SUSAN

BOOM’…… That was the sound of my head connecting with a floor tile. And then the whole place went dead silent. I’m sure I could have heard an ant moving. With her hands over her mouth, eyes wide open, she stood and stared down at me. I was lost as the look on her face was difficult to read. Shock? Awe? Fear? I couldn’t tell. She looked like she had just seen the devil. I was just there, motionless. I tried to move my arms and legs but I couldn’t. ‘Oh my God!’ I thought. ‘Am I dead?’ I asked myself.

Seventy Hours Earlier

*tap *tap. That was dad trying to wake me up. I jumped up from bed and hugged him. ‘Good morning daddy’ I said with a wide smile on my face. He looked back at me, clearly amazed. ‘What’s all this excitement about?’ he asked. I was never one to be so excited about school on a Monday morning. ‘I’m not telling you’, I answered with my tongue sticking out of my mouth. He simply laughed briefly and carried me to his room.

There, together with my mum and sister, we thanked God for making us see another day and committed the day into His holy hands. ‘Morning mum’ I shouted immediately we were done sharing the grace. ‘Ah, what’s making you so pumped this morning?’ She said after she kissed my cheeks. ‘I’m not telling you’ I confidently said as I hugged her. Ruby shot a jealous look at me. I guess she was jealous of the attention I was getting.

I was enjoying the warmth of her hug when my dad interrupted, ‘don’t waste my time this morning, I need to………..’ I could detect the seriousness in the tone of his voice. I didn’t need to hear the whole sentence. With amazing speed, I ran to my room, got my pajamas off and jumped into the bathroom. I had just learned how to bathe myself so I didn’t need to wait for mummy to help me with that.

In less than two minutes, I was done. My school uniform was on my bed already. Mum never failed to keep it neat and presentable. In a flash, I was dressed. I ran to the kitchen, picked my personal cereal bowl and dropped it back. Nah, no time to eat, I thought to myself.

Ruby! Ruby! Ruby! Hurry up’ I shouted at the top of my voice. ‘I’m coming’ she answered, sounding clearly annoyed with my incessant noise making.

Few minutes later, we hit the road. In the car, I kept on smiling. Ruby and dad kept wondering what was going on with me. I didn’t want tell them about this particular girl in my class, my seat partner to be precise. Her name was Susan. The previous week, I told her I liked her handwriting and she told me she liked my handwriting too. Truth was, I liked her and the only way my young brain could think of making my feelings known was to commend her handwriting. I mean, I was barely ten years old. Her handwriting wasn’t all that but hey, love is blind. We had both agreed to swap English notes and write so we’ll have both our handwritings in our notes.

Traffic that morning was annoying. Everywhere was jammed surprisingly. My excitement was making me uneasy. I wanted to get to school early and sharpen my pencils so my handwriting would look good in her English note.

We finally got to school. ‘Have a nice day’, dad said but I was too excited to answer him.  I simply waved to him as I ran to my class. It took me less than 10 seconds to sharpen my 5 new pencils.

When I was done, I sat in my seat and waited for Susan to show up. After what seemed like 7385 hours, I looked at the clock. It was 8:00am. Susan always got to school between 7:40am and 7:47am. I was worried majorly because I was eager to see her.

9:00, 10:30, 12:45, 2:00, 3:00, Susan didn’t show up. She skipped school that day. I felt my little heart shatter. All my excitement, the effort I put into sharpening my pencils, all gone.

I sat on a park bench in the playground. Head down, feeling hurt and disappointed.

I heard my name. That was Ruby calling me. I answered her after the sixth call. I looked around for where her voice was coming from. Next to the school gate, she stood and waved her hands up in the air. ‘Dad’s here’ she shouted.

I picked my school bag from the bottom of a tree and dragged my feet as I walked towards dad’s car. ‘Good afternoon daddy’ I said with the dullest voice possible. ‘What’s wrong?’ he asked, shocked because the last time he saw me, I was acting like I’d just won a lottery. ‘Don’t worry’ I answered with a fake smile on my face. The journey home was silent, well for me.

On getting home, watching a good dose of cartoon network put me back in a good mood. It was like I was never sad about not seeing Susan.

The next morning was normal. Dad came in, woke me up, and left. And like every other school morning, I just slept back immediately the sound of his footsteps faded out. The moment I got comfortable resuming my sleep, dad came back in, carried me on his shoulders and took me to his room. The force he used in throwing me on his bed got me wide awake. I wasn’t excited about anything that morning. I slept through the prayers. When ‘they’ were done praying, I woke up and began to get ready for school.

After I was done preparing for school, I got into dad’s car and waited for Ruby and him. She always took more time to get ready for school because she was a slow-eater. Not too long after I got into the car, I slept off. The next time I woke up, I was in school.

Have a nice day’, dad said as he drove off.

We always got to school at 7:20am. On days when Ruby wastes time, we get there 7:35am. Latest 7:40am. We got to school 7:30am this time.  Unusually, my class was sort of empty this morning. With a puzzled look on my face, I greeted my class teacher and went to my seat. And then it began the wait for Susan.

7:45, 7:55, 8:00. Susan didn’t show up again. I was seriously worried this time. I thought of different things and felt, worst case scenario, Susan was staying home because she was sick.

School was boring that day. It rained and so we couldn’t go out to play when it was break time. The really painful thing was that I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I was kind of quiet. Susan was one of the few people I talked to and she wasn’t around. I was depressed the whole day. My last period for the day was free and so I slept since I had no one to talk to.

*clang*clang*clang*. That was the sound of the school bell ringing. I was so happy to hear it. I got up from my seat, stretched for some time, picked my school bag and went downstairs to the playground. Some boys were playing a game of ‘police-and-thief’. Dad hadn’t come to pick me and so I decided to join them in playing.  The only role left to play was ‘thief’. The first round started and I took to my heels. About 4 boys began to chase me. I ran and ran and ran. After a while, I got tired and one of the boys caught me. I was too tired to chase him back but I didn’t want to disappoint and kill the game so I forced myself to chase him. I was a bit slow majorly because I was tired. Immediately the boys were out of sight, I gave up and sat next to Sharon on a park bench on the playground.

Sharon was Susan’s twin sister. I had never spoken to her really. Although, there was one time I borrowed her orange Crayola marker without asking her. I remember saying ‘Sorry’ when I returned the marker. Apart from that, we had never interacted.

What’s wrong?’ I asked. I felt something wasn’t right because her eyes were red and she looked like she had been crying. ‘Nothing, I’m okay’ she answered as she wiped a tear that was rolling down her right cheek. ‘You sure? You don’t look it’ I said as I leaned close to her.  ‘Yeah, don’t worry’ she replied. I could tell she forced herself to say that from the tone of her voice. I wanted to ask about Susan but I felt it would be insensitive of me. I was about asking her once more what the problem was when one of my other classmates, Fred, shouted my name and told me my dad was here for me. ‘I’m coming’ I shouted back at him.

I have to go now’ I said to Sharon as I got up. ‘Bye’ she relied and waved at me.

The ride home was silent. Dad stopped by at his friend’s office to get something. There was nothing fun to do and so Ruby and I slept off.

Were home’ Dad said as he tugged at my shoulder.

Slowly, Ruby and I got out of the car and as if we planned it, we went straight to the kitchen. Mum had made lunch. Plantain porridge. We ate and immediately went to bed.

Next morning, I was ready for school before dad came in to wake me. I was enthusiastic about going to school because I felt Susan should have recovered from her sickness. I prayed and hoped that Ruby wasn’t going to waste time that morning. God answered my prayers and before I could tie both my shoelaces, we were on our way to school.

This time, we got to school at 7:10am. To my surprise, class wasn’t empty. About 5 people were there already. I scanned the classroom – Fred, Kola, Cindy, Joseph and Sharon. Sharon??? Where’s Susan? I thought.

I dropped my schoolbag on my desk. Everyone in the class was talking about a ‘Courage the Cowardly Dog’ episode they watched the previous day. Sharon wasn’t contributing. She just sat in her seat with her head on her desk. I hurried over to her side and tapped her back.

Hi!’ I said as she lifted her head from the desk. ‘How come you’re in school this early?’ She asked. ‘I should be asking you that’ I replied with a joke-frown. She was about replying when I asked ‘Where’s your sister?

Tears rolled down her cheeks immediately she heard the question. I was confused. ‘What’s the matter?’ I asked, sounding really worried.

She began to cry profusely. Everyone in the class fixed their eyes on me. I believe they were thinking I had done something to hurt her.  I was still trying to adjust to the awkwardness of the eyes on me when Sharon pushed the desk in front of her, got up, buried her face in her hands and ran out of the class.

I ran out to look for her after a minute. ‘SHARON, where are you?’ I shouted, hoping to hear her response. No answer. I called out many more times but she never answered.

Something told me to check the toilet. I got there and heard sniffles. I could tell it was Sharon. I tried to open the door. It was locked.

Why are you crying?’ I asked, making sure my voice was soft and light. There was a long pause.

‘SHE’S DEAD, SHE’S DEAD’

My whole body went numb. I didn’t understand. I wanted to ask her to tell me what she meant but mum had taught me to judge situations before I say some kind of things. ‘Who’s dead? Susan? It can’t be.’ I thought.

I had just seen her the previous week. I forced myself not to think of what Sharon said and went back to my class. I had it in mind that Susan might actually be dead. She was never one to miss school for one day. It had been three days. I mean, the girl was the only one ahead of me in my struggle to top the class.

By the 4th period, Sharon’s mum walked into my class. Her eyes were seriously red. It was obvious she had been crying. I feared the worst. She called for Sharon. I guess my class teacher called her and told her about Sharon. Sharon had been crying all morning.

School was dull and silent that day.  I kept on checking the time, praying for school to end fast.

Dad came early to pick Ruby and I that day. For the first time, I went to Ruby’s class to call her.

The whole ride home, I stared out the window and began to think about what had happened in school. I didn’t want to think about it anymore and so I picked dad’s phone and began to play Snake.

I was about breaking my high score when a call came in. *ring* Incoming Call – Mrs. Baja

Phone call’ I said as I handed the phone over to dad. Mrs. Baja was Sharon’s mum. I was curious and paid full attention to the conversation. I prayed for Dad to put the call on loudspeaker and funny enough, he did. I guess he heard my thought.

Hello Ma’ Dad said

Good afternoon’ Mrs. Baja replied. She sounded sad and depressed.

What’s the matter? You sound down’ Dad said with a caring voice.

O ti ku, omo mi ti ku’ Mrs. Baja answered. I could tell she was in tears as she spoke.

I didn’t understand Yoruba that much but I understood what Mrs. Baja said. It sounded like the same thing my aunt told my mum when my grandpa died.

Ah………………….It is well. I’ll be there immediately I drop the kids.’ Dad said.

As I heard this, my doubts were cleared.

Susan was dead.

I felt so bad. I was scared. And then tears began to fill my eyes. I never got the chance to tell her I fancied her. I never even got the chance to write in her note and she never got to write in mine.

Dad drove home directly and dropped Ruby and I. He sped off immediately we got out of the car. For the first time ever, I didn’t eat lunch. I simply went to my bed and cried.

Later, in the evening, Ruby was worried and began to disturb me to tell her what was wrong. I didn’t want to answer. She decided to torture me by tickling me. I began to laugh and wrestle out of her grip. I eventually did and began to run. She immediately chased after me. I ran into the toilet. Ruby was behind me. I realized I was trapped. I looked around for a way to go past her and escape. There was no hope.

And then a crazy thought came to my mind. Some boys in my class used to do some flips and I decided to attempt one. So, I climbed the toilet sink and pushed off so hard.

Oops, I slipped. Ruby screamed as I went down head first.

‘BOOM’…… That was the sound of my head connecting with a floor tile. And then the whole place went dead silent. I’m sure I could have heard an ant moving. With her hands over her mouth, eyes wide open, she stood and stared down at me. I was lost as the look on her face was difficult to read. Shock? Awe? Fear? I couldn’t tell. She looked like she had just seen the devil. I was just there, motionless. I tried to move my arms and legs but I couldn’t.

Oh my God!’ I thought.

Am I dead?’ I asked myself.

I wouldn’t be bothered though.

At least I’ll get to see Susan again.

–          @SeyiSoneye

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