“What are you doing here?” The sharp voice startled Daniel. He brought his head up. It was a girl, a senior girl. He knew her face. She was said to be the girlfriend of Senior Kelachi, the most wicked senior in the boys dorm.
Embarrassed, he tried to wipe the tears in his eyes surreptitiously but her smile told him she had already seen them. She walked closer, avoiding the stones and wild grasses. They were at a small farm behind the staff quarters. He suddenly remembered he was supposed to be in class and stood up immediately, “Good morning senior” he said. He stood there, wondering what excuse he could give her for loitering during class periods.
She sat down in the spot he had been sitting, beneath the palm tree.
“Your name is Daniel right?” she asked.
“Yes..” he stammered out, wondering how she knew his name.
She smiled. “I saw you when your parents and your sisters came to drop you. Cute little girls. How are they?”
“They are fine. Thank You.” He said confused.
“Why were you crying?”
Daniel was embarrassed. The heat rose to his cheeks.
“Don’t be shy.” she said. “You can tell me. Sit down.” she patted a spot beside her.
He moved slowly, afraid to sit so close to a senior girl. An image of senior Kelachi’s fierce face rose to his mind and he halted.
“I said sit.” she said authoritatively.
He sat down meekly, hoping and praying that no senior would come around that area by any chance. This was close to the Lovers spot. The place no junior student dared go close to, especially during the evening prep.
“So….” she said, an expectant look in her eyes.
He shook his head slowly.
“Common, you can talk to me. You can tell me anything.”
He was still hesitant.
“Okay, let me tell you a secret. When I came to this school in my Jss 1, I used to come here to cry too.”
He looked up at her surprised. He couldn’t imagine her in tears.
“Why?” he asked timidly.
“The usual. I missed my home, I hated this school, I had no friends, not even a school mother.” she smiled sadly in recollection and nudged him with her shoulders.
“Is that the same reason you’re crying?” she asked.
He nodded weakly, the tears came back to his eyes.
She laughed lightly. “You don’t have to be afraid. Everybody goes through it. Even the mean senior boys. And girls.”
He smiled as he thought of senior Kelachi in tears. It just wasn’t possible.
“You know you’re a fine boy. I’ll take care of you. Don’t worry. You’re in love house abi?”
“Let me walk you back.”
He nodded again, grateful for her presence.
As they got to the junior block, heads began to turn. He knew they were wondering how he was talking and laughing with a senior girl. He grinned broadly and puffed up his shoulders. Let them wonder. She said a short goodbye and left for the senior block.
He could feel the eyes staring at him as he walked into class and went to his seat. His seat mates, Arthur and Friday were still staring. Acting unabashed, he brought out his note and pen.
“How come you know senior Soty?” Friday finally asked.
He smiled. “She’s my friend.”
“Don’t you know she’s senior Kelachi’s girlfriend? Let him not catch you with her oh” Friday said hotly.
The banging of the desk heralded the entry of the Geography teacher. The class stood up and greeted. Daniel’s mind wandered. How would senior Kelachi react if he saw him, a mere junior boy talking to his girlfriend?
Dread filled his heart. He wasn’t ready. Senior Kelachi always gave the meanest and most creative punishments. Sometimes, it was better he flogged than punished. His slaps were known to produce bells inside a boy’s ear that would ring for days. There were so many rumours about senior Kelachi. He heard that one time, senior Kelachi had made an ss2 boy sleep on a tree outside the boys dorm all through the night. Another time, he had put a small junior boy inside a locker and closed it for a whole day. Daniel didn’t know if the rumours were true. He didn’t want to find out either.
He got through class and went to the dining hall for lunch. Junior boys kept staring at him like he had grown horns, increasing his fear.
It was in the evening as he was preparing for prep hours when he heard the counting in the first dorm room. He hurriedly picked his shorts and sandals, putting his stainless plate under his armpit while trying to hold on to his spoon. He didn’t make it. He heard the big footsteps and stood still. The whole dorm stood still.
A big voice rang out “Who is Daniel here?”
All eyes pointed at him. He raised his hand timidly. Senior Kelachi walked to him and sat down on top of his locker. “The rest of you go for food.”
The other junior boys scampered out, each grateful they were not Daniel at the moment.
Daniel stood still, wondering what the senior boy had heard. The senior’s big hand dropped on his shoulders.
He looked up.
“Where’s your bed?”
He pointed to his bed on the top bunk. Kelachi picked it up, rolled it up and put it under his armpit.
“Where’s your bucket and keg?”
Daniel shook his head. “They are missing, Senior.”
Kelachi smiled and ruffled his head gently.
“Let’s go. I’ll send some boys to bring your locker later.”
Daniel followed slowly, not really understanding what was happening.
Kelachi got to his dorm and dropped the foam on an empty down bunk, placed close to a single bunk. Only the seniors were allowed to use single bunks. Kelachi motioned for him to sit down on the single bed.
He sat down slowly.
“Soty asked me to take care of you. So now, you’re my school son.”