Like all first days at school, the students are wild and it’s not possible to hold any classes. I am not in a position to, anyway. Ajao is nowhere in sight, and I take that as a good thing.
All the teachers welcome me back and to my shock, no one mentions the dreadful events of the last year. The four youth corpers probably never existed, and Toro must have been a fluke.
I get an opportunity to speak with Jang, who seem to be the only residue of my past in this place. While students are organized to cut grass and clean up the debris left over the holiday period, I grab Jang.
“You’re the only one left. What of Fortuna and Kenny?”
Jang shrugs. “They never came back. I don’t know what happened to them.”
Such indifference from someone we ate and drank together. “I’m afraid to call Toro. I don’t know if she made it.”
“She did.” He cracked a bone in his neck. “I thought you won’t return.”
“The school I was sent to in Lagos—well, I feel I owe Steve. At least to get justice.”
“You’re on your own.” He walks briskly toward a boy cutting grass. “Finish up here, all of you. Or you think we have forever?”
I head back to the staff room. This will be a long ride, the way I see it. That’s if Moni is found alive and well. I probably have to go back home with my tongue out, begging to be returned to the other school. I feel so miserable.
Mr. Akande now has a desk in the common staff room. He won’t ever admit but I conclude he’s been demoted. Maybe it’s the bargain against dismissal. I may never know.
I notice Bisi with her friend, Foyeke, Ade’s sister but I look away and pretend she’s not there. Again she affects me in a way I am ashamed of. At the end of the day, I may have to get out of here. Slap me once, shame on you; slap me twice, shame on me.
After school hours, I go in search of Ajao. His father has not seen him all day. I am afraid for what may have happened. Who will I tell my sister disappeared from the same room with me?
I lose appetite and while I roam the streets of Abagboro, I pray over and over again. I can’t even return to the quarters.
At dusk, I decide to go to Ile-Ife and make a report at the police station. It’s a long shot but at least, it will be recorded. It’s a long walk before I will get a bus to take me because the buses only pass through the highway.
I hurry back to my room, and there, stirring something on the stove, is Moni. I nearly faint.
She turns, and looks so scared. “I got lost.”
My head pounds. I can’t believe my eyes and ears. Relief floods my inner being like a tsunami. I slump against the wall for a moment. Then realization dawns.
“You got lost! Where did you think you were going?”
“Don’t be angry with me!”
My eyes widen. Like, are you for real? “Don’t be angry with you? Do you know how worried I have been? I looked everywhere for you. Right now I’m sure Ajao is still searching for you!”
“Ajao found me in the farms. Thank God.”
“What—do you—can you just—” I sit on the bed and hold my head. Now it’s late to get her to Lagos. It’s close to 6pm already.
“Don’t be angry with me.”
“You know what, you’re going to the church house. You won’t stay here tonight.” I jump to my feet. “What are you cooking? Leave it. Pack. Come and pack.”
“What’s the meaning of no?”
“I’m not going anywhere. I said I’m sorry.”
“Sorry! Moni, sorry!” I want to slap her. What kind of attitude is she giving off? I’ve never known her to be this stubborn.
“Yes, sorry. I got lost. How is that my fault?”
“Do you know how dangerous this village is?” I shout at the top of my voice. “Do you know what they can do to you?”
She shouted back. “Then tell me.” She draws in her breath and lowers her voice. “Stop shouting, Bro. Abbey. Your neighbours can hear.”
I shouted louder. “Who cares? I asked you a question!”
She lowers her voice to a mere whisper. “Mr. Akande rapes his daughter. I heard her crying early this morning. Stop shouting.”
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