After the school’s anthem, the Principal mounted the stage and stood behind the microphone about to address the school regarding an incident they were already aware of. Excited whispers filled the room. A week ago, her presence alone would have been enough to silence the hall. A week ago, there was no murder.
“I said silence!” She commanded through the microphone a second time. This time nobody spoke. Someone coughed at the back, then the hall fell into a grave quiet. Her palms were enclosed together in her front, her glasses rested as they always did on her nose, her relaxed hair was pulled back in a low bun. She paused, and then she spoke.
“Good morning, all. As you all know, something tragic happened two days ago, here, in our premises. The death of a Mr. Olutimilehin Adeleke, an SS2 student. A moment of silence for his passing,” She paused, and bowed her head, as if in prayer, for a few seconds. “Nothing like this has ever happened in our school before, and I assure you, nothing like this ever will again, so there is no need to panic. The suspect, Mr. Bryan Uzoka, who was also an SS2 student has been arrested and is now in police custody. Effective immediately, he is no longer a student of our prestigious institution and records of his time here will be erased. Henceforth, it is prohibited for students to be seen outside of their hostels after 4pm, an hour after your last lesson for the day. Extra-curricular activities have been suspended indefinitely, as well as phone calls. This is to ensure your safety and to curb misinformation from being spread. Your parents will all be duly notified of these developments. Once again, no need to panic.”
She concluded and stalked off the stage to be replaced by the head-boy who instructed everyone out of the hall, set by set, to their various classrooms. On the line out, a JSS2 girl, Becky, muttered to herself, “Good riddance.”
* * *
That evening, there was a friendly football match scheduled to take place; SS1 boys against SS2 boys. Some players were huddled together on the field, talking, others were rolling their necks and arms in circular motion. to warm up. Spectators streamed in from the gate carrying plastic chairs they brought from the store. Then they balanced under the canopies, among friends, waiting for the game to begin. A few, leaving the shade of their seats, walked towards the field to chat with the players they knew. Bryan stormed in from the gate, pushing past people carrying chairs and continued, straight, towards the field. He was visibly upset, his face squeezed in a tight grimace. He made a beeline for Timilehin who stood mindlessly by the goalpost and punched him in the face.
“What the fuck?” Timihelin touched his mouth, shocked. Players and spectators hurried towards the scene, animated, some to stop an ensuing fight, others to catch a better view of it. “Bryan, are you mad?” He said pointing his fore finger to his head.
“Don’t you ever go near my sister ever again or, I swear to God, I will kill you.” Bryan said and turned to walk away.
“That your ashawo sister. Who the hell wants her?” Timilehin called loud enough for everyone to hear.
He did not mean that. He had never, in fact, had anything to do with Bryan’s sister. But the affront had humiliated him, and he wanted his pound of flesh. Meanwhile the word “ashawo” seeped into Bryan’s bloodstream, made it boil, so that he turned around in a flash and lunged into Timilehin’s expectant fists.
“Ye!” somebody exclaimed when the first blow was thrown. The crowd grew more and more excited. Their classmates kept trying to break it up but the few who intervened received their fair share of blows.
“Mr. Musa is coming, you guys better stop this shit if you want us to play ball today.” Mide said. It succeeded in breaking them up but the glint in their eyes suggested it was an unfinished fight, one that would be settled in the comfort of their hostel.
After the referee blew the whistle for halftime, SS1 boys were in the lead at 1-0. Bryan returned to the seat he forcibly took and placed his bag on, earlier, from a junior boy, for a drink of water. Still upset, he sat away from his friends, some of whom whispered about his fight with Timilehin. Reaching inside the bag for his bottle, he felt a carefully wrapped note. Meet me in the usual spot x. It was Mary’s handwriting. Mary was his girlfriend and she was waiting for him in the abandoned building further away from the field. The building people rarely went to, except for players wanting to use its toilet, and seniors seeking romantic getaways. It was the perfect spot, and he had just eight of the fifteen-minute break left, so he ran, with eagerness and verve, towards the abandoned building.
Panting, Bryan pushed the door of the dark toilet open and shut it behind him. He flipped the switch and the sight before him stunned him. He did not notice the blood on his hand. Blood that was waiting for him on the light-switch.
“Jesus. Timilehin?” He stared, wide eyed, at the bloody corpse on the ground, head gashed with a big stone. I will kill you. His own words came back in that moment to haunt him. Who would believe he hadn’t done it?
Then came knocks on the door. Outside, a few of their teammates were looking for them. The second half was about to start. “Bryan! Timilehin! If you are there Musa is waiting for you guys o. Oya!” It was Mide.
Meanwhile Bryan lay, defeated, on the floor, shoulders jerking from frustrated tears. He knew, deep down, that he was finished. Mide pushed open the door. “Oh my God! Bryan what have you done? Jesus! Is Timilehin… dead?” He gulped.
* * *
In the girls’ hostel, the labour prefect rang the bell to announce that lights out was in ten minutes. Some girls in dorm 12B scrambled to have their night shower while others were in the laundry room, washing or ironing their uniforms for the next day.
“Becky, should I save a space for you in the bathroom?” Aisha asked from the door, wrapped in her red towel, holding her bucket.
“No thanks, I am too tired, I just want to sleep.”
“Okay no problem.” Aisha said and left.
Becky, now alone in the room of eight girls, jumped down from her top bunk to her locker where she hid her small diary in her underwear bag. Sitting, legs crossed in front of her open locker, she flipped to a blank page and wrote;
It is complete.
She wrote like that, incomplete and in code so that no-one reading her diary could piece anything together. So there was no record on paper linking her to Timilehin’s murder. Not even a record of how he and Bryan had gang raped her behind the sickbay last year.
Satisfied, she replaced the small book in the bag, climbed the ladder to her bed, and fell soundly asleep.
Ifeoma Igwe has been writing unprofessionally from a young age. For five years her educational background included the intimate study of Literature, which fueled her knowledge and interest in the craft. She recently graduated with a degree in Economics and Management from Aston University.