Click here to read the previous chapter; Behind Her Smile – Chapter One, Behind Her Smile – Chapter Two, Behind Her Smile-Chapter Three, Behind Her Smile – Chapter Four, Behind Her Smile – Chapter Five, Behind Her Smile – Chapter Six, Behind Her Smile – Chapter Seven, Behind Her Smile-Chapter Eight, Behind Her Smile – Chapter Nine, Behind Her Smile-Chapter Ten, Behind Her Smile-Chapter Eleven, Behind Her Smile-Chapter Twelve, Behind Her Smile-Chapter Thirteen
There was a week more to go until exams were over and I wished the week would go by fast enough. Anna reassured me that she’d spoken to Isaac but he hadn’t contacted me yet and I couldn’t bring myself to even pick up the phone to call him. I was still thinking of what I could possibly do that would get to Leo in one way or the other. I’d just about had enough of him. I was pulled out of my thoughts when a loud gasp came from my right.
“What’s wrong?” I glanced at Nafisa who had her eyes glued to her mobile phone.
We were in a study group session for a general course that all 100 level students took. Philosophy, a course that put fear into the hearts of half the population of students was what we were studying that evening and we were to write the exam the following day. I’d told her several times to keep her phone away but she didn’t seem to care.
“You’ve got to see this,” She whispered as she shoved her phone near my face.
“Not now, Nafisa. This is Philosophy for crying out loud.”
Our tutor, Chinedu’s voice droned on in the background about the various branches of philosophy and their definitions. He was a 200 level student who had passed the course the previous year and offered to give us tips on how to pass it this year. It was also an added bonus, him being the brother of one of my course mates.
“Trust me, you want to see this.” She grinned.
I rolled my eyes and sighed before I grabbed the phone from her and focused on what was on the screen.
“Jesus!” I exclaimed.
Half of the class turned to look at me and I slouched lower in my seat as if that could get rid of the attention and make me invisible.
“Nothing to see here,” Nafisa chuckled nervously as she gave me a warning look.
Slowly, the rest of the class focused on what Chinedu was saying.
“Where did you get these?” I whispered to Nafisa.
“Someone posted these pictures with a private account on Instagram and tagged nearly twenty students. After that, it spread like wildfire on other social media, even WhatsApp, no one knows who sent them but it’s very clear who is in these pictures.”
My eyes widened as I scanned through about five very incriminating pictures of Mr Essien caught in compromising positions with different girls. The background was the school environment, some in his office so the girls were definitely students but their faces were hidden while his was exposed. Someone had planned this and leaked the photos.
“I always suspected that man had something more to do with some of the girls on campus but this is evidence against him. There’s no way he can deny these pictures.”
The following day, uniformed Police officers arrived on campus and led away a hand-cuffed Mr Essien. I watched from the window of my hostel and couldn’t deny the feeling of satisfaction I got watching him leave. He got what was headed his way, especially after what he did to Anna and several other girls. I was curious about who had leaked those pictures though so I asked Anna about it.
“Are you kidding? I wish I had thought of something like that,” She scoffed. “Now that I think about it though, I really wish I could’ve spoken up or done something. Whoever did this was brave enough to do what many of us didn’t have the courage to do. Many more girls would have fallen victim to him. I heard he’d already started making his move on Maya.”
I thought about Maya, the innocent-looking girl who seemed to be smitten by him. I was sure that if she truly knew what kind of scum he was, she wouldn’t have found him to be so charming. Now the news was all over campus and his true nature was revealed.
“You could still testify against him if necessary. I’m sure the Police would be looking for witnesses.”
“Oh God, I’m scared,” She sighed. “But if it’s one thing I can do then I’ll gladly testify against him.”
I smiled encouragingly.
“You know what, I’ve been thinking,” She had a serious look in her eyes. “This thing with you and Leo, you need to put a stop to it. I think I see what he’s doing. Back then, when the incident happened between you two, you never reported him and now, he’s playing on your fear of him to still keep you quiet. It’s like he’s dominating you. It’s a form of bullying in my opinion.”
“I couldn’t bring myself to do it, I just wanted to forget. I was lucky that I didn’t have any complication health-wise but I shut down after that. It was one mental breakdown after another and I couldn’t even attend school with other students so I asked to be home-tutored for my final year. My parents tried to get me to report the incident but I didn’t know how to track him down, truthfully I didn’t even want to face him. I never saw him again after that day until I came to study here. I found it ironical that just when I was ready to move past it all, he showed up again.”
“I know what it’s like to be silent and tormented by fear. I was scared of what Mr. Essien could do to me if I exposed what he did. I was also scared of what people would think if they found out. I felt ashamed and used. It was like a heavy burden on my shoulders each day, then coupled with the HIV scare and everything, I just wanted to end it all. But you can do something about this Precious it doesn’t have to be the same for you. This is like your second chance to take charge of your life.”
“I’ve been thinking the same thing too but aren’t you the one who warned me about him being dangerous? I mean we’ve both seen what he did on campus.”
“I think you’ve already discovered that first-hand. But what’s the worst he could do, what hasn’t he already done?” She shrugged.
“Do you have any ideas? I’ve been thinking of what his weaknesses are and so far I’ve found none.”
“How about this…” Her eyes lit up. “Orion thrives on secrecy right?”
“Yes…” I nodded.
“But what if they are exposed for who they truly are? Mr Essien carried out all his nasty practices in private but look what happened once it got out in public.”
“Orion is a deadly cult though.” I reasoned with her.
Her expression dropped. “Do you think it may be too dangerous?”
“Not as long as we remain completely anonymous.” I smiled as the idea began to form in my mind.
“So, we’re on to something?” She grinned at me.
“We’re definitely on to something.”
The stage was set and now all we had to do was perform.
“Anna, are you crazy? That’s a terrible idea!”
My cousin’s voice yelled over the phone.
“Isaac, that’s way too many decibels take it down a notch please.” I rolled my eyes, glad that he couldn’t see me.
“It seems like I need to talk some sense into that head of yours.” He said.
“Oh come on, it’s a brilliant idea and it isn’t a violent one.”
“But he could hurt you guys once he discovers you’re behind it and you know it will be violent. He never does anything peacefully. I know him.”
“That’s why we plan to remain anonymous.”
“He has moles in every campus, including yours. What makes you think your plans wouldn’t leak to him?”
“That’s why you’re the only one I trust enough to share them with.”
“Anna, don’t do anything stupid and please talk Precious out of it too. I don’t want to see either you guys get hurt.”
“Don’t you get it?” I was exasperated by now. “He has already hurt one of us in one way or another. What he did to Precious was unthinkable and so many innocent people got hurt in that raid he pulled off months ago. Why should everyone sit quiet and let him rule?”
“I’ve been there before and I know how it works. You can’t get to him.”
“No we can’t, not unless you help us. It takes one Capon to bring down another.” I said quietly.
“You’re asking a lot from me Anna, you know I’m trying to live a life of peace. I want to separate myself from all that violence.”
“While watching others get hurt and with the knowledge that Precious already got hurt before? Besides, I heard Leo is walking around with a black eye now, any idea who might’ve done that?” I chuckled silently.
There was silence on the line.
“Fine, what do you want me to do?”
“I knew you’d eventually see things our way.” I grinned.
“Hurry before I change my mind.” He said in a gruff voice.
“Okay, here’s how it will go.” I explained what Precious and I had come up with so far and waited for his approval.
“You’ll need more than that but I’ll help you.”
We ended the call minutes later and I felt giddy with excitement. Sure, it was dangerous but sometimes, danger was the only path to freedom. If I couldn’t be brave enough to help myself, I could at least muster up enough courage to help Precious after all she’s done for me.
“That’s a crazy idea, Anna.” Precious shook her head as she stared at me.
“Be quiet,” I whispered as I glanced around. We were on our way back from the exam hall the following day after our Philosophy exam and I was just too giddy to share the news with her. I couldn’t wait till we got to the hostel.
“Let’s not drag Isaac into this.” She pleaded with me.
“You know what, both of you are just perfect for each other,” I said with as much sarcasm as I could muster. “He said the same thing, that it was a crazy idea. I think it’s perfect. Both of you need to get your heads checked.”
“But it’s too dangerous. I’m not about to get myself killed when I’ve barely completed a semester, let alone a whole session. I still plan to live long enough to get my degree.”
“And who says you won’t?” I grinned.
Precious narrowed her eyes at me.
“Excuse me,” I said to a student I nearly bumped into as we turned around a corner. “Oh, Kolade it’s you. Your face has been scarce. Where have you been?”
“Just around,” His eyes nervously shifted back and forth between Precious and I as he adjusted his glasses.
“Why don’t you hang out with us, we’re going to get lunch or do you have a paper later this afternoon?” I asked.
“Sorry, I’ve got somewhere to be. I’ll see you guys later.”
“That guy is always running off to one place or another.” I shook my head after him as he hurried away. “Oh well, brainiacs like him don’t socialize much I guess, he’s always studying.”
“I noticed too. He doesn’t hang out much, maybe due to exam tension.” Precious nodded.
“Look who’s talking.” I laughed.
“Whatever,” She rolled her eyes at me. “I like to think that I’ve improved in the social aspect.”
“You wish.” I laughed.
As we walked towards the cafeteria, we noticed that some students crowded around the notice board there. A few people wore blank expressions while some looked on with frowns on their faces. Some were agitated and I heard a girl hiss in annoyance. It was the unmistakable drawn-out hiss of a pro.
“What’s going on?” I asked a guy beside me.
“There’s an announcement for a general meeting at Lotus Hall by 6pm today. Apparently, attendance is compulsory for all students and staff.”
“How will they call a meeting when students want to study?” The girl who hissed loudly earlier complained. “I have tutorials at 6 pm today for crying out loud now I have to postpone, they shouldn’t even waste our time there.”
When the crowd had dispersed, Precious and I checked out the announcement to confirm it.
“I had plans to crash on my bed till midnight then start studying,” I sighed. “Why must the universe be this cruel?”
“The universe had nothing to do with it,” She chuckled. “Anyway, we’ve still got some time before 6 pm, let’s go and eat, I’m starving.”
“You’re always starving.” I shoved her playfully.
“Well, some of us have been skipping breakfast lately.”
“Who sent you message?” I teased.
She tossed me a dry look before she joined the short queue for food, making sure to place herself ahead of me. After lunch, Precious decided to go to the library while I returned to the hostel to find Ada on her bed with her head buried in her arms. She’d been released from the hospital in time for the exams but had spent most of her time in the campus medical centre to be monitored. Her exam papers were brought to her thereafter confirming that she was strong enough or if she could, she would join us in the exam hall then return to the medical centre after her paper.
“Ada, you’re back.” I grinned and walked closer to where she stood only to discover that her eyes were wet with tears. “Wait, what’s wrong?”
She sniffed and raised her head to look at me.
“Nothing,” She looked away.
“You’re obviously not fine, Ada. Tell me what’s wrong.” I probed further.
She brushed a few strands of her hair from her red, swollen eyes and sighed.
“I’ve just been thinking and this isn’t how I pictured my first semester ending. I broke up with Zach and it hurts a lot. All that time I spent in the hospital, I barely studied. I don’t even know if what I’ve been writing in my exams makes any sense at all and I don’t want any carryover but at this rate…” She broke down again.
“Shh, have some faith Ada. You may have had a rough time but I know you’re brilliant and God who sees all won’t let you fail. One thing I admire about you is that despite all of this stuff with Zach, you were never the type to skip classes or abandon your books for a guy. Sure, you made some terrible decisions I mean where on earth were you guys going when that car crash happened?”
Ada chuckled softly.
“You don’t spare me at all, always telling it like it is.”
“It’s what I do best.” I grinned.
“Oh well, he said it was a surprise. Sometimes, he does stuff like that. He’s spontaneous, fun and exciting. He always kept things lively when we were together. Too bad I never got to find out what the surprise was before we rammed into another car and nearly flipped over the side of the bridge.”
I winced at the mental image of the accident in my head.
“I’m glad you survived it.”
“I’m glad too.” She played with the ends of her hair before she spoke. “Is it wrong that I miss him? I know everyone said he was toxic but they never saw the side of him that I saw.”
“I can’t answer that for you.” I shrugged.
“Yeah, I know.” She nodded. “Anyway, I’ve got to get off my moping backside and study. I’ve got about four more papers left before I am officially a free bird.”
“Lucky you, I’ve got about six more. By the way, there’s a general meeting at 6 pm today. It’s compulsory.”
“Is anything optional on this campus?” She rolled her eyes. “Even elective courses will soon be made compulsory.”
“I know right.” I nodded. “When it’s time, we’ll go together. Precious and Nafisa should also be back by then.”
“Sure thing,” She smiled and it felt good to see that her tears had stopped flowing.
When it was ten minutes to six, my roommates and I made our way to Lotus Hall. It was a ten-minute walk from the hostel so it was well-timed. Several students flocked in the same direction and we greeted each other as we walked in groups. I spotted Kolade a few feet behind us and tried to wave to get his attention but he was deeply engrossed in a conversation he was having with a tall guy who walked beside him. I let my hand fall back to my side. The girls and I got seats close to the exit so that we could be one of the first out the door once it was over. I personally hated the slow filing out of students and what annoyed me the most was rubbing shoulders in a tight space with someone you don’t even know.
“Attention all students.” The announcement came from the Vice Chancellor who stood at the front of the hall, on the podium.
The noise in the hall decreased as all forms of chatter ceased.
“You have been summoned here today to be alerted to a very serious matter on ground. Recently, a 100 level student named Yusuf Lawal was reported missing on campus. If any of you have information on his whereabouts, report to the school authorities immediately. For identification purposes, flyers with his picture and basic information will be placed on noticeboards in different locations on campus before the end of the day.” He repeated the announcement once more and wished us success in our exams before he dismissed us.
“Wow, that was quick,” Nafisa said with raised eyebrows.
“I know right, shortest announcement in the history of Victoria University.” Ada nodded.
“Hello?” I said as we made our way out of the hall. “Can we focus on the main issue here? A student was officially reported missing.”
Some students were still strolling towards the hall, unaware that the meeting was over already.
“Of course we’re not ignoring that glaring fact,” Nafisa said. “Anyway, I was just talking about this with Precious recently and I knew something was very suspicious about a student being absent from an exam hall and no one knew his whereabouts.”
“I’ve got to hand it to you Nafisa you’re a natural born detective,” Precious teased.
“Thank you,” Nafisa smirked.
“But we’ve got nothing to report though I mean I know I don’t, what about you guys?” I asked.
“I barely even knew Yusuf.” Precious shook her head.
“I spoke to him a few times but that’s all,” Nafisa said.
“No offence but… I’m just aware now that there’s someone named Yusuf on this campus.” Ada chipped in.
“How would you know?” I rolled my eyes at her.
“Don’t blame me.” She raised her hands in mock surrender.
“Anyway, it’s out of our hands since we’re clueless.” I shrugged.
Later that night, I pulled Precious aside for a private discussion.
“What’s up?” She asked curiously.
“We’ve got to act fast about Leo, I’ve got a bad feeling we’re wasting valuable time.”
“How do you mean?”
“I don’t know. I’ve just got a bad feeling.”
“Well, that’s not encouraging. Or are you getting cold feet?” She raised an eyebrow questioningly.
I tossed her an annoyed look.
“Okay, fine as soon as we’re through with our last paper. For me, that’s on Thursday.”
“Okay, so on Friday we’ll do it.”
I nodded, unable to erase the gloomy feeling in my chest. The sooner we got it over and done with, the better I would feel.
To Be Continued…