Rose turns around hugging Grace..jumping happily. But the look on Grace’s face caused her to stop ..
“Whats wrong Grace?? What’s the matter. ? She tugged her sleeves. Grace’s eyes darted left and right, she pushed her way in and stood face to face with the board. Rose behind her..
“Grace what’s wrong. What’s your score..??”
“I …I can’t find mine. It’s not there. It’s saying “zero” I don’t understand, All seven scripts. Zero!! ”
“What!!!.. that can’t be. Did you check it well??” Rose pushed her gently out of the way and searches for her name… and beside it, beside each course was the ord NIL. Which meant she either didn’t sit for it or….it was a missing script.
“That’s isn’t possible!” Grace voiced when Rose told her what it meant.
“I know right. You wrote those beside me. Let’s go to the HOD and complain…maybe it’s a mistake from their part.
Grace had already begun crying… she couldn’t control her tears..
“I read for those test. I wrote them.. how can they give me a Nil. All seven of them. It doesn’t make sense. Exams is just around the corner. What am I gonna do.??” She cried, oblivious of the onlookers. Rose gathered her in her arms.
“Ssshh hey, relax. Let’s just report it, they would check it. Am sure it’s there and this is just a mistake..”
“Or not!!” A voice says,
They turn around, as the crowd breaks and Victoria walks in like the queen that she is, a path opened up for her…the slight murmuring began.
James and Anthony had turned and had begun walking away having seen theirs, when they heard the commotion and chattering…
“What the hell??” He mouthed.
“Isn’t that Victoria ?? ..
Her voice was heard as everyone else kept quiet, they wanted to listen to every detailed showdown and when it concerned Victoria, they were never disappointed.
“GRACE!!!” Anthony exclaimed and pushed his way back into the crowd, James behind him.
“Whats wrong poor Gracey…someone take your toy from you??” She folded her arms, revealing beautiful cleavage.
“Victoria stop, you can see she isn’t happy at the moment. ” Rose pleads, pulling Grace away. But Bunmi stands in front of them.
“You don’t leave until she is done talking.” …
“What do you want ?” Grace spoke through her tears.
“Oh nothing really. Am just wondering why you are crying like a little girl. It’s not enough you live like a rotten pig at home with worms as your sleeping bed mates. You stroll back into school with no shame now you are crying like a willy-whining baby in front of the school. Are you sure you are even old enough to be in the university. ..come tell us your age little girl!!”
The crowd laughed. Victoria was enjoying herself.
Sandra looks through the board, pointing. .
“Oh poor Grace, she flunked all seven courses. For a pretty girl you are quite daft.”
“I didn’t, I studied and I wrote them all of them, I have been an exceptional student all through my stay in the Lagos university. How can I flunk a mere test.”! Grace spat, defending herself.
Victoria blew her nails, smiling..
“How were you getting your A’s.? I assume by taking in huge sticks in your mouth and breaking your back on the ground for those lecturers out in Lagos..?”
Graced gasped, Rose was shocked and the crowd chuckled. Victoria was having the time of her life. It was even better with a willing audience who knew better than to intrude .
“How dare you insinuate I slept with lecturers for my grade!!”
Grace walked towards her, forgetting her teary eyes, Rose holds her back.
“Oh no?? Then how do you explain your daftness here. At least one should have given you a score. But all we see here is Nil. You should go back to crèche. You need to re-learn a thing or two. By the way, you are welcome. My advice is free.” She chuckled.
“We don’t have to listen to this nonsense. Let’s leave Grace”..Rose nudges Grace, daring Bumni to move
“Or maybe your mother was the one servicing them. Like Rose ‘ s mother, who has no idea who knocked her up. Tell me Rose, am I lying ” ..she smiled. She has hit a cord, and in public too. That would shut her up indefinitely.
Rose ‘ s grip on Grace loosens. She staggered back in shock, hand flew to her chest. Her eyes darting to the crowd as their eyes judged her.
In that minute, bumni and Sandra were distracted. Graced rushed to Victoria and slapped her across her face..
“How dare you insinuate that vile thing about my mother, how dare you ruin a friend. You are evil. You are cursed!!!”
Rose rushes to Grace as Bunmi and Sandra closed in. Victoria was too shocked to move.
Then her anger resurfaced and she grabs Graced by her collar, Bunmi and Sandra pull Rose away. No one intervened. No one dared to.
“You little cunt!!” Her hands rose over her head, Grace saw it coming, Victoria was strong for a girl, holding her by the collar, choking her…she closed her eyes and willed the slap to come down quickly. ..her struggling didn’t help her…
“VICTORIA! !!” Anthony breaks through the crowd , forcefully pulling her away from Grace as he held her hand. He stood face to face with her, Grace behind him.
“I warned you Victoria !!”
“But she hit me. You saw it. Everyone saw it. The bitch slapped me…she insulted me. In front of everyone. Don’t you dare come in between this Anthony. ”
“Its a lie. Victoria started it. ” Rose screamed from her end as she struggled to be let free by Bunmi and Sandra. James walked towards them, his look caused them to let her go.
“And all of you stood there and watched it all without intervening. What’s wrong with the lot of you. ..??” Anthony glared at them.
“Are you all that scared of Victoria. .. a mere girl. What can she do to you..?? That you let her prey on an innocent girl..!!”
“Apparently I can do a lot. So they respect themselves and stay out of my business. But she has no idea what am capable off that’s why she has the mind to slap me. I will break her arm and feed it to the worms that she breeds . That would teach her”
“You asked for it Victoria. After all take it as payment for your slap to her. ” he moved closer..
“By God Victoria you don’t want to test me and my patience is running thin. I don’t know what you did, but I have a feeling you somehow had a hand in what’s going on. But believe me, believe me….you would pay dearly for it if it turns out to be true. ” He threatened her.
“But baby how can you say that. I came here to check mine like every other person..and this twart attacked me. Now you blame me for her empty scores too… “?
“Victoria you never come to the board. You never check yours scores. For some reason you are never perturbed about tests or exams, but all of a sudden you seem to care. Tell that to the birds.”
He grabs Grace’s hands and pull her away..James and Rose behind him.
“Anthony. Don’t you dare walk out on me. Anthony.!!! ANTHONY !!”
They walked a good distance, Anthony not letting go off her hands, even when she tried to pull away. He pulled her into the car, and drove off when the four of them got in.
She didn’t stop crying. Rose was unusually quiet. She wouldn’t look James in the eye nor answer his questions. He understood. He heard what Victoria said. He didn’t want to make her remember. So he pretended as though he didn’t hear. But held her hands instead. She didn’t pull away.
“Stop the car. ”
“Wait. ..what..??” He looks sideways at her teary face.
“I said stop the car and let me out.” Grace repeated.
When he didn’t stop she started to scream. He quickly pulled into a curb and she jumped out immediately, and started walking. Rose made to get out but James shook his head..
“Let him” .
Anthony jumped out of the car and ran after her.
When he got to her and pulled her hands, she flung her hands away. He reached for it again..and held on tight.
She turned and screamed at him. Slapping him, hitting his chest.. He didn’t stop her. He didn’t even try. She stood and allowed her vent her bent up anger on him.
He knew it was his fault. He felt guilty. And if this was the only way for her to release her hurt..He would let her, so he raised up his arms and allowed her scream and hit his face..He only closed his eyes when she slowed down, when her screaming stopped. And her sobbing continued…He opened his eyes..
He wrapped his arms around her.. “Am sorry Grace” his voice cracked.
“Don’t touch me. It’s because of you Anthony. Don’t come near me. Don’t ever talk to me. Just disappear. What did I do. I don’t even talk to you. Don’t even like you and yet am getting all this. Just stay away from me”
She pushed his arms away. But he held her in place, her struggling didn’t cause him to waver.
“Am sorry Grace. Am so so sorry. It hurts to see you like this. Victoria is a mad woman. I have no idea why she does what she does.”
“I don’t care, just want both of you to leave me the hell alone” she screamed.
“Let go of me Anthony. Please!!!”
“No I won’t. I can’t. Now now. Not even by tomorrow. ” he held her tight.
“Victoria can get all crazy if she wants. I don’t care but I won’t let her hurt you again. I won’t allow it, whether am with you or not she would still find a way to. So I rather be close to you so I can protect you..don’t ask me to stay away because I won’t. Especially not now”
Her tears flowed freely.
“Please Grace. Let me help you at least, exams is around the corner…you need my help. Let me ..Please ! Am really really sorry Grace. ”
She kept quiet. But she wasn’t struggling anymore…but he held on to her still.
In another five minutes they were back in the car and drove in silence. No one saying a word.
…..**** three hours later***….
Victoria stood in the midst of 3 boys. They came in from another university.
“Who is troubling you, tell us. Don’t they have any fear. ?” The bigger one asked.
“Just tell us and we would take care of it.” The other one with a white goatee joined in.
“I just need you to threaten them for me, you can hurt one, make him bleed a little. But don’t touch this one, scare him, but don’t hurt him” she handed them a picture of Anthony, James and of Grace.
“And I have something entirely different in mind for her”…
She told them what she needed them to do.
Victoria always kept them close when she needed a job done that she didn’t want traced back to her. She walked out of the uncompleted building but not without dropping a packed envelop with them.
……*** Next day.The Dean’s office. ***….
She smiled when she saw him walking in. She adjusted her top and gave him her cutest smile.
He didn’t smile back.
“Is my father in??”
She blinked. He was never this stoned face. He was usually cheery and playful. Something was different about him.
“Whats wrong sunny boy…is everything okay? ?” She touched his arm.
“I just want to see the Dean. Is he in? Busy or alone..??”
He didn’t wait for her to finish. He knocked on his door and entered without permission.
His father turned, his reading glasses on the bridge of his nose and a cup of tea in one hand, news paper in the other.
“I didn’t remember asking anyone to come in” he placed his tea down and folding the newspaper.
“I didn’t remember I needed permission to see my father” .
Anthony sat down.
“Why are you here Antho?? Are you here as my son or as a student. ??”
“Am here as both. But most especially as the student body president. I have a complaint.”
“Go ahead!” His father seemed uninterested. ” But you do realize you can file a complaint form and pass it through the appropriate channels. It would get to me”
“I do. But what’s the point when I can see you directly. ”
His father only ached an eyebrow… “very well. I don’t have all day for your wit. What is it Antho”. His mother fondly called him that. He pushed away the throbbing in his chest.
“It has come to my notice that the new transfer has been experiencing some challenges with a certain course mate. And one of the outcome I believe as resulted in her scripts being tempered with. All seven courses . ”
“Who and who ??”
He thought for a second, deciding against giving him all the information.
“Grace Micheals…she is the new transfer I believe. Yesterday she realized that all her scripts pasted was Nil.”
“So ?? Don’t you think there is a reason to that. She didn’t pass it or she hasn’t been attending classes or simply flunked it.?? Don’t waste my time Antho” ..
“No sir, not when she sat for all. And not when her transfer manuscripts speaks of an ‘A’ student.” He replied.
He took the night to go over her documents he took from her. She was a star student. Someone definitely tempered with her scores. He could bet his life that it was Victoria. But who did it for her.
“Maybe she sorted her way through in her previous school”
“Father, she got a special approval from the Dean. That’s unlikely”
He nodded. Affirming.
“Has she gone to the HOD to complain…and ask for her test scripts. To crosscheck as see wether trully she flunked and deserved a Nil??
“That’s the thing father. Her scripts can’t be found. They all claimed not to have marked a Grace Micheal ‘ s script. Like she was absent . But she did. She wrote them .submitted them. How is it possible that not one saw it. It sounded fishy.”
His father relaxed on his chair, rubbing his jaw.
“How do you know…where you watching her the whole time. Why do you care Antho? She should be sitting here not you. You never liked to carry your position seriously but all of a sudden you seem to care about this Grace Micheals. Is she your new sexual interest? ?? “…
.. He might not butt into his son’s affairs but it didn’t mean he didn’t hear about his escapades. People talk. He was a man. One day he would have the decency to realize that there was no fun in youthful exuberance. But he let’s him, he couldn’t be the kind of father his son wanted. To love and care for him. Ever since his wife died he had withdrawn from him. He let him raise himself but supported him financially. But he knew money wasn’t love, it’s been too long he cared. It’s even too late to try. So he doesn’t.
“Well I do now and that doesn’t matter. Can you just check it. You must realize that it does sound fishy. ”
“Who is the HOD? ?”
“Erm Mr Bamidele ”
His father nods.
“I will make the necessary calls. But if I find nothing. I am to assume that she really did flunk her test or was absent. Then she has to work harder for her exams. Now..would there be anything more I can help you with??”
Anthony gets up. …shaking his head. He walked towards the door and paused.. He longed to tell him all that bothers him. About life, his struggles and pain. About the feelings he is beginning to have for a girl he had never felt before. He needed advice. He needed directions. He needed his father but when he turned. ..Mr Anthony the 1st had gone back to his newspaper and drinking his coffee. He turned and leaves. Shutting the door behind him.
His father raised up his head and watched the door. A sad look on his face.
He dialed his secretary. ..
“Get me Mr Bamidele. He should see me by the end of the day or by tomorrow ”
“Yes sir” the voice answers and the line cuts.
Anthony walked out, without a word he passes her and exists the building.
He didnt reply when she called out his name.
“Strange. He didn’t even come to say goodbye.”
She picks up her personal mobile and quickly sends him a text when he didn’t pick. .
Then she dials her husband. .He picks on the second ring.
“What is it woman?. I am in class don’t you realize that.”
“I don’t care if you are about to be hit by a moving train. The Dean has asked you to see him by this evening or latest tomorrow morning. ”
“What for??” He asked..
grandmother that. ” She cuts the call. Wondering why she hadn’t left his sorry ass already.
……..**** The next day***….
“Yes sir. It is as I have said. I didn’t see a Grace Micheals script amongst the once I marked. I have personally asked each lecturer taking them in those seven courses. The girl is probably lying. Seven people can’t possibly say the same thing if it isn’t true.”
Mr Anthony the 1st watched him. He had never liked Mr Bamidele. But he was a fine lecturer. And that’s the only reason he renewed his contract and because his wife, his secretary pleaded on his behalf. Their marital problems wasn’t his concern but he hated when men didn’t value the women who loved them. He could relate to that. He realized too late …and he couldn’t make amends.
“Have everyone send in their attendance sheets and their test scripts so I am sure there isn’t any foul play immediately. You are excused”
Mr Bamidele nodded and left. He wipes his forehead that had broken down in sweats. Even his palm was sweaty.
“What have you done?” His wife approached him when he stepped out of the Dean’s office.
“Mind your desk woman. Don’t butt into the affairs of men” he brushed past her and heads to where he packed, dialing a number.
“Get another attendance sheet and strike out Grace’s name. Then send it to me immediately with your test scripts. The Dean is breathing down my neck. I would call the others ”
He wiped his sweaty palms to his trouser..
“Victoria is going to put me in trouble one day”
But when he remembers her soft delicate skin…He knew he could walk to hell and back if she asked him to.
………..*** A few days later. Off campus***….
Anthony drops the call. He wasn’t smiling.
“Whats wrong..??” Graced asked.
Anthony and James came everyday to Rose ‘ s house . While Anthony helped Grace study, even when she insisted she didn’t need his help. Anthony didn’t care. James kept Rose company.
Anthony shook his head.
“They didn’t find anything suspicious.”
Grace smiled sadly and nodded.
“Thank you for trying ”
“But don’t worry about that. We are going to make sure you Ace your exams. Okay” He reached out and squeezed her arm. She pulled away.
He gots up, ” see you tomorrow in class and afterwards alright .??”
“You know you don’t have to keep coming here everyday. I would be in school tomorrow ”
“I want to,so please don’t stop me. ” he wanted to reach out and touch her face. When he hugged her that day, he didn’t feel like letting go. She felt so soft and vulnerable. His heart broke when she sobbed in his arms. But she never let him close, not even to touch her arm without pulling away. But he was glad when she nodded.
“Jamie boy, let’s roll!!” He got to the door, Grace behind him.
“We never did got around to having that drink. .erm no..water drink we agreed upon. Can we do that one of this days…we could drive into town , see the City. You would like that right??”
He hoped she would answer and say yes. He wanted to see her and talk to her alone. Away from eavesdropping ears like James and Rose. He wanted to get to know her…and tell her how he felt. He liked her. He liked her alot.
She didn’t answer.
“C’mon Grace. I don’t bite. You should trust me by now”
“She hasn’t come near you for a week.” He cuts her.
“I think she has taken the hint to back off. And realize I don’t like her and nothing she does can keep me away from talking to you..
“Why is that??
“Why is what Gracey??”
“I mean why do you bother so much about me. You hardly know me yet you stand up for me. Why??” Graced folds her hands over her big shirt she wore over loose jeans..
“Well…..do you want the honest answer or the lie??” He gave her a lopsided grin, his head slanted to the corner.
“What do you think..? Of course the honest answer.”
“Honestly, I don’t know why I do. I just do. And I would love to tell you about it …over water sometime ” he smiled. She returned the smile.
“James, !” He called out.
“Sleep well Grace. Goodnight Rose.”…
They were gone in another minute.
“You do realize that Anthony likes you right? He never really cares about anyone. I have known him for three years. But never seen him this way. He really does like you.”
“What does it matter. I don’t care nor like him. Besides he only cares because he feels guilty . it’s because of him Victoria went crazy on me. I believe he would have done the same if it were some other girl” .Grace walks to the bed, removing her shirt , revealing lovely shaped body wearing a fitted tank top and changing into shorts.
“You aren’t the first girl to be on the other side of the Victoria’s fence Grace. And trust me, Anthony never cared. But now he doesn’t let a day go by without checking on you, calling his father to see if something can be done for you and all that. Face it, he likes you. And if you stop denying it you would realize you probably like him too. You have begun warming up to his presence. “… Rose didn’t need her to affirm or deny it. It was pretty obvious. But she didn’t blame Grace. She probably didn’t realize just how much.
Grace crawls into bed, not saying a word at first, then…
” I do not. I am just thankful ”
Rose chuckled. ..”right. If you say so Gracey. Goodnight ”
“Goodnight Rose. ”
It was about midnight before Grace fell asleep. But it was one face that kept appearing in her dreams….and a name on her lips when she woke up the next day…
……**** Next day. Love garden***…
“Victoria is heading this way bro”…James taps Anthony who turns. He stiffens when he saw her and her bodyguards behind her..He turns back, backing her.
He felt Grace fidget and Rose murmur.
“Relax Grace. You are with me and no one would touch you”
“I should just go..I really don’t want trouble.” She stood up, Anthony pulled her back down. Holding onto her hands.
Victoria’s face was like granite when she noticed the hands. But she managed a smile.
“How dare he.
“The nerve!!!” Bunmi and Sandra voiced.
Victoria hushed them silently…”Not for long. Not for long.”
They got to where they sat,..
“What do you want now Victoria, to cause more scenes. Aren’t you ever tired ??” James asked her. Anthony didn’t say a word. He didn’t even acknowledge her presence. His fingers were clasped in Grace’s. But he only did that because she was fidgeting. He rubs her knuckles, urging her to look at him.. and he mouthed a “Relax” …Causing her to calm down.
“Am not here to talk to you James..or should I call you Anthony’s call bitch? ?” Her girls laugh. She gave him a side smile.
“What the f—
Anthony touches his arm , cutting him. “Don’t waste your breath on her James. You already know she is filled with venom “. James sits back down, shaking his head.
“I see you now openly hang around with Grace. What is she now..your girlfriend? Am talking to you Anthony. .don’t back me!”
He slowly turns…
“Are you guys dating now. Is she your lover. Have you had sex with her now. I know it’s only a matter of time and you would get tired of her. And I would be waiting with open arms to forgive you. You forget I know you Anthony. .’Anthony the lady’s man’. You just get close to them so you can slide into their legs, have your feel and dump them and move on to the next.”
She smiled when she saw Grace pull her hands away from Anthony’s. Yes, let her be scared of him. If all she heard about Grace was true..she would run the other way from boys like Anthony. She was a good girl, very good church girl and she was sure her cheerie hasn’t been popped yet. But that won’t be for long. But it wouldn’t be Anthony doing the popping. She had plans for her…and if it goes according to plan she would have her where she needed…she smiled.
“I know what you are trying to do Victoria and that’s kinda low even for you. And if you must know, that was the old Anthony. Plus I don’t have to explain myself to you” ..
“Right. I was just saying the truth. So little Gracey here knows the kinda guy you are and prepares herself. ”
He turns to Grace , who seemed to have withdrawn into herself…
“Am not that guy anymore. I promise. I don’t want or intend to hurt you. So don’t be scared of me. Just trust me okay. Grace okay??” He watched her nod her head. He breathed, turning to Victoria whose smile didnt leave her face.
“I think you should leave. You are starting to piss on my beautiful day.” He got up now. He really wish he could slap her across her face and shut her up.
She sighs. A resigned look on her face.
“Ok ok I will. Am sorry. I came here to call a truce. Am sorry if If upset you. Really. Am sorry Grace for any pain I have caused you…Rose you too. I would leave you alone and never bug you again. I realise it’s you Anthony cares and likes , not me. I should respect that and move on. Can you forgive me?? ”
“Finally !!’ James and Rose said in unison. Victoria flinched..but maintained her sad look.
“I am really sorry. And to prove that, am having a party at my place tomorrow and if you want i would apologise to you infront of everyone. So you know I mean it.”
“No it’s fine.” Grace says.
“No!!!!” Anthony thought otherwise.
“In fact I think it’s only proper she does that. If she humuliated you infront of everyone she should be man enough to apologise infront of everyone.”
Rose and James agreed it was a good idea.
“Good. It’s settled then. I hope you all come. I am really sorry. And I hope you make Anthony happy…in ways I was never allowed to”.. and she faked a tear, turning away and walking off.
“What just happened??” Anthony looks to James who shook his head, Rose shrugged and Graced was penseive.
“Victoria happened !!!” Rose managed, wondering why she had a bad gut feeling about everything.
“You are a very good actress Queen V” ….Sandra praised her as they got to her car.
“For a minute I almost believed you had grown soft. I nearly teared up myself” bunmi slides into the front seat…smiling.
“You have to act the role you intend to play darlynes. They have no idea what I have planned for them. No idea at all”
She picked up her phone and sends a message..
“You are in play. Tomorrow show down. My place. Tell the others”
“Am in the mood for some fun. How about we take a drive into town and have a rendezvous with the big boys in town eh??”
The girls happily squealed in delight as Victoria zoomed off, leaving dust in her wake.
To be continued.. Next Episode to be posted on friday
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