My best friend, Hannah, is perfect. Her eyes are the most striking thing about her though, she is only 13 but her big brown eyes carry a certain depth, like the tell-tale badge of an old soul. She smiles from her eyes, her eyes blaze crimson when she is angry, it pales when she is sad; her eyes show everything. That’s what makes it so easy to be her friend; she is an open book, and if I am being honest, I am in awe of her. Hannah is graceful; she walks with a certain confidence, striding purposely with an energy that seemed to flow from her legs and spread all the way to her chin, always held high. On the other hand, I walked apologetically, hung head and slouched shoulders, rambling behind her unnoticed.
Hannah is an only child raised by a single mother; so one will think that she is a spoilt brat pining for attention. However, She is to the best of my knowledge, the most well behaved person our age; I think she tries too hard to be faultless, to make up for the fact that she was raised by her mother alone. The mother she adored but no one had ever seen. Five years, I have been friends with Hannah, we spend more time in each other’s houses than we spend in ours but I have never met her mother. Hannah tells me that her mother works for a big company, she points excitedly when we pass the bright red filling station on our way from school and explains why there is a certain promo or certain advert going on because her mother makes them. I listen intently when she starts explaining; arms flailing, face animated and it is only in times like these that she really lets herself go and I can see the real Hannah peeking out; the Hannah that begs to be unrestrained.
The only other time I saw Hannah unrestrained was the day of the infamous mathematics incident. You see, Hannah was a star pupil; did home-works on time, read ahead of class, came to school earlier than most. She even held the record for the only student in school who was never flogged or punished, not even in general class punishments. So imagine the resentment; from students and even the very few teachers who were itching for an excuse to deal with her and could not find one. Chief among them was our Math teacher, Mr. Adeniran, a very nasty fellow. In his words, Mathematics was a very serious subject, there was nothing colourful about it so we had to do our math with a black pen; just another excuse to find faults and dole out beatings. Hannah knew all his rules by heart and made her mission to never fall victim; which of course, angered him even more, so he had it out for her.
And the day came, I remember it vividly because I had never seen Hannah more excited.
“Opeyemi, guess what?” she said
I was clueless but it didn’t matter, she didn’t even let me speak.
“My mum is coming back today! We’ll see her when we get back from school. Shey you will comman see her? You’ll finally see my mum!”She was so full of energy, I almost felt bad that I didn’t feel the same.
It wasn’t the first time Hannah had told me this. It wasn’t the first time that we had hurried to her house from school and run in to find the house empty; it wasn’t the first time I had to watch her fight tears though her face was red as a berry. I already knew it wasn’t going to work but I feigned excitement anyways.
Hannah could not sit still all through the car ride to school. I was privileged to get a car ride in Hannah’s mother’s Benz. Her nanny, Abigail was responsible for dropping her off and picking her up from school and as I occupied the Office of the Bestie, they had to pick me up and drop me off as well. I know what you’re thinking: What a parasitic relationship! Believe me when I say that Hannah gains more from this friendship than I do. She stays over in my house sometimes and I watch my parents gush all over her, to the surprise of me and my two siblings. Like who are they kidding? We already know their true colors. Sometimes, I see her playing with my father and my heart swells with a certain feeling, a mixture of jealousy thinking that my father probably wished I was more like her; or the pride, that I had something that Hannah would never have; or the gratefulness that I had what others long for. But all in all, the relationship was symbiotic.
So permit me to enjoy the air conditioning while Hannah makes a fuss about seeing her mother. I can almost imagine her sitting in class absentminded, willing the earth to rotate faster so we can get out of school.
Absent-minded was the word, it was the word that led to the chaos. We got into the first class of the day. Seeing Mr Adeniran’s balding head and scowling face was not how I wanted to start my day but alas! Mathematics must take pre-eminence. We were soon submitting our assignments and after submitting mine, I noticed Hannah frantically searching her back pack.
“Hannah, what it is?” I said, slipping into the honorary regalia of the dutiful bestie.
“My mum… when I was in the living room to tell me she was coming. My assignment… it was on the table… I swear I thought I put it in my bag”, she was in full on panic mode by now. It took me a while to figure out that she was speaking into a phone.
“Please Aunty Abigail bring the homework for me, please”, her voice was breaking and I wondered if this would be the day she would finally let herself go and cry.
I wished this happened with one of the teachers that adored her. Sadly, it was Mr. Adeniran, her arch nemesis. I cast a quick glance at him and he was already going through the books on the table, any moment now he would…
“Ehinomen Hannah! Where’s your assignment?”
We both froze.
“Sir, I left it at home”, she squeaked.
“You did what?!” from his bulging eyes we knew that there was no escaping this.
“I lef…left it at home sir” Hannah was hyperventilating, she clung to my arm with her sweaty palms; I felt powerless.
Mr Adeniran couldn’t believe his ears; it was too good to be true. He licked his lips and he waddled his short legs over to the back of the class where we stood. He grabbed Hannah by the ears and dragged her to the front of the class; it all went downhill from there.
The teacher accused Hannah of not doing the assignment and lying about leaving it at home. Hannah swore on her father’s grave that she did the assignment, then she accidentally mentioned that she called her nanny to bring the work from home. You see, bringing a phone to school was an offense and from the look on Mr. Adeniran’s animated face, an offense punishable by death.
He beat Hannah that day; the kind of beating that seemed disproportionate to the offense. Then hauled her off to the principal’s office like a thief; all that was left was a car tyre, petrol and a crown of thorns. I led the procession to the principal’s office; like the women of Jerusalem, the other students and I followed closely behind murmuring. Some students were sympathetic, others were glad that Hannah finally got what was coming to her. Me? I just trudged along with a heavy heart.
Not too long after we got to the principal’s office, Aunty Abigail arrived assignment in hand. The teachers that assembled to get the gist shooed the other students but they let me stay, however, they didn’t let me enter the principal’s office with Aunty Abigail. I pressed my ear to the door hoping to be fed crumbs of the commotion that was going on in there. Commotion, because there was a lot of shouting, crying and every other thing in between. Sometime later, Aunty Abigail emerged from the office sweating and panting, all I heard was Mr. Adeniran’s irksome voice scream in yoruba, “Call her now! Let her come…” before the door slammed shut again.
Aunty Abigail paid me no attention, she breezed past me holding her phone to her ear. Tensions were rising and I stood at the waiting room; my heart beat threatening to deafen me. Aunty Abigail walked back into the waiting room and saw me, “Opeyemi just wait here, she’s coming. This people have not seen anything yet”
She re-entered the principal’s office and everything seemed to quiet down. My knees felt like they would give way under me so I sank into one of the three-seater metal chairs in the waiting room. Time passed, I started having little shudders and I soon realized, not only was I sitting directly under the air conditioning but the feeling of the cold metal chair against my skin wasn’t doing me any good. I bent to hug my thighs and keep warm, in time to hear the sound of heels click-clacking on the granite tiled floors. I looked up from the gold strapped shoes, red toe nail polish and I was stunned beyond words.
She was charging towards me, with strides as menacing as they were elegant. She was clad from head to toe in pink; Pink suit, pink earrings, pink nails. Blinding in all her pink perfection, I almost squinted as I stared at her from toe to head. When I saw her face, her eyes, I instantly knew who she was. Her eyes were just like Hannah’s only fiercer, like they could laser through whoever was staring into it. I wished time stood still so I could study her as best I could, but she charged past me and into the principal’s office; leaving the door open, thankfully.
“Hannah”, she said in a deep but sonorous voice. Everyone in the office turned and stared.
She took a second to behold her daughter; sweaty, swollen and snot-nosed. Wordlessly, she took Hannah by the hand and went out of the office. Everyone followed suit and so did I. They kept yelling Mrs Ehinomen! Mrs. Ehinomen! Till they followed her all the way to the car park; now, the whole school was watching from the windows of their classes. She headed straight to her car and moved to open the door when the Principal held her arm.
She turned and glared at him; his hands jerked from her arms of their own accord. Next, her gaze fell on Mr. Adeniran who stood, non-chalantly, behind the principal; looking away like he had somewhere else to be.
She spoke to Abigail; “Which one of them, is it?”
Abigail pointed to Mr. Adeniran.
“You’ll be hearing from my lawyers soon”, She spoke in Mr Adeniran’s direction and opened the door to her car.
We all wished Mr Adeniran had begged or pleaded or just kept quiet, but hotheads just need to have the last word.
“Nothing will happen! You think money can solve everything! Maybe if you raised your child yourself she wouldn’t be in this position!”
She didn’t even wait for the gasp to escape from our lips before she charged at him and knocked him to the floor. I had never really understood the expression, fighting tooth and nail until that day. She punched, scratched, bit and broke a couple nails before they yanked her, kicking and screaming, from Mr. Adeniran’s bloody form.
The whole school was agog, cheering her on; who didn’t despise her contender? And I could swear, she fulfilled all our fantasies that day. After they made sure that Mr. Adeniran wasn’t dead and helped him to his feet, she entered her BMW SUV and drove off with Hannah in the car, followed closely by Abigail’s Mercedes.
I went back to my classroom to get mine and Hannah’s things when I heard the chant: Pink Ranger! Pink Ranger! Despite how shaken I was with everything that had happened, I smiled. What a woman!
She settled for Mr Adeniran getting dismissed but she left Hannah in our school, much to my relief. Hannah now roams the halls of school with an even wider smile on her face, mostly because she didn’t have to share her mother anymore. She told me her mother had a bevy of assistants now at her beck and call; leaving her enough time to show up for PTA meetings, open days and every other event in the school. Sometimes, she even picked us up and dropped us off herself; days like that, she would walk Hannah into class herself and walk to our her class to pick her up, as a warning to the entire school; Beware, the Pink Ranger.
Author’s note: Yay! The first story of ST’ART and I am hoping and praying that you like it ’cause it took a lot out of me. I was privileged to have a friend who was raised by a single mother and her story inspired me to write PINK RANGER, dedicated to all the women who are trying to the best mother they can be. And since it’s my birthday too, the featured art is a picture of yours truly (grin). I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this one. Cheers to the beginning of a new journey!
Love, Rosie (xoxo)