Promise stood under the torture of the morning sun and tried to get a cab to work. Unlike Lagos, cab fares in the capital city was fairly cheap. She would have opted for a bus, but she wasn’t accustomed to the buses and their routes. Taking a cab to work and back was the best she could do at the moment.
She was headed for Government Secondary School in Garki. She had been a bit disappointed when she found out that she was going to be teaching. How she wished she was posted to NTA or somewhere else.
‘Where are all these crazy cabs going?’ She said to herself. She had been waving, but they didn’t stop. She would get to work late if she didn’t get a cab on time.
The self-contained apartment she shared with three other corpers was a stone throw from the bus-stop. She met the girls when she arrived at the camp and had found out that their place of primary assignments were also in some Secondary Schools in Garki.
The schools they were all posted to had made no provision for accommodations for them. They had gathered the little money they had and rented a self contained apartment in Area 1, Garki.
The landlord had been lenient enough to collect four hundred thousand naira for a full year. The other houses they had surveyed were more expensive and their owners wanted two years rent. Where would they get that kind of money from?
The money she had left might sort her out for the rest of the month, but she hoped that the government would pay them promptly and not delay their monthly allowance. The Secondary School she had been posted to had made no provision for monthly stipends. She wondered if the principal was siphoning the Corpers’ fund allocated to the school and transferring it into his own pocket.
If she ran out of cash, she might have to call home. That would be her last resort. She doesn’t want to disturb her parents with her needs. They had a company to run and two extra mouths to feed. Her siblings were a handful. She hoped to get a good job after her service year. She would be able to support her parents and also take care of her siblings. She wanted her parents to eat the fruits of their labour before they began to age drastically.
An hour later, she walked into the school compound and sighted the principal, Mallam Bature, speaking to some of the corpers. Every morning, he stands at the school gate immediately after the assembly and any corper that came late was given a stern lecture about punctuality and discipline.
‘Doesn’t he ever get tired?’ She groaned and joined the others. The school had made no provision for accommodations and monthly stipends for them, yet, they want them to resume work early. That was slavery! According to her anyway.
Promise went straight to the staff room the moment the principal was through with them. She needed to go through her time-table and make some changes. She cannot afford to teach every single day of the week. She needed time to sort out the students’ notes, mark their assignments and prepare questions for the mid-term test. Why they asked her to take the students English and Literature was beyond her. Was it because she graduated with a second class upper in Mass Communication?
The staff room was almost empty. She greeted the few teachers around and walked over to her corner. She cleaned her dusty wooden table and chair. She wondered why the capital city was so dusty. She had been told that it was worse during the harmattan season.
“Miss. Daodu, you are looking good this morning.”
Promise looked up at the person addressing her. It was one of the male teachers. On her first day, he had assumed that she was a muslim because of her surname. She had to explain to him that her grandfather was a muslim, but her father had converted to Christianity.
“Good morning Mr. Usman,” she tried to smile, but it barely reached her dark eyes.
He leaned over her table, “You are looking smart and beautiful,” his eyes seemed to glitter. She wondered what was beautiful about her khaki trousers and white tee shirt. Was it the khaki face cap that was deceiving him or the khaki jacket? If he was trying to warm up to her, he came at the wrongest time.
“Thank you,” she forced the words out and concentrated on the books she had placed on the table.
“Do you know that I am also an English and Literature teacher in this school?”
She placed a hand on her forehead. She realized that he was bent on conversing with her, regardless of her disinterest.
“Yes, if you have any problems with the students or your lesson notes, I will help you out,” he beat his hand on his chest.
“Oh okay, thank you.”
He smiled at her, revealing a set of teeth that had gone brown. She blinked in surprise and adjusted her face cap.
“I have to go, I have a class to teach,” he waved and walked away. She made a sigh of relief. ‘Finally, peace at last!’ She said to herself.
Promise returned home that day at about three in the afternoon. She felt as if she had been toasted like bread in the hot afternoon sun. She needed a cold shower and would probably warm the remaining vegetable soup she had kept in the fridge and eat it with pondo yam. Maybe making garri will be faster. She was very hungry.
Sweat broke out all over her when she realized that she had forgotten to take her house key to work that day. She had changed bags and didn’t remember to take the key out of the other bag. ‘What kind of nonsense is this?’ She mused and leaned on the wooden front door. She began to dial her room-mates’ numbers one after the other.
One of them told her that she wasn’t coming home straight from work. She had a few places to go to. Another told her that she wasn’t returning home that day and the third girl told her that she was on her way home but was stuck in traffic.
Promise pulled off her khaki jacket and removed her face cap. Why did she forget to take her key to work? ‘What were you thinking about you small girl?’ She questioned herself and debated whether to check if any of her neighbours were around.
There were six self contained apartments in the compound, the other five were occupied by a couple with their children, two sets of live-in-lovers, a bachelor, and four male youth corpers.
She decided to sit at the door and prayed that the traffic subsided. She wasn’t in the habit of badging in on her neighbours. She would rather remain pleasant from afar than become over-familiar with them. Familiarity always brought contempt. Thirty minutes later, Kabira Danyaro walked up to dozing Promise.
She opened her eyes.
“Why did you forget your key?”
Promise got up, yawned and stretched. Kabira unlocked the door and they went in.
“I changed bags and forgot to take the house key.”
Kabira shook her head and went straight to the kitchen. Promise sat on the bed and untied the ropes of her boots. She wondered if she should eat first and take her bath later.
“Are you the one who kept this vegetable here?” Her voice flowed into the room.
“Don’t touch that soup! That is my lunch,” she joined her room-mate in the kitchen.
“We will share it.”
Kabira eyed her, “You made me come home, I was planning to buy some things in the market.”
Promise groaned and opened the plate, “Look, see, the soup is small.”
Kabira collected the frozen plate from her, “We will add water.”
Her room-mate hissed.
“Please make garri, be a nice girl.”
Promised eyed her. This was one of the challenges of living with someone.
“We will share the chilled can malt in my bag.”
She brightened and plugged water, while her room-mate started to warm the soup. Sharing her lunch didn’t seem like a bad idea anymore. A can of chilled malt in the afternoon heat would soothe her nerves. At least, her day seemed to be winding up well, regardless of the torturous start.
‘Lord, I thank you. Today is really a day you have made. I sincerely rejoice,’ she conversed with her maker with a smile pasted on her lips.