Bola is seated in the back seat of her father’s Peugeot 504 dressed in her red checked hostel uniform. Her father who is dressed in a navy blue buba and sokoto is standing outside the car while her mum sits quietly in the front passenger seat. A female porter walks towards the car to inform her father that Bola’s portmanteau has been placed at her corner. “Thank you”. Femi says as he dips his right hand into his sokoto. He hands over a five hundred naira note to the porter who dramatizes her thanks kneeling and bowing at the same time. “It is okay. It is okay”. Femi says in an attempt to dismiss her.
The porter walks away still looking back and bowing her head in thanks. Femi looks at his daughter and smiles. “Okay dear. It is time to go to your hostel”.
“Dad, I still have more time”. She pouts.
Her mother who had been quiet throughout the exchange looks back at Bola. “You know we have to get going. It’s a long drive back to Akure”.
“Yes mum”. Bola says unhappy as she steps out of the car.
Femi smiles as he touches her on the cheek. “Take care of yourself. No fighting…..”
“No troubles, no bickering and no gossips”. Bola finishes her father’s sentence.
Femi laughs. “Naughty girl. Anyway, have I settled you?” He asks.
“C’mon Femi, I thought you gave her some money at home”. Banke states.
“Yes?” Banke looks at her daughter with a stern face. “You keep spoiling her, Femi”. She says looking at her husband.
Femi smiles at his wife as he hands over some notes to Bola. “Be careful with it and spend wisely”.
“Thank you daddy”.
“What you have should be enough till your holidays?”
“Yes daddy. I love you”. Bola says hugging her father.
Femi nudges her and nods towards his wife. Bola walks towards her mum. She stands before her and smiles. “Mum, you know I love you, right?”
Banke stretches out her arms and Bola hugs her.
“Dad, don’t forget our holidays are in three weeks’ time. I’ll be expecting you”.
“Of course”. He says smiling. “Now off to your hostel, Senior Bola”.
They all laugh as Femi gets into the car. He starts the engine and Bola waves as they drive off. When they go out of sight, she walks towards her hostel.
It is 3.00p.m on a Sunday. The students have just had lunch and are meant to be observing their siesta. While some lie on their beds reading, some sit in a corner gossiping while some are sleeping. The room has five double bunk beds making a total of ten girls in the room. Bola’s bunk is at the far end of the room. She lies on her bed reading a tract. She had earlier in the day attended the student fellowship organized by one of the Pentecostal churches which had a mission to youths, especially secondary school students. It was her first time attending and she had been blessed. She had been given the tract on her way out and she had shoved it in her uniform pocket. After reading it, she gets into a kneeling position on her bed and prays the sinner’s prayer written behind the tract. She smiles as she opens her eyes. Joy fills her heart and she can’t wait to inform her parents about the good news during her next holiday.
Bola’s parents are overwhelmed with joy when she shares the good news with them. They had been invited to an interdenominational programme a week before and they had also accepted Jesus and surrendered their lives to Him. It was a joyous day as Bola and her parents lock in each other’s embrace, praying and sharing from their bibles.
The one week holiday comes to an end and Bola is about to leave for school. She drags her portmanteau into the living room. She is dressed in her hostel uniform. “Mummy, Daddy, I am ready”. She calls out to her parents.
“A minute, please”. Banke replies from inside.
Bola rolls her eyes and shakes her head. She knows a minute for her mum is equal to thirty.
Femi steps into the living room trying to wear his wrist watch.
“Let me help you with that”. Bola says as she walks towards her father. When she is done, she looks up at her dad. “You know mum will take forever to get dressed, right?”
Femi laughs. “Better don’t let her hear that”. He says whispering.
“Your mum and I will be travelling next week. We should be back in a week. We would check on you on our way back from the airport”.
Bola looks at her dad sheepishly.
Femi sees her expression and laughs. “I know. I will get your chocolates”.
“Did I hear you talking about getting chocolates there?” Banke asks as she walks into the living room.
Bola looks at her mum with a wide grin.
“We are running late. We should go now”. Femi pulls his wife by the hand as he turns her towards the door. He picks up Bola’s portmanteau and winks at her. They both share a smile of victory.
Two weeks later, Bola is summoned to the Principal’s office. As she is ushered in by his secretary, she notices that the secretary avoids looking at her face. She wonders why the lady is quiet today. She is usually very chatty. The principal looks up from a stack of newspapers on his table as she walks in. The glasses on his face looks like it will fall off any minute but he pushes it back with his forefinger. He forces a smile which end on his lips. It does not reach his eyes.
“Good afternoon sir”.
“Afternoon Bola, please sit down”.
Bola begins to fidget. She has never been summoned to the principal’s office. She wonders if she has committed an offence. Her eyes are trained on the principal’s face.
The principal looks at her. “Your parents asked that we grant you permission to go home”.
Bola has a worried look on her face. “Go home? I don’t understand, sir. They promised to check on me on their way back from the airport”.
“Yes, I was told. They could not make it and decided that you came home instead”.
“I would personally drop you at home. You can go back to your hostel now to pick up your bag”.
“Okay sir”. Bola stands up. She is confused as she walks out of the principal’s office. It was strange that her parents would ask her to come home.
As she eases into the front passenger seat of the principal’s Mercedez Benz 230, the driver kicks the engine. The principal is seated in the owner’s corner behind.
“Excuse me sir, I hope there is nothing wrong. My parents have never sent for me like this”. Bola asks turning back to look at the principal’s face.
“Bola, you would be fine”.
She knows the principal knows more than he is saying but he is refusing to give her more information. She has a bad feeling about this but she cannot place her finger on it. She has no choice but to wait till she gets home. In the meantime, she can only do one thing. She clasps her palms together and says a silent prayer to God.
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