The students standing by the gate greeted her as she approached. She gave them a stiff smile in return and continued on her way, almost stumbling in nervousness. She wondered if the person that sent the pictures was among them. She took subtle looks in their direction. None of them seemed overly concerned with her presence. The group of girls had their heads almost glued together as they peered at a phone, giggling when someone pointed out something. Nothing there, she thought with relief. Most of them were from the junior classes. She didn’t know how she would react if it was one of them. While the thought of it being her mate was dangerous, it was a risk she was more than willing to take.
She received a number of greetings from students rushing past her to their classes. It was almost time for the morning assembly. With a resolute look, she walked across the school to where the picture been taken. It had been where she met him, drawing a cat jumping over the wall. For a second, a soft look descended on her face at the thought of the boy whose arms she clung to in the picture. It disappeared quickly when she was reminded of the pictures. She was certain that he wasn’t in school yet. She didn’t know how she would tell him about the picture that held evidence of their coupling.
The building behind the Computer lab had once been the home of Mrs. Alikebe. Dinma thought of the old round woman, her steps made heavy by the high wooden sandals on her dry and whitish feet never failed to strike fear into the hearts of students. After she had been ridden out of the house in the school ambulance she never returned. There were whispers though, that while her body was sent back to her village in the East, her spirit came back to the school and took over the duty of making sure the boarding students were already in their rooms after lights out.
The tall grasses around the house reached her waist as she walked through a small path that ordinarily would not have been noticed. The path had formed from days of walking and prodding by two pairs of feet. She looked around, her heart threatening to jump out of her heart as she walked around the house to the back veranda. No one came here. The new matron that replaced Mrs. Alikebe had been given a new home much closer to the dormitory.
The overgrown grasses were unable to hide the elegance of the building, even after her owner’s death, the building seemed determined to hold on to her dignity like the princess of a fallen kingdom holding on to her crown. Mrs. Akilebe would have been appalled if she saw the state of her home now. The garden that she treated with so much love, pruning overgrown leaves, talking to them as though they were her children, had become wildflowers. Dinma heard a whisper of freedom as they danced in the direction of the wind.
Faintly, she heard the gong of the school bell. With a start, she remembered why she was here. For a minute, it seemed like a dream, the message and the pictures were just a dream. She was at the back of the house now. Her eyes immediately rested on the veranda, hidden behind a thick iron railing that came up to her chest. The tiled floor was neat, different from other parts of the house that was had layers of brown dust over their cemented faces. A black lump lay on the grown near the wall. With quick strides, she walked towards it and picked it up. The faint smell of the familiar cologne hit her nose. It was his sweater. She forced it into her school bag and walked out of the building. For the first time since she became the senior prefect, she was late for the morning assembly.
Throughout the day, her phone felt like hot coal burning through her pocket. Though her eyes never left the whiteboard, the words on the board were like Chinese characters to her. She had sent three other messages to the account and spent a majority of the class period, peeking at her phone at every little vibration. School was almost at its end, yet she hadn’t gotten any reply.
The name on the account rang no bell to her and had only been recently created. The only useful information was that he lived in Jos, which was practically a common information among everyone on her friend list. She couldn’t deny it, she was scared. Scared of the ripples the pictures would cause if they were posted online. While there were strict rules against the use of phones in school, especially among the boarding students, most of the students had a phone with which they accessed social media platforms. The school was a small circle. If one class got the pictures, in due time, the whole school would get hold of it. She tightened her fist on her lap. She couldn’t let it happen. She couldn’t.
Just as the mathematics teacher was rounding up his class, writing a few exercises on the board. The girl beside her tapped her and handed her a folded piece of paper. She frowned as she opened the paper. A feeling of dread overcame her when she saw that it was addressed with her Facebook name which was also her English name, Esther. Very few students knew her English name as she was referred to by her Igbo name in school.
The paper had been torn from the middle of a notebook and folded neatly. A lot of work must have been put into making sure that the sides were all equal to form an almost perfect square. She opened it with trepidation. Two poorly drawn figures greeted her eyes as the paper expanded to its original size. It took a while before understood what was on the picture. With a gasp, she squeezed the paper quickly and looked around. Most of the students in the class were bent over their books copying what the teacher was writing on the board.
The students at the back were as usual whispering among themselves. It was usual, but it felt as though she was the topic of their discussion this time. If she was scared before, her nerves went on overdrive as she thought of the possibility that the account was a collective account. Maybe, it was a group of students that came together to make life difficult for her.
No, she thought. She prided herself on being one of the most friendly student in the school. She could boast of having good relationships with more than eighty percent of the students and a few times, she had overhead conversations that branded her one of the best senior prefects the school ever had. She could not claim perfection. In fact, she knew that if anyone had a bone to pick with her, it would be Juliet who had been her opposition for the post of the senior prefect. But Juliet had already resigned to the fact that she didn’t win, regarding herself to the position of the Social prefect. While their relationship, remained a little stilted, it didn’t warrant for any backbiting or blackmail.
She studied the students at the back a little more closely. She barely had any interactions with them- Richard, Michael, Tobechi, Shim, Zubi. She looked at their expressions and looked away when any of them felt her eyes on them. Now if they were not talking about her before, they would start talking about her now. She turned to face the front of the class. She could feel their eyes boring at the back of her head. If she wasn’t certain before, she was now convinced that the culprit was among them. But who among them? Was it a group thing? How was she going to deal with it?
Robotically, she reached for her pen and began writing down the words on the board. Though the wheels were spinning rapidly in her head.