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. Denrele’s mother always told her she was one for comfort. Her siblings never understood. They always turned up their nose whenever she acted better than them.
They lived in Offa but schooled in Ilorin. They were constantly at their grandparents house in Offa 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 house in Ilorin was a small two bedroom apartment in a crowded area, it was only convenient for their father to stay there so as to get to work early. The six children styed with their mum and grandparents at Offa and schooled at the outskirts of Ilorin.
Denrele wanted more to life than helping the aging baba and mama. Sometimes her mother will call her an impatient and ungrateful girl.
Whenever her father came for the weekends, Denrele would read the one or two poems he had written. He complained more often at that time of how busy he is. 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. Perhaps he could tell already what the future held.
Much later, when Denrele would write, she would write about the busyness, and sharpness of Lagos. She would write about confusion, individualism and the personal struggle of man, about the smell of sweat. She would write about separation, about the illiterate student. But for now she remained the illiterate student. She would go to school, listen to her teacher teach an unintelligent lesson and desire rather to be in Miss Oge’s class .
Miss Oge had stood in for her computer teacher on that day last week when he was ill. The youth corper had spoken with delicate intelligence. Denrele was happy to answer questions in her class. 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. 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 go to Lagos.
She used a 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 talk some more. 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 and 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 year old girl go 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. ” 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. You would look back and remember this day whatever your choice would be”.
Denrele went home. She couldn’t sleep that night. She was pumped about it, the time she had been waiting for. What also preoccupied her mind 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.
Denrele’s parents agreed to it all. It was a night of hushed conversation in their bedroom. Denrele crept to their door and tried to figure out what they were saying. 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 if mama would tell her parens she was eavesdropping.
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 indicated, she obeyed.
She prayed in Yoruba and in English language while in the exam hall. 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 if legs and voice fail her infront of everybody.
It was after the exam she could marvel at the school premises. Her mind, earlier on, was preoccupied with success. She loved the beautiful school. Aunty Oge had spoken proudly about even 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”
On her way to the gate, she saw the school 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 that had been long due 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.
The next three weeks were the longest of her life. Denrele would leave her food cold and study. There was a scholarship exam to study for. There were normal classes too. She claimed she couldn’t afford to be an average student when she resumes. She kept the newest cloth she had, in readiness for the new year eve service when she would say her testimony infront of everyone.
Today, just as she had done for the past three weeks, Denrele dropped her school bag at the entrance of the computer lab.
”I’m checking already” the corper said in a sing song voice, smiling.
She sat on a chair ” aunty Oge?”
”uhm?” the corper 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. for a second, she was afraid Denrele’s name would be missing.
” ah” she sighed ” Its not yet bee released. I wonder what’s taking so long”.
”No problem. I have to get home early. But i’m anticipating the result o”
”I believe it would be out by 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 prayed, then scrolled down the admission list checking for Otunola.
She saw Otepola, Otomi, then there it was, sitting averagely like all others: OTUNOLA DENRELE.