The first week of October brought a few changes to my life. I had been attending St. Joseph’s for four weeks. I had even gotten acquainted with a few of my classmates.
That week had teachers announcing that we join school clubs we were interested in. The school choir and the drama club seemed to be the most popular but since I could neither sing nor act, there was no place for me in them. Lanre informed me that you got extra points at the end of the year if you joined a club and she advised that I join the press club. I put my name down when the representative came. It was a short list.
I still sucked at fine arts but at least the teacher agreed I was improving. I was surprised at how much we’d covered in a week and although we had been given the time table for the school year, it still came as a bit of a shock when the principal announced we’d be having our first continuous assessment test the following week. Oh, the good old orientation days…
She advised students to make use of the library that week and gave the whole speech about being completely on your own once the tests started. I had never been to the library before. And yes I realize how that must sound especially considering that my mother was who she was but the building never held an attraction for me. There were a few of my class mates however who treated the library like a second home. I had to wonder what the walls were made of and if they were given treats just for walking into the room.
Mummy asked me to draw a reading time table for all the subjects I had to write and show it to her unlike back in primary school, when she would draw me one herself. I guess I was expected to be more responsible now that I wore a pinafore. I studied like nobody’s business. My brothers said I had ‘fresher’s syndrome’. Something only new students passed through. They said to enjoy it because I would never study this hard for a test in secondary school again. That day did not end with smiles for them unfortunately. Mummy overheard them gloating and after cancelling their football game for the evening, made them study far into the night. Needless to say, their theory was proven wrong.
Although I had studied hard for the test, I was still nervous on Thursday when I had my first paper. Each paper was 30 minutes long. I got my calm back halfway through the social studies paper. I felt the smile on my face and quickly clamped my lips shut. I was looking around to be sure no one had seen me when I locked eyes with a boy two rows away. I recognized him as Deolu. He quickly lowered his gaze back to his paper. I knew by the flustered expression on his face that he had been watching me.
By the end of my 7th and last paper for the day, I was positive fresher’s syndrome had paid off. I hadn’t written the Fine arts test yet but I figured if the teacher said I was improving it couldn’t be all that bad.
I was wrong.
I had hoped against hope that we would only or at the very least mostly have to do theory work for the test but we were made to sketch a tree just outside the classroom from our view of it. I was sure even advanced arts students might find that tricky. I couldn’t understand why the teacher hadn’t just come to class and given me a big fat zero without making me go through the trouble of figuring out if I was to leave out the glass louver blocking the tree. I was also mildly annoyed that I had spent so much time studying the importance of art and all its forms last night when I could have been spending more time on integrated science or something. In fact I was too peeved to worry about failing the test and after a few more attempts to make my drawing look more of a tree than a stick figure, I signed my name at the bottom of my paper. From the corner of my eye I saw Anna eating away at her pencil with a scowl on her face. The tree must have had an element of mystery about it from her point of view.
I put my pencil down and glanced around. I wasn’t the only one who had given up on the tree project. That art teacher had it coming. I found Deolu staring again and like before he quickly went back to his drawing. I figured I must have been in his view of the tree.
When mummy asked how my tests had gone that evening, I told her they had gone well and I meant it too. The art teacher had wanted to know how I’d seen the tree and I had shown him just that. That night I dreamt of someone watching me and hiding behind a tree when I turned to look at them. I could see the hem of the person’s shorts from behind the tree.
The week after the tests held even more anticipation. The results would be out anytime and I almost wished for the days back in primary school when you only saw your results at the end of the term. Teachers came to class to give corrections to their tests so you could predict your scores. A few of them like the fine arts teacher said nothing about the tests, they just continued with their work like nothing had happened. I had a feeling they did this on purpose, using the silence to heighten our dread. The previous nonchalance I had felt about the arts test was beginning to wear off and was slowly being replaced by agitation. I had started imagining my tree sketch and adding a few more leaves here and there in my head. I had even concluded that I should not have included the glass louver at all and wondered if the teacher would think me artistic for adding a few more branches to the originally lean tree. By the end of that week, I had completely uprooted, and replanted a new tree in my head. It didn’t help that I had to see the plant every time I looked out the window.
When I saw Lanre at lunch break, she assured me the teacher wasn’t looking for a perfect sketch, just that you at least made an effort. I hoped she was right.
We had gotten about five out of fourteen test results back. All tests were marked over twenty and I had gotten perfect scores in three. I kept the scripts in my bag as soon as I got them. For some reason, Anna was very interested in test scores; in fact, she made it a point to ask as many people as possible what their test scores were and if they had any complaints. When she came to me, I simply told her that my tests were fine. She must have gotten the message because she immediately moved on.
That Wednesday afternoon, we had our very first class meeting. We had met our class teacher- Mrs. Ajayi- the day we had been distributed into classes. She was a small, slim, dark skinned woman in her late thirties. That afternoon, she was in a dark brown suit that was several sizes too big. Her hair was braided in a complicated hairstyle; one of those I only saw in Grandma’s old pictures. She informed us that we would have a class meeting once a month just to discuss the progress of the class, but today, we would be electing four class prefects- a class captain, a class monitress and two assistants. The entire class was to nominate students for all four positions. She made it sound all so political and I could tell she was trying to get us excited for a task that was usually so ordinary. From the excited chatter that was rising in the classroom, she was succeeding.
She gave out the rules of the election. A student would raise his hand and nominate someone and if it was seconded, we would vote by a show of hands.
Deolu was appointed class captain. He was more popular than I had thought. I had raised my hand to vote for him before I even realized it. When he came out to stand in front of the class, I saw the shyness I had noticed earlier in the way he didn’t look anyone in particular in the eye; the way he worried his shirt button and looked down at his sandals.
I wasn’t surprised when Anna was appointed class monitress. In fact, I think she might have thrown a fit if she hadn’t gotten the position. She wore a confident smile when she stood in front of the class like she knew exactly what she was doing. The assistant class captain was appointed- Salam a round faced boy with horn rimmed glasses who had been tied with Deolu. I absent mindedly joined in the applause for him like I had the first two times. Mrs. Ajayi asked for nominees for the final post- the assistant class monitress.
Anna was grinning wide now. I couldn’t imagine what her excitement was about really. I guess people took power where they could find it. It was this thought that was running through my head when I heard my name. I turned around to see who had nominated me. I didn’t even know her name. A girl I recognized as Mercy seconded it. There was a tie between me and Taiwo Dada- Anna’s best friend. I couldn’t believe my ears. Why, why? I thought, why would anyone nominate me? How did anyone know my name? I thought I caught Deolu smiling out of the corner of my eye but I couldn’t be sure. I simply could not imagine why anyone would find this amusing. Mrs. Ajayi took a vote and much to my chagrin, I had the most number of votes. I was shocked to find that most of the boys had voted for me. It took for Mrs. Ajayi to call my name twice before I finally found my feet. She told me to join the rest of the prefects in front of the class. I put one shaky foot in front of another when all I wanted to do was scream bloody Mary and run out of the class. It doesn’t seem like a big deal now but then there was no greater challenge than the one I was facing.
The rest of the meeting passed in a blur. I went back to my seat when I noticed everyone else was and when Mrs. Ajayi gave me a piece of paper to write my name on, I did so without much thought. I couldn’t get past the ringing in my ears. I could hear my name being called over and over. . When she finally left, Anna came to congratulate me; she told me we would meet with Mrs. Ajayi tomorrow for we had a lot to discuss. I did not want to imagine what ‘a lot’ she had in mind; I only knew for certain that I would not like it.
The news spread like wild fire and when the closing bell rang, Lanre came to congratulate me. The way she went on about it, you’d think I had gotten a paying job. She said Sarah had been elected class monitress of her class, I wasn’t surprised but I admit I felt a little better about my position. Sarah was class monitress and I was assistant class monitress; that was a good thing.
Lanre and I walked out of my class and this time, I was sure I saw Deolu smiling when I saw him outside. He didn’t look away this time either, I did.