One of the school’s most visited cafeteria was in a usual frenetic state that afternoon, with students eating and talking loudly, but everyone suddenly fell silent when they saw Esther standing by the cafeteria door.
For the past three weeks she has been at the receiving end of their scornful looks.
“There was no getting used to that” She silently muttered to herself as she joined the long queue of people waiting in line for their turn to order food. It soon got to her turn and she ordered jollof rice, fish and a drink. She brought out her purse and paid the attendant who in turn thanked her for the patronage. Esther nodded and looked round in search of an available table to eat. Everyone was seated in twos and threes around a centre table, giving her uninviting glances.
She soon spotted a table with only one student seated, the female student looked engrossed in her food and most likely wouldn’t pay attention to Esther.
Esther approached the table and sat opposite the student.
“Hello” Esther smiled at her
The student looked up from her food, gave her a repelling look and hastily carried her tray of food away to another table.
“Ok then,three seats for me” Esther mumbled.
She ate to her fill, savouring the delicious taste of the jollof rice.
“So you finished everything without me” Anita tweaked her ear from behind
“Sorry, was so hungry and you didn’t come on time. Let me get you another” Esther got up to leave, but Anita pulled her back down.
“No need, it’s almost time for class” She reminded.
Esther was not anticipating attending the class, infact she hasn’t attended any classes in the last few days, ever since she faced the disciplinary panel. On that day it suddenly became more glaring that everything she had worked for in the last four years might be over in a flash.
If she’s expelled, attending classes wouldn’t matter anymore.
“It’s time” Anita interrupted her thoughts and pulled her up with determined firmness. Esther didn’t resist as they walked silently to the lecture hall.
On getting there Esther was greeted with whistles of derision and sneers from her coursemates, their faces not hiding the contempt they felt towards her.
Anita blurted out some words in her defence and Esther gave her a gentle tap on her shoulder, telling her it was best to ignore them.
“You’re so strong, most people can’t handle this in the stoic manner you’re handling it”
Esther half smiled in response.
The lecture hall was stuffy most of the time, but today it felt stuffier than usual.
Esther seethed in silence when she overheard the conversation a group of people were having about her. Everyone suddenly had an opinion about her, mostly wrong ones and she had no way of defending herself. Anita noticed the little frown that was starting to form on Esther’s face and grasped her hand tightly.
It was her own way of pacifying her.
The lecturer soon came in, restoring normalcy in the hall.
The class ended in two hours with the lecturer giving them an assignment to work on. An assignment Esther might not even get to submit if she’s expelled.
As they walked back to the hostel it dawned on Anita she had forgotten to take their room key that morning
“Jeez, I didn’t hold my key, did you?” Anita asked Esther?
“No I didn’t, but Moni should be around…if she’s not we’d wait for her in the next room”
“What If she’s not with her key too?” Anita enquired giving her a worried look
“We would break down the door” Esther stated. She met Anita’s questioning gaze and quickly added that she was joking.
“You cracked a joke, wow been a while” Anita smiled at her
“I know right?” Esther pondered for a moment before she continued “Anyway Moni is always with her key so there’s nothing to worry about” Esther assured her.
The door was locked by the time they got to the hostel. Monisola the third and final occupant of their room was not back yet.
Anita expressed her disappointment as they walked to the next room.
“Where are you guys going to?” an orotund voice called out to them. They turned to look and it was Monisola, giving them a confused look. Anita’s face lit up with joy when she saw Monisola.
“Didn’t know you were in, the door was locked” Anita explained on entering the room
“You should have knocked” Monisola replied shutting the door behind them.
Esther had been having trouble sleeping in the last few weeks, but that night it was worse.
She had woken up from a nightmare at 1’am and found it hard to go back to sleep again.
Her fate in the school must have been decided by the disciplinary planel already and in a day or two their final verdict would be disclosed to her. Fear and uncertainty filled her and she shut her eyes, saying a silent prayer.