Walking into class, Ogbele mustered all her courage and went straight to Chijioke’s seat. The teachers were still having their morning meeting but she had limited time.
As Chijioke or Chiboy as he was popularly called saw her approaching, he smirked.
Ogbele’s heart beat faster. She knew that smirk, that half laugh he always gave right before the punch. She put on a false bravado and raised her head.
“Give me back my book Chijioke.”
She was the only one who refused to call him Chiboy or even acknowledge him as a prefect. He was a bully and she hated him.
” So you cannot greet eh?” he retorted. “You don’t know how to greet your seniors abi? Oya come and take book na let me see.”
He turned to his seat mate and best friend, totally ignoring her presence.
She stood for a few seconds, not knowing what to do next. She needed her literature book for the test after the break period. She tapped his shoulders.
He turned to her angrily, “See if you touch me again, I will just slap you here.” he said and went back to his discussion with Chima.
Tears filled her eyes but she refused to let them drop. She knew if it came to a fight, he would overpower her. She noticed the class became quiet. The teacher Mr. Nwankwo, had come.
With purposeful steps, she walked to Mr Nwankwo.
“Good morning sir.” she greeted.
“Ah yes, Ogbele, how are you?” he asked absentmindedly, fiddling with the notebooks on his table.
She drew a breath and plunged.
“I want to report Chijioke.”
The whole class paused in shock. Nobody reported Chijioke. It just wasn’t done. Ogbele. Ignored the shocked looks.
Even Mr. Nwankwo looked surprised at first, then pleased.
Smiling, he relaxed back in his chair and asked “what did he do?”
“Yesterday sir, I went to B class to collect my pen I had given to Lina. Chijioke was standing at the door. As I walked past him, he used a plastic spoon to hit my head. I told him to stop, he refused. As I passed the door again, he still used that spoon to hit my head. When I told him to stop, he seized my literature book I was holding in my hands.
Now this morning, I told him to give me my book, he has refused.”
The teacher called Chijioke. “Did you seize Ogbele’s book?” he asked.
At this, Ogbele shouted ” Sir he’s lying. My book is in his locker. That’s where he put it and locked it yesterday sir.”
“Let’s go to your desk Chijioke”
All eyes were on the trio as they made their way to the desk. The locker was already open, the padlock on top the desk. Mr Nwankwo opened the locker and lying just atop his books, lay the Literature book with her name written boldly on it.
Mr Nwankwo walked quietly back to his table after handing the book back to her and brought out his long cane.
The class watched in horrified shock as Chijioke was flogged fifteen strokes. He tried to act brave at first but by the sixth lash, he started crying.
Everyone started laughing, the brave ones laughing loudly while the others tried to hide their laugh for fear. Ogbele knew Chijioke would definitely come for her after school. He gave her a dark look as he went back to his desk, promising retribution.
She was in a state of fear throughout class that day. As the school bell rang, she put on a calm demeanour and went towards the school gate. Chijioke stood close to the gate, his angry face and tapping foot told her he had been waiting.
She tried to walk past him. He held her hand and drew her back. As she struggled, he used his left hand and started dragging her hair. Pain shot through her. She bit his hand on her arm and he screamed and released her.
A small crowd had gathered. They knew better than to interfere. No teacher was in sight.
He lunged for her hair again. She held on to his knees, trying to pin him down. As he realized what she was doing, he forcefully pulled her back. Her arms came away with his shorts.
The whole school roared with laughter. The big bully Chijioke stood there, his brown dirty pants had holes in them.
Ogbele stood in shock, his shorts still in her hands.
He grabbed the shorts and fled.
Amid the shouts of triumph they gave her, her heart felt light. She had conquered.