I missed you guys! 🙂 Here is where we left off last two weeks. Happy reading!!
Afrakuma understood the adage ‘Knowledge is power’ more than anyone could imagine. She had learnt rather early in life that everyone in power had secrets and if you waited long enough, the opportunity to use it against them would appear. It also kept them in check. She had secrets on almost every one of the high and mighty people in Capital High, which meant that she could get away with certain things. For instance, she was only Permanent Senior on Duty because she knew that the Boys’ Prefect Percy had a phone and a laptop in school.
She knew which of the Form 2 girls had had an abortion, which of the teachers were sleeping with students, which of the Form 1 boys was most likely to become school prefect, which of the Form 2 girls was still wetting her bed, which Form 3 boy almost got repeated until his parents pledged to keep him in school over the vacation, which of the teachers had an autistic child out of wedlock and treated her like a house help, which Form 3 girl had a crush on that Form 1 boy of a Michael Jackson, everything..
Even she had a soft spot for him- that K Beck boy. There was something endearing about him. It was clear that he liked that girl in her house- Akpene. For the life of her, she could not begin to imagine why.
No wonder they say love is blind.
Afrakuma didn’t come from a very rich home but almost nobody knew that. Her mother never visited her in school but she didn’t lack anything. Not with Jerry in the picture. Jerry was a married man with three children. Every visiting Saturday, he drove up to Capital High with a month’s worth of provisions and money enough to take care of a household of 5 boys . To the outside world, he was her cousin. To his wife, she was his niece. To her, he was an over generous ATM and she knew that for him, she was nothing but an object of lust. They had met at Dzorwulu during her Form 1 long vacation. He stopped his car and refused to move until he had her number. As they say, one thing led to another and now he was the reason why her locker was always well-stocked.
It was time for siesta and the letter girl was going round distributing letters. Letter day was always thrilling. Letters came in on Wednesdays and were distributed to the letter boys and girls after lunch, who in turn went to each dorm to hand over letters to each recipient. It was an unwritten rule that Form 1s were supposed to wait until siesta was over before they read anything. Afrakuma spotted a Form 1 girl who had opened her letter and was reading it under her cover cloth. Afrakuma yanked the cloth off her face and snatched the letter.
‘You want your letter? No problem. You are going to have to earn it. For the next two weeks, you will fetch water for my school daughter and I. I don’t care how you will do it but make sure my water is warm. Not hot, not cold, definitely not room temperature. One pail of hot water is to one and half pails of cold water. You are a Science student, figure it out. And oh, I bath twice a day- three times when I have to stay up late to study- so bear that in mind.’
The poor girl looked like she was about to tear up.
‘Listen, I am training you for the future. You might have a witch of a mother in law or an angry menopausal woman of a boss. You will look at her and think,’You are nothing compared to Sister Afrakuma’. You should be grateful. Consider it my gift to you.’
Her school daughter, Esther, was elated. Fetching water was such a chore and because she didn’t have a strong spine, she could only carry so much water at a time. She also knew that her father, being the Deputy Minister of Trade had something to do with why Afrakuma subtly pampered her . She made a mental note to tell her father to bring her a box of Kalyppo juice boxes for Sister Afrakuma. Tomorrow was visiting Saturday.
Visiting Saturdays were always exciting. It was preceded by a long list of dos and don’ts from either Gagert, the Senior House Mistress or the school prefects at assembly on Friday.
Don’t sit in anyone’s car.
Don’t go into the house with a phone, a tablet or a camera.
Don’t embrace anyone of the opposite sex for more than 7 seconds.
Don’t come out of the hall until you hear your name mentioned over the intercom system.
Make sure you are in the prescribed attire for visiting.
No black socks and slippers for the ladies.
No sagging shorts for the gentlemen.
No crossing over- under any circumstances (in Gagert’s words, not even when there is a fire!)
Names of defaulters will be written down during visiting and punished accordingly.
Visiting meant that Hala Week was over- the week where everyone could see the bottom of their chop boxes and thus hoarded their last bit of gari,sardines and tinned milk.During Hala Week, every grain of food in the dining hall vanished before the closing prayer was said. You either ate the food or you starved. The tuck shop was virtually empty because people could not afford the rock buns and spring rolls. It was no surprise then that the school was literally buzzing with excitement any time it was Visiting Saturday.
The Form 1s and 2s would typically spend their mornings cleaning the house and the Form 3s would lazy about under the guise of supervising. By 12 noon, everyone would take a bath or freshen up. Out came the ‘visiting attires’- everyone had at least one attire that was reserved just for visiting. The girls’ house dresses were shorter and more clingy. The boys’ shirts were actually white- not off white or light cream- but white. Many of the girls would scarf their hair after bathing to make it look well-kept. Lips were well-glossed. Hair was well brushed- moustaches too (if you had one).
By 1pm, the anticipation would be so thick that you could only cut through it with a chain saw. When the gates opened at 2pm, the atmosphere would be charged with excitement. This was Kwamena’s third visiting Saturday and yet he was still amused at how things worked around here. There were people who took it upon themselves to sit on the short wall in front of the house and guess whose parent was approaching- either from the car they were driving or whether or not someone bore a striking resemblance to the visitor.
‘Charles Agyekum please.’
‘Sir, please there is no Charles Agyekum in this house.’
‘Are you sure? Isn’t this Liberation House? This is his house.’
‘Ah, wait oo. He is talking about Rokoto. Can’t you see the little girl looks like him?’
‘Aaaah Rokoto. Yo, K Beck, call him for me. He is in Dorm 3B.’
‘Rokoto? Why on earth is he called that?’
Kwamena muffled his laughter and headed inside to call Rokoto. He could never get over the horrified looks of the parents. Last visiting, a mother discovered that her son had traded his beautiful name Jason for a nickname like Thong Slayer. She looked ready to transfer him from the school and enroll him in a monastery.
Just like everything else in Capital High, visiting had its own unspoken rules. Girls gave different visiting times to different categories of persons- the family came first at 2pm; the sugar daddies at 3pm and the original boos stayed from 4pm to 5:30pm. Even the house prefects had learnt to delay finding a student for his or her visitor when it was obvious that there had been a clash with visiting times. For power couples like Adriana and Curtis, it was romance at its peak. Curtis got a basket of food from Adriana’s mum every Visiting Saturday and they saw off both sets of parents together.
Just as classes of people existed, classes of visiting chow* also existed. There were the Corn Flakes-Horlicks-chocolate chip cookies-canned drinks-Pringles-Papaye kind of people, whose parents came with boxes of bottled water. These were the high and mighty. It was useful to have a friend or two in that category. There were also the Parlays biscuit-Chocolim-plantain chips-Juvita-banku kind of people. Those were the kind that Kwamena loved. There was nothing like a home cooked meal. He wasn’t getting a visitor this time so he could just wander around and observe. He knew he would have something to eat that night. In his dorm, visiting food was eaten communally. The bankus and the fufus went down first and the rices and yams were taken as dessert. It didn’t matter who got visited and who didn’t. Everyone ate together. Of course, there was also the legendary Chow Pae, literally meaning ‘there is food here.’
Chow Pae had a distinctive nose and could tell what food was being eaten, no matter where it was. He had a knack of appearing just after the food was opened with a spoon that could pass for a ladle. Kwamena had heard of him but only saw him in action the last visiting Saturday. He entered their dorm and said, ‘I smell okro soup and banku with snails and wele.’ Even the boy whose food it was was amazed, because he had no idea there were snails in the food. Chow Pae would go and perform his magic from dorm to dorm and by 7pm, he would have eaten all sorts of things- from pizza to akple to pounded yam and egusi soup. To top it all, he never had a tummy upset, not even when the other boys he had eaten with were all running. Surprisingly, because of his ladle-spoon, he ate the lion’s share of any meal- and yet he was as skinny as an emaciated broomstick.
Kwamena spotted Akpene heading for the dining hall.He followed her stealthily and made it look like it was a coincidence that they were both in the dining hall.
‘Nobody is visiting you today?’, he initiated, watching her bite into a bread roll from one of the tables.
‘No. I really don’t want to talk.’
‘That’s fine. We can just sit in silence. Nobody comes to the dining hall during visiting hours anyway. I wonder why the matron bothers to leave bread.’
They sat in silence- just them with bowls of bread and tinned milk in the empty dining hall. He turned over to look at her once or twice. She was lost in thought. He found it extremely cute that she was not bothered by the silence. They sat there until the bell went for visiting to end.
Kwamena didn’t know why but he felt like he had made progress. Outside, some of the girls were bidding their boyfriends farewell and trying to slyly sneak in a peck or two. The dadabas and mamabas were probably crying because their parents were leaving them.
‘See you around, Akpene.’
‘Bye, K Beck.’
‘Ms. Ampadu is calling you.’
More out of curiousity than anything else, she made her way to her house mistress’ house. The food Jerry had brought her was getting cold, but it could wait. Something told her that this would be worth it.
‘The reason why I have called you here is very simple. A few of us plan to overthrow Gagert because we are unhappy with the way she is running the school. We would need some student support. That’s where you come in.’
‘Interesting. Tell me more.’
An hour later, Afrakuma smiled to herself as she stepped out of Ms. Ampadu’s house. One of the benefits of keeping a low profile was that very few people knew about her background. Gagert wasn’t family to her but she might as well have been, because she was the one who had given Afrakuma a shot at an education. She had offered to pay her school fees when she was transferred to the school because Afrakuma’s mother could not afford the fees and was tempted to send her daughter off to learn a trade.
That night, she knocked at Gagert’s door.
‘Auntie Gertrude, I know it is late but there is something you need to know.’
See you next week…
*Hala Week- the week where everyone is broke