principles,” Sir Amadi said. “I will

not compromise. Students are just not

allowed to wear such stylish hair or keep

facial hair. We aren’t running a fashion

show.”

“Mum, I can’t stand this,” Raheem said. “I

told you from the start that I don’t want to

be involved with any Nigerian school.”

Nigerian school. Obviously, he saw our

schools—and by extension our country as a

whole—as inferior. That stung. I would be

right to tag him as racist. One more reason

to hate him.

“But you insisted Western High or whatever

was up to code,” he went on. “Seriously it

doesn’t even compare to the school I came

from, and here we are, making this man feel

like a boss when he’s nothing. Do you have

any idea how humiliated your son is right

now? Obviously you don’t.”

“Raheem!” Mrs. Kadir warned.

“I’m done, mum. Find me in the car.”

Cynthia rose to her feet. Holding her hands

behind her back, she waited for Raheem.

The door flew open, and Raheem stormed

out of the reception. He slammed the door

so hard, it shook in its hinges.

“Raheem!” Cynthia called, running after him

as he stepped toward the exit. “Wait!”

Raheem turned to look at her. “Your old

man boasts of having very modest students.

But look! They do not even know

eavesdropping is improper.”

“I’m sorry about listening in on your

conversation,” Cynthia said. “Your voice was

just…well, all over the place.” That seemed

to calm him down.

Cynthia pushed her luck. “You should give

our school a try.”

“Yeah?”

“Uhm…yeah.” Smiling sheepishly, she fiddled

with the hem of her waist coat.

Mrs. Kadir walked out of Sir. Amadi’s office,

her calmness telling me she had everything

under control. Unfortunately.

“Come, son,” she said.

“Do I get to see you tomorrow?” Cynthia

asked in a sugar-coated voice intended to

charm both mother and son.

With a shrug, Raheem shoved his hands into

his pocket and swaggered off, leaving

Cynthia at the mercy of embarrassment. If I

were her I would pray for the ground to

open and swallow me. I could never be in

this state, though. I could never throw

myself at a total stranger, or any other guy

for that matter.

Mrs. Kadir beamed at her, paying for her

son’s rudeness. “Raheem will be in school

tomorrow, dear.”

Slowly and hauntingly, those words

resounded in my head. Raheem will be in

school tomorrow, dear.

Unable to contain my disappointment, I

tossed the magazine on the table and

escaped into Sir Amadi’s office. It took a

moment for Cynthia to join me, her face

aglow as opposed to mine.

Sir Amadi gestured at the chairs across

from him. He stared at me, the look in his

eyes menacing. Intimidating. Unimpressed.

What had I done?

He waited till we sat down before he spoke,

“Victoria, you are one of our best students,

but there are some things we cannot

tolerate.”

“I…I…don’t understand,” I said. My eyes met

Cynthia’s and she looked away, a smug

smile on her face.

“I believe you heard every word I said to

that woman and her son. The same applies

to you. We have rules and standards that all

students must conform to. And no student is

bigger than them, not even the most brilliant

of them all. Do you understand?”

“I do, sir.” As much as I wanted to ask him

what I had done wrong, I could not. He

would find it offensive. I shifted my gaze to

the floor, waiting for him to spill.

“Why then do you not abide by our third

rule?” he asked.

Third rule. Third rule. ‘All students must be

in school no later than 8am.’

“Is there a special reason for this?” he

asked.

Of course. I could never make it to school

by 8am because my stepmother and her

daughter had sworn to make my life

miserable. But could I tell him this?

“No.” I shook my head, answering both his

question and mine. I would not spill the sins

of my stepmother and her daughter before

this man. Not while building up my family

remained my priority.

“Just as I told you, sir,” Cynthia said. “God

knows how hard I have tried to make her

change. I wake up before six everyday and

do all the chores, and then I wake her up

and ask her to get ready for school, but she

doesn’t. And if I insist, she gets all

aggressive. She always says that she is the

brightest bulb in class and even if she

misses all her classes she will still make

straight A grades. That’s why I brought this

matter to you. You’re the only one who can

help her change. If father were alive, she

wouldn’t do this. He didn’t bring us up like

this. Turning her back on everything we’ve

been taught is like spitting on father’s grave

and it worries me gravely, sir. I have tried to

explain to her a million times that her

coming late will not build a favorable image

of this school. But nothing matters to her.”

Receiving an imaginary microphone from

Cynthia, Sir Amadi said, “Whenever you are

dressed in this school uniform, people out

there see you as a representative of

Western High. Do you not know this?”

“I do, sir.” I wished I knew the direction of

this conversation. Had this been a movie I’d

fast-forward to the end. But reality offered

no such services. Sitting amidst this

unbearable mess, I couldn’t even do

anything but stay subject to the overweight

man before me.

I saw no point to this whole meeting. Did I

not pay for my late coming as the rules

stated? For four straight years I had been

punctual as the classroom janitor. And I had

never wavered in my duties. So why had

they brought this up now?

“You do?” Sir Amadi’s voice cut through my

thoughts. “And then you leave for school

around ten, eleven? What are you thinking?

Do you know the damaging effect this has

on our reputation?”

“It is not like I do this on purpose,” I said.

The temper I’d tried so hard to control

flared, and though I fought to regain control,

success slithered from my grasp. “Do I

strike you as one who doesn’t care about

the school rules?”

Slapping his desk, Sir Amadi sprang to his

feet. His stomach, the stretching of skin

over a watermelon, bulged against his brown

designer’s long sleeve. “How dare you talk

back at me, young lady?”

Freedom of speech. He might have heard of

it. But considering that he majored in

Christian Religious Studies, I doubted he

read any other book but the Bible and Bible

based literature. So much for narrowing your

brain resources to one field.

I’d recommend he grab a copy of the

Nigerian Constitution, flip to chapter two

and examine section thirty-nine, sub-section

one. There he would find that everyone,

including me, is entitled to freedom of

expression, including freedom to hold

opinions and to receive and impart ideas

and information without interference. Try as

he might, he could not make me—or anyone

else—an exception to this law. So while he

had the right to speak, I had mine also.

But while I had freedom of expression, I

could not forget the discipline of my father.

He’d taught me to respect older ones. And I

always would, in honor of his loving

memory.

I wouldn’t want Sir Amadi to accuse me of

being disrespectful by remaining seated

while he stood, so I rose to my feet. “I’m

sorry, sir.”

 

More stories @ www.chorusman.com

 

“If your late coming repeats itself again, we

will be forced to withdraw your scholarship.”

For the first few moments, I didn’t register

the implication of his words. And then it hit

me with the power of a hammer blow,

draining the blood from my face. My heart

sunk, a menacing silence stealing me over.

I told myself I hadn’t heard correctly. “What?

What, sir?”

“Yes, Victoria.” With his affirmative answer,

my whole world came crashing down on me,

crushing me underneath its weight like a

bug squished by a firm foot. “If you have no

respect for our rules, then you do not

deserve the scholarship.”

Sir Amadi had just taken the air from my

lungs, and his eyes held no pity. He had

never struck me as one who would commit

murder and look down at the corpse with

indifference. But he had just done that. He

had killed me with his terrible news of

terminating my scholarship. And although

my eyes brimmed with tears, he felt no

remorse.

“Thank you for bringing this to my notice,”

he told Cynthia.

“It’s nothing,” Cynthia said, masking her joy

with a tinge of sadness. “It’s my duty.”

Emotions hit me like a spear protruding my

chest. Vigorously, I shook my head as

though to shake off this bitter reality. This

couldn’t be true. I couldn’t lose my

scholarship. No, this had to be a joke. There

had to be some hidden cameras somewhere.

But when had I enrolled in the school drama

club?

Who was I kidding? This was reality staring

back at me with eyes of mockery. I couldn’t

lose my scholarship. WAEC stood only a few

months away. How would I complete High

School without my scholarship?

My knees thumped on the floor but I didn’t

register the pain. Gluing my palms together

in a prayer pose, I begged, “Please sir, don’t

take away my scholarship. It is my only

hope.”

“Your scholarship is still yours for now. But

if you continue to show disrespect for our

rules and regulations, then like I said, we

will be forced to withdraw it.” With that, he

waved a dismissive hand at us.

“Is there a problem, sir?” The receptionist’s

voice announced her presence.

“No,” Sir Amadi said, settling back in his

seat. “They were just about leaving.” He

shot me a warning gaze. If I didn’t leave I

would be in trouble.

Swiping at my eyes, I marched out of the

office, with Cynthia close behind me. With

every breath I let out, I could feel my life

force seep out. My throat quavered. Where

would I start from if I lost my scholarship?

My body trembled as grief’s tangibility

streamed down my cheeks. Craving support,

I sauntered to the stairway and gripped the

handrail. My eyes squeezed shut, letting out

more tears. Dad had always told me to

never lose hope. But this day I had failed

him. I wanted to believe that after this

darkness, light would shine through. But I

couldn’t hang on to this hope.

A feathery sensation on my hand alerted

me. Slowly, painfully, I opened my now puffy

eyes and found a butterfly fluttering around

me. Despite myself, a smile stole its way to

my face and I reached out my hand to the

colorful beauty. It hesitated for a moment or

two, and then it perched on my right pointer.

Series of thoughts crowded in on me,

turning my admiration to envy. Unlike me,

the butterfly had freedom. It didn’t have any

chains binding it.

“I want to be free,” I said. “I don’t want to

die in my misery.” Throwing my hand in the

air, I watched my split-second friend fly

away only to perch on another side of the

building.

Movement to the right caught my eye.

There, a few feet from me, stood Cynthia,

staring with a blank face. She just stood

there, motionless, drinking to intoxication

every detail of my sorrow.

“Are you satisfied with this?” I asked. I

studied her for a reaction, but the actress

before me showed none. “I know you hate

me. I know you always want to be one step

ahead of me, but did you have to go this

far?”

“Shut up, you stupid girl,” she said, looking

around to be sure we were alone.

“Why, Cynthia, why?” I asked between

hiccups and sobs. “I just want to know why

you did this. Why did you do this? Why do

you feed off of my sadness?”

“Are you seriously talking to me like that?

Oh, I see that friend of yours has been

giving you some tutorials. Let me make

something clear to you. We are not on the

same page. Do you understand? Life is

made up of two groups of people. The

privileged and the less privileged. It’s not

my fault you belong in the unfortunate

group. There are many schools for peasants

like you. You’re free to try one of them. But

you, dressed in this uniform, and trying to fit

in, it all makes me sick. You’re such a

parasite. Always trying to compete with

me.”

“That’s not true!” I said. “You’re the one

who sees everything as a competition!”

“Do you know how irritating it is that

someone like you is trying to rub shoulders

with me?” she asked.

“I’m not trying to rub shoulders with

anyone,” I retorted.

“Hmm. You’ve grown wings. You are going

to regret every line you just recited, I swear.

Wait till mum hears this. You’re not even

happy you’re not out on the streets! Do you

know what we go through just to

accommodate a pest like you in our house?”

“My father’s house,” I corrected, my voice

crackling with resentment. Rage fought to

overcome me. And this time, I let it win. My

inner demon had been crouching for far too

long. I let it rise. I let it blind me. I glared at

Cynthia and let the fire in my eyes consume

her. Awed into silence, she could only gape

at a part of me I had never let her see.

“I guess you’re on cloud nine right now,” I

said. “What does this add to your life? Do

well to remember that no matter what you

do, my light will always shine through. You

try to bury me, but you don’t know I’m a

seed. You can run home and tell this to

mummy, adding sugar and every other spice

because you’re a spoilt little brat. The

stones you use to pelt me, I will use them to

stand. Just watch. You might even want to

grab some popcorn, because a show is fast

approaching and you are definitely going to

be my audience.”

Cynthia blinked, disbelieving both her eyes

and her ears. She opened her mouth to

speak, but it stayed open, voiceless. After a

second too long, she found her voice. “Are

you forgetting who you’re talking to?”

“You try to be happy, but deep down you’re

just as sad as I am,” I said, smoldering her

with my gaze to rub it in. I could tell it

unnerved her. And I enjoyed every bit of it.

“You’re depressed, and though you have

everything, it’s as though you have nothing.

And truly, you have nothing. You wonder

what’s missing in your life, but you can’t

place a finger on it. You can’t place a finger

on it because you’ve blinded yourself from

seeing what’s missing in your life.”

Without waiting to see her reaction, I

whirled on my heels. Simultaneously, the bell

for the next period rang. Each second drew

me nearer to the moment my scholarship

would be stripped from me, and I would drop

out of school. More tears blurred my vision.

I couldn’t go to class in this state. I sprinted

to the sickbay, my new-found sanctuary.

“They want to withdraw my scholarship,” I

said to Stella. “It’s over for me now.”

.

To be continued..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *