The Girl Behind

It was Ayo’s first day as a secondary school student and also in a new school. She reminded herself of the first day she was there. It was just three weeks ago during the summer break, when she came with her mom to register as a J. S. S 1 Student. On that day, she had written the school’s entrance examination as a determining factor to either accept or reject her. She was lucky to have scraped a little above the pass mark. Anyways, she was offered admission a week after that and was informed to begin registration in earnest. Since then, she hadn’t returned to the premises until today.

Judging by the standard and look of the school, it’s a school for the average family, built on a 3-plot land. It has a U-shaped structure. It is a three floor building with enough classrooms, library, 2 school halls, a dining hall, 2 staff rooms, enough offices, laboratories and so much more. Its sporting facilities are accurately equipped and the teachers are well qualified. The low cost tuition fee was the essential reason, Mrs. Cole had chosen the school for her child and Ayo knew this too.

Standing in front of the school’s gate and trying to compare it with her former school, was Ayo. Lizben School is far better than this. She furrowed her forehead as various students walked past her in a rush. She realized she was the only one who stood out. Others were in green and yellow uniformed dress, while she was in one of her Sunday best wears. She tried not to think about it because she knew soon enough, she would also be in the same uniform as them. She allowed her mind to wander off to the predicaments that led her to this point. Even though she didn’t quite understand all her mother had told her; one thing was certain in her mind, it began with the death of her beloved father. The mere thought of that brought tears to eyes and she drew it back in to avoid being seen by passers by.

The jingle of the bell interrupted Ayo’s thought followed by a loud cry “Assembly time!” It was then she realized she had been standing outside the school gate since she arrived there about 15 minutes ago. She immediately ran inside the school compound and made to join the others on the assembly ground but was suddenly stopped by a voice.

“Drop your bag there!” the voice commanded.

“Why?” Ayo retorted.

“Because you’re late!”

“But the bell was just jingled,” Ayo said, not wanting to concede. She didn’t want to put her bag on the floor. She has never had reason to do so.

“And so! You came in after that, which means you are late”

“Ehen, who…”

The voice stopped her as she made to talk again. The owner of the voice was getting infuriated by the girl’s audacity. Ayo on the other hand wasn’t ready to give in to a fellow student just because she’s new. What she didn’t know was that the student in front of her isn’t just any student but the head boy of the school.

“Who are you?” Ayo asked not minding the student in front of her.

“My name is Bayo and I’m the” – he didn’t want to tell her he is the head boy just yet – “I am a prefect in this school and if you don’t obey me, I will have no choice but to report you to the teacher in charge.”

“Please don’t!” Ayo pleaded. She hurriedly dropped her belongings and made to proceed to the assembly hall but Bayo stopped her again and warned her not to be stubborn on her first day in a new school. With this warning, he allowed her to go.

Bayo has been the head boy of Nightingale Academy since the inception of its secondary school in 2010. He was appointed the head boy mainly because of his brilliance and capability to lead. He was at the gate post that morning because the prefect on gate duty wasn’t around. He had not planned to meet such a girl that morning and to be honest, he felt a bit intimidated by her.

Meanwhile, Ayo couldn’t stop thinking of her encounter with Bayo. She knew deep down within herself that it wasn’t the fact that he was a senior student nor that he is a prefect that made her obey him. If not for the mention of him reporting to a teacher, she knew she wouldn’t have complied. One thing she dreaded most was being disciplined by a teacher solely because she has never been disciplined by one. At this moment, Ayo missed her previous school, Lizben nursery and primary school.

Lizben School is mainly a school for the rich and Ayo’s late father could afford the fees. The school does not discipline its students in any form for the fear of the ward’s parents. Ayo loved and missed the school for that. But here in her new school, as she was informed by her mother, the teachers discipline the student. For this reason, she was scared when Bayo mentioned the word, “teacher.”

‘Would I ever get used to this condition,’ she thought. She joined in, behind the line of JSS 1 students. Not later than she joined did the girl in front of her switched positions and moved to the back.

“I like the back better,” the girl whispered into Ayo’s ears.

Ayo had no time to argue. She wasn’t one that enjoyed staying at the back of the line. In fact, all through her primary education in her old school, she has never gone farther than the first three students on a line. But on this day, she would have loved to be at the end of the line, and be overshadowed by the tallness of the girl now standing behind her. Other students in front weren’t as tall and herself was no less. So being behind the tall one would have been a good cover but it’s been taken away from her.

“Please come forward,” another girl said.

Ayo who was still trying to adjust to her new position on the line, heard the plea of the girl in front of her and was going to refuse her but the girl’s mean look made her obliged. Ayo wondered why she had bothered saying please. She could have just done like the other girl. This switch in positions continued until Ayo found herself in the middle of the line and it stayed that way, longer than the rest. She had thought it was over and was getting comfortable when the one in front of her, fat and having a round face, turned and smiled. Ayo didn’t wait for her to say anything before she jumped the line.

“I was going to ask you to come forward,” the girl said, from behind her. “But thank you!”

Ayo however didn’t respond and only hoped she would not be pushed to the front.

“You are the new girl everyone’s been talking about?” the girl kept on. “So, you are in our class?”

‘Isn’t that obvious,’ Ayo thought but kept quiet instead. She wondered how the girl managed to avoid the watchful eyes of the teachers to their left. However, she dreaded being the scapegoat and maintained her silence. Still, the girl kept talking.

“Do you ever stop talking?” Ayo said at last but she had said louder than she thought she did.

“Hey! Miss, please come forward,” a voice echoed from the podium at the far front of the line.

Just before Ayo could react to this call, she heard the girl whisper again. “Of course! I stop talking at times like this.”

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