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When Amaka got back from Benin, Temi narrated to her all that had happened in her absence, and told her she would like to stop cooking for the guys too, cos Jeff was always complaining about her food. If the eba was not too soft, the rice would be too salty – but If Amaka would not mind doing most of the cooking, then the alliance with the guys could continue. Amaka declined, so the foodstuff was shared again, and each room cooked separately.
Jeff and I were no longer on talking terms, and it was absolutely fine by me. Good riddance to bad rubbish. He also stopped talking to Zahra. Bankz and I only said Hi to each other. Amaka on the hand still hung out with both of them. As for the kitchen things, Dennis was left to do it all, and on the days he didn’t, they visited the local restaurant nearby. One time, Jane, a corps member serving at Amalla came over to spend the weekend with Bankz and prepared a pot of soup and stew for them. When she left, Jeff bragged for days about how her cooking was superb, and hoped she’ll come again soon.
The girl was a silly desperate thing, Amaka had told me. Bankz had smashed her, the two nights she had slept over and was bragging about how she was the one throwing herself at him. Somehow I felt ashamed for her. How could she have had sex with Bankz while two other guys slept paces away? She didn’t even fear that the whole thing could turn into a gang bang.
Zahra stepped into the staff room, exasperation written all over her face.
“These students are so dumb walahi.” She huffed.
“Which class are you coming from?” I asked.
“JSS 3.” she answered. “Dumb asses, the lot of them.”
Just then Mr. Emeka, the basic technology teacher stepped in. He stood behind Zahra and dipped his hand into her trouser’s back pocket. Zahra turned to grab the trespassing hand and he attempted to dip the second into the other pocket.
“Don’t try that again!” She shifted away and pointed a finger at him, her voice laced with anger.
“Chai, see this small girl o!” he exclaimed. “Who are you pointing at?”
“Uncle. You want sharia law to catch you! Don’t you know that Zahra is a Muslim?” Amaka asked.
“Abeg this is not the north, and I’m not a Muslim.”
Zahra glared at him, hissed and marched out of the staff room. I watched her leave, astonished at her silence.
“Yes, you are not a Muslim, but she is, and since everyone has a right to the religion they chose to believe in, you should respect hers.” I said to Mr. Emeka.
“Besides, what just happened, has nothing to do with religion.” I turned to Amaka. “Would you let him dip his hands in your pocket like that?”
“I…” Amaka started.
“What do you mean?” Mr. Michael interrupted, his voice raised a few decibels.
I turned to him. “I mean, what you just did can be constituted has sexual harassment.”
“What?” He exclaimed.
“Yes. When you dipped your hand into her pockets, did you not touch her bum bum?”
“I was just playing na.”
“That’s not play. That’s an invasion of personal space.”
Only 3 teachers were in the staff room at the time and they looked on as we debated on whether what he did was right or not. Eventually, he went to his seat and started speaking in Igbo to the biology teacher beside him.
“Hey. You still angry?” I asked Zahra as we trekked back to the lodge.
“No. not really.” She shrugged. “It’s not his fault. It’s mine, for deciding to serve here. I could have played the religion card and be out of here in a jiffy, but I didn’t.”
I laughed at that. “Come on. It’s not that bad. Besides, you need to start speaking up, especially if someone wants to head butt you cos of your religion.”
“I don’t know very much about Islam,” I continued, “But I know some Muslims that are really nice people.”
“Yes, me too. Me I even know plenty Muslims. In fact some of my family members are Muslims.” Temi joined the conversation. “The problem we have in this country is that we like shoving our religion down other people’s throat, instead of allowing them to choose what they want to believe in.”
“Thank you both. That’s a nice thing to say.” Zahra smiled at us.
“I’m sorry for mentioning your religion.” Amaka apologized.
“Dewunmi was right. What he did wasn’t about religion. I wouldn’t have liked him to do the same to me, although I don’t think I would have reacted the way you did.”
“Are you kidding me? He practically grabbed her butt. I would have reacted worse than that.”
“Aunty, good evening.”
I turned towards the voice. Chioma, a SS 2 student, stood in our kitchen, an open pot on the stove in front of her.
“Good evening. How are you?”
“I’m fine ma.”
I stared at her for a few more seconds, then walked into my room. I had left the house for close to three hours, to the field in front of the lodge where I could find stable MTN network to browse the internet.
“What is Chioma doing in our kitchen?” I asked Amaka and Temi. Zahra was speaking in Hausa with someone on the phone.
Amaka laughed out loud, clapping her hands together. Zahra thumped her with her right foot to lower the noise.
“Cooking for his royal majesty.” Temi whispered, a smile dancing in her eyes.
“You know since we split from them, Dennis has been doing all the work. Well, it’s like he doesn’t cook for them anymore cos they’ve been eating out for the past four days. So they decided to call the poor student to come cook for them.” Amaka explained.
Zahra ended the call, her face in a scowl.
“Why do men always want women to jump and do their bidding?” She hissed.
“That’s a one million dollar question. What’s the problem?” I asked.
“Idris wants me to come spend the weekend with him in Abuja.”
Idris was Zahra’s boyfriend. They had met when she went to school for her certificate. They had exchanged numbers and had started a long distance relationship 2 months later.
“And how is that a problem?” Amaka chirped. “Is he not your boyfriend?”
“I can’t afford to lodge in a hotel and I don’t want to stay in his house.”
“Because his house is also his parent’s house. Dan Allah, it’s too early to be spending the weekend with the parents.”
“Really? How come?” Temi asked. “Me I spend days at my boyfriend’s family house o. His mum even calls me.”
“Ehm. We haven’t gotten to that stage abeg. Meeting the parent is okay. But staying days with them? No. we are not there yet. We’ve barely dated for 6 months.”
“Have you told him all this?”
“No. I just told him I couldn’t come.”
“Hmm. Why not just tell him? Since he is the one insisting you come, he can pay for your hotel bills na.”
“Ehm. I’ll rather not. He’ll pay for my hotel accommodation now and start hoping for something in return.”
“Hian. Something like what na? Nobody can make you do what you don’t want to do.” I said. “In any case, you both can pitch in for the bills.”
“I’ll think about it.”