‘Are you sure?’ I asked Benny.
‘ Trust me Keji, she’s fast asleep already’
‘But what if Miss Sarah is awake? She rarely sleeps’
‘She won’t be awake. Whereas this isn’t my first time. Trust me on this. Okay?’
I signed. Well, it’s true it isn’t his first time taking fruits from the store, plus I’m so famished. I guess I have to trust him.
I didn’t eat last night cause Miss Sarah prohibited me from taking my dinner as a punishment for breaking a mug and two ceramic plates while doing the dishes. I tried explaining to her that I dropped them because a rat ran across my feet and whereas the mug was already half broken, but she wouldn’t hear of it and just punished me.
Benji wanted to bring back a slice of yam for me but Miss Sarah caught him while he was trying to sneak it in the dorm and therefore promised to punish him because taking your food out of the dinning Hall is prohibited.
Benny guessed his punishment will affect breakfast the next day, so we both made a plan before going to bed last night to meet here at exactly 3am, 4hours after night inspections, to steal some fruits from the store to eat.
Actually, it isn’t Benny’s first time.
When I was ten and Madame Tessy took me to the children’s Ward to get treated. On getting back I was crying profusely like a baby because I couldn’t bear to cope with the pain on one side of my buttocks. I hate injections and I hate hospitals.
This was all Benny’s fault. He told our caretaker I was sick. No one knew, not even my roommates.
I decided not to talk to him for a week. I’ll hate him for the week. But on getting to the gate of THU, we met Benny awaiting us.
‘Welcome ma’ he said greeting madam Tessy.
‘ thank you my dear. How are you today?’
‘Fine ma. Ma, let me take her to the dorm ma.’
‘oh that will be great. Thank you dear.’
Turning to me, she said, ‘now will you stop being a crybaby and wipe those tears up’
I tried drying my eyes up but I was still in pain.
”Benji, ask Miss Sarah to see me’ she said while moving towards her office.
I started moving towards my dorm.
‘wait, let me take you there.’
I didn’t bother listening. Instead of waiting, I intensified my walking pace. This was all his fault. I had him running towards me.
‘Take this. Don’t let anyone see you while eating it’ He said putting a ball of tangerine in my right palm.
Tangerines! I had forgotten how I said I wasn’t going to talk to him for a week or how tired and sleepy I was at the moment. I was happy. I love tangerines. As a matter of fact, I’ve been thinking about Wednesday morning when we each get a ball to school.
‘Thank you Benny’ I said smiling.
‘Make sure no one sees you while eating it, okay? Now let’s go.’
It was after a while, I knew he stole them from the store.
Boys aren’t allowed in girl’s dorm and vice versa, so we met underneath the stairs that led to the female dorms.
I followed closely behind Benny. Since it was past light out we were going to the store blindly. Truth, we were going to store with the map already conjured up in Benny’s brain. He’s the smart one between us incase you haven’t noticed. We walked quietly towards the door that led outside.
THU is one of the biggest orphanages here in my country Nigeria. Although, it has a very weird name but that doesn’t mean people don’t pump in money every now and then into it.
The buildings were built around a big playing field for children. It had 8 buildings in total. A building for children between ages 0-5, called Growth hall. Another for children between ages 6-10 called Hope hall. The third building for those between ages 11- 15 called Peace Hall. That’s the building Benny and I came out from.
When I first came here, although we weren’t in the same building but we were friends. When I clocked eleven and I was transferred to the 3rd building, he automatically became my best friend. I told him the moment I had the chance that he was my best friend and he said I should wait in line, it’ll be my turn very soon.
I wasn’t sure of what that means, but all I know is we’ve become inseparable since i came to this building. He’ll be leaving for the fourth building very soon and I know I’ll miss him very much.
The other buildings comprises of a building for the older children between the ages of 16-18 which is Joy hall, the orphanage’s laundromat, the kitchen, the multi purpose hall and the last building is a self con lived in, only by Madam Tessy.
Each buildings has four caretakers assigned to each. Miss Sarah was in my hall when I was in the second building. The month I got to the third building which was my birth month August, a caretaker retired, so Miss Sarah replaced her.
Benny and I crawled towards the Kitchen building.
Benny knew what time the watchmen roams the field so we made it through without anyone noticing us. When we got to the kitchen I was almost out of breathe, I guess this act is what people call ‘work for your food’.
‘Shhhh’. He pointed towards Madame Tessy’s building, I understood what he was trying to say Imediately. I should be quite, if not she might wake up.
All I wanted to know was how we were to get inside without the keys to the gigantic padlock on the doors.
We crawled through to the back of the building. When we got to the back of the building, there was a window slightly opened. I smiled. My Benny is so clever.
He opened the window gently and motioned for me to wait quitely. He jumped through the window and he was gone.
Today was one of those really dark night cause we had a half moon covered by the clouds. I thanked goodness all was going according to plan.
After about 4mins I guess, Benny stretched an apple to me outside the window, I collected it happily, and waited till he stretches another forward. He brought a bunch of banana and 3 apples.
We crawled to the multi purpose building and ate the fruits hungrily. We knew better than to talk.
Benny checked his wrist watch and noticed we had wasted enough time. We had to be in bed in 7mins if not we were doomed. He didn’t have to say it, but I knew with the way he was looking.
We ran through the field praying no one would spot us. W
When we got to our building’s door, Benny peeped through to make sure no one was in the common room before we crawled in. Imediately we got to the stairs, we parted ways without saying good-bye. Each to their respective rooms. I stay at G13 and Benny B9.
I didn’t know I was holding my breath until I got into my room.
Quietly, I got on my bed.
‘Where are you coming from?’
I didn’t need lights to know who was talking. Wasn’t expecting anyone to speak, so her voice really scarred me. For real. It was Toyosi, one of my roommates. I knew I had to think fast if I wanted to live through the next day here.
‘ I went to the toilet, and on my way back, I was tasty, I went to get water.’
‘ You’ve been gone for a while…’
‘ Yes, since it’s dark I had to take my time walking gently’ I said stuttering. I hope she didn’t notice that.
Thank goodness and Bless Benny. I’m happy he’s my friend. Although, stealing is wrong but we’ve got to eat. Just like Benny always says, this is the survival of the fittest.
The Fruit heist Benny and I pulled through early this morning has left me very tired and sleepy. After eating, I walked nonchalantly to the kitchen to assist in the dishwashing, every hall names at least three persons to assist with the dishes. I was named again, all thanks to Miss Sarah. I Know she hates me.
‘Miss Sarah told me she caught you taking yam from the dinning room last night.’ I heard Mr. John say. Then he continued, ‘ so you have to do the dishes before going to school this morning. You better hurry up if you want to go along with the bus’
‘Yes sir’ Benny replied sleepily.
Benny’s guess was wrong.
He wasn’t exempted from breakfast but rather he had to do the dishes alone. No partner.
Everyone was happy to abandon the dishes to him. I would have love to help him but I don’t want to get on the other side of Mr.John.
‘Hello Keji’ he said looking surprised, ‘ what did you do again?’
‘Nothing. All thanks to Mr John, my punishment is over.’
‘Should I break a mug, so I’ll be punished by washing the dishes with you?’
Benny stopped washing a plate that moment and turned to look at me for some seconds before laughing out loud. Seeing him laugh made me smile because I always like seeing him laugh. It was like a sweet music to my ears.
He hurriedly did what he was meant to do while I pulled up some jokes off memory to keep him company. When he was done, we went back to the dorms to change into our uniforms so as not to miss the bus.
Anyone who misses the bus has to trek and that is a punishment on it’s own.
We attended Yale comprehensive college. It was quite a school. I was in the Junior class 2 and Benny in senior class 1. We don’t see each other in school because the senior classes are way far from the Junior’s but he doesn’t fail to assist me with my home work everyday.
‘Why are you late?’
‘Sorry, I couldn’t find my socks on time’ I said apologetically while we ran out to join the queue of other children heading for the bus.
Imediately we entered the bus, Benny looked at me and I knew what he was trying to say ‘we are late again because of you’
The best seats in the bus were already occupied, the rest of us will have to stand or sit on the laps of any of our friends. I hate been late. I turned to Benny and mouthed ‘sorry.’ He sighed and started searching for someone he could pair with while I did the same.
‘Oh, Benji I left a seat for you. Come’
I turned my head slightly to check out who spoke.
It was Margaret. Margaret ‘Marg’ Lopez. I know it’s funny, but that’s her name. She’s one of, scratch that, she’s the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen. She’s pretty. And she knows it. Thus, hurting the rest of us in the process of her making.
She’s some months older then Benny, so she’s in hall 4 but they’re both in the same class.
Now that I think about it, Benny will be leaving our hall very soon. He’ll be 16 and he’ll be leaving in three months time, a month after my birthday. I don’t want to think about him leaving our hall, but I know I have to confront my fear of him leaving soon.
I turned to see Benny grinning from one ear to another. Marg, the most beautiful girl kept a seat for him.
Oh, what more could be magical than that?
‘ Thank you’ he said
‘ Okay….., Did you do your English homework’ Marg asked quietly but I heard. I knew there was more to her keeping a seat for him. What a fake!
‘Everybody get seated’ Baba Tayo called from the driver’s seat looking into his mirror.
I pleaded with someone to lap me, and she agreed to lap me. Oh, i’m not that bad you know.
…to be continued.