The mathematics teacher looked at the students and said in a very angry voice.
“You have not been studying as you should. Only a few of you passed the last two tests and in a few weeks, exams will commence. I want you all to re-examine the reason your parents sent you to school and focus on making them very proud of you.”
All of a sudden, the words from the maths teacher seemed to fade and Chekwube felt very dizzy, she blinked rapidly and tried an inhale and exhale exercise but nothing was working. Her eyes slammed shut and she fell forward on her desk, hitting her head on the table and passing out.
“Chekwube!” Her seatmate screamed.
The class was in an uproar, some students ran to her and began to fan her with their books while the teacher screamed that they rush her to the sick bay. Gbenga and Mickey were on hand to help and by the time Chekwube was lying on the bed in the infirmary, they were standing by her.
“Are you her friends?” The school nurse asked.
“Yes…I am…” Gbenga answered quickly.
“Yes…yes…I am too.” Mickey said, scared that something could be wrong with Chekwube.
“You are not her friend.” Gbenga spat.
“I…I am…” Mickey answered with a shaky voice.
“Look, if you’re here to try to make her life miserable, I suggest you leave.” He warned.
“Please keep quiet or I might send you out.” The nurse warned. “Is her house far from here?” She asked Mickey and Gbenga.
“No ma…it’s just on the next street.” Gbenga informed.
The nurse looked at her wristwatch.
“We still have one hour before school closes for the day. Once school dismisses, I’ll need you to take her home but before then, I need to speak with the principal.” The nurse said and walked away.
Gbenga looked at the retreating nurse.
“Isn’t she going to call a doctor or maybe take her to a hospital?” He asked worriedly.
“This is a government school, there’s really no hospital attached to it.” Mickey said.
“But…what if there’s something wrong with her? What if she is in danger? In my former school, we had students rushed to the hospital when they collapse at school.”
“Well, that’s a private school and there, the school can send a student to the hospital and have the parents pay the medical bills but here, most parents can’t afford medical care. You can’t expect to take a student to an expensive clinic and have a problem settling the bills. Even if you take the student to a government hospital, there are still some payments to be made.” Mickey said breathing heavily. She hated hospitals, clinics and sick rooms.
“You seem quite uncomfortable…” Gbenga noticed.
“I’m…fine.” She said.
“Let’s sit on the bench and wait.” Gbenga said.
They poked their heads into the small room where Chekwube lay, her eyes were closed and her breathing was steady.
“Do you know what? I think I’ll wait outside.” Mickey said and dashed out of the sick bay to stand outside the door.
Gbenga joined her and stood there, leaning against the wall.
“What could have happened to her? She was fine when we came to school this morning.” He noted.
“She said she was a bit sleepy plus, I think she’s stressed at home. There’s this guy…” Mickey started.
“One very rude fellow who came to harass her at school yesterday. According to Chekwube, he’s her aunt’s nephew.”
“Wait…I know the guy. Is he tall, lanky and dark skinned?”
“Yes…do you know him?” She asked.
“Yes, that’s the guy who was rude to me when I went to study at Chekwube’s house.” Gbenga supplied.
“He was rude to you?” She asked.
“Yes, he didn’t even want me to go into the house but thankfully, my dad was there so he had no choice but to let us in.”
“That man is so annoying. I think he bullies Chekwube and she keeps it to herself.” Mickey said.
“Do you think so?” Gbenga asked.
“Yes, you should have seen the way he insulted her at the gate of the school yesterday. I had to shut him up.”
“Really? You did that for Chekwube?”
“Hey…don’t make it sound as though I can’t do anything nice.” She said.
“Well…that’s because you hardly ever do anything nice…” He said.
The nurse walked into the sick bay and Mickey was once again hit but her strong dislike for anything that had to do with hospitals, clinics or sick bays.
Chekwube opened her eyes and sat up on the bed, her head felt woozy and her throat was parched. She remembered that she’d fainted in her class but she didn’t know when she was rushed to the sick bay. She recalled that Mickey had told her that her mother was in town and her heart skipped a beat the umpteenth time. She closed her eyes and wished that she could wish her mother away. All through her classes, she hadn’t been able to concentrate as the fact that her mother could ask her to go back home with her loomed over her like a dark cloud.
“Why did she have to come? Why did Ola do this to me? If she never had an affair with Baba Tee, this wouldn’t be happening.” She groaned.
The nurse walked into the room and looked at her.
“How are you feeling?” She asked.
“I am feeling much better.” Chekwube replied.
“Did you eat breakfast before leaving the house?” The nurse asked.
Chekwube shook her head, she had been in such a hurry to avoid EM that she’d skipped breakfast.
“Did you eat anything during break-time?” The nurse asked.
She shook her head again, she had forgotten her wallet at home because she had been rushing to leave the house before EM woke up and harassed her for yesterday.
“That explains it.” The nurse said. “When did you go to sleep last night?”
“I…err…I” She stammered, remembering that she’d hardly slept a wink through the night. “I slept at two am…I was…wasn’t able to sleep because I err….I had studied late into the night.” She lied.
“Do you see that you are the architect of your misfortune?” The nurse asked. “I’ll have the principal summon your parents to the school. If you are not being properly taken care of at home, then we need to know. We don’t like it when students scare us with fainting spells.”
Chekwube’s mouth opened wide.
“I…my parents?” She stammered.
“Who do you live with?”
“My errr….my brother-in-law’s aunt.” She said.
The nurse looked at her and shook her head.
“So, you don’t live with your parents?”
“No ma, but it’s not what you think. Auntie Lizzie is very nice to me, I just forgot to have breakfast because I wanted to study in school before my classmates arrived and I forgot my wallet at home. She gives me a weekly stipend.”
“Nevertheless, we still have to see her and talk to her. If indeed she’s taking good care of you and you’re skipping meals and sleep, then she has to look into it.” The nurse said. “Or, is there something bothering you?”
Chekwube shook her head hard.
“No, not at all ma.”
“You still have to bring your guardian to see the principal latest tomorrow. Can I have your guardian’s phone number?” The nurse asked.
Chekwube wanted to cry. Auntie Lizzie has been so good to her and she couldn’t bear the school authorities think that she was being negligent. She knew that if Auntie Lizzie found out that she’d been skipping meals and sleep, she’ll be very angry with her. Chekwube couldn’t say what had made her collapse earlier, but she knew that it could be from the thought that her mother was in town.
She began to call out Auntie Lizzie’s number which she’d memorized.
Ola was crying, she couldn’t stop the tears from falling. Auntie Lizzie sat beside Nosike, Ola’s mother sat on the bed in the room while Baba Tee leaned against the door frame looking quite bruised. Ola’s mother’s scratches had turned his face around.
“So, what is the final verdict?” Auntie Lizzie asked, looking at her wristwatch impatiently.
“Ola has to go home.” Nosike said.
“Lai lai…Ola na my woman and she go stay with me.” Baba Tee spat.
“Hey…hold it there.” Auntie Lizzie fired. “If you as much as create more trouble, I am going to call the police to lock you up.”
“You nor fit.” Baba Tee shouted. “You know who I be?”
“Are you seriously talking back at me? Anyway, I am still waiting for your mother to show up because I’d rather speak to her than deal with a miscreant like you.” Auntie Lizzie fired.
As though on cue, Baba Tee’s mother walked up to the room. The door was open so she didn’t have to knock.
“Una Weldon ooo…” She greeted.
“Iya, you don see wetin ya pikin cause…” Nosike started.
“Abeg, nor vex…nor vex at all…you know say na only me dem get for dis world. Dia papa don die and de one wey senior dem kpatapata, don die…” She cried, wiping her eyes with her wrapper. “De neighbours dem don tell me everything.”
“I nor believe say Baba Tee go fit take my wife from me.” Nosike started with tears in his eyes.
Baba Tee’s mother fell on her knees.
“I take God beg una, Mama Ola…abeg, nor vex…na devil shook him hand for dis whole matter ooo…na devil.” She cried.
“What do you propose that we do?” Aunt Lizzie asked Ola’s mother in their native tongue.
Ola’s mother shrugged, her face was swollen from too much crying.
“This is the first time that anyone in my lineage has done what Ola has done and I don’t blame her but I blame the city life. Ada, her elder sister is married too but since she lives in the village, I haven’t heard this kind of news from her husband’s people. I think I will have to take Ola back with me if Nosike doesn’t want her again.” She cried in their native language. “I will be the laughing stock of the village ehn…I will be the woman whose daughter left her husband…”
“Mama Ola, stop the tears…please…” Aunt Lizzie said.
“I will return her dowry.” Nosike said.
Ola’s mother began to wail and beat herself on the ground. Ola cried as she watched her mother cry.
“I will pay her dowry.” Baba Tee said stubbornly. “And make una nor dey speak una language for hia ooo…I nor understand am.”
His mother punched him hard and he grimaced.
“Ola, what do you want to do? Will you follow your mother home?” Auntie Lizzie asked.
“No, I will stay here with Baba Tee.” Ola answered.
“Does she have a say? She doesn’t have a say at all…” Ola’s mother spat.
“Yes, she does. She is pregnant and that complicates things for you. Do you want the villagers to wonder why her husband left her with her pregnancy? The best option is to accept the dowry from Baba Tee.” Aunt Lizzie said.
“I am not her father and I can’t make the decision for her.” Ola’s mother cried.
“You are her mother and yes, you can make the decision in her father’s absence.” Auntie Lizzie continued.
“We don’t even know who the father of that baby is.” Nosike spat.
Ola’s mother looked at her daughter and wept.
“Is this how your marriage turned out? Why did you have to be different from your elder sister? I didn’t expect this from you. If it was Chekwube, yes, I would have expected it because she’s strong-willed and loves to stand her ground but you, no…I didn’t expect it.” She cried and wiped her tears with her palms. “Speaking of Chekwube, where is she?”
“She’s in school…she lives in my house.” Aunt Lizzie said.
“Please, I have to take her with me. I have seen what city life has done to Ola and I won’t let it happen to Chekwube. I want her to follow me back to the village.”
“But…you can’t say that Chekwube is very different from Ola and she’s very brilliant. Let her stay here, I promise to take good care of her.” Auntie Lizzie started.
Auntie Lizzie’s phone chose that moment to ring and she answered the call.
“Hello, am I speaking with Mrs. Lizzie?”
“Yes, you are.”
“My name is Mrs. Ayo Makinde, I am the principal of …”
“I know who you are…the school is practically behind my house and my ward attends school there.”
“Yes, I am calling you in respect of your ward, Miss Chekwube.”
“What happened to her?” Aunt Lizzie asked worriedly.
“I need to see you urgently, there are a lot of things I need you to explain to me.”
“What…how do you mean?”
“It is obvious that you have a lot of questions to answer especially about her wellbeing and…”
“What are you implying? I take good care of her…I…I don’t understand you.” Auntie Lizzie asked sounding very upset.
“It seems that your ward for some strange reason hasn’t been eating both at school and at home and she’s been staying up all night as well. She collapsed in class this afternoon and from my interactions with the school nurse, it doesn’t seem like she’s properly taken care of. We’ll discuss further when I see you in my office, before the end of school today or tomorrow.”
“I’m on my way to your school now.” Auntie Lizzie said and hung up.
“What is it?” Nosike asked worriedly.
Aunt Lizzie stood up and looked at Nosike.
“It seems that Ola’s mother is right, her children are being influenced seriously by this new life and they need to go back to the village. I just received a call from Chekwube’s principal and what she told me doesn’t sound appealing in the least. I am deeply disappointed that Chekwube made me look like an irresponsible guardian and once I’m done with the principal at the school, I’m sending her back here to accompany her mother back home.”
To be continued next week……