Cynosure of all Eyes

It was about 2 PM before Mrs. Cole got to work that day. She proceeded to her boss’ office, without delay, to let him know she had arrived. Her boss, Mr. Badmus was not happy about her late arrival. Though, he was aware she went to her daughter’s school and he had permitted her to go. But he never expected her to arrive this late when it’s just 2 hours to closing.

“I thought you promised to be at the office before 12,” Mr. Badmus said, rather calmly. He didn’t want to upset her. He knew all about what she has faced and what she is still facing. She saw him as her comforter and benefactor. Still yet, as her boss, he ought to let her know what she did wasn’t right.

“This is past two, and you are just coming in!” he queried. “You know it’s not polite.”

“Please sir, I’m really sorry. It wasn’t totally my fault. The traffic was just too much,” explained Mrs. Cole. “Besides, I got delayed at the school.”

“It’s okay. I hope you have paid Ayo’s fee.”

“Yes sir! I have,” she responded and further explained her meeting with the school’s cashier.

“Remember I told you the distance is a bit far. My son attends the same school and he goes with the bus,” Mr. Badmus pointed out.

“Yes sir, even too far for a 10 year old.”

“I suppose 35,000 wasn’t enough after all?” Mr. Badmus asked.

“Yes, it wasn’t. I paid only 30,000 and I promised to pay the balance later.”

“You would have called me, I…”

“I didn’t want to bother you,” Mrs. Cole Interrupted. “You have helped me enough and I’m grateful for that, sir.” She didn’t want to get comfortable with him helping her. Hence, she rejected his assistance, politely. “How many employees will get a salary advance just after 2 months of working with an organization like yours?”

“Still yet, you would have called me,” said Mr. Badmus. “I do this because I care.”

Mrs. Cole sighed while avoiding eye contact with her boss.

“Okay! Never mind. I will see what I can do before the deadline,” he said.

“Alright, thank you sir. I have to go now. There are a lot of files on my desk” – she walked towards the door – “and I must input them digitally before the end of the day, even if I have to work extra time.”

“You don’t have to do that,” Mr. Badmus said behind her.

“I know but I have to.” She opened the door and left afterwards.

• * * * * * *

“Good morning Class,” a young man in his late 20’s greeted as soon as he entered JSS 1B classroom.

“Good morning sir!” the students stood up and responded in chorus.

“You may all be seated,” the teacher commanded and they obeyed. “My name is Damilola. I will be your class teacher throughout your junior secondary school days in Nightingale Academy.”

Mr. Dammy made eye contact with each of the students, wearing a beautiful smile to accompany his lovely face, until his eyes met with Ayomide Cole. The smile soon vanished and Ayo was quick to notice. She had wanted to smile back but held back her excitement.

“You’re not supposed to be here!” Mr. Dammy said, curiously searching for answers in Ayo’s eyes.

Ayo just sat there at the corner she’s chosen for herself, beside Bukky, to avoid the inquisitive eyes of both students and teachers. But it seems she wouldn’t just be left alone. ‘What does he mean by I’m not supposed to be here,’ she thought to herself.

“Miss Kehinde asked her to come here,” Bukky answered.

“Asked!” Mr. Dammy corrected.

“Yes! She ask-ed her to come.”

“Is that true?”

“Yes sir,” Ayo managed to say. Most eyes were now directed towards her and it took Mr. Dammy’s voice to redirect their attention.

“Now you will introduce yourselves one after the other, stating just your name and your age.”

“My name is Oreoluwa Adams,” the first boy to the teacher’s right stood up and introduced. “I am 10 years old.”

“Good! Sit.” Mr. Dammy pointed to the student next to Ore. “Okay, you.”

It continued this way until it was Ayo’s turn. She stood up quietly and said, “My name is Ayomide…” As if they don’t already know her name but she stopped when she heard giggles amongst her peers. She could hear some audibly, while others were just murmurs.

‘It’s the girl in the assembly this morning,’ a boy said.

‘It’s like she can’t pronounce her surname,’ another added.

‘Maybe she wants to pronounce it as Ko Le.’

‘She too did not pass the entrance exam.’

‘And she’s doing like boss this morning o!’

“Your surname please,” Mr. Dammy said, ignoring the murmurs.

“She can’t pronounce it sir,” a student said from behind.

“Quiet everyone,” Mr. Dammy shouted. “If I hear another word, you would all be punished. Is that clear?”

“Yes sir!”

Now facing Ayo, he asked, “Are you not the girl from the assembly this morning? The one who told us the meaning of Nightingale.”

“Yes sir, I was.” Ayo looked down at her feet. Though the giggles from her mates had subsided, she could still feel the intense heat from their stares. She tried as much as she could to avoid eye contact with any of them. Mr. Dammy noticed this and he tried making her feel better.

“Ayomide Cole, please sit.” He noticed the surprised look on her face as she sat and added, “You were brave this morning” – rested his hands on the desk in front of him – “why wouldn’t I know your name? I keep tabs of brilliant students. I’m only surprised you’re here and not there.” He pointed in the direction of JSS 1A.

Ayo looked up at the teacher and smiled. He smiled back. Although, his last statement had left a hole in her mind but she chose to ignore. She likes it here, at least they aren’t laughing awkwardly at her.

“There’s nothing to be ashamed about”, he told her. He faced the rest of the students. “And you are all wrong to make her feel bad for being here. You are all here for the same reason as her. Now apologize to her!”

“We are sorry!” they chorused.

Ayo became her cheerful self once again. She was touched by the teacher’s comment, not their apology.

“Less I forget” – Mr. Dammy lifted his hands from the table and brought out a marker pen from his pocket – “I’m also your Mathematics teacher.” He went to the marker board and wrote ‘Mathematics’ on it. “Meanwhile, we won’t do anything for today. So, let’s continue with getting to know one another.” He looked around and focused his eyes on the girl beside Ayo. “You! Introduce yourself.”

The introduction continued until the whole 30 students in the classroom had taken turns. The teacher left the class thereafter and the next subject teacher came in without delay.

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