Her flames

Present day
“You guys are amazing’

Victoria finally opened up after a long time spent in silence. Her slow, teary voice made it obvious that her complement was accompanied by a feeling of grief, sadness, anguish, disappointment, abuse, pain and so much more that needed to be let out somehow. She came closer and sat in the arena with the other women. Everyone was silent as though they had been waiting to hear her own story for a long time.

“My name is Victoria” she introduced herself. “and you guys are amazing. I mean, to have been able to stay strong and move on, without being crushed, or broken by what has happened to all of you, it’s a motivation. Seeing you all here in this room, patching up each other’s wound, helping each other heal, I see a lot of hope for people like us in this room. I have been through a lot since the past 26 years of my life, I have been alone and sad. I have passed through a lot of things but I want to start with the most devastating, heartbreaking, and most painful of them all”

She wiped the tears from her eyes and sat up straight and told her story

“My mother was a school headmistress, a primary school in Onitsha. My dad worked as a clerk in a publishing company. Things were hard. My parents struggled a lot. One day my father came back home looking different, sad and unhappy. There was no promising smiles on his face, as usual, no moi moi, and not even my favourite lollipop; he never mmissed buying it for me everyday. He would normally hand it over to me when he walked in, but instead, he just sat on the couch with his head bowed.

When I saw him I became sad too. We shared this empathic connection, just seeing him that way made me unhappy. Later that night I heard him talking to my mother, and there was a tear in his eye when he said the word.
“I want to give Victoria the best life, but not this way,”
It had always been about me. My father had never cried about anything. He taught me to do the same, and the only time I saw him cry was because he was afraid he would fail his daughter. He loved me so much and promised to give me the nicest things in life. He just lost his job again, that was the sixth job he had gotten in two months. He searched for another until he couldn’t anymore because he was falling sick. The sickness was in his testicles killing him slowly.

“I felt pain in a way I had never done before. I knew my father didn’t have much to offer me, but his presence and protection was something nobody else could offer me, not even my mother. He spent all his life dedicating himself to his family. He was the true definition of a father, a hero.
Few months after he died we moved to Laos, my mother and I, and I was enrolled into a boarding school: Marple Girls High School in Lekki. My mother got another job as a secondary school teacher in a government school, and life was simple. I was settling down into my new life in my new School, a girls only School. I was in jss3. I knew myself very well and had always wanted to be a journalist hoping to study journalism in college one day.

My first day in the School my mother brought me into the principal’s office. The principal was a tall, skinny man with a voice so hoarse, he sounded as if he was whispering when he spoke. He took time talking with my mother while I was sitting at a the back of the office looking around, the large room filled with books, calenders, pictures on the wall, a big globe on the center table, a brigade drumset, an old typewriter in a glass shelve, and a large, framed picture of a girl holding a book in her hand hanged above the man’s head.

A name was written under it with some other things but I couldn’t read it carefully because of the distance.
Soon another girl was dragged into the principal’s office by a woman. The woman was short and ugly in her high heels. The girl stood by the door and folded her arms with an extremely disapproving look on her face. She was dark too like the woman, but beautiful. They didn’t look like they were related. Her hair fell on her shoulders and her hips pushed out in a way I found very attractive.

She stood there for sometime while the woman that brought her in went into the office to speak to the principal alongside my mother.
I tried to talk to her or ask her politely to sit down at least but decided not to. She was probably one of these haughty Lagos kids and I didn’t want to be neglected or insulted in any form at least not yet. The principal spoke with my mother and the woman for a while before he stood up and called us. I walked closer to the man’s table and could clearly see the name on the frame now it read “Nancy bolade, winner of the Lagos international schools competition”

My eyes were still glued to the picture when the man called my name “Victoria” it sounded different from his tone, it sounded foreing and professional, the way I would love people to call it when I finally become a journalist.

“I have spoken with your mother and according to your records and performance you look like you will be able to fit into jss3 properly this second term,” he said with a smile on his face. He was adjusting the glasses on his face often as though it would fall off if he didn’t. My mother was smiling as the man now turned to look at the other girl. She stood beside the woman that brought her in, not too close but still looking very sad.

“Kemi you, on the other hand, have a very good performance too from your records, but according to what your aunt here told me about you we will keep a very close eye on you”
Kemi hissed and folded her hands the more. The woman stood up grabbed her and smacked her back, talking to her in a Yoruba accent, but I know she was pissed off by her attitude and disrespect for the principal, probably the reason why she was enrolling her in a boarding school.

I tried to think about the reason why my mother decided to enroll me too. I’d once heard father talking to her about it once but it had never worked out, so I thought this was her carrying out his wish.

Soon the woman left, leaving my mother, Kemi and I in the principal’s office, there was a name carved on a shinny wood on top of his desk beside his keyboard “Professor James”. I looked at the man again and realized that he did look like a professor in his big suit and blue tie. His bald head sparkled from the Ray’s of the light bulb above him.

That reminded me of my father. He stood up and walked around the office looking for something on the shelves, then he came back with two small books and handed them over to us. I tried to open mine, but he stopped me with a sharp command:

“Don’t miss Victoria, you’ll do that in your dorms”
The word dorms made it sound different and more classic, nothing like the metal bedbunks and cupboard’s stained with red oils and used candle prints, with gallons of water, and metal buckets, unsteady power supply, and generator that would be switched on by 7:0clock and switched off by 10 pm. I had imagined it differently. My thought was now replaced with an opposite of it, probably a wooden bedbunks and three girls to share a room and constant power supply.

The principal sat down and continued talking to Kemi.
“Kemi your action earlier is a very punishable one, I hope it doesn’t repeat itself. am I clear? ” His tone was stern now.
“Am I clear?” He asked again leaning forward from his seat as though he would do something it she didn’t reply.
“Yes sir” Kimi replied looking away from him to the window, her voice was shrill and soft, and I wanted her to say it again or talk more even if it was something disrespectful or offensive but the man continued.

“You see this picture on this wall,” he said pointing up to the girl in the frame as if he knew I had a lot of questions about her
” Nancy is our school’s brightest, she is in the same class with you both”
I smiled. I couldn’t tell the reason for my happines, was it because Kemi was in the same class with me or because of Nancy?

“She has made this school proud in so many ways throughout the years, now I want you, girls, to look up to her and be like her at least, am I understood?”
“Yes sir” we responded, my voice was louder than kemi’s.

The man looked at her again as though he was thinking of what to do with her. He took his phone and made a call, soon a woman walked into the office, she was wearing a black skirt and sky blue shirt and high heels. She was in her mid-thirties fair and tall.

“This is your Dean of studies Miss Adesua, she will guide you to your dorms and through rest of the process that will help you girls settle in properly,” the man said, and the lady led us outside.

My mother bade me good bye later that evening and promised to come over during the weekends to see me. Kemi’s aunt was holding her ear and saying something in a very serious tone, her yoruba came out with a strong rural accent. She looked pissed off and I wished I could hear what she was saying to her. She put her hand inside her bag and counted some money and handed over to her before she stepped into her car and drove out of the school compound.

My dorm was just as I imagined, different from the ones in the schools in onitsha that my friends went to. The wooden bunks and tiled floor, the balcony, a general bathroom all the girls used that was sparkling,

Miss adesua was listing a series of things and indicating them with her hands carefully although I missed some of them since I was lost excitement because of the room.
“Lunch is by 2 pm,
Dinner is by 8 pm
No hanging around the school premises after 9 pm
No visitors allowed during school days…
‘you will be staying with two girls alone, one is a senior and the other is Junior” she added making her way to the door.

I did not understand most of the things the dean said but nodded to them all in approval. That evening I arranged my things carefully, packed my provisions in my cupboard, arranged my clothes in my bag and locked it with a padlock. I had heard about boarding schools and how things got lost easily.

I eager to meet my new roomies, to know weather they were friendly or the opposite. Later that evening there was a loud noise in the hallways. I heard footsteps and voices; school was over and the students were making their ways to their various hostels. Some of them walked in groups, some walked alone, all dressed up in their uniforms, some looked at me and smiled, some did and whispered something to the other girls and they laughed.

Soon a particular group approached, a girl was in the middle and the other girls nudged around her. She looked familiar and I took sometime before I recognised her, Nancy, the schools brightest girl. No wonder she was surrounded by ‘body guards’. They talked and laughed about something that really amused them. But Nancy didn’t laugh most of the times.

There was something different about her and I felt it deeply although it wasn’t clear enough yet. When the girls neared our room she separated from the group, the rest proceeded down the hallway. I wondered why she stopped, watching as she walked into the room and looked at me, her eyes and glasses shining. The rope from her glass fell on her both cheeks and she looked more intelligent than the professor had described her, she was beautiful.

“You’re the new girl?” She asked.
“Yeah my name is”
“Victoria’ she interrupted me sharply, I wondered how she knew my name
” Yeah everyone is talking about you, the new hot pretty girl. Fortunately, we will be sharing this room together” she added and closed the door.
I smiled and tried to act like I wasn’t surprised by what she said about the students talking about me.

She moved to her cupboard and dropped her school bag. Since she said nothing more I decided to say something.
“What about the other girl?” I asked hoping I used the matching tone she would find interesting.

“She’s bad news” she replied and collapsed on her bed.
“She’s a Senior, very mean and horrible,” she said with mock horror on her face.
“You wouldn’t want to cross her, ” she added, I sighed and hoped she wouldn’t be as bad as Nancy described her.

Dinner was ready and every student went down to the dinning Hall for their supper.
When I entered into the hall all eyes were focused on me. Murmuring arose in the hall as I sought for where to sit. Everywhere seemed to be occupied until Nancy came in with her girls, Nancy saw the way I was walking around and called me to sit with them.

“Not happening” Stella one of the girls replied, her eyes flared up filled with a mix of jealousy and pride. Very beautiful and tall, she was also the leader of the school’s famous dance group.

“She can’t roll with the girls Cy, you know that don’t you?” She added and looked away, avoiding Nancy’s stare at her.

“Girl She’s fine” Susan replied looking at Victoria asking some girls to give her some space but they snubbed her.

“Oh, poor girl,” Susan said.
“She’s my roomie,” Nancy said, still looking at Stella.

“Well if you girls don’t wanna sit with her fine, but I’m going to get her and we’re sitting down together,” Nancy said and left the girls, they all stood and watched her leave.
“Did she just bail on us?” Joy asked she’d been quiet for sometime, running her hand through her hair.

“Yeah she did,” Susan replied in amusement.
“I’m getting out of here, if you girls ain’t coming, then have fun standing eating,” she said and went after Nancy.

Victoria said nothing sitting with the girls, she didn’t try to join in, in their conversation or laugh along with them when they laughed out loud, she just sat and waited for her food. Soon the hostel master came in with a bell in his hand and rang it, everywhere became quiet and he began to speak, in his loud voice:
“Good evening everyone” he greeted and the students replied
“Good evening Mr. Charles”

He dropped the bell on the table and continued his speech.
“I am going to address two things, firstly about our talent show coming up, this school for the past few years have been holding this ceremony, we have been using it as a way of embracing other schools and showing them what we’ve got, and you all have been making us proud” a loud clapping arose as he mentioned that.

“Thank you, this term’s own will be different, probably the best, so I want you all to start preparing to do what you do best and be the best” he continued.

“I also want to welcome the new students that joined us, Miss Victoria and Miss kemi please stand up” the whole attention diverted from the man and searched for Victoria and kemi until they found us. We both stood up, kemi was seating somewhere else, I smiled on seeing her. The man continued speaking:

“These are two intelligent and talented students, let’s show them hospitality and friendship, and remember, determination and hard work leads to prosperity” the whole student chorused the last part together and he sshouted: “Again” and they all repeated it: “Determination and hard work leads to prosperity” and the man left.

I saw some girls walking up to kemi in a friendly way. But nobody came up to me. This got me worried and I felt sad.
Soon the food was brought in and served. I sat quietly and ate my food. I didn’t mind that none of Nancy’s friends made an effort to engage me in a conversation and didn’t mind when joy called Mr hot dog. But I just felt weird and uncomfortable. So I ate her food quickly and went back to the room where I laid down on my bed. I thought about my mother and how lonely she must be right now.

I was thinking about going to the bathroom to relieve myself when I heard some sounds coming from the bathroom, splashes of water like someone was taking a shower. That was a surprise and I wondered who would be taking a shower when the other students were in the dining. Soon I heard footsteps approaching. I considered leaving immediately but didn’t since the sound was closer.

So I just stood still until the figure came out. The girl was drying her hair with her towel, wearing only a panty, her collar bones jutted out, some small drops of water were still dripping down her exposed breasts.
“The new girl huh?” She asked, her voice sounded authoritative and plain.

“Yeah, my name is Victoria” I replied standing still.

“I know your name girl” she replied sharply
“Everyone does, the new girl in my room, you are more finer than they described you” she added a putting her Bra on which made her big breasts jiggle.
Funnily I found that extremely attractive and arousing, and couldn’t stop myself from twitching. I felt an unusual wetness in-between my legs and I wondered if it was normal, the way my body was reacting to a fellow woman’s nakedness. I remembered what Nancy said about this girl.

“My name is Catherine by the way,” she said and made her way out of the bathroom.

Well Woman



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