Laughter filled the staffroom. Violet put her hand over her mouth and continued chuckling. Beside her were Enita and Nafisah. C-Jay was the head of the group, the reason for the loud laughter.
“Honestly, you’re so funny,” Enita said slapping him lightly on the arms. “You should be a comedian.”
“If it was that easy, you think I will be here.” He winked at her.
Violet straightened up from the table she had been leaning on. “You guys should go on. I still have work waiting for me on my table.” C-Jay wanted to say something but Nafisah asked him a question. She took the opportunity to slip away. She was sure he would have made a move to stop her if he had a chance too.
“What were you laughing about?” Chinwedu appeared in front of her table as soon as she settled down. Her eyes were on the now group of three, still laughing loudly.
Violet smiled. “It’s C-Jay. If they leave him now, he is performing stand-up comedy. But he is funny [i]sha[/i].” She brought out her lesson notes.
“I can see it. Are you sure you both graduated together? If they allow me to talk, I will say he just finished his service.” There was no bite in Chinwe’s voice so Violet knew she was only saying without prejudice what she felt.
“I agree with you. He gets along more with the younger ones than with the older teachers. You won’t blame him. Since he came, he has been nothing but polite to them but anytime he tries to strike up a conversation with them,” She snapped her fingers. “It’s another problem altogether.”
“I think it’s only because they feel threatened as more young teachers come.” Chinwe bent and reduced her voice to a low whisper. “You know, I heard the principal told Mrs. Edet to start preparing for her retirement. He wants her to give him a date.”
Violet shrugged. “It’s normal. Which job doesn’t have a retirement age? What is the use of blaming young people that are also in need of jobs? I thought she has another business? That should be okay for her after she retires.”
“Well, you know C-Jay is going to take over teaching Geography, so you imagine why some of the older teachers don’t like him.”
Violet frowned. “But in the end, she is the one that will still leave and C-Jay will remain.” She sighed. “The teachers in this school are something else entirely.”
“You forget it is a private school that is why everybody is just competing. I don’t know if the school will do it this year, but every year, they select a teacher to go with the students on a two-week summer camp. Many teachers want to go. For me, I don’t want it. One week is better, but to leave my children with my husband for two weeks?” She laughed. “They will disturb my phone too much that I will even forget why I came out.”
Violet tried to imagine herself in the same condition and couldn’t help but agree with Chinwe. Though she had never stayed away from her family for longer than three days. However, she was certain that unlike in Chinwe’s case, she would be the person disturbing her husband with hourly phone calls.
“By the way, are you going to stay for sports training after school? I know they didn’t make you in charge of any house or sport, but you should try to stay at least once.”
Violet shook her head. “It’s been long since my children met me at home when they came back from school. I didn’t even prepare lunch this morning so I have to go back on time and make something.”
“[i]Ehen[/i], that reminds me. What about your friend Nene? Is she okay? I’ve not been seeing her in church for the past three weeks.”
Violet shifted uneasily in her chair. How could she tell the religious woman that Nene had started going to a new church with the hope of returning some normalcy to her marriage? “She is fine. I don’t know why. I will talk to her.”
“Make sure you do so. There are rumors flying around the women’s committee. It’s not good to have people talking that way.”
Violet nodded. “I will do that.” She watched as Chinwe returned to her seat. She thought of Nene and was awash in pity. She had always imagined her to be a strong woman. The way she handled her clothing business cemented the notion in her head. But the problem with her husband was gradually taking a toll on her. Violet visited her more often these days. And each day she did, she met something new. Nene set up an altar in her room, despite there being two other altars in the house—the main parlor and the children’s parlor. It was how the altar was set up that made Violet worried. Nene wasn’t a Catholic. On some occasions, she had even mocked the Catholic way of praying to images, but on the altar in her room sat images of the Blessed Virgin Mary and a few saints. A huge rosary hung down from the altar. Aside from the Catholic worship images, she also saw fliers from different churches lying around her room.
Her friend was slowly losing it. It was hard to deny the growing dark circles around her eyes, the lengthening lines on her face, the sad look that even her fake laughter could not disguise. She wondered what she would have done if she was in the same condition… She shook her head, letting the thought trail off. Her reaction would be no different from that of Nene. She wanted to help her friend. Just the other day, as she entered the house, she heard Nene shouting at one of her children. It was normal for a mother to shout at her kids but it was the tone she used. The bitterness that spiked the words and had made the small girl run off into her room crying. She had started to beat them, Junior the second child told her when she tried to comfort the small girl. Nene was a huge fan of the “Spare your child and throw your rod” notion. Normally, she wouldn’t raise her hands against her children, preferring to punish them with tasks such as cutting the grass in the small farm behind the house, going to help the neighbor with her poultry, etc. But she never flogged them. She was out of options of what to do. Her words to the woman were now like water on rock.
“Why are you sighing like this? Is everything alright?” C-Jay’s voice brought her out of her thoughts. He took his seat beside her but pulled it closer so he could face her.
“No, nothing. Are you done with your comedy show?” She looked in the direction of where they had been standing before. Nafisah and Enita were now joined by Elisha and were having a discussion.
He smiled. “Should I tell you one joke so that you will laugh? The look on your face is not encouraging at all. Hope all is well at home?” He pulled even closer peering into her face.
Violet pulled back. Does he need to know everything? “My family is fine,” she emphasized the words. “I’m just worried about a friend.”
Was it her or did he look a bit disappointed? “Anything I can do to help?” He straightened up and reached for a book on his desk. He aimlessly flipped through it.
“No, I don’t think so.”
“So are you going to stay for the training? Every day, you disappear as soon as they ring the bell. Won’t you stay just for today?”
“And do what? I still have to go back and take care of my kids.” She picked her pen and began scribbling on her book.
“I was suggesting to the principal that the teachers also partake in sports activities, like running and even football. I was surprised they didn’t have anything like that.”
“Well, those interested should do it. Count me out.”
He looked at her, mischief written over his face. “So the principal decided on a relay race for the teachers. I and Mr. Gideon will have a table tennis match. He is the only person that can play tennis in school. He wants to include other sports for teachers but for now, we have just these two. I am putting together my relay team, and Enita was saying you are quite sporty…?” He trailed off.
She gave Enita, who currently had her back to her a dirty look. The girl talked too much. “I’m not sporty. I just jog sometimes.”
“Jogging sometimes is better than nothing at all. So are you going to join my team?” His eyes twinkled.
Violet shook her head. “Who are the other people you picked?”
“Well, to be honest, I can only choose one person. The principal said he would arrange the teams by himself.”
She rolled her eyes. “You wouldn’t blame him for that. If they allow you, you will pick all the young people in the staffroom, especially the corpers.”
He winked at her. “You know me too well.” He spread out his hands. “So are you going to join me? At least if they put me with someone like Mrs. Janet, I know with both of us, our team will still have a chance.”
Violet couldn’t help but agree with him, turning to look at the woman in question. The fat woman walked and talked slowly. Violet didn’t want to see her attempt to run. “I will think about it.”
“I expect a yes o. I won’t take a no from you. I mean, if everything Enita said is true, I know you are capable of it.”
Violet turned to him. “Just what exactly did Enita tell you?”
He smiled impishly. “Everything?”
She shook her head with an exaggerated sigh. “That girl’s mouth runs like water.”
“So it’s a deal then?” He stood up.
“I said I will think about it,” she grunted.
“And I said I won’t take a no. It’s just a matter of time.” The bell sounded. “I have a class now. I will see you later.” He playfully threw her a kiss and sauntered out the staffroom taking a sole notebook.
Violet shook her head at him and returned her attention to the book in front of her.