Previously on Memories
Today, I got a love letter on my desk.
As soon as I saw a paper wedged between students’ assignment books, I suspected what it was. The assembly was just over and I was upstairs to take my notebook for my first class. I took the letter, unfolded it, and gave it a cursorily reading, she referred to me as My King and said something about candle lights and flowers and dreams and signed off as Sugarlala. I can’t remember the details and all that. In fact, I can’t even reproduce it without it being a lie.
If I knew that a time would come when I would tell this story more vividly, I wouldn’t have trashed the paper after the first reading. But I was in a hurry to attend to my class and I was a little miffed. The Vice Principal Hosea had already received four love letters and one of the girls even signed her name (a legend!), and Ikenna had received two.
Basically, this people are saying that Hosea was four times handsomer than I am and Ikenna twice the man I was? Nonsense. Nonsense.
I made for the class I had.
It was now the middle of November and the wind of exam was now blowing and we have passed the deadline to submit our exam manuscripts. Also, there was Christmas party somewhere in the air. Every class, from pre-nursery to SS3 were expected to make a presentation on that day and as a graduate of English Literature, I suspect they expected my class, JS3, to have the best presentation. I was yet to give this a thought. I was yet to think of whether to think up a reason not to organize a presentation for my class or to think up what to present.
After my round of classes, I returned to my desk to see three missed calls from the proprietress. I called her back and she asked me to come up to see her. I loved the sound of her voice and I hurried to the primary section.
I stopped by at Oby’s classroom window. She was trying to console a child and backing me. I noticed that she was adding on weight. “Fatima,” I said.
She turned and frowned at me.
“Go away, Audu.”
I laughed. I love you, I said without speaking the words and she smiled with joy.
The proprietress, her husband the director and her daughter Neche, the school manager where seated around the door mouth of the library that served as the proprietress office. Aunty Peace was standing.
“We have a full house, here,” I said.
“You have become a hotcake,” the proprietress said.
“I was in class when you were calling,”
“That’s how hotcakes sizzle.”
“Good morning, sir,” I said to the director and nodded at Neche.
“Morning. Sit down,” he said.
I sat down.
“Do you remember the boy that tried to kill himself?” the proprietress asked.
I looked at Aunty Peace. “That’s her form teacher.”
Aunty Peace made an exaggerated angry face.
“You saved the boy’s life,” Neche said.
“I don’t get this,’ I said earnestly.
The proprietress spoke. “Well, the boy told us in the hospital that he wanted to jump from the second floor but he heard you teaching there and he became afraid and went down to the first floor instead.”
“If you were not teaching on the second floor,” Neche said, “he would have used the second floor and he wouldn’t have survived that fall.”
“If the boy had died, the scandal would have consumed this school,” the mother said.
“So you didn’t only save a life,” the father added, “you saved our family legacy.”
I swallowed hard to eliminate the lump in my neck.
“Anyone could have been teaching on the second floor,” I said with a small voice.
“If I was the one teaching on the second floor, the boy would have still jumped,” Aunty Peace said. “These students are afraid of you.”
“I-I think…” I struggled to bring the words out.
“We are inviting you for launch in our house on Sunday to say a proper thank you.”
“You can bring our babe,” Neche said.
“Or your babes,” Aunty Peace said and they laughed.
I didn’t like this, being in the middle. Again, I didn’t know how to fix my face. Most annoyingly, my intellect deserted me and I couldn’t find a witty sentence to show modesty, or to throw the spotlight from me, or to
The director excused himself and got up and left. Neche got up and began to walk away, talking in her phone. Aunty Peace said she had an ongoing class, squeezed my shoulder and left me and the proprietress.
It felt planned, leaving me alone with the proprietress.
“So you have another girl besides Obioma?”
“It is an accusation of the brethren,” I said.
She studied my face, searching for the hidden truth. I lifted my head, admiring the Library scripted above the door frame.
“You must have finished setting your exam questions,” she said.
“No,” I said surprised at her sudden change of subject.
“I am surprised you haven’t finished setting up the questions because you are seen entering the computer a couple of times.”
Ahhh! So it was no change of subject, she only brought the exam questions up to water my jaw for an uppercut.
Before I could recover from this attack, while trying to set my face away from the mixture of blushing and embarrassment, she said. “Joy is a beautiful girl.”
“I think it’s my fault, employing too much beauties and confusing my star-teachers. I know what to do going forward: Ugly teachers needed. Apply in person.”
I laughed but it sounded like a cry for help. This woman had me in the ropes and there was no counter move for me. I was usually this open; I was always guarded, prepared for war. But by praising me for saving a child’s life and her family legacy, my neck was wide open and her butcher’s knife was cutting deep.
“I will declare a military regime,” I said.
She looked lost and I grabbed the opportunity to push back. “My military side is said to have saved a student’s life. I will start using it for the staff in order to shut up the busybodies who run up to report whenever I coughed.”
“I trust you,” she said.
I knew she was going to unleash another attack so I got up to my feet. “What is your favourite sports, ma?”
“I don’t really have any,” she said. “Maybe football.”
“I don’t think it’s football. It’s bloodletting. You just butchered me.”
And she laughed very loudly in a way that only a school owner dare in a school premises.
“I am not coming for that launch o,” I said, punctuating her.
“Why?” she asked with tears in her eyes.
“I can’t walk; you crippled me.”
And she dissolved into her special laughing fit.
I stood there frowning.
To mollify me, she gave me 3000 naira to buy “walking sticks”. As I hurried away, she throw a final punch at me, “When next you have cough, get medicine. Doctor Joy doesn’t treat tuberculosis o.”
God, end this world today, today.