‘That monster hit you.’ She says, reading my mind.
‘Where is she now?’
‘SBHM called the guards to come and carry her. She really lost control, so they had to go lock her up in the guard room.’
‘Shit! I hope they believe me now that she is dangerous…’
‘I hope they do.’ She replies. ‘But Ebube, you showed such bravery, I could hardly believe it was you.’
I smile at her. When one has been through what I have been through, I guess the only good thing they take away from it is bravery.
‘So what are they saying now? And any word about Charity?’
‘Chill babe, you only passed out for like twenty minutes. It’s not like you’ve been away on vacation or something. Everything is just as it was, well, except that Senior Emily is in the guard room.’ She says playfully.
‘Ok. I think I want to go to the hostel now.’
‘Oh you can’t. Classes aren’t over yet. Like I said, you only passed out for fifteen minutes.’
‘Isn’t it twenty again?’
‘Oh sorry. Whatever. It’s not long is all I’m saying.’
We sit there for another hour before the SBHM finally comes. Bilikis isn’t with her. She explains that the disciplinary board has been informed of the entire situation, and that Sinemile is being interrogated with respect to the Charity accusation. She asks about my head and I tell her I’m perfect. She asks why I never spoke up all the while, I tell her I knew about Sinemile’s manic condition and felt sorry for her. I tell her I was only giving her the benefit of the doubt. She says my actions were downright stupid, knowing fully well that Royal’s has zero tolerance for bullying no matter what guise it came under. She says she is certain, however, that it will never happen again, and that I must not let anger or hate consume me because of this. She seems really sweet, I am happy I am finally in her good graces. Then she dismisses us and I head straight to the hostel.
An entire week passes before we hear anything about Charity. She has fully recovered and has returned to school is what reports say. We hurry to go see her after classes that afternoon, but they say she cannot be seen as she is still in the school’s sick bay. No one knows what really happened still, but Bilikis tells me that everything will come to light during Monday’s assembly. She says that’s what the SBHM told her. In the meantime, I enjoy the absence of my bunkmate; I fetch water for myself alone, I sleep on her bed at night and enjoy my sleep without the fear of someone startling me awake for some stupid reason, and I am able to concentrate in class. The few days without her feel like a vacation in heaven.
On one of these days, Senior Sunmbo, the house captain, summons me to her room.
‘Ebube, how are you?’ she says when I get to her. I roll my eyes; I have recently made a habit of it.
‘I hope you’re not missing your Bunkie.’ I do not reply. It is the dumbest question I have heard in my fourteen years of existence.
‘Please why did you call me?’ I ask irritably. In my mind, the real question is ‘Can you just cut the crap?’ but I manage to lull my impulses.
‘I want to apologize to you for turning a blind eye at everything you went through in Emily’s hands. I know I should have been less passive. Truth is, I just wanted peace to reign.’
‘It’s okay ma.’
‘You sure?’ she tries to smile. I keep a straight face.
Monday finally arrives. The assembly ground is packed full with students and teachers and all manner of staff. Even the birds in the sky are hovering in attendance. Our light blue uniforms, white socks and black boots give a pleasant view when looked upon from the raised podium on which the authorities stand. Flanking the principal are the vice principals for administration and academics respectively; both men, both bespectacled. The principal is an elderly woman in her fifties, with grey patches in her permed hair. She is usually squint-eyed and has an elegant dress sense that reminds me so much of Ms Pearson in Suits. In spite of her calm demeanor, she is often called ‘The no-nonsense woman’ because not only does she have sharp wits and eloquence in her semi-British accent, she’s also very disciplined, a little too disciplined atimes. Teachers revere her just as much as the students do, and nobody enjoys her other side.
The national anthem and school anthem, and a few other recitations we have come to accept are first rendered, after which comes the moment everyone anticipates: Disciplinary action.
The principal bellows into the public address system.
‘A case of bullying reached the disciplinary board about two weeks ago. Just a week after that, it was confirmed that the culprit had also subjected a junior student to asphyxiation that almost left her dead. We have never seen such madness… I have never seen such madness in my almost thirty years as a school administrator. It is absolutely unbelievable.’
Mumbling rents the air. For many, this is the first time they’d be hearing the word ‘asphyxiation’ so they resort to asking their friends for help. I give Tanya, who is a line and three persons behind me, a knowing smile as if to say ‘I was right all along’. She nods in agreement.
And just like that, a blanket of calm descends upon us. She continues, an angry expression encrusted on her chubby face.
‘Miss Emily Akano has been reported to have been involved in bullying in the past, and has faced suspension among many other punishments,’ as she speaks, a security guards in uniforms brings her forward to the podium. People begin to boo her. Her look is one of numbness and reproach, her hair is disheveled, and for one split second, I feel sorry for her.
‘…but no matter how hot the sun is, it just never dries away the patterns on a zebra. Her offenses are as follows:
-Continuously bullying and inflicting injuries on a certain Miss Ebube Gladys Alisiobi who happens to be her bunkmate.
-Attempting to implicate this same young lady by inflicting injuries on herself in order to put the latter in trouble.
-Asphyxiating a certain Miss Charity Enyema by locking her up in a cupboard sprayed with insecticides for hours. This lady has been hospitalized for several days on account of this.
-Repeatedly lying to the disciplinary board during investigation.
This kind of behavior is only akin to those of animals in the zoo. No humans in their right minds are allowed to behave in this manner.’
She paused for a moment to catch her breath. A number of girls beside me remain transfixed with their mouths agape, unable to wrap their minds around what the principal just said.
‘As a consequence for the aforementioned offenses, Miss Emily Akano will be given twelve strokes of the cane by the chief security guard, after which she would withdraw all her possessions from the hostel and exit this premises for good. Her expulsion commences immediately after this assembly…’
Everything after that becomes a blur. My friends and I are jumping for joy as the verdict is pronounced. A number of my classmates join in. It’s surprising to see that we’re not the only ones thrilled about the news; everyone on the assembly is clapping, some even smiling. I guess the news about Charity has turned Sinemile into a collective enemy.
From the corner of my eye I steal a glance at her. I don’t know if what is written there is remorse or shame, but in a distance, I spot a teardrop or two falling down her face. I smile.
Serves you right, Bunkie. So long.