Mickey was in class when a student came to tell her that the school principal wanted to see her.
“Me?” Mickey asked, astonished. The last time she was called to the principal’s office was when she had beaten up the boy who’d stolen Gbenga’s purse. She remembered the principal’s words to her that day which had chilled her to the bone.
“I know of your mischief and this is the last time you’re ever going to go against school rules.” She’d said. “The next time you are called to my office for breaking a rule, you will be suspended or worse, expelled.”
Mickey’s heart beat franctically in her chest, she didn’t want to be expelled. She looked at the open window of her classroom and considered jumping the fence of the school but something told her that it will only make matters worse. She gulped the saliva in her mouth and made her way out of her classroom.
She reached the door to the principal’s office and stood there, wondering why the principal wanted to see her for.
“Ibinabo!” The principal called from her office.
“Ma.” Mickey quickly answered and walked into the office in fear.
The principal wasn’t alone, she was there with aunt Lizzie, Chekwube’s aunt.
“Good afternoon ma.” Mickey greeted.
“The students tell me that you’re good friends with Chekwube. That’s interesting, considering who you are. You don’t strike me as Chekwube’s type.” The principal said.
“Ma?” Mickey whispered.
“Please, have you seen Chekwube? She left the house and we’ve not seen her.” Aunt Lizzie said, looking really worried.
“She left your house?” Mickey stammered.
“No, not my house. She left my relative’s house. You remember she used to stay with her sister and Nosike.”
“Ohhh…that’s true ma.” Mickey said.
“Have you seen her?” Auntie Lizzie asked.
Mickey shook her head.
“Oh my God! I don’t even know where to start looking.” Aunt Lizzie cried.
“Why would she run away?” The principal asked.
“I think it’s because her mother wants to take her back to the village.” Aunt Lizzie supplied.
“Really? Back to the village? Why? What happened?” The principal asked.
“It’s a long story.” Auntie Lizzie supplied.
“Chekwube is a very brilliant girl. Infact, the teachers tell me good things about her. If she doesn’t want to return with her mother, why can’t her mother leave her here? Doesn’t she have a place to stay in Lagos?”
Aunt Lizzie sighed.
“She used to stay with me. I sent her to her mother because I felt that she was being influenced by city life. I think that I am to blame. I should never have sent her back.”
“Yes, you shouldn’t have.” The principal said. “I think you should report her disappearance to the police if she is still missing after today.”
“Yes, I will. I promised her mother that I will find her.” Aunt Lizzie said. “The poor woman was devastated.”
“Ma, has Chekwube’s mother left yet?” Mickey asked.
“Yes, she has.” Aunt Lizzie said.
“You can go back to your class now.” The principal said to Mickey.
Mickey let out a sigh of relief as she walked out of the principal’s office. It felt so good to be summoned by the principal for doing nothing wrong.
Chekwube sat in the veranda and waited. It was some minutes past three pm and she knew that school would have closed for the day. She was worried, she couldn’t bear not knowing what was going on at Nosike’s house. What if her mother had fallen seriously ill because she’d disappeared?
She sat in the veranda of the house she’d spent the night in and wanted to cry. She didn’t want to spend another night in the house because she’d found it difficult sleeping. Mickey’s aunt had seven children who still bed-wetted and this morning, she’d had to wash her sleepwear and the wrapper she’d used to cover herself from the cold of the night. She was so used to sleeping alone at aunt Lizzie’s place that suddenly, sharing a room with several other people, wasn’t as easy as before. When she was in the village with her siblings, she’d shared a room with her eldest sister and Ola and when her eldest sister had gotten married, she’d shared the room with only Ola. Her little siblings slept together in a different room. Mickey had taken her to her aunt’s place which wasn’t too far from Nosike’s compound. Mickey’s aunt took care of her children as though she was a single mother as her husband was a vigilante in Abia state.
“Are you sure you don’t want to join me at my shop? The house must be boring and you’ve been seating here all day.” Mickey’s aunt said to her, stepping out into the veranda.
“Don’t worry about me ma, I am waiting for Mickey.” She said.
“I see that you swept the house…and cooked lunch, thank you. I have placed some food in the flask to take to the shop. My children will join me there and we’ll eat.”
“No problem ma.” She said.
“Are you sure Mickey will show?” She asked.
“Yes, she said she’ll come here after school.” Chekwube said.
“Let me go to my shop.” The woman said and walked away with a food flask in her hand.
As soon as she left the house, the gate opened and Mickey walked in, she was still in her uniform. Chekwube stood up from the chair and walked up to her.
“How is everything? Has my mother left yet?”
“Your aunt came looking for you at the school today.” Mickey informed.
Chekwube’s eyes widened.
“Which other aunt do you have?”
“Do you mean auntie Lizzie?” Chekwube asked in shock.
“Yes, she was very worried….” Mickey said.
“What…what did you tell her?”
“Nothing, she just asked to see your friends and since Gbenga didn’t come to school, the principal asked that I come to her office.”
“Gbenga didn’t come to school?” Chekwube asked.
“Nope. I am even surprised that he didn’t come.” Mickey said.
“So what did you tell auntie Lizzie?” She asked.
“I told her that she’ll be the first to know of your whereabouts.”
“I am so scared, I feel sad that I made my mother worry.”
“Well, you should be thankful that you didn’t return to the village with your mom.”
Chekwube’s eyes widened.
“My mom has gone home?”
“Yes, majestically, triumphantly and defeatedly.” Mickey said with pride.
Chekwube wanted to laugh at the words Mickey had used but said instead.
“So, what do I do now? I can’t keep inconvenicing your aunt.”
“That’s my point.” Mickey said.
Mickey looked at her and sighed.
“You need to tell the truth.” She said.
“The truth? What truth?”
“The truth of everything. That’s the only way you can go back to aunt Lizzie’s house. You need to come clean to her about that moron that embarrassed you at the school gate and everything else.”
Chekwube looked at Mickey, she felt self-conscious.
“Everything? What else do you know?” Chekwube asked as her heart beat fast.
“Listen, I know that you’re hiding something and I can’t keep you with my aunt forever. She has seven kids and she’s hardly able to fend for them. Your aunt Lizzie genuinely likes you and she can take you back. It all lies in your hands now. You need to come clean to her.”
“But I can’t…” Chekwube said with tears in her eyes.
“EM is her nephew and she loves him so much. I am not even related to her. If I tell her the truth, she won’t believe me and I’ll end up embrassing myself. I don’t want to feel the same way I felt when…”
Mickey looked at her.
“When what? There’s something you aren’t telling me.”
Chekwube looked at Mickey and looked away.
“I know that I haven’t been the best of all people. I know that I stepped on your toes more than once when you first arrived Lagos and that you had to relocate because of me but that was before.” Mickey started. “I helped you escape didn’t I? I helped fight back at that your aunt’s stupid nephew, didn’t I?”
Chekwube looked at Mickey, she had a point.
“I’m already embarrassed and I don’t want more embarrassments or I’ll die.” Chekwube said.
“I promise that whatever you say will remain a secret.”
Chekwube nodded and inching closer to her, she whispered into her ears. Mickey’s eyes widened.
“What?” Mickey exclaimed.
“Yes but that was the reason I fled the compound. I didn’t leave because of you…I left because of the…” She stopped.
“I can’t believe that stupid neighbour of mine had tried to molest you. We are going to get even with him very soon.” Mickey spat.
“Don’t…please don’t…I don’t want anyone else to know.” Chekwube said with a quivering voice.
“Are you getting strange advances from your aunt’s nephew?” Mickey asked in alarm.
Chekwube nodded and looked away.
“Come with me.” Mickey said firmly.
“Where are we going to?” Chekwube asked.
“You are going to tell the whole truth to your aunt today, even if it’s the last thing I do.” Mickey said, pulling her by the hand.
To be continued…..