“If you had a brain, even a pretty dull one,
and obviously you don’t, you’d know that
soft surfaces make the process ineffective.”
Just when I thought my life had gotten a tad
better, I found myself in a whole new hell.
From the moment Madam Charity
intervened, I knew I had lost the battle. I
would have to accept my fate as Raheem’s
While everyone bought his Hypermetropia
crap, I did not. And Amarachi’s ‘I-don’t-buy-
it’ look told me she seconded my belief that
he had made up the story. Would he not
wear glasses if his story were true? Unless
of course he wore contact lenses, which I
doubted. He’d only made this up to taunt
I watched Madam Charity move around,
gesticulating as she taught about poetic
devices, but rage roared in my ears, tuning
out her voice. I could only think of my
current situation; a situation I would have to
endure for the rest of my school year. Once
assigned to our seats, we were not allowed
to sit elsewhere unless our form teacher
allowed it. The hopelessness of my new
reality hit me like a blow.
I had scooted to the far end of the seat to
create as much distance as possible
between Raheem and I, but this didn’t bring
me the security I craved. I lowered my gaze
to my backpack sitting on my laps like a
favored child. Thinking fast, I wedged it
between Raheem and I. I knew the
childishness in finding safety in the
barricade the backpack built, but I couldn’t
Amarachi and I had literally let a boy come
between us. We’d sworn to never let this
happen. I thought back to the small talks
we’d had during class, the notes we
exchanged, and every other thing we used
to do. With Raheem between us, these were
all things of the past. I missed them
already. I missed my best friend.
She felt just as lonely as I did. I could see it
in the glum look in her otherwise sharp
eyes, the look as though a part of her had
been s—-d into a vacuum. Together, we had
protested when Madam Charity asked
Raheem to sit between us. When the finality
of Madam Charity’s decision dawned on us,
we’d asked her to have Raheem sit at the
edge of our seat. But our offer had fallen on
deaf ears. His smoldering presence between
my best friend and I would be a constant
reminder of our defeat.
If it depended on me, I would shut him out
of my senses and pretend he didn’t exist.
But his expensive perfume assaulted my
nose with a tickling sensation, nauseating
me, making me too aware of his presence.
Wrinkling my face, I scrunched up my nose,
praying it would shove off the sick feeling.
But it didn’t go away. If anything, my
resistance made it all worse. Again, I
scrunched up my nose.
Casually, I studied Amarachi and others
close enough to share with me in this hell.
They were in paradise, oblivious of my
struggle to breathe. This perfume, from the
depth of hell, had preyed on my rage.
A light bulb lit up inside my head. It all
made sense. Yesterday, I hadn’t sneezed
until my encounter with Raheem. It had to
be his perfume. It no doubt contained one or
two ingredients I found toxic. I had an
allergy, and I never knew of it until this
moment. This explained why nobody else
seemed affected by the unbearably strong
smell. Curse him and the stench of death he
brought with him.
Now that I thought of it, I wished I had
dumped snot all over his face when I had
the chance. He deserved that and more for
ruining the health I had managed just fine
until he came along.
Digging into my backpack, I pulled out my
neatly folded handkerchief. I gripped it,
waiting for a sneeze. And it didn’t
disappoint. I pressed the handkerchief to my
nose and cursed under my breath. I sneezed
again. And again. Tears pooled around my
itchy eyes. I blinked to keep from scratching
them. It didn’t seem to work. I blinked
Was it just me, or were Raheem’s eyes fixed
on me? I didn’t look up to confirm.
“Vicky?” Amarachi called, her voice low.
I understood she meant to ask after my
health. “I’ll survive.”
She gasped as I turned to look at her. Panic
engulfed her at the sight of my blood shot
eyes. “Your eyes. Are you alright? Should I
take you to the sickbay? Surely, your fairy
godmother will know what to do.”
“It’s nothing.” I caught Raheem’s eye. He
regarded me not with an everyday stare, but
the stare a hunter would give a wounded
animal just before picking it up, gutting it
and hanging it over a crackling fire.
I didn’t think he would speak to me. I didn’t
even want him to. But then, his lips parted
to give way to words. And in that moment, I
let myself believe he would apologize for the
inconvenience his perfume had caused me. I
braced myself for how to respond. Would I
accept his apology or give him a taste of his
“I asked around and you’re the class brain,”
he said. “Tutor me.”
It took a moment for his words to register,
and when they did, I fumed. He’d asked
around and found me to be the class brain.
So what? I would never tutor him. Giving
Madam Charity my undivided attention, I
played deaf to Raheem’s order. How greatly
he must think of himself to think he could
order me like that. Tutor him?
An angry frown creased my forehead as he
spoke again. “Do we have a deal?”
“Screw you!” I said, my voice louder than I
had intended. Eyes turned in my direction.
Madam Charity headed for our seat. I fought
to contain my rage.
“Why’s she crying?” I heard someone
whisper. I heard other voices, but paid no
Madam Charity panicked at the sight of my
eyes. “What’s wrong with your eyes?”
“Irritation,” I said.
“Maybe there’s something in her eyes,” a
girl said. She sounded genuinely concerned.
But what did I care?
Madam Charity drew closer to me and held
my face, tilting it up. She placed two fingers
on my eyelids and pulled to have an
undisturbed view of my eyes. Her gaze
fished for any foreign body.
“There’s nothing,” she said. “Maybe sand
got into your eyes. Think you can do us a
favor and stop scratching?”
“Yeah, I can manage that,” I said.
That seemed to satisfy her. She turned to
face Raheem. “Problems?”
Raheem stood up and raked his hand
through his hair. “Actually, miss, there is a
bit of a situation here.”
Madam Charity folded her arms, wordlessly
pledging her undivided attention to him.
“I’ve been thinking,” he said. For a dramatic
effect, he appeared to be thinking. “I’ve
already missed close to half the term. If I
am to catch up, I need a tutor.”
Madam Charity nodded her understanding.
“Yeah, you need someone to put you
through. This is the best decision one in
your situation could ever come up with. I
was even going to suggest it to you.”
“Oh,” Raheem said.
“Yeah. So, do you have any special
preference, or do you want me to nominate
someone for you?”
“I already have someone to serve this
special privilege, thank you,” Raheem said.
“I asked around, and everyone
recommended a certain Victoria Brown as
“Here she is, sitting by your right.” Beaming
with pride, Madam Charity gripped my
shoulder. “She’ll gladly do this.”
Raheem smirked. The victory in his eyes
seemed to mock me. He had just
accomplished his purpose, using our form
teacher’s intervention to coerce me into
accepting to tutor him. I would not let this
be forced on me.
“I’m afraid I can’t tutor him,” I said.
Raheem’s upturned lips told me he had seen
this coming; the squirrel wiggling between
the hunter’s trap moments before it gave in
to death. In the blink of an eye, the once
organized class morphed into a marketplace.
Quite the expected reaction.
Amarachi stepped in to save me. “Actually,
she’s under the weather. It just won’t be
“Cynthia will gladly put him through,” I said.
Awed into silence, Cynthia could only afford
to gawk at me. She blinked. And blinked
again. Her brain seemed to have a hard time
processing that I had handed over Raheem
to her. Precious nudged her with an elbow
to fetch her attention.
“Oh, yes,” Cynthia jumped to her feet. She
hyperventilated with sheer excitement. “Yes.
I’ll gladly tutor him. What’ll give me more
joy than helping a new student catch up?”
Madam Charity took a moment to weigh
Cynthia’s motive. She seemed to be fine
with it. “Very well then. Raheem, Cynthia
will be your tutor. Are you okay with that?”
“I thought I made myself clear when I said I
wanted the best,” Raheem said. “Is not the
other girl the best?”
“Yes,” Madam Charity said. “She is, but—”
“Why then should I settle for less, good
lady?” His eyes held all the innocence he
could muster. But beneath it I could see
flames of a fiery temper.
“I’m just as good!” Cynthia snapped.
Frustration flitted across her face.
Raheem narrowed his eyes to slits. From
the way he sized her up, I could almost
swear he would reconsider. Cynthia had the
looks to please the eyes and trouble the
mind. Even an arrogant foreigner didn’t
stand a chance to resist. Or so I thought.
“Really?” Raheem asked, his voice laced
with mockery. “And she’s the one who
passed the scholarship exam, yes?”
Too beat-up to speak, Cynthia settled back
in her chair.
“We should have this conversation later,”
Madam Charity suggested. Her tone held no
room for negotiation. “Raheem, meet me
once school is over and let’s sort this out.”
She waited for Raheem to sit down before
she resumed teaching. She only had a few
minutes before the bell rang, but every
second seemed to drag on for an hour.
Counting, I trained my eyes on Madam
Charity and held my breath to escape
Raheem’s perfume, the death stench from
hell. Madam Charity might think I paid full
attention, but a closer look would show my
Feeling pressure around my throat, I rapped
my fingertips on my desk in a quest to raise
my tolerance level. I knew it would only be
a moment before I s—-d in the air Raheem
had so carelessly contaminated.
At the sixtieth count, I gasped for air. I
hadn’t intended for it to draw attention, but
when Madam Charity’s teaching reached a
sudden halt, and heads snapped in my
direction, I knew I had failed. Greedily, I s—-
d in lungfuls of air.
Slamming my book shut, I dumped it in my
backpack and rested my head on my desk
for some shut eye.
I don’t know how long I slept, but when I
pried my eyes open, I found Amarachi sitting
beside me, right where Raheem had sat.
Literature class had ended. Everyone had
left for break, except us.
“I can’t stand the arrogance of that boy,”
Amarachi said. “Raheem or whatever he’s
called. Son of the devil.”
Her last comment made my lips twitch. I
raised myself to sit upright. “I can’t believe
how long I slept.”
“I didn’t want to disturb you. You probably
didn’t have any rest last night, thanks to
you-know-who.” She gave me the walls-
“Let’s go grab some food,” I said, strapping
on my backpack. My stomach rumbled in
“What’s with the bag?” Amarachi asked.
I shrugged. “Maybe I won’t be coming back
after my meeting with Stella. Climbing these
stairs again to fetch my bag would be
On a normal day, our walk to the canteen
would take no more than five minutes. But
no thanks to my ill health, the walk lasted
twice as long. Standing at the end of the
lunch line, an urge to look around brought
Raheem into my line of sight. At the far end
of the hall, he sat, eating away at a snail’s
pace as though he had all day.
A seductive mix of aromas wafted around
the canteen, flirting with my nostrils. My
stomach rumbled, reminding me of my duty
to fill it. I’d had bread and tea for breakfast,
but my ill health had emptied my stomach
During our walk here, I had tossed an
avomine tablet into my mouth. Now, here I
stood, confident that whatever I ate would
remain in my breadbasket. Bless you, fairy
Done serving herself, a girl carried her food
towards Raheem’s seat. Mary. I recognized
her from science class. Although we never
spoke, I could swear she had a fine
personality and wouldn’t deserve Raheem’s
untamed character. Hadn’t she heard about
him? I’d thought everyone would by now,
considering how fast news spread.
Everyone—at least those who knew his
arrogance—watched to see his reaction. I
did too. I wished I could reach out and warn
Mary. Raheem’s lips moved as he lifted his
eyes to acknowledge her presence. I wished
I could hear what he said.
“Next!” The lunch girl’s voice returned my
focus to the lunch line. I moved forward and
grabbed my utensils. Fried rice looked good.
Thanks to the deteriorating Nigerian
economy, the canteen had only provided
fried rice once in two weeks.
Towards the end of last term, our
disgruntled sighs had reached the director’s
ears, prompting him into action. He had
organized a meeting with parents, wards and
staff, and they discussed ways to improve
the school lunch. With a seven percent
increase in our lunch allowance—and by
extension our school fees—rice meals were
prepared in abundance, and on a daily basis.
So far, every parent seemed fine with the
increment in fees, no doubt seeing it as
ineluctable, something every school had to
do to cope with the recession. Without this
ineluctable increment in fees, schools would
be at huge losses. Especially schools like
ours that included food allowance, textbook
allowance and other expenditure in the
Even with the seven percent increment, the
fees remained affordable, at least compared
to other schools paying over five million
Naira tuition fee per annum, with other
additional fees like uniforms, books, feeding
and the rest of them. And for this reason,
Western High had more patronage than
many of its contemporaries that saw
extravagant fees as the order of the day. At
one point six million per annum for day
students and two point five million for
boarding students, our fees covered tuition
fee and every other fee. To top it all, we
provided all the facilities the other schools
provided. Thus, nature took its course, by
way of parents flocking in with their
Our director had lived in Chicago, USA all his
life. On his return, he’d set up this school,
incorporating Western standards into the
school system, hence the name Western
High. With it he promised every child an
opportunity to enjoy the American
educational system from the comfort of our
country. This won the hearts of many
exclusively rich parents who could readily
splash millions on their children. While most
of them would love sending their children
abroad to study, they didn’t want to have
them ridiculously far away from home just
yet. To bridge this gap, Mark Etto’s Western
High came in.
I dished a generous quantity of rice onto my
disposable lunch tray and scooped two
spoonfuls of salad beside it. Grabbing an
apple and a cup of chocolate and vanilla ice
cream, I stepped aside to create room for
the next person.
Joining me, Amarachi gestured to a vacant
table. She’d settled for pizza, more pizza,
more pizza and little bit of something else.
“Next!” the lunch girl called out. Feet
shuffled behind us as students stepped in
“Can I join you guys?” Flora asked, a
wavering smile on her face.
Amarachi and I smiled back. “Of course.”
Once settled in our chairs, we dug into our
food. Every now and then, Flora and
Amarachi would look over to Raheem and
Mary. So far, nothing bad had happened.
Engrossed in a conversation, they seemed to
be getting along just fine, which struck me
as weird. I’d thought Mr. Arrogant saw
himself as too important to mingle with
lowlife Blacks. Why then did he seem so
comfortable with Mary?
“Think she’s his girlfriend?” Amarachi asked.
Flora slurped her coke. She obviously didn’t
want to start a conversation about him.
Amarachi waited till she set down her coke.
“What do you think of him?”
“He’s human.” Flora grabbed her coke again,
seeking escape. Her shyness always found a
way to amuse me, but letting my
amusement show would only make her
uneasy. I tried not to look at her. I doubted
she would properly bite down on her food
before swallowing if she found me staring.
“And?” Amarachi pressed on, enjoying
Flora’s uneasiness. “You don’t like him
either, do you?”
“Amarachi, stop,” I said. “This is her first
time having lunch with us and you’re already
scaring her off. He’s cute, but that doesn’t
erase the fact that he’s the sickest b—–d
on planet earth. Sick with a capital letter ‘s’
and three letter ‘k’!”
Raheem looked up at me as though he had
heard every word. Had he?
“She could be his girlfriend,” Flora said.
Shrugging, she added, “I saw them
“Doing what?” Amarachi asked, eyes
More stories @ www.chorusman.com
My eyes didn’t stray from Raheem. I would
not be the first one to back out of the stare
battle. Gawking at me with cold eyes, he
spoke to Mary and she turned around.
“Look at him,” I told my crew. They
complied at once, although Flora backed out
almost immediately. Amarachi and I
continued to stare at them.
“Think they’re talking about us?” Amarachi
asked, chewing on her food.
“D–n them if they are,” I said.
Raheem spoke. Mary responded. Raheem
shook his head as he spoke again. They
seemed to be talking about us.
“Well, d–n them,” Amarachi said.
Mary’s blank face brightened with
excitement. A kind of ‘I’m dating the
hottest, most popular guy in school’
excitement. Had it been anyone but Mary, I
would believe it to be the motive behind her
excitement. She waved at us. We waved
back and returned our attention to our table.
“They sure are talking about us,” I said,
gritting my teeth.
My eyes found Raheem again. I watched
him and Mary vacate their seats. Once they
caught me staring, Raheem held her hand,
flaunting her. A smile lit up Mary’s face.
Having him to herself while he made
everyone else feel like poo sure placed her
on cloud nine. Raheem smiled too. That
gesture, simple as it looked, left me
breathless. His conflicting personalities
mesmerized me. While he had the face of
an angel, he had a heart black as coal. I
watched them exit the cafeteria.
“Don’t let him get under your skin,”
“I hate him!” I dabbed my serviette on my
lips and tossed it onto the plate Amarachi
had helped me to empty. Picking up my
apple, I bolted to my feet. “I better go now.”
“We’re coming along,” Amarachi said. She
and Flora stood up simultaneously.
“Where are we going?” Flora asked.
“Sick bay,” Amarachi said.
Flora’s gaze darted between Amarachi and
I. “Who is sick?”
The lost look on her face forced laughter to
bubble within me. And while I fought to
contain mine, Amarachi burst out laughing.
“Vicky isn’t well.”
“Is it his perfume?” Flora asked innocently.
I nodded. “To an extent. How did you know?”
Now, Amarachi played the part of the
clueless one. “What’s this about a perfume?”
“Raheem’s perfume,” I said. “I’m allergic to
“Fragrance sensitivity,” Flora said.
Standing at akimbo, Amarachi shook her
head, disbelieving. “Wow. We’ve been
bestfriends for years and I didn’t know
you’ve got allergies.”
“Such is life,” I said. We headed out of the
“You should tell Madam Charity,” Flora said.
Amarachi draped an arm over my shoulder.
“She’s right. You know, this might just be a
legitimate way to kick Rah’s pompous a-s
out of our seat.”
Taking a pack of orbit gum from her pocket,
Flora popped one into her mouth. She
passed it to Amarachi who did justice to it
and passed it on to me. We remained silent
for the rest of our walk.
While Amarachi followed me inside the
sickbay, Flora just stood in the doorway.
“Come in,” I said.
“I will just wait here,” she said.
“You sure you don’t want to come in?” Stella
asked, stretching her neck from behind the
counter. “This might take some time.”
Tentatively, Flora stepped in and stood
beside us. Gesturing for us to sit, Stella
advanced to us. I noticed a white envelope
with her. “I picked up your test results.”
“How bad is it?” My voice betrayed me,
baring my nerviness. I drew in a deep
breath, willing away my fear, but it had
other plans. Amarachi’s hand found mine.
She squeezed gently, wordlessly assuring
me of her support.
“Calm down. It’s malaria, as expected.” She
presented the test result to Amarachi.
“There’s also typhoid,” Amarachi noted,
staring at the result.
Stella walked to the counter and returned
with two white bags, one of which sought to
comfort me with its small size—at least
when compared with the other.
She raised the smaller bag. “This one
contains all your drugs.”
She placed the bag on my lap. I cringed at
its contents. A bitter taste rose from the
bag and settled on my tongue. I swallowed
the invisible pill, a lump in my throat. I could
still hear Stella talking about the drugs, but
the words never made it to my ears. I could
only think of the drugs. For the next few
days, my life would be hell. I could only
hope it didn’t extend to weeks.
“Are you even listening to me?” she asked.
“What’s in the other bag?” I asked, although
I could already guess.
“IV drips,” she said.
A lone tear glided down my cheek. Images
of a needle piercing its way into my skin
haunted me. I saw a second image: a bead
of blood where the needle had been. I
blinked back these images, but they didn’t
“Isn’t there another way?” I said. “Can’t I
skip the whole drip thingy? I mean…these
drugs can single-handedly do the job, right?
I promise I’ll take them according to
prescription. I won’t take them on an empty
stomach. Please. Just scratch the drip
Wrapping an arm around me, Amarachi
guided my head to her narrow shoulder. I
sobbed. I couldn’t stand a needle piercing
through me for a few seconds to draw
blood. How then would I survive a needle
being buried in my skin for hours? Wouldn’t
it just keep burning the raw side of my skin
the whole time?
“On a scale from 0 to 10, how instrumental
is the drip to her recovery?” Amarachi
asked, gently patting my head.
“It’s just as important as the pills,” Stella
“B-but,” I stuttered. “I don’t even feel too
sick. Isn’t drip for someone who’s confined
to a sickbed?”
When Stella didn’t respond, I said, “But this
is about my health. Shouldn’t I be the one
deciding the nature of my treatment?”
Flora patted my arm. “It can’t be that bad.”
“You don’t understand!” I yelled.
“Vicky, Vicky, Vicky,” Stella called, her voice
sugar-coated. She plopped down on the bed
opposite ours. “I thought we already got
past this yesterday.”
“Sounds like there’s a story I don’t know of,”
Placing the bag of drips beside her, Stella
brought out a transparent bag of IV fluid, a
syringe, a pair of sterile disposable gloves
and other materials I didn’t care to identify.
“Yesterday wasn’t easy,” she said. “She
created a scene when the nurse approached
her for the blood test. I had to step in and
do the job myself. Don’t worry, Vicky. It
“That’s what you said yesterday,” I said.
“Okay. Tell the truth. Did it hurt yesterday?”
I sniffed. Moments passed and I didn’t
“You see,” she said. “You’re working yourself
up over nothing. Let’s be honest here. Being
nervous causes your veins to constrict. And
I’m sure you don’t want to know where
I’d heard stories of needles snapping in
constricted veins. My throat tightened at the
thought of it, spreading a ghastly whiteness
over my face.
This seemed to please Stella. “Yeah. You
really don’t want to know.” To Flora, she
said, “Fetch me my scissors, dear. It’s on
Once Flora brought the scissors, Stella put
on her sterile gloves and set to work. She
cut off the tip of the tiny medicine bottle
and inserted the syringe. Filling the syringe
with the fluid in the bottle, she injected it
into the IV fluid bag. She did other things I
didn’t care to watch.
“Take off your jacket,” she said. I did just
When she advanced to me, I knew the
moment had arrived. Tears gathered in my
eyes as I watched her roll up my sleeve.
“Lie down,” she said.
I complied, my throat heavy. She sat beside
me and took my hand in hers. While she
searched for the right site to administer the
IV, I prayed her search yielded no reward.
But it did. Her gaze lingered on the inner
crook of my elbow. I shed a tear for my
elbow and the rest of my body.
“Ready?” she asked.
I shook my head.
“You really don’t have a choice now.”
“Sing me a song,” I said. “The song you
sang at the hospital.” I didn’t want to look
superstitious, but that song had washed
away my fright.
She sang, smiling at me the whole time. I
felt the tightening of a tourniquet around my
upper arm. Moving out of my line of sight,
she pulled my hand toward her, or in this
case, to its death. I tilted my head to watch.
“Uh uh,” she said.
Seething with frustration, I lowered my head.
Soaking a piece of cotton wool in
methylated spirit, she cleaned the
administration site with it.
As she sang on, I let the beauty of the lyrics
steal me over. It led me to a place where I
wouldn’t have to worry about needles and
drugs and arrogant b——s. Someday, I
would be in this beautiful place, leaving all
my troubles far behind me. I would fly as
high as my wings dared.
I felt a sting as the needle slid into my vein.
Although the sting didn’t hurt half as bad as
I’d thought it would, it still qualified as
Amarachi smiled at me. She brushed my
hair with her palm. “There. All done.”
Stella secured the IV syringe with a tape.
Her voice dropped to a near-whisper as the
song neared its end. I doubted I would be
awake to hear the end of it.
The tourniquet loosened from my arm, but I
barely paid any attention.
I didn’t realize I had fallen asleep. Not until
my groggy eyes pried open, squinting as
they adjusted to the sunlight peeking in
through the blinds. Where was everyone?
Flora and Amarachi had no doubt returned
to class. And Stella?
The needle in my vein stung a little, bringing
my attention to it. My gaze climbed up the
plastic IV tubing till they settled on an
elevated iron stand towering above me. It
held the bag of fluid, now half-full, giving
me a clue of how long I’d been asleep.
A rustle of paper alerted me as I moved my
non-dominant hand. I raised it to my face. It
held a message:
We didn’t want to disturb you when you
dozed off. Your friends are in class. I’m
having a short meeting with the principal.
Will probably be back before you even notice
With Love From Your Fairy Godmother.
I smiled. Amarachi had obviously told her
how she believed my life to resemble
Cinderella’s. Once again, sleep tugged at
me. I embraced its invitation. Sleeping my
way through the drip session would be more
fun than just laying in bed, watching lazy
drops of fluid slide down the tubing one by
one. I let my drooping eyes close.
The door flew open, yanking sleep off me.
Stella would never throw open the door like
that. Not unless the building was ablaze.
“Back off!” Raheem? What was he doing
I shifted in bed until I had a full view of him
as he trudged into the room, carrying an
immobile female student in his arms. Her
hair dripped with water as though she’d
been in a long shower. Her legs and hands
hung limply. Her head dipped backward,
baring a thin, vulnerable neck. A group of
students trailed behind, hurling questions at
“Will she be alright?”
Raheem cursed under his breath and kicked
the door, slamming it in their faces.
Wedging his foot against the door, he slid a
hand half-way from underneath the
unconscious girl and locked the door.
“Nurse!” he called out, his eyes darting
around the room. “Where’s the cursed
nurse, d–n it!”
Students crowded around the window,
straining their necks to peek through the
“What happened?” a girl asked.
“Nothing,” Raheem retorted. “Nothing that
concerns you. Now get out of here. All of
Placing the girl on the bed next to mine, he
raked slender fingers through his disheveled
hair. His panting told me he’d broken into a
race to beat time.
“Where is the damned nurse, I said!”
Realization hit me as I stared at the girl: the
innocent petite girl I’d bumped into outside
the principal’s office.
“Doreen!” I gasped. “What happened to her?”
Raheem sized me up. His unimpressed gaze
told me he would not speak to anyone but
the nurse. But then he shrugged.
“Swallowed water,” he said. “Maybe there’s
more, but we can’t tell until she awakens.
Now tell me where the damned nurse is!”
I bolted upright in bed and yanked out the IV
drip. Luckily, I knew some ways to help
Doreen. I sprang to my feet. The room ran
fierce circles around me as though I’d been
spinning my life away. Slamming my eyes
shut, I fought to steady myself.
Relief washed over me as control seeped
back into my arms. The strange whoosh
weaving its way around my head subsided
just enough to bring my attention to the
tightness of arms around my profusely
perspiring body. I stiffened.
My eyes narrowed open and I stared into
the face of my hero. He stared back at me.
Had he not rushed to my side in time to slip
his hands to my waist, I would be sprawled
up on the floor.
“What the hell, girl!” he said. Anger flashed
in his eyes, but he didn’t turn them away
from me. Neither did he let go of me. The
close proximity of our faces made me
“We already have one case here and you’re
so desperate to add to it?” he asked.
“Get your hands off me,” I snapped.
I splayed a palm on his chest to shove him
off, but he didn’t budge. His firmness told
me the message he tried to pass across:
nobody pushed him around and he only
acted on his own accord.
My head hadn’t stopped spinning, but I could
manage just fine on my own. His clasp on
me loosened just enough for me to
disentangle myself from him. I staggered
backward and plopped down in bed, willing
myself back to normal. When his gaze
lingered, my ire spiraled out of control.
“What are you doing staring at me?” I yelled.
“Figuring how I can help you,” he said. “Why
else would I look at you?”
“Who said I needed your help? Don’t help
me! Help her!”
“Well, what am I to do?” he yelled. “The
nurse isn’t here!”
Again, he combed through his hair with his
fingers. I figured it came naturally when he
battled with nerviness.
“Call the principal,” I said. “She’s with him.”
He pulled out his Smartphone. It had to be
the iphone7 everyone held in a ridiculously
high esteem. News had already spread high
and low about him flaunting an iphone7. I
could never understand why a person would
give out bundles of naira in exchange for an
ordinary phone. Were there not reasonably
priced phones with good features in the
market? Obviously, it all boiled down to ego.
“Not available.” He groaned, slamming the
phone into his open palm.
Walking to the students crowding the
window, he ordered, “Go fetch the nurse
from the principal’s office. Run!”
Feet shuffled as the students backed away
from the window.
“We shouldn’t wait for them to arrive,” I
said. “I know a thing or two. Let’s get her
on the floor.”
“Are you crazy?” Raheem asked. “The floor
is full of germs!”
“If you had a brain, even a pretty dull one,
and obviously you don’t, you’d know that
soft surfaces make the process ineffective.”
Raheem seemed genuinely clueless. “What
“Are you going to help save a life or not?” I
Arms folded, he pressed his lips together
and watched me. It dawned on me that he
wouldn’t help. I wrapped my arms around
Doreen and pulled her toward me, but found
myself falling toward her instead.
“Will you just stand there?” I yelled.
Hearing his footsteps approach, I stepped
away. He brushed past me and gingerly
swept her into his arms as though she
weighed no more than a leaf. He set her
down on the floor, between the rows of bed.
Taking my mind back to movie scenes
where drowning people—or people who
swallowed water—had been rescued, I knew
what to do. A mouth to mouth resuscitation
had to be it. I sank to my knees and undid
the buttons on Doreen’s waistcoat. Pulling
at her tie, I let it sag.
Turning her head to the side, I stared into
her face. And there I found beauty. Not the
regular beauty, but one reminding me of
sleeping beauty. After allowing water drain
from her mouth and nose, I slowly returned
her head to the center. I splayed my palms
on Doreen’s chest and pressed down
rhythmically. Her nose and mouth spurted
water. She remained motionless.
“Please wake up,” I said.
I continued pressing down on her chest.
Pinching her nose, I lowered my face to
hers, pumping strong breaths into her
mouth. Western High would not lose another
student. I breathed into her again. Once.
Someone turned the doorknob from the
other side. A knock followed.
“Open up,” Stella said.
“That’s the nurse?” Raheem asked. I
nodded, but he’d already opened the door.
Stella rushed to my side. Sir Amadi stepped
in after her.
“Let me take it from here,” she said.
Just as I withdrew my hands, Doreen jerked,
letting out a strangled gasp. Her eyes flew
open. A nervous laugh escaped my lips.
Coming out in ragged bursts, it sounded
weird in my own ears.
“You made it!” Grinning, I looked over to
Raheem, Stella and Sir Amadi. Their joy
Doreen raised herself to sit, her move
robotic. Her lifeless gaze peeled its way into
the wall across from her. My brows
furrowed at her reaction. I had expected a
smile, or just about anything to express her
delight in escaping death. But she burst into
tears, banishing the smile from my face.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
Stella gently shook her. “Tell us what’s
wrong. Are you hurt?”
She searched Doreen’s body, but found no
visible sign of pain. Doreen’s gaze stayed
fixated on the walls. Although I knew I’d find
nothing but white paint, I followed her gaze.
I looked back at Doreen. Her cry rose like
wildfire, piercing my eardrums. With every
breath she took, her chest rose and fell like
she would fall into a seizure. She clapped
her palms over her mouth to stifle her cry.
“Doreen?” I called.
With wide eyes casting a distant look at the
walls, and her face drained out of color, she
looked like she’d seen a ghost.
“She’s real!” she cried, turning to face me.
Her hands reached out and grabbed my
wrists, the suddenness causing my heart to
lurch. The look in her eyes sent a chill
enveloping me. I would wrap my arms
around myself if she didn’t have them in a
death grip as though without gripping me
painfully tight she could not find the words
“She’s real! She tried to kill me…”
Frantically, her fingers flew from my hands
to her neck. They stretched around it, giving
me the idea that whoever tried to kill her
had wrung her neck. My eyes held Stella’s
for a second. She nodded, getting the
Moments passed and I waited for someone
else to try squeezing the answer out of
Doreen. But everyone held back. I could tell
they wanted me to carry on.
I cleared my throat and opened my mouth to
speak, but Doreen cut me off. “I swear I’m
not making this up. She was there. There
was a presence.”
“Please calm down,” I said, my voice laced
with an unscheduled fear. My gaze flitted to
Sir Amadi, and then to Raheem and Stella,
wordlessly begging them to help calm her
Raheem crouched beside her. “What did you
Crying harder, Doreen threw herself at him in
a desperate embrace. Raheem blinked,
knocked off balance by the impact.
Uncertainty clouded his features. Sir Amadi
held out a hand, wordlessly ordering him not
to shove her off.
“What’s your name?” Raheem asked, his
voice dropping to a whisper. His hand patted
her back like a father would a child.
Doreen sniffed. “Doreen.”
“Doreen,” he echoed. “Please, have no fear.
Whatever tried to hurt you is gone now. I’m
here. We are all here. And you are safe. But
we need you to tell us what you saw.”
“She’s no human,” Doreen said. She looked
up at Raheem’s face. “She doesn’t have a
face. It’s all hair. Long, black hair where her
face should be. And she…and she attacked
me because I saw her.”
A chill slid down my spine. We had a
potential murderer amongst us.
“D–n it, girl!” Raheem snapped. Seething, he
detached himself from her and stood up.
“Are you telling us or not? Tell us who
attacked you or we are filing this as a
Doreen gulped down her fear. “Bloody Miri
To be continued..