Thu. Feb 15th, 2024

Allergy

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continues..

“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

unwilling seatmate.

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

me.

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

help it.

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

again. Frantically.

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

own medicine?

“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

attention.

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

first choice.”

“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

possible.”

“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.

One…Two…Three…

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

discomfort.

Forty…Forty-one…

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-

have-ears look.

“Let’s go grab some food,” I said, strapping

on my backpack. My stomach rumbled in

response.

“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

tiring.”

***

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

almost immediately.

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

godmother.

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

school fees.

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

children.

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

toward her.

“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

yesterday.”

“Doing what?” Amarachi asked, eyes

widening.

 

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,”

Amarachi said.

“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?”

“Hunch.”

Now, Amarachi played the part of the

clueless one. “What’s this about a perfume?”

“Raheem’s perfume,” I said. “I’m allergic to

its ingredients.”

“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

cafeteria.

“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

go away.

“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

thingy, please.”

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

said.

“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,”

Amarachi said.

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

won’t hurt.”

“That’s what you said yesterday,” I said.

“Okay. Tell the truth. Did it hurt yesterday?”

I sniffed. Moments passed and I didn’t

answer.

“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

vasoconstriction leads.”

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

the counter.”

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

so.

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.

“Ouch!”

Although the sting didn’t hurt half as bad as

I’d thought it would, it still qualified as

unpleasant.

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

am gone.

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

here?

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

Raheem.

“What happened?”

“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

blinds.

“What happened?” a girl asked.

“Nothing,” Raheem retorted. “Nothing that

concerns you. Now get out of here. All of

you! Move!”

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

shudder.

“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

process?”

“Are you going to help save a life or not?” I

asked.

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.

Twice. Thrice.

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

mirrored mine.

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

to say.

“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

message.

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

down.

Raheem crouched beside her. “What did you

see?”

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

suicide attempt!”

Doreen gulped down her fear. “Bloody Miri

.

To be continued..

 

 

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