"In every class, there is always a child whose morals are as scrupulous as their regulation white socks. You would know them from their self-righteous airs, the speed at which their hands shoot up in class and the doting smile of the teacher on them. If you did not secretly loathe this sort of goody-goody, the likelihood is that you were one of them. I should know- I was Primary 5 Blue’s resident goody-goody.
It was the last class of the day and after a few minutes it was clear our teacher was not coming. It was a rare occurrence when a teacher did not show up for class, one which everyone was eager to take advantage of.
Chairs scraped the terrazzo as my classmates set up impromptu games tables. Steady hums grew where boys had joined four desks together to play ‘table soccer’ involving origami goal-posts and ‘players’ fashioned out of bottle-tops that had to be flicked to ‘kick’ the little rolled up ball of paper. Others locked fingers in arm-wrestling tournaments or took up the chalk-board for a game of noughts and crosses which we called ‘X and O’. Girls perched on the edge of their friends desks in gossipy circles.
While I was content to have some free time to finish a novel I was reading, I was aghast at the number of rules everyone was breaking. We were not allowed to write on the chalk board unless asked by the teacher, we were not allowed to destroy the orderly rows of our desks and we were precluded from playing games or making noise outside of the designated break time at ten-thirty in the morning. If any teacher came into our classroom, the whole class would be punished!
Now, while I was the sort of girl who would not break the rules, I also had that Darwinian instinct for self-preservation. I did not want to feel the broad side of a ruler come down on my palm, or come away with dusty knees from being told to ‘kneel down and close my eyes’, so I sought some insurance.
I went over to the class prefect- an inferior choice, in my opinion- and voiced my concerns, “I think you should ask them to keep the noise down, so that we don’t get punished.”
The boy, Asi lisped a non-committal, “Everybody keep quiet!” before turning back to his table soccer. He needn’t have bothered speaking; the hum had become a buzz, akin to a market-place.
Not daring to raise my reedy voice above the din, I returned to my desk. Straight-backed and filled with righteous anger, I ripped a sheet of lined paper from my jotter and penned furiously ‘Names of Noise-makers’. I underlined my cursive script and covertly started printing the names of everyone who was talking loudly, including Asi’s. Somebody had to take responsibility.
“Hey!” the cry came from over my shoulder.
I hastily folded a corner of the paper over my growing list. It was too late. The hand belonging to the “Hey!” seized the paper from me.
The hand belonged to another recognisable figure. The boy who would exasperate teachers with his cheeky comments, the sort whose resilience showed in his ability to joke his way out of punishment. This boy is the resident ‘class clown’; the antithesis of the goody-goody, invariably considered ‘cool’ by the rest of the class. I did not like Chude very much. I liked him much less as his eyes scanned the list.
“Everybody, this girl has written a list of noise-makers!” Chude announced.
That got the class’ attention.
The noise rose as people asked, “Am I on it?” or threatened, “If I’m on that list” or whispered loudly, “Who begged her?”
I sat in my chair, arms folded defensively, trying to pretend that my heart was not hammering somewhere in my throat. The truth is that snake, the goody-goody does not often like confrontations. They have the teacher’s ear and thrive under the teacher’s protection. Without a teacher present, I was quaking in my sandals.
My desk was soon surrounded with people demanding answers. Although they loomed above me in a circle, I preferred to sit down. It was easier to hide that I was shaking that way.
“Look, I’m just writing it in case somebody catches us. I’m going to throw it away if nobody comes,” I kept my voice even
This did not placate people. Some people who considered themselves my friends questioned, wounded, “You wrote my name on the list, eh? Me?”
I probably deserve the next thing that happened. Obioma swore over and over again it was an accident. I don’t know whether to believe him. As people demanded answers at my desk, the cap of a Bic biro had suddenly hit me in the eye.
“Ow!” I cried, holding my hand over my eye and bending over. I must admit it hurt a little bit. Tears flowed freely from my good eye. I kept my hand over the one that was hit, getting up and stumbling to the bathroom to assess the damage.
I thought I heard an evil girl Yele mutter, “Good for her!” as Obioma and some spectators who were happier than they admit poured out of the class after me. Obioma seemed convincingly contrite, pleading, “I’m sorry, I’m really sorry I didn’t mean to hit your eye!”
At the pastel green door to the ladies, just outside my class, the boys hung back while a few girls followed. We were enveloped in the smell of disinfectant. I hurried to the sink, wheeled the faucet open and splashed water on my eye, not caring that my uniform was splattered by the spray.
As I shook with self-pitying sobs, watched by some girls in the mirror, I saw how this could work to my advantage. My eye was red – only mildly irritated- but I kept my hand over my eye, my back still curved in pain.
My older sister was in Primary Six. The highest class in the school, the Primary Sixes were fearsome to us. Not only that, she was a house captain. Obioma would pay for flicking the cap of his pen in my eye! It would be doubly good if the teacher in my sister’s class took an interest in my tear-stained face.
I declared my intentions, “I’m going to report Obioma to my sister!”
Rapid whispers travelled to the boys in the corridor and I could barely stop myself from smiling as people sang to Obioma, “Den, den, den....” wagging their fingers in anticipation of the drama that was to come.
I marched out with fresh purpose into the corridor. Obioma’s pleas were more desperate. I revelled in it.
At the landing leading up to the Primary Six floor, the class started to hang back so that the noise would not attract any Primary Six teachers. Obioma was begging. Asi and some other of his friends joined him, sensing that if a teacher took an interest in the case the entire class could be punished.
I turned, like a villain in a superhero movie, my hand like a patch on my eye and said, “I’m going to do it and you can’t stop me.”
Then, I turned and walked up the short flight of stairs to the door of my sister’s class. I listened to the sound of them retreating to our class.
Taking a deep breath, I rapped hard on the door to my sister’s class, then eased it open and peered around it. My heart was in my mouth.
A sea of Primary Six faces were staring at my blotchy face. I looked away, towards the teacher, already regretting my decision.
My eyes met the familiar face of Mr. Q, my Math teacher a kindly, soft-spoken man. This gave me the courage to hurry up to him and whisper, “Can I talk to my sister please?”
He nodded his assent and I hurried out of the class, with my sister at my heels, her large eyes dripping with concern.
Alone in the empty corridor, fresh tears- purely of self-pity sprang. I recounted to her that I had been sitting being a diligent girl, writing names of noise-makers when I had been attacked by Obioma. My sister listened patiently, nodding her agreement in all the right places.
When I was done, she gave me a quick hug and said, “Sorry”.
Breaking away, she made as if to return to her class.
“Wait,” I called. Her hand dithered on the handle and an impatient look crossed her face.
That impatient look flitted across her face again. She was going to be writing her Common Entrance Exams in a few weeks and was eager to return to her lesson.
She came back to rub my back lightly, “Sorry, okay?” she said before disappearing into her class.
I was thoroughly filled with disappointment. I had expected her storm to my class like some avenging angel, flashing her prefect-ship badge, to punish Obioma or at least scold him.
Then, I was burning with shame. I could not return to class having reported Obioma knowing he would not be punished. It was bad enough that everyone in the class was annoyed with me; they would laugh at me if they knew that nothing had come out of my flouncing upstairs to report Obioma.
Dehydrated from all my needless crying, I sipped water from the water fountain and thought of what I could do. I could not stay in the stairwell forever. I toyed with the idea of not returning to class until school closed. I would still have to return to class the next morning and I couldn’t expect everyone to forget. I smarted with embarrassment, remembering my cocky announcement that I was going to report Obioma.
As I slowly returned to my class, defeated, I remembered a story my mother had told me as a child.
I opened the door and everyone turned, quiet. They stared fearfully, expectantly at me as though I was harbouring my sister and maybe, a teacher. I spotted Obioma looking very sorry for himself at his desk.
All eyes on me, I walked to him and said with a studied poker-face, “I didn’t report you. I forgive you.”
Obioma almost fell on his knees thanking me. The rest of the class looked stunned. So I was not as much of a goody-goody, tattle-tale as they thought.
I returned to my desk, straight-backed and imperial. There was still time to read my novel."
Claim: Originally written by Nigerian Fiction Member 18 - RookieBee (Rukky Brume)
Nigerian Fiction Title 14