The next week, Dinma woke up before her alarm rang. No, she hadn’t set her alarm as her phone was still hidden in her wardrobe. She had spent the weekend sleeping, eating, and watching movies. She had spent every day since she entered JS2 with her phone and when she took the decision to be without her phone for the weekend, she thought she wouldn’t survive. Funny enough, she almost forgot that she had a phone. She woke up early because she had spent the rest of her Sunday after returning from church sleeping and stuffing herself full of the coconut rice Nneka cooked.

Without the phone, it was easy to forget about the pictures. It was still at the back of her mind but she didn’t consciously think of it. Anytime she started thinking about it, she would busy herself with the cookies that Nneka baked on Saturday and engaging Nneka in a conversation. When she was with Nneka, it was hard to think about anything as Nneka gushed about the numerous recipes and Do-it-yourself tricks that she discovered on the internet.

She went through her morning routine humming and coming up with reasons why her day would go smoothly without any drama. After a breakfast of fried Indomie noodles and eggs, she left for school. When Dinma got to school, the atmosphere was filled with unusual excitement. Students arrived earlier than they usually did. They formed groups and spoke in loud whispers. Dinma was filled with apprehension. What happened? There was very little news that could make the school filled with so much excitement. Was she the topic of their discussions? As she entered the school, it suddenly felt as though the attention of the students turned to her. The whispers lowered to a quiet hush. 

“Senior Chidinma.” A group of junior students shifted around restlessly as they greeted her. She stiffly nodded and continued walking straight ahead. Her lower body felt like they were controlled by someone else. She got the same attitude from a few other students. She looked around for a familiar face, her classmates… anyone.

“Dinma.” Onyeche’s voice was like seeing an oasis in a desert. Onyeche ran towards her, her school bag, as usual, hung casually over her shoulders. She struggled to keep the strap of her bag on her shoulder as she moved. Dinma wondered why she never carried her bag properly. It seemed she enjoyed the haphazardness.

“Onye, how far? What happened? Why is everyone like this?” she asked her heart pounding so hard that she thought it would jump out of her chest.

Onyeche beat her chest breathing heavily. “You haven’t heard the news yet? It was posted this morning in the school group. Some people even posted it on their WhatsApp status. Didn’t you check FaceBook this morning?”

Posted online? Dinma’s lips shook. Was her decision to stay out of social media wrong? Maybe she would have been better prepared if she knew exactly what was being said online. “Which news?” she asked cautiously.

“Zubi is in the hospital. He almost lost his life.” Onyeche seemed more than happy to share the news.

“Ah!” It took a while before her words registered in Dinma’s mind. “Zubi?”

When it came to notorious students, Zubi was the ringleader. He was one of the students that the school had completely given up on, the bigger part of the reason was that Zubi’s father was one of the board members of the school. Even without the support of his parents, Zubi was one of the boys in the school that commanded fear among students. He didn’t strike Dinma as someone that would lose in a fight with anybody.

“What happened?”

Onyeche shook her head, her lips pursed in confusion. “I don’t know. But I heard that he fought with Longji, before he was rushed to the hospital.”

“What? Longji?” Dinma’s heartbeat stopped for a while. The pictures had been sent by Zubi, wasn’t it? Dinma frowned. Zubi had been her classmate all through the years, but they hardly had any problems within themselves. She was even more surprised that Longji fought him. He had that strength in those thin arms? A lot of questions were running through her mind. How exactly had Longji found out who sent the pictures? Or was there something Longji wasn’t telling her? She tried to think back to when they met the week before, was he any different? She couldn’t remember anything that remotely stood up.

“Like seriously, I use to think that even though Longji plays truant and behaves like he is above the teachers in the school, I didn’t think he would take it to that level. You know who Zubi’s father is?”

Dinma shook her head absentmindedly. “I’m coming.” Dinma was sure that her attention would be needed in the principal’s office. She rushed to the admin building. The teachers were in the same state as the students. Talking in hushed tones and shaking their heads pitifully. She imagined the reason why they were worried. Zubi’s father not only had a degree of power in the school, but he was also strongly in the politics of the state. What would happen if he found out what happened? Longji, she worried about him. She greeted the staff and walked towards the Vice Principal’s office when she saw the door opened. The male senior prefect, Oche as well as the Boarding house prefects were inside.

“Good morning, ma.” she greeted and then nodded at the other prefects. They shook their head at her to show the severity of the situation. 

The Vice-principal looked down at her through her thin glasses. “And you,” she said in a nasal tone, “did you notice the violent tendency in Longji?”

Dinma shook her head fiercely as her hands gestured actively. “No ma. I’m also surprised by what happened.”

The woman sighed. “Okay. Oche, go and ring the bell for assembly. It has already been delayed longer than usual. Dinma, go with the two house prefects and make sure to get all of our students that had been in that bar. The list is with Mr. Gregory. This evening, we would be coming for a check in the hostels. Hostel prefects, take note.”

“Yes, ma.” They filed out of her office with a solemn look. This was the first time such was happening in the school. There had been fights, but none that involved one of the children of the board members. Students often fought outside the school, but it was mainly with non-students. This time, it also happened to be one of the students that had always been on their radar for being stubborn. Oche went the other way as soon as they came

“Have you seen Longji?” the female house prefect, Zemsuk asked.

The male house prefect frowned and shook his head. “He is always on his own. I wonder what happened between the two of them. Are you sure he would come to school today?”

“I don’t know. Zemsuk, the two of you should look for the students on the list. I will go look for Longji. He is not even a boarding student, so I don’t think it will be easy for you both to find him.” Dinma said. She didn’t even wait for them to agree, she was already walking away from them.

“Okay. Be fast, the assembly is already starting,” Zemsuk shouted at her.