Nneoma Sally 2 years ago
@Barbiesally 18 min read Write a comment #short-stories

Princess

Have there been someone in school you never liked nor hated and you would rather he or she disappears, yet, you take their every word and subconsciously use them to rate yourself.

University of Nigeria secondary school, UNISEC, is a very large school. I have always felt protected whenever I entered that school. It's this sort of feeling that makes me feel warm inside, makes me feel so special, like the world cannot touch me. The same feeling I feel whenever I remember that I am still a teenager; I'm still fifteen. I can do whatever and get away with it, and the law would make light of it, referring to me as a child.

As I got out of the car, I looked at my watch. It's twenty minutes before it clocks eight. A flash of sky blue shirts, black flared skirts, tailored trousers, shorts, and pinafores were running towards the school gate. I crossed the road immediately and ran with them. Normally, I would have walked all the way to the school gate, but I wanted to avoid Mr. Raphael's cane. He was put as the disciplinarian for late comers this week, and I would rather avoid him and his scraggly beard.

I didn't make it. Before I could run through the gate, he stopped the girl in front of me and told the rest of us to kneel down. I could hear the school band from here. The beat of the drum went together with the beat of my heart. He would never release latecomers like a few teachers would do. Instead, he would either handpick those he likes and let them leave, or he flogs everyone. Ezinwa knelt beside me and whispered,

"Oh, this man again."

I didn't say anything. Instead, I looked around, at every other person that is kneeling down. It's downright amusing. These guys knew that they would end up kneeling on the bare ground, and yet, they continued to run. The juniors were running like ostriches while most of the seniors were cat-walking. Maybe some of them thought running was one redeeming feature that would save them from Mr. Raphael.,It did, eventually.,He released all the juniors and made the seniors go to the football field to clear the stumps littered around it. Ezinwa and I pushed down stumps after stumps, and as we walked through the exercise, Ezinwa was grumbling about Mr. Raphael's unfair, harsh punishment. It was far from unfair if you would ask me. I didn't like the punishment, but we did come late to school. If we didn't, we would be attending the school assembly by now.

I heard as Mr. Okafor's monotone voice went across the school compound. As usual, he was talking about the students' inability to concentrate and study diligently, just as the school motto suggests. He ended the long, drawn-out speech by quoting the school motto, excellence through honest labor. I honestly don't understand why he would keep on repeating that phrase frequently. Nobody likes it, I am sure: not even Ejike, the senior two's good boy, nor the assistant head boy, Stanley. But no one is going to complain. In fact, Obianuju, the head girl, quoted the same thing just yesterday in a shrilly annoying voice,

"Don't plaint this..." she said, "Don't do it like that. Remember, our school encourages students to live up to the school motto. UNISEC..." she screamed at the top of her lungs. She expected a reply which she got because, so help me God, if she didn't, the principal would start preaching again.

" Excellence!" everyone shouted after her.

"UNISEC!..."

"Excellence!"

"UNISEC!..."

"Excellence through honest labor!"

"UNISEC!..."

"We excel through honest labor!"

"UNISEC!..."

"I excel through honest labor!"

Those monotonous replies were our daily mantra which I am glad I missed. Repeating them every day would never make Obinna, senior two's yellow paper, excel with honest labor. I would rather take Mr. Raphael's cane than stay a minute at the assembly ground.

Finally, we were given three strokes of the cane and told not to come late by Mr. Raphael. Today, he doesn't have the usual smile on his face, and whenever he frowns, everyone stays away from him. He's always cranky and immature whenever he's mad. Ezinwa and I left the field for our class. We didn't join the line heading to the senior two-block. A few of them were ahead of us, but we managed to climb the stairs before the others caught up with us. I went to class 2W while Ezinwa went to class 2Y. She's an art student. We weren't really friends. We only know each other because we were both in senior two. I wasn't as talkative nor as jovial and social as she was. I didn't want to. I like my life just the way it is. Princess sat on my locker and said, "You came late again." "What can I say?" I said. Princess is my classmate. She's this slender girl with big dark eyes, small pink lips, and a pointed nose, her redeeming feature if you ask me. She's fair in complexion, and her uniform was made to fit her figure perfectly, which she really doesn't have. She's talkative, and she's always trying to act 'posh.' She's a staff child just like me, but she acts like she's better than everyone whenever she tries to imitate the American accent. "Did you receive any cane?" she asked. "Three," I said. "Hmm..." she hummed while blowing at her newly colored long fingernails, "I would never let them flog me. Mr. Raphael should respect the females," she said.

I stared at her. I didn't ask her what she meant by it. I never ask her what she means by anything she sprouts out of the blue. The other day, I wasn't feeling well during the break period. Princess bounded up to my locker with chin-chin, popcorn, abacha, and a bottle of coke. She sat on my neighbor's chair and munched on the popcorn. "You want some?" she asked. I shook my head. My mother has always warned me about collecting things from strangers. Princess is not a stranger, but she's not family; neither is she my friend. So, she might as well be a stranger. "Hmm..." she started her strange humming, "I could never stay hungry. You see me, I am Goliath. I can't stay still without food." she laughed.

I chuckled. I imagined her as Goliath from the bible. It's not really that hard. She would look as lanky as a whistling pine tree without its branches, and she would be beating her chest like the monkeys in George of the jungle. "Give me food!" she would scream at everyone. I imagined my classmates scrambling to get any morsel of food that would satisfy her. I laughed out loud as I thought about it, but as I stared at Princess, I knew my laughter was long overdue. So, I covered it with a cough. "I'm sorry." I said, "I have a cough." "Why didn't you go to the joint today?" she asked me after popping a tiny piece of chin-chin into her mouth. "I'm sick," I said, expecting her to understand and not question the situation. "Hmm..." she hummed yet again, "I can never get sick. Sickness is for dogs or those living in villages infested with mosquitoes. So, you can't be sick." I was flabbergasted. What did she mean by that?__________________ Joe heard what she said about Mr. Raphael. "What about the boys?" he asked in that jesting manner that comic boys use to tease girls. "Those guys don't count," she said as she got up from my locker.

My eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. Who was she referring to as guys? It didn't matter anyway. I took out my maths textbook as Mr. Duru came into the classroom. Everyone settled down, and the class prefect slapped his table five times to indicate that everyone should stand up to greet the teacher. Lessons continued in that manner. During the break period, I followed a group of girls to the joint to buy food. I wasn't sick today, but I guess I am scared of getting sick. Ever since I heard Princess's comment about sickness, I didn't want her to think I was a dog, nor did I want her to think I lived in a village infested with mosquitoes. She knew where I lived. I didn't have to tell her. Most staff kids live on campus in bungalows littered all over the university environment in an organized manner.

I lived at Marguerite Cartwright Avenue, one of those two-story buildings that have lost their paintings to the weather. My house is a five to six-minute walk to school. Even so, my elder brother and I would sit around the house doing nothing until the last minute. Then, we would beg mum to take us to school in her Jeep as she's going to work outside the campus. As usual, the joint was crowded, and I had to scream to get my voice heard. The elderly canteen woman was quietly watching us. She's the only one that had almost every snack in the entire joint. The school redecorated her shop and provided her with almost everything she's selling, but I think she's abusing her authority. Because of that, she's always slow to take any students' orders, and she would insult anyone if she feels like they are underestimating her goods.

Last time, she threw a boy's money through the window because the drawings on the money were faded. The boy left her shop to buy from someone else's. The couple after her shop was not really nice, but they knew how to interact with students. They would quickly sell their products; it didn't matter if the money looked faded or torn. They wouldn't care. The man after them sold ice cream wrapped in colored waterproof polythene. He didn't get many senior students, but the juniors were eager to buy from him, and he's always nice. The woman after him sold Okpa bambara beans pudding. Everyone patronizes her, not because her okpa is delicious and irresistible. She was the only woman selling the most popular Nsukka snack in UNISEC. The woman next to her sells fried groundnuts, popcorn, and dried fried corn. She's the nicest among the joint sellers in the joint, and she has patronizers too.

I wanted to buy la casara, doughnut, and abacha, but the woman selling abacha didn't make it today. She's usually between the ice cream man and Okpa woman. I struggled until I was able to get her attention. She sold it to me, and I took my items and left the joint. I don't know where the other girls were. So, I left without them. In class, I sat down to eat, but Princess took my doughnut from my hands and took a huge bite from it. She gave it back to me after saying, "I won't buy this. It's not delicious." Looking at the big bite she took, I felt my stomach turn. I don't like sharing my food with anyone. Princess should have known that, but she's someone who will never listen to or accommodate someone's differences. I tore off the parts her teeth touched and ate the one that remained while closing my eyes. I drank my drink and covered it when sleeping beauty, our physics teacher, came in. My classmates called her that because she sleeps at odd hours of the day, for example, while calling notes for us to jot down on our notebooks.

The period between physics and geography is a free period. Usually, any teacher would come in and teach, but today, no one did. The class was noisy. Everyone who is anyone would come in front of the class and do whatever. I was sipping my la casara and flipping through a novel when Princess appeared out of nowhere. She sat on my locker close to my novel and said, in that fake American accent of hers, "What are you reading?" "The Bible," I said sarcastically. She annoyed me today. She hasn't apologized for taking a huge bite from my only doughnut. I have to make do with what I could eat before dismissal. Only then would I be able to buy something that would hold me for lessons after school. "The Bible..." she said, "That doesn't look like the bible."

I raised an eyebrow at her. Doesn't she have a bible at home? Surely she would know what a bible looks like without me telling her. "I don't do Jesus anymore," she said out of the blue. "I don't understand," I said. What point is she getting at? "I mean, I threw Jesus away," she said as if that clarified what she had said. Joe sat on my neighbor's chair and said, "She's not a Christian anymore. She started worshipping Allah while we were in JSS3." "Huh..." I didn't know what to say. What do you say to a former Christian turned Moslem? It sounded unreal, like something that happens in the novel. One thought came to mind, though. Due to the attacks by Boko Haram, she decided to run to the safe side and become a Moslem. But we are in the southeast of Nigeria. It sounds almost next to impossible for Boko Haram to attack here. Well, they haven't attacked her yet, but still, it sounds stupid if she really did it for that. Should I change my religion? "Why?" I asked her, interrupting what she and Joe were talking about.

She and Joe got along like best friends, which makes me wonder why she likes hanging around me. Not many people like Princess, but it doesn't seem to bother her. Maybe it's because I put up with whatever she dishes out without any complaints. "Why? The question, my friend, is why not?" Was I supposed to answer that? "I read the Koran, and it just clicked. I understand what is written there. The bible has too many unmatched answers to similar questions. What does this God want? To kill the nonworshipers or to love them. It's very confusing, I tell you. The bible is one massive ball of confusion." she said. I stared at her. Was she okay? I thought. "But I saw your parents at the church last Sunday," I said, remembering sitting with her parents in the same pew.

She laughed, and Joe said, while shaking his head, "She's a Moslem, not her parents. They didn't want to interfere."

I know, from the looks on his face, my mouth was hanging open. This is a new level of crazy. She thinks the bible is a ball of confusion, and the Koran is what, a masterpiece? I watched her as she tapped her long colored fingernails on my locker. She laughed at something Joe said and replied to him, "Do you know that God you guys are worshipping?" "Do you know your Allah?" I asked her. "He's not a ball of confusion. I know that much," she said. I spent my free period, my classes, and finally, lessons thinking about what Princess said. I knew she was crazy, but I felt like a part of me sided with her. As we walked home, Joe caught up with me and said, "Don't let her bother you. You and I know that when she gets bored, she will jump ships." "Well, what if she doesn't get bored?" I asked. "Well, we would sit back and watch her ride and crush the wave until she gets bored," he said.

He grinned at me and ran off to catch up with Princess and her friends. I stared at Princess as she laughed and tried to trick people into following her. She has Joe. She almost had me. I hated that I built my life based on her ideas and theories, only for her to get bored and throw them out the window. From today, I will make my own ideas and theories that I will weave around myself, and when I get bored, I will throw them out the window too.

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