School had begun in earnest and Clara didn’t miss school one
bit, she was sad however to be home alone, doing nothing. She had slept until late
that morning and mommy had woken her up with the cane. Prior to that, she had been dreaming
deeply of singing before thousands of people when suddenly she felt the sharp
sting at her backside.
“Ow!” She had yelped.

“What time is it? Clara, do I need to wake you up in the
mornings too?” Mommy snapped at her.
She sat up, rubbed her eyes and stretched her arms yawning
loudly. Kendra was already awake and she was tying a towel which showed she had
just had her bath.
“Will you get up from that bed and go fry plantains for breakfast?” Mommy
screamed.
Her father walked into the room, still on his pyjamas.
“What is going on? It’s six o clock in the morning, why the
noise?” He asked.
“It’s Clara…she loves to get on my nerves, look at the
time she is waking up from sleep? This is so annoying!” Mommy complained.
“Clara! It’s a Monday morning…why are you waking up this
late? .Kendra has already bathed.
Clara was so used to being compared with her sister Kendra,
she scowled, angry that her sister hadn’t thought it necessary to wake her up
when she woke up.
“I’m beginning to think of granting Kendra’s request of
getting a room to herself. “ Mommy said. “With the rate at which Clara is
sleeping, she could influence Kendra to sleeping stupidly as well.”
“Really mom? That would be great…I could read for so long
in a room all to myself and won’t have to think that I’m disturbing Clara’s
sleep.” Kendra said hopefully.
“That’s a good idea, we still have spare rooms so, chose any
of your choice and you can move in there.” Her father said.

“Really? Thanks dad…that’s good news!” Kendra said in joy.

Clara looked at all of them and hissing slightly, she left
the room. Kendra always got what she wanted, and she knew it and never ceased tormenting
her with the fact.

After frying the plantains and getting everyone’s breakfast
ready, they all ate and rushed out of the house leaving the sink stacked
with dirty dishes. She was just settling to wash the dishes when her phone
buzzed with a text message from her mother, informing her that she had to
load the washing machine with clothes for wash and take some of her daddy’s
clothes to the dry clean for washing and ironing.

As soon as she was done washing the dishes, she quickly
loaded the washing machine, timed it and went about sweeping the house, turning
on the television and letting a music channel blare loudly. She had just
finished mopping the sitting room when a loud announcement came through the channel.

“Do you have what it takes to become the greatest singer of
all time? Then, register for the ‘I can sing’ competition and sing your way to
the top…” The voice said while the competition advertisement showed on the
screen. Clara quickly rushed to get a pen and begun scribbling down details,
thrilled that there was no age limit to joining the competition.

She soon spread the clothes she had washed in the washing
machine outside on the line and got ready to leave for the dry cleaners. She
dressed in her blue shorts and sleeveless beige shirt and wore her sneaks,
making sure to close the doors as she left loaded with two huge bags of
clothes.
The gate man hurried to open the gate for her and she stepped
out of her gate.

*******

“Rose Lily!” The voice pestered.

Rose was hearing the voice from her subconscious and she
wasn’t intending to reply.

“Rose! It’s nine thirty, wake up!” Her aunt persisted.

“Go away…leave me alone…” She murmured dragging the blanket high above her head.

“We have a lot to do, the house is in a mess…get up and
get the beddings and the curtains to the dry cleaners.” Her aunt Lizzy
persisted.

“What? I’m trying to sleep here…” Rose spat as she opened
her eyes and stared at her aunt, maliciously.

She was lying on the bare ground and had covered herself
with a large old bed-sheet, the beds have not come in yet as they had decided
not to take the ones they used at the other old house.

“Good morning…” Aunty Lizzy said as soon as she noted that
Rose was awake.

“Good morning aunty…” Rose greeted and stood up.

“Please take the bedspreads to the dry cleaners and the
curtains too…I need them washed and dry at least by tomorrow morning.”

“Whatever!” Rose said hissing loudly and getting up from the
floor. “You can’t let someone get her beauty sleep…can you?”

Aunty Lizzy stared at Rose and shook her head, she was
wearing her overnight shirt which had the inscription written at the front ‘Shut Up’ and as soon as
she disappeared into the bathroom, she began picking up the beddings and
curtain she wanted her niece to take to the dry cleaners.
She was still packing it up when she heard her sister call
out to someone.

“Hey! Hello! Are you going to the dry cleans? Can you kindly
wait for my niece?” Her sister screamed.

Lizzy was inquisitive, she walked out to the balcony to see
her sister standing at the balcony and clutching the railings while talking to
a young girl who was holding on to two heavy bags.

“Yes…I am…” The girl said in an almost inaudible voice.

“Could you please wait for a while? My niece doesn’t know
her way around.” Rose’s aunt said.

“Rose! Rose Lily! Someone’s waiting to show you to the dry
cleaners.” Aunt Lizzy called out.

“When I get back, I expect to sleep…” Rose whined. She
had worn a pair of skin tight trousers under her night shirt and had gathered up the edges
of the shirt and tied it at her navel, exposing her belly.

“Did you wear a bra beneath that?” Aunty Lizzy asked.

Rose rolled her eyes and picking up the huge bag with
the curtains and beddings.

Rose was living by imitation, she could count how many bras
her aunts’ had and how rarely they ever wore them infact, aunty Lizzy moved
from pillar to post without wearing any. 

In no time, Rose was out of the house.

******

When Clara had heard the neighbour’s call, she had been
startled. She had nodded numbly and replied when she was asked if she was going to the
dry-clean and had to wait an extra five minutes before the woman’s niece
appeared.

Clara recognized the girl instantly; she was the one she had
seen at the gate to her house on the day her family had returned from her trip.

The girl walked up to her wordlessly and they both walked
down the street. Clara noticed that she had multiple piercings on her ears and had tied a scarf around her head concealing her hair.

“Hey…” Clara greeted, breaking the ice.

“Hi…” Rose greeted. She had taken one look at the young
girl and noted how rich she looked and since she never wanted to be looked down upon, she had decided to be the snub.

They both walked down to the dry-cleans which was not far
away from their houses, as soon as they got in, the receptionist greeted
loudly.

“Hello Clara…welcome back from your trip.”

“Happy new year!” Clara said in a smile.

“You’re through from school right? Waiting to be admitted
into the university?” The receptionist asked.

“Yea…”

“Nice…hope you school in Nigeria. I know your dad might
ship you abroad…” The receptionist continued, clearly a sucker for rich
people.

Rose decided to show her venomous side and said.

“Can I drop my clothings please?”

The receptionist took in her very rugged appearance and said.

“Sure…drop them in one of those empty bags over
there…fill in your name in the name section and your house number. You can also
fill in if you want it to be delivered to your doorstep or not but bear in mind
that it attracts the extra charge of one thousand naira.” The receptionist said
offhandedly.

Rose shrugged and walked over to the bags section and began
loading the very dirty-looking bedsheets and curtains, she wished her aunts had
purchased new ones since they were moving into a better area than the last.

“We charge extra for stains…” The receptionist said icily.

Rose turned to give her a stare and continued loading the
bag. “It’s not stained….that’s the colour…”Rose started looking up at the
price list on the wall of the dry-clean place. Her eyes widened at the prices.
To wash a pair of trousers stood at six hundred naira while gowns were at eight
hundred naira and one thousand naira respectively, she looked on to see the prices for bedsheets and almost froze,
it cost three thousand naira to wash a bedsheets and two thousand five hundred
naira for curtains.

“Excuse me…” Rose turned to the receptionist. “These prices…are they negotiable?”

“No!” The receptionist replied.

“It says two thousand five hundred naira to wash
curtains…does it mean…”

“It means to wash a set of curtains.” The receptionist said.

Rose nodded and gulped, she could swear on everything she
had that the beddings and curtains she had brought cost cheaper when purchased than the dry-clean offered to wash them.

Clara looked at her and said.

“I could take you to other dry cleans…outside the
estate…they are a bit more affordable…”

Rose nodded and removed her bedsheets and curtains from the
bags provided and loaded it back into her own bag. She watched as Clara removed
her dad’s clothes from the bag she held and loaded them into the bags and labelled
them, once she was through, she turned to her.

“Can we go?”

Rose nodded and they both walked out of the dry-cleans.

“That place is so expensive!” Rose said in frustration.

“Yea…I guess…” Clara said.

“I mean…how can you wash a pair of trousers for six
hundred naira? That’s too much. I buy my trousers for one thousand naira, how can
I wash them for more than half the price? This estate is hilarious.”

“Well..if you can’t afford it, then, wash them yourself…it
makes it easier.” Clara said.

“I bet you’ve never washed any of your clothes yourself.” Rose said in envy.

“Hahaha…says who? I used to wash my clothes and those of my
siblings till my mom decided that I could use the washing machine…”

“Ohh…wow…this estate is just to expensive. Do you know
that we also have to pay estate dues?” Rose said.

“Yes…for security…”

“Na wah ooo…” Rose said, baffled. “We didn’t use to pay such at my former place and we never had any cases of robbery.”

They left the estate and headed out to a smaller dry-clean
shop and dropped off Rose’s bag of clothes as the price were far lower than
that of the dry-clean in the estate.

“My name is Rose Lily but my friends call me Rose or Rosey…” Rose
said to Clara, happy that she had been considerate to show her to a much
affordable dry-clean place.

“I’m Clara…it’s nice to meet you.”

“Nice name…what do your friends call you?”

“Clara…”

“I’ll call you Clay…”

“Clay ke? No…it’s Clara…”

“Oh well…So…you didn’t go to school today?” Rose asked.

“I’m done with school…I finished last year…”

“Oh…me too. Then we must be mates…” Rose said.

“Really? I’m sixteen…”

Rose stammered when she realized that they weren’t mates.

“I’m turning eighteen…in…err…some weeks…”

“Oh…cool”

“Thanks for taking me to the other dry-clean, I am so
grateful…” Rose said.

“You’re welcome.”

They both walked in silence till they reached the gate of
Clara’s house. Clara rung the bell and turned to face Rose.

“I have to go now…it was nice meeting you…welcome to our
estate.”

“Yea…you too and thanks…” Rose said, not knowing what else to say.

The both girls hurried into their different homes, shutting
the gates behind them.

******

James nudged his classmate playfully and smiled, it was break
time and they were both eating sandwiches at the cafeteria.

“I knew I could count on you.” James was saying.

“It’s in my trouser pocket…you know you can’t do anything
without it…you’ve seen the adverts…” His classmate, Chiejine said.

James snaked his hand around his friend’s waist and pulled
out the packs from his pocket.

“I didn’t give that to you ooo…” Chiejine warned.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered…” James said in glee.

“You need to know how to use it…” Chiejine warned.

“Use what? I thought that once you leave it in your
pockets, you are protected.” James said naively.

“Hahahahaha…I can’t believe you want to have sex and you don’t
know the 101 of the game.” 
Chiejine laughed.

“Stop laughing at me…” James said getting angry.

“Well…I can’t teach you…you need to read it up online or
on the pack…you know…” Chiejine started.

“Don’t worry I’ve got it covered…” James said shrugging.

Soon lunch break was over and they both went to their classes and settled down
to learn. The maths teacher walked into the classroom and began teaching by
giving them a problem to solve. James was so thrilled about what his friend had
gotten for him and he was so curious to see how it really looked like that he
stopped concentrating in class and pulled out the packs and was staring at them under his locker. He was so engrossed that he didn’t
know when the firm hand of Mr. Okechukwu the maths teacher came bearing on him.

“Give me that!” Mr. Okechukwu ordered.

Without waiting for James to hand the packs over to him, the
teacher snatched the packs from his hands and gasped in shock.

“James! Condoms? What…What are you doing with these?” The
teacher asked, with eyes wide.

The class turned to stare at James while he in turn, stared
at his shaking fingers.

To be continued tomorrow…

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