Denrele swapped away the many flies. She was irritated. She longed for a better life more so after the new teacher who came to her class today . Her mother always told her was the comfort type. The one who will just want her personal comfort and rich life. Her siblings never understood. They always turned up their nose whenever she acted better than them. They lived at Offa but schooled in Ilorin. They were constantly at their grandparents house with the smell of goat faeces, dried elubo, amidst dull houses with uneven cement.
Denrele was closer to her father. He wrote a few poems at his spare time when he came for the weekends at Offa. Their home in Ilorin was a small two bedroom flat in a crowded area, it was only convenient for their father to stay there so as to get to work early. The six children stayed at Offa and schooled at the outskirts of Ilorin. They got to help their aging baba and mama. Denrele wanted more to life. Whenever her father came for the weekends, Denrele would read the two or so poems he wrote. He complained more often these days of how busy he was and unable to write plenty. Actually he only wrote in the bus on the way to Offa. Her father wrote about the peace and serenity of Offa, he wrote about the ruggedness, determination, community life and rebellion of the Offa people, he wrote about the importance of family and of siblings cordiality, he wrote about the bird who longed for freedom. Much later, when Denrele would later write, she would write about the busyness, traffic congestion, sharpness of Lagos. She would write about the confusion, individualism and personal struggle of man and about the smell of sweat. She would write about separation, self-discovery, divorce, innate evil and egoism. She would write about the illiterate student. But for now she remained the illiterate student. She would go to school, listen to the teacher teach an average unintelligent same old lecture note and desire rather to be in Miss Oge’s class . Miss Oge had stood in for her computer teacher that day last week when he was ill. The young youth corper had spoken with intelligence and care. Denrele was happy to answer questions in her class, the young girl eagerly poured out all the textbook answers she had crammed earlier on . She longed for her praise, the gentle smile that creped systematically but beautifully along her chubby face. The corper spoke about her own different secondary school life in Lagos. She spoke about the tough world. Denrele’s back was straight, she listened, she wanted to hear this. She wanted to be told the truth. She wanted to hear without restriction the struggles of life, not just the serenity of it. She wanted to hear about the importance of choices and not destiny. Not fate. She wanted to hear that she could and would leave Ilorin and its environs; Offa. She used the usual technique after class. She told the teacher she had a problem and wanted advice. She spoke about a boy who liked her and asked her to be his girlfriend and how the whole thing confused her in an endless pool. In sincerity, nobody had asked her to be his girlfriend. She only wanted to create rapport and an avenue to talk with the beautiful teacher. They would in future laugh about her antics. The corper advised her that day. The corper would then always greet her when they walked along the same route. The corper would ask about her family in passing but Denrele would delve into a full launch of her ancestral lineage and their well being. The corper grew fond of the girl, knew about her longing for Lagos.The corper called her one sunny afternoon and gave her a slip, a common entrance application form to one of the best secondary schools in Lagos.in that moment, Denrele doubted her parents would let her, a short twelve jss1 girl to go all the way to Lagos. She leaned back on the wooden chair letting it squeak. She felt ridiculous to have dreamt and thought all this while that she could ever have her life the way she wanted and not the way she was destined to, from birth.
” Denrele” the corper looked her squarely in the face. Denrele noticed the lines around the corper’s eyes. At Offa she couldn’t truly look at an elder’s eye, the ones she was quite familiar with, yes just not for long but with the corper she could look into her eyes and be sure she saw experience and fatigue. She wondered if this was what Lagos did or what life did. If everything would in the end amount to the same thing. ” you would never know until you try. Study extra hard, grumble less at home, fill out this form. Show your parents, let them sign it. If it helps show your father first, convince him. Don’t let your opportunity slip by you.” she glanced at her wrist watch.”if all works out well and you pass, then you would apply for the scholarship test, get invited for the test and ace it, by the time i’m leaving here at the end of my service, you would be coming with me. You always believed in choices. Here you are faced with them. Forever you would look back and remember this day whatever your choice would be”. Denrele went home. She couldn’t sleep early that night. She was pumped up about it, the time she had been waiting for.What preoccupied her mind however were things like how she would start jss1 afresh in Lagos at age 13. she thought about how everyone back at Offa would be Advanced in class, how young Tayo would be her mate in class. She also thought about how miss Oge had told her to tell her dad first if it helped. She wondered if that was the kind of impression she left on her teacher. if miss Oge had misjudged her mum. She remembered all the moments she shared with her mum, the secrecy of agreements, the love. She loved her mum and wanted her to know equally at the same time with her dad. Denrele’s parents agreed. It was a night of hushed conversation in their bedroom. Denrele crept to their door and tried to figure out what they would decide. Mama came out of her own room to use the toilet when she saw Denrele. Denrele sped back to her room her heart in her mouth wondering what mama would do. She ran quietly, slipped away every time she saw mama. Denrele studied, her siblings and their friends would sit away and whisper about her, they wondered what was wrong with her.
Her father took her to Lagos to write the exam. Her pencil kept slipping off her sweaty palms as she shaded carefully within the box, never out of it, never too thick. Everything the instruction said. She prayed in yoruba and in english. She promised God she would never spite her grandmother again no matter how unfair she treated her. She promised God she would say a testimony on new year’s eve even though her legs and voice fail her infront of everybody.
It was after the exam she could marvel at the school, her mind earlier on was preoccupied with success. She loved the beautiful school. She had imagined there would be a million trees there. Aunty Oge had spoken proudly about the trees in the school.
” it is not like those new schools springing up everywhere and trying so hard to fit everything they need on a small piece of land. This one has so many trees and flowers unlike the schools that interlocked stones cover the whole small place.”
On her way to the gate, she saw the chapel and contemplated going in. She had heard of stories of people who did like Hannah, who told God their request solitarily in the chapel and how it came to pass. Ire’s mummy had testified in the church of how she did that and she got a promotion she had been long due for, for six years. Denrele dreamt of the day she would grauate in this secondary school, clothed in a robe and how she would make mention of her prayer in the chapel. However her feet kept moving towards the gate not the chapel. She felt like paper, too stiff to do anything else.
The next three weeks were the longest of her life. Denrele would leave her food cold and study. There is scholarship exam to study for. There is normal class too. She claimed she couldn’t afford to be an average student when she resumes. She would pass by the store and pick up the prettiest dress in readiness for the new year eve when she would say her testimony infront of everyone. Now like her custom for the last three weeks, Denrele dropped her school bag at the entrance of the computer lab.
”well i’m checking already” the corper said in a sing song voice, smiling
” its closing time now. They rang the bell since” she plumped on a chair ” aunty Oge?”
”uhm?” she replied typing away.
”aren’t you going to teach me how to use the computer before i go to Lagos?”
” my dear, they don’t expect you to know everything yet. They’ll teach you there. But i could always teach you the basics before then” the corper’s heartbeat took on a marathon as she saw the result was now on the site. Freshly posted four hours ago. ” ah” she sighed ” its not out yet. I wonder what’s taking so long”
”no problem. I have to get home early. But i’m anticipating the result o”
”we’ll hope it comes out tomorrow”
After Denrele waved goodbye and left, the corper wiped her sweaty palms on her jeans, stood up and increased the switch of the ceiling fan. She scrolled down checking for Otunola.she saw otepola, otomi, then there it was, sitting averagely like all others: OTUNOLA DENRELE