Please note that this series contains some sexually explicit content, violence and offensive language. It is not appropriate for children nor an immature and sensitive audience.
A SMALL WORLD - SEASON TWO
Copyright © Ufuomaee
Mary had gotten the call from Daniel’s school, requesting for her to attend a meeting with the Principal, when she had returned from her holiday. They’d scheduled the meeting for the Monday after the twin’s birthday bash. She was a little anxious about it, and wondered what the meeting was about. She hoped that Daniel was keeping up his grades and not getting into mischief.
She arrived early, and waited briefly before she was called in to the Principal’s Office.
“Good morning, Madam,” Mary greeted the Principal with a small curtsy, as she approached the desk.
“Good morning, Mrs Chukweke. Thank you for coming. I am Mrs Oshimolowo.” Mary received her extended hand to shake it, before taking her seat. She looked about the small office, appreciating how neat and tidy it was. Built-in shelves that housed photographs, books and files, and a few awards, lined the walls of the office. There was only one window, but the room was well-lit, and fitted with an air-conditioner.
“Thank you,” Mary replied. She looked expectantly at the chubby, mature woman, who seemed stern, but fair. “Please, what is this about, Ma?”
“Daniel has gotten himself into a bit of trouble. Has he told you anything about it?”
“No… Well, he mentioned that he was being teased once, but my husband spoke to him about that at the time. He hasn’t brought it up since. Is he okay?”
Mrs Oshimolowo nodded. “Yes, he reported a couple of boys for bullying him, when I called him into my office almost two weeks ago for cheating.”
“Yes. Daniel has been doing assignments for other pupils in his class. There’s no evidence that he has been receiving remuneration. However, he has been warned not to repeat the offence again.”
Mary stared at the Principal, dumbfounded, unsure what to make of her statements. It sounded like she was blaming Daniel. “Daniel would never cheat! If he did these things, then I believe he is being bullied and that is more important for us to address.”
“I understand. But Daniel failed to report the bullying to his teacher or any of the staff. Children can be defensive when accused of an offence, and it has been known for children to lie about being bullied to get away from trouble…”
“Are you accusing Daniel of lying and cheating? Why would he do that?” Mary was feeling herself getting angry. Who were these boys that were bullying her little brother?
“Mrs Chukwueke, I am only telling you the facts. You don’t need to get emotional. The report of bullying has been noted, and the children’s families have been contacted. We are carrying out further investigation into this, because the school neither tolerates bullying, cheating nor lying.”
Mary swallowed. What was going on with the world that a Principal would be suspecting a child, who was being bullied, of lying and cheating? “How are you going to stop this?”
Mrs Oshimolowo swallowed. “That’s why you’re here, Ma. If Daniel is actually being bullied, he will need…”
Mary put her hand up to stop her from finishing her sentence. “Excuse me. How are you going to help him, if you don’t believe him? Daniel is not a liar!”
“Please, Madam. Calm down. An accusation of bullying is not a small matter. It can damage a child’s record. Before we can ascertain that it is happening, there must be evidence. Like, I said, we have spoken to the boys concerned and their families. It appears to be a misunderstanding, as often happens with children. What you can do is to be vigilant, talk to Daniel about this, and advise him to always do the right thing and report any incident of bullying.”
Mary took in a deep breath. “If that is all, Madam, I’d like to talk to Daniel now.”
Mrs Oshimolowo hesitated, and then nodded. Mary stood up, and took one more look around the room. She paused when she saw a framed picture of a woman she recognised. It was of Pastor (Mrs) Akinwumi, Pastor Bolaji’s widowed wife. She froze for a minute. She was a Dean of the school.
“May I know the names of the children my brother reported for bullying?” she asked, thinking that might help her understand why Daniel was not being taken seriously.
“I’m sorry, Madam. That information is confidential.”
“I see.” Mary turned and left the office. She was going to have to do her own investigations.
Daniel was in class when Mary came looking for him. After she knocked a couple of times on the door, she waited outside to be let in. Instead, the teacher came out to meet her, and advised her to wait until they were through with the session. They would be having their lunch break afterwards, which would give Mary more time to talk to him. Mary was hesitant, but decided that she would wait. There was no need to draw needless attention to him nor disrupt his education further.
When the bell sounded, signifying that it was Break Time, Daniel left his class downcast, and walked past Mary, without noticing her there. Mary observed him as he went to his locker, and saw someone nudge him intentionally, so that he slammed into the lockers, before they laughed with their friends and kept going. A couple of the people in that group looked back at him and giggled. Daniel did nothing.
“Hey,” Mary said, from behind him.
Daniel was startled and turned around to face his sister. His expression was not welcoming, but rather seemed embarrassed. “Good afternoon, Sis.”
Mary wanted to hug him, but his expression told her that such wouldn’t be appreciated, and would probably worsen the situation for him. “Can we talk?” she asked instead.
Daniel nodded, and decided to go back to his classroom, which he knew would now be vacant. Mary followed him, wondering why he wasn’t going to the Cafeteria or even out into the field. He looked so depressed and withdrawn, not the joyful Daniel she knew. This was really very bad, she thought and swallowed.
“Don’t you want to go outside?” Mary asked. “We could take a walk.”
Daniel shook his head. “I don’t want anyone seeing me with you.”
“They’ll make fun of me. Here is fine.”
“Okay,” Mary said. “I’ll make it quick so you can go for your lunch too…”
“I’m not eating.”
Mary was sad. “Daniel, what’s going on?”
Daniel was quiet.
“I met with your Principal today… She told me that you reported a couple of children for bullying you. Can we talk about that?”
Daniel shook his head, and quickly wiped a tear that had escaped his eye. “It’s not going to make any difference. You can’t do anything about it.”
“Who says??? If you don’t tell me, then I definitely won’t be able to help you. But if you do, I am in a better position to. A problem shared is a problem halved, remember?” Mary reached to hold Danny’s hand. He let her and looked into her face.
Daniel breathed in deeply, but still said nothing.
“Can you tell me who these boys are? Do you know why they are picking on you?”
“Bode and his gang.”
“Is Bode in your class?” Daniel nodded. “Were you friends before?” He shook his head. “So, when did this all start? Did you have a fight or an argument?”
“No, we didn’t. I don’t know why they pick on me.” Daniel was avoiding looking at Mary in her eyes. He didn’t want to tell her the bad things they said about her to get him angry.
“Okay, but how long has this been going on?” Mary persisted.
“Since last year… It started during my second term here.”
“Wow, that’s a long time. Why didn’t you say something?”
“I did! Brother Ifeanyi said I should stand up for myself, and so I did. But they just ganged up on me.”
Mary nodded and squeezed his hand. “Okay, I understand. I’m sorry about that. What sort of things do they say and do?”
Daniel shook his head. “It doesn’t matter, Sis. I’m going to be leaving this place soon, and I just want to finish and go.”
“Daniel, it matters a lot. You matter to me, and this is not only a test of your resilience, but also of your character. What do you think will happen if people do bad things, and no one bothers to do anything to stop them? They will continue to do bad things to other people as well, and because you did nothing, you will be a part of their bad legacy,” Mary said, and swallowed hard. Daniel was looking at her in her eyes now. They both knew she was drawing from her own experience of abuse.
“Daniel, when I was abused by Pastor Bolaji, I said nothing. And when I found out that he was doing it to other young girls too, even raping women, I felt so terrible! It is our duty to speak up when people do bad things, even if we don’t think people will believe us or can help us. We have to speak, because that is the responsibility God has given us! So, please… Tell me everything, and let’s fight this together!”
So, Daniel opened up his heart to his sister, and told her all.
Cindy had finished her long shift, and was at the Supermarket near the hotel, getting a few provisions for herself. Tomorrow would be her day off, and she had nothing at home to cook. She normally stayed at the hotel, because she worked five days straight, and took a day off on the sixth day. It was not a usual work week, so she didn’t have the same day off each week. This way, she worked every day of the week, and also had days of the week and weekend off.
Even though she could stay at the hotel on her days off, she preferred not to, because she would often find herself busy doing something. And sometimes, she was called on to assist by other staff, who may or may not be aware that she was off duty. It was particularly hard saying “no” to her Boss, whenever that happened. So, Cindy had found a place to stay on her days off, which was affordable and close by. It was shared accommodation at Jakande, with another woman, who was a widowed mother of two grown up children.
She floated through the aisles of the supermarket, dropping provisions into her trolley. She took her time because, this was her time. Her rest. And she loved shopping, even if it was only for groceries. She could afford them and she was proud of herself for earning good money enough to take care of herself.
“I wouldn’t get that if I were you… The other one is cheaper and tastes better.”
Cindy felt goose bumps arise on the back of her neck. If she didn’t recognise the voice, she would have thought it was one of those annoying salespersons who tried to push their brands unto customers. But she would recognise that voice even in her sleep. She swallowed and turned around and looked at Ope.
She beamed. “Hey…” was all she could say.
“Hey… It’s nice bumping into you here,” Ope said, moving to give her a hug. It was a little awkward. “Day off?”
Cindy nodded. “Yes…Sir,” she giggled, at calling him by the formal title. She had had to do that a few times whenever they had bumped into each other at the hotel. “So, which is cheaper?”
“This honey jar! It’s nicer too,” Ope grinned, picking up his favourite jar of honey.
“Are you now in marketing?”
Ope giggled. “No… Just striking a conversation. So, how have you been?”
Cindy pushed her trolley along, happy that Ope was interested in her. “I’ve been good, thanks! How’s business?”
“It’s been good too. You’re keeping my customers happy.”
Cindy blushed. “Thanks for the job again. I really love it!”
“No worries. You’re doing fantastic! You know I’ve always been a fan of your cooking. What’s on special this Wednesday?”
“I haven’t decided yet. What would you like to have?” Cindy looked up at him, adoringly. She swallowed.
“Umm… Wow… I think I could go for salmon this week. Maybe a salmon cottage pie?”
“Salmon cottage pie it is!” Cindy beamed. She had never made it before, but she knew it would be the best cottage pie she ever made. She was going to add extra love to this meal, since it came by special order from Ope.
“Alright… Let me leave you to it. Have a lovely day off, Cindy!” Ope said, stepping back to make his leave.
“Thanks…Ope,” Cindy smiled.
Ope returned her smile, winked and turned around to leave. He swallowed as he walked away. Was he just flirting with his Cook? No, it was just friendly banter. But he had really enjoyed chatting with Cindy. He missed her friendship.
To be continued…
Photo credit: www.pixabay.com
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