I looked out from the window of the sitting room as cars overtook themselves, I realized how much things have changed in my life. Recently moving into Utako, taking entrances for a new school, and having my sister make annoying chewy noises to me.
“Stop it, Lucy!” I snatched the sachet of cheese balls from her.
Lucy is my nine-year-old sister who I admire so much, she made the puppy face but that only works on Musa our ten-year-old other brother.
Memories of Gwagwalada still kept coming to mind, I didn’t mind moving here because that place wasn’t the right place to spend my whole teenage life. I was relieved we finally got admission to May stars International School. Most schools didn’t accept us since it was the third term.
I sat on a couch in the sitting room, the NTA news was showing. Eleven new rape cases!
What’s happening to Nigeria? The sports section came up and I started dozing, I jerked up at what was written on the screen after the network news.
The Golden Contest
Bringing an opportunity to Nigerian families. Families above six family members are free to apply for the Golden Contest. Two families will be chosen and the winning family will be given a sum of fifty million naira and a portrait at Aso Rock.
“Hey, you need to see this,” I said and Ahmed walked up to me. Ahmed is my annoying half who is so different from me.
“What?” He stared at the television and broke into a grin.
“We can apply for this, we have the required number of family members!” This is Nigeria where you’ll see an opportunity, apply for it, and get ignored. Mum and dad walked in.
“What are you both doing?” Mum asked Ahmed in a breath explained everything to them.
“I’ll apply for it son” Ahmed and dad shared this silly excitement.
“Darling, you know these things are a waste of time” mum explained, I loved applying for things like this but I never got considered so I forgot about it.
“The prize is good, why don’t we try?” Dad sent for his laptop and the clicks from fiddling with the keys were all I heard as I made my way to my room.
I nodded in contentment as my body landed on the fluffy bed with a soft thud, the strawberry scent of my cologne filled the room. I picked up my phone that was lying on a table beside the bed.
“Zainab! Mum’s calling you!” Pablo yelled, I groaned, dropped my phone back, and headed to the sitting room.
“Ahmed, where’s mum?” He rolled his eyes and pointed to his head. I hissed and left to the kitchen when I heard mum’s voice.
“Where have you been? So you thought I was going to cut these vegetables, prepare the meat, and do other things by myself, shea?” I was tempted to roll my eyes but I wasn’t ready to be slapped across the face this hot afternoon.
“I’m sorry mum, I forgot we were making soup today” She hissed and passed me a tray of vegetables to shred. I was done shredding the vegetables and doing other things in time to watch a repeat of my favorite TV show that I missed earlier this week. Celebrity Game Night had become my best since I discovered it out of boredom.
“Celebrity Game Night!Yeah!” Lucy exclaimed and plopped down beside me. We’ve both always been on Jason’s team for a reason I can’t explain. We watched so many other movies that I didn’t realize how much time had passed.
“Zainab!come over to the kitchen!” I wiped my eyes who had teared up from watching too much TV and wobbled to the kitchen.
“Yes, mum” I answered when I got into the kitchen.
“Oya pack these trays, take them to the dining” she handed me two trays of strong aromatic soup and garri. All-atom of sleep was cleared up when I placed my hands on those trays.
“What are you waiting for now” she whined and I sprinted to the dining room.
“Christ! That smells so good” Ahmed raised his nose slowly, I shook my head and got back into the kitchen.
“Mum, can I go now?” She turned to me and raised her eyebrows.
“Go to? Come on wash these plates here and do it fast so we can all have dinner” I groaned and washed the dishes, they weren’t much though. I made my way to the dining where they were all seated waiting for me. Once I sat down, dad said the prayers and we all buried our hands in our balls of garri. I closed my eyes as the delicious taste of the soup married my tongue, my stomach grumbled in happiness as my first ball went down my esophagus. The rest of the dinner was quiet as everyone concentrated on having the best time with their plates. Ahmed finished first and the rest followed suit, Musa and I were left at the table. We finished almost at the same time and dropped our plates on the sink. After what seemed to be a long walk to my room, I changed into my pink pajamas and let sleep take me wherever it wanted to.
The bright sun rays shone into my room, a cute bird was seated behind my window. I yawned and stretched as I checked the time on my phone. 8:04! We needed to be in church by nine o’clock. I rushed out to the sitting room to be met by Lucy and Musa who was already dressed in their church wears. I couldn’t let mum know that I overslept. I ran back, took the quickest shower I’ve had for the past years, and took out a random dress from the wardrobe. The random dress turned out to be a yellow lace gown with a black belt, I took out a black flat shoe and got dressed. The time was 8:15 Not bad at all! I was happy with my sudden impersonation of flash as I walked out of the room with my Bible, phone, and songbook. Dad was on a call at the dining while others were either discussing or checking out themselves in the large mirror beside the TV. I took out my phone and scrolled through my Facebook news feed. Photos of Amina the queen bully in my former school filled my news feed. I replied to some messages from friends who I’ve never met and dropped it on the table. It was a ritual in my house not to have breakfast before the service. Dad ended the call and ordered us to move over to the car while we waited for mum. We left minutes after mum had joined us. The ride to our new church was quite short. Musa and Lucy were taken to the children’s department while Ahmed and I went with mum and dad. I wasn’t used to the environment as the pastor looked like he was in his early thirties compared to the orthodox pastor in my last church. I was thankful for the young pastor for making the sermon short so I could get food into my system. A benediction was given and members filed out. Dad asked Ahmed to go get Lucy and Musa while we left for the car. Minutes after, we were heading to the house.
I jumped on the couch once we got home, the house was stuffy from being locked for a few hours.
“I can’t wait for tomorrow, new friends, new babes, chaii” Ahmed went on with his daydreaming.
“I can wait,” I said and he didn’t look surprised and I ran my thumb through the spaces in between my fingers; a habit I had gotten used to.
“Why won’t you when you have no social life?” I rolled my eyes and got up.
“Uncle social life, you’ll understand when you start multiplying ” I walked to my room with my shoes in my left hand. I threw my phone on my bed and placed the Bible on the table. I changed into blue shorts and a red tank top and laid on my bed.
“Zainab! Lunch is ready” Ahmed shouted, I happily got up and made my way to the dining room. We all waited for Musa before saying a prayer. We had the same soup from yesterday but it tasted way better today. Dad’s phone beeped twice and he answered the call.
“Yes…wow…okay, thanks” was all we heard and I almost squirmed from curiosity seeing the large smile plastered across his face.
“Guess what?” He asked.
“What?” We all chorused, it seems I wasn’t the only curious one.
“Oh my God, mum!dad! Aunt Ufedo is here!”Sanni my fifteen-year-old brother shouted and I couldn’t care less, aunt Ufedo was nothing more than a fake person who wanted to please my parents so they’ll keep funding her education and paying her bills. I walked out to the parlor, not forgetting to give her a fake smile.
“Ufedo dear, you haven’t visited your sister in a while, how are you?” She gave mum a smile.
“School o, I’ve been caught up in school work and haven’t even had time for myself” mum led her to the couch as dad walked into the house.
“Ah Ufedo, you’ve come? we missed you a lot” Sorry? Some things shouldn’t be generalized.
“Alex, can’t you greet your aunt?” Dad asked.
“Good day aunt Ufedo, how is school? It’s so great you’ve found time to come over at the end of this beautiful month” she got the fact that I was being sarcastic but I’m sure she wouldn’t want to play her cards wrong.
“Yes Alex, I squeezed out time to come meet you all” I rolled my eyes, got my phone out of my pocket, and logged into my Facebook account. I had thirty messages, half from Comfort, my girlfriend. I walked into my room and dialed her number.
“Alex baby, I came online on our normal time and you weren’t there, what’s wrong? don’t you love me anymore?” Her soprano voice ranted.
“Comfort, I was busy”
“Busy? That’s all you tell me after my spammed messages?” She screamed and I hung up and placed the phone on my bed. Hauwa walked in.
“Hi, big brother,” she said and jumped on my bed.
“I’m not sharing hotspot with you,” I stated and she shook her head after a chuckle.
“Nope, I’m done with my assignments and so won’t be needing your hotspot today” she took my hands and placed her head on my neck.
“I need to talk to someone about something, I couldn’t go to Sanni you know how he behaves” she raised her head and her eyes were pleading.
“Can we go on a walk, please?” as much as I wanted to go play football with Sanni, I also wanted to give her a listening ear so I nodded.
“Thanks!” She piped and dragged me out. Our neighbors were riding their bikes out, ladies dressed in yellow tops talking to a man on the street and a woman passed us with a bowl of freshly baked fish pie’s.
“Lex, please buy it for me” Hauwa whined. I took out a hundred naira note and called the woman.
“How much is one?”
“Fifty naira” she replied and dropped the bowl on the ground. Hauwa picked one and I handed the hundred naira note to her.
She gave me my change and we continued the walk.
“I don’t want to go back to school,” Hauwa said, and trust me that wasn’t what I expected to hear from her.
“I get…forget it” she bowed her head.
“I accepted to have this walk with you so you’ll tell me why you don’t want to return to school” I commanded and she started talking. She said,
“I get laughed at and called a nerd” I knew she would have to face that sooner or later in her life because of her love for reading.
“Who laughs at you”
“Ahmed, Taiwo, and other boys in my class.”
“I’ll talk to them, you don’t have to be sad” I pulled her into a hug and I was happy as her eyes lightened up.
“Thanks, big bro” we started walking back to the house. Sanni was stretching a bag into the bin once we got to the gate.
“Where were you? Dad wants to make an announcement” he said, I hope it doesn’t have anything to do with sharing chores.
“We went for a walk, let’s get in” we walked into the house, dad, mum, and aunt Ufedo were seated in the parlor. Baby Jemima let out a scream as we walked in.
“You are complete now right? get seated” dad commanded and we all sat on the larger couch.
“Your aunt told us about something important, there’s a contest going on and we qualify to apply for it” the TV wasn’t functioning anymore so we couldn’t get any new information.
“Okay, cool” I was about heading back to my room when dad called out.
“Have you had dinner?”
“I’ll take his to him when it’s time,” Hauwa said, I sighed in relief and walked away. I took out my drawing pad and sketched a drawing of terrorists invading the land.
“Hola brother!” Sanni jumped on the bed, taking out his phone from his pocket. He reached out for my controller on the table but I sent a glare his way and he dropped back his hands.
“Urrgh five minutes please” he pleaded and I kept on adding highlights to my drawing. He hissed and went back to scrolling through his phone.
Minutes later, Hauwa walked in with a plate of jollof rice and fried meat.
“Thanks,” I said as I got the plate from her.
“You’re welcome” she answered smiling.
“So you can’t bring my own too shea?” Hauwa hissed and walked out as baby Jemima crawled in. She crawled to Sanni and tickled his feet sending him into a feat of laughter. I chuckled at them and ate my food. I gave Sanni the plates to keep and decided to sleep.
The loud early morning prayers of the Muslim faithful woke me, goosebumps appeared on my skin from the cold wind that rushed through my open window. It was nine fifty-five, I decided to lay back, it’s not like we were going to attend service.
The cries of baby Jemima stopped me at the gate of the world of sleep and I sat up awake. Sanni was still fast asleep on his bed beside mine. I got up and left to the bathroom, leftover soaps were scattered over the whole place and a drop of water from Sanni’s shorts dropped on my head.
“Wake up, wake up” I shook him till he jerked awake.
“What now?” He rubbed his eyes and looked up at me.
“What did I tell you about littering the bathroom?” He rolled his eyes and went into the bathroom. I had a bath when he was done cleaning up.
I decided to check what was going on in the parlor.
“Good morning mum, good morning dad” they all turned when they heard my voice.
“Morning” they chorused.
“Come over here” mum patted a vacant space beside her. She pointed at a message on her phone and it read.
Good day, dear family, your application to participate in the Golden Contest has been accepted and you are thereby going to be sent cameras tomorrow to be placed in your house.
Wow, for once I thought Aunt Ufedo introduced them to a scam or something, I know she must have a share of this in one way or the other.
“Great” they both smiled and told me not to tell the rest.
“I’ll be going over to Mr. Stanley’s house, would you like to come with me?” I nodded, I wanted to see Eluche, it’s been a weekend but feels like a year.
“By what time dad?” He looked at his wristwatch then back at me.
“Let’s say by eleven after breakfast” I nodded and walked over to the fridge. I took out a bottle of milk and grabbed the Nasco cornflakes from the shelf. I left to my room after having breakfast and Sanni was still asleep. I took out a black jacket that would complement my red shirt and black jean shorts. I cleaned my black and red slides and placed them beside the door. Sanni stirred and woke up smiling. Dramatic boy.
I took my phone and laid on my bed as I contemplated going on Facebook or Whatsapp first. I went with the latter. Messages from guys at school and from Elu my best friend flooded in. I answered Elu then a few other important messages before dad yelled my name.
“I’m coming!” I put on the jacket, wore the slides, and headed out to meet dad who was already standing by our old Toyota Corolla. After about twenty minutes, we were at the large blue gate of Elu’s house. As if on cue, he was the one who opened the gate.
“Good day sir” he greeted my dad and turned to me.
“My guy, my guy!” He shouted and I laughed at his tout like behavior whom his mother detested so much.
“What’s up, long time” I answered once I got out of the car.
“Swear, you no de find me now,” he said in his regular pidgin.
“You de find me?” I copied and he almost fell down laughing.
“What’s funny?” I asked and he only laughed harder.
“Guy no even try attempt pidgin” I chuckled, I was raised up by my grandfather who was an English teacher so you won’t blame me for catching up on that. He hung his arms around me and we walked to his game room. After rounds of Ps3 dad said we had to leave so we were on our way home. We got home by four o’clock had lunch and I decided to have a nap since the weather was favorable.
We all waited for dad to fill us in. His phone started beeping and he excused himself to go answer the call. At this point I wanted to get into his mind and find out already what he had to say. Luckily for him, he was back in time to thwart my not so good thoughts.
“So I was saying that….” the door bell rang and dad went to get it. I could see the impatience rub off mum’s face as well as Pablo’s face. Dad walked back in and sat.
“I was saying that…”
“Please say it!” We all chorused and he chuckled.
“Easy easy, curious birds, we got accepted to participate in the Golden Contest” well, that was worth the horn blowing. I wonder what it’ll feel like competing in such a contest.
“Cameras will be placed in the house to monitor our activities” bye bye privacy.
Dad kept giving us more information about the contest while we ate our food. I washed my plates before the rest could keep their plates and headed to my room. It was late already so I placed my ear phones on and ended up sleeping off.
Taps from Ahmed woke me up, I looked around and realized it was morning already. I could feel my heart beat pick up, today is my first day at May Stars!
“Zainab, we’ll get late, breakfast is served” Ahmed said and I rushed into the bathroom.
We already got our uniforms so I got dressed. The skirt was so short on me, I couldn’t help but feel self-conscious.
“Zainab! We’re leaving!” Mum yelled and I picked up my bag, got into my shoes and left to the parlor. I was told to have my breakfast in the car to save time so we were on our way. I finished the four slices of bread and gulped down the milk as we got to the school. Pablo and Lucy left with mum to the primary section while Ahmed and I went into the secondary school. I ran the back of my palms across my lips as we walked through the corridors of the school.
“So the day is here and the time is now” Ahmed copied a verse of the scriptures and I smiled. We got to the principal’s office.
“Good morning ma” we greeted and she twirled to face us with a full toothy grin.
“Morning darlings” she answered.
“Ma you look so breathtaking!” Ahemed said and I mental palmed myself as the lady adjusted her suit.
“Thank you, you’ll attend the assembly first then find your classes, you are in A” she pointed at me “And you are in B” she pointed at Ahmed. We made our way to the assembly ground which was in a large hall. It was brief and we left to our different classes, mine with SS2 B in bold on the entrance. Almost the whole class turned to me as I walked in. I noticed a good looking guy at the back who wasn’t fazed, I wondered why the rest were.
“Come over here please” the teacher called out to me. I walked over to her desk in front of the class. She stood up and took me to the middle of the class. I ran my thumb between my fingers.
“This is a new girl transferred from Travis Academy, introduce yourself” It took all the courage in me to raise my head to face the class.
“Zainab Daniels” I added and some nice ones whispered ‘welcome’. I walked to an unoccupied seat beside the boy who didn’t look at me and another good looking boy. Well, this is going to be one helluva ride.
“Hey pretty” the other boy greeted and I smiled “I’m Eluche but you can call me Elu” he stretched his hands and I shook them. I don’t know if I expected a greeting from the other boy but I sure didn’t get one. Elu got out his mp3 player and put on Press by Cardi B once the teacher had left the class. The other students looked at him in admiration.
“So you’re like the king here?” He chuckled and I realized he had cute dimples. Did I say cute? Urrgh I met him now and I’m already calling him cute.
“I guess, this is my friend Alex” The Alex guy gave me a strained smile and went back to twirling his pen. Elu put off the music once a teacher walked in. He wrote Economics in bold on the board and turned to us.
“Our topic for today is Inflation” he wrote that on the board too.
“Who can explain the term inflation?”
“Damn” Elu mumbled once his name was called. He started stuttering and I passed him the answer. The class was quite interesting but the whole class looked relieved once the teacher exited the class.
“Gee thanks” Elu said and I smiled.
“It’s okay, do you perhaps have the time table?” He rummaged through his side of the desk, brought out a crumpled sheet of paper and handed it to me.
We had Chemistry next and I wasn’t offering it so I remained in the class while those who had it left. I suppose the Alex guy wasn’t offering Chemistry because he sat back in his seat. After a try or two to start a conversation with him, I gave up. I sketched out my personal timetable from the main timetable and arranged my textbooks inside my side of the desk. All the students who had Chemistry walked back and Elu plopped down on his seat.
“That.class.was.boring!” Elu exclaimed and I chuckled.
“Why did you choose it then?”
“I need it to study Engineering and my mum won’t let me study another course” he said, I couldn’t ever imagine that happening in my house. My parents gave us liberty to choose any reasonable course.
“Oh, okay” I pushed my last book in and Ahmed walked in with a girl on his arm. My eyes flickered to her skirt which was way shorter than mine that I wasn’t comfortable with.
“Hey sister, I came to see how you are faring” he smiled and sat on the desk. “I can see you aren’t doing bad at all” he continued and looked between Elu, Alex and I.
“Sister? Are you twins or what?” Elu asked.
“Yup we are and she’s the older one sadly” I smacked his thigh and they both laughed. He moved over to Alex and Alex looked more free with him. What’s with him and the cold attitude?
“Does he behave so quiet around all girls?” I whispered to Elu.
“Nope, he’s trying to get used to you besides that’s his girlfriend” he pointed to a dark girl seated at the other side of the class, good choice there Alex.
“I see” I whispered back and we both chuckled. A teacher came into the class and Ahmed and his ‘girl’ walked out. We chanted the greeting and he motioned for us to sit.
“So class, today we’ll be going on the excursion I told you all about” the whole class hailed and he ordered for Geography students to meet him at the bus area.
“Alex abeg you fit help me make I come?” Elu pleaded to Alex.
“Guy how? You know that’s not possible” well that was the first time I heard his voice and it was deep as if.
“You can tell him you need to explain something in Geography through this” Alex chuckled.
“I’ll try” we headed to the bus area where the few Geography students were already in. We hopped in and it was good for Elu because the Geography teacher wasn’t there yet. After few minutes, he hopped in and ordered the driver to move.
“Thank your goodness” I said to him and he motioned to me to shut up and I laughed. This hasn’t been that bad a first day as I thought.
We were back from the excursion and the bell rung when we stepped into the class. Others packed their bags and headed out leaving Elu, Alex and I alone.
“You are fun you know, can’t wait to see you tomorrow!” The two boys walked out and Ahmed walked in.
“I think dad’s here” Ahmed said and we walked out together.
“Good day dad” we chorused.
“Yeah, can you get your siblings please” I walked to the primary section and brought back Pablo and Lucy. We were on the road as soon as possible.
“How did your first day go?” Dad asked.
“Great dad! A girl in my class has boots with colourful lightings on them!” Lucy exclaimed and we all laughed while she seemed so confused.
I woke up to the drizzling sounds from the shower. I scratched my neck and checked the time on my phone, I had about twenty minutes to get ready for school. I unhung my uniform from the wardrobe and headed to the ironing place along the corridor. After getting my uniform ironed, I had my bath, had breakfast and Sanni, Hauwa and I started our walk to school. We preferred walking as it served as an exercise and we could stop by and get fresh bean cakes.
“The woman has not opened yet” that happens not so often but there were other times where the bean cake seller delayed opening her shop. We walked on to school and still got there in time.
“Alex Alex!” Elu hailed as we did our handshake. I noticed a girl and a boy walk out of the principal’s office. I could see Elu stare at her from my peripheral vision. That’s expected, she’s quite fine but not my type.
“Damn she fine” he was almost drooling and I slapped his head, i couldn’t get late for assembly as the senior prefect.
We were done with the devotion and headed to our classes. The teacher introduced the new girl and she looked like she wanted nothing more than to disappear. I was still admiring my newly grown nails when the Economics teacher walked in. She wrote the topic on the board and I put on the recorder in my phonee which was inside my desk. She asked Elu to give the definition of Inflation and my lips curled up into a smile as he struggled to remember the answer. I was about passing him the answers when the new girl did that. I rolled my eyes and squeezed the paper. Elu murmured a thank you to her. I could tell he was already having something for her. The class was over and the Science students left for Chemistry class leaving me with the new creep.
She attempted starting a conversation but I didn’t give in. I twirled the pen on my desk as Comfort sent me a wink, I attempted a smile and went back to my pen twirling. I got bored and nibbled on my phone while the new creep was busy arranging and scheduling I guess. I wanted the science students to be back soon. My prayers were answered as they walked in chattering and some laughing. Elu patted my back and turned to his seat. I ran my hands through my itchy hair and I could feel stares from the girls. I smirked and winked at Comfort, she blushed and the other girls almost fainted from jealousy not knowing it wasn’t worth it. I sunk lower in my seat as the Geography teacher walked in.
We stood up and chanted the greetings and he told us to sit. I zoned out but zoned in again when he mentioned the excursion part. I turned to Elu who was laughing about something with the girl. He asked to join us and ended up sneaking into the bus. We got to the museum where we saw old Stevenson Screens and wind vanes. The girls sang in the bus while we headed to the second place. I tapped my feet as they sang Intentions by Justin Bieber. The second workshop wasn’t as interesting as the first. We headed back to school and got there late. School was already over.
“You are fun you know, can’t wait to see you tomorrow!” Elu shouted to her and we left to catch a taxi. It was so obvious he was attracted to her.
“The new girl huh?” I asked.
“She’s hot, cool, nice, I’ve been single for too long abeg” I laughed and got into a taxi which was heading to my street.
I threw my bag on my bed once I got home and left to the kitchen. Sanni and Hauwa were seated at the dining table with a plate of rice each. I got mine and joined them.
“Today was crazy, Joy and Faith got into a fight because of me, it pays to be handsome you know” Hauwa and I rolled our eyes and continued eating.
“Come on guys, you both are making this place boring” he stressed the first syllable of ‘boring’.
“You said something to uplift your enormous sized ego and expected us to join you?” Hauwa said, it’s funny how she’s more matured than Sanni but I know Sanni has a soft spot behind his too jovial character. I dropped my plates and decided to visit an old friend three houses away. I knocked on their gates and prayed they had sold off their dog. I couldn’t remember the last time I came here. Her eyeballs were visible from the little space in the gate. She opened the gate with a large grin on her face.
“Lex! Oh my gosh, where have you been?” She motioned to me to come in but I shook my head.
“My dad isn’t around, I’m sorry for what happened then” she started and I walked into their large compound.
“It’s okay” I smiled when I saw her younger brother running around with a puppy.
“Wow Matt’s all grown, I hope your larger dog isn’t here?” I asked and she laughed.
“No, we sold Libra off last year”
“Cool, how have you been?” I asked, she shook her head and a frown came up on her face again.
“He sent mum out” she said “Enough with the sad talks, any girl troubles?” She nudged me and I laughed.
“No, I’m still with Comfort” she rolled her eyes.
“That snitch, I’m sorry but that just came out” I raised my hands.
We sat on a couch in the small parlor, talked about random things till dad called me.
“Bye, I’ll miss you!” She laid a quick peck on my cheeks and waved as we left.