The next few days at school went exactly like the first day. I sat at the exact same spot for the first three days. The girl who had sat in front of me that Monday was there on Tuesday too. This time she replied my good morning with something close to a smile. She introduced herself as Foluso and asked if I knew when ‘this thing’, that is the orientation was going to be over. I told her that Friday. I couldn’t blame her for wanting it to end. I didn’t think we needed an entire week of boring speeches to get us to warm up to the school. The real life seemed to be going on outside the walls of that hall and maybe it was a strategy to make us eager to join the school system. Foluso and I exchanged a few words and although I couldn’t claim that we had become acquainted, I was disappointed when she didn’t show up the next day. I wondered what had happened to her until I eventually saw her four rows away four seats away from Sarah. I honestly hadn’t taken her for the clique type. The pony tailed traitor!
It was that Thursday I finally saw someone I knew. She had been a year ahead of me in primary school but I would recognize the gap tooth and thick framed glasses anywhere. Lanre Adetiba and I had crossed paths a few times- the one time that had stuck was two years ago when our school had been invited to a seminar. We had been two of ten students chosen to attend. I was pleased to see her and quickly waved when our eyes met. She gave a wide smile and waved back as if relieved to see someone she knew as well. She chatted animatedly for a while. She told me how her family had travelled right after her graduation and how she had enjoyed taking the one year break from school. She spoke like we were old friends and it took a moment to catch up with her flow. I noticed her lenses had gotten thicker although I hadn’t thought that was possible and as if reading my thoughts, she explained she’d taken another eye test abroad and her eyes had gotten worse. I shook my head in pity but she immediately chuckled saying how she couldn’t imagine herself without glasses anyway. She also mentioned that she had skipped the last three days on purpose. Her sister was an SS3 student who had warned her of the ‘horror’ ahead. I sighed wistfully thinking how lucky she was to be able to do that. She took the seat Foluso had vacated and I almost walked up to Foluso and said a big Aha! You can’t come back now even if you wanted to. It was nice to eventually have someone to talk to especially someone as boisterous as Lanre. She did such a good job keeping herself company that my quietness was hardly an issue.
For the first time that week, I ventured out of the hall with my new friend. Since she was rather ‘independent’, her mum hadn’t packed her lunch and I escorted her to the school cafeteria during lunch break. The cafeteria was loud and so full that I felt like I was breathing in other people’s air. Lanre was not to be deterred and although she was only a few inches taller than I was, she stood tall in her school uniform and walked right up to a queue. I shuffled behind her although I wasn’t getting anything. The queue moved surprisingly fast and we were out in a couple of minutes. She asked if I’d seen the garden and I was about to tell her I hadn’t been anywhere outside the hall when she said we should go check it out. The ‘garden’ was a stretch of land on the other side of the hall with lots of trees and a few plants as well as concrete slabs that served as chairs. Several students were seated in groups. Some were enjoying their lunch while others chatted animatedly. The trees provided a cool shade from the sun but I was relieved when Lanre didn’t suggest that we stay. I hadn’t had lunch yet and the garden was too crowded for comfort.
I woke up on Friday with some excitement. Orientation week was finally ending-little did I know that it actually was going to be the one week I could do anything I wanted without worrying about deadlines and assignments. I was eager for school to actually begin. My excitement waned though when the librarian came into the hall with a long list of student names. We were going to be distributed into four classes. Lanre was the only person I’d spoken to that week and I wasn’t eager to have her taken from me yet. I saw Sarah surrounded by her passel of friends, well that was going to be over pretty soon. I knew they were going to be broken up but sure no matter where she was put, another passel would soon form around her. Names were called in alphabetical order, surnames first and since mine ‘Edun’ started with an E; I couldn’t quite relax in my seat. Lanre was the thirteenth person on the list and she was placed in JSS1A. I prayed frantically that the odds would be in my favor and I watched as she joined the growing pile of students. I knew the chips had fallen in the wrong place when I eventually heard my name. The librarian had said my name wrong, placing the emphasis on the second syllable instead of the first.
I was in JSS1B. I felt a pang of loss. Lanre gave me a sad smile when I looked at her but she was soon chatting with her new classmates. I expected nothing less. She had made me feel like were old friends in a day. When the librarian got to the letter L, he instructed four prefects to direct us to our new classes. We were to pick up all our belongings and you guessed it, file out in an orderly manner. The female Social Prefect directed us to our class. The junior session was on the other side of the school. It was separated from the senior session by a gate identical to but much smaller than the main gate. It was a different world and I almost missed the school hall. The prefect stopped in front of a classroom that had a JSS1B label on its wall. There were about 30 desks with names arranged in 5 rows and 6 columns. The desks were identical to the ones in the school hall except that they had names on them. The prefect told us to find our seats and get settled. My eyes immediately fell on my desk. It was the on the second row and third column. It wasn’t my ideal next to the window spot but it would have to do. I cleaned the seat out of habit and sat down. I recognized some of my classmates from the orientation and watched as they dragged their feet, laughed and finally settled down.
The distribution took most of the day and I stayed in my new class unsure what to do. School closed 3hours early on Fridays and I decided I’d just wait for time to fly by. Lanre paid me a visit a few hours later. She was with another girl. A dark skinned, plump girl on low cut. She introduced the girl as Precious and although she didn’t have to, added that they were in the same class. Precious said hello and took the seat next to mine (the occupant- a short boy with a lot of baby fat had-vacated it almost as soon as he had come in). Lanre mentioned that the classes were all the same but she preferred the last arm- JSS 1D because-well, just because. Precious asked if I knew that ‘that fair girl’, was in their class. I knew before she told me who the fair girl was that she meant Sarah. I also knew she was more pleased about the fact than she was letting on. No, I told her I hadn’t known that. It seemed to me that Sarah was taking everyone I knew away from me; first, Foluso, then Lanre and although the chances of us becoming friends looked extremely slim for she seemed a little too forward for my taste-Precious. Lanre made me promise I would come visit her soon. She made it seem like we were miles apart and not just a few feet. She soon left with Precious leaving me more bereft than before. At noon a prefect announced that our time tables had been pasted at the junior session notice board and two representatives should copy it and share with the rest of the class. A tall fair girl volunteered and dragged her friend- a shorter version of herself- along with her. Many other students rushed out to see the time table for themselves but I reasoned it would still be there at closing hour and there was no need to rush. When school finally closed, I went to the notice board to make sure that I had copied right from Anna-the fair girl who had volunteered. Turned out I had.
I didn’t see Lanre for the rest of the day and when Mummy picked me up from school that afternoon I told her how the only person I knew wasn’t in my class. She smiled and told me not to worry. They’d be plenty of time to make friends and besides I only needed one or two good friends to enjoy secondary school. She also reminded me that she had met her best friend in Secondary school and they were still so close after many years. I almost wished I hadn’t brought it up for I had heard that story so many times before.
That weekend went by too quickly in my opinion. When the pastor asked us to pray to God for what we wanted in church that Sunday, I prayed that that week would be better that orientation week was.
I quickly got used to school routine. We had 8 classes every day and took 14 subjects. We were given 10 minutes for recess after the first four classes and half an hour for lunch break after two more. My favorite class was English; we had it four out of five times a week. Our teacher was a slim, fair skinned woman with a dimple on one cheek. I took an immediate liking to her the first time she taught us. She introduced herself as Mrs. Anieto although she didn’t wear a wedding band. She made us laugh a few times and started off by revising what we’d learnt in primary school.
We were given our school ID cards on Tuesday. I looked slightly sleepy in my passport but my brothers said I was recognizable at least.
Lanre dragged me to her class at lunch break that Wednesday. I agreed it wasn’t much different than mine but for a few paper drawings on the walls. She explained that the fine arts teacher had given them as an assignment. Since our time tables were different, we wouldn’t have fine arts until that afternoon. She showed me Precious’ desk and added that Precious had moved her desk forward and closer to hers. They seemed to be having a lot of fun without me.
Just then Sarah walked in with her usual entourage. Her desk was on the 5th row, close to the window- yes, my ideal spot. She had braided her hair in a different style and had tucked it in several times to form a bun and she was finally in her school uniform. It looked different on her. Like her wearing it suddenly made the uniform more attractive in a way. Her pinafore looked a little bluer, the crest on its chest a little more profound and her shirt so white it seemed to cause a glare. I noticed the boys played close to her desk too; obviously trying to impress. If she noticed, she didn’t let it show, I guessed she was used to it, although I didn’t pretend to understand the ways of the popular. Lanre showed me a purse her Mom had given her to put her stationery in and she said she’d like that I meet her sister. I promised I would and told her I had to get back for my fine art class. By the end of that week, I concluded that art wasn’t my strong suit. My sketch of one object I could see in the classroom- my ruler- was less than acceptable to the art teacher. I wasn’t alone though, most of my classmates had performed less than satisfactorily and we all earned home-work.