5: lie for Africa

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What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.

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HBankole ran down the field, dribbling past his opponents and taking the football along with him. He made a quick pass, ran a little further as he shouted for his teammate to make a pass to one of their teammates in front. Emily wasn't a fan of soccer, but she was certainly a fan of watching handsome guys play the game.

“Wow. Dave looks so cool out there,” she said.

“Of course he should,” was Jessica's reply beside her.

Everyone who was as curious as Emily were watching from the bleachers, and Emily hadn't realized she had been heard. With a sheepish grin, she turned to Jessica, who went on, not realizing Emily had been in thoughts.

“He's the captain of the school's soccer team. I'm just glad he's showing those kids whose boss,” Jessica said, elbow set to her waist as she watched her thumb glide over her index finger.

The SS2 students believed it was unfair the SS3 students represented the school during matches against other schools and had challenged them. The coach, loving a good contest, agreed to host the match. Despite knowing the lower class stood no chance. The scores were enough proof — a five to one — with Davies' team in the lead.

“Goal!” Grace shouted from Jessica's side, jumping to her feet and Emily's eyes returned to watching the field.

Bankole was shirtless now, shouting a goal with his hands clenched to his torso and his biceps bulging. Emily's eyes almost popped out as she tried getting a closer look. 

“Easy Missy,” Jessica said. “That's my boyfriend you're drooling at.”

Emily cleared her throat and plastered a smile.

Soon, the match ended in SS3's favour, and the girls were waiting for the guys by the school gate. The school was nearly empty. Apart from them, the only people around were a few that had also watched the match and some SS2 boys whose loud back and forth blame game could be heard from the gate.

“What about Joel and Ope?” Emily asked. “I thought they'd be joining us, but I didn't see them anywhere.”

“Joel's moving into his new house and Ope left to help him,” Grace answered.

Emily wondered why they all didn't go to help him too or weren't they that close?

“This one Ope went to help, aren't his parents home or-”

“Joel doesn't live with his family,” Grace said. “Hasn't been in two years now.”

“Why?” 

“Joe's old man is a psychopath,” Jessica replied, checking out her nails and proceeding to take off her shirt, revealing a plain pink top. 

“A psychopath?” Emily repeated.

“Yeah,” Grace said with an annoyed look. “He's as cruel as a mad dog.”

“What of his mom?” Emily asked with furrowed brows.

“Dead,” was simply Jessica's reply with no atom of sympathy or remorse.

“Shall we?” Bankole showed up, two other guys trailing behind him. “We don't want to be late.”

The three guys were dripping wet and were in new upper clothing, which denoted they must have taken a shower at the locker room.

Emily recognized the extremely dark-skinned guy as Isaac — he was in their department — and the slightly dark one was Martin, an art student. She knew Isaac, because he was the one Mr. Franklin — the school's counsellor — had introduced as the head of the Music club. And aside that, she noticed he was always looking at her. She had caught him stealing glances of her a few times, and even caught him doing it again when he arrived with the guys. As for Martin, she knew him because he was in their homeroom most of the time, so she had been able to pick up his name.

“Where are we going?” Emily asked.

Martin came and slung his arm over her shoulders. “That, my dear, is a surprise for you.”

How could Emily even forget how big of a flirt Martin was? Aside Bankole, his name was on the lips of almost every girl student. And it wasn't without good reasons. Martin was as tall as Bankole (a 5'8 (ca. 173 cm), but not as muscular as him. Though, he had that compensated with a grin that could charm even a zombie into not eating his brains.

Martin winked at her and she smiled shyly. Isaac was staring at them and didn't look too happy with their proximity. Emily wondered if he liked her.

“Where we're going is no surprise,” Bankole said, removing Martin's arm from Emily's shoulders and pulling her to his side.

The nearness between Emily and Bankole caused her cheeks to heat up. Jessica's disgruntled look should have bothered her, but she couldn't care less. Bankole was the one holding her hand, not the other way around. If she pretended it was normal, it wouldn't mean anything to anyone.

“Grace, let's be going home,” Isaac said, his fingers running back and forth his wet hair. “Dad's coming home today, and he won't be happy if you're not back.”

“Can you just shush!” Grace yelled.

Groaning aloud, she stomped away.

“Isaac is Grace's brother?” Emily asked Jessica.

They had exited the school building and were on their way to a fast food restaurant Bankole described as their usual spot and a good place to hang out. The guys walked behind them. Whereas, Isaac and Grace had already left.

“Stepbrother,” Jessica replied, almost looking bored.

She had her arms crossed and hips swaying both ways as she walked, and Emily wondered if this was because Bankole was walking behind them. Although, it seemed Jessica naturally walked that way, with hips gallivanting about and the dress of her flair skirt making a show of the act. Nonetheless, Emily disliked how Jessica walked. 

“Grace's dad used to have a lover when he was young,” Jessica went on saying. “His parents were against her, because she's from a poor background. So, he got married to Grace's mom.  But unknown to him, his lover was pregnant with his child. Long story short, she had Isaac and the boy only knew of his father recently after her death. Through a stupid letter.”

“Isaac's mom is dead?” Emily asked. 

“The bitch decided to die of cancer and ruin someone else's family with her son. Luckily, Grace's mom has a son older than Isaac, if not...” Jessica let her words trail off, sparing Emily a look that said to fill in the rest.

Emily knew the rest. What her parents did to her was exactly what would have happened to Grace. 

“I still don't get why Isaac's mom didn't tell him of his father until she was dead,” Emily said. “I mean, why now?”

“Why not? Gold-diggers like her don't need a good reason to want money. They just do whatever they can for it.” Jessica snapped her fingers as she said the latter.

“But she's dead now. How will she enjoy the money?”

Jessica raised a brow. “Really? You believe she's dead?”

“You just said–”

“Oh, come on, Emily. How naïve can you be? Don't you at least watch movies?”

Emily looked genuinely confused, though upset Jessica had called her naïve.

With a sigh, Jessica palmed her forehead. “How do you not have this figured out?” she breathed out. “Isaac's mom is poor and poor people get very creative when it comes to money. All these years, neither Isaac nor his mom showed up. Then, out of nowhere, this black boy appears at their doorstep, claiming his mom died of cancer and left a note leading him there. Like, who the heck still falls for such a stupid lie?”

Emily found Isaac's story believable, but Jessica could be right. The world was that evil.

“She was dying of cancer,” Jessica continued. “And didn't think to show up when she was alive to ask for the medical bills. Rather, she sent her son to tell a tale of how she died and is all alone. Of course Grace's dad will have pity on him and let him in on the family's wealth.”

Emily hummed in thoughts, hand on her chin. “So, Grace and Isaac are like the same age or what? 'Cause I don't get how Grace has a brother older than Isaac, when their dad just married her mom.”

Jessica shot her a look. “Grace's mom and their dad used to... be in a relationship before she left the country to study. She didn't know she was carrying his child until some months later. Three later, she came home and everyone found out. So Grace's dad had to marry her. Not only was she rich, she had his child.”

Emily wowed. She had millions of questions to ask, but put them on a hold because Jessica had just announced they had arrived. She hadn't realized Jessica made a right turn till she looked up and saw the diner. Making the right turn, slightly embarrassed, she hoped the boys hadn't noticed and at the same time was eying the back of Jessica's head.

The nameTracy's flickered under the eaves in orange neon light; and behind the window pane, Emily could see every seat had occupants and many of them were students from their school. A recognizable beat hummed from the building and Emily deciphered it as Feel it still by Portugal. The Man.

“It's packed,” she told Jessica.

But that didn't seem to bother Jessica as she pushed the glass door open.

“After you, my Lady.” Martin appeared at Emily's side, holding the door open.

Emily smiled at him and went in. The song became louder, filling her ears and she couldn't resist singing along.

The place was painted in orange and black, giving it a warm and inviting look. The tables were all black, and the chairs at every four corner were orange. Away from Emily was a small queue leading up to the counter with a female attendant behind it.

“Come on.” Martin's breath fanned her ear, prompting a shudder as he simultaneously, placed a hand on the small of her back.

He led her to where Jessica was eying four younger kids, also from their school.

“But we got here first,” one boy in large glasses, framing his small face, said.

“I know you did,” Jessica said, feigning empathy. “But what about your parents? I think I saw them outside.” She pointed out the window pane. 

“That's a lie,” the only dark skinned girl amongst them said. 

Jessica clapped her cheeks, Emily letting out a low chuckle on the back of her hand.

“You don't believe me? Okay.” Jessica shrugged and pretended to be walking away.

But the kids were already too scared to stay behind. So in a clumsy haste, they packed and left the building.

“That never gets old,” Martin laughed as they took their seats.

Taking out complimentary tissues from the box on the table, Jessica wiped her side of the table with an irritated look. 

“What do we order?” She regarded Martin's keen interest on the menu and dumped the tissue on the floor.

“What of Isabelle?” Bankole asked Emily, leaning on the table with his fingers interlaced. “I thought you guys waited together.”

“No. She went home early. Said she was too tired.”

He nodded in reply, though there was a hint of disappointment on his face.

“Isabelle. I don't like her,” Jessica said out of nowhere. “I know she's your best friend,” — she turned to Emily, who was on her right side — “But I'm entitled to my opinion, right?”

“Sure,” Emily said.

“Great.” Jessica turned to stare directly at Bankole. “You're her friend, so correct me if I'm wrong. She didn't wait behind, not because she's tired, but because she's not comfortable around us.”

She turned now to look at Emily.

“Isabelle's more of an antisocial person -”

“And judgemental.”

Emily thought about it. “Something like that.”

Jessica let out a sigh, shaking her head. “That's probably why she doesn't want to come to my party. You see Emmy, I'm very picky when it cones to choosing my friends. But when we have a new student, I try to give them a chance. By being nice and friendly. But from what I observed in your friend, it's like she sees me as the bad person.” 

“Of course not,” Emily defended.

“Then why did she lie about going to church on Saturdays?”

“She didn't lie. She really does go to church on Saturdays.”

“So she remains in church till evening? That's absurd.”

“That's not exactly it–”

“Then what is it? Because I'm sure, at least, every church closes by 2.”

“Yeah.” Emily paused to think about it.

She never really understood Isabelle's religion, no matter how much Isabelle explained it to her. So it was hard to say anything about it.

“Okay, answer me this then,” Jessica said.

“Jessica, that's enough,” Bankole interrupted, sounding upset.

“It's okay, Dave,” Emily said.

One corner of Jessica's mouth turned up at Bankole before she faced Emily.

“Isabelle behaves more like Miss perfect,” Emily said. “She's my friend, so I've told her this before. But she doesn't like to accept anything she doesn't agree with, even if she knows she's wrong.” She ended with a shrug.

“See,” Jessica said. 

Emily tried to read Bankole's expression, but it was neutral now.

“Should we just order the usual?” Martin suggested as though nothing had been said.

Jessica turned to him and just like that, a wide smile spread across her thin lips. “Of course.”

“I'll go get it,” Martin said and left the table, asking Emily to join him.

He joined the queue of three people, Emily standing by him. The song had switched to Fall by popular Nigerian artist Davido and she nodded along, tapping one foot to the tune with her hands holding her arms.

“I haven't introduced myself.”  Martin brought out his hand for a handshake. “I'm Martin.”

Although Emily knew that, she didn't say as she took his hand with a smile. The line moved up and so did they.

“I'm Emily,” she said.

Of course, she didn't want to boost his enormous ego by allowing him know she stared at him sometimes.

“I'm surprised you don't know my name,” he said, still holding her hand.

“Should your name have rung a bell?” Emily fought back a grin by biting her upper lip. 

Martin bit his lower lip, making him appear ten times sexy. “I guess I need to work on promoting my image.”

“I guess so. And maybe I could give you some tips.”

“Oh.” His eyes twinkled with amusement and she laughed. “I like a businesswoman.”

Emily's head swelled with pride at the mere regards to as a woman, and only succeeded in hiding her broad smile thanks to the attendant's call. Martin let her hand go as he turned to the attendant while she quickly touched her hot cheeks.

He was placing their order as Emily's eyes wandered to where Bankole and Jessica was. Bankole was looking out the window in a dazed state while Jessica was staring at her phone's screen. No matter the angle Emily watched them in, those two didn't look like they were dating.

“What would you like?” Martin's voice made her turn to him.

“Huh?”

“Flavour of ice-cream.”

“Oh. Plain vanilla.”

He returned to the female attendant and stated Emily's order. The lady appeared to be into Martin with the way she worked one of her braids with her finger, eyes saying other things her lips couldn't utter at the moment. Emily wondered, if Martin was on his uniform will the lady still look at him like that? He was impressively handsome, no doubt, and looked a lot older without his uniform on. Maybe that was why everyone else was on casual clothing except her. Mortified by the realization, she silently planned to pack something too for the next occasion. Hopefully, there'd be one, and she'd be a part of it.

“Shall we?” Martin returned to her with a tray of four glasses of different flavoured ice-cream. 

They returned to their table and Bankole finally averted his gaze from the window. Their conversations rotated around what kind of party Jessica would be throwing, why Emily left her former school and if Emily had a boyfriend — the latter was asked by Martin.

“No.” Emily sunk back in her seat.

Martin looked like that piece of information was unbelievable, but Emily could tell it made him happy, because of the smug look he tried to hide. Or maybe he wasn't even trying and wanted her to note he was somewhat interested in her.

“How can someone like you be single?” Martin had asked.

“Yeah. Emmy.” Jessica rested her chin on her palm, staring at Emily. “I'm as shocked as Martin is. How's that possible? Had a bad former relationship?”

“Yeah,” Emily lied, looking down at her ice-cream.

The truth was Emily's first and last boyfriend was not only shorter than her, but too green for her liking. So, she broke up with him.

“I caught him cheating,” Emily went on easily.

“For real?” Jessica sympathized with a hand on Emily's shoulder.

Emily met her eyes, feigning a hurt look. “Can we not talk about it?” 

“Sure,” Jessica said.

Emily's eyes met Bankole's and she was pinned under his scrutiny, eyes as that of an eagle's analysing the below for its prey. She looked away, hoping he couldn't see right through her.

By the time they were about leaving the restaurant, Emily realized how late she was in picking the kids from school.

“I have to go,” she said, wearing her bag in a haste.

“Already?” Martin sounded disappointed.

“Aren't you guys already going home?” 

“Not really,” Martin replied. “Do you have anywhere you're supposed to be?”

Emily thought about it. It'd be uncool if she let them know she was rushing to pick up her cousins, so they don't tell on her for being late.

“I told Isabelle I'd be home by five and I don't trust her to cover up for me if I'm a minute late. She's too much of a good girl.”

Emily believed that wasn't entirely a lie. Isabelle did suck at covering up and if she was a minute late, there was nothing Isabelle could say right to help her. 

“For real?” Jessica sighed, a bit too dramatically. “What a friend.” 

“I should at least walk you out.” Martin was on his feet, wearing the one strap of his bag across his chest.

They reached outside and he stopped her to ask for her number.

“I'll give you a call tonight,” he held his loose fist, thumb and pinky sticking out, to his ear. 

Emily smiled. 

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